The Terrors of US 29—A Ghost Tour

US 29 from Florida to Maryland

US 29 LaGrange Georgia
A sign for US 29 in downtown LaGrange, GA. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

In the early 20th century, American roads were a mess. In the late 19th century, the railroad was really the only means to travel throughout the country as roads weren’t well-maintained or even necessary except for local transportation. With the advent of the automobile however, “good roads” (as the movement was called) became increasingly crucial. Car owners began to band together to form auto clubs to create roads for themselves.

In the 1910s, these auto trail organizations and automobile clubs reached even further to create the Lincoln Highway, one of the earliest transcontinental highways stretching from New York’s Times Square to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. With its popularity among travelers and local governments alike, the idea was expanded to the South with the creation of the Dixie Highway, which originally connected Chicago to Miami. Not only did this open up the South to tourism, but it brought industry as well.

While this new network of roads was increasingly useful, the Federal Government began investigating ways to expand and organize this network. State roadway standards were introduced in 1914 with the creation of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). Their standards eventually evolved into a U.S. Highway system over the next decade. This system, now nearing a hundred years old, continues to expand to this day.

U.S. Route 29, a north-south highway, connects Pensacola, Florida to Ellicott City, Maryland. Along its route it passes through a number of major cities including Auburn, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; Danville, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Fairfax, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and some of DC’s Maryland suburbs before its termination in Ellicott City, a suburb of Baltimore.

For me, US 29 has a very personal connection. On its route through my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, it passes many landmarks from my youth and is the road on which I currently live. It also figures into several stories that I now tell on my Strange LaGrange Tour. For a few years I have wanted to take a big road trip to visit many of the haunted places I have written about and considered that driving the length of US 29 would make an excellent trip. This article covers many of the haunted locales I plan to visit should the trip come to fruition.

This article is intended to provide links to places I have written about elsewhere on my blog along with several brief entries and other suggested locations that I may cover in the future. This article is not intended as a static article, but will change as I cover more locations along the route of US 29.

Sources

Pensacola, Florida

US 29 begins at the intersection of North Palafox Street and Cervantes Street (US 90 and 98), just north of downtown Pensacola. While there are no haunted places (that I know of) at that immediate intersection, less than a mile south is a cluster of locations. The Saenger Theatre (118 South Palafox) is located at the intersection of South Palafox and Intendencia Street. A block south of the theatre is a cluster of hauntings around Plaza Ferdinand VII (which is haunted) that includes the T.T. Wentworth Museum, the portion of Zaragoza Street between S. Palafox and S. Baylen Streets, the Quayside Art Gallery, Pensacola Children’s Museum, and Seville Quarter. Just east of the Plaza is Old Pensacola Village.

Saenger Theatre Pensacola FL
Saenger Theatre, 2010, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Old Christ Church
405 South Adams Street

Old Christ Church Pensacola FL
Old Christ Church, 2008. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Old Pensacola Village consists of a collection of historic and haunted buildings important to the early history of Pensacola including the 1832 Old Christ Church. The churchyard of the church once held the remains of three of its vicars, but during renovations, their graves were obscured. Some years ago, their remains were recovered during archaeological excavations. During the service marking their reburial, one young man witnessed the three vicars walking among the guests.

Sources

  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 3. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2007.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.
  • Moore, Joyce Elson. Haunt Hunter’s Guide to Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2008.

The entirety of US 29 in Florida in within Escambia County. After passing through the town of Century, the highway continues north into Escambia County, Alabama.

East Brewton, Alabama

After crossing over the creepily named Murder Creek in Brewton, US 29 runs through East Brewton which features a haunting at the old Fort Crawford Cemetery (Snowden Street).

Andalusia, Alabama

US 29 bypasses downtown Andalusia which features a haunted jail. The Old Covington County Jail can be viewed from North Cotton Street behind the courthouse.

Troy, Alabama

As the highway makes its way through downtown Troy, Alabama, it passes near the first of many major institutions of higher learning, Troy University. Two dormitories on the campus, Pace and Shackleford Halls, feature ghost stories.

Pace Hall Troy University Alabama
Pace Hall, 2017, by Kreeder13. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Union Springs, Alabama

Some years ago, I took a trip to Enterprise and drove US 29 past downtown Union Springs. I wasn’t expecting to pass through this small town, but the historic downtown intrigued me. Once I got to my destination, I looked up the town and wrote an article about my trip including the three major haunted places here: the Bullock County Courthouse and Pauly Jail (217 North Prairie Street) and the Josephine Arts Center (130 North Prairie Street).

Bullock County Courthouse Union Springs Alabama
Bullock County Courthouse, 2000. Photo by Calvin Beale for the US Department of Agriculture.

Tuskegee National Forest

North of the city of Tuskegee, US 29 heads through the Tuskegee National Forest, a site of high strangeness that includes tales of ghosts and Sasquatch sightings.

Auburn, Alabama

As US 29 approaches Auburn, it joins with I-85 to bypass the city, though there is a concentration of haunted places in and around downtown and Auburn University. Two locations at the university have been covered in this blog including the University Chapel and the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, both of which are located on College Street.

Draughon Library, Auburn University,
South College Street facade of the Draughon Library at Auburn University, 2017. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Auburn Train Depot
120 Mitcham Avenue

Railroad passengers entering and leaving Auburn have passed through one of the three buildings that have occupied this site since 1847. The first building was destroyed during the Civil War while its replacement was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. The current building was erected in 1904 and served as a rail depot until 1970. The building was left empty in 2003 after being used as a real estate office for some 20 years. The building has served as a restaurant for a number of years and rumor has it that staff has experienced a number of strange doings.

There is a legend about the building recounted in Haunted Auburn and Opelika regarding a young woman who met a young man here. The couple began to meet regularly despite the insistence of the young woman’s father that she would marry another man. The young couple planned to elope, but the young woman’s brother thwarted the plans and killed his sister’s lover. She then threw herself in front of an arriving train. Her wail intertwined with the train’s whistle are supposedly still heard.

Sources

  • Cole, Ashtyne. “City plans to renovate historic train depot.” Auburn Plainsman. 12 June 2014.
  • Serafin, Faith, Michelle Smith and John Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Woodham, Brian. “Restaurant coming to Auburn Train Depot.” Auburn Villager. 3 December 2014.

Opelika, Alabama

As US 29 (still concurrent with I-85) passes into Opelika, it crosses AL 169, which has had some activity.

Opelika Chamber of Commerce Alabama
Opelika Chamber of Commerce, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Downtown Opelika also features several haunted locales including the Chamber of Commerce (601 Avenue A) and the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge in Opelika Municipal Park.

Spring Villa Opelika Alabama
Spring Villa, 2010, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The exit with US 280 provides access to Spring Villa (1474 Spring Villa Road), a most unusual plantation home with ghosts and other strangeness. At the next exit, US 29 becomes independent and heads north through Chambers County.

Valley, Alabama

Within the city of Valley, there are several villages clustered around mills including the community of Langdale. US 29 passes between the old Langdale Mill (rumored to be haunted) and Lafayette Lanier Elementary School and the adjoining Langdale Auditorium (6001 20th Avenue) which are known to be haunted.

Langdale Auditorium Valley Alabama
Langdale Auditorium stands next to Lafayette Lanier Elementary. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The city of Valley extends up to the state line with West Point, Georgia. Just before 29 crosses that line it passes through the community of Lanett with its Oakwood Cemetery (1st Street) which is home to the dollhouse grave of Nadine Earles.

