Front Porch Phantoms—Tallapoosa, Georgia

The tradition of front porch storytelling is alive in Tallapoosa, thanks to Susan Horsley-Pitts who is actively trying to revive it with her walking tour of local ghost stories. Having spent much of my childhood on the front porch of my grandparents’ front porch on LaGrange Street in Newnan, Georgia, I fully appreciate her efforts.

Front porch of a business featured on the Tallapoosa Ghost Stories: A Walking Tour. While this location isn’t haunted, it’s quite creepy. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I failed to dress appropriately for the near-freezing temperatures that we encountered on the tour, but the chilling stories took my mind off the cold. Winding through the darkened streets of this small town, many of the stops were private homes with porches where spirits still linger. At an old building that has been divided into apartments, the spirit was known to play with one of the front doors. One evening during the ghost walk, a child played with the door, opening and closing it as Horsley-Pitts spun the story. Distracted, she asked the child to close the door and the child tried to do it, though something held on to the other side of the door. Both she and the child had to pull the door closed together.

This ghost walk first came to my attention last year as I was trying to find stories from every one of Georgia’s 159 counties. Google produced few results for many of the more rural counties like Haralson County, but it did pop up this ghost walk. I was disappointed to find that the tour only ran during the Halloween season, but I was determined to take it. I finally had the chance to make the drive last and take the tour last Saturday, and it was well worth it.

Tallapoosa appears to be a typical Southern small-town, though that façade belies a twisted and fascinating history. The town has experienced several boom and bust cycles starting in the early 19th century when gold was discovered in the area and settlers named the settlement Possum Snout. Some of the white men who settled in the area remained and built farms and plantations. Exploiting the natural lithium springs and the arrival of the railroad, Ralph Spencer, a Connecticut businessman, endeavored to turn this backwoods community into a resort town and constructed the Lithia Springs Hotel.

Advertising in papers throughout much of the country, Spencer attracted tourists, some of whom built residences here, earning the town the tagline, “a Yankee city under a Southern sky.” Building on this success, Spencer recruited some 200 Hungarian and Eastern European families from Pennsylvania to create a winemaking community which was named Budapest. Both ventures were successful, though land fraud brought down Spencer’s first venture while the winemaking venture ceased in 1907 with the passage of statewide prohibition.

Head Avenue was deathly quiet last Saturday night. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

While the production of legal alcohol ceased, some locals took up the production of moonshine and Tallapoosa began to develop a reputation as a rough place that featured gambling and prostitution fueled by illegal alcohol. During this time, Tallapoosa earned the nickname, “Little Phenix City,” after America’s first “Sin City,” Phenix City, Alabama.

Reminders of this rough patch remain in the form of spirits, such as those still encountered at the Tallapoosa Police Department (15 East Alabama Street). Originally the site of the town jail, this building has been the scene of several tragedies involving the deaths of officers and civilians. Officers with the department have reported hearing moaning and growling in basement offices.

At the beginning of the tour, Horsley-Pitts commented that the town changes after dark and this is was the ever-present theme throughout the walk. These simple and straightforward tales told on silent city streets or amongst the shadows on dark and eerie residential lanes lent a ghoulish gravitas to the journey. Possible paranormal activity added an excitement to the proceedings with lights seen by some in one empty house and curtains that may have opened on their own in the window of another.

The whole tour was carried out in an understated, though well-crafted manner that was ultimately quite elegant. Even calling the tour a “walk” lends a sense of hominess to the whole effect. Wonderful memories of this evening will remain with me for some time.

As if to underscore the creepiness of the evening, the scoreboard in the gymnasium of the old Tallapoosa High School, located across the street from the park where the tour starts, continued to go off throughout the evening. As Horsley-Pitts and I talked after the tour’s conclusion, the scoreboard continued to blare at regular intervals. Perhaps it’s marking a win for the front porch phantoms of Tallapoosa.

Tallapoosa Ghost Stories: A Walking Tour will be offered on Friday and Saturday nights for the last time this year at 9 PM. Tickets may be purchased at Papou’s Pizza (2178 US-78). See the tour’s Facebook page for further information.

Two Spiritually Scarred Landscapes in South Georgia

Scarring takes on many forms. On the human body scars can be physical reminders of accidents or trauma or they can work their way deep into the viscera, affecting emotions, the spirit, or the psyche.

With the physical environment, while we may see the visible degradation of a landscape, but we don’t often consider the spiritual scars that may be left after traumatic events. Ghastly murders, battles, accidents, massacres, and the like rend the spiritual fabric of a place, causing activity that we may deem as beyond the reach of the normal.

In 1977, an intrepid writer published her experiences in a spiritually scarred landscape in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine.

Joined by a brave friend, the writer sat on the marshy edge of Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Georgia as night descended. Intoxicated by the pungent salty odor of the marshes, the thrum of insects, and the calling of marsh birds, the pair began to hear the rhythmic clank of metal. Out of this aural soup the sound of the thwack of bare feet on the muddy creek bank began to rise and soon a descant of chanting began to ring above that rhythm.

The pair could not distinguish the language, but the chanting was filled with pain, despair, and longing for freedom. Frightened out of their wits, the two fled to the safety of their Volkswagen.

This place, known as Ebo Landing, has been known to be haunted since the grim day in May 1803 when a host of Ebo tribesmen drowned themselves rather than submit to the slavery of their new white masters in this strange land.

A scenic view of a marsh on St. Simons Island, by Paul Conklin, 1973. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The tribesmen had been ripped from their homeland in what is now Nigeria and forced to endure the cruel Middle Passage where they were stuffed into the bowels of crude slave ships. Emerging into the sunlight, they were marched onto the auction block in Savannah to be sold in front a sea of white faces.

