Haunted Virginia, Briefly Noted

Virginia possesses a vast history; subsequently, it could be described as one of the most paranormally active states in the country. This is a selection of some of the more interesting hauntings throughout the Old Dominion.

Aquia Church
2938 Jefferson Davis Highway
Stafford

Aquia Church , photograph taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

As with many of Virginia’s great landmarks, Aquia Church has a ghost story attached. The legend tells of a young woman murdered in this National Historic Landmark church at some time in the eighteenth century and her body hidden in belfry. Accordingly, her spirit descends from the belfry at night and has been witnessed by many over the centuries. One caretaker also spoke of seeing shadowy figures among the tombstones in the graveyard. The current Aquia Church building was built in 1751 and destroyed by fire just before the construction was complete. Using the remaining brick walls, the church was rebuilt in 1757.

Sources

  • Driggs, Sarah S., John S. Salmon and Calder C. Loth. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Aquia Church. Listed 12 November 1969.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1993.

Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Island

In terms of books documenting the spiritual residents of the state, Virginia has an embarrassment of riches. Marguerite DuPont Lee can be noted as one of the first authors to document many of Virginia’s ghosts in her 1930 book, Virginia Ghosts. More recently, L.B. Taylor, Jr. has published some 22 volumes covering the state. Most recently, Michael J. Varhola published his marvelous Ghosthunting Virginia and it is that book that documents the haunting surrounding the Assateague Island and its lighthouse.

Assateague Lighthouse, 2007, by DCwom, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Assateague Island is a barrier island along the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Much of the island is now Assateague Island National Seashore with parts of Assateague State Park and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The island is famous for its feral horses, descendants of the horses aboard the Spanish ship, La Galga, which wrecked just off the island in 1720. It is said the spirits of the humans who died in the wreck still comb the beach near the Assateague Lighthouse. The lighthouse, constructed in 1866 and first lit the following year to replace an earlier lighthouse from 1831, may also have some spiritual activity related to it. Varhola cites a National Park Service employee who tells of the door to the lighthouse being found mysteriously unlocked.

Sources

  • Assateague Island. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Assateague Lighthouse. December 1972.

Bacon’s Castle
465 Bacon’s Castle Trail
Surry

Bacon’s Castle, 2006, by Yellowute, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bacon’s castle ranks highly on a number of lists. It’s described as the only Jacobean house in America and one of three in the Western Hemisphere; one of the oldest buildings in the state of Virginia and the oldest brick home in the United States. Indeed, it may be one of the oldest haunted houses in the US as well. Researchers in 1999 dated tree rings on some of the home’s beams and determined the house was constructed around 1665. Originally called Allen’s Brick House, the house acquired its current name during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 when some of Nathaniel Bacon’s supporters took over the house. The house, which has survived and witnessed centuries of American history, is now a house museum.

As for the ghosts, this house may possess many. The final private owner of the house, Mrs. Charles Walker Warren, told many tales of the house involving doors opening and closing by themselves and footsteps that were heard. Certainly, the most well-known phenomena regarding Bacon’s Castle is the red fireball that has been seen rising from the house and disappearing in the churchyard of Old Lawne’s Creek Church nearby.

Sources

  • Barisic, Sonja. “Houses’ ‘Bones’ Yield Secrets of Its History.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch. 19 December 1999.
  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Melvin, Frank S. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Bacon’s Castle. Listed 15 October 1966.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1983.
  • Tucker, George. “Ghosts Long A Part of the Lore of Bacon’s Castle.” The (Norfolk, VA) Virginian-Pilot. 9 November 1998.

Belle Isle
Richmond

Originally called Broad Rock Island, Belle Isle was used for mostly industrial purposes in the nineteenth century. Mills, quarries and a nail factory appeared on the tranquil island in the James River. Notoriety came to the island in 1862 with the opening of a Confederate prisoner of war camp that was as notorious as Georgia’s dreaded Andersonville and with a huge influx of prisoners, the camp quickly descended into squalor. Prisoners lived in tents that provide little insulation from the bitter cold of Virginia winters or the heat of the summer sun and were offered little in the way of food. By 1865, most of the prisoners had been shipped to prison camps throughout the South and the island was returned to its more tranquil use as the site of a nail factory. The Old Dominion Iron and Nail works operated on the island until it closed in 1972 and many of its buildings demolished. The island became a park around that same time and has been a popular spot for hiking and jogging.

Belle Isle, 2012, by Morgan Riley, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Still, remnants of the island’s past linger: the site of the prison camp is marked but little else remains while there are ruins of some of the old industrial buildings. Indeed, spirits from the islands past may also linger. There are reports from island visitors of shadow people, hearing footsteps on the trail behind them, lights in the woods at night and photographic anomalies. Author and investigator Beth Brown in her Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts conducted an investigation and picked up an EVP of a male voice clearly saying, “Where are we?”

Sources

  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Dutton, David and John Salmon. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Belle Isle. Listed 17 March 1995.

Michie Tavern
683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

My first introduction to the Michie Tavern came through the eyes of paranormal researcher and writer Hans Holzer. Among some of the first books about ghosts I read were some of Holzer’s books and I still vividly remember reading of some of his investigations. For his books, he traveled the world with a psychic medium in tow investigating haunted and historical locations such as the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City and the famous house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, the basis for the “Amityville Horror.” On his travels through Virginia he visited the Michie Tavern and nearby Monticello and was able, through his medium Ingrid, to find spirits still partying in the ballroom of this 1784 tavern. Staff members have reported the sounds of a party in that very room late at night.

Sources

  • Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
  • Michie Tavern. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.

Monticello
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

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

In 1928, a Charlottesville preservationist purchased the Michie Tavern, an 18th century tavern in nearby Earlysville and moved it near to Thomas Jefferson’s “little mountain,” Monticello. Jefferson, perhaps one of the country’s most brilliant, enigmatic and creative presidents, designed and built his home over many years at the end of the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. Over the years that the house has been open as a museum, there have been a few reports of phantom footsteps and other minor incidents including the occasional sound of someone cheerfully humming.

Sources

  • Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
  • Monticello. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.

Octagon House (Abijah Thomas House)
631 Octagon House Road
Marion

Octagon House, 2007, by RegionalGirl137, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In a state of magnificently preserved historical homes, it is surprising to find a magnificent architectural gem like the Abijah Thomas House standing forlornly unrestored.  Neglect and vandalism by teenagers out for a “scare” have also taken their toll on this home. The octagon house style found prominence in the middle of the nineteenth century and currently only a few hundred to a few thousand (sources differ) survive. This particular house, described in its National Register of Historic Places nomination form as “the finest example in Virginia of a 19th-century octagonal house,” also has a number of legends about it. According to Michael Varhola, the internet is full of these legends that seem scary but are unlikely to be true. Certainly, this old house is creepy in its deteriorated state, but it really needs a professional investigation.

Sources

  • Octagon houses. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Abijah Thomas House. Listed 28 November 1980.

Old ’97 Crash Site
Route 58 and Riverside Drive
Danville

It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And a line on a three mile grade.
It’s on that grade that he lost his airbrakes.
You see what a jump he made.
— “Wreck of the Old ‘97” first recorded by G.B. Grayson and Henry Whittier

The wreck of the Old ’97, 1903.

On September 27, 1903, the No. 97 “Fast Mail” train jumped its track on the Stillhouse Trestle in Danville and plunged some 75 feet into the ravine. The train’s engineer, who was rushing to get to Spencer, North Carolina on time, tried to slow the train as it approached the trestle, but the train did not slow. Of the 18 souls aboard, 10, including the engineer were killed. Not long after the crash stories emerged of people seeing odd lights in the ravine where the crash occurred. Even after the trestle was removed and the ravine was filled with growth, the lights are still said to appear.

Sources

  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Wreck of the Old 97. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.

Rosewell
5113 Old Rosewell Lane
Gloucester

Rosewell ruins, 2002, by Agadant, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The magnificent main house at Rosewell burned in 1916, but it is hardly a distant memory. The brick wall still stands, and archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of items that were inside the house during the fire. Construction began in 1725 and the house was completed in 1738 for the powerful Page family. The power of the Page family extended into the nineteenth century and included friendships with people such as Thomas Jefferson who legend says drafted the Declaration of Independence within the walls of Rosewell. The ruins have been preserved as a historic site and still attract visitors and spirits. An old legend speaks of a woman in red seen running down the remains of the house’ front stairs with the sound of slaves singing has also been heard.

Sources

  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga-Cherokee Counties) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Talladega County

Talladega Superspeedway
3366 Speedway Boulevard
Lincoln

Curses figure into many Southern legends, especially in places that are legendary themselves, places like Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the home of country music. So, it’s no surprise that the largest and perhaps the most important race track in the NASCAR circuit is home to legends of a curse and other strange activity.

Opening in 1969 as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, the track was anointed with its current name in 1989. Despite initial questions about the safety of the track, the speedway has been used successfully for more than four decades.

Aerial view of the Talladega Superspeedway, 2007, by AuburnPilot. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Stories reveal that the spit of land where the track now sits was cursed. Many tales lay the blame for that curse on the Muscogee Creek people who were forced from this area in the 1830s. These tales are usually the result of romantic, overactive imaginations of white settlers.

Nonetheless, there have been some deaths here starting in 1973 when driver Larry Smith was killed after his car hit the outside concrete wall. Besides a handful of other drivers who have lost their lives here, several freakish accidents have claimed a few more lives. Several drivers on the course have reported hearing voices while racing. Stories of the “Talladega Jinx” became so common that in 2009 the president of NASCAR brought in a Muscogee Creek medicine man to “restore balance to the land.” There is no word if that has worked.

Sources

  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Estes, Cary. “Talladega Superspeedway.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 28 October 2008.
  • Hinton, Ed. “They’re hearing voices at Talladega.” com. 22 April 2009.

Tallapoosa County

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

In a 2008 Tallassee Tribune article, the librarian of the Tallassee Community Library, calls them her “ghostly patrons.” She continues, “When I get here every morning between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and open the door, for about the rst ve seconds, I hear music, laughter, and children.” During times when she is alone in the building, she will hear movement and the peculiar sound of pages being turned coming from one corner. And she is not the only one to have this experience, other employees and patrons have their own stories.

When this unassuming small-town library was featured on an episode of the Biography Channel show My Ghost Story the librarian described how she will often be re-shelving books only to have a force push back against the book. She mentions that at times, entire shelves of books will be found to have been turned around when she opens the library in the morning. The activity eventually got to the point where the librarian asked a paranormal investigation team to look into what may be going on here. Enter David Higdon, an investigator with the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Society and co-author (with Brett J. Talley) of two books on the ghosts of Tuscaloosa and the Black Belt.

The first time Higdon entered the children’s section of the library, he recalls that he felt that, “something just ain’t right in this room.” Later asking for a sign of a presence he heard two loud, distinct knocks, knocks that he found to be very disturbing. After asking for another sign, the investigators were met with a loud crash as the grating over the replace came crashing down. The startled investigators quickly left the room.

The group also investigated the basement of the library, where the librarian reported she heard growls as well as the voices of a group of people in conversation. It was here that a startling EVP was captured; after the spirit was asked for a name, a response was recorded saying, “You may address me as Sergeant Fuller.” From this, investigators believe that at least one of the spirits may be a soldier who died at the field hospital located near here during the Civil War. The children that are heard throughout the building may date to the building’s original use as a clubhouse for local children. As well as the living, the library continues to be patronized by spectral children and soldiers.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • My Ghost Story, Episode 3.3. Biography Channel. 29 October 2011.
  • “Paranormal group visits local library.” Tallassee Tribune. 11 April 2011.