West Point, Georgia

West Point Post Office Georgia
West Point Post Office, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In downtown West Point, the Depression era U. S. Post Office (729 4th Avenue) may feature a few spirits. The area also has a small Civil War-era fortification, Fort Tyler, which was constructed to protect an important railway bridge over the Chattahoochee. The four-hour siege that was fought here in April of 1865 left many dead, including the commanders of the fort. These men were buried in Pine Wood Cemetery which is passed by US 29 as it leads north to LaGrange. Both of these locations may be home to paranormal activity.

LaGrange, Georgia

I have been a resident of LaGrange since early childhood and this town instilled in me a love of ghost stories. For the past couple years, I have been providing a ghost tour of downtown, the Strange LaGrange Tour, on which I feature the LaGrange Art Museum (112 Lafayette Parkway). Along its route through town, 29 passes LaGrange College with its antique centerpiece, Smith Hall. My tour discusses Smith Hall, Hawkes Hall, and the College Chapel, which are all spirited places. The college’s theatre, Price Theatre, off Panther Way, has an assortment of theatre ghosts.

Smith Hall LaGrange College ghost haunted
Smith Hall ,LaGrange College, 2010, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Atlanta, Georgia

In its journey between LaGrange and Atlanta, the road passes a number of haunted locations, though I have yet to cover any of them in this blog.

Fox Theatre Atlanta Georgia
Fox Theatre, 2005. Photo by Scott Ehardt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Downtown Atlanta has a number of haunted places on its famous Peachtree Street including the Ellis Hotel (176 Peachtree Street), the Fox Theatre (660 Peachtree Street), and Rhodes Memorial Hall (1516 Peachtree Street) all of these are covered in my “Apparitions of Atlanta” article.

Moving out of downtown towards Decatur, US 29 runs along Ponce de Leon Avenue. On this route, it comes near Oakland Cemetery (248 Oakland Avenue, Southeast).

Oakland Cemetery Atlanta Georgia
Oakland, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV,
all rights reserved.

Stone Mountain, Georgia

Leaving DeKalb County, the road enters Gwinnett County near Stone Mountain, home of Stone Mountain Park (1000 Robert E. Lee Boulevard). Not only have there been spiritual encounters on the slopes of the titular monadnock, but the park’s Southern Plantation has a number of spiritual residents inside the historic structures.

Stone Mountain Georgia
Stone Mountain, circa 1910, from “Granites of the Southeastern Atlantic States,” by Thomas Watson.

Duluth, Georgia

US 29 runs south of Duluth where the Southeastern Railway Museum (3595 Buford Highway) is located. With a large collection of historic train cars and related things, a number of encounters have been reported within these cars.

The Superb Southeastern Railways Museum Duluth Georgia
President Warren G. Harding’s personal Pullman Car, The Superb,
now housed in the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth.
Photo 2007, by John Hallett. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Watkinsville, Georgia

As the highway leaves Gwinnett County, it passes through Barrow and into Oconee County. South of US 29 is the small town of Watkinsville, where the creepy Eagle Tavern (26 North Main Street) has served customers, and now museum patrons, for more than 200 years.

Eagle Tavern Watkinsville Georgia
The Eagle Tavern. Photo by Lewis Powell, IV, 2010, all
rights reserved.

Athens, Georgia

Concurrent with US 78, US 29 intersects US 441 right at the city limits of Georgia’s historic university town, Athens. Besides many hauntings on campus, the city features many historic structures with ghosts which I have covered in my article, “Town and Gown—Ghosts of Athens and the University of Georgia.” I have written separate articles on three other locations here: the Classic Center (300 North Thomas Street), the T.R.R. Cobb House (175 Hill Street), and the Tree That Owns Itself (277 South Finley Street).

Postcard of the Tree That Owns Itself Athens Georgia
The original Tree That Owns Itself shortly before it fell in 1942. Postcard from the Boston Public Library.

US 29 passes through three more Georgia counties: Madison, Franklin, and Hart before crossing into South Carolina. Unfortunately, I have little information on these counties’ haunted places.

Anderson, South Carolina

The city of Anderson’s Municipal Business Center (601 South Main Street) was the scene of odd, possibly paranormal activity in 2009.

Greenville, South Carolina

One of the more prominent Upstate South Carolina hauntings is Greenville’s Westin Poinsett Hotel (120 South Main Street). The city’s downtown features a number of haunted locales including Connolly’s Irish Pub (24 North Court Square). The city’s Herdklotz Park (126 Beverly Road), north of downtown was formerly the home of a tuberculosis hospital.

West Poinsett Hotel Greenville South Carolina
The Westin Poinsett Hotel, 2012, by Bill Fitzpatrick. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Wofford College is one of several institutions of higher learning located in Spartanburg, nearly all of which have spirits. Wofford’s Old Main Building is the haunt of several spirits.

Old Main Wofford College Spartanburg South Carolina
Old Main Building, 2010, by PegasusRacer28, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

Gaffney, South Carolina

On the way into Gaffney, US 29 passes the small town of Cowpens. A major battle of the American Revolution took place about nine miles north of town and the battlefield is known to be haunted.

In 1968, a serial killer operated in Gaffney and some of the sites where he dumped his victims’ bodies are known to be haunted. These sites include the Ford Road Bridge over Peoples Creek.

Blacksburg, South Carolina

After passing through Blacksburg, US 29 comes near another battlefield from the American Revolution with paranormal activity, Kings Mountain (2625 Park Road).

Charlotte, North Carolina

From Blacksburg, South Carolina, US 29 continues across the state line into North Carolina. I have not covered any locations in Cleveland or Gaston Counties. In Charlotte, I have covered one location, the Carolina Theatre (224-232 North Tryon), though I intend to rectify this in the near future.

Carolina Theatre Charlotte North Carolina
The hulking remains of the Carolina Theatre in 2015. Renovations have since started. Photo by Fortibus, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Salisbury, North Carolina

Some years ago, I discovered an 1898 article from the Salisbury Sun describing the appearance of a ghost on Fisher Street. In addition, I discovered that the building at 122 Fisher Street has been reported as haunted. These locations were written up in my article, “’His ghostship’—Salisbury, NC.”

Salisbury National Cemetery
202 Government Road

The treatment of prisoners by both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War was atrocious and certainly has led to very active haunted locations where the prisons operated. This is certainly evident in Salisbury where an old textile mill was turned into a prison to house 2,000, but eventually held some 11,000. With a number of deaths occurring on a daily basis, a small cemetery was established a short distance from the prison which in 1874 became the Salisbury National Cemetery. According to Karen Lilly-Bowyer, a retired educator and the operator of the Downtown Ghost Walk, the area around the old prison site and the cemetery are quite active and a Union sentry has been spotted around the trenches where the prisoners were interred.

Salisbury National Cemetery North Carolina
Salisbury National Cemetery. Photo by David Haas for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Sources

  • Lilly-Bowyer, Karen. “A war-haunted landscape.” Salisbury Post. 22 January 2011.

Greensboro, North Carolina

Greensboro is home to a number of haunted places including the Biltmore Greensboro Hotel (111 West Washington Street), the Carolina Theatre (310 South Greene Street), and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office (400 West Washington Street).

