Notes on Kentucky Hauntings

In my research for this blog I have amassed a tremendous amount of information in the form of books, as well as in periodical articles and blog entries. Yet, so much of this information hasn’t been utilized. When I write blog entries, I usually pour a great deal of research into my subject or subjects, which of course takes time. These entries, however, have been written in a “fast and furious” style and utilize just one or two sources. I expect that these may be used and expanded in the future. Please enjoy this “fast and furious” tour of Kentucky haunts!

For other Kentucky hauntings, see my Kentucky Directory.

Auburn

Shaker Museum at South Union
850 Shaker Museum Road

Shaker Museum at South Union Kentucky
The main dwelling at the Shaker Museum at South Union, 1969. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) by E. R. Pearson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

This museum and its supporting organization preserve the historic Shaker village of South Union. The village was established by the Shaker religious sect in 1807 and was occupied until 1922. In the mid-1980s, a husband, wife, and their 6-year-old son visited the village and spent part of their day exploring the many buildings. In one particular structure, the husband and his son ventured upstairs and spied a strange opening in the wall. When they peered through it, they saw evidence of damage from a fire. A moment later, the pair felt something come through the opening and surround them with a strange energy that unnerved them.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynnwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.
  • Shaker Museum at South Union. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 November 2020.

Barbourville

Pfeiffer Hall
Campus of Union College

Room 245 in this campus residence hall is home to a legend. In 1963, a student named James Garner attempted to close his dorm room window when he accidentally slipped out and died in the fall. Consequently, students to open the window of this room will have it slammed shut by the spirit.

Sources

  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Colleges and Universities: Creepy Campuses, Scary Scholars, and Deadly Dorms. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2014.

Speed Hall
Campus of Union College

This building, built just after the turn of the 20th century, currently houses the college’s Office of Financial Aid. The apparition of a woman has been seen in this building and staff has experienced doors opening and closing by themselves. The identity of the woman is unknown.

Sources

  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Colleges and Universities: Creepy Campuses, Scary Scholars, and Deadly Dorms. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2014.

Warfield Cemetery
KY 459

Legend holds that visitors to this cemetery are sometimes plagued by a spirit that follows them around and sometimes even following them home.

Sources

Bardstown

Chapeze House
107 East Stephen Foster Avenue

This large brick home was built in 1787 for Dr. Henri Chapeze, a French surgeon who arrived in this country with the Marquis de Lafayette. Local legend tells of Dr. Chapeze arriving home one day to find his wife in the arms of another man. His wife lost face and lived in shame while her cuckolded husband left town to settle in Ohio and start a new life. The house has been known for years to be haunted with the spirits of a young boy, possibly Chapeze’s son Benjamin, to whom he left this home, and a woman. The woman, who has been seen peering from the windows is sometimes seen without a face. Is this the visage of Chapeze’s unfaithful wife who lost face when her philandering was discovered?

Sources

  • Westmoreland-Doherty, Lisa. Kentucky Spirits Undistilled. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.

Jailer’s Inn Bed & Breakfast
111 West Stephen Foster Avenue

Jailer's Inn Bardstown Kentucky
Jailer’s Inn, 2009, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Occupying the old Nelson County Jail, which was in use from 1797 to 1987, the Jailer’s Inn allows guests to sleep in a space where criminals once served their sentences. These paying guests have encountered spirits of these criminals in the form of apparitions, and spectral sounds.

Sources

  • Newman, Rich. The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Press, 2011.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park
501 East Stephen Foster Avenue

Federal Hill My Old Kentucky Home Bardstown Kentucky
Federal Hill, 2015, by Firthpond1700. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This state park preserves Federal Hill, the mansion of Senator John Rowan, which inspired the song “My Old Kentucky Home,” by Stephen Foster, a relative of Rowan’s. Spirits may roam both the house and the Rowan Family Cemetery nearby. John Rowan left instructions that following his death no memorial was to be erected over his grave. When family insisted on erecting a monument, his ghost has been blamed for toppling it.

Sources

  • Floyd, Jacob and Jenny. Kentucky’s Haunted Mansions. Seventh Star Press, 2017.
  • Landini, Leigh. “Things that go ‘bump’ in the night may be a mischievous may be a ghost in downtown Paducah.” The Paducah Sun. 31 October 1999.

Benham

Benham Schoolhouse Inn
100 Central Avenue

In 1926 the Wisconsin Steel Company, which had founded the small town of Benham as a coal camp, built an all-grades school. That school closed in 1992 and was converted into use as an inn. Guests have since reported run-ins with the spirits of former students.

Sources

Berea

Boone Tavern
100 Main Street North

Boone Tavern Berea Kentucky
Boone Tavern, 2009, by Parkerdr. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A restaurant, hotel, and guesthouse affiliated with Berea College, Boone Tavern was built in 1909. A paranormal investigation in 2012 produced evidence of “an abundance of spirits.” Investigator Patti Star described the tavern to the Richmond Register as being like a “train station with spirits coming and going.”

Sources

  • Boone Tavern. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 November 2020.
  • Robinson, Bill. “Ghost hunters detect spirits at Boone Tavern.” Richmond Register. 2 April 2012.

Campbellsville

Hiestand House—Taylor County Museum
1075 Campbellsville Bypass

This small stone house is one of only 12 German stone houses standing in the state. According to Dennis William Hauck’s Haunted Places: The National Directory, residents of the home have experienced paranormal activity for years. The house now houses a county museum.

Sources

Clermont

Jim Beam American Stillhouse
526 Happy Hollow Road

Jim Beam is one of the largest producers of Kentucky bourbon producing more than a half million barrels a year. But is this famous distillery producing spirits beyond bourbon? It seems that the apparition of a woman has been seen in the old T. Jeremiah Beam House and other spirits have been encountered throughout the distillery and its grounds.

Sources

Cynthiana

Rohs Opera House
122 East Pike Street

This 1871 opera house is possibly occupied by a handful of spirits including children and a woman dubbed, “The Lady of the Opera House.” These spirits manifest themselves in a variety of ways including the children playing with people’s hair, strange noises, and apparitions.

Sources

  • Dailey, Bonnie. “The haunting of Rohs Opera House.” 8 August 2013.

Danville

Breckinridge Hall
Campus of Centre College

The spirit of a young man named Peter continues to haunt this dormitory. During a renovation in the 1990s several people saw his face on the wall of a particular dorm room. When they contacted painters to cover up the image, they could not find it.

Sources

  • Brummet, Jennifer. “Paranormal investigators use own time and money to seek out supernatural.” The Advocate-Messenger. 28 October 2007.
  • “Ghost hunter hopes to find paranormal activity at Centre.” The Centre College Cento. 27 October 2011.

Sutcliffe Hall
Campus of Centre College

A staff member working in this building reported “Sometimes I’d be in the building alone and would hear basketballs bouncing in Bowman Gym. I would go right to the gym door and look in, and there was never anyone in the gym playing basketball. But I could definitely hear the ball bounce.” The staff member also reported that during renovations workers would find their tools moved or missing.

Sources

  • “Ghost hunter hopes to find paranormal activity at Centre.” The Centre College Cento. 27 October 2011. 

Elsmere

Allendale Train Tunnel
Near East Covered Bridge Drive

This mis-named site is not an actual train tunnel, but rather a culvert that carries Bullock Pen Creek underneath a set of railroad tracks. Metal hooks protrude from above both ends of the culvert from which stems the legend that a man once hung himself here and he continues to haunt the site. However, there is no documentary to prove that the suicide ever happened.

Sources

Erlanger

Narrows Road

There are reports that drivers along this stretch of road a night have been pulled over by a police officer in an old-fashioned police car. As the officer approaches the car he vanishes, much to the surprise of the driver.

Sources

  • “Residents say Northern Kentucky Road is haunted.” 29 August 2016.

Frankfort

Buffalo Trace Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Distillery Frankfort Kentucky
Interior of one of storage houses at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, 2018, by Jaimin Trivedi. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Quite possibly the oldest distillery in the United States, the Buffalo Trace Distillery includes the oldest building in the county, Riverside House. Reports and an investigation by Patti Star reveal strange activity in Stony Point Mansion, formerly the home of Colonel Albert B. Blanton, a former president of the company. Riverside House, which is occupied by the distillery gift shop, is home to several spirits as well. In the storage space above the gift shop, a psychic detected the spirits of four men who continue to work in the hot, confined space.

Sources

Glenns Creek Distilling
3501 McCracken Pike

Formerly the Old Crow Distillery, Glenns Creek Distilling may be the habitation of spirits. The distillery’s owner, David Meier, told Roadtrippers that he frequently hears disembodied footsteps throughout the old buildings.

Sources

Liberty Hall
218 Wilkinson Street

Liberty Hall Frankfort Kentucky
Liberty Hall, 2018, by Christopher L. Riley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After an elderly aunt, Mrs. Margaret Varick, died following an arduous trip to Frankfort to console her niece, her spirit has remained in this National Historic Landmark. This 1796 home was built by James Wilkinson, founder of the city of Frankfort, and the home remained in the family for many years before opening as a house museum. Mrs. Varick’s spirit is said to help out in maintaining the house and her spirit may have been joined in her ethereal romps by a Spanish opera star who also died in the house during a visit in 1805.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.

Harrodsburg

Harrodsburg Spring – Young Park
502 Linden Avenue

On the site of this park once stood the Harrodsburg Spring Hotel, which attracted visitors to take advantage of the spring. Early in the 19th century a young lady checked into the hotel alone. That evening, she appeared in the hotel’s ballroom where she danced all evening with a number of young men. As she danced with one eager suitor later in the evening, she collapsed and died. Since it was discovered that the young woman checked in under an assumed name, her identity remained a mystery. She was buried on the hotel property under a stone bearing the words, “Hallowed and hushed be the place of the dead. Step softly. Bow head.” Though the hotel is long gone, the young woman’s dancing apparition still appears in the park.

Sources

Hazard

Crawford Mountain Road

Author R. J. Stacy has had many experiences as he’s lived throughout the southeastern portion of the Commonwealth that he’s included them in his 2013 book, Spirits of Southeast Kentucky: True Personal Paranormal Encounters. In the mid-1990s, Stacy and his wife were driving this twisted mountain road one evening when they watched a bluish-white orb of light float slowly over their car and vanish in the woods on the other side of the road. Stacy reports that this road has seen a fair number of accidents, though he posits that one particular may be correlated with the orb. This accident, which occurred in August of 1975, was a hit and run with the driver at fault fled into the mountain forest. The driver was not found until several months later when he was discovered to have plunged off a cliff after fleeing the scene.