Tuscaloosa County

Little Roundhouse
Campus of the University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa

On April 4, 1865, as much of the rest of the university was blazing under orders from Union General John T, Croxton, this small sentry house—the only actual military building on campus—received little damage. This crenelated Gothic Revival building was constructed in 1860 as the university moved to a military system in hopes of restoring order and discipline. The octagonal building provided shelter for students as they endured guard duty.

Tradition holds that though most students had left campus to help defend the Confederate cause, two eager students remained to “kill Yankees.” As the campus was burning, a Union soldier stumbled upon one of the remaining students asking if there was whiskey on campus.

Little Round House, 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.

He was directed to the guardhouse where his companion lay in wait to ambush the thirsty soldiers. By the end of the night, several Union troops lay dead in the Little Round House. While this is a marvelous story, there does not appear to be any truth behind it.

The legend continues that if one puts their ear to the door of the Little Round House, one can hear the sounds of the thirsty Yankees still searching for their whiskey.

Sources

  • Center, Clark E. “University of Alabama (UA).” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 12 September 2009.
  • Crider, Beverly. “Crimson Hauntings: The Ghosts of UA.” com. 10 May 2012.
  • Floyd, W. Warner & Janice P. Hand. National Register of Historic Place Nomination Form for the Gorgas-Manly Historic District. 2 June 1971.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • “Question of Shape: Little Round House, A.” Dialog (UA faculty newsletter). 9 November 2009.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Walker County

Franklin Ferry Bridge
Franklin Ferry Road over the Black Warrior River
Adger

This bridge over the Black Warrior River plays host to the spirit of an angry motorist who supposedly throws sticks and stones at eighteen-wheelers as they pass over the bridge. An article in the Birmingham News mentions this as a legend told among truckers passing through the region. Perhaps this is a spectral case of road rage?

Sources

  • MacDonald, Ginny. “Boootiful Alabama: Don’t let night catch you driving alone.” Birmingham News. 31 October 2002.

Washington County

St. Stephens Historical Park
2056 Jim Long Road
St. Stephens

Occupying a bluff above the Tombigbee River, settlement here precedes the creation of the state of Alabama. In the years following the American Revolution, Spain built a fort atop this bluff, naming it Fort San Esteban. Their stay, however, was temporary, and they lost the fort in the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo, which redrew the boundary lines. In 1799, the fort was occupied by American forces. The establishment of a trading post for trade with local Native Americans attracted frontiersmen to the area and St. Stephens began to grow as a town.

With the creation of the state of Mississippi in 1817, the rapidly growing town of St. Stephens was named as the territorial capital of the Alabama territory. When the territorial government created the state of Alabama in 1819, political wrangling led to Cahaba being named as state capital. St. Stephens’ importance diminished by the capital move, the town slowly withered over the next few decades. By the Civil War, the original town had mostly vanished with the establishment of a new town of St. Stephens several miles away.

An article in a 1928 edition of the Birmingham News relates a legend about St. Stephens. According to the legend, St. Stephens, at its height, was an “ungodly place,” lacking a house of worship. An itinerant preacher wanting to hold religious services asked if he could use a local saloon to that purpose. His suggestion was met with ridicule and the preacher was ordered out of town. As he was forced out he cursed the town with disaster and ruin.

Stories of the prosperous town destroyed after being cursed by a holy man exist throughout Southern folklore. Some sources on this story argue that the holy man in the St. Stephens story is none other than famed Methodist preacher Lorenzo Dow. It is known that Dow passed through the area during St. Stephens’ most prosperous era. While nothing remains of the old St. Stephens above ground, in accordance with the curse, archaeological excavation has slowly begun to uncover the foundations and cellars of this most historic town.

Sources

  • Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Lewis, Herbert J. “Old St. Stephens.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 4 September 2008.
  • Stockham, Richard J. “The Misunderstood Lorenzo Dow.” Alabama Review. January 1963.

Wilcox County

GainesRidge Dinner Club
933 AL-10
Camden

The owner of the GainesRidge Dinner Club does not describe her paranormal experience as a “ghost story” but rather as a “ghost truth.” While in the restaurant one evening preparing for the next day with the cook, the owner went upstairs to retrieve a pot. While upstairs, she heard a voice calling her to come quickly downstairs. The owner raced down the stairs and found the cook in the kitchen calmly preparing food. The cook looked up and said that she had not called the owner, nor did she know who did. After a fruitless search for someone else in the restaurant, the owner and the cook fled the restaurant.

One of the oldest structures in the area, this house is believed to have been built in the 1820s. After the house was opened as a restaurant in 1985, the owners and staff have reported a variety of paranormal manifestations including the spectral crying of an infant and the shade of a tall bearded man. Author Beverly Crider relates in her Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama that a very young relative she took to dinner here saw a spectral dog and later a little boy, neither of which were seen by the adults present.

Sources

  • Alabama Ghost Trail. “Gaines Ridge.” YouTube. 6 July 2009.
  • Brief History of GainesRidge.” GainesRidge Dinner Club. Accessed 7 June 2015.
  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Winston County

AL-5
Between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge

The stretch of Alabama Highway 5 between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge is said to be haunted by the spirit of a young woman who met her death here. According to Barbara Duffey’s 1996 book, Angels and Apparitions, the young woman was killed along this section of highway in 1990. She and her boyfriend were driving a Buick when they began arguing and pulled off the road. After the boyfriend had assaulted his girlfriend, she fled towards the truck stop across the road. As she crossed the road, she was struck by an eighteen-wheeler. Since then, her desperate spirit has been encountered by motorists driving here after dark.

In her book, Trucker Ghost Stories, Annie Wilder includes a story from a Hamilton, Alabama resident. The version of this tale he relates specifies that the young woman was a high school student who had been attending her school’s prom. After a fight with her boyfriend, she asked that he put her out on the side of the road saying she would walk home. While walking down the side of the busy highway, she was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer. He continues, saying that the spirit will climb up on the step of trucks passing through and stare at the driver. This local relates an experience he had while traveling down this stretch of road one evening. He felt the sensation of a spirit’s presence, but he wouldn’t turn his head to see if anything was there.

Sources

  • Duffey, Barbara. Angels and Apparitions: True Ghost Stories from the South. Eatonton, GA: Elysian Publishing, 1996.
  • Wilder, Annie. Trucker Ghost Stories. NYC: TOR, 2012.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VI

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga-Cherokee Counties) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Montgomery County

Pratt Hall
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

Huntingdon College’s most famous spirit may have followed the college as it moved to Montgomery from Tuskegee. In the school’s original dormitories, the upper floors, known as “Sky Alley,” were supposed to have been haunted by a Red Lady. After the school’s move to its new campus and the construction of Julia A. Pratt Residence Hall in 1912, the Red Lady may have taken up residence on the third floor.

Students still tell the legend of the Red Lady. A young woman arrived at the school from New York. Very much out of place in this Southern school, the woman remained aloof and was shunned by the other students. Depressed, she committed suicide in her room. In life, this young woman had always favored red, and her lonely spirit is still seen drifting the corridors of Pratt Hall in her favorite color.

Sources

  • Enzwiler, Susan & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Huntingdon College. August 1999.
  • Sellers, Shawn. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History. Shawn Sellers 2013.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Morgan County

Old State Bank
925 Bank Street
Decatur

In 2015 a friend of author Jessica Penot was driving through downtown Decatur with her young daughter. As they passed the Old State Bank, the child asked, “Mommy, why was that lady in the black dress murdered?” The mother immediately asked her daughter what she meant, to which the child replied, “Can we quit talking about this now?” The mother did a bit of research and discovered that there are two female spirits associated with the old bank, one who is weeping and one in a black dress.

Old State Bank, 2010, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Literally in “high cotton,” the Bank of the State of Alabama built this structure as a branch in 1833. Nearly a decade later, when the state legislature discovered corruption they refused to renew the bank’s charter, and the bank was shuttered. The building was requisitioned as a hospital during the Civil War as the city passed between control of Confederate and Union forces. At the end of the war, Decatur lay in ruins except for a few buildings including this one.

The identity of the two mysterious female entities is unknown, however. Perhaps they are the lady loves of soldiers who breathed their last here or maybe they are nurses who tended to the wounded. These spirits have been seen by visitors and staff alike, and investigations have uncovered evidence of their presence.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for State Bank Building, Decatur Branch. 15 June 1971.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Penot, Jessica. “The little girl who saw a ghost.” Ghost Stories and Haunted Places Blog. 28 April 2015.

Perry County

Marion Military Institute
1101 Washington Street
Marion

As the oldest military junior college in the country, Marion Military Institute traces its roots to the opening of Howard College in 1842. A Baptist institution, Howard College opened its doors as a school for boys. During the Civil War, when military training became necessary, the school added a military department. In 1863, the college’s chapel and Lovelace Hall were commandeered for use as a Confederate hospital. Operating as the Breckinridge Military Hospital, the military’s sick and wounded filled these school buildings for two years. The dead were buried behind the school’s chapel.

Howard College moved to Birmingham in 1887 and evolved into Samford University, and the Marion Military Institute was established on the legends-filled campus. Students have reported supernatural activity throughout the campus, though sources provide little detail.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • History.” Marion Military Institute. Accessed 5 July 2015.
  • Perry County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Perry County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.

Pickens County

Pickens County Courthouse
1 Courthouse Square
Carrollton

The north side of the late 19th century courthouse bears an arrow pointing towards the garret window at the top of the structure. This arrow points towards the ghostly window pane that is literally at the heart of Pickens County history and legend.

Twelve years after the first courthouse was burned during the Civil War, the second courthouse erupted in flames in 1877. Rumors spread that the courthouse was set alight by a freed slave, Henry Wells, who lived nearby. He was arrested, and a mob gathered on the courthouse lawn to mete out “justice.” Incarcerated in the attic of the building, Wells peered down on the mob screaming his innocence.

Pickens County Courthouse, 1998, by Calvin Beale for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A storm erupted, and a bolt of lightning struck nearby as Henry Wells was hung for his supposed crime, though proclaiming his innocence until the very end. Citizens passing the courthouse the next morning were shocked to see Wells’ visage etched into the pane of the window from which he had peered down on the mob. Frequent washing of the window has not been able to scrub the mysterious image.

As with many legends, there is a mix of fact and fiction at work here. While the image in the window pane is undeniable, the history is confused. Apparently, a lynch mob did gather on the courthouse lawn once, but for a murderer named Nathaniel Pierce. The mob succeeded in lynching Mr. Pierce. Henry Wells was arrested for the arson of the second courthouse, though he was not put to death by a mob. There are also questions as to the actual existence of the windows, which may have been added to the façade sometime after the deaths of both Pierce and Wells.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Pike County

Pace and Shackelford Halls
Campus of Troy University
Troy

Built in 1947 and 1930, respectively, these two residence halls have both been the scene of poltergeist activity. The activity in Shackelford Hall is explained as the product of a young female student’s suicide. Depressed over her fiancée’s death in a war, “Sally Shack,” as tradition identifies her, hanged herself in this building. Rumors state that two female students living here entered their dorm room to find two pens levitating. The incident led the young ladies to vacate their room the following day.