Having been purchased by representatives of St. Simons Island planters Thomas Spaulding and John Couper, the tribesmen were taken aboard a schooner for transport to their owners’ plantations.

In some versions of the legend during the voyage south, the tribesmen rebelled and, after they threw the crewmen overboard, the ship became grounded at the mouth of Dunbar Creek. Nonetheless, the voyage ended at this lonely, marshy spot.

Still chained together the tribesmen walked into the water chanting to their deity Chukwu, “the Water Spirit brought us here, the Water Spirit will take us home.” Roswell King, the overseer from Pierce Butler’s nearby plantation and subsequently the founder of Roswell, Georgia, wrote of the incident that the men simply, “took to the swamp.”

This collective suicide was not a vainglorious act and it has been enshrined in folklore both in African-American and African culture. Over time, the story has evolved with the tribesmen transforming themselves into birds and flying home. During the Great Depression, a version of this story was documented by the Works Progress Administration’s Writers’ Project. An elderly resident of the island told this version of the story:

Ain’t you heard about them? Well, at that time Mr. Blue he was the overseer and . . . Mr. Blue he go down one morning with a long whip for to whip them good. . . . Anyway, he whipped them good and they got together and stuck that hoe in the field and then . . . rose up in the sky and turned themselves into buzzards and flew right back to Africa. . . . Everybody knows about them.

This fantastic account has been utilized by a number of prominent African-American writers including Toni Morrison.

The Ebo Landing site is still unmarked by any type of sign or monument, though the place remains spiritually scarred and locals still speak of the clanking of chains, the thwack of bare feet in the mud, and the ghostly chanting heard here.

Postcard, circa 1930-45, showing Ebo Landing in the moonlight. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Tichnor Brothers Collection.

The grim specter of slavery has left spiritual scars on the landscape throughout the South. In Effingham County, west of Savannah, is the small town of Springfield. Just outside town, the lazy waters of Ebenezer Creek slowly wend their way among pine and cypress towards the Savannah River.

However, these normally lethargic waters flowed violently and turbulently after heavy rains in December of 1864. After his capture of Atlanta, General Sherman was moving swiftly towards Savannah, which he would offer as a Christmas present to President Lincoln.

Through winter rains that turned Georgia roads into quagmires of red mud, Sherman’s generals cut four swathes through the landscape destroying military targets, industry, and civilian property as they moved. As the blue tide swept through the state, newly freed slaves began to trickle in behind the soldiers. Bound up in the jubilation of freedom, these masses of men, women, and children began to oppress the soldiers’ movements.

General Jefferson Davis, a Union general with no relation to the Confederate President, led the 14th Corps as they slogged through the swamps along the Savannah River. Arriving at the banks of Ebenezer Creek, Davis found the creek at near flood stage. He ordered his engineers to erect a pontoon bridge to allow his men to cross but posted armed sentinels to prevent the refugees from crossing.

Confederates had been dogging the Union invaders and rumors spread that General Joseph Wheeler’s men where rapidly approaching, heightening the urgency to cross the rain-swollen creek.

Irritated by the former slaves slowing his advance, the pro-slavery Union general ordered that the bridge be cut after the last man crossed. The corps’ chaplain described the scene:

There went up from that multitude a cry of agony. Someone shouted, “Rebels,” and they made a wild rush…some of them plunged into the water and swam across. Others ran wildly up and down the bank, shaking with terror.

A private from Minnesota noted that at least a hundred former slaves “huddled as close to the edge of the water as they could get, some crying, some praying, and all fearful that the rebels would come before they could get over.”

Improvising rafts and ropes, many waded out into the water and some made it across, but others were swept into the swift current. Horrified by the scene, soldiers tossed logs and branches into the muddy waters, but could not save all who were pulled downstream.

Some of Wheeler’s men did eventually appear and they fired upon the terrified throng huddled on the creek bank. A few slaves were killed, while many of the others were recaptured and returned to their owners.

Union soldiers, stunned by the bitter scene, reported the incident to their superiors, but General Davis was never brought to justice for his role in the humanitarian crisis.

Just like on the banks of Ebo Landing, locals continue to report spiritual scars among the pines and cypress along Ebenezer Creek. Here, anguished screams and cries are still heard at this spot where so many died trying to wade in the water towards the nebulous promise of freedom.

Sources

  • Davis, Burke. Sherman’s March. NYC: Random House, 1980.
  • Green, Michelle. “Keeping watch at Ibo Landing.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine. 30 October 1977.
  • Hobbs, Larry. “Igbo Landing a defiant act for freedom.” The Brunswick News. 22 July 2017.
  • Igbo Landing. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 November 2018.
  • Miles, Jim. Civil War Ghosts of Central Georgia and Savannah. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Powell, Timothy B. “Ebos Landing.” The New Georgia Encyclopedia. 15 June 2004.

Spirit of the Mountain—Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain Park
1000 Robert E. Lee Boulevard
Stone Mountain, Georgia

When the Spanish Franciscan missionary, Pedro de Chozas, made his way through the South local natives spoke of a mountain further inland that was “very high, shining when the sun set like a fire.” This exposed, granite mountain dome, or monadnock, is one of the largest in the world, and was regarded with wonder by the Native Americans in the surrounding area.

Located between the territories occupied by the Cherokee and the Muscogee peoples, the dome was located at the junction of several major trails and served as a meeting spot. In previous millennia, this scared spot served as ceremonial and religious site. In fact, its summit had been walled in by an earlier people, though the wall, nor the reasons for its construction, have survived.