Carolina Theatre Greensboro North Carolina
Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre in 2008. Photo by Charles Brummitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Yanceyville, North Carolina

As it heads north out of North Carolina and into Virginia, US 29 passes through Caswell County. East of its route is the county seat of Yanceyville with its lovely and haunted Caswell County Courthouse (Courthouse Square).

haunted Caswell County Courthouse Yanceyville North Carolina ghosts spirits
The Caswell County Courthouse, 2009, by NatalieMaynor, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Danville, Virginia

After crossing into Virginia, US 29 briefly runs concurrent with US 58. US 58 BUS goes through Danville, while the regular route takes a southern dip around the city where it meets up with US 29. Near the intersection of US 58 BUS and Riverside Drive is the site of the crash of the Old ’97 Train in 1903. This site has produced anomalous lights ever since.

Wreck of the Old 97 Danville Virginia
The wreck of the Old ’97, 1903.

Lynchburg, Virginia

While I have yet to cover Lynchburg in my blog, there are a number of haunted locales here, especially on the campus of Randolph College.

Sweet Briar, Virginia

US 29 passes through the small college town of Sweet Briar, home to the private women’s college Sweet Briar. From the tales that have been told on campus, it seems the founders of the college have remained here.

Charlottesville, Virginia 

The highway bypasses Charlottesville on its west side passing near the haunted University of Virginia, home to several haunted places including the Alderman Library. Southeast of downtown is one of this city’s most well-known monuments, Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway), where the former president may continue to reside. Nearby is also the old Michie Tavern (683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway), where Jefferson and his friends often dined.

Monticello Charlottesville Virginia
Monticello, 2013, by Martin Falbisoner, courtesy of Wikipedia.

As US 29 passes out of the city, it comes near a haunted former bed and breakfast, the Silver Thatch Inn (3001 Hollymead Drive).

Brandy Station, Virginia

This small community in Culpeper County was the scene of one of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War in 1863. A small home near the Brandy Station depot was commandeered as a hospital after the battle. The patients left graffiti covering the walls and perhaps spirits as well, giving this home the nickname Graffiti House (19484 Brandy Road). A small, historic church, Fleetwood Church, nearby and the Brandy Station Battlefield are also known to be paranormally active.

Graffiti House Brandy Station Virginia
Graffiti House, 2013. Photo by Cecouchman, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

Warrenton, Virginia

This small, Fauquier County town is home to several haunted places, including the Black Horse Inn, the Hutton House, and a home called “Loretta.”

Manassas National Battlefield Park

This highway cuts directly across the Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County. Through these farm fields and copses of wood, two major battles of the Civil War were fought, the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas on July 21, 1861, and the Second Battle fought on August 29-30, 1862. As a result, this battle is known to be haunted.

Old Stone House Manassas Battlefield Virginia
The Old Stone House on the Manassas Battlefield is one of the most recognizable haunted places here. Photo by William J. Hamblin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Arlington, Virginia

Occupying the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s former estate, Arlington National Cemetery provides a resting place for some 400,000 soldiers from every conflict since the Civil War. With so many dead, there are ghost stories regarding the cemetery, Arlington Mansion, and the surrounding area.

Arlington Mansion Virginia
An 1864 photograph of the Custis-Lee Mansion or the Arlington Mansion, which is now a centerpiece of Arlington National Cemetery.

Washington, D.C.

US 29 enters the nation’s capital on the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River. It continues onto Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown before crossing Rock Creek and becoming an elevated freeway. This point over Rock Creek is significant for two reasons, the bridge itself is haunted and this crossing is at the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

C & O Canal Georgetown
The C&O Canal as it moves through Georgetown. This photograph is looking east from the Wisconsin Street Bridge. Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The canal, which was begun in 1828, was meant to provide transportation of cargo from the end of the navigable portion of the Potomac to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the end, cost overruns ended the construction in Cumberland, Maryland, 184.5 miles from it’s beginning. From the end of construction in 1831 to 1928, the canal was used primarily to ship coal from the Alleghany Mountains to Georgetown. The “Grand Old Ditch,” as it was called, lay abandoned for many years until ownership was overtaken by the National Park Service. The canal is open as a National Historic Park with a trail alongside it. From end to end, the canal is lined with legends and ghost stories.

Along its route through Washington, US 29 comes near many haunted places. For a list of places covered in this blog, please see my District of Columbia Directory.

Montgomery County, Maryland

Montgomery County is a suburban county providing suburbs for Washington. I have discovered that my coverage of Maryland, as a whole, is lacking and I have not covered any locations within this county, though there are a number. I intend on rectifying this as soon as possible.

Elkridge, Maryland

As it wends its way towards its termination in Ellicott City, US 29 passes the town of Elkridge where Belmont Manor and Historic Park (6555 Belmont Woods Road) is located.

Belmont Mansion Elkridge Maryland
Belmont Manor, 2015, by Scott218. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ellicott City, Maryland

On its way towards its terminus, US 29 passes the haunted and quaint Wayside Inn (4344 Columbia Road).

This city’s historic district lies in the valley of the Patapsco River, with Main Street running downhill to a bridge over the river. A tributary, the Tiber River, meets the Patapsco near here and problems with severe flooding have been experienced at points along Main Street. One of these recent floods is discussed in my article on the Judge’s Bench (8385 Main Street). Housing shops, boutiques, and homes, many of the buildings along Main Street also house spirits.

Patapsco Female Institute Ellicott City Maryland
An illustration of the Patapsco Female Institute in 1857, from The Book of Great Railway Celebrations of 1857.

North of downtown are the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute (3655 Church Road).

Northwest of Ellicott City’s historic downtown, US 29 passes over I-70 before quietly ending at Rogers Avenue and Old Frederick Road.

Alabama Haunt Briefs

Needing a project to carry me through this quarantine, I’ve decided to return to some original blog roots. Just after establishing this blog in 2010, I created a series of articles highlighting ten haunted places within each of the 13 states that I cover. Over time, these articles have been picked apart, rewritten, expanded, and used elsewhere. When I moved this blog, I did not move over those articles. Because I have a backlog of incomplete articles and bits and pieces that haven’t been published I’m creating a new breed of these articles during this quarantine.

The Alabama article, the first to be posted, was recreated after I finished my Alabama book as the “Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama.” This article contains new entries that I have not covered in this blog.

Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum
127 Rose Street
Georgiana

One of Alabama’s most important native sons, Hiram King “Hank” Williams, Sr. played a major role in taking country music from the rural backwaters and byways of the South to nationwide popularity. He created a sound that combined the folksy sound of Jimmie Rodgers with stylistic elements of African-American blues, taught to him by Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne, all combined with honest, straight-talking, and evocative lyrics that are now the standard for country music lyricism. Williams’ hard drinking and even harder living lead to an early death at the age of 29 while traveling to West Virginia. While he sang, “I’m Leavin’ Now,” it seems that Williams’ spirit may remain earthbound. His lonesome spirit appears at several sites associated with his life including Birmingham’s Redmont Hotel.

Hank Williams Boyhood Home Georgiana Alabama
Hank Williams’ Boyhood Home, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landregger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Born in rural Butler County in 1923, young Hank’s early childhood was fraught with difficulties. Hank’s father, a long-term patient at the veterans’ hospital in Pensacola, Florida suffering from a brain injury sustained during his service in World War I, left Lily, Hank’s mother, to fend for herself and her little family. They were offered this home in Georgiana in 1930 after the family lost their cabin and all their possessions in a fire.

Williams lived here with his family during perhaps the most significant time in his musical development. During the four years the family occupied this house, Williams is said to have practiced his guitar underneath it while sitting on “an old car seat.” Williams’ son, Hank Jr., writes of an encounter with his father’s spirit at this home in his song, “127 Rose Avenue.” Can this be considered actual evidence of a haunting? Perhaps, or maybe it’s simply Hank Junior’s lyrical way of memorializing his late father.