Pace Hall, 2017, by Kreeder13. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the 1990s, a few students in one of these dorms decided to play with a Ouija board in an attempt to contact the spirit in Pace Hall. The group succeeded in contacting something after which the terrified girls witnessed “a paper clip tapping on their window from the outside, and things moving around the room.” As a result, the university had the room cleansed to settle the activity, though students continue to encounter activity throughout the buildings.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunting of Alabama. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2017.
  • Ferrell, Mary. “Ghost stories on campus.” Tropolitan (Troy University). 30 October 2014.

Randolph County

McCosh Mill
McCosh Mill Road
Rock Mills

Though the location is a bit remote, the ruins of this mill have become a popular place for picnicking families and teenagers searching for a thrill. Located on the banks of Wehadkee Creek, this mill possibly dates to the early 1870s when it was constructed by James Eichelburger McCosh, grandson of local industrialist Jacob Eichelburger who built the cotton mills in Rock Mills. The mill, which ground corn into meal and wheat into our, operated until 1958. It was purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1970 as part of the building of West Point Lake. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, the mill remained standing until vandals set it ablaze. The stone foundation and the mill race are the only remaining features at this site.

The ruins of McCosh Mill, 2015. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

This mill figures into lore on both sides of the state line, and there are many stories and much misinformation. A friend of mine, Celeste, and her husband Randy lived near the ruins until recently. The couple would often venture down to the site after dark to enjoy the quiet, and it is here that they have had a few experiences. Randy rode his four-wheeler down to the ru- ins one evening alone, and while he was there felt that something climbed onto the back of the vehicle with him. Fearing what was behind him, he started back home and never looked back. The unsettling feeling did not leave him until the next day.

A photographer and friend of Celeste’s took her children down to Wehadkee Creek to enjoy the water. As they played, the woman took video and photographs. At one point in the video, a woman appears near the children for a split second. After seeing the vid- eo, the startled mother looked over the photographs and saw the same woman in a few of the photographs seemingly watching from the treeline.

The ruins of the mill are located at the end of McCosh Mill Road which begins in Troup County, Georgia and eventually turns into a dirt road. Continue down this road to reach the mill; though proceed with caution as the road is heavily rutted and damaged from recent logging in the area. The site cannot be reached from Alabama.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner & Ellen Mertins. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the McCosh Grist Mill. 27 May 1976.
  • Interview with Celeste P., LaGrange, GA. 23 July 2015.
  • Randolph County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Randolph County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Russell County

Elite Café
1501 Fifth Avenue
Phenix City

The Elite Cafe with its infamous parking lot where Albert Patterson was shot. He died near where the historic marker now stands. By Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On the evening of June 18, 1954, as state attorney general nominee Albert Patterson walked to his car parked in the parking lot between the Coulter Building and the Elite Café (pronounced ee-light), he was shot three times. He was able to crawl towards the Coulter Building where he died on the sidewalk. The assailant was never apprehended, though he was most likely associated with the organized crime and the rampant corruption in Phenix City that Patterson had been fighting to destroy.

In the early 20th century, Phenix City had a reputation as the wickedest city in America. Fueled by the influx of soldiers to Columbus, Georgia’s Fort Benning, across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, the city had become a haven for prostitution, gambling, alcohol, and other forms of vice. Patterson, a successful lawyer and politician, campaigned on cleaning up the city. Sadly, it took Patterson’s death to spur these changes.

Higdon & Talley report that a gentleman in an old-fashioned suit has been seen in the parking lot and on the sidewalk around the Elite Café and the Coulter Building. Perhaps Patterson is still minding Phenix City hoping it will not return to its sinful ways.

Sources

  • Grady, Alan. “Albert L. Patterson.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 24 July 2007.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
 

St. Clair County

St. Clair County remains the bane in my side. Despite all the searching, both online and in published sources, I cannot find an adequately sourced haunting within the county. Kelly Kazek describes the Flatwoods Community as “a settlement of freed slaves during Reconstruction” that “was later burned.” Nothing online or in the county heritage book provides information on this community. Hopefully, something from St. Clair will soon appear on my radar. If you know of a location here, please send me an email at southernspiritguide@gmail.com.

Shelby County

Old Shelby County Courthouse
1854 Old Courthouse Circle
Columbiana

The oldest remaining courthouse in the state, the Old Shelby County Courthouse has seen a myriad of uses in its long existence. Constructed as a courthouse in 1854, miraculously, this building escaped being burned by Union raiders during the Civil War. The building was used by the county until 1908 when a new courthouse was built nearby. The building was put to use as a hotel and later a boarding house until around 1934 when the public library opened on the second floor. It now serves as a county museum.

Old Shelby County Courthouse, 2016. By Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

A spirit reportedly dwells among the artifacts displayed within the old building. In a room on the second floor, the blinds are regularly adjusted by unseen hands. The same room often gives staff members a creepy feeling, and author Alan Brown reports that some workers in the building at night did see a spectral figure in this room. An investigation conducted in 2002 did not turn up any evidence of spiritual activity, though the investigators did have some strange personal experiences.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. Nation Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Columbiana City Hall. 19 July 1974.
  • Reed, Martin J. “Shelby County’s 1854 Old Courthouse in Columbiana gets new address, improvements.” com. 31 January 2013.
  • “Shelby County ghosts busted.” Shelby County Reporter. 24 July 2002.
 

Sumter County

Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge
Campus of the University of West Alabama
Livingston

The oldest remaining of Alabama’s covered bridges; the Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge may harbor the spirit of an outlaw. The bridge was originally constructed to span the Sucarnoochee River but was moved to the nearby Alamuchee Creek after its replacement by a concrete bridge. It served automobile traffic there until 1958. The Sumter County Historical Society acquired the bridge in 1971, restored it, and moved the bridge to the campus of the University of West Alabama.

Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge, 2007, by Mld74. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The bridge figures into the story of notorious Sumter County Sheri Stephen S. Renfroe. Sometimes known as the “Outlaw Sheriff Renfroe’s notoriety comes from his involvement in murders, leadership in the local Ku Klux Klan, excessive drinking, and embezzlement while in office. Renfroe eventually fled the county, but when he returned he was apprehended by a mob of locals and was lynched either near or on this bridge. A dark shade seen pacing the length of the bridge is believed to be the Outlaw Sheriff Author Alan Brown, a professor at the university who has penned many books on Southern ghosts, stated in a 1994 article that he doesn’t believe the bridge to be haunted.

Sources

  • Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 May 2015.
  • “Bridge harbors legend: Serenity of covered bridge belies dark legend.” Mobile Register. 1 November 2004.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part III

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga-Cherokee Counties) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Crenshaw County

Patsburg Bridge
AL-59 over Patsaliga Creek
Patsburg

An article from the Greenville Advocate notes that some possible paranormal activity has been experienced at this bridge. A few people have captured odd images, including orbs, in photographs taken here. One witness interviewed for the paper reported that a couple of people had died here as well as a body being discovered by a fisherman in the water below the bridge.

Sources

  • “Ghosts in Patsburg.” Greenville Advocate. 9 July 2009.

Cullman County

Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park
516 CR 1127
Vinemont

When he purchased this land, Fred Wise, the creator of the Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park, didn’t know its significance. Over time, Mr. Wise, who has a massive collection of Civil War relics and memorabilia, has uncovered the site’s story as the scene of the Battle of Crooked Creek.

Union Colonel Abel Streight conducted a campaign in Northern Alabama to cut o the Western & Atlantic Railroad in late April and May of 1863. As he and his men moved steadily towards Rome, Georgia via Gadsden, Streight and his men were dogged by Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. On April 30, after an engagement at Day’s Gap, forces skirmished here at Crooked Creek. The Union forces would push through, and on May 3 near Cedar Bluff in Cherokee County, they surrendered to Forrest’s Confederate forces. Afterward, Streight and many of his men faced imprisonment at Richmond, Virginia’s notorious Libby Prison.

Fred Wise has preserved much of the battlefield, making it accessible with walking trails and informational signage. Visitors trooping through the area have encountered several apparitions from both sides including a bleeding Confederate who begs for help. On the front lawn in front of the museum, a Union soldier has been spotted strolling with his rifle. Paranormal investigators took an infrared photograph of the ridge where part of the battle occurred which seems to show a line of soldiers near where Union soldiers held their ground.

Sources

  • Herbert, Keith S. “Streight’s Raid.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 30 October 2007.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Dale County

Claybank Log Church
East Andrews Avenue
Ozark

The log Claybank Church was once like many other churches throughout the state of Alabama, though today, it is a rarity. So many log churches have been destroyed by fire or by neglect, that the Claybank Church is now unique, having been restored and maintained, despite not being regularly used. Here the early settlers at Claybank Creek built their church around 1830 and buried their dead in the field surrounding the building. The original structure was replaced in 1852 and that building has survived the turmoil of the Civil War, as well as the neglect that followed the church’s move to more populous Ozark. The church was acquired by the Claybank Memorial Association in the 1960s and was thoroughly restored in 1980.

A baby crawls on the floor of the old Claybank Church, 2016. Photo by Katie Pollack, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 2005, Carol Gilmer, owner and operator of the International Institute of Clinical Research (IIRC), a company that conducts research trials for drug manufacturers, began leasing space in Claybank Plaza, a property that backs up to the Claybank Church cemetery. Gilmer and her employees began to have strange experiences in the building. Voices and tinkling bells were heard when the building was empty; a heavy lab manual casually threw itself off a shelf in an empty room; and staff members saw shadow-like figures moving through the office. Gilmer’s interest in these odd incidents led her to write a book, The Ghosts of Claybank, where she connects the activity squarely to this historic church and cemetery.

Sources

  • “Claybank Log Church at Ozark added to the prestigious register.” Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 16 December 1976. In Dale County–Claybank Church file, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
  • Gilmer, Carol. The Ghosts of Claybank. Createspace, 2013.

Dallas County

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum
109 Union Street
Selma

The Vaughan-Smitherman Museum has witnessed the panoply of Selma history with much of that history occurring within its halls. Built in 1847 as a school by the local Masonic lodge, this building served as a hospital during the Civil War and later as a public hospital between 1911 and 1960. Just after the Civil War, the building became the Dallas County Courthouse and then served as a military academy around the turn of the 20th century. After the building sat vacant for a few years, it was converted into a local history museum.

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum, 2008. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

As a new museum employee was being given a guided tour some years ago, she made a somewhat disparaging remark near a portrait of William Rufus King, a Vice President of the United States from Selma. A moment later, a glass globe on a lamp nearby slammed down in its setting. After that, whenever the new employee entered, she made sure to greet the former vice president. Throughout the historic structure, footsteps are heard, toilets flush by themselves, the elevator seems to run when it’s not called, and the lights flicker mysteriously.

Sources

  • Alabama Ghost Trail. “Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.” YouTube. 20 July 2009.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places for the Dallas County Courthouse. 13 May 1975.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • “Paranormal weekend at landmark.” Selma Times-Journal. 24 June 2009.

DeKalb County

Hitching Post
6081 AL-117
Mentone

The Hitching Post, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George S, Landreggar Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

One of the centerpieces of the scenic, mountain town of Mentone is the Hitching Post. Now housing a collection of businesses including a realty company and Crow’s Nest Antiques, this building was originally constructed in 1898 as a general store. Over the years the building has housed many businesses, including a popular dance hall on the second floor. Perhaps the female wraith spotted on the second floor here dates from that period.