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

From the earliest settlement of white men in the area, the mountain attracted tourists and businessmen with interests in quarrying the high-quality stone. A pair of brothers, William and Samuel Venable, purchased the mountain in the late 19th century and established a quarrying business. In 1915, with interest being revived around the nation for the Ku Klux Klan by D.W. Griffiths’ film, The Birth of a Nation, a cross-burning was held at the summit to mark the reorganization of the KKK in Georgia.

A year later, the Venables deeded the mountain’s north face to the United Daughters of the Confederacy to create a monument for the Confederacy. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who would later carve the heads of four presidents at Mount Rushmore, was commissioned to create the carving which would memorialize Confederate president Jefferson Davis and generals Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson. Work halted in 1925 with the firing of Borglum and 47 years would pass before the carving was completed.

After the mountain was purchased by the state of Georgia in 1958, a park was established at the base of the mountain glorifying the Old South and the Confederacy. Over time, the park has cast off these themes and criticism has been leveled at the carving itself, most recently in light of the removals of Confederate monuments throughout the country.

The first surviving written account of the mountain describes it as, “one solid rock of circular form about one mile across. Many strange tales are told by the Indians of the mountain.” As I have conducted research on Southern hauntings for years, I have searched in vain for ghost stories from the mountain itself. While the Antebellum Plantation within the park is known to have many spirits within the historic structures that comprises it, I have found nothing about spirits on the mountain.

The north face of Stone Mountain with its carving, 2015. Photo by Pilotguy251, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In doing a search of the pages of the Atlanta Constitution that has recently been made available on Newspapers.com, I was delighted to come across the following article. Besides the description of this very strange apparition, what is interesting about this article is the inclusion of folklore about who and who cannot see ghosts.

One concern with this article is the first name of the man quoted throughout. His name is given as “Neger,” which, to me, seems too close to the pejorative “n-word.” Therefore, I have replaced his first name with “N.”

Atlanta Constitution
30 March 1946

‘Ghost of Stone Mountain’ Walks,
Declares Woman ‘Born in a Caul’

On ‘Sunrise Side’ of Big Rock

By Bill Boring
Constitution Staff Writer

STONE MOUNTAIN, March 19. Only people born in a caul have seen the ghost of Stone Mountain and N. Johnson is not one of them. But his wife is and she has seen the ghost on many occasions. Through N., she imparts this description of him.

N. calls him the “ha’nt of the rock” and described him as being neither white nor black but of a strange neutral color, and his eyes are not eyes at all but burning embers set in a skull and he always wears a flowing immaculate white robe.

Only people born in a caul have ever seen a ghost of any kind and while N.  was not born in a caul, he has some grounds for setting himself up as an authority on spooks. His wife has seen many ghosts and always passed along her knowledge of them to him and, moreover, N.  has had the rare privilege of checking the reaction of himself, a person who will never see a ghost, to the presence of one.

The first time N.’s wife saw the ghost of Stone Mountain, she suddenly shut up like a clam and didn’t say a word until he got home. N. knew that some strange thing had happened, for he had an odd feeling of walking through steam and his hat shot up from his forehead because his hair had stood straight up.

When they got home, his wife said: “Did you see that man in white walking between us?”

And so forever after when they would be walking and his wife would see the ghost N. would have that strange feeling of walking steam and he would be stricken by fear.

“Only people who can’t see ghosts are afraid of them,” says N.. “My wife was never afraid.”

N. says that the ghost haunts the “sunrise side” of Stone Mountain and that horses, which are particularly sensitive to ghosts, will never go around this side of the mountain and neither will dogs, which are more sensitive to ghosts than are horses, he says.

“Have you ever been walking with a dog when the dog would suddenly stop, for no reason at all,” says N., “and the dog would flip his tail between his legs and slink off in the opposite direction? The dog is seeing a ghost.”

Ghosts, according to N., take many shapes and forms. There are human ghosts and there are animal ghosts. There are headless human ghosts and headless animal ghosts. And then there are ghosts that just look like a whiff of smoke. You can never tell just what kind of ghosts you’re likely to run across.

There’s nothing much you can do about ghosts, according to N. They’re harmless and usually go away once whatever is bothering them has been removed. But there are several ways of laying them once they get to haunting you.

One way is to put a hole in a dime, slip a string through it and wear the dime as anklet. Another is to put sever rocks on an eastern window sill. Still another charm against ghosts is to sleep with a knife under your pillow; or the Bible.

Sources

  • Boring, Bill. ‘Ghost of Stone Mountain’ Walks, Declares Woman ‘Born in a Caul.’ Atlanta Constitution. 20 March 1946.
  • Freeman, David B. Carved in Stone: The History of Stone Mountain. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997.
  • Stewart, Bruce E. “Stone Mountain.” The New Encyclopedia of Georgia. 25 May 2004.
  • Stone Mountain.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 November 2018.

Metro Atlanta Revenant Transit Authority

A few months ago, I accepted a retail job at the Atlanta airport. As a resident of LaGrange, I’m required to drive an hour to Atlanta and take MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) to the airport because there is no airport employee parking. Most of my rides on MARTA have been uneventful, though in August I had an odd experience.

Interior of a MARTA car. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, October 2018. All rights reserved.

I finished working a mid-shift at my store and boarded a MARTA train to start my journey home around 4:30 in the afternoon. Sitting down in my seat, I pulled out my phone to check Facebook like everyone else. The ride from the airport to the first station, College Park, was unremarkable and I did look up as the train pulled into the station. As usual, there was a group of people waiting to board the train when the doors opened.

As I watched, a young man boarded the train and I noticed he was oddly dressed. His clothes were flashy, and his hair was tied up in a scarf on his head. He walked down the aisle and sat in the seats opposite me. I glanced over and noticed he was wearing house shoes and carrying a bunch of shopping bags, notably a bag from Steve Madden. The man slumped down in his seat and appeared to doze off.