Sources

  • Butler County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Butler County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2003.
  • Lange, Jeffrey J. “Hank Williams Sr.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 19 March 2007.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Lafayette Lanier Elementary School and Langdale Auditorium
6001 20th Avenue
Valley

Following the Civil War, local industrialists began establishing textile mills throughout the South. In order to provide for their employees—and also as a way of making them and their families beholden to the mill owners and managers—these industrialists established mill villages. These villages provided most everything an employee and their families would require including housing, schools, churches, and stores. Valley, Alabama is made up of a series of mill villages on the western bank of the Chattahoochee River.

Langdale Auditorium Valley Alabama
Langdale Auditorium stands next to Lafayette Lanier Elementary. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

One of the oldest of these villages is centered on the Langdale Mill that was established in 1866. While the village has a number of late-19th century buildings, many of the most prominent buildings were constructed in the early 20th century. Lafayette Lanier Elementary School and the adjoining Langdale Auditorium were constructed around 1935. Though the mill across the street has closed, both buildings are still used for their initial functions and known to be haunted.

Kenneth W. Allen, a local paranormal investigator, penned a book, Southern Alabama Hauntings, in 2013. An employee with local law enforcement and first responders, Allen was in a great position to collect tales of strange doings in the area. With these stories, he also investigated several of these locations to further prove rumors of them being haunted.

In the book, Allen includes the experience of a local police officer who was sent to investigate a possible intruder in the school. He made his way through the first floor and found no one so he headed up to the second floor. Stepping into the second-floor corridor, he spotted a figure darting into one of the classrooms. He drew his weapon and called for backup. When three other officers arrived, they proceeded into the classroom that the suspect had disappeared into only to find the room empty. Over the years, teachers, staff, and students have seen an odd figure on the second floor. One story reveals that the figure is that of one of the school’s principals.

The auditorium has its own panoply of ghosts. Besides footsteps that reportedly resound throughout the old building, the spirits enjoy playing with toys that are kept in storage. Allen tells one story of a teacher who put toys away only to find them out again when she entered the storage room a short time later.

Sources

  • Allen, Kenneth W. Southern Alabama Hauntings. CreateSpace: 2013.
  • Binkley, Trina. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Langdale Historic District. May 1999.

Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery
7400 Tabor Road
Gadsden

A recent conversation with a Northeast Alabama resident led me to begin uncovering stories from this cemetery. Located northeast of Gadsden on Lookout Mountain, this small country church has an old cemetery located just across the road. Consulting the Find-A-Grave page on this cemetery, it seems that the first burial occurred in 1886 and continuing to the present day.

As for the spookier side of this cemetery, it is reported that strange lights are sometimes seen here. I would note that these are likely cemetery lights, which are seen in and around cemeteries worldwide. Additionally, disembodied voices are heard.

A search on this location brought up a frightening account on GhostsofAmerica.com. While I cannot vouch for the validity of this account, it seems to me to ring true. According to this account, a group of curious people decided to visit the cemetery after finding it listed on a haunted places website. As they stepped out of their car, the group began to hear strange whistling, screaming, and a thumping noise. Frightened, the group piled back in their car as the sounds grew closer. Before the group drove away, a hand appeared, pressing against the passenger window.

Please respect this holy burial ground, and tread lightly taking only memories with you.

Sources

Old Bibb County Jail
21 Court Square, West
Centreville

When I wrote my Alabama book, the Old Bibb County Jail was facing a death sentence. Local officials had made the decision to demolish the forlorn building on the town square. Sadly, the death sentence was imposed, and the building has been razed.

Built in 1910, this imposing Renaissance Revival structure had seen many a prisoner pass through its barred cells until its closure in 2004. Indeed, it also saw executions as well, with the last occurring in 1949. Perhaps this is why the building may be haunted. A 2009 investigation report from the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group suggests that paranormal activity in the old jail ranges from full body apparitions to odd sounds and a feeling of being watched.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Centreville Historic District. 21 December 1977.
  • McClanahan, Mike. “Old Bibb County Jail set to be demolished, citizens protesting decision.” WIAT. 5 June 2015.
  • Reed, Jon. “See inside 105-year-old abandoned Alabama jail.” com. 15 June 2015.
  • Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group. Bibb County Jail. 14 November 2009.

Peerless Saloon & Grille
13 West 10th Street
Anniston

The Peerless Saloon may have had few peers when it opened in 1899, though now there are quite a few options for spirits in Anniston. However, the Peerless has few peers regarding ghosts, legends, or history. From 1899 until Prohibition, the Peerless offered an opulent place to enjoy a cocktail and possibly buy some time with a lovely woman upstairs.

Peerless Saloon Anniston Alabama
The Peerless Saloon in all its Victorian glory, 2014. Photo by Chris Pruitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gentlemen entering the Peerless in the early 20th century were greeted by Lucinda Talley from her perch at the top of the stairs. She reigned as a queen over her brothel for a little more than 20 years before she met her death here. In 1920, as police chased a saloon patron upstairs, she unknowingly stepped into the line of a police bullet; some suspect she has not left her post.

After sitting abandoned and decaying for many years, the saloon was restored and reopened in 1992. Mrs. Talley’s upstairs domain now features an events space called the Atlanta Room. Staff members have glimpsed Lucinda still at her post at the top of the stairs and in the Atlanta Room. It may also be her spirit who occasionally breaks glasses behind the bar. The Oxford Paranormal Society visited The Peerless some years ago capturing a few visual anomalies on video.

Sources

  • Barton, Donna. “Local filmmakers tackle the legend of Lucinda.” Anniston Star. 1 March 2015.
  • “History.” Peerless Saloon. <http://www.southernmusic.net/peerless2.html>. Accessed 6 June 2015.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Few historic stagecoach inns and taverns survive across Alabama, take a tour.” com. 14 August 2014.
  • Oxford Paranormal Society. Peerless Saloon. Accessed 6 June 2015.

Swift-Coles Historic Home
17424 Swift-Coles Lane
Bon Secour

This late 19th century home presents a glimpse into life on the Alabama coast in the early 20th century. When Charles Swift moved to the area in 1885, he purchased a small dogtrot house—a house featuring an open hallway through the middle— with four rooms on either side. During the Swift family’s occupation, they transformed the home into a luxurious 16-room mansion. The house remained in the family until 1976 when a local entrepreneur bought and restored it.

Swift-Coles House Bon Secour Alabama
Swift-Coles House, 2015, by Sandy Forsman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 2008, the house was investigated by Bon Secour Paranormal Investigations. An article from the Mobile FOX affiliate details the investigation and reveals that the apparition of a female servant has been seen on the stairs, while Civil War soldiers have been seen in the front yard. The article reports that throughout the night the team experienced “small, but strange phenomena.”

Sources

  • Jackson, John. “Baldwin County’s tidewater mansion: the historical Swift-Coles home.” Gulf Coast Visitor’s Guide. 20 August 2013.
  • Rockwood, Mike and Charissa Cowart. “Ghost hunters, Swift-Coles House.” FOX10. 31 October 2008.