Sources

  • Collard, Deborah. Haunted Southern Nights, Vol. 3: History and Hauntings of the Mentone Area. Deborah Collard, 2008.
  • Jones, Brian S. “Mentone: A Mountaintop Treasure.” The Official Travel Site of Alabama. Accessed 29 May 2015. 

Elmore County

Robinson Springs United Methodist Church
5980 Main Street
Millbrook

This community of Robinson Springs has mostly been swallowed by the bustling town of Millbrook. The community’s Methodist church gracefully faces the bare wall of a CVS Pharmacy, but the church still greets members. In fact, some of the church’s members may have never left the building.

Robinson Springs United Methodist Church, 2010, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Methodists from the local area first organized around 1828, within the first decade of the state’s existence, and constructed a rude log church for services near here. With the growth of the area and a donation of land, the current church was constructed in the latter half of the 1840s. Amazingly, the church has seen few alterations from its original form. Perhaps the few changes may be a contributing factor in the church being haunted.

While churches often have paranormal activity, it is rare for pastors to call in paranormal investigators seeking answers. After hearing reports from a number of church members of the many strange goings on here, the pastor invited Southern Paranormal Researchers to investigate. According to a 2007 article in the Montgomery Advertiser, the group began experiencing odd activity within five minutes if their arrival.

Activity at the historic church runs the gamut from distracting things like the sanctuary’s sound system turning off and on during services to doors opening and closing on their own. Often, sounds will be heard from empty rooms including what sounded like a television during an investigation. When investigators searched for the source of the sounds, no television was found.

Sources

  • Mertins, Ellen and Barry Loveland. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Robinson Springs United Methodist Church. September 1981.
  • Mullinax, Kenneth. “Spooked: Area’s scary sites have chilling tales.” Montgomery Advertiser. 31 October 2007.
  • Pritchard, Griffin. “Southern Paranormal Researchers chase ghosts and bust stereotypes.” Montgomery Advertiser. 14 July 2007.

Escambia County

Fort Crawford Cemetery
Snowden Street
East Brewton

In 2009 while searching for the exact location of Fort Crawford, archaeologists found nothing near East Brewton Baptist Church, where the fort was thought to have stood. A trench dug near the church produced nothing that indicated the presence of the log fort that once commanded the area a few years before the creation of the state in 1819. Finding information regarding the resident specters of the Fort Crawford Cemetery, and even just information on the fort itself, has been just as fruitless.

Surprisingly, the Escambia County heritage book provides nothing on Fort Crawford, though an article on Dale Cox’s excellent website, Exploring Southern History, provides a sketch of the fort’s history. A fort was constructed on a bluff over Murder Creek after the Creek War of 1813-1814 to monitor the activities of local Muscogee/Creek people and the Spanish in Florida to the south. Fort Crawford Cemetery, located near the believed site of the fort, may date to that period.

Reports of paranormal activity from the cemetery include the shade of a Confederate soldier who may prowl the grounds. Another encounter involved a pedestrian passing through the cemetery who was seized by a shadow figure. A 2011 video posted on YouTube from Paranormal Productions notes that the soldier is known to approach people asking, “Where is my bayonet?” The video also mentions the apparition of a young girl in a white dress seen here as well.

Sources

Etowah County

CSX Railroad—Coosa River Bridge
CSX Railroad over the Coosa River
Between the Memorial and the Meighan Bridges
Gadsden

This current bridge was constructed in 1909 to replace the original railroad trestle that was built here in the 1880s. Initially, both bridges provided passage for trains as well as pedestrians and private vehicles. With the construction of the nearby Memorial Bridge in 1927, the trestle has been used solely for railroad traffic. CSX owns the bridge; please do not risk a trespassing charge.

Mike Goodson notes that in 1909 after the bridge’s construction, it was the scene of paranormal activity. An “unusual ghostly light” was observed near the middle of the bridge while passersby on the bridge at night heard disembodied sobbing. Apparently, one death occurred during the bridge’s construction, but Goodson fails to mention an even more tragic event that took place on the original trestle in 1906.

Coosa River and the CSX Bridge at Gadsden, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George S, Landreggar Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

After the rape and murder of a white woman outraged locals gathered outside the city jail. The mob eventually demanded that the African-American suspects be handed over to them so that “justice” could be enacted. The mob seized Bunk Richardson, one of the suspects. He was dragged to the railroad trestle where the mob’s perverted justice was achieved at the end of a rope. Photographers captured two images of Richardson after the lynching that remain as reminders of this tragic event. Perhaps it is Richardson’s innocent spirit that returns as the light and disembodied sobbing.

Sources

  • Goodson, Mike. “Bridge on the river Coosa helped ease traffic flow.” Gadsden Times. 7 March 2006.
  • Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Thornton, William. “Lynching a dark chapter in city his- tory.” Gadsden Times. 10 February 2000.
  • Thornton, William. “Lynching only a vague memory.” Gadsden Times. 14 February 2000.

Fayette County

Musgrove Chapel Methodist Church
CR 21, North
Winfield

Within this rural church cemetery, the grave of Robert Lee Musgrove, a descendant of the family that founded this church, is said to bear the image of Musgrove’s wife-to-be. Musgrove, a train engineer for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad running the line between Memphis, Tennessee, and Amory, Mississippi, was killed in an accident between Holly Springs and Potts Camp, Mississippi in 1904. There two trains collided killing five railroad employees after an operator in Holly Springs made a mistake and sent a second train onto the occupied line. Tradition says that at the time of his death, Musgrove was engaged to be married, and his funeral took the place of his wedding. Sometime after that, parishioners noticed that the image of a kneeling woman appeared on his stone, perhaps bearing the countenance of his fiancée.

Sources

  • Robert Lee Musgrove, Musgrove Cemetery, Fayette County, Alabama.” Find-A-Grave. Accessed 12 July 2015.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2001.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Franklin County

Dismals Canyon
901 CR 8
Phil Campbell

Legends abound throughout the beguilingly beautiful and remote Dismals Canyon. Despite its name—which is believed to have been granted by Scots-Irish settlers after a ruggedly beautiful spot in Scotland called “Dismals”—this sandstone gorge is a paradise with rock formations, waterfalls, champion trees, an amazing array of biological diversity, and gnat larvae that give off a luminescence at night called “dismalites.” Historically, this place was known to local Native Americans who may have hunted and conducted ceremonies in this mystical place.

Rainbow Falls in Dismals Canyon, 2007, by RBharris. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1838, as the Native Americans of the southeast were being rounded up to be marched westward on what would become known as the Trail of Tears, Chickasaw and Cherokee may have been herded into the canyon here under guard from Federal troops. It is possible that one of the legends may relate to this time. After the death of her lover, an Indian maiden threw herself from the top of a bluff known as Weeping Bluff. Supposedly her image was etched upon the bluff following her death and it continues to weep for her and the Chickasaw who were removed from their homeland.

Attracted by the remoteness of this spot, outlaws may have hidden here. Local legends insist that the gorge may have hidden Vice President Aaron Burr on the lam after his infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton as well as bank robber Jesse James. Among the dusky paths and rocks of Dismals Canyon the spirits of these outlaws and Native Americans may still roam.

Sources

  • Franklin County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Franklin County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “The best-known ghost tale from each Alabama county.” AL.com. 25 October 2017.
  • Morris, M. Scott. “’Fairytale Land’: Alabama’s Dismals Canyon a place out of time.” Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS). 30 July 2017.
  • Ress, Thomas V. “Dismals Canyon.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 7 November 2011.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part II

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga County-Cherokee County) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Chilton County

Refuge Bridge
County Road 32 over Walnut Creek
Clanton

Stories of this rural, one lane bridge being haunted have spread across the internet for years. The only published source on this bridge, Rich Newman’s 2016 Haunted Bridges, appears to draw from these unverified reports. Visitors to the bridge at night are supposed to encounter ghost lights and a malevolent spirit that has been known to pursue those who dare to step out of their cars.

Sources

  • Newman, Rich. Haunted Bridges. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2016.

Choctaw County

Tombigbee River
Near Pennington

Year after year in the early spring, law enforcement near Pennington receives calls about a boat burning on the river. There was a boat that burned on the river near here in a spectacular fire in 1858, the famous Eliza Battle. The river had begun its annual journey outside its banks when the Eliza Battle set its course from Columbus, Mississippi to Mobile loaded with cotton and many passengers. Mrs. Windham describes the journey as starting on a gay note with a band playing as the ship steamed out of Columbus. As evening descended, fireworks were launched, but the weather soon deteriorated.

Tombigbee River below Moscow Landing in 1888, near the site of the Eliza Battle’s demise. Photo by Eugene Allen Smith.

The New York Times notes that a fire broke out around 2 AM on March 1st among the bales of cotton in the ship’s cargo hold. Spreading quickly, the fire severed the ship’s tiller rope rendering the vessel rudderless. As it burned, the boat drifted into the submerged forest along the banks of the river. Some of the passengers were able to grab onto the branches of the submerged trees while many others jumped into the frigid waters. Locals near the river were roused by the screams of the passengers and quickly organized to offer aid. The exact number of lives lost is still not known, but it estimated to be between 25 and 50. However, the burning Eliza Battle still reappears accompanied by the panicked screams of its passengers to remind us of the tragedy.

Sources

  • “Area rich in ghost stories, folk lore.” Demopolis Times. 30 October 2008.
  • “Burning of the Steamer Eliza Battle.” New York Times. 12 March 1858.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Ward, Rufus. “Ask Rufus: Ghosts of the Tombigbee.” The Dispatch (Columbus, MS). 25 October 2014.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Clarke County

Mount Nebo Cemetery
Mount Nebo Road

The Alabama Ghost Trail website lists this rural cemetery as being haunted, though it seems that it may just be especially creepy. This cemetery features four unique gravestones created by local African-American inventor and “brilliant recluse” Isaac Nettles. In these gravestones for family members, Settles includes a “death mask” of the deceased and, in the case of his wife’s grave, the visages of their daughters. These faces, made from impressions done while the subjects were alive, appear to press through from inside the concrete markers. These markers are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are at the heart of the folk art tradition in this state.

Sources

  • Ghost Trail.” SW Alabama Regional Office of Tourism and Film. Accessed 25 May 2015.
  • Semmer, Blythe and Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Isaac Nettles Gravestone. 24 August 1999.

Clay County

Hudson House (private)
Ashland

This abandoned farmhouse is not unlike the quietly decaying abandoned homes and buildings that line Southern byways, except that it is the only well-known haunting in this rural county. Constructed in 1905, this home was built by Charles and William Hudson for their brother, John. Visitors to the home have encountered the sounds of a baby crying, growling, and odd sounds emanating from within the empty house. While the address of this home has been widely publicized, please note that visiting this house without permission of the landowners does constitute trespassing.

Sources

Cleburne County

Bald Rock Group Lodge
Cheaha State Park
19644 AL-281
Delta

Nestled within the state’s oldest continuously operating state park, the Bald Rock Group Lodge was constructed as part of several park features built by workers of the New Deal-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939. This historic structure was probed for paranormal activity by the Oxford Paranormal Society in 2007. The group captured some audio and video evidence including a replace lighting up mysteriously. Members of the investigative team also witnessed a door opening and then slamming shut by itself. This door was found to be dead bolted when the team examined it moments later.