Not wanting to stare, I looked out the window a bit and looked at my phone as the train rumbled on to the East Point station. As the train ground to a stop, I started to get up, but as I turned my head, I was shocked to see the seats across the aisle from me were empty. Looking back through the car, no one had their hair tied up in a scarf, in fact, there were only three or four people.

I wondered how I could have missed him getting up and moving. With all his bags surely, I would have noticed if he changed seats. I got off the train still looking for the oddly dressed man with the sensation that I may have just had a paranormal experience. I also wondered at the bigger question: does Steve Madden have an advertising contract with the spirit world?

Riding alone in a MARTA car. Is there anything behind me? Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, October 2018. All rights reserved.

While it may seem odd that a spirit might be haunting something as ordinary as a MARTA train, this is not the first story I’ve heard about MARTA. In 2011, Creative Loafing published an article covering Atlanta hauntings. The article opened with a story from an office-worker who had an experience on MARTA in the 1980s.

After leaving work early on a winter afternoon, the office-worker took a seat on MARTA heading home. He was listening to music on his headphones when he noticed movement next to his reflection in the window. He felt a bit annoyed that a “40ish, black-haired man in a business suit” was sitting next to him on the almost deserted car. He turned his head to look at the passenger and the seat was empty.

The office-worker thought the incident was curious but was not frightened. Still he wonders what exactly he saw. I’m left wondering about the gentleman with his hair tied up in a scarf and the Steve Madden bag. Did we experience a perfectly normal experience that simply appeared out of the ordinary or were these experiences paranormal? I’m not sure we’ll ever really know.

Source

  • Homan, Curt. “The hauntings of Atlanta.” Creative Loafing. 27 October 2011.

Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Experiences–Georgia

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia

When the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought in 1864, much of the area north of Atlanta was sparsely settled. Over the past few decades as the Atlanta Metro area has expanded, growth has even overtaken the quiet stillness of this place where tens of thousands fought to stop Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.

A Union Cavalry sergeant, 1866, by Oliver H. Willard.

Residential and commercial developments have been constructed and roads cut across parts of the battlefield. It was along one of these roads that a father and son had an interesting experience one night in October of 2007. As the duo drove along, the driver braked as something appeared to start crossing the road in front of the car.

Both Civil War enthusiasts, they were shocked to see a horse with a rider emerge from the darkness. Dressed in the uniform of a Union cavalry officer, the rider held a saber aloft as if to make that point even more apparent. The specter passed through a fence on the opposite side and vanished.

The driver told Atlanta’s 11 Alive News, “My son and I were in a state of almost sheer panic, but we managed to maintain and get on the way home very quickly.”

__________

It has been noted that many residents living in homes built on the battlefield have experienced strange things. After this article appeared, one of these residents wrote in to the paranormal blog Phantoms & Monsters:

I’ve got a bad back and haven’t worked in over a year, so I spend a lot of time in bed. Earlier this year, late spring or early summer, I was in a half-awake state and I noticed the hazy form of what appeared to be someone in Civil War clothing on a horse standing in my bedroom. It was there for only a second and kind of dematerialized. I remember it being a kind of yellowish color.

I wasn’t scared and thought it was probably not so much a ghost but the energy of something that happened here during the Civil War. I am 3 miles from the epicenter of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and probably less than a mile from the cavalry battleground at Mud Creek.

The Illinois Monument at Cheatham Hill, 2013. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Several years ago, I spoke with a family who lived in one of these haunted houses. After moving in and experiencing paranormal activity, they asked their neighbors about it only to find out that they lived with the same thing.

The wife told me that she took the trash out one night. As she rounded the corner of the house, she came face to face with a figure in the dark. Startled, she quickly realized that the figure was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform. Not knowing how to react, she dropped the bag of trash at his feet saying, “here you go!” and ran back into the house. She failed to mention if the ghost put the trash in the receptacle.

Sources

  • Crawley, Paul. “Ghost rider at Kennesaw Mtn.?” 11Alive News. 1 November 2007.
  • Strikler, Lon. “Mailbag: the Kennesaw Mountain ghost rider.Phantoms and Monsters. 8 November 2009.

Calling creepiness on the carpet—Dalton, Georgia

Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms.

–“Leaning on the everlasting arms” gospel hymn by Anthony Showalter and Elisha Hoffman, written in Dalton in 1887.

While we were visiting Old City Hall (114 North Pentz Street) in downtown Dalton, Georgia, two of the young girls in our group let out some horror movie-worthy screams and went running. As they ran past him, Richard Ruland remarked, “There’s no, ‘dude, run!’ in ghosthunting!” Half-laughing, half-screaming, the girls said that one of their K2 meters had gone all the way to red causing their fright.

Dalton’s Old City Hall. Photo 2018, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

In his fatherly way, Ruland calmly took the girls back to the doorway where the meter had glowed red. He noted that there was likely an alarm on the door and showed them the alarm pad next to it. The meter, once again, glowed red when he held it next to the pad and the whole thing was debunked.

__________

I have been reading about the Dalton Ghost Tour for many years. When Connie Hall-Scott published her book, Haunted Dalton, Georgia, in 2013, I immediately purchased it from Amazon. While I liked the ghost tour on Facebook, I did not have the chance to check it out for myself, so when I saw a promotion for the first tour of the season with special guest Richard Ruland, I jumped at the chance.

I was well rewarded.

Dalton is billed as the carpet capital of the world and rightfully so, this region of North Georgia produces 80 percent of the tufted carpet manufactured in this country. Driving through this section of I-75, the interstate is lined with carpet factories and outlets with billboards hawking all types of flooring.