Trinity Lutheran Church
1024 Quintard Avenue
Anniston

A “benign, Casper-like, presence” may haunt Trinity Lutheran Church, according to the church’s pastor. A Halloween 2010 article in the Anniston Star details the haunting of this 1920s-era church and the parish house next door. The legend of this church dates to the church’s construction as Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. A priest supposedly died in a bedroom of the parish house, and he has continued to return for many years. Another priest living in the parish house later summoned the police after hearing heavy footsteps walking towards his bedroom. When police arrived, no one was found in the home. Now a Lutheran church, members and staff have continued to hear footsteps and have sensed the presence of the long- dead priest.

Sources

  • Buckner, Brett. “Ghost of the parsonage: It is said that Trinity Lutheran is haunted by a benign spirit.” Anniston Star. 30 October 2010.

Do ghosts like gelato?—Richmond, Virginia

Stoplight Gelato Café
405 Brook Road

In 2013, as he was renovating the old commercial building in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward, Bryce Given had some unexpected paranormal experiences. He told Richmond BizSense that he was sitting near the front of the shop facing the rear of the building when he saw a white figure that repeatedly moved up the stairs and came back down. It eventually disappeared but it left Given wondering what he had just witnessed.

“The first time I saw it, I was checking all the street lights and car lights’ reflections and ruled all that out. It was just too bizarre.”

When he bought the hundred-year-old building to open a gelato café, he did not consider that one of the obstacles to opening the new business might come from the other side. However, he later noted that he had not had any further paranormal experiences and that perhaps the spirit approved of his work. “I haven’t seen him in a few months, so I think he approves of the renovations I’m doing.”

405 Brook Road Richmond Virginia
405 Brook Road in 1978, photo by John G. Zehmer for the Richmond Department of Planning and Community Development. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to neighborhood lore, the building operated as “a horse depot” and the owner committed suicide in the 1930s as business declined due to the prevalence of automobiles. Perhaps, this is the spirit that was checking up on the building’s renovations?

A reporter for the local CBS affiliate, WTVR, looked into the building’s history and discovered that R. D. Harlow operated a grain and tack business here in the early 20th century. Perhaps this is the business owner who committed suicide? After his ownership, the building passed through a few different hands and operated as several businesses. Given believed that whatever was there approved of what he was doing with the building.

“I have a good feeling about the apparition—or spirit—that may be here.” He mused. “But now that the bricks are fixed, and everything is stable and solid again, I may not see him again.”

Discovering a spirit in the building was just one of the surprises on the years long journey that Given and his mother made while trying to open this gelato café. After buying the building in 2010, Bryce Given spent years working on the renovations before succumbing to cancer in 2015. Despite her grief, his mother, Barbara, oversaw completion of the renovations and the opening of the café in 2016. In early 2019, she sold the café to a young couple who have continued the business. If spirits are still active in the building, nothing has been noted, so I’m left thinking that perhaps the spirit may be appeased by the gelato.

Sources

Robinson, Mark. “Café’s first visitor loves the new haunt.” Richmond BizSense. 25 June 2013.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter— Pirate Alley

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Pirate Alley

Running from Chartres Street and Royal Street between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, Pirate Alley was originally called Orleans Alley South, as it is an extension of Orleans Street. Despite the official 1964 name change, there has always been contention on whether the name is singular (“Pirate”), plural (“Pirates”), or possessive (“Pirate’s” or “Pirates’”). A 2017 article in the Times-Picayune examines this issue and weighs in on the side of the paper’s own style-guide, which deems the name as the singular and non-possessive “Pirate Alley.”

Pirate Alley New Orleans
A view down Pirate Alley towards Chartres Street. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Of course, this also begs the question as to the identity of the pirate for whom this alley is named. Most sources point to the infamous Jean Lafitte, the privateer and pirate whose legend is inextricably linked to New Orleans’ history. In his classic history of New Orleans street names, John Chase notes:

The other passage—Pirates’ Alley—is named in fanciful recollection of the legendary Jean Lafitte and his motley bank of pirogue-mounted cutthroats, the Baratarians. Lafitte’s outfit had no more connection with Pirates’ Alley than with the teachings of the church, which the passage flanks on the uptown side. But the name fascinates all visitors.

While tour guides continue to promulgate legends that Lafitte and his men met and did business along this passage, there is no evidence that it actually happened. In Lafitte’s time, this alley was the seat of power for both the church, in the form of the cathedral, and the law, which was issued and enforced from the Cabildo (see my entry on this building and its ghosts at 701 Chartres Street) and the prison behind it. While the romantic notion of a pirate rebelliously conducting his business in the shadow of the church and the law is a fascinating image, it is unlikely to have actually happened as such.

Jean Lafitte

In examining the ghostly tales of New Orleans, there are two names that are frequently encountered: Jean Lafitte and Marie Laveau. If even half the stories of their hauntings are true, these two must be the busiest spirits in New Orleans, making appearances and causing paranormal shenanigans throughout the city and the Gulf Coast Region.

Jean Lafitte
An anonymous, early 19th century portrait purported to be Jean Lafitte. From the Rosenberg Gallery.

About thirty years after Lafitte’s death, one researcher remarked, “I found in my researches, twenty years ago, romantic legends so interwoven with facts that it was extremely difficult to the historical truth from the traditional.” So couched in legend is the life of Jean Lafitte that scholars have argued about so much of his life, and writing a biography is a difficult exercise in speculation and conjecture. Even contemporary sources disagree and contradict one another.

Lafitte’s place of birth is argued to have been southwest France, though others have posited that he may have been born in the colony of Saint Domingue in what is now Haiti. Biographer William C. Davis argues that both Jean and his older brother, Pierre (who worked alongside his brother in New Orleans) were born in the town of Pauillac in the Gironde region of France, and that Pierre ventured to Saint Domingue around the turn of the 19th century where he eventually fled the turmoil for the prosperity of La Louisiane.

Jean Lafitte possibly appears on the scene around the time of the sale of the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. Around this time, Pierre, possibly with the help of his brother, began to deal in slaves and also evade the newly established American trade laws. This piracy, which was all too common along the Gulf coast, created a reputation for the brothers. Their knowledge of the intricacies of the bayous and waterways of the area led them to providing aid—in terms of knowledge, material goods, and fighting men—to American forces during the War of 1812. This aid was provided on the condition that the brothers would be granted pardons for their crimes.

The notorious brothers were forced out of business by the government which forced them to close their business matters in New Orleans. They continued their pirating, though in different places: Pierre establishing a base off the coast of Mexico before being killed in 1821 and Jean dealing in Colombia before his death in 1823. William Davis notes that the legacy of the brothers was more as folk heroes.

Sources

  • Chase, John. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children…And Other Streets of New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.
  • Davis, William C. “Jean and Pierre Lafitte.” 64 Parishes. Accessed 9 January 2020.
  • Davis, William C. The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf. NYC: Harcourt, 2005.
  • Scott, Mike. “Pirate Alley: A history of the New Orleans street and its name(s).” Times-Picayune. 5 April 2017.

Pirate’s Alley Café
622 Pirate Alley

Since the mid-18th century, this space behind the Cabildo, the seat of Spanish rule in the city, was occupied by the Spanish Calabozo or Calaboose, a royal prison. This building remained until it was demolished in the late 1830s. It was here that both Lafitte brothers and some of their men were imprisoned. Some of the structures that now stand here were constructed thereafter, though may still be the residence of the spirits of some of those incarcerated here.