Sources

  • Oxford Paranormal Society. Paranormal Investigation Report for Bald Rock Lodge—Mt. Cheaha. Accessed 21 May 2015.
  • Ress, Thomas V. “Cheaha State Park.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 6 April 2010.
 

Coffee County

Old Coffee County Jail
329 Putnam Street
Elba

By their natures, jails and prisons often hold negative energy. As places of confinement, these places absorb the negative energy and attitudes from the criminals held here. The suicides and murders that sometimes take place within the walls of these facilities add to the negativity that accumulates. The Old Coffee County Jail has been the scene of several tragedies including suicides and the murder of the county sheriff here in 1979.

Built in 1912, this building served Coffee County for many decades until a flood in 1990 led to its closure. On the morning of March 1, 1979, as Sheriff C. F. “Neil” Grantham arrived for work, a young man approached and shot him three times, killing him just outside the building. The shooter was later apprehended and originally sentenced to death, though he was able to get his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Tragedy still haunts the halls of the jail which have been investigated by R.I.P. Investigations. Investigators have caught EVPs within the building as well as communicated with spirits through the use of a Spirit Box. One investigator encountered a malevolent entity which left three long scratches on his back.

Sources

Colbert County

Colbert Ferry Park
Natchez Trace Parkway Milepost 327.3
At the Tennessee River
Cherokee

As the Natchez Trace passed through the territory of the Chickasaw, a pair of native brothers and chiefs, George and Levi Colbert, set up “stands” or inns and a ferry across the river to provide for travelers. Later, the brothers’ surname would be used to name this county. The site of George Colbert’s stand and ferry is now Colbert Ferry Park.

Fire destroyed the stand many years ago, and nothing remains but spiritual activity. Here visitors have had their hair and clothing tugged, and they have heard disembodied voices. Author Bud Steed and his wife experienced some of this activity when they visited in 2011. Around the site, the woods continue to stalked by native spirits, and spectral canoes have been observed on the river.

Sources

  • Crutchfield, James A. The Natchez Trace: A Pictorial History. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1985.
  • Steed, Bud. Haunted Natchez Trace. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Conecuh County

Castleberry Bank Building
Corner of Cleveland Avenue and West Railroad Street
Castleberry

Those who have been inside this building in the small town of Castleberry remark that there is a heaviness in the air. Lee Peacock, a local reporter and blogger, noted that the building gave him and the investigative team with him a sense of “claustrophobia.” Perhaps the feeling of dread and terror felt by a bank president during the Great Depression still pervades this place where he took his life.

The scent of cigar smoke and the low, muffled voices of men talking still cling to the air here. Originally constructed as a bank and serving later as a post office and town museum, the building is currently closed.

Sources

Coosa County

Oakachoy Covered Bridge site
Covered Bridge Road
Equality

Travelers on the road from Rockford, the seat of Coosa County, to Dadeville forded Oakachoy Creek here for decades. To aid travelers in crossing the creek, a small covered bridge was built here in 1916 and carried traffic across the creek until vandals burned the picturesque bridge in 2001.

While the bridge still stood, legend spoke of an African-American man being hung on this bridge. As a result of this heinous act, odd things would happen to vehicles parked on the bridge including door handles being shaken and engines dying inexplicably. With the loss of the bridge, this activity has expanded to the land around the bridge site and may include a shadow figure making its way through the forest.

Sources

  • Newman, Rich. Haunted Bridges. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2016.

Covington County

Old Covington County Jail
Behind the Covington County Courthouse
101 North Court Square
Andalusia

In contrast to the grace of the grand, Beaux Arts-style Covington County Courthouse, the building that once housed the jail is severe and linear, perhaps belying its residents’ fall from grace. The building is angular with a few Italianate touches to soften its harsh lines. The jail’s construction followed the completion of the courthouse in 1916. Among the many people whose shadows darkened the threshold, is country singer Hank Williams, who spent a few nights.

The old jail is now primarily the haunt of spirits. The Alabama Paranormal Research Team, led by Faith Serafin, probed the building twice in 2009 obtaining some interesting evidence. The group captured the distinct sound of cell doors closing and disembodied voices as well as observing a shadowy figure in an upper cell. When asked if she thought the building was haunted, Serafin told a local reporter, “That place is haunted beyond a shadow of a doubt. There’s too much evidence, and it’s haunted by more than a few ghosts.”

Sources

  • Conner, Martha A. & Steven M. Kay. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Covington County Courthouse and Jail District. 28 January 1988.
  • Nelson, Stephanie. ”Ghostbusters.” Andalusia Star- News. 10 July 2009.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

‘Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants

‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the blog, little was stirring…

This move from Blogger to this new site has been tedious and time-consuming. I’ve tossed out a great deal of junky posts and put many posts aside that need to be updated and refreshed leaving me with many bits and pieces that should be republished in a different context. This is a selection of 13 recycled pieces for Halloween.

Donnell House
601 South Clinton Street
Athens, Alabama

Originally called Pleasant Hill, this home was built by the Reverend Robert Donnell, a Presbyterian minister and native of North Carolina. Donnell moved into his newly completed home in 1840 and died here in 1855. The house remained in his family until 1869 when it passed out of the family and became home to the Athens Male Academy. It later became a public school and is now surrounded by Athens Middle School. The house is occasionally opened to the public.

The Donnell House, 1935, by Alex Bush for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

During the Civil War, this home was commandeered by Union troops under Colonel John Basil Turchin, a Russian soldier who led the Sack of Athens in 1862. The Donnell family remained in the house during this time with Rev. Donnell’s 16-year-old daughter Nannie lying sick in bed while the troops camped on the lawn. Reportedly, she was kept awake by the soldiers’ constant carousing and music. Even after the soldiers were asked to settle down so the girl could sleep, they defiantly responded, “Better she should go to Heaven listening to Yankee music!” Young Nannie died of scarlet fever a short time later.

The executive director of the house, Jacque Reeves, author of the book Where Spirits Walk, has stated that Rev. Donnell’s spirit remains here. “He is having Bible study, and his mother is making biscuits for the guests,” she writes. According to author Shane Black, one couple touring the home was greeted by an “austere” gentleman who welcomed them to his home. Nannie Donnell is also thought to be here as well, with playful laughter and the crying of a child heard coming from her former bedroom. These spirits may also be joined by others, including Union and Confederate soldiers and slaves.

Sources

  • Black, Shane. Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town. NYC: iUniverse. 2009.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Paranormal investigators visit Civil War sites in Alabama; ghost says, ‘huh?’” com. 9 May 2013.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places form for Donnell House. 1 August 1973.
  • History. The Donnell House. Accessed 14 May 2015.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Rock Creek Cemetery
North Capitol Street
Washington, DC

Nestled in the Rock Creek Cemetery is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Yard, the oldest burying ground in Washington, DC. Surrounding the churchyard is the nineteenth century Rock Creek Cemetery which houses graves for many of Washington’s elite including Evalyn Walsh McLean who haunts her former home, now the Indonesian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. The work of famous American architects and sculptors is scattered throughout the cemetery including a statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in a setting by architect Stanford White. The memorial was built by author and historian Henry Adams in memory of his wife, Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams. Commonly known as Grief, Adams hated the name and wrote in a letter to the sculptor’s son, Homer:

Do not allow the world to tag my figure with a name! Every magazine writer wants to label it as some American patent medicine for popular consumption—Grief, Despair, Pear’s Soap, or Macy’s Mens’ Suits Made to Measure. Your father meant it to ask a question, not to give an answer; and the man who answers will be damned to eternity like the men who answered the Sphinx.

The Adams Monument, 2007, by Danvera. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Legend states that visitors near the statue are often overcome with a feeling of despair and others have seen the wraith of Clover Adams near the statue. The late Mrs. Adams may also be in spiritual residence in the Hay-Adams Hotel (see my entry on the hotel here). This sculpture is interesting in the fact that a copy of it, placed in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikeville Maryland is also associated with a ghost. Druid Ridge has a number of spirits associated with it, but “Black Aggie” is perhaps the best known. The copy of Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture was created by sculptor Edward L. A. Pausch and placed on the grave of the wife of Felix Agnus. For decades the sculpture attracted vandals and the legend grew that the figure’s eyes would glow red and those looking into the eyes were struck blind. Another tale told of a fraternity pledge crushed to death when he spent the night in the statue’s embrace. Disturbed by the activity the statue attracted, the family had it removed and it was given to the Smithsonian and now resides in the courtyard of the haunted Cutts-Madison House on Lafayette Square which faces the Decatur House across the square.

Sources 

  • Adams Memorial (Saint-Gaudens). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 December 2010.
  • Beauchamp, Tanya. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery. Listed 12 August 1977.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. NYC: Checkmark Books, 2007.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

East Coast/West Coast
138 St. George Street
St. Augustine, Florida

This modest commercial building once housed Kixie’s Men’s Store and some odd activity. The shop employed a young tailor, Kenneth Beeson who would later serve as mayor for the city. While working late one evening he noticed a door opening by itself followed by the sweet scent of funereal flowers. After experiencing odd activity for a while, Beeson put out a tape recorder and set it to record just before he left. When he returned the following morning, he was shocked to discover a plethora of sounds including marching feet and guttural growls. Disturbed by these incidents, Beeson had a priest exorcise the building. The activity ceased.

Sources 

  • Cain, Suzy & Dianne Jacoby. A Ghostly Experience: Tales of St. Augustine, Florida. City Gate Productions, 1997.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosts of St. Augustine. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997.

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.

The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.

Entrance to the old Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, All rights reserved.

It is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.

Sources

  • DeFeo, Todd. “Antebellum railroad tunnel still a marvel after all These years.” com. 22 June 2009.
  • Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
  • Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Accessed 28 November 2010.

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Old Louisiana State Capitol
100 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

When the state capitol was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, the city donated land atop a bluff over the Mississippi for the capitol building. Architect James Dakin designed a Neo-Gothic building very much unlike the other state capitols which were often modeled on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The magnificent crenellated and be-towered structure was used as a prison and garrison for soldiers under the city’s Union occupation and during this time it caught fire twice leaving it a soot-stained shell by the war’s end. The building was reconstructed in 1882 but abandoned in 1932 for Governor Huey Long’s new state capitol.

Old State Capitol, 2009, by Avazina. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Even before the capitol burned during the war, there was a ghost gliding through its halls. Pierre Couvillon, a legislator representing Avoyelles Parish, enraged by his colleagues’ corruption, suffered a heart attack and died. Though he was buried in his home parish, his spirit was said to reside in the capitol; perhaps checking up on his colleagues. When the capitol building underwent restoration in the 1990s, the spirit or spirits in the building were stirred up and activity has increased. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.

Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.

Sources

  • Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
  • Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Louisiana. NYC: Sterling Publishers, 2010.
  • Old Louisiana State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.

Jericho Covered Bridge
Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls
Harford County Near Jerusalem, Maryland

Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.

Sources

  • Jericho Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  • Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth, Mississippi

Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.

The railroad junction at the heart of Corinth. Photo 2013, by Ron Cogswell. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Second Battle of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.
  • Siege of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.

North Carolina Zoological Park
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, North Carolina

North Carolina lawyer and folklorist Daniel Barefoot has done much to preserve North Carolina and Southern legends and ghost stories in his books. His series, North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred provides a single ghost story or legend from each of the state’s one hundred counties. From Randolph County, smack dab in the middle of the state, comes the legend of the aptly named, Purgatory Mountain, now home to the NC Zoo. The state-owned zoo is the largest walk-through habitat zoos in the world and a major attraction in the region.

NC Zoo sign, 2010, by Eleazar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the Civil War, much of rural North Carolina was resistant to seceding from the Union and, as a result, the state was the final state to secede. Still, many citizens, including the peaceable Quakers of Randolph County resisted joining the butternut ranks. Recruiters were sent to these areas to nudge and sometimes force the inhabitants to join. One particular recruiter in this area earned the nickname, “The Hunter,” for his harsh methods.  He rounded up a group of Quaker boys, tied them roughly and marched them to Wilmington to join the army, but a few escaped and returned, bedraggled to their rural homes. When the recruiter returned, this group of escaped boys shot him outside of his cabin at Purgatory Mountain. His malevolent spirit is still supposedly stalking the crags of his mountain home.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • North Carolina Zoo. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 April 2012.

Westin Poinsett Hotel
120 South Main Street
Greenville, South Carolina

The Poinsett Hotel, named for Joel R. Poinsett, President Millard Fillmore’s Secretary of War, was Greenville’s first skyscraper at 12 stories. Dominating Main Street, the hotel, billed as “South Carolina’s finest,” opened in 1925 partially to serve the textile industry that had blossomed in Greenville. It replaced the Mansion House Hotel which had served visitors to the city for nearly 100 years.

The Westin Poinsett Hotel, 2012, by Bill Fitzpatrick. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the Great Depression hitting just a few years after the hotel’s grand opening, the hotel fell on hard times. The hotel would not make a profit again for nearly a decade. From that point, until the 1970s, the hotel served Greenville and its visitors successfully. Declining profits led to the hotel’s closing in 1975 and it was converted into housing for senior citizens. The enormous structure was condemned in 1987 and left abandoned. Vagrants, vandals, the homeless and curious teens ventured into the building and alarmed many local citizens who considered tearing the hotel down. The hotel reopened in 2000 after a multi-million dollar restoration and it has now returned to prominence as one of Greenville’s most luxurious hotels.

So far, some guests enjoying the luxurious amenities have encountered other, non-paying guests in the hotel. Jason Profit, in his book, Haunted Greenville, South Carolina, relates stories from two guests. A businessman staying in the hotel was awakened during the night by odd sounds from the bathroom. Twice he discovered the light on after he knew he had shut it off. The second time the sounds seem to be coming from the hallway and the businessman opened the door and peered into the mostly empty hallway to see an elderly man disappearing around the corner. Upset, he called the front desk to demand that whoever was cleaning at that time of the night needed to be quieter. He was told no one was cleaning at that time and he was the only person on that floor.

A young woman staying in the hotel had an even scarier experience. She and her boyfriend checked in and she was alone in the room hanging clothes in the closet while her boyfriend had gone to get drinks at the bar. Suddenly she found herself pushed into the closet and the doors shut behind her. She tried desperately to open the door but she said it felt as if the knob was being held from the other side (pun intended). She said it felt like nearly 15 minutes passed while she fought whatever it was trapping her in the closet. When she got out she grabbed her cell phone and told her boyfriend she would not be staying any longer in the hotel. Whether the spirits of former guests, elderly residents or vagrants, something is stalking the halls of the Poinsett Hotel.

Sources

  • National Register of Historic Places. Nomination form for the Poinsett Hotel. No date.
  • Profit, Jason. Haunted Greenville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Carter House
1140 Columbia Avenue
Franklin, Tennessee

By some accounts, the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some historians have even deemed it the “Gettysburg of the South.” Fought right on the edge of the town of Franklin, the battle hit very close to the home front and absolutely hammered the farm of the Carter family which was located at the center of the main defensive line. During the furious fighting, the Carters, neighbors and slaves cowered in the basement of the house, emerging after the battle to witness the carnage spread through their yard and around their house. The house and outbuildings still bear bullet holes, attesting to their experience.

Fanny Courtney Carter, who was 8 years old when the battle overtook her family’s farm, later recalled the day following the battle: “Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were clod and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writing in agony and calling ‘Water! Water!’ I can hear them even now.” Fanny’s brother, Tod, who had enlisted in the Confederate army was found some yards from the house, his body riddled with eight bullets, but still clinging to life. The family brought him into the parlor of his home where he died on December 2.

Carter House by Hal Jesperson, 2009. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The pastoral fields that once surrounded the Carter House as well as the town of Franklin that saw so much blood that November day have mostly been lost to development though the spiritual imprint of the battle is still felt throughout the city. The spirit of Tod Carter may be one of the more active spirits at the Carter House. He has been seen sitting on the edge of the bed where he may have died and according to Alan Brown, he took a tour of the house, correcting the tour guide when she didn’t use the correct name or date and disappearing before he and the guide could descend to the basement.

Apparently he’s not the only lingering spirit. Poltergeist activity in the house has been attributed to Tod’s sister, Annie. Objects have moved from room to room and one visitor on a tour watched a figurine that jumped up and down.

Sources

  • Battle of Franklin (2009). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena Of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • O’Rear, Jim. Tennessee Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.

Rockledge Mansion
440 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia

The town website for Occoquan (pronounced OK-oh-qwahn), Virginia states that the city, “has an inordinate amount of spooks per capita” and then goes on to list a number of locations in the town with ghosts. Among this remarkable collection of haunted locations is the magnificent Georgian mansion, Rockledge, which commands a literal rock ledge above Mill Street. The town was founded in the mid-eighteenth century as a port on the Occoquan River and during the Civil War this northern Virginia town served as a post office between the North and the South.

Rockledge Mansion by AlbertHerring, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Quite possibly the work of colonial architect, William Buckland, Rockledge was built in 1758 by local industrialist John Ballandine. In the yard of this house the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen and possibly heard. One witness saw the soldier then noticed peculiar wet footprints on the front steps that appeared to be from hobnail boots, the kind that would have been worn by soldiers during the war. Many people have heard loud footsteps in the house as well as someone knocking at the door. So far, no source has identified this soldier.

Sources 

  • Occoquan History. com. Accessed 16 November 2010.
  • Occoquan, Virginia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Streng, Aileen. “Benevolent ghost believed to haunt mansion.” com. 27 October 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Rockledge Mansion. Listed 25 June 1973.

Berkeley Castle
WV-9
Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Castle by Jeanne Mozier. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Berkeley Springs, also known as “Bath,” has attracted visitors who come to take the waters of the mineral springs located there. Overlooking this quaint town from a commanding position on Warm Spring Mountain sits Berkeley Castle, seemingly a piece of medieval Britain transplanted. Modeled and named after Britain’s own Berkeley Castle, the castle was built as a wedding gift from Colonel Samuel Suit for his bride, Rosa Pelham. The Colonel, who was quite a bit older than his bride, died before the castle was finished and his widow finished the building. She lived in the castle after his death and squandered the fortune she inherited and died penniless well away from the castle, but legends speak of her return.

The castle was purchased by paranormal investigators in 2000 but sold fairly shortly after that. Once open for tours, the castle is now primarily a private residence, though it may be rented for weddings, parties and other events.

Sources

  • Fischer, Karin. “Castle in Eastern Panhandle could be in need of a new lord this spring.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. 21 November 2000.
  • History Berkeley Castle. Berkeley Castle. Accessed 19 March 2011.
  • Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia. Winking Eye Books, 2008.

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Just whistling Dixie—Rural Hall, North Carolina

Payne and Edwards Roads
Rural Hall, North Carolina

The ritual is thus: drive out at night to the bridge where Edwards Road crosses over Payne Branch, stop your car in the middle of the bridge, and put it into neutral. Open the windows and begin to whistle “Dixie.” Supposedly the engine will die and you will be unable to restart the car until it is pushed from the bridge.

Author Michael Renegar tells of a friend of his who performed this ritual and was frightened by the results. This friend, a young man and two female companions ventured out to haunted Payne Road one night looking for a thrill. The trio performed the ritual on the bridge and lo, and behold, the car sputtered and died. The young man got out and pushed the car off the bridge and was able to crank the car, despite the feeling of being watched that emerged once he exited the vehicle. Reportedly, the vehicle never acted the same after that. Besides the scary moments the trio experienced on the bridge, the three also noted that when they drove past one of the old cemeteries an angel on the edge of the cemetery faced away from the road, but was facing them as they drove past the second time.

Burt Calloway and Jennifer FitzSimons record an earlier encounter on the bridge where a young man was hoping to impress his date by pitting his bravado against the spirited forces at this bridge. The young couple performed the ritual and the young man left his date sitting in the car as he strutted around the lonely bridge provoking the spirits to come out. A thunderstorm was rolling up and lightning revealed something to the young man. He stumbled, terrified back to the car and attempted to crank it. It refused to start and the young man just sat stunned in the driver’s seat. His date, not too pleased with his sudden fear, cranked the car and drove them away from the bridge. The young man only revealed to his date that he saw a ghost during the lightning’s flash.

The stories of Payne and Edwards Roads have circulated in this rural area of Forsyth and Stokes Counties for decades. The legendary history has entered the digital realm where it is discussed and argued among the more than 3500 members of the Legend of Payne Road group on Facebook. To add more fuel to the fiery legends that exist about this location, the viral website Only In Your State published an article last Friday repeating many of the disputed legends of these haunted roads.

First off, there is a great deal of confusion regarding the exact location of the hauntings. Edwards Road branches off from Broad Street in Rural Hall. Google Maps notes that the road is NC-1903 until after it intersects Forsto Road at which point it becomes NC-1961. Apparently, the haunted portion of the road is located south of Payne Branch where the road has a series of curves before crossing over Payne Branch. Edwards Road terminates at Payne Road just north of the bridge. Payne Road east of Edwards is NC-1961, while the western section is NC-1962. At some point, part of Payne Road may have been renamed Edwards Road, but that is only speculation, however the roads do appear to have been named for the families that once owned the land: the Paynes and the Edwards.

The Only In Your State article notes three legends associated with this road, though, like all legends, these legends change from storyteller to storyteller and article to article. The first legend involves the story of Payne Edwards, a cruel plantation owner whose daughter was impregnated by a slave. After killing the slave Edwards began to practice devil worship and eventually killed his entire family and burned the plantation killing all the remaining slaves.

A different version of the story casts Payne Edwards as the head of a large household here in the 1930s. After losing his mind he decided to murder his family and tied his wife to a chair in the living room. One by one he escorted his children and had them kiss their mother before he took them upstairs and slit their throats. The wife was able to escape and was beheaded by Edwards who then threw the couple’s infant child into a well.

While these stories are both grotesquely fascinating, they are utter balderdash. One of the best sites for a well-researched view of this story is the blog of the North Carolina Room of the Forsyth County Public Library. Last Halloween, one of the research librarians presented these two stories from Payne Road and checked their validity against the historic records. She found no record of Payne Edwards, though an early settler in the area, Robert Payne, owned land in the area. According to the Federal Census, Robert Payne was also a slave owner and had several children, though most apparently survived him.

The detail of a man murdering his entire family is also quite interesting. This detail is borrowed from an actual murder that occurred nearby in 1929. On Christmas Day, Charlie Lawson systematically killed his wife and six of his seven children (his oldest son was away from the family farm) and then shot himself a short time later. Lawson’s reasons for the murders went to the grave with him, though family and acquaintances have speculated that domestic issues including possible incest may have led to the tragedy. This gruesome mass murder elicited awe and curiosity from locals for many years and the family’s farmhouse was open as a tourist attraction for many years. Interestingly, these murders occurred roughly 5 miles from Payne and Edwards Roads on Brook Cove Road outside of Germanton. Though the family’s ramshackle farmhouse was demolished decades ago, there are still reports of paranormal activity in the area linked to the family’s murder.