Downtown Dalton, removed from the bustle of the interstate, is a very typical Southern downtown with a marvelous collection of historic structures. Locals have recently beautified the sidewalks and renovated many buildings to bring people and businesses back to the historic core. While people are returning, the streets were very quiet on this Saturday evening.

Perfect Cup Coffeehouse, Dalton, Georgia. The tour began on the wooden deck next to this building.

The tour began on a wooden deck next to the Perfect Cup Coffeeshop (112 West Crawford) in West Crawford Street and has a great view of the magnificent Art Moderne-styled Wink Theatre across the street. In the half-light of evening, a small group gathered to hear Mr. Ruland describe his experiences investigating the paranormal throughout his home-state of Tennessee and the South.

The wide-ranging talk covered everything from the dangers of Ouija board use to spiritual cleansing techniques. Ruland, a psychic medium, is a noted paranormal personality who has appeared on My Ghost Story and Aftershocks, and hosts (with J.B. Coates, one of his fellow investigators) Let’s Talk About It, a wide-ranging paranormal show on Facebook. With his wife (and the best investigator he has worked with) Billy Jo, Ruland demonstrated his abilities by pointing out the presence of several spirits in the immediate vicinity including a man who was not happy with our sitting on the deck. As there were a number of children present, Ruland demonstrated some of his equipment and urged them to use various pieces during the tour.

Out of this talk, the tour began with Connie Hall-Scott describing the history of Dalton. During the course of the tour, the historic gravity of the few blocks that we covered was evident. On this land that had once been home to the Cherokee, there had been murder and mayhem over the course of two centuries; with many events leaving psychic scars on the land and buildings.

Wink Theater, 2018. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Among this dark history, the Wink Theater’s (121 West Crawford Street) presence adds a sense of levity. The theater began as a dream for J. C. H. Wink, a dream to provide locals with a place of amusement away from the horrors of the war elsewhere. The theatre opened its doors in September of 1941, months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the horrors of war to this country.

For many, the Wink was a center of social life in town. Hall-Scott recalls in her book the many unnecessary trips to the restroom she made and how she often felt that something was “off” in that room. Little did she know where that thought would lead her.

The Wink Theater closed its doors in 1981 after a showing of Disney’s The Black Hole, certainly foreshadowing for the dark period of the theater’s history that would follow. While the living had forsaken the decaying building, spirits remained. When the suggestion of replacing the building with an ignominious parking lot was floated, many locals stepped in to save the building from destruction, including Hall-Scott’s father, who purchased the building and began restoration.

Since the building’s reopening, it continues to be a center of the community in a spiritual sense as the centerpiece of the Dalton Ghost Tour’s ghost stories and in its function as a church.

Sitting on the deck across from the theater, it struck me the amazing amalgam of history that had occurred in the few blocks that the tour covered. Not only that, but how much of that history is still with us in spectral form. From the angry man Ruland pointed out as standing near us to the suicide victim in the old Hotel Dalton, from the Wink Theater’s doors that regularly unlock themselves, the lynching victims near the Gordon Street Bridge, to the spirits of the old Dalton depot, these spirits span the region’s history.

Hall-Scott seemed to have a story for nearly every building we passed. Standing on the corner of North Hamilton and West King Streets, she pointed out that she had stories from nearly every business lining this busy portion of North Hamilton, evidence of her wide-ranging knowledge of the city’s haunted history.

All along the way, the youngsters on the tour excitedly chattered about the equipment they held. Ruland happily watched over them and shared in their possible connections with the spirit world. Several times he remarked that these kids were doing things they will remember for a long while. I can personally say that spending time with these kindred spirits in Dalton, both living and dead, will be something I remember for a long while.

Dalton Ghost Tours are held on Friday and Saturday nights through September and October. Friday night tours begin at 8 PM and Saturday night tours will have a special guest and begin at 7 PM. All tours begin at the wooden deck on West Crawford Street across from the Wink Theater. Tickets may be purchased onsite, $15 for adults and $10 for kids.

Sources

  • Deaton, Thomas M. “Dalton.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 25 September 2009.
  • Hall-Scott, Connie. “Dalton Ghost Tour.” Dalton, Georgia. 1 September 2018.
  • Hall-Scott, Connie. Haunted Dalton, Georgia. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

From a dumpster fire to a Husk—Savannah

12 West Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia

In 2006, a ghost tour guide told a reporter from the Houston Chronicle that this one address in Savannah has seen “more conversions than Billy Graham,” a reference to the nationally known evangelist. Of course, these were conversions to one of Savannah’s true religions: belief in the paranormal. According to this tour guide, this site has played host to a panoply of tragedies and, as a result, now hosts paranormal activity.

During this particular tour, guests were allowed to step up to the front door of this forlorn house and take photographs in hopes of capturing evidence of the home’s ghosts. Reportedly, some guests experienced battery drain with their cameras and even motorized wheelchairs. Others were shocked at what appeared in their photos.

This particular site—within Savannah’s massive historic district—has seen a tremendous evolution since the city’s founding in 1733. As noted by a monument in the median of West Oglethorpe within sight of the house, this property was initially the city’s first Jewish cemetery. A burial spot for the local Jewish community was later established some distance away, though, the graves were left at this site, which evolved into a residential area.

The house at 12 West Oglethorpe is an unassuming Georgian home with an elegant circular porch. Among the numerous homes in Georgia’s oldest city, the house is not as old as some of its neighbors, dating only to around 1898. Built as a home, the structure’s modest history includes the building’s use as an Elks Lodge and later, a performing arts school, until the building was abandoned in 1985.