Pirate's Alley Cafe New Orleans
A bartender at the Pirate’s Alley Cafe prepares an absinthe drink in this 2008 photo by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In an interview with the café’s owner, author James Caskey was told that one of the spirits in Pirate’s Alley Café tends towards “naughty” antics. While some bars and restaurants in the city regularly leave out an offering to appease the spirits, the spirit here was not impressed by the bread and water. The bar experienced doors slamming and light bulbs shattering until someone had the idea of leaving out a glass of rum. The antics quieted down after that. The spirit was also blamed for harassing a female bartender as it undid her bra and her top, exposing the poor employee.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
Pirate Alley New Orleans
The three haunted buildings on Pirate Alley. Faulkner House Books is the yellow building. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Faulkner House Books
624 Pirate Alley

William Faulkner arrived in New Orleans as a poet and left as a novelist. During his stay here in 1925, he rented the street-level floor of this home and wrote his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, with influence and support from his friend, writer Sherwood Anderson. This building now appropriately houses a bookstore named for him where some have encountered the odor of pipe smoke, attributed to Faulkner.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2017.
Pirate Allet New Orleans
A view of the haunted buildings of Pirate Alley from Pere Antoine Alley across St. Anthony’s Garden. The yellow building is Faulkner House Books, while the red building next door is the house at 626 Pirate Alley. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

626 Pirate Alley (private)

During one of the many epidemics that swept through New Orleans during the 1850s, a little girl contracted one of these illnesses. To aid in her recuperation, the child lay on a chaise lounge in front of one of the large third floor windows of this home. Jeff Dwyer was granted a tour of the home and sensed a great deal of sadness near one of the windows. Others have reported seeing the face of the child pressed up against the windows overlooking St. Anthony’s Garden across the street (for information on the haunting of this garden, see my entry on Royal Street).

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2017.

A spirited retirement—Memphis

This is the eleventh entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas. 

The Green Beetle
325 South Main Street
Memphis, Tennessee

Following a paranormal investigation of Memphis’ oldest bar, The Green Beetle, one of the investigators from the Memphis Ghost Investigation and Spirit Rescue Team spoke of the spirit of the tavern’s original proprietor, “He’s already crossed over, but this is his retirement.”

She was speaking of Frank Liberto, the son of Italian immigrants who opened The Green Beetle in 1939, just a few blocks from the famed Orpheum Theatre (which has its own ghost). Liberto cooked in the kitchen while his wife, Mary, held down the front of the restaurant. Over the years, the tavern attracted the likes of entertainers like Elvis, Hank Williams, and Desi Arnaz, though with urban flight that began in the 1960s, the business’ reputation began to decline. The tavern became a dive bar and the clientele became rowdier, often breaking into fights.

Green Beetle Memphis Tennessee
The Green Beetle has been situated in this building at the corner of South Main Street and Vance Avenue since 1939. The tavern is located next door to this corner store. Photo 2013, by Thomas R. Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Liberto closed the business in 1971, but not before changing the deed to ensure that all the building be forever called “The Green Beetle.” The building passed through a number of hands before being acquired by Liberto’s grandson who wished to reopen his grandfather’s business. It seems that despite having passed, Liberto is still watching over his business.

The investigators made contact with the spirit of an “older gentleman who they say had gray hair and a lively personality.”

“He’s charming and very handsome,” one of the group’s sensitives remarked. She also remarked that he often spent time in the building’s basement. “I feel the older gentleman might come down here a lot to spend time with his grandson.”

But the owner’s spirit isn’t the one slinking around the old bar, investigators discovered the spirit of a woman, Marilyn, who often expresses her displeasure. “We picked up a female, that’s at the bar a lot and she hates the music, especially when it’s loud.” Team members surmised that she possibly lived in an apartment above the bar and died from hitting her head. She “is something of a barfly who likes being around people at the tavern.”

A bartender complained that “we’re going through a lot of wine glasses because whatever hangs out here likes to throw them off my wine rack behind the bar.” He went further to note that the glasses don’t just fall from the rack that they “shoot off the wine rack and shatter.” Additionally, Marilyn likes to play with patrons by tapping them on the shoulder.

To make her spirited retirement, the investigators informed the bartender that he needed to “set out a wine glass and pour her a little drink and give her a little respect. And play some nice music.”

If you’re looking to sip with spirits in Memphis, you may also enjoy the spirited atmosphere of Earnestine and Hazel’s just down the street from The Green Beetle.

Sources

Death on the move—Philadelphia, Mississippi

N.B. An article on this location was first posted as part of “A Southern Feast of All Souls—Newsworthy Souls,” 18 October 2015. It has since been updated and expanded.

Marty’s Blues Café
424 West Beacon Street
Philadelphia, Mississippi

Around 2015, the chef of what was then Brandi’s Blues Café, was working in the kitchen early one morning. Startled by a loud bang, he continued working until he heard water running in the sink. He walked over, turned the sink off and returned to his work. Glancing up he saw a figure standing near the kitchen door. It was “about 6 ft. It had a little pot belly. I saw it for three or four seconds.” Thinking it was a co-worker, the chef returned to work. After discovering he was alone in the building he began to hear footsteps and he left the building until his coworkers showed up.

Marty's Blues Cafe Philadelphia Mississippi haunted
Marty’s Blues Cafe, 2014, by CapCase. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite its name, which translates to “brotherly love” in Ancient Greek, Philadelphia, Mississippi is remembered as the scene of one of multitude of heinous tragedies born of the Civil Rights Movement: the murder of three young activists by members of the local Ku Klux Klan. During the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, as activists throughout the state worked to register African-Americans to vote, three activists were stopped for speeding outside of town. They were arrested and taken to the Neshoba County Jail, located on Myrtle Street, just around the corner from the corner from the café.

After being detained for several hours, the young men were released with law enforcement and members of the local Ku Klux Klan on their tails. The car was stopped again and the three, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were shot to death and their bodies disposed of within an earthen dam that was under construction. Once the bodies of the young men were discovered, the murder case was taken over by the FBI and sparked outrage nationwide.

Some resolution came with the conviction of seven defendants in 1967. More resolution came with the 2005 trial of local minister Edgar Ray Killen who was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter for his part in the killings. In 2016, the state’s attorney general announced that the case was closed.

Just twenty-three years previous, Philadelphia was the scene two tragedies that may echo through time to haunt this small downtown café. The first tragedy occurred the morning of July 29, 1940. In a roadhouse or nightclub called the Blue Goose, the business’ owner, James Grady White, became involved in an argument over the operation of pinball machines with Sam McCune, manager of the Mississippi Vending Company. The argument was settled when White shot McCune to death. When authorities were called to the scene, White claimed that the victim picked up a loaded gun sitting on the counter and accidently shot himself.

Several days later, an angry mob set fire to the Blue Goose in retribution for McCune’s murder. White was arrested and secreted to the Hinds County Jail in Jackson, for safe-keeping. After being put on trial, White was found guilty and sentenced to death by electrocution.

In 1940, the state of Mississippi decided “to abandon the traditional rope” and purchase an electric chair. To assist counties in carrying out death sentences, the chair was a portable device that traveled the state with a technician. So proud was the state of their new device, that a photograph of old sparky and the technician, Jimmy Thompson, appeared in Life magazine showing a smirking, tattooed man standing next to the grim wooden chair. It was this chair that was used for James Grady White’s execution.

The Union Appeal in nearby Union, Mississippi, published the details of the execution:

At 2 o’clock, White made his last walk down a short flight of stairs to the room where the chair had been prepared. With a steady step, looking straight ahead, he walked to the chair and seated himself.

Approaching the chair to adjust the straps, Jimmy Thompson, executioner, said “How are you, Grady?”