While this tragedy did not occur in the Payne/Edwards Road area, there are a number of documented tragedies that have occurred here. In 1955, Milus Frank Edwards—who lived at the curve in Edwards Road just south of the bridge—committed suicide with a stick of dynamite. From the Gastonia Gazette, 7 October 1955:

Man Takes Life with Dynamite

Danbury—(AP)—A 73-year-old Stokes county man committed suicide yesterday with a dynamite explosion.

Sheriff Harvey Johnson said Milus Frank Edwards of Rt. 1, Rural Hall, apparently parked his pickup truck in a shed at his home, climbed into the truck bed and set off a stick of dynamite near his head.

A coroner’s jury ruled that death was self-inflicted.

Aubrey Edwards, son of the dead man, said his father had made several threats to end his life.

Sadly, this was among a handful of suicides to plague this family. According to the North Carolina Room blog, Mr. Edwards had four siblings also take their own lives. The blog poster further speculates that this is the beginning of the urban legends that surround these roads.

A more recent misdeed in the area can only be used to back up the tragic nature of this place. In December 1992 several men picked up a young woman in Winston-Salem. The young woman was driven to an old logging road off Payne Road. She was tied to a tree, raped, possibly tortured, and stabbed to death. More than a decade later one of the men involved was found guilty, though that conviction was later overturned based on DNA evidence.

This photograph appears in the 1990 book, Triad Hauntings, and is identified as the “Payne Road House,” though I cannot positively identify it as the haunted farmhouse.

While many of the legends that have accumulated around this area appear to be mostly fantasy embellished with fact, the experiences of locals and investigators cannot be denied. Writer Edrick Thay includes an interesting post-script to this research in his 2005 book, Ghost Stories of North Carolina. In a chapter entitled “The Haunted Farmhouse,” Thay recounts an investigation of an abandoned farmhouse by Haunted North Carolina Paranormal Investigators and Research that the group first looked into in 2002. Thay attempts to disguise the location saying that the lead investigator “refuses to disclose the farm’s location, except to say that it may or may not be around Winston-Salem.” Later details of the history make it certain that this is the old Edwards farmhouse outside of which Frank Edwards died by his own hands. “With this abandoned farm, the sheer number of the deaths from suicide and foul play over the last 50 years is staggering.” The investigator continues noting “gruesome accounts of people exploding themselves with sticks of dynamite, of the Mafia-style executions of two individuals beneath the awnings of an outbuilding and of the torture and grisly murder of a prostitute.”

During the several investigations the group has conducted here they have encountered high levels of activity in and around the old farmstead. On the first investigation several investigators were touched by unseen hands. One had their backpack grabbed and a nearby video camera proved her experience while another was touched on the hand leaving a red welt. Voice recorders used throughout the investigation recorded a number of EVPs including one with “many plaintive voices calling ‘help us!’” Perhaps the most interesting moment occurred when four investigators simultaneously witnessed a shadowy apparition moving along the banks of the nearby creek.

This investigation was conducted some years ago before the farmhouse and outbuildings were destroyed by vandals and an arsonist. Payne and Edwards Roads have both been paved and the mysterious haunted bridge has been replaced by a culvert. Despite these intrusions of modernity, teens and the curious still drive this road at night legend tripping. Hopefully they’re not just whistling Dixie.

Sources

  • Breedlove, Michael. “Local Haunts: Investigating the haunted side of the Twin Cities.” Winston-Salem Monthly. 29 September 2014.
  • Calloway, Burt & Jennifer FitzSimons. Triad Hauntings.Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 1990.
  • The Legend of Payne Road.” North Carolina Room— Forsyth County Public Library. 29 October 2015.
  • “Man takes life with dynamite.” Gastonia Gazette. 7 October 1955.
  • “Prosecutors confident they can convict Penland anew.”Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 August 2005.
  • Rakestraw, Emory. “Driving down this haunted North Carolina road may give you nightmares.” Only In Your State. 26 August 2016.
  • Renegar, Michael. Roadside Revenants and Other North Carolina Ghosts and Legends. Fairview, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 2005.
  • Renegar, Michael. Tar Hell Terrors: More North Carolina Ghosts and Legends. Fairview, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 2011.
  • Thay, Edrick. Ghost Stories of North Carolina. Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Publishing, 2005.
  • Whitmire, Tim. “Lawyers: DNA tests show Penland wrongly Convicted in ’92 killing.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 9 July 2005.

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The Siren of Pope Lick Trestle—Kentucky

Pope Lick Trestle
Over Pope Lick Road and Pope Lick Creek
Jeffersontown, Kentucky

The ghastly siren of Pope Lick Trestle has claimed yet another victim. The terror experienced by a young couple from Ohio while visiting this lonely railroad trestle is unimaginable. The couple was exploring the paranormal wonders of Louisville, of which there are many, and expected to tour Waverly Hills Sanitarium last Saturday evening. While trespassing at Pope Lick in search of the famed Pope Lick Monster or Goatman the couple was caught in the middle of the railroad trestle by an approaching train. The female was struck, thrown from the trestle, and killed. Her boyfriend was able to hang from the trestle until the train passed.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus encounters the Sirens, beautiful maiden-like creatures who lured sailors to their death with their enchanting song. It seems the Pope Lick Monster is a variation of the sirens. In this case however, the monster lures teens with the thrill of viewing his ghastly form and when they walk the trestle in search of him some of them have been killed by a train on this busy thoroughfare.

The legend of the Pope Lick Monster is, like most urban legends, rather hard to pin down. The tales appear to have begun circulating in the mid-20th century. At that time, the trestle was a remote place where local teens would congregate to party and “neck” (in other words, to make out or have sex in the parlance of the period). Perhaps it is one of these teens who first saw the mysterious creature described as being half-human and half-sheep or goat. David Domine, a local writer, historian and expert on area legends and lore describes him as having muscular legs “covered with course dark hair. He’s got the same dark hair on the parts of his body. His face is alabaster they say and he has horns as well.” 

The Pope Lick Trestle over Pope Lick Creek, 2013, by David Kidd. From Flickr.

Some descriptions state that the creature uses hypnosis or other mind-altering methods to lure victims onto the trestle. Other stories note that he uses mimicry to recreate the voice of a child or loved-one. Once on the trestle, it’s too late for the victim to escape a passing train. Perhaps nowadays with the preponderance of thrill-seekers especially looking for paranormal thrills, just the thought of seeing the Goat Man’s visage is enough to lure the unwary.

Since the late 1980s, the siren of the trestle has claimed its fair share of victims. A young man died from injuries sustained in a fall from the trestle in 1987. The next year a young man was killed here in February. In 2000 local headlines note another young man killed after falling from the dangerous trestle. With the most recent victim, that makes four, though I suspect there may be more that didn’t immediately appear in newspaper searches. The trestle was constructed in 1929 and there may have been many deaths here over the years.

The exact identity of this murderous creature is also hidden in lore. Some stories make the connection between this creature and the Goatman that haunts the woods of Prince George’s County, Maryland. That creature is supposed to have escaped from a Beltsville, MD government lab, though the creature must do quite a bit of traveling between the two locations. Other stories indicate that the Goatman is the product of an illicit relationship between a local farmer and a member of his flock. Still other stories note that there may have been some type of Satanic ritual involved. The tale of a traveling circus involved in a railroad accident near here tells of the escape of a freak from the car carrying the circus’ freak show is also mentioned as an explanation for the monster here.

In 1988, Louisville filmmaker Ron Schildknecht premiered his short film, The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster. Norfolk Southern immediately expressed concern that the film might encourage locals to trespass on the trestle. Schildknecht added a note about this to the film to appease the railroad. It does appear that the film and the ensuing controversy served to stir up interest in the legend and perhaps add a bit to it.

Walking along railroad tracks, bridges, and trestles is considered trespassing. While these places are seemingly open to the public, they are private railroad property. The young woman killed at Pope Lick isn’t the isn’t the first ghost hunter or legend tripper killed on railroad property in recent years. In 2010, as a group of ghost hunters explored Bostian Bridge near Statesville, North Carolina, a train appeared and one of the young men was struck and killed by it. The victim pushed a young woman to safety and she was injured in the fall. This group of ghost hunters were looking for the ghost train that is known to appear here reliving the horrific train crash that occurred here in 1891.

Pope Lick Trestle may be safely viewed if one travels down Pope Lick Road. A walking trail also parallels the road and passes under the trestle as well. Do not trespass on the trestle! If you hear the siren call of the Goat Man of Pope Lick Trestle, shut your ears and leave the area, he may be calling you to your death.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Bluegrass State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • Bryant, Judy. “Trestle of death: Film depicting legend stirs fear of life imitating art.” The Courier-Journal. 30 December 1988.
  • Bryant, Judy and Lisa Jessie. “Film puts Pope Lick trestle” fatal attraction in the spotlight.” The Courier-Journal. 4 January 1989.
  • Gast, Phil. “’Ghost train’ hunter killed by train in North Carolina.” 28 August 2010.
  • Gee, Dawna. “Numerous urban legends tell of Louisville’s Goat Man.” WAVE3. 9 May 2014.
  • Holland, Jeffrey Scott. Weird Kentucky. NYC: Sterling, 2008.
  • Kuwicki, Holden. “Local legend may have contributed to Pope Lick death. 25 April 2016.
  • Strikler, Lon. “The Pope Lick Monster’s Deadly Trestle.” Phantoms and Monsters Blog. 30 May 2014.
  • Tangonan, Shannon. “19-year-old does after falling from railroad trestle.” The Courier-Journal. 7 November 2000.
  • Wilder, Annie. Trucker Ghost Stories. NYC: Tor, 2012.
  • Yoo, Sharon and John Paxton. “Coroner: Woman killed by train while investigating ‘goatman’ myth.” KLTV. 23 April 2016.

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Resting high on that mountain—Helen’s Bridge, Asheville

Helen’s Bridge
Over College Street between
Windswept Drive and Beaucatcher Road
Asheville, North Carolina

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain.
You weren’t afraid to face the Devil
You were no stranger to the rain.
Go rest high on that mountain…
 –“Go rest high on that mountain,” Vince Gill (1995)

The city drops away quickly as you drive up Beaucatcher Mountain from downtown Asheville. College Street—a main thoroughfare through the heart of downtown, forming one side of Pack Square—suddenly becomes a mountain road. As it dizzily traverses the side of the mountain, the road enters a gap spanned by a lonely, primeval bridge. Something about the patina of the stone and the flora growing around the bridge, make it appear to be a natural part of the landscape, as if it’s always been there. In truth, it has been here for a little more than a hundred years, enough time for the bridge to settle into the landscape and become ensconced in legend and lore. You have arrived at Helen’s Bridge.

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

The temperature here seems chillier; perhaps it’s the geography or perhaps it’s the wandering spirit of Helen; it’s hard to tell. While many are drawn to the bridge’s stark beauty it is the legend and lore that draws others. The legend speaks of a woman named Helen who lived near the bridge with her beloved daughter. After losing her daughter in a fire, the distraught Helen hung herself from the bridge. Some versions associate Helen with the nearby estate of Zealandia, where she was supposed to have been a mistress to one of the estate’s owners, and after becoming pregnant, hung herself in anguish. Researchers have found nothing to document the existence of an actual Helen, although author Alan Brown relates that some of the owners of Zealandia encountered the apparition of a woman on the stairs that they identified as Helen.

Teens have taken to trying to summon Helen by visiting the bridge at night and calling her name three times. It is reported that she will sometimes appear as a light or as an apparition. Others have reported that this ritual will sometimes cause car problems, ranging from odd mechanical issues to dead batteries. Florida author, Jamie Roush Pearce experienced problems with her car’s automatic locks after visiting the bridge and attempting to summon the sad spirit. Pearce briefly glimpsed a figure near her car and discovered the problem with the locks after leaving the site. After dealing with the issue for a week, she returned and asked Helen to leave her car alone. The lock problem has not reoccurred.

The bridge is immortalized in Thomas Wolfe’s 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel, when the main character, Eugene Gant walks with his girlfriend up Beaucatcher Mountain:

They turned from the railing, with recovered wind, and walked through the gap, under Philip Roseberry’s great arched bridge… As they went under the shadow of the bridge Eugene lifted his head and shouted. His voice bounded against the arch like a stone. They passed under and stood on the other side of the gap, looking from the road’s edge down into the cove.

Though Wolfe attempted to draw a thin veil over his hometown by renaming it Altamont, it was clear to the Ashevillians that he was depicting them in his novel. So much so that he is reported to have received death threats and did not return to the city for several years after the novel’s publication.

This rustic stone bridge was constructed as a carriageway for the Zealandia Estate in 1909. It was designed by R. S. Smith, who worked as an architect on the building of the nearby Biltmore Estate and was obviously fluent in the languages of Gothic, Tudor, and Elizabethan architecture.  In 1889, the same year that George Vanderbilt began construction on his magnificent manse that he would call Biltmore, John Evans Brown, who had spent his formative years in Asheville, began to build his estate here on Beaucatcher Mountain. Brown had left the city in 1849 to pursue his dreams of striking gold in the Golden West. When those dreams failed to pan out (pun intended), Brown set out for the green mountains of New Zealand where he found fortune in sheep and politics. He returned to his hometown with fortune in hand in 1888 and began construction on his estate.

Helen’s Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Brown enjoyed his stately, mountainside view of Asheville for a few scant years before his death in 1895. The estate was purchased by Australian native Philip S. Henry in 1903 and this intellectual, art collector, and diplomat set about fashioning the estate into a showplace in this aristocratic resort community. Hiring architect R. S. Smith, Henry began to transform the lofty estate into a European-styled castle in the Tudor style. The carriageway with its notable bridge was constructed during this period. In 1924, Henry opened his estate for the public to see his art collection. Upon Henry’s death in 1933, the estate passed to his daughters and remained in the family until 1961.

When construction began on the nearby Interstate 240 corridor, plans originally called for slicing through part of Beaucatcher Mountain. Local preservationists quickly formed the Beaucatcher Mountain Defense Association to argue for the mountain’s preservation and even more specifically for the protection of Zealandia. A tunnel through the mountain was proposed instead. Though the state department of transportation tore down Philip Henry’s museum in 1976, the estate was named to the National Register of Historic Place in 1977 and was left alone. During the tunneling blasting supports were added to protect the bridge. In 1998 with the supports still in place and stones falling from the looming structure, the city considered demolishing the structure. Local history buffs and preservationists won the fight and the supports were carefully removed. The bridge was structurally sound and it has recently been bought by the city to use as part of a proposed greenway.

Helen’s Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

If you choose to visit Helen, be cautious as the area does have some traffic. There is a dirt turnout off Beaucatcher Road a few yards past the bridge ideal for parking. The top of the bridge is still closed off and Zealandia is private, so please confine your ramblings to the public thoroughfare underneath the bridge. Summoning spirits is never encouraged, especially if you wish to avoid car problems and please be kind to Helen, she’s been through a lot.

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Sources

  • Bishir, Catherine W., Michael T. Southern, & Jennifer F. Martin. A Guide to the  Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Brendel, Susanne & Bettu Betz. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Zealandia. 12 January 1977.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Burgess, Joel. “City acquires historic bridge.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 25 November 2009.
  • “Death of Col. J. Evans Brown.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 9 July 1895.
  • Interstate 240 (North Carolina). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  • “Saving Helen’s Bridge.” Asheville Community News. 1999.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2013.
  • Tomlin, Robyn. “Zealandia Bridge Repairs Completed; Fixing historic bridge cost much less than originally forecast.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 June 1999.
  • Warren, Joshua. Haunted Asheville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1996.

A Southern Feast of All Souls—Feast Wrap Up

The feast is done, the table has been cleared, the guests have left, the spirits have quietly returned to their rest, and the veil between our world and the next has been restored. This season has been great for articles about the haunted South so, I’m wrapping up this Southern Feast of All Souls with a look at some of the new (to me) haunted places that were covered in the news media.

 

Colby Building
191 North Foster Street
Dothan, Alabama

An investigator from Circle City Ghost Hunters said of the Colby Building in downtown Dothan, “Somebody once upon a time put their heart and soul in the building.” Perhaps that soul is still here. According to an October 29th article in the Dothan Eagle, this group investigated the building after numerous reports of paranormal activity in the building surfaced.

While working on my recent book about haunted Alabama, I had a heck of a time trying to find anything on the Dothan area. As the seventh largest city in the state by population, there should be more information on hauntings in the area, sadly there was nothing reliable. Therefore, I was rather excited to see this article appear. The Colby Building was built in 1938 as a J.C. Penney’s Department Store and has since hosted a number of businesses. The building was redeveloped by a private/public partnership in 2008 and currently houses two restaurants, Colby’s on North Foster Street and Bella’s in the back of the building on West Troy Street.

Employees and guests have had experiences in the building including things moving on their own and seeing figures. Others have had their names called and the employees have nicknamed the spirit “’Rachel’ because all kinds of crazy stuff happened.” (I’m presuming this a reference to the television show Friends.) The owner of the restaurants was delighted to host an investigation when Circle City Ghost Hunters inquired about investigating there. The article notes that the activity is explained by a story involving the death of a young woman on the building’s third floor in the 1950s.

Sources

  • Ingram, Debbie. “Plans unveiled for $2.4 million Penney building project.” Dothan Eagle. 18 August 2008.
  • Sailors, Jimmy. “Circle City Ghost Hunters conducting investigation in downtown Dothan.” Dothan Eagle. 29 October 2015.

Suntan Arts Center (Don Vicente Building)
3300 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, Florida

Adjoining the Don CeSar Beach Resort, a palatial pink dream from the Jazz Age, is the Don Vicente Building which was built just prior to the grand hotel to serve as offices during the hotel’s construction. Over the years, the building has seen many incarnations serving as offices for the hotel, a bank and even a firehouse. The building has housed the 50 year old Suntan Arts Center for many years. The center provides classes and support for the local arts community.

The center hosted a ghost tour this year highlighting the paranormal activity that has been experienced in the building. For many years people within the building have encountered the spirit of a man in a white suit. As this building did serve as an office for Thomas Rowe, the hotel’s founder, this spirit has been identified as him. During an investigation of the building in 2013 by SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, the group got a response when Rowe’s name was mentioned. Besides Mr. Rowe’s white-suited spirit there may be other spirits within this building as well.

Sources

  • “Self-guided ghost tour departs from Suntan Arts Center.” TBN Weekly. 28 September 2015.
  • SPIRITS of St. Petersburg Paranormal Investigation Group. “Report for Suntan Arts Center.” Accessed 8 November 2015.

Porter Hall
Mercer University
Macon, Georgia

Porter Hall, a residence hall on the campus of Mercer University, one of the oldest private universities in Georgia, possibly has something mysterious residing on its fourth floor. One student reported that she “heard things like chairs being dragged across the pine, like a hard pine floor.” The fourth floor is not accessible to students and used for storage. Reportedly, only the dorm’s resident advisor has access. When students complain of noise from that floor, the resident advisor will check it out and find the floor empty of living beings.

Sources

Westover Terrace
905 West Main Street
Richmond, Kentucky

When the current owners of Westover Terrace began restoration on the house after they acquired it in 1995, the house was severely dilapidated and vandals had defaced parts of the interior. A pentagram had been painted upstairs, walls and windows had been smashed, and the mantelpieces and radiators had been stolen. Local kids occasionally prowled the creepy house in search of ghosts in this former funeral home. The current owners did not realize they acquired ghosts with this magnificent 1881 home.

As work progressed, the owners and contractors began to have odd experiences including loud crashes and bangs that sounded like sledge hammers being used and heavy furniture being moved. The voice of a little girl was heard asking workers what they were doing and warning them on occasion. While doing repair work on a staircase, one particular board was removed several times. After the owner used a hydraulic nail gun to attach the board, the board disappeared entirely. When the owners finally moved into the home in 2005, the activity seemed to quiet down. Evidently, the ghosts are pleased with the renovations. This is a private home, please respect the owners’ privacy and observe the house from the street.

Sources

  • King, Critley. “The haunted history of Richmond.” Richmond Register. 29 October 2015.

Green Light Bridge
Green Light Road
Winnsboro, Louisiana

An article about Louisiana hauntings from the Shreveport Times highlighted this very interesting location near Winnsboro in Franklin Parish in the northeast portion of the state. The origin of the road’s odd name has been lost to history, but is possibly related to the paranormal green light that is supposed to emanate from underneath the bridge and along the banks of the stream here. The article does not name the creek, but after looking at Google maps, it seems that the road only crosses one stream, Turkey Creek, in its course from LA-15 to its termination at Dummy Line Road.

The possible reasons for the odd green light are varied. A church once existed on one side of the creek and sometime in the mid-20th century a man was hung from a tree in front of the church. A fatal car accident that occurred here may be related to the activity as well. A woman lost her life when her car crashed into a tree. There is also speculation that the woman was frightened by the mysterious green light.

Sources

  • “’Haunted’ Louisiana: Tales of Terror from Shreveport and beyond.” Shreveport Times. 30 September 2015.

Glen Burnie Regional Library
1010 Eastway
Glen Burnie, Maryland

Librarians at the Glen Burnie Regional Library have been spooked by something within this 1969 library for many years. Odd sounds have been heard by staff when they have closed the building at night while books have been pushed to the floor by unseen hands. Staff called in the Maryland Ghost Trackers to investigate. During the investigation, the investigators made contact with a number of male spirits who are apparently hanging around and enjoy making a bit of trouble now and then.

Sources

Ole Tavern on George Street
416 George Street
Jackson, Mississippi

There are several ghosts still patronizing the Ole Tavern on George Street according to a Halloween article from Jackson, Mississippi news station, WAPT. The article highlights a recent investigation of this establishment by the Mississippi Paranormal Research Institute. Employees of the popular eatery have had several eerie encounters with a few possible spirits here.

One employee saw a woman sitting at the bar one morning as he opened up. He had just removed the padlock from the door when he saw the woman. Realizing that no one was in the building, the employee returned to his car until someone else arrived. This spirit is believed to be the spirit of a prostitute who once worked in the building and committed suicide here in the 1970s. The investigation produced evidence that this woman may remain in the building with some other spirits.

Sources

  • “Ghost hunters seek answers from ‘Bitter Hooker.’” 31 October 2015.

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