During the time that the house sat boarded up, ghost stories began to circulate and the home became a fixture on many ghost tours. Here, guides would relate the sad tale of Dr. Brown, a physician who occupied the house in 1876, during the last of the yellow fever epidemics to strike the city. Patients visiting the house brought the illness into the home and one by one, the doctor’s family died after succumbing. Grief stricken, the good doctor sealed himself in one of the upstairs rooms and starved to death.

This is a great story, but total bunk. Yellow fever, which does feature in some local ghost stories, is not spread from human to human contact, but spread by mosquitos. Local tour guide and author, James Caskey was not able to locate any reference to a doctor living on this site (this house didn’t exist in 1876) or anywhere in this area named Brown. While this story isn’t true, that doesn’t discount the paranormal activity here. Some of the activity described by Caskey in his authoritative 2008 book, Haunted Savannah,  includes the apparition of an elderly man seen peering from an upstairs window—despite the fact that there was no floor underneath that particular window—odd sounds being heard by the neighbors, and several strange anomalies appearing in photographs.

A year after Caskey’s book was published, a dumpster fire set by teenage pranksters ignited the modern addition at the back of the house. Photos of the damage show the addition with broken, charred windows and a missing roof. Neighbors, worried about the building’s safety pressed the city for action, though they were thwarted by the slow-turning wheels of government and absentee owners.

Caskey makes an appearance in a recent episode of Haunted Towns on Destination America. The show follows the Tennessee Wraith Chasers as they visit cities and towns throughout the country with haunted reputations attempting to suss out why these places have earned such reputations. Their episode on Savannah concentrates on the legends surrounding Wright Square, located just around the corner from 12 West Oglethorpe. Caskey is interviewed early in the episode where he notes that legend of the square and the house may be connected.

Wright Square, just around the corner from 12 West Oglethorpe. Photo by XEON, 2013, courtesy of Wikipedia.

He also remarks that the house has never been investigated, spurring the show’s investigators to investigate themselves. In fact, another local guide and investigator, Ryan Dunn, explored the house in 2010 and had a frightening encounter. On the second floor Dunn’s camera “powered down for no apparent reason.” He continues, “As I looked up, I saw a black shadow person cross the hallway in front of me from one bedroom to the other.” He describes the shadow figure as being three dimensional and roughly shaped like a person, but with no discernable features.

Dunn also includes a fascinating tale from the 2009 fire. After extinguishing the fire, local firefighters held a fire watch in order to ensure that the fire did not reignite. Staying in the house overnight, the firefighters began to tell ghost stories and daring each other to creep up the stairs to the “haunted room” where Dr. Brown supposedly died. One firefighter bravely entered the room and let out a scream. Dashing down the stairs, the firefighter remained in his vehicle out front for the rest of the evening, refusing to reveal what he encountered in the room.

During the Tennessee Wraith Chasers’ investigation, they meet a property manager working on the renovation of 12 West Oglethorpe who told them the story of Dr. Brown. While the story is being told, the crew’s camera unexpectedly cuts out. After getting their camera up and running, the property manager tells the investigators that he had had one peculiar incident while working in the house where his name had been called by a disembodied voice. The paranormal team did a sweep of the house including the basement where a temperature gauge registered a temperature of 66.6 degrees. During the evening investigation, the group experienced battery drain, captured a few EVPs, and heard a disembodied voice.

The building opened its doors on January 5th as the Savannah outpost of the Charleston restaurant Husk. In the award-winning hands of chefs Sean Brock and Tyler Williams, Husk opened in Charleston, South Carolina in 2010 in a historic haunted home next door to haunted landmark, Poogan’s Porch. Serving Nouveau Southern cuisine, the chefs playfully rework classic Southern dishes and ingredients bolstered by research into the gastronomic history of the region. The restaurant has also made a point to occupy historic structures in order to preserve the historic built environments in addition to food ways and incidentally, the spirits, of each city where it operates.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2007.
  • Cowen, Diane. “Spirited Savannah.” Houston Chronicle. 19 March 2006.
  • Curl, Eric. “Three downtown Savannah historic commercial buildings closed to public and awaiting restoration.” Savannah Morning News. 16 November 2013.
  • Dunn, Ryan. Savannah’s Afterlife: True Tales of a Paranormal Investigator. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.
  • “Savannah.” Haunted Towns. Season 1, Episode 3. Originally aired 9 August 2017.
  • Whiteway, Maria. “Husk is here!” Connect Savannah. 10 January 2018.

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Haunts from the Halloween season

After spending much of the Halloween season engrossed in the blog move, I’m just starting to catch up on newsworthy haunts from this season’s news.

Tivoli Theatre
Home to the GALA Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC

Alone in a one-room apartment, Harry Crandall wrote a note ending with “To whom it may concern: it is now 2:45 a. m., and I am turning on the gas.” He signed the note with his initials and soon slipped out of the bonds of this plane. Crandall had been on top of the world just 15 years previous, but a snowstorm brought difficulties to his theatre empire and fortune in 1922. As a blizzard dumped snow onto Washington on January 28th of that year, patrons of Crandall’s Knickerbocker Theatre were cozily watching Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford when snow piled on the building’s roof caused a collapse leading to the deaths of 98. The city immediately closed all theatres until snow could be removed from their roofs.

The jewel in Crandall’s crown was the Tivoli. When the Knickerbocker disaster took place, the Tivoli was still in the planning stages. After government officials began to question the architectural integrity of Crandall’s architect, Reginal Geare, Crandall asked the eminent theatre architect, Thomas Lamb, to step in as architect. The Tivoli is considered a masterpiece of Lamb’s art. Geare’s replacement and the questions around his design led him to commit suicide in 1927.