‘All right,” was the mumbled reply.

White took an apparent keen interest in the adjustment of the device that was to bring him instant death. The only trace of nervousness visible was an occasional wetting of his lips. He maintained stony silence and composure.

A signal was given and the motor was started. As it began Father Diegnan began to pray.

The switch was thrown and White’s pudgy body, grown heavier by months in jail, grew rigid—his hands involuntarily clenched. Only one shock was applied and three doctors, Dr. Claude Yates, Dr. E. L. Laird and Dr. J. H. Lee, pronounced White dead seven minutes later.

The jail building was torn down some years later and replaced with the jail building where the three activists would be held in 1964. That building remains standing with a historical marker reminding the public of those three young lives that were snuffed out years ago. The plain commercial building on West Beacon Street that now houses the cafe was constructed within the same decade that White was. It seems that his spirit, freed from his earthly bonds, may have taken up residence there.

When members of Southern Paranormal called out the name of James Grady White they recorded an EVP responding “Yeah.” Perhaps he remains to sing his own blues.

Sources

The Intriguing Man at the Bar—Savannah, Georgia

Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn Street

In her 2001 book, Cemetery Stories, Katherine Ramsland includes an odd tale about the Olde Pink House, one of Savannah’s most prominent restaurants. Tales have been told about this building for years; and I haven’t yet seen a tale quite like it among the sources on this place.

Olde Pink House Savannah Georgia ghosts haunted
The James Habersham Jr. House, between 1939 and 1944, taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston for HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

It seems that a young lady working in the restaurant’s bar located in the basement of this more than 200-year-old home, became intrigued with a regular patron. This young man would come in, order a beer, and say nothing as he drank. The young woman watched him intently and eventually developed an infatuation with him. One evening, as he got up to leave, the young lady decided to follow him into the warm night air.

Ramsland doesn’t provide the actual route, though I suspect that the young man followed Abercorn Street south. This would have brought the man around Reynolds and Oglethorpe Squares before approaching the gates of Colonial Park Cemetery at the intersection of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Avenue.

The young lady watched as the man entered the gates of the cemetery. He approached the plot of the Habersham family. “He stopped at the iron fence surrounding the aboveground monument and then walked right through it and disappeared.”

Shocked at what she had just witnessed, the young lady approached the grave thinking this was perhaps a trick of the light and shadows in the cemetery. To her astonishment, there was no one in or around the grave site.

There are a couple details of the story concerning the cemetery itself that may not be correct. The story speaks of the man simply entering the cemetery gates at night. The gates of Colonial Park are closed at night, in fact the cemetery’s official website notes that it closes at 8 PM March through November and 5 PM November through March. However, the Habersham family plot is located near the fence line on Oglethorpe Avenue, so the young woman could have observed the man from just outside the fence. The second detail that may be incorrect is that the Habersham plot does not have a fence.

In digging around for this article, I did come across a much older version of this story. The Visit Historic Savannah page on Colonial Park mentions several ghost stories about the cemetery including one involving a young maid from the City Hotel. One night, this young woman was found sitting outside the gates of the cemetery distraught after she followed an intriguing young man from the hotel. The young man, it seems, entered the cemetery gates and vanished within its precincts. It should be noted that the City Hotel building is now the home of the Moon River Brewery, one of the most discussed and well-known hauntings in the city.

Ramsland writes in her book, Ghost: Investigating the Other Side, that her version of the story was told on a ghost tour of city. This would make sense. In my own experience of taking a tour in Savannah, I heard one story on my tour that was a local adaptation of a typical ghostly hitchhiker story. In fact, I recall quietly groaning when I realized what the story was. It would not surprise me if the City Hotel version of the story had simply been updated to a more modern setting. While the story is intriguing, it may very well be fiction.

Savannah is a city of stories and the restaurant where this tale originates has many of its own. The restaurant’s name is a reference to the red brick underneath the home’s stucco that has bled through over the years. The home was built by James Habersham Jr., son of noted colonial merchant and planter James Habersham, around 1789. It is James and his three sons, James Jr., Joseph, and John, who lie in the family crypt in Colonial Park Cemetery. The home was converted to use as a bank in 1812 and became a tea room and antiques shop in 1929. The building was transformed into a restaurant in 1970 and remains one of the most prominent restaurants in the city.

James Habersham Jr. by Jeremiah Theus.

Among the supernatural stories from the Olde Pink House are several telling of a man in colonial dress seen drinking at the bar. He is believed to be the spirit of James Jr. still watching over his former home. A few other spirits may also be in residence in this stately old home. I plan on exploring those ghost stories in future articles.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2005.
  • Historic Colonial Park Cemetery.” Visit-Historic-Savannah.com. Accessed 24 September 2019.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. Cemetery Stories: Haunted Graveyards, Embalming Secrets, and the Life of the Corpse After Death. NYC: Harper Collins, 2001.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. Ghost: Investigating the Other Side. NYC: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
  • Williams, Robin. Buildings of Savannah. Charlottesville, VA: U. of VA Press, 2016.

Mobile’s Haunted Five

Among the oldest cities in the Deep South, Mobile was founded in 1702 by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, of whom the latter is considered the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana. The city’s location on the well-protected Mobile Bay, led to the city becoming a major port for exportation. That strategic location, however, made it a major target during the Civil War, which brought economic devastation to the city; that devastation would last for many decades. Through the 20th century, the port city’s fortunes have been restored and the city has become a major tourist destination with beautiful and large historic districts which are, of course, brimming with spirits.

The genteel ghosts of Mobile have been explored in a number of sources, including three books by Elizabeth Parker: Mobile Ghosts (2000), Mobile Ghosts II (2004), and Haunted Mobile (2009). In this blog, I have covered a few sites in the city including the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Richards DAR House, and the Phoenix Fire Museum.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
26 North Royal Street

Considered one of Alabama’s premier hotels, the Battle House is the fourth hotel on this site, though only the second called the “Battle House.” In 1825, as floods ravaged the state capital at Cahaba, Daniel White moved his inn to Mobile using flatboats. That hotel opened as the Franklin House and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1829. A larger hotel, the Waverly Hotel, was constructed on this site only to be destroyed by fire in 1850. Led by James Battle and his brothers, a group of prominent locals created a company to build a large hotel on this site, and the Battle House opened in 1852.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, this hotel served many luminaries including presidential candidate Stephen Douglas, who was here the night he lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. That hotel burned in 1905, and it was replaced by the current hotel building which opened in 1908. Among the prominent figures who have stayed in this building are President Woodrow Wilson who stayed here in 1913. The hotel went through a difficult financial period in the 1970s and closed in 1974. After being closed for nearly 30 years, the hotel has recently been fully restored and reopened.

Battle House Hotel Mobile Alabama ghosts haunted
The Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa, 2008, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Historic hotels like this rarely do not have ghosts or, at the very least, rumors of ghosts. The Battle House spirits have not been well documented, though an article by Amy Delcambre on the website, VisitSouth.com, includes an interview with George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian. When asked, Moore disavowed a belief in ghosts, though he did recount some of the curious incidents that have taken place here.

One story Moore recounted involved a recently married couple who stayed in the hotel in 1910. The husband left his wife alone while he took care of some business outside of the hotel. When he did not return, she supposedly hung herself in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. After the hotel’s recent reopening, a wedding reception was held in the ballroom where a portrait of the bride was displayed on an easel. The mother of the bride noticed a strange man in a gray suit admiring the picture, when guests began to enter the room, the strange man disappeared.