Sources

  • Stacy, R. J. Spirits of Southeast Kentucky: True Personal Paranormal Encounters. CreateSpace, 2013.

Jackson

Quicksand Road

Running south out of Jackson, the county seat of Breathitt County, this two-lane rural road was the scene of an accident in 2010 when a young man was struck and killed as he walked the thoroughfare in the early morning. Several motorists driving along this road have nearly hit a young man wearing a hoodie with the hood up and covering his face. When the driver stops to check on the pedestrian, they find no one in the road.

Sources

  • Stacy, R. J. Spirits of Southeast Kentucky: True Personal Paranormal Encounters. CreateSpace, 2013.

Lawrenceburg

Anderson Hotel
116 South Main Street

When a haunted attraction was opened inside the old Anderson Hotel in downtown Lawrenceburg in 2018, 50 of the roughly 400 people who entered took off after being frightened by the very real spooks that inhabit the building. Previously, the hotel had been abandoned for nearly 30 years. A few years ago, the owner of a restaurant that operated on the first floor of the hotel building called in a paranormal investigator to check out the odd sounds she frequently heard coming from the abandoned hotel above. As he investigated, he discovered that a number of tragic deaths, including several suicides, had left a remarkable amount of paranormal activity inside the empty building.

Sources

  • Carlson, Ben. “Dozens flee during debut of Lawrenceburg haunted house.” Lexington Herald-Leader. 3 October 2018.
  • “Closed hotel still has ‘guests.’” 26 October 2015.

Lebanon

St. Ivo Cemetery
St. Ivo Road

Named for St. Ivo of Kermartin, a 13th century French saint who is also the patron of abandoned children, this rural cemetery is reported to be the home to many children’s spirits. It is said that visitors often have cameras and other electrical devices malfunction while inside the cemetery.

Sources

Leslie County

Cutshin Road (KY 699)

For much of its route through rural Leslie County, two-lane Cutshin Road parallels Cutshin Creek. As author R. J. Stacy and his stepdaughter drove this road at dusk the pair watched a “transparent black mass floating across the road” in the headlights. This section of road has been the scene of many tragedies over the years, perhaps one of these has contributed to the shadowy apparition?

Sources

  • Stacy, R. J. Spirits of Southeast Kentucky: True Personal Paranormal Encounters. CreateSpace, 2013.

Lexington

Ashland – The Henry Clay Estate
120 Sycamore Road

Ashland The Henry Clay Estate Lexington
Ashland, 2007, by Analogue Kid. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the most prominent politicians in the early 19th century, Henry Clay represented the state in both houses of Congress, served as Speaker of the House, and was appointed as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams. Clay created this large plantation just outside Lexington starting around 1806. Reports note that Clay’s presence has been noted inside the large home.

Sources

  • Ashland (Henry Clay estate). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 24 November 2020.
  • Newman, Rich. The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Press, 2011.

Loudoun House
209 Castlewood Drive

Loudoun House Lexington Kentucky
Loudoun House, 1940, by Lester Jones for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

This large, Gothic-revival private residence was constructed in 1851 and has been home to the Lexington Art League for many years. Stories of its haunting include the apparition of a woman in a Victorian gown and the sounds of merriment that are sometimes heard in the empty house.

Sources

  • Newman, Rich. The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Press, 2011.

London

Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park
998 Levi Jackson Mill Road

Formerly a state park, this city park offers history, recreation, and several ghostly children that run around. During an investigation in 2011, several investigators were locked out of a building when they left to get more equipment and a rocking chair was seen to rock on command with no one sitting in it.

Sources

  • Brummet, Jennifer. “Paranormal investigators use own time and money to seek out supernatural.” The Advocate-Messenger. 28 October 2007.
  • Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 November 2020.

Louisville

3rd Turn Brewing
10408 Watterson Trail

This brewery occupies a building that was constructed in 1878 as a church in the Jeffersontown neighborhood of Louisville. According to one of the co-owners, the building had served as a Moose Lodge for some 60 previous. When the brewery moved in, a note was found instructing the little girl to behave herself and the new owners soon realized that they shared the old church with the spirits of both a little girl and a man. Co-Owner Ben Shinkle told Louisville Magazine that he once had an encounter with the man while getting ready to open on a Sunday afternoon. “I saw a guy standing there, but I was running downstairs and said, ‘Hang on. I’ll be right with you.’ I popped back up and nobody was there. And all the doors were locked.”

Sources

Seelbach Hilton Hotel
500 South 4th Street

Opening in 1905 after nearly two years of construction, the Seelbach Hotel soon became one of the most sought out hotels in downtown Louisville. For much of the 20th century it remained a glittering landmark, even inspiring F. Scott Fitzgerald as he wrote The Great Gatsby, though financial problems led to its closure in 1975. It was abandoned for only three years before a local actor bought it and began a restoration. Since reopening in 1982, it has continued to offer top notch service.

Seelbach Hotel Louisville Kentucky
Postcard of the Seelbach Hotel, 1905, by the Detroit Publishing Company.

An incident in the 1920s has led to the hotel being haunted by a “Lady in Blue” who is thought to be the spirit of Patricia Wilson. She and her husband checked in to the hotel and the couple arrived separately. Mrs. Wilson arrived, but her husband did not show up as he was killed in a car accident on the way. The unfortunate wife was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft a short time later and her spirit has continued to haunt the building for decades.

Sources

Waverly Hills Sanatorium
4400 Paralee Lane

Waverly Hills Sanatorium Louisville Kentucky
Backside of Waverly Hills Sanatorium, 2018, by Royasfoto73. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the rise of paranormal shows on television, Waverly Hills Sanatorium has established itself as one of America’s preeminent ghost-trekking locales. Construction began on this massive facility in 1911 to care for tuberculosis patients in a time before adequate treatments were available. The facility expanded and grew until streptomycin was introduced as a treatment leading to a decline in the number of TB patients. The facility closed in 1962 to reopen as a nursing home later that year. The nursing home closed in 1981 and the building has sat empty. Vandalism and the elements have caused some deterioration of the building since that time. Legends have surfaced that may explain the huge amounts of paranormal activity here.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.
  • Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 January 2010.

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway

Mammoth Cave Kentucky
Tourists explore the interior of Mammoth Cave, 2007, by Daniel Schwen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The largest cave system in the world at nearly 400 miles, the name does not refer to its linear size but rather the huge rooms and passages that form the cave’s labyrinth. Since its discovery by Native Americans, the cave has been a source of medicine and saltpeter, shelter for various people including tuberculosis patients, a tourist attraction, and a burial chamber. It’s little surprise that numerous odd experiences have been reported, though, it should be noted that the cave’s unusual environment may alter one’s senses. Nevertheless, reports from the cave include apparitions in old fashioned clothing including the spirit of Stephen Bishop, an enslaved man who was one of the earliest guides and explorers of the cave.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Olson, Colleen O’Connor and Charles Hanion. Scary Stories of Mammoth Cave. Dayton, OH: Cave Books, 2002.
  • Taylor, Troy. Down in the Darkness: The Shadowy History of America’s Haunted Mines, Tunnels, and Caverns. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2003.

Marion

Baker Hollow Road Cemetery
Baker Hollow Road

This country road outside Marion in rural Crittenden County along the Ohio River is supposed to be the site of much strangeness, especially at night. This cemetery, next to Baker Church, is actually two separate cemeteries located near the church building. People driving down Baker Hollow Road, running beside the church, have encountered a demonic dog in the road. Others have heard disembodied voices, and even apparitions hanging from the trees.

Sources

Maysville

Phillips’ Folly
227 Sutton Street

Phillips' Folly Maysville Kentucky
Phillips’ Folly, 2010, by Greg Hume. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

William B. Sutton built his grand home over the course of six years between 1825 and 1831. Evidence in the home’s basement may attest to its use as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It seems that Mr. Phillips may continue to be in residence here accompanied by his loyal dog. An investigation here in 2011 by the team from the show Ghost Adventures produced evidence that there are spirits here.

Sources

  • Maynard, Misty. “Ghost Adventures episode filmed in Maysville airs today.” Maysville Ledger-Independent. 12 May 2011.
  • Phillips’ Folly. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 24 November 2020.

Newport

Monmouth Street Antique Gallery
822 Monmouth Street

This antique store’s former name, Sin City Antique Gallery, pays homage to Newport’s rowdier days when members of the Cleveland Syndicate, operated by a group of gangsters, ran casinos and carried on illegal operations throughout the city. Housed in a building that once held a Kresge’s Five & Dime and possibly may have been used for more illicit activities, the owners of the antique shop have had multiple experiences with spirits within the building. Activity here includes disembodied footsteps and voices, alarms being tripped when no one is around, and items moving on their own accord. A paranormal investigator who has investigated this location described it as “one of the most active and haunted locations I’ve been to.”

Sources

Owensboro

Campbell Club
517 Frederica Street

Campbell Club Owensboro Kentucky
Campbell Club, 2013, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Occupying the 1880 French Empire Gillem House, this private dining club closed in 2017 after operating here since 1959. One of the recent chefs noticed a woman sitting in the restaurant staring out the window. When he asked about her, no one knew anything but when one of the staff members approached her, they found no one there.

Sources

The Miller House
301 East 5th Street

The Miller House is a 1905 home that has been transformed into a restaurant. The home is also the residence of several spirits including a little girl who plays with a ball.

Sources

Theatre Workshop of Owensboro (TWO)
407 West 5th Street

Described as “one of the most haunted sites in Western Kentucky,” Owensboro’s Theatre Workshop was originally Trinity Episcopal Church, now Old Trinity Centre. TWO has occupied this 1875 building since 1973 and many of its staff have had encounters with some of the resident spirits here. Spirits include a young lady who is supposed to have hung herself in the bell tower, as well as a priest who, after stumbling upon her body, killed himself in the basement.

Sources

Paducah

C. C. Cohen Building
103 Market House Square

For the past several decades, occupants of this building have experienced all sorts of paranormal activity. This commercial building, built in 1850, has housed a number of businesses throughout its existence, most recently several restaurants have occupied the space. The building is named for the Cohen family who purchased the building around 1900. It is perhaps spirits of members of this family who continue to haunt the building today.

Sources

  • Landini, Leigh. “Things that go ‘bump’ in the night may be a mischievous may be a ghost in downtown Paducah.” The Paducah Sun. 31 October 1999.

Perryville

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
1825 Battlefield Road

The quiet stillness of rural Perryville was interrupted in October of 1862. On the 8th, Confederate forces fought Union forces in their attempt to seize control of the whole of the state. Their defeat on these farm fields led General Braxton Bragg to pull his forces all the way back to Tennessee following the bloody battle.

Perryville Battlefield Kentucky
Perryville Battlefield, 2006, by Hal Jesperson. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Not only did the Confederates leave their hopes of controlling Kentucky on the battlefield, but they left spiritual scars. “Many say vivid echoes of the past remain, usually after the sun goes down, in the form of booming cannons, soldiers’ voices, flickering lanterns, phantom horses, and other ghostly occurrences.”

Sources

Windsor, Pam. “Ghost soldiers.” Kentucky Living. October 2014.

Pikeville

Pikeville Cemetery
Cemetery Road

The grave of Octavia Hatcher is marked by a large monument topped with a statue of the deceased. Hatcher passed away in 1891 after being ill for some time and falling into a coma. A few days after burial, James Hatcher began to worry that his wife may not have been dead at all when she was buried. After exhuming her coffin, it was discovered that she was indeed alive when she was buried and had tried to claw her way out of her grave. A handful of rumors have since sprung up regarding the creepy monument including that the statue may turn its back on occasion. Others have heard the sound of “mewling” near the grave and have witnessed the apparition of Hatcher strolling through the cemetery.

Sources

  • Quackenbush, Jannette. West Virginia Ghost Stories, Legends, and Haunts. 21 Crows Dusk to Dawn Publishing, 2017.

Prospect

Sleepy Hollow Road

With a name coming from Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, it’s no surprise that this road is haunted. Along this stretch some drivers have been followed by a mysterious car only to discover, when it passes, that it is a hearse. In some cases, the cars may have been run off the road by the strange vehicle. The road also includes a classic Cry Baby Bridge where the wails of a child are still heard. During the Satanic Panic of the 1970s and 80s, stories of devil worshippers also sprang up along this thoroughfare.

Sources

  • Gee, Dawne. “Kentuckiana’s Monster, Myths and Legends – Sleepy Hollow Road.” 31 July 2014.

Richmond

White Hall State Historic Site
500 White Hall Shrine Road

White Hall Mansion Richmond Kentucky
White Hall, 2009, by Jim Bowen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This huge Italianate mansion was the home of noted anti-slavery Kentucky legislator Cassius Clay. It remains the home of several ghosts including the possible spirit of the famed politician.

Sources

  • Landini, Leigh. “Things that go ‘bump’ in the night may be a mischievous may be a ghost in downtown Paducah.” The Paducah Sun. 31 October 1999.

Scottsville

Allen County War Memorial Hospital
99 Hill View Drive

Opened in 1952, this low-rise community hospital provided locals with medical attention for many years. Until it’s closure in 1994, many lives were brought into and exited life here, with spiritual reminders being left behind. Kentucky’s great collector of ghostlore, William Lynnwood Montell, notes the experiences of a nurse here in his 2001 Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. This nurse spoke of hearing the crying of an infant coming from one of the rooms, though when she investigated, no one and nothing was found.

After the building was closed and abandoned, a local man leased the property for use as a haunted attraction, only to hear the same crying of an infant as they cleared the brush. As these stories began to emerge, many other locals began to speak of their strange experiences in the old hospital. The remains of the hospital have recently been renovated for use as apartments for low-income veterans.

Sources

  • Butler, Telia. “Throwback Thursday – The Haunted War Memorial Hospital.” 8 October 2020.
  • Montell, William Lynnwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.

Stanford

Isaac Shelby Cemetery State Historic Site
6725 KY 300

This historic site preserves the estate and cemetery of the state’s first governor and has been investigated for paranormal activity.

Sources

  • Brummet, Jennifer. “Paranormal investigators use own time and money to seek out supernatural.” The Advocate-Messenger. 28 October 2007.
  • Isaac Shelby Cemetery State Historic Site. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 November 2020.

Stanton

Nada Tunnel
Nada Tunnel Road (KY 77)

Heading into the dramatic Red River Gorge on Kentucky Route 77, the road narrows at the Nada Tunnel. This roughly carved tunnel is only wide enough to allow a single car to pass at a time and doesn’t have lighting inside.

Nada Tunnel Stanton Kentucky
Nada Tunnel, 2010, by Patrick Mueller. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Originally carved to allow trains to carry timber to Clay City, but over time it has come to carry automobile traffic. Legend says that one of the construction workers was killed here by a dynamite blast and that both a green orb seen near here and moaning heard inside the tunnel may be attributed to his restless spirit.

Sources

Shulhafer, Rachel. “Most people don’t know the story behind this hidden tunnel in Kentucky.” OnlyInYourState. 24 October 2016.

Van Lear

Van Lear Coal Miner’s Museum
78 Miller’s Creek Road

The community of Van Lear was incorporated as a coal mining town in 1912 and named for Van Lear Black, the director of the Consolidated Coal Company. The building housing the museum was constructed a year later as an office for the coal company, as well as housing the city hall and several businesses. The community is now unincorporated, and the building now serves as a museum. Along with artifacts detailing the area’s history the museum is in possession of a number of spirits.

Sources

  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Walton

Abner Gaines House
150 Old Nicholson Road

Abner Gaines House Walton Kentucky
Abner Gaines House, 2020, by Joekaush35. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The oldest house in the town, the Abner Gaines House has served as a tavern, inn, private residence, and stagecoach stop in its early history. With so many people passing through, the house has experienced more than its fair share of violence, death, and suicide have left spiritual legacies that have manifested themselves as apparitions and odd sounds. The house has since been restored and is operated as the Gaines Tavern History Center.

Sources

  • “Mystery Monday: Real Haunted House.” 10 November 2014.
  • “Strange and Supernatural Happenings at The Abner Gaines House.” Boone County Reporter. 26 July 1899.

West Point

Fort Duffield Park & Historic Site
Fort Duffield Road

In the fall of 1861, Fort Duffield was built overlooking West Point to protect the Union’s supply base there. During the following winter, many succumbed to an outbreak of measles which took the lives of 61 soldiers. Possibly as a result, spirits of those soldiers remain around the site of the fort.

Sources

  • Coulter, Amber. “Fort Duffield tours highlight paranormal accounts.” News-Enterprise. 25 October 2012.
  • O’Neill, Tom. “Ghost walk to be held at Fort Duffield.” Courier-Journal. 31 October 2012.

Wilder

Bobby Mackey’s Music World
44 Licking Pike

Perhaps one of the most infamously haunted places in the country, this country-western bar, owned by singer Bobby Mackey, has been plagued with paranormal activity for years. While some of the legends of this place have been called in to question, there is little doubt that the activity is high, and the spirits of both kinds are plentiful.

Sources

  • Mayes, Cynthia Bard. “Just how haunted is the Bluegrass State?” com. 31 October 2012.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part IV

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is to examine ghost stories county by county, though 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 on Halloween of 2017, 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.

For a further look at Alabama ghosts, please see my Alabama Directory.

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.

Geneva County

“Big Oak”
Robert Fowler Memorial Park
South River Street
Geneva

Big Oak, 2006, by AlabamaGuy2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Before the establishment of Geneva County, early settlers gathered under the massive, leafy branches of what is now known as the Big Oak or Constitution Oak. This live oak’s age and size have led to its inclusion in the list of Alabama Famous and Historic Trees. Supposedly the huge branches of the tree have been used for hangings and the spirits of those who died here may continue to haunt this location.

Sources

Greene County

Oakmont Bed & Breakfast
107 Pickens Street
Eutaw

As workers were working on the restoration of Oakmont, a spirit in the house wanted more heat. After continuing to find a heater on in the home, construction workers taped the control knob so that the heat could not be turned on. However, the spirit thought otherwise and turned the heat on again.

Built in 1908 as a wedding gift for Mary Elizabeth and Charles Alexander Webb, it was not until Oakmont began the transformation into a bed & breakfast that the owners discovered that they might have to share the house with spirits. After the restoration, numerous spectral sounds began to be heard including tremendous crashes and disembodied footsteps. It doesn’t appear that this bed and breakfast is open any longer.

Sources

  • Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill Publishers, 2003.

Hale County

Moundville Archaeological Park
634 Mound State Parkway
Moundville

Between approximately 1120 C.E. and 1450 C.E., Moundville was the site of a large city inhabited by the Mississippian people, predecessors to the tribes that the Europeans would encounter when they began exploring the South about a century later. At its height, this town was probably home to nearly 1,000 inhabitants. Stretching to 185 acres, the town had 29 mounds of various sizes and uses: some were ceremonial while others were topped with the homes of the elite.

Visitors and staff have often mentioned a certain energy emanating from this site. A Cherokee friend of mine visited and while atop one of the mounds let out a traditional Cherokee war cry. Afterward, he noted that there was a palpable change in the energy. Dennis William Hauck speaks of the “powerful spirit of an ancient race” that “permeates this 317-acre site.” Southern Paranormal Researchers notes that park staff has witnessed shadow figures, odd noises, and doors opening and closing by themselves in the buildings on the site. Higdon and Talley add orbs and cold spots found throughout the location to the list of paranormal activity here.

Sources

  • Blitz, John H. “Moundville Archaeological Park.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 26 February 2007.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. Paranormal Investigation Report for Moundville Archaeological Park. 10 February 2007.

Henry County

Legend of Huggin’ Molly
Abbeville

For over a century, a legend has dwelled in the dark streets of Abbeville: the legend of Huggin’ Molly. This specter is thought to target children on the streets after dark. Most versions describe Molly as a large woman who prowls the dark streets in search of children walking alone. After pursuing a child, she would embrace them and scream in their ear. Most sources agree that this tale was perhaps created to frighten small children and keep them from staying out too late, though the story has remained. In fact, a restaurant named after the legendary figure has recently opened.

Sources

  • Legend of Huggin’ Molly.” Huggin’ Molly’s Restaurant. Accessed 13 July 2015.
  • Smith, Michelle. Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Houston County

Columbia Manor
306 South Main Street
Columbia

During the Halloween season, this unassuming white frame house is home to nightmares of the fictional kind. However, this house is home to real nightmares as well. Built in 1864, this home has served several uses including serving as a hospital and later a sanitarium for those suffering from pellagra, a severe vitamin deficiency.

Following renovations to transform the house into a haunted attraction, the spirits have begun to act out. The owner of the house told the producers of the BIO Channel show, My Ghost Story, about tools that would go missing only to be found in their original location a short time later, mysterious footsteps, and the shade of an older gentleman that the owner and another volunteer saw standing in the house. He also mentioned the swinging of a chandelier in the foyer which a paranormal investigator has linked to the suicide by hanging of a nurse there.

Sources

  • “Enter at your own risk; they dare you.” Dothan Eagle. 18 August 2014.
  • “Haunting Columbia Manor.” Dothan Eagle. 19 October 2013.
  • My Ghost Story, Episode 3.3. Biography Channel. 29 October 2011. 

Jackson County

Russell Cave National Monument
3728 CR-98
Bridgeport

One of the most significant archaeological sites in the state, Russell Cave has revealed evidence that this site has been in use by humans for at least 8,000 years. That evidence includes human remains, pottery shards, spear points, arrowheads, and charcoal from ancient fires. The remains of various animals, including some prehistoric species, have also been unearthed here.

Entrance to Russell Cave, 2014, by Fredlyfish4. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Within the cave, some visitors have experienced an uneasy feeling, sometimes even sensing ghostly presences while others have heard spectral sounds and seen apparitions. With thousands of years of human occupation, it’s no surprise that spirits remain here.

Sources

  • Kidd, Jessica Fordham. “Russell Cave.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 22 September 2010.
  • Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Jefferson County

Bessemer Hall of History Museum
1905 Alabama Avenue
Bessemer

While the Bessemer Hall of History Museum displays an eclectic mix of items from Bessemer’s past, including a cell door from the local jail where Martin Luther King, Jr. was briefly incarcerated, it appears that a former exhibit may still be haunting this building. For many years, the museum displayed the mummy of a local woman who had taken her life in 1906. Hazel Farris shot and killed her husband during a domestic incident at their home in Louisville, Kentucky. After neighbors summoned the police, Farris shot and killed three of them and fled the state.

Beautiful Hazel settled in Bessemer and confessed her crimes to a man with whom she had fallen in love. He betrayed her to the police, and Hazel ingested arsenic, ending her life. Her corpse was sent to a local funeral home which only put the unclaimed body in storage where it mummified. The funeral home began to charge admission to view the grisly final remains of Miss Farris, and over the course of many years, the mummy was loaned to various exhibitors. In 1974, the museum borrowed the mummy as part of a fundraiser, and the museum displayed it for quite some time.

Southern Railway Depot (now home to the Bessemer Hall of History Museum), 1992, by Jet Lowe. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

After the mummy’s exhibition in 1981, the museum placed it in permanent storage. National Geographic produced a documentary about Hazel’s corpse in 2002 with various scientists examining it before it was eventually cremated. The old train depot that has housed the museum since 1994 has had some paranormal activity through the years, some of which has been attributed to Hazel. Lights turn off and on within the old building, and other odd sounds have been heard.

Sources

Lamar County

Old Stage Coach Inn
Jackson Military Road
Moscow

Also known as the Moore-Hill House, this circa 1834 stagecoach stop was the scene of a murder in 1881. A Mrs. Armstrong was killed by an African-American man with a grappling hook on a chain. After the gruesome killing, the cook ran out the back door and alerted the men working in the nearby fields. The supposed murderer was hunted down and lynched in the front yard. This event is believed to be the cause of paranormal activity in and around the house. Tradition speaks of a glowing orb that is seen in the front yard and the spirit of Mrs. Armstrong clanking down the stairs with the hook and chain that killed her.

When I initially wrote the above entry for my book way back in 2015, I struggled with how little information existed about this house and the grim murder that took place here. As I was visiting the library yesterday, I decided to take a second look at the research for this particular location. Evidently, I didn’t look hard enough the first time.

Situated on Andrew Jackson’s Military Road, a route constructed after the War of 1812 connecting Nashville, Tennessee with New Orleans, the Moore-Hill House was built for James Moore, an early politician in the state. For many years the house served as a stagecoach inn, but it was an incident in 1881 that gave the house a notorious reputation. According to family legend, a Mrs. Armstrong was killed by an African-American man with a grappling hook on a chain. After the gruesome killing, the cook ran out the back door and alerted the men working in the nearby fields. The supposed murderer was hunted down and lynched in the front yard. After consulting newspapers of the period, the events did not take place exactly as family memory recalls.

Two brief reports appearing in area newspapers in December of 1881 attest that the murder was bloodier that family legend recounts. An African-American man (described in one newspaper as a “crazy negro”) attempted to seize one of the Armstrong children. The child’s mother, Mrs. Winchester Armstrong, and her mother tried to wrestle the child away and both were killed. The newspaper reports that the child’s mother was struck in the head with an ax. Moments later, Mr. Armstrong approached and shot and killed the assailant.

Sources

  • “A heart-rending murder…” Pickens County Herald and West Alabamian (Carrollton, AL). 7 December 1881.
  • Hill, Beulah and Pat Buckley. “History.” Accessed 6 June 2015.
  • “Horrible murder of two women by a crazy negro.” The Marion Times-Standard. 14 December 1881.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Few historic stagecoach inns and taverns survive across Alabama, take a tour.” com. 14 August 2014.
  • Lamar County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Lamar County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Lauderdale County

Forks of Cypress
Jackson Road
Florence

Crowning a hill above Jackson Road are the skeletal remains of the graceful Forks of Cypress, built in the latter half of the 1820s. Until it burned in June 1966, the house was known as one of the grandest homes in the area. James Jackson, an Irish-born venture capitalist who moved to the area in 1818 and is considered the founder of the city of Florence, constructed the home.

Ruins of Forks of Cypress, 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.

Even before a conflagration destroyed the house, it was known to be haunted, and spirits may continue to roam the picturesque ruins. The Jackson family cemetery not far from the house has also seen some paranormal activity. Debra Johnston records an incident whereby a visitor to the cemetery one afternoon encountered a young man on horseback. As he talked with the strange young man, he realized the young man was one of the sons of James Jackson. The visitor was astonished when he shook hands with the man and watched him vanish before his eyes.

Southwest of the ruins, a bridge spanned Cypress Creek until its recent demolition. Known as “Ghost Bridge,” the bridge was associated with a typical crybaby bridge story. The woods near the bridge, tradition holds, are supposed to be haunted by a spirit carrying a lantern, a possible holdover from a skirmish fought here during the Civil War.

Sources

  • Farris, Johnathan A. & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Forks of Cypress. 2 May 1997.
  • Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of the Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.

Lawrence County

Henry Hill
CR-25
Mount Hope

Almost as common as Cry Baby Bridges throughout the South are “Gravity Hills;” roads or hills where a car put in neutral will seemingly be pushed up an incline. Along County Road 25, just outside of the community of Mount Hope, is a dip in the road where legend has it a man named Henry was killed. Most legends have Henry’s car breaking down along this road and him trying to push it out of the way when he was struck and killed by another vehicle. When a car is stopped here, Henry still dutifully pushes the car to safety to prevent another driver from having to endure a similar end.

Sources

Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn

During the first few minutes of the first annual Haunted History Tour in the small town of Wetumpka, Alabama, my tour group was shuffled into a room in the unrestored portion of the town’s CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUILDING (110 East Bridge Street). The dingy room was in rough shape and a collection of folding chairs was set out for tour participants. I glanced through a doorway into an adjoining room and was greeted by a scarecrow with a mischievous grin painted on its burlap face.

The Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce just before Wetumpka Haunted History Tour, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The thought ran through my head, “Someone has put out some tacky Halloween decorations out for this tour. Oh my God, I hope the rest of the tour isn’t like this!” My fears were allayed however when the guide began talking about how this scarecrow moved on its own around the third floor. Passersby on the streets outside have noted the scarecrow peering down on them from one of the third floor windows. When they look again the scarecrow is often looking down from a different window. Employees of the chamber of commerce have also noted the scarecrow’s erratic movement, even once finding it torn apart on the floor of the bathroom. Even more shocking was when the scarecrow reappeared “in pristine condition”—to use our guide’s words—the following day in its usual position overlooking downtown.

The chamber’s scarecrow that moves on its own accord. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The scarecrow, along with the other spirited compatriots, is overseeing a revival that’s taking place in downtown Wetumpka and throughout the state of Alabama. The state is beginning to awaken from its long, sad economic dream state and confidently stride back towards a fully awakened existence. Utilizing its own history, hominess, natural hospitality, stories, and even its ghosts, Alabama is brushing off the dust of its past and creating a more hopeful future.

Some of you may have noticed my absence during October. Please forgive me, I have been traveling throughout Alabama taking part in investigations and ghost tours. The life of a blogger can be rather dull when you’re only writing about these places rather than experiencing them. Last Halloween I promised myself that I would leave my schedule open this year so I could take advantage of the various investigations and ghost tours that crop up during the Halloween season. With one exception, all my investigations and tours were in Alabama, a state that I have discovered really wants its stories told.

My first jaunt, the first weekend of October, took me to Sylacauga, the Marble City. Located in central Alabama, Sylacauga (pronounced sil-uh-CAW-guh), is about 45 miles south east of Birmingham. The town was built primarily on marble quarrying: carving up the fine marble vein that spans thirty miles under this section of Talladega County. Near the downtown, the COMER MUSEUM (711 North Broadway Avenue) is situated in an Art Deco-styled marble-clad building built in the 1930s as the town’s library. Sculptures and carvings from the local marble grace the entrance of the elegant building that serves as a virtual attic for the area squirrelling away and displaying an array of historic artifacts.

I was in town for an investigation at the museum with S.C.A.R.E. of Alabama, a group founded by authors Kim Johnston and Shane Busby (who wrote Haunted Talladega County together, Johnston is also the author of Haunted Shelby County, Alabama and Haint Blue: The Rockford Haunting). Members of the group include haunted collector and author Kevin Cain whose book, My Haunted Collection, is now a part of my Southern Spirit Library, he’s also written a number of supernatural fiction works; and Kat Hobson who hosts the radio show “Paranormal Experienced with Kat Hobson” on which I appeared a few months ago and will be appearing at the end of this month. The group hosted this investigation as part of a series of public investigations that they host as fundraisers for the places investigated.

The fascinating investigation concentrated on a number of objects throughout the building that may have spirit attachments. See my rundown of the investigation here, “The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama.”

Entrance to De Soto Caverns, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On the route I decided to stop outside of Childersburg to check out DeSOTO CAVERNS & FAMILY FUN PARK (5181 Desoto Caverns Parkway). As I waited for the cave tour I watched a young father carry his child off the porch of the gift shop heading towards the family’s car. In his arms the child squirmed and cried in the depths of a temper tantrum. As they passed the statue of Hernando de Soto the father said, “Hey look, it’s Hernando de Soto!” The child only screamed louder. Goodness knows that de Soto inspired similar reactions from the natives when he marched through this area in 1540.

Interior of the caverns with a replica of a native burial in place. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Scholars suggest that Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto may have stopped in the area as he hacked his way through the forests and natives of the region. While there is no proof that he visited the cave, there is evidence that it was known to the local natives. Several native burials were located in the main room of the cave as well as the remains of a white trader who was killed after he carved his name in the cave which was considered sacred to the natives. Being a cave fan, I was happy when Johnston and Busby included the cave in their book on haunted Talladega County.

While I have had some creepy experiences in caves (see my experiences at Lost Sea Cave in Sweetwater, TN), I didn’t have anything odd happen. Johnston and Busby note that a young daughter of the cave’s owners had experiences with Native American spirits during her childhood on the property. Worried that these spirits may have been upset by the family’s use of the cave as a tourist attraction, the owners brought in members of the native tribes that once owned the land to cleanse the property and rebury the bones of their ancestors that had originally lain quietly in the cave. Apparently, the spirits have been appeased, though I do wonder if there is any residual energy that may cause some activity on occasion.

Sylacauga itself seems to be waking up however: a number of buildings in its downtown were occupied and open for business including what appeared to be several new restaurants. For dinner I considered BUTTERMILK HILL RESTAURANT (300 East 3rd Street) which occupies an early 20th century house just outside of downtown. Listed in Johnston and Busby’s book, the restaurant shares the house with an assortment of spirits and a dark history that includes a murder within the past decade. While the menu looks delectable, it was a bit pricey for my current budget, though I did take some pictures.

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

My second sojourn to Alabama took place over the penultimate weekend of October. Due to work on Friday, the trip turned out to be rather rushed and I didn’t have much time to really enjoy it the trip up. S.C.A.R.E. of Alabama sponsored an investigation of JEMISON-CARNEGIE HERITAGE HALL MUSEUM (200 South Street East) and the adjoining ARMSTRONG-OSBORNE PUBLIC LIBRARY (202 South Street East) in Talladega. Despite  NASCAR races taking place the same weekend at the nearby (and cursed, supposedly) Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, the leafy streets of Talladega were quiet and still. South Street boasts some fine institutions and a handful of ghosts. On this peaceful night, antebellum MANNING HALL (205 South Street East), the huge, main edifice of the Alabama Institute for the Blind and Deaf, across the street from Heritage Hall was lit up like a beacon. Heritage Hall’s smaller, more feminine, Beaux-Arts façade was lit up as if in graceful answer to Manning Hall’s heavy, masculine Greek Revival colonnade. According to Johnston and Busby, Manning Hall does have some spirits of its own, quite possibly including the shade of the Institute’s founder, Dr. Joseph Johnson.

Manning Hall at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The Jemison-Carnegie Public Library was the dream of Louisa Jemison, a member of the prominent Jemison family who now have a handful of haunted places associated with them. Designed by noted Alabama architect Frank Lockwood, the library was built with a donation of land from Louisa Jemison and the Carnegie Foundation. When the library opened in 1908 local lore tells of a little 8-year-old girl sitting on the top step the first day and her being the first person to check out a book. The little girl, Gentry Parsons, would eventually pen her own books and donated many books to this library.

The facade of Heritage Hall on the night of the investigation.
Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Good architecture has power. In creating beautiful spaces, the architect can physically manipulate those entering the space; the eyes and chin are raised and the dignity of the space encourages those entering to straighten their back out of respect. With better posture, those entering have their senses heightened and the feeling of awe can mellow into a sense of inspiration, lightness, refinement, and freedom. Like the great cathedrals of Europe, the architecture of Heritage Hall does exactly that. The high ceilings, airiness, and grace raises the senses of those walking up the front staircase and entering the front door. The main bay of the building is a large open space with a dramatic staircase directly ahead leading down to the main librarian’s desk.

Interior of Heritage Hall just inside the front door. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved. 
The interior of Heritage Hall looking down the stairs just inside the front door towards the old librarian’s desk. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

After entering for the investigation I was greeted by the museum’s director and given an excellent tour of the building. The open space inside with the walls lined with art from local artists gives the place a sense of veneration and the art displays the tremendous talent throughout the region. I was also introduced to some of the paranormal activity that has been experienced here. With this building being a community center for such a long period of time, the energy that has passed and continues to pass through it has likely left a psychic imprint. That can be one explanation for the disembodied footsteps and doors opening and closing on their own accord. As a library, this building has also inspired passion for many people, people who return to this beloved spot in spirit. Some of the spirits believed to still oversee business here are Miss Willie, a former librarian; Tom Woodson, a long-time director of the museum who died a few years ago; and Louisa Jemison who may return to check on her beloved library.

Main entrance of Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Spooning Heritage Hall like a protective older sibling is the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library which opened in 1979. Sadly, the architects of the newer building did not take their cues from Lockwood’s design. The building is minimalist and angular with no ornamentation; utilitarian modernist at its worst. The interior is very typical late 20th century library design which emphasizes function over design. While the architecture is nothing to write home about, the institution itself seems to be very well stocked and the librarians and staff present were delightful and very interested in the investigation.

Hall of Heroes entrance. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The library itself has experienced a modicum of strange activity particularly around the genealogy room and its adjacent hallway which are actually part of a 2006 addition to the building. That hallway is now the Hall of Heroes, honoring the many men and women of Talladega County who have served in the armed forces. The hall is lined with photographs ranging from World War I to the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this hallway the spirit of a woman has been seen while the sounds of a party sometimes emanate from the genealogy room itself when it’s empty. The investigation of the library and Heritage Hall didn’t really uncover much evidence-wise. After sitting with Ghost Boxes in the main reading room of the library we adjourned to the genealogy room and the Hall of Heroes. Fitted out with computers, microfilm readers, and shelves of books old and new, the genealogy room isn’t particularly creepy, even in the dark. We did an EVP session and at one point seemingly heard a “no,” though I was one of the few people to hear it. It may have also been gastric noises from one of the participants. After relocating to Heritage Hall we didn’t pick up much activity, though we had some K2 spikes when some of men began lounging on Miss Willie’s library desk.

The Hall of Heroes is lined with the photos of men and women who served in the armed forces from Talladega County. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • Johnston, Kim and Shane Busby. Haunted Talladega County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2015.
  • History.”Talladega Armstrong-Osborne Public Library. Accessed 12 November 2016.
  • Our History.” Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall Museum. Accessed 12 November 2016.
  • Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce. Wetumpka Haunted Heritage Tour. 28 October 2016.

Encounter with a face—Sweetwater, Tennessee

The Lost Sea
140 Lost Sea Road
Sweetwater, Tennessee

My post on Sweetwater, Tennessee’s The Lost Sea got an anonymous comment a couple weeks ago, “By the way there is nothing haunted about the cave. I work there and I can tell you half of the stuff above is a lie.” Just a day later, I received an interesting report from a visitor who had an experience.

In writing about haunted places, I regularly encounter people who will attest that a location is not haunted while also encountering people who have had experiences in that location they truly believe are paranormal. Who to believe? No one perceives the world around them in the same exact way. This becomes even more complicated when you factor in psychic sensitivities.

A passage within the Lost Sea Cave from my visit in 2011. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

To say that a place is not haunted because you personally have not experienced anything is short-sighted and loses sight of people who may be able to sense things where you may feel nothing. It’s for this reason that physical evidence is very important. In this case, the reader who wrote to me about her experience also included two photographs. While I’m not expert on photographic evidence, both photos do contain some odd things. I cannot say for certain whether the photographs are paranormal or not.

This reader from Lakeland, Florida related her experience as follows:

Hi, I had an encounter at the Lost Sea Caves in Sweetwater, TN this past December. I also have pictures that I took. At the time of our visit, I told my husband that there was a young man following me (I have always been “sensitive” but because it scares me, I have never really given it any thought). All I could see of the young man was his face, and that he had a blue hat on. He was not threatening to me, but curious. I did some research when I got home and I learned of the young union [sic] soldier who was spying on the caves and was killed. I am positive that this is who my encounter was with.

I asked her to describe the face and the hat further.

As far as the description of the face and hat. He was young, had a thin, although not super skinny face and a mild complexion. His hat was a medium blue, what I would call a classic union battle cap. [from this description, I would venture it was a Union kepi] What stood out to me the most is that he was young, definitely not over 25. He also seemed kind and curious. I felt like he knew that I knew he was there.

I then ventured to ask if she saw him with her eyes or sensed him. She responded that she “sensed it, but it was the first time that I ever saw clear features.” She continued, “all of the other times, I could definitely sense the energy, but I couldn’t put a physical description on it.”

In my own entry from 2011, I alluded to the legend from the Civil War regarding a Union spy who attempted to sabotage the Confederate saltpeter mining and gunpowder making operation that was located in the cave. Since I wrote that article, I have discovered that there is quite a bit more information on that topic. Larry E. Matthews’ book, Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains, includes this story in their history of the cave.

The first of the reader images. This was taken on the Lost Sea with the sea’s rainbow trout beginning to mob the boat. There are two orbs in the photo, both of which could be water vapor, though the orb that was caught in motion seems quite curious to me. All rights reserved.
My photograph of the fish for comparison. Notice the water vapor “orbs” appear stationary. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The story comes from a diary kept by the Rev. J. H. Coltharp that was discovered before 1934. Sadly, the diary has been lost, but the details of the gunpowder production and the death of the Union soldier were recorded. According to this diary, the cave was the only location in the Knoxville area where saltpeter was mined for Confederate use. This gunpowder was surreptitiously carried to Knoxville and throughout the South by young men who would carry 50-pound cans of it.

The diary relates that the men working this operation felt relatively safe in the cave as Union troops—this region was occupied by Union troops starting in 1863—wouldn’t enter the cave for fear of getting lost. One Union soldier did manage to sneak past the Confederates stationed throughout the area to guard the cave and was discovered after he had placed dynamite in the cave to destroy it. “He was tied to a large gum tree near the cave and shot.”

The second reader image from one of the dry cave rooms. There is both a light anomaly and an orb in this photo. The light anomaly is human shaped, though a flash in a cave like this can cause many anomalies. Again, this orb is in motion, which is curious. All rights reserved.

Is this soldier the face that the young lady from Florida saw? We may never know.

I’d like to thank the young lady from Florida for sharing her story and photographs.

Sources

  • Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
  • Matthews, Larry E. Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains. Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society. 2008.
  • Powell, Lewis O. Correspondence with a reader from Lakeland, Florida.9-14 March 2015.
  • Powell, Lewis O. “A sunless sea—Craighead Caverns and the Lost Sea.” Southern Spirit Guide blog. 6 December 2011.

Certified Haunted in Tennessee–Chattanooga

N.B. This article was revised and expanded 7 March 2019.

In time for Halloween, two Tennessee locations–Ruby Falls and Bolivar’s Magnolia Manor (see my coverage in my article “13 More Southern Rooms with a Boo“–have announced that they’ve been declared certifiably haunted after being investigated by paranormal investigators.

Ruby Falls
1720 South Scenic Highway
Chattanooga

If you’ve spent any time driving within 100 miles of Ruby Falls, you will recognize this name. Along with Rock City—located just up the mountain—Ruby Falls has engaged in an extensive advertising campaign along roadsides, on barn roofs, and in hotel lobby brochure racks throughout the Deep South. Their advertising campaigns have made Ruby Falls and Rock City synonymous with tourism throughout the region.

Ruby Falls Visitors’ Center. Photo 2006, by Oydman, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ruby Falls—not to be confused with Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park in North Georgia—is a cave in Lookout Mountain that ends in a marvelous waterfall. The cave is accessible via elevator from a castle-like visitors’ center above. Earlier this month, paranormal investigators searched for evidence of the paranormal both in the visitors’ center and in the cave itself. After looking at the evidence, Stones River Paranormal determined that there are spirits in the location.

Ruby Falls Cave is actually part of a larger cave system: the Lookout Mountain Caverns. Lookout Mountain Cave was known for centuries by Native Americans in the area as well as early settlers and it was also heavily utilized during the Civil War. Sadly, the natural entrance to the cave was closed off when a railroad tunnel was constructed in the area. In the 1920s, a chemist and amateur spelunker, Leo Lambert, created the Lookout Mountain Cave Company to reopen the cave as a commercial venture. As workers were drilling an elevator shaft into Lookout Mountain Cave, a smaller cave was discovered above. Wriggling into the small cave, Lambert explored the passages and admired the cave’s intricate formations ultimately finding the falls at the end of the cave which he named for his wife, Ruby.

The titular waterfall in Ruby Falls Cave. Photo 2009, by Jtesla, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Both caves were opened as commercial, “show” caves but Ruby Falls Cave became much more popular. Tours were eventually ended to Lookout Mountain Cave and over time, lighting and music have been added to “enhance” the cave experience.

Stones River Paranormal discovered the presence of at least five spirits in the cave and its visitors’ center. Leo Lambert and his wife, Ruby, as well as the spirit of a security guard who died after falling down an elevator shaft were named as possible spirits within the facility. Oddly, the spirits of a few children may also be haunting the visitors’ center.

A couple years ago, I corresponded with Amy Petulla, co-author with Jessica Penot, of Haunted Chattanooga (which I reviewed here), and owner of the Chattanooga Ghost Tour. She provided me with a bit more information on the spirits at Ruby Falls:

The security guide that died there has a couple of ways of making his presence known. They say that his spirit is accompanied by the smell of sugar cookies, which his wife used to pack in his lunch every day. He is also a bit of a prankster and is fond of unscrewing the light bulb in a particular section of the cave.

I had a previous guide tell me that while he and his girlfriend were enjoying the fake haunted house that Ruby Falls puts on in October, something invisible grabbed his girlfriend’s glowstick necklace and yanked it up towards her head. There was no one close to them at the time. My guess is this was NOT the security guard, but another entity.

Sources

  • Jenkins, Gary C. “Ruby Falls.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
  • Personal Correspondence with Amy Petulla. 15 May 2017.
  • Phipps, Sean. “Ruby Falls deemed an official haunted location.” com. 29 September 2014.
  • Ruby Falls. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 September 2014.

A Spectral Tour of the Shenandoah Valley

I recently had an inquiry from a friend who’s a student at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia regarding a “haunted road trip” he and his friends want to take next month. After consulting my resources, I’ve devised a suitable tour of the area’s numerous haunts.

This tour makes a circle through the Shenandoah Valley, beginning and ending in Winchester. It heads south on I-81 towards Staunton with a few stops along the way. After Staunton the tour heads east to include the famous Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville before returning to Winchester. The tour includes a range of haunted places from historic homes to government buildings, churches, battlefields, commercial buildings, cemeteries, a train depot, a former mental hospital and a cave. Some of these locations are open to the public while a few are private and should only be viewed from the street.

N.B. This article has been reworked a bit and I have begun separating these cities into their own distinct articles.

Winchester

The Winchester section of this article has been broken off into its own, separate article, “The Wraiths of Winchester.”

Middletown

WAYSIDE INN (7783 Main Street) This building sits at the core of history of this small town. The motley of old buildings forming the tavern were built over a period ranging from the 18th century through to the late 19th century. The oldest portion of the building, containing Larrick’s Tavern,  may have been constructed around 1750. The road in front was once part of the Great Wagon Road—the road used by settlers pouring into the American “backcountry.” In this area, the Great Wagon Road  was originally a Native American trail called the Great Indian Warpath and used by a multitude of Native American tribes including the Cherokee.

In 1797, this collection of buildings became an inn for the many travelers passing on the road. Leo Bernstein, the garrulous personality who took over the inn the latter half of the 20th century, would always claim that this inn was the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. There does seem to be a good deal of truth behind his claim. It is known that this inn was in operation as war raged up and down the valley during the Civil War and that the inn served both sides.

Wayside Inn. Photo 2008, by DwayneP, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Like most buildings in the area, the inn has a number of Civil War related spirits, though there is the possibility that the inn may have been haunted before that time. Lord Fairfax, who had been given much the land in the area, did live nearby and died in Winchester (he’s buried at Christ Episcopal Church) is claimed as the spirit that moans on a nightly basis in the oldest portion of the inn. Bernstein describes the space in Sheila Turnage’s Haunted Inns of the Southeast, “Upstairs is about a three foot space. There was a set of steps going up there. The straw is still there.” The loft is located just above one of the bars and Turnage mentions that people gather to listen for the moan at 11:30 PM nightly.

Besides odd moans, the inn is home to numerous other spirits and employees and guests have witnessed much activity. Objects have moved on their own accord, a dishwasher had his apron untied repeatedly by unseen hands, and full apparitions have been seen including those of Civil War soldiers. Paranormal investigations have captured much evidence including EVPs of horses whinnying and photographs featuring specters.

WAYSIDE THEATRE (7853 Main Street, now closed) The sad fate of the Wayside Theatre echoes the fate of so many theatres throughout the country. The company was established in 1961, by Leo Bernstein, the owner of the Wayside Inn just down the street. The summer stock theatre provided training for actors such as Susan Sarandon, Peter Boyle, Kathy Bates and Donna McKechnie. After a precipitous drop in revenue, the theatre closed its doors in 2013.

The building was originally constructed as a cinema and it is from this period that the theatre’s ghost may come from. “George,” is supposedly the spirit of an African-American man who either worked in the theatre or was a caretaker at some point. His spirit is said to haunt the stage, balcony and basement of the building.

CEDAR CREEK AND BELLE GROVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (Belle Grove, 336 Belle Grove Road) Historically and architecturally, Belle Grove is one of the most important houses in the region and listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is currently owned and operated by the National Trust and most sources state that the docents are discouraged from talking about the spirits which still reside here.

Belle Grove, 2013, by AgnosticPreachersKid. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The history of Belle Grove begins in the late 18th century with the land being acquired by Isaac Hite, the grandson of Jost Hite, a German immigrant and one of the early pioneers in this area. Construction of the house began in 1794 and ended in 1797. The house remained in the Hite family until just before the beginning of the Civil War when it was bought by John and Benjamin Cooley. The first of two ghost stories begin with this family. Not long after acquiring the house, Benjamin Cooley married a local woman named Hetty. Not long after her arrival in the home, Hetty became the subject of ire from one of the slave woman working there.

Though the details are unclear, Hetty was attacked by the slave and her beaten body was thrown either into the smokehouse or the icehouse on the property. Hetty’s spirit reportedly returns frequently and has been seen throughout the house. According to two sources, she actually let a deliveryman into the house one afternoon after the home had been closed for the day. The deliveryman was returning the antique carpets which had been removed for cleaning. After arriving late, he was let into the house by a woman in a period dress who did not speak but only gestured to where the carpets should be placed. When the staff discovered the carpets had been returned and put in place, they called the cleaning company who put the driver on the phone. They were shocked to hear about the woman who let him in.

A few years after Mrs. Cooley’s death, the estate became the scene of the Battle of Cedar Creek. During that battle, Major General Stephen Ramseur of North Carolina was gravely wounded. He was taken to a room at Belle Grove where he passed away the following morning surrounded by some of his former classmates from West Point from both armies including George Custer. This scene was witnessed by a gentleman some years ago. While idly passing through the house, he glanced into a room to see a group of Civil War soldiers in both blue and grey standing around someone in a bed. Later, when he asked who had been presenting the tableaux that day, he was informed that nothing of the sort was taking place in the house.

Employees have told various paranormal writers that voices and other odd noises are regularly heard in the house, while singing is heard in the slave cemetery on the property.

Early on the morning of October 19, 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launched an attack upon Union forces camping in the area. These forces under General Sheridan (who was headquartered at the Lloyd Logan House in Winchester, see stop #3H) had spent their time clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Confederates. Known as “The Burning,” this period included the destruction of much of the area. Early’s early morning attack was one of the last chances for Confederates to stop the decimation of the valley.

While Early’s attack was initially successful in beginning to route the Federals, Sheridan, hearing the sounds of battle from Winchester, jumped upon his horse and made a triumphant ride to Middletown to rally his troops to victory. At the end of the day, Early’s forces had been driven from the field.

The stories of spirits on this battlefield began not long after the battle ended. These stories included spectral soldiers on the battlefield both singly and in groups and even stories of headless horsemen. Michael Varhola notes, however, that the gentlemen he met working in the visitor’s center, refused to answer his questions about the battlefield being haunted.

Grottoes

Formations within Grand Caverns. Photo 2010 by P199. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

GRAND CAVERNS (5 Grand Caverns Drive) From the oldest continuously operating inn in the country to the oldest operating show cave, Grand Caverns has been open for tourists since 1806. I’ve covered this cave and its ghosts in a blog entry here.

New Hope

PIEDMONT BATTLEFIELD (Battlefield Road) Outside of New Hope, near the community of Piedmont, is an open field that was the scene of a battle, the 5th of June 1864.

Around 5 AM, June 5, 1996, a group of reenactors camping on the southern edge of the battlefield were awakened by an unusual ruckus: the sounds of wagons approaching. In an effort to greet the approaching wagons, a few of the reenactors stepped towards a nearby fence. The sounds, the creak of wagon wheels, the tinkle of chains, the clop of horses hooves and their whinnies, increased for a moment as they apparently neared the awed witnesses then they suddenly ceased. Some of those present later discovered an overgrown trace or wagon road in the woods near the spot where they’d heard the sounds. It is believed that this road may have been in existence at the time of the battle.

Of course, there’s no way to know if the sounds were related to battle or simply spiritual residue from the road’s history. Either way, the reenactors will likely tell this story for years to come.

Staunton

Like Winchester, Staunton has a myriad of haunted locales and a ghost tour. Black Raven Paranormal presents a handful of different tours; see their website for further information.

MRS. ROWE’S FAMILY RESTAURANT (74 Rowe Road) This popular restaurant has been investigated twice in the past few years after employees and guests have had run-ins with spirits. In addition to activity in the building’s attic and basement, the back dining room and men’s room have reportedly had activity. Two local news articles describe the activity as ranging from full apparitions to employees being touched.

DeJARNETTE CENTER (located behind the Frontier Culture Museum, 1290 Richmond Avenue, the center is closed and private property though one of the tours offered by the Ghosts of Staunton tours the grounds, don’t ask for further information at the Frontier Culture Museum, they can’t tell you much of anything) There’s a good deal of misinformation about this location. Of course, mental and psychiatric hospitals tend to be haunted, along with other medical facilities. Among those with a paranormal bent, there is a tendency to exploit these types of places and often repeat misinformation.

DeJarnette Center. Photo 2011, by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the DeJarnette Center, there is a tendency to confuse it with Western State Hospital, which also may be haunted. Though their histories are intertwined, these are two separate facilities. Western State was founded early in the 19th century to handle the overflow from the Williamsburg Hospital which handled the insane and mental cases. The complex that once house Western State has recently been converted into condominiums called The Villages at Staunton.

During the first half of the 19th century, Western State was under the aegis of Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, a revolutionary figure in the field of mental health. His controversial legacy included institutionalizing a eugenics program that forcibly sterilized numerous patients throughout the state.

This facility opened in 1932 originally as the DeJarnette State Sanitarium, a private pay unit of Western State. The state assumed control of this facility in 1975 and renamed it the DeJarnette Center for Human Development. The facility experienced severe budget cuts starting in the mid-70s and continuing until the patients were moved into a newer, smaller facility adjacent to Western State in 1996. Since 1996, the site has been abandoned and waiting for the wrecking ball. Countless ghost stories have been told about the facility, though few have actually been published.

DOWNTOWN STAUNTON Like downtown Winchester, Staunton has a number of haunted places, though the information on them is not as readily available (as opposed to Winchester with Mac Rutherford’s book on its hauntings). I imagine many of these locations will be presented on the Ghosts of Staunton tour.

STAUNTON COFFEE AND TEA (32 South New Street) This building was the scene of a homicide in August of 1951. Elmer Higgins, a heavy gambler who lived in an apartment on the building’s second floor was shot in the head, execution-style. The murder remains unsolved and it is believed his spirit remains on the premises.

AMTRAK STATION (1 Middlebrooks Avenue) There has been a train station on this site since 1854. The first station was burned during the Civil War while the second station was destroyed April 28, 1890 by train. The New York Times described the event, “This morning about 3 o’clock a railroad wreck occurred at the Staunton (Chesapeake and Ohio) Station. The vestibule train, due here from the west at 1 o’clocl was two hours late. About 3 o’clock it came whirling on at a speed of seventy miles an hour, the engine having the appearance of a sheet of fire…As the train reached the passenger station the rear sleeper careened, striking the platform covering, tearing away the iron posts, and demolishing the whole platform structure.”

Staunton Amtrak Station. Photo 2009, by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The train was carrying members of a traveling operatic troupe out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The only death to occur was one of the company’s singers, Miss Myrtle Knox who was badly mangled by the accident and bled to death.

Myrtle’s sad spirit has been spotted on the platform wearing a nightgown. Women with long blonde hair have had their hair tugged and it is believed that Myrtle’s spirit may be to blame for that as well.

An old rail car at the depot once contained a restaurant. Visitors to the station have seen odd lights, shadows and heard voices around the old Pullman car. Along the tracks the apparition of a Civil War soldier has been seen. A Confederate soldier was walking these tracks after having a bit too much to drink at a local saloon. He was hit by a train and killed.

THE CLOCK TOWER BUILDING (27 West Beverly Street) This 1890 structure has been the scene of at least three deaths. Two early deaths on the premises, which was originally constructed as a YMCA facility, include a heart attack and a young woman who fell down a coal chute. Recently, someone fell to their death from the third floor in a possible suicide. These spirits are still said to linger in this old building.

MARY BALDWIN COLLEGE (Intersection of Frederick Street and New Street) According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for this college’s main building, Mary Baldwin is the oldest women’s institution of higher learning associated with the Presbyterian Church. The school was opened in 1842 as the Augusta Female Seminary. In the midst of the Civil War, Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung, former students of the seminary were appointed as principals. They would serve the school through the latter half of the 19th century and Mary Baldwin’s contribution would be recognized in 1895 when the school was renamed for her. The spirits of Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung may remain on campus along with a few other assorted spirits.

In the old Main Building, one of the first buildings constructed on campus, a male spirit named Richard likes to occasionally cause trouble. McClung Residence Hall, just behind the Main Building includes the rooms where Baldwin and McClung lived during their tenure here. Students living there have reported the spirits of both women, with one student even waking up to find a white figure hovering over her as she slept. The Collins Theatre, located inside the Deming Fine Arts Center, also features a spirit, possibly that of one of Mary Baldwin’s most illustrious alums, the actress Tallulah Bankhead. The spirit in the theatre is known to mess with the stage lights.

Gordonsville

Exchange Hotel, 2008, by Rutke421. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AND EXCHANGE HOTEL (400 South Main Street) The Exchange Hotel has, in recent years, become one of the Southern meccas for ghost hunters. Opened on the eve of the Civil War, this hotel became one of the premier hospitals for the wounded during the Civil War. With so many deaths here, it’s no wonder that the place is crawling with ghosts. In one of my early blog entries, I’ve covered this location. At one time, the museum offered ghost walks, but I can currently find no information about these. This haunting was also covered on the Biography Channel show, My Ghost Story, first season, episode six.

Sources

  • Abram’s Delight. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  • Armstrong, Derek Micah. “A true ghost story.” The News Virginian. 22 October 2012.
  • Ash, Linda O’Dell. “Respect the spirits, ‘Ghost Hunters International’ star Dustin Pari tells Wayside Inn paranormal investigators.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 7 November 2011.
  • Austin, Natalie. “Local ghost expert shares stories of the supernatural.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 30 October 2004.
  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents. Wikipedia, the Free Accessed 29 September 2014.
  • Daly, Sean. “In Strasburg, a Medium Well Done.” The Washington Post. 31 July 2002.
  • Demeria, Katie. “Joe’s Steakhouse opens new location in Winchester.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 20 June 2014.
  • “A haunting reminder of a darker past at the DeJarnette complex.” The Daily News Leader. 15 September 2012.
  • History. Cork Street Tavern. Accessed 17 September 2014.
  • History. Mount Hebron Cemetery. Accessed 21 September 2014.
  • History of Our Building. Brewbaker’s Restaurant. Accessed 24 September 2014.
  • Klemm, Anna and DHR Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Mount Hebron Cemetery. 25 July 2008.
  • Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal Activity Hunters Investigate Restaurant for Ghost Activity.” 11 January 2013.
  • Lee, Marguerite Du Pont. Virginia Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Lowe, F.C. “Final curtain falls on Wayside Theatre; ending 52-year run.” Winchester Star. 8 August 2013.
  • Middletown Heritage Society. National Register of Historic Place nomination form for Middletown Historic District. 7 May 2003.
  • Peters, Laura. “What goes bump in the night.” The Daily News Leader. 9 October 2013.
  • Powell, Lewis O. “An Independent Spirit—Winchester, Virginia.” Southern Spirit Guide. 31 March 2014.
  • Rutherford, Mac. Historic Haunts of Winchester: A Ghostly Trip Through the Past. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Shulman, Terry. “Did ghostly soldiers pay reenactors a courtesy call?” The News Leader (Staunton, VA). 10 July 2004.
  • Smith, Morgan Alberts & Marisol Euceda. “The Ghosts of MBC.” Up Hill and Down. January/February 2003.
  • Stanley, K.W. “The history of Western State and the Dejarnette Sanitarium.” The News Progress. 20 May 2008.
  • Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.
  • Tripp, Mike. “DeJarnette’s ugly, complicated legacy.” The Daily News Leader. 22 March 2014
  • “Trying to get a glimpse of a ghost at Staunton’s Mrs. Rowe’s.” News Leader. 24 June 2012.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Cedar Creek Battlefield and Belle Grove. 24 April 1969.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Mary Baldwin College, Main Building. 26 July 1973.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Winchester Historic District.  April 1979.
  • The Wayside Theatre—Middletown, VA.” Haunted Commonwealth. 15 May 2010.
  • Westhoff, Mindi. “Paranormal group presents downtown ghost tour.” The Daily News Leader. 24 September 2008.
  • Williams, J.R. “Paranormal investigators examine Cork Street Tavern for ghost activity.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 3 August 2009.
  • Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Winchester Historic Sites. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  • “A Young Singer Killed.” New York Times. 29 April 1890.

Grand Ghosts–Grottoes, Virginia

Grand Caverns
5 Grand Caverns Drive
Grottoes

N.B. This article has been revised and edited 18 May 2019.

It’s not hard to imagine that investigating in pitch black darkness could be both terrifying and exhilarating. Ghost hunters are accustomed to stumbling about in dark spaces, but usually there is some dim light even if just from the moon or street lights outside. Within a cave there is no ambient light, and the inky darkness envelops you.

In an article from WHSV, the ABC affiliate out of Harrisonburg, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, the founder of the Twisted Paranormal Society of Virginia talks about the adrenaline rush that he gets from investigating the shadier side of things. In his investigation report he says, “Once the interior lights were turned off, [Grand Caverns] took on a whole new appearance.”

According to the history on its website, Grand Caverns is the oldest continually operating show cave in the nation. Show caves are those caverns that have been opened—exploited some say—for tourists and commercial use.

Like so many caves, Grand Caverns was discovered when someone simply stumbled on it, in this case a hunter retrieving traps. Bernard Weyer discovered the cave in 1804, and within two years tours were being led through it. In the early days, standing in the thick darkness tourists imagined ghosts, demons and all those denizens of the underworld were just at their heels. The weird formations were transformed into manifestations of nightmares and named accordingly: Dante’s Inferno and George Washington’s Ghost among them. At Dante’s Inferno especially—a hole-like formation with rock that seemingly melts towards the mouth of Hell—tourists were warned of evil spirits there that would extinguish candles or torches: the only sources of light here.

haunted caves Grand Caverns Grottoes Virginia ghosts
Formations within Grand Caverns. Photo 2010 by P199. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Other areas inspired awe or whimsy. In one large room, grand balls were held, while the sacred space of The Chapel was actually used on occasion for religious services. These things brought the curious to visit these caverns for just over two centuries. When the Virginia countryside was overrun with battling armies during the Civil War, soldiers visited, easing their minds of the weariness of war.

The identities of the spirits within Grand Caverns are unknown. While the articles relating to the haunting point to the military visitors to the cave during the Civil War,  it appears that the soldiers simply visited and none died or were killed within the cave. Twisted Paranormal’s investigation did produce some results that may indicate the presence of spirits here, though their investigation was only 3 hours long. The group presents some of the evidence they captured on their website including some photographs with orbs and video of EMF detectors being set off with no one around. Unexplained flashing lights were also encountered.

Sources

  • Adams, Cindy. “Strange activity found in Grottoes Grand Caverns by paranormal investigators.” Examiner.com. 26 June 2012.
  • History.” Grand Caverns. Accessed 24 May 2013.
  • Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal Activity Group Searches Grottoes Grand Caverns.” WHSV. 16 April 2012.
  • Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal activity in the Caverns.” WHSV. 26 June 2012.
  • Twisted Paranormal Society of Virginia. Grand Caverns. Accessed 24 May 2012.

A Sunless Sea—Craighead Caverns and the Lost Sea

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
–Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Kublai Khan” (1797)

The Lost Sea
140 Lost Sea Road
Sweetwater, Tennessee

Many moons ago a large, prehistoric jaguar stumbled into this cave in eastern Tennessee between the modern metropolises of Chattanooga and Knoxville. The large cat may have wandered in but it never saw the light again. Lost in the inky darkness of the cave, the cat stumbled, fell and died. Its remains and a couple paw prints remained undisturbed until two curious cavers discovered them in Craighead Caverns in 1939. Since then, according to Christopher Coleman’s Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, “visitors have felt something akin to the tail of a large animal brush against them. Locals swear that a phantom jaguar haunts the cave.” 

Visitor’s center. Photo, 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

On a weekday morning in early December, I was visiting the cave long past the usual tourist season. The visitor’s center was quiet with a few employees putting up Christmas decorations. As a child, I always collected travel brochures when I went on family vacations and brochures for The Lost Sea were always available. I was thrilled to be finally visiting and even more thrilled to see that I was getting a private tour as one of the few visitors that morning.

The modern entrance to the caverns. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

I descended the futuristic tunnel with my guide to the caverns and he began his spiel: explaining the stalagmites and stalactites and how they were formed. We entered a round room called the “Council Room” where the Cherokee who once owned the cave may have gathered. The ceiling of this room bears beautiful and rare ornamentations known as “anthodites,” a fragile, flower-like formation. The Cherokee were among the earliest explorers of the cave and they left behind some artifacts. In the 1820s, the property was owned by a Chief Craighead for whom the cave was named. At some point after this time the cave was “discovered” by the white pioneers moving into the old Cherokee lands. Initially, families living in the area used the large, cold and dark cave rooms for food storage, but eventually an operation was set up to extract saltpeter for gunpowder.

A cave formation. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

As with so many caves throughout the South, during the Civil War the cave’s saltpeter works became strategically important. In fact, the ceilings still bear signatures that were left there by soldiers and visitors. According to an old diary from the period, the cave’s guard was infiltrated by a Union spy who intended on blowing up the whole operation. Once discovered, the spy was dragged out of the cave, tied to a large gum tree and shot. Of course, some have tied this story with the spirits that may haunt the cave, though, as of yet, there’s no real evidence to make that connection.

Replica of a saltpeter leeching vat. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
A date smoked into the ceiling. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
A soldier’s name smoked into the ceiling. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Following the tumult of the Civil War, the cave saw a variety of uses including mushroom farm, a setting for moonshine operations and as a fallout shelter during the Cold War. In 1947, the cave opened as the Cavern Tavern, a nightclub in the Big Room just inside the historical entrance of the cave. The tavern owners installed a bar and a dance floor with a band in an adjacent room which aided the acoustics. Patrons entering the tavern would traverse a steep staircase to descend into the club and once they’d had a few drinks and danced the night away, would again have to traverse the staircase again. According to the guide, resulting injuries from drunk patrons forced the closer of the club after a few months.

A cave formation. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

We were standing in the Hanging Rock Chamber (a round room created by a whirlpool with a ceiling of jagged rock) as the guide told me about the club in the adjacent Big Room. The room is not usually open during regular tours, though it is used as part of the Wild Cave Tours and groups spending the night within the cave stay here. No mention of legends had come up at this point, so I decided to ask about ghosts.

“I’ve read that there are a few legends of ghosts associated with this cave.”

The guide looked rather uneasy so I added a postscript, “I’d be interested in hearing anything you may know if you’re not forbidden to talk about it.” The guide relaxed a bit.

“I’ve had some experiences here.” He went on to explain that he had had an experience in the Big Room. He was in the cave with a group spending the night and was seated on the infamous staircase reading. He was startled by a sudden drop in temperature at which point he said he heard voices around him whispering. He jumped up and went outside for a little while.

“The Hell Hole” within the upper portion of the cave. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

He went on to relate the experience of a maintenance man who was gathering bags of trash in the same room. The maintenance man heard the sound of footsteps following him as he moved through the room. As he began to leave, a voice uttered his name from just behind him. He fled.

The guide and I began to leave the Hanging Rock Chamber, but I wanted to get a photograph of the entrance to the Big Room. Since we were on a private tour, I was allowed to venture into the room to see the dance floor and the staircase. The way into the room was steep and I was out of breath by the time we were inside. The room felt colder and there was an odd, possibly chaotic energy there. My instincts said, “You shouldn’t be here.” I ignored them and took a few pictures, though I could tell the guide wanted to go as well. As we hurried out, I remarked on the energy. He felt it too.

The best picture I could get of the old dance floor in the Big Room. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I recalled something a guide said when I was visiting Kentucky’s monstrous Mammoth Cave last year. After turning out the lights we were treated to the pitch black darkness that can only be found in caves and at the deepest reaches of the ocean. The guide spoke of how caves can wreck havoc on the senses, especially where there is the sound of water: the ears can be tricked into hearing voices. In the case of Craighead Caverns, the cave is quite humid and there are large amounts of water, though mostly in the lower reaches. In the upper reaches, I occasionally heard water dripping, but it was fairly sporadic and not noisy enough to be mistaken for voices.

Anthodite “flowers.” Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

We discussed spirits as we moved through the caverns towards the Lost Sea. My guide mentioned that he occasionally saw shadowy figures dart through the caverns. I inquired about the spirits of the ancient jaguar and the Union spy. He had heard the stories but didn’t elaborate any further.

The guide returned to his spiel about the discovery of the Lost Sea. As it turns out, the sea really was lost for quite a time. A young man playing in the cave in 1905 was the first to discover the large, flooded chamber. When he told others about it, they tried to find the room, but were met only with passages that were flooded. As Ben Sands grew older he continued to tell about the lost sea that only he had seen. It wasn’t until many years later that the sea was found and the entire cave developed as a commercial “show cave.” It opened as The Lost Sea in 1965.

The sea itself is immense. The only words I could utter when it was first revealed were, “Oh my!” As we got out on the second largest underground lake (as they call it) in the world, I did feel a bit of a chill peering into the darkness beyond the boat. The lake is lit with occasional lights along the edge and this allows visitors to see the large Rainbow Trout that have been stocked within the lake, but it is still fairly dark. Seeing the large, dark shape in the water of the first trout approaching the boat was a bit disconcerting and soon the water around the boat was swarming with them. They’re fed on every tour and that has contributed to their large size.

The Rainbow Trout in the sea. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

After exiting the boat the guide and I began our ascent back to the entrance. We paused for a moment near a dark, narrow passage that was another part of the Wild Cave Tour. The guide mentioned that he didn’t like to walk that area alone and he offered to let me take a quick look. We walked a few yards into the passage and something in the back of my mind kept repeating, “You don’t need to be here.” My guide remarked that he felt another energy change and felt a heaviness in his chest. I didn’t sense any of that, but it felt warmer in the space, a feeling that I somehow equated in my mind with hot breath. I knew I did not want to go any further so I took a quick picture and we returned to the trail.

Overall, the cave tour is quite pleasant. Where some cave experiences can be overdone (using music, colored lights and other nonsense), this cave is perfectly lovely and it has been left in its mostly natural state. The wonder of nature’s creation and the cave’s unique history shows through. My guide (and he knows who he is) was friendly and very interesting. I’m grateful he shared his experiences with me. If you’re looking for an interesting tour in East Tennessee, be sure to stop at Exit 60 for The Lost Sea!

A reader of this blog provided me with a fascinating encounter she had at the Lost Sea.

Sources

  • Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
  • The Lost Sea Adventure. The History of The Lost Sea Adventure: America’s Largest Underground Lake. Sweetwater, TN, No date.
  • Matthews, Larry F. Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smokey Mountains. Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society, 2008.