Tivoli Theatre, 2005, by D Monack. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The same year of Geare’s suicide, Crandall sold his theatre chain to Warner Brothers, but continued several businesses related to the film industry. From the day the Tivoli opened its doors in 1924, the Tivoli’s marquee glittered for many decades. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, riots rocked many cities including large parts of Washington. Much of the neighborhood around the Tivoli was devastated, though the theatre survived unscathed. The Tivoli limped into the 1970s when a precipitous drop in business led to the theatre’s closure.

While the theatre sat unoccupied, locals recognized the building’s historical importance and had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. In the early 2000s the theatre underwent restoration, with the GALA (Grupo de Artistas Latino Americanos) Hispanic Theatre set to occupy the theatre space. In January of 2005, the theatre reopened its doors to the theatre-going public. From opening day, GALA Hispanic Theatre has continued to present the best of Hispanic and Latino theatre in a space where spirits of the past still may wander.

A Halloween article in American Theatre magazine notes that staff and crew members of the GALA Hispanic Theatre have had paranormal encounters which they believe may be the spirit of Harry Crandall. While Crandall did not die in the theatre, it would not be surprising that his spirit would return to this theatre that he was very closely associated with. In the theatre, staff has dealt with light turning off and on and making a general spectral ruckus while a painter saw a figure while painting a set late one night. Perhaps Crandall still wants to be a part of showbiz.

Sources

  • Darris, Cranston. National Register nomination form for the Tivoli Theatre. March 1985.
  • Dembin, Russell. “Keep that ghost light on!” American Theatre. 31 October 2017.
  • “Once wealthy theater head is a suicide.” Daily Mail (Hagerstown, MD). 27 February 1937.
  • Tivoli Theatre (Washington, D.C.). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 November 2017.
  • The Venue – History of the Tivoli Theatre.” GALA Hispanic Theatre. Accessed 14 November 2017.

Philippe Park
2525 Philippe Parkway
Safety Harbor, Florida

Grave of Odet Philippe, 2010 by TimT1006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Overlooking the western shore of Tampa Bay, Philippe Park encapsulates some of the early history of the area. Among the moss-draped oaks and palmy vistas is a mound constructed by the Tocobaga people who occupied this area until the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. A marker within the park also notes the burial of Odet Philippe, a free black man who settled here in the early 19th century. Philippe is credited as planting the first grapefruit tree here, thus aiding in the establishment of a multi-billion-dollar industry.

An article from the Tampa Bay Times, notes that “supernatural stories abound in the park,” and that the article’s author heard “lots of weird rustling,” which she did not stick around to investigate. The park has been the scene of a serious paranormal investigation conducted by Tampa Bay Spirits. A report on their website includes the experiences of three sensitives who walked the park. Each encountered energy around the mound.

Sources

  • Guerra, Melissa, & Eric Smithers. “Odet Philippe: The story behind the namesake of Philippe Park in Safety Harbor.” South Tampa Magazine. 15 July 2014.
  • Hayes, Stephanie. “5 spooky sites around Tampa Bay that aren’t theme parks.” Tampa Bay Times. 27 September 2017.
  • Tampa Bay Spirits, LLC. “Philippe Park, Safety Harbor.” Tampa Bay Spirits. Accessed 4 October 2017.

Lapham-Patterson House
626 North Dawson Street
Thomasville, Georgia

Lapham-Patterson House, 2010, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shoe manufacturer Charles Lapham had good reason to fear a house fire. After all, he was from Chicago, a city that had nearly been destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. He was also interested in the Spiritualism movement, which was in vogue at that time. Perhaps these things informed the design of this strange and exuberant South Georgia vacation home?

While the house contains an overabundance of exits, which would be ideal in the event of a fire, an odd stained glass window in the gentleman’s parlor projects the image of a cow’s head onto the floor during the spring and fall equinoxes. Some believe this may be a strange homage to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, the scapegoat of the Chicago fire.

Staff and visitors to the house, which is now operated as a historic site by the state of Georgia, have had some chilling experiences. A performer sitting on the staircase during a reading of Edgar Allan Poe was tapped on the shoulder by the form of a little girl. The curator of the house noted that, “she firmly believed it was Lapham’s daughter, who died in the house of pneumonia.”

Sources

  • Lapham-Patterson House. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 15 November 2017.
  • Warrender, Sarah. “’Supposedly, she roams around’: Haunting tales of the paranormal from South Georgia, North Florida.” Daily Citizen (Dalton, GA). 28 October 2017.
  • Wright, Russell. National Register nomination form for the Lapham-Patterson House. 5 December 1969.

‘Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants

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

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

Donnell House
601 South Clinton Street
Athens, Alabama

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Rock Creek Cemetery
North Capitol Street
Washington, DC

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

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

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

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

Sources 

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

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

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

Sources 

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

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, Kentucky

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

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

Sources

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

Old Louisiana State Capitol
100 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth, Mississippi

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

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

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

Sources

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

North Carolina Zoological Park
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, North Carolina

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

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

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

Sources

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

Westin Poinsett Hotel
120 South Main Street
Greenville, South Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Carter House
1140 Columbia Avenue
Franklin, Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Rockledge Mansion
440 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia

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

Rockledge Mansion by AlbertHerring, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources 

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

Berkeley Castle
WV-9
Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Castle by Jeanne Mozier. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

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

Sources

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

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“Ghosts in High Carnival”—Atlanta, 1904

According to two 1904 editions of Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta’s phantasmagoric scene was in “high carnival.” The first article that appeared towards the end of January tells of an African-American family who was evidently plagued with a poltergeist. Generally, poltergeist activity centers on an adolescent female who may project the fears and confusion she is experiencing onto the physical environment around her, though, in this account the activity revolves around a young boy. The details of the story certainly show that this child’s situation was not ideal and likely put this young boy under a huge amount of stress.

Atlanta at this time, in fact, much of the South as a whole, was not a pleasant place for a young, poor, African-American child. The racism that permeated all levels of life is quite obvious here, but there is a much crueler subtext in the play on words in the title. “Spook” is not only a synonym for ghost but also a pejorative term for African-Americans.

The rental house where this took place does not appear to exist, and the address points to an area that is now quite developed.

 Atlanta Constitution

28 January 1904

 SPOOKS PLAY QUEER PRANKS

 Remarkable Ghost Story in Which Police Took a Hand.

 A remarkable spook story developed yesterday in a negro house at 360 Chapel street, in the rear of Smith & Simpson’s lumber yard. This spook story differs from the ordinary tales of the kind in that police officers took a hand and two of them actually saw the ghost doing his supernatural stunts.

Fully a thousand people visited the scene during the day and stories are told which have some very extraordinary features.

In the house there lived an old negro man, his aged wife and a little boy. The family moved into the house only a few days ago. Two nights ago, the table began to dance, the old man was hurled from a trunk and chairs in the house cut up all sorts of antics.

The negro told his neighbors about it and a large number of people saw the table moving about the house yesterday morning. The excitement became so great that three or four policemen went to the place. Among them was Call Officer Luck, who states that he saw the table jump about the floor, and, finally, turn over, breaking a lot of dishes. Sergeant Beavers also witnessed the remarkable phenomenon. What caused the table to move no one can say.

The old negro states that he has moved eighteen times during the past 12 months in order to get rid of spooks. In every house he has lived the table and chairs have moved about of their own free will, so he claims, and every dish he buys is broken. Chairs have also taken a notion to dancer over the house.

Yesterday afternoon the old man moved again, and the rent which he had paid in advance, was returned to him.

Sergeant Beavers says he believed the work is done by the negro child, for he noticed that whenever the boy approached a piece of furniture it began to move. He thinks the boy is possessed with some subtle electric power, such as made the exhibitions of Lula Hurst so remarkable.

When police officers saw the table skip across the room and beheld it overturned and all the dishes on it broken, they made an investigation, and could find nothing which would explain the matter.

The negroes in the neighborhood are greatly excited over the affair, and they believe firmly that the old negro is followed by ghosts. Somebody offered $100 to any negro who would sleep in the house last night, and the offer was not taken up.

It’s also interesting to see the police investigating this odd case. Stories of similar poltergeist cases have also been investigated by law enforcement and sometimes even they come away having witnessed things they cannot explain. The next story from the Constitution also involves the police, but in this case this one officer was scared out of his wits by odd sounds within Oakland Cemetery. The keeper’s lodge where this officer had been stationed during his cemetery vigil remains and is now occupied by the offices of the Historic Oakland Foundation and visitors center. This building was still fairly new in 1904, having only been constructed in 1899.

The Oakland Cemetery Bell Tower and Keeper’s Lodge where a police officer heard disembodied footsteps in 1904. Photo 2005, by AUTiger, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Atlanta Constitution

25 May 1904

 GHOSTS IN HIGH CARNIVAL AROUND OAKLAND CEMETERY

 

According to all reports there are ghosts in Oakland cemetery, and even the members of the police department are giving the place a wide berth after nightfall.

Curious noises in all parts of the cemetery during the night are said to have been heard as of late, and at the keeper’s lodge, near the center of the burial place, the sound of footsteps can be heard stairs at all hours of the night. When these are investigated, no trace of anything living or moving can be found. As soon as those interested return to the office below the noise starts again.

A policeman, detailed for duty at the cemetery a few nights ago, tells an interesting story of his experience with the thing supernatural.

“I was in the keeper’s lodge, just starting to eat a lunch that had been brought me,” said the officer, “when I heard footsteps upstairs. Thinking possibly my ears were deceiving me, I refrained from speaking to the lad who had brought my lunch, but an instant later he called my attention to the fact that there was someone walking around on the upper floor.

“I drew my revolver and walked up the stairs, the boy folloing me. We searched every nook and corner of the place, but failed to find anything living, not even a fly being visible. We returned to the lower floor and no sooner had I resumed the eating of my lunch than the footsteps were heard again, this time even more distinct than on the first occasion.

“Thinking possibly I could see from the outside, I rushed into the open air, and as I stopped, when a few feet away, and turned to look at the upper story of the keeper’s house, I heard a slab fall in the one of the nearby vaults.

“Hurrying in the direction of the vault from which the sound came, thinking to surprise grave robbers at work, I was astounded to find the door to the vault securely locked, and not a trace of anything living in the neighborhood. This, despite the fact that I had heard, very distinctly, but an instant before, the falling of a marble slab in the vault.

“After a thorough search of the surrounding lots, I returned to the keeper’s house and the first thing that greeted my ears when I entered the door was the sound of footsteps upstairs again.

“For the second time I hurried to the upper floor and made a thorough search. Diligent, careful and complete as it was, I failed to find even a suspicion of a living object.

“I endured the unearthly noises until time for my relief next morning, but there can be no more Oakland cemetery jobs for me. The next time I am detailed to the graveyard I am certainly going to be sick. I can stand up and fight a live man and take the whipping, if he is the best man, but I absolutely refuse to have to treat with things that make all manner of noises and peculiar sounds but do not show anything to the eye.

Others in addition to this officer, have told of peculiar noises in Oakland at night, and quite a stir has been created among those living in the vicinity of the cemetery.

Oakland Cemetery is indeed believed to be haunted and I have written about some of the more recent experiences here.

Sources

  • “Ghosts in high carnival around Oakland Cemetery.” Atlanta Constitution. 25 May 1904.
  • “Spooks play queer pranks.” Atlanta Constitution. 28 January 1904.