Other guests here have seen mysterious lights and apparitions in their rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors.

Sources

  • Delcambre, Amy. “Haunted History of the Battle House Hotel.” com. 19 October 2014.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Battle House Royale. 4 June 1975.
  • The Battle House Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 May 2015.

Boyington Oak
Located within Church Street Cemetery, just off Bayou Street

Boyington Oak Chucrh Street Cemetery Mobile Alabama ghost haunted legend
The legendary Boyington Oak in Church Street Cemetery, 2009. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This mighty live oak growing amid the gravestones of Church Street Cemetery is a supposed sign of the innocence of Charles R. S. Boyington. In 1834, within this cemetery, the body of Nathaniel Frost was found; severely beaten and robbed of his money and pocket watch. Boyington, who had been close friends with Frost and, according to testimony, had been seen walking near here with him, was arrested for the murder and found guilty. He was hung before a huge crowd on gallows erected in Washington Square. Before his execution, however, he stated that his innocence would be proven by an oak sprouting from his heart. This tree sprouted not long after Boyington was laid in his grave. Passersby have claimed that whispers are still heard as the wind blows through the branches.

Sources

  • Kirby, Brendan. ”Murders, burglaries and ‘lynch discipline;’ Mobile was a lawless place in the 1830s.” com. 12 June 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Central Fire Station
701 St. Francis Street

Firefighters were shocked in 2010 when the Gamewell Alarm System here lit up. Of course, as firefighters, they should always be prepared, but they’re not usually prepared for dealing with the supernatural. The alarm system was last used in the 1960s, and the system was not connected to a power source, so there was no reason it should be lit up.

The old Gamewell system is displayed on the second-floor museum of this active fire station. Some firefighters have suggested that the system lights may be just more evidence of the presence of Laz Schwarz, a former mayor for whom this facility was dedicated when it opened in 1925. The shadowy figure of a man has been seen here for years and is believed to be the shade of the Mayor Schwarz.

Sources

  • Dials, Renee. “South Alabama re station haunted?” WISH TV. 17 August 2010.
  • Hough, Jere. “New re station museum in Mobile is trip back in time.” com. 26 April 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Malaga Inn
359 Church Street

One of Mobile’s finest inns, the Malaga Inn is noted as being haunted, though the specifics are harder to discern. Elizabeth Parker, the author of three books on haunted Mobile, notes in her blog that she spoke with a few guests who had haunting experiences in this inn that occupies a pair of 1862 townhomes. One guest reported smelling a flowery, perfume-like scent in her room while another guest was physically touched by something she could not see. A different guest awoke to find the apparition of a man standing at the end of his bed.

Sources

  • “Ghost-berfest, Day 31: Ghostober Notebook and Happy Hallowe’en.” Mobile Ghosts Blog. 31 October 2010.

Mobile Carnival Museum
355 Government Street

Housed in the historic 1872 Bernstein-Bush House, the Mobile Carnival Museum displays artifacts from the history of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, the oldest in the nation. Prior to the building’s use as the Carnival Museum, this building contained the Museum of Mobile which did not experience much paranormal activity besides having a men’s patent leather shoe mysteriously appear on the staircase of the carriage house. The staff arrived one morning to find this very nice shoe sitting on the stairs. There was no sign of an intruder, and the building had been tightly secured.

Carnival Museum of Mobile Alabama ghost haunted
The Mobile Carnival Museum, 2008 by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An unseen entity, dubbed “Ralph” by the museum’s staff, is known to make adjustments to displays. After the Carnival Museum began to install its exhibits in 2005, one mannequin was repeatedly found to be lying on its side. Lights throughout the building often turn themselves on after they have been turned off for the night. One of the more mysterious incidents involved a Mardi Gras crown that was found to be missing from an exhibit. After a frantic search, the curator found the crown sitting on a chair next to her desk the following Monday morning. None of the staff fessed up to knowing anything about the missing object. No one is sure who Ralph may be, though the building did house a funeral home for some decades.

Sources

  • Parker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter— Bienville Street

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Bienville Street

This street is named for Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Arnaud’s
813 Bienville Street

In a city famed for its landmark restaurants, Arnaud’s is one of the “Grande Dames.” This distinguished handful includes many of the city’s oldest and most famous eateries including Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, Broussard’s, Brennan’s, and Tujague’s, a few of which are known to be haunted. Opened in 1918 by “colorful” French wine dealer Arnaud Cazenave, Arnaud’s has specialized in and refined the art of classic Creole cuisine in its more than hundred years of existence.

Arnaud's Restaurant Bienville Street French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Arnaud’s in 2007, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Cazenave’s ebullient personality—he encouraged everyone to address him with the title “Count”—manifested itself in the restaurant’s atmosphere as well as the food. The haughty strictures of French etiquette were applied to the restaurants numerous dining rooms, the service of the wait staff, and every single place setting. Though he passed in 1948, Count Arnuad is known to continue to adjust place settings if they don’t conform to his standards. Additionally, his dapper spirit, resplendent in an old-fashioned tuxedo, has been spotted by guests and staff alike.

Arnaud's restaurant Bienville Street French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Arnaud’s as seen from Bourbon Street’s Old Absinthe House. The restaurant extands from the middle of the block all the way to the salmon colored building on the corner. Photo 2012, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Upon the Count’s death, operations of the restaurant passed to his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells, a personality in her own right. In 1978, the restaurant passed out of the Cazenave family to the Casbarian family, who continue to run it to the Count’s specifications. In 1983, the Casbarians opened a Mardi Gras Museum on the restaurant’s second floor in memory of Mrs. Wells. It is said that her spirit continues to be seen in that area, sometimes wearing the outsized hats she was known for.

The restaurant’s bar, Le Richelieu, occupies the oldest building on the restaurant’s premises which is said to date to the 19th century. Here patrons and staff have sometimes experienced cold spots and apparitions which may include the inimitable Count Arnaud.

Sources

Sipping with Spirits—Guide to Spirited Southern Bars

N.B. Last updated 29 May 2020.

Throughout the South, there are many places where you can sip with spirits. This guide covers all of the bars that I have explored in the pages of this blog over the years. Not only have I included independent bars, but breweries, wineries, restaurants, and hotels with bars as well.

Alabama

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant Sylacauga Alabama ghosts haunted
Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

District of Columbia

Omni Shoreham Hotel Washington DC ghosts haunted
Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2009. Photo by Jurgen Mattern,  courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida

Island Hotel Cedar Key Florida ghosts haunted
Island Hotel, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Georgia

Jekyll Island Club Hotel Jekyll Island Georgia ghosts haunted
Jekyll Island Club, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern Bardstown Kentucky ghosts haunted
Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louisiana

Hotel Monteleone French Quarter New Orleans Louisiana ghosts haunted
Hotel Monteleone, 2009 by Bart Everson, courtesy
of Wikipedia.

Maryland

Middleton Tavern Annapolis Maryland ghosts haunted
Middleton Tavern, 1964. Photograph for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Mississippi

Weidmann's Meridian Mississippi ghosts haunted
Weidmann’s, 2010, by Dudemanfellabra. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina

Lake Lure Inn North Carolina ghosts haunted
The 1927 Lake Lure Inn. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

South Carolina

Mad River Grill Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Tennessee

Earnestine and Hazel's Memphis Tennessee ghosts haunted
Earnestine and Hazel’s, 2012, by Thomas R.
Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

Michie Tavern Charlottesville Virginia ghosts haunted
Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia