Capitol Creepiness—Williamsburg, Virginia

Old Capitol
Duke of Gloucester Street

Pamela K. Kinney, author of Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle (now in its second edition), and her husband took a guided tour of the Old Capitol in 2010. As the guide and the group descended the stairs from the second floor, the pair was briefly alone, and Kinney snapped some photos before returning to the group. When she uploaded the photos at home, she was stunned to find that one of those pictures included the head of a person, Kinney and her husband were alone on that floor.

The man is standing in front of the photographer and his head is very brightly illuminated, with individual hairs quite visible. Did she capture the image of one of the spirits that lingers in this reconstructed building?

Old Capitol Williamsburg Virginia ghosts haunted
The Old Capitol Building, between 1934 and 1950 by Fay Sturtevant Lincoln. Courtesy of the A. D. White Architectural Photographs Collection, Cornell University Library.

The building that stands today is a reconstruction of the first capitol building constructed between 1701 and 1704. That structure was gutted by fire in 1747 with only “the naked Brick Walls only left standing.” Using those remaining walls, another capitol was constructed, though it was architecturally different from the first building. It was this second building that witnessed the fiery speeches of Patrick Henry and meetings of revolutionaries as they worked to throw off the shackles of British rule. After the removal of the colony’s capital to Richmond in 1780, the building was used for a variety of purposes before it was also destroyed by fire in 1832.

In his 1938 book, Old Williamsburg, William Oliver Stevens related two fanciful tales about the old capitol building: the first that Patrick Henry’s portrait hanging inside has come to bear a disgusted look thanks to the British flag flying overhead, and second, that Henry and other patriots assemble in front of the building at the stroke of midnight on July 4th and “use the most reprehensible language.” I presume they are cursing the modern government, though Stevens doesn’t clarify.

Aside from William Oliver Stevens’ fanciful tales and Kinney’s photo, there is little published on the building’s ghosts, though Jamie Roush Pearce features accounts from several interpreters in her 2013 book, Historic Haunts of the South. These accounts concern two spirits that staff members have encountered. The first is reported to be a little girl who has been heard to call out, “Mommy?” and some interpreters have sensed her following them as they close the building for the day.

The second spirit is a person in blue holding a handkerchief. Pearce and a friend actually saw this spirit while attending a historical reenactment in the courtroom. An interpreter saw this spirit descending the stairs one morning as he unlocked the door. After seeing someone disappear into the courtroom, the interpreter followed to find no one there, and no one should have been in the locked building. Those who have witnessed this apparition have been inclined to identify it as the shade of former guide who enjoyed her work so much that she has continued her duties in the afterlife.

Sources

  • Kinney, Pamela K. Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2019.
  • Olmert, Michael. Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1985.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. CreateSpace, 2013.
  • Taylor, L.B., Jr. The Ghosts of Williamsburg, Volume II. Progress Printing Company, 1999.

Courthouse Creepiness—Caswell County, North Carolina

N.B. This article was originally published 6 April 2011, but not reposted when this blog moved. This article has since be edited and revised.

Caswell County Courthouse
Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, North Carolina

There is a room in the Caswell County Courthouse with a door that opens and shuts on its own accord. According to two different sources–though I think one source is likely referencing the other–that is the only unknown phenomena reported in this magnificent edifice. But then again, the story behind it is just as fascinating.

The Caswell County Courthouse is the fourth courthouse and was constructed between 1857 and 1861. The architecture is unusual for a government building of the period in that it employs the Italianate style; a style quite different from the other period, Greek Revival buildings in the area. The courtroom located on the second floor is noted in one description as one of the most beautiful in the state with carved benches and partitions and an ornate plaster ceiling.

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

Within this marvelous structure a heinous act occurred; an act indicative of the area’s rough transition following the Civil War. Reconstruction was a difficult process for much of the South. Nearly everything was in upheaval: the economy, cities and plantations lay in ruins, the social order, and African-Americans suddenly thrust into a new social standing. Add opportunists into this mix, especially Yankees with a carpet bag in hand and a glint in their eye, and you have an explosive combination.

It is against this turbulent backdrop that 34-year-old John Walter Stephens made his arrival in Caswell County. He is described as a difficult fellow, but of course, that all depends on who you talk to. Stephens was born in North Carolina and had worked as a tobacco trader as well as being active in the Methodist Church. Apparently, shortly before his move to Yanceyville, he had been involved in a scuffle with a neighbor whose chickens had wandered onto his property. Stephens killed the chickens and the neighbor had him sent to jail. After getting out, Stephens confronted the neighbor with a gun and in the fight that broke out, two bystanders were wounded. This incident provided Stephens with the nickname, “Chicken.” It was something that he would never live down.

While continuing to work as a tobacco trader, Stephens also worked as an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and was a member of the Republican affiliated Union League, which helped to control the African-American vote in the South. Needless to say, these things were politically unpopular with the white citizens of Caswell County. Through the efforts of the Union League and the African-American citizens of the county, Stephens was elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 1868. Slanderous gossip was spread through town and Stephens received death threats, but he staunchly remained in his position.

Per the affidavit of John G. Lea, Stephens was tried in absentia by a Ku Klux Klan jury, found guilty, and sentenced to death. This death sentence was carried out on May 21, 1870 in a storage room on the ground floor of the courthouse. Stephens, who was attending a session to nominate county officers and members of the legislature, was lured downstairs and taken into the storage room where a group of KKK members awaited. After Stephens was disarmed of his three pistols John Lea rushed in. Lea, the last of the conspirators to die when he passed in 1919, described the scene in an affidavit sealed until after his death:

He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood-pile, and he asked me not to let them kill him. Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. Stevens was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek.

The turbulence, already boiling in the area, rose to a fever pitch after Stephens’ murder. The Ku Klux Klan stepped up its terror of African-Americans and their white allies throughout the region. In the town of Graham in Alamance County to the south, an African-American town commissioner was lynched in a tree on the courthouse lawn. Republican Governor William W. Holden, upset over the uproar in the area and the political threat to his seat from the mostly white Democrats, declared Caswell County to be in a state of rebellion and sent some 300 troops under the leadership of George W. Kirk to march on Yanceyville. Under the governor’s orders, some 100 local men were rounded up and jailed. With the suspension of habeus corpus, these men were held for some time and quite possibly mistreated during their incarceration. The event, which ended later in 1870, became known as the Kirk-Holden War, despite the distinct lack of fighting.

With the August 1870 election, the Democrats swept the legislature. The governor was tried on charges of corruption for his participation in the Kirk-Holden War and removed from office. The New York Times reported in 1873 on a bill in the state legislature to give amnesty to the murderers. It describes a Republican representative giving an explicit account of the murder on the House floor. The bill passed, but I have not discovered if it was ever signed into law.

Things quieted down in Yanceyville, but there is still discussion of this turbulent bit of local history. And still, the door to the storage room on the courthouse’s ground floor opens and closes by itself. Is John Walter Stephens still seeking justice?

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2, Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2002.
  • Caswell County Courthouse.” Caswell County Historical Association. Accessed 5 April 2011.
  • Kirk-Holden War (1870).” Caswell County Historical Association. Accessed 5 April 2011.
  • Senator John Walter Stephens.” Caswell County Historical Association. Accessed 5 April 2011.
  • Lea, John G. The Ku Klux Klan Murder of John G. Stephens. 2 July 1919.
  • “Life in North Carolina: The Murder of Senator John W. Stephens—A Terrible Scene—Shall His Assassins be Amnestied?” New York Times. 26 February 1873.
  • Stone, Jason. “The Ghost of Chicken Stephens.” CreepyNC.com. Accessed 5 April 2011.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—District of Columbia

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, Southeast
Washington

haunted Folger Shakepseare Library Washington DC ghost
Exterior of the Folger Shakespeare Library, 2008, by AgnosticPreachersKid. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Containing the largest collection of Shakespeareana anywhere in the world, the Folger Shakespeare Library was built to house the collection of businessman Henry Clay Folger. An executive with Standard Oil, Folger had the considerable clout to purchase a row of houses across the street from the Library of Congress to construct the Neo-Classical structure. The interior, designed to reflect the Tudor style of Shakespeare’s England, features a reading room and a small theater. Unfortunately, Folger died two years before construction was complete, leaving his wife to oversee the opening. It is noted that staff has had problems with the lights in the reading room turning themselves on after being switched off for the night. Perhaps Mr. Folger wants to continue his study?

ghost Folger Shakespeare Library Reading Room Washington DC ghost
The reading room of the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1999, by Julie Ainsworth. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Washington, DC. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2016.

Library of Congress—Jefferson Building
10 First Street, Southeast
Washington

With the opening of the Jefferson Building in 1897, the Library of Congress was able to have enough room to expand. While it did leave the spirit of an old cataloguer near its old digs in the Capitol, it didn’t take long for the grand building to acquire some ghosts.

haunted Library of Congress
The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Photo by Mr. Gray, 2016. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Several apparitions have been reported amongst the miles of shelves in the building including a police officer. The friendly officer, donned in an old-fashioned uniform, has been known to help researchers who have been lost in the labyrinthine stacks. His identity is unknown.

Another shadowy figure haunts the basement where he may have worked. He was responsible for stamping books, marking them as library property. Even after his death, he has been encountered still stamping books.

Sources

  • Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Washington, DC. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2016. 

United States Capitol
Capitol Hill
Washington

The Library of Congress’ beginnings were certainly auspicious, though it was marred by tragedy. The first books were purchased for the library in 1800 under the administration of John Adams. Thomas Jefferson created the administration for the library appointing a Librarian of Congress and establishing a Joint Committee on the Library to oversee it. When the British invaded Washington in 1814, during the War of 1812, these books were torched along with the Capitol building where they had been stored.

US Capitol
West Front of the United States Capitol. The Library of Congress occupied this side of the building. Photo by Martin Falbisoner, 2013. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After this loss, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his massive personal library; which Congress purchased, despite some opposition. In 1851, disaster again struck the library when a fire broke out destroying two-thirds of the collection. Two years later, a fireproof room opened in the west facade of the Capitol to house the library. The collection remained somewhat stagnant until the passage of the Copyright Act in 1870, when Congress authorized that the library receive copies of all works published in the United States. With thousands of volumes pouring in, the library necessitated a separate building. The Jefferson Building, which continues to house the Library of Congress, opened in 1897.

While the library moved to its new location across the street, one specter from the old library did remain behind. Legend tells of a former cataloguer with a penchant of hiding his government savings bonds away in some of the lesser perused volumes. After the gentleman was stricken with a stroke, he attempted to communicate to his family that $6,000 in bonds was stashed among the library volumes, but to no avail. Though the library has moved, in death the gentleman has been seen wandering among the sub-basements of the Capitol still trying to locate his bonds.

The gentleman’s bonds were located by librarians when the books were moved to the Jefferson Building.

Sources

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Kentucky

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

The Carnegie
1028 Scott Boulevard
Covington

As one of the wealthiest men of his time, Andrew Carnegie provided grants to cities, towns, and educational institutions throughout the world to construct libraries for the edification of their citizens. The bulk of his grants were provided to Americans and 1,689 libraries were built across the country. Twenty-seven libraries were built in the state of Kentucky and twenty-three are still standing, among them the Beaux-Arts former Kenton County Public Library in Covington.

Covington Kentucky Carnegie Library ghost haunted
The Carnegie, formerly the Covington Carnegie Library, 2010, by Greg Hume. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Two years after the library’s construction in 1904, an auditorium was added for community events. The auditorium fell in serious disrepair and was boarded up in 1958, but the library continued to thrive. Outgrowing the original structure, the library moved to a larger facility in 1974 and the building was threatened with demolition. Concerned citizens formed the Northern Kentucky Arts Council to utilize the structure as an arts center. The auditorium was fully restored in 2006 and the center was renamed “The Carnegie” to honor the building’s original use.

Over the years, the building has garnered several legends of ghosts and was investigated by the team from Paranormal Investigations of  Kentucky (PINK) in 2010. The team heard stories from several staff members including one who’s pants leg had curiously been tugged on as they climbed a ladder to the attic. Another staff member who had often worked in the theatre late into the night had a number of experiences with items he was using disappearing only to reappear in a different location. The investigators were able to capture several EVPs during the investigation.

Sources

Carnegie Community Arts Center
107 North Main Street
Somerset

Carnegie Community Arts Center Somerset Kentucky haunted ghost
Carnegie Community Arts Center, formerly the Pulaski County Carnegie Library, 2014, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This graceful, Neo-Classical structure near the heart of Somerset has served several different functions throughout its history. Constructed originally as a post office in 1912, the building was transformed into the Pulaski County Public Library after the post office’s move to a new facility in 1972. Following construction of a new library facility, the building now serves as an arts center for the community and hosts several spirits and a paranormal museum.

The International Paranormal Museum and Research Center opened in the basement of the arts center in 2017 and houses paranormal memorabilia from around the world as well as several haunted objects. In fact, the old building itself has several ghost stories associated with it including tales involving a little boy who died on the adjacent property and a woman who died while working in the building. One of the museum’s operators has had a few haunting encounters like hearing the sound of a woman clearing her throat in a restroom while he was working in the building alone.

Sources

  • Harris, Chris. “Carnegie Community Arts Center Paranormal Museum can be spine-tingling.” Kentucky Commonwealth. 4 October 2017.
  • Torma, Carolyn and Camille Wells. National Register of Historic Places Pulaski County Multiple Resource Area (North Main Street Historic District Nomination). 14 August 1984.

Carnegie Hall
401 Monmouth Street
Newport

The Newport Public Library was organized in 1898 and set up on the second floor of a nearby bank. The group solicited a grant from Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a permanent home. With the $25,000 grant, the Beaux-Arts style Newport Carnegie Library was constructed in 1902 on Monmouth Street. The library moved to a new location in 2004 and the building was used as storage by the city until a local businessman purchased it in 2007. Under the businessman’s purview, the building was exquisitely restored and opened as an events space.

A 2014 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer mentions the possibility that the building may be haunted. During a wedding, a sensitive guest noted the presence of a woman and child in the building’s basement.

Sources

  • “112-year-old gem nestled in Newport.” Cincinnati Enquirer. 17 June 2014.
  • Our History.” Carnegie Hall at Newport. Accessed 17 April 2019.
  • Warminski, Margo. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Monmouth Street Historic District. 28 March 1996.

Helm-Cravens Library
Western Kentucky University Campus
Bowling Green

On this campus known for its ghostlore (see my coverage of the haunting of Van Meter Hall), there is very little written about the spirit at the Helm-Cravens Library. George Eberhart provides only a single sentence on this haunting: “Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University, Helm Library. A student who fell to his death while trying to open a window on the ninth floor is said to haunt the library.” The Helm Library only has a few floors while the Cravens Library, which is physically connected, is nine stories. So, obviously the incorrect building is listed. There is no further information on this haunting.

Sources

Jeffersontown Branch—Louisville Free Public Library
10635 Watterson Trail

Louisville

Scholar William Lynwood Montell’s monumental works on Kentucky ghostlore, including his Ghosts Along the Cumberland: Deathlore in the Kentucky Foothills and Ghosts Across Kentucky comprise the base for a great deal of the works that have come in recent years. In his Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, Montell includes stories from three libraries, all of which are included in this guide. This book includes firsthand accounts of supernatural encounters collected as part of interviews with people across the state.

The original building that housed the Jeffersontown Branch Library was built on property that was once occupied by the county poor farm. A former director noted that the atmosphere in that building was often dreary and a woman wearing a frilly pink or white dress was seen peering from the front window. The director often heard disembodied footsteps and once saw an entire shelf of books tumble to the floor without reason. The activity ceased when the library moved to a new building next door.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Louisville Free Public Library
301 York Street
Louisville

It is more than appropriate that the architects of the Louisville Free Public Library would employ Louis XVI-style architecture for the building in a city named for the same French king. This building, designed by the firm of Pilcher and Tachau of New York and opened in 1908, is considered the finest example of Louis XVI-style Beaux-Arts architecture in the state. The library, which has been a cultural touchstone in the city and region, continues to occupy this grand building.

Of course, it also seems that one of the librarians has remained on duty here. Some years ago, a library staff member encountered the woman while closing up the library around 9 PM. The staff member told author David Domine, “It was like she was two feet off the ground, and she was just going about her business of putting the books back in place. She had on round spectacles and her hair was up in a bun, and she wore a high-waisted, long skirt and long-sleeved blouse.”

Louisville Kentucky Free Public Library ghost haunted
Louisville Free Public Library, 2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The staff member watched the strange figure going about her duties for about 30 seconds before the figure looked up and vanished before his eyes. He left the building quickly after this strange vision. It turns out that many others have seen the spectral librarian as well, though her identity is lost.

Sources

  • Domine, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.
  • Hedgepeth, Marty Poynter. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Louisville Free Public Library. 29 June 1979.
  • LFPL: A History of Pride and Resourcefulness.” Louisville Free Public Library. Accessed 17 April 2019.

Shively-Newman Branch—Louisville Free Public Library
3920 Dixie Highway
Shively

According to Montell’s Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, this branch library has been known to be haunted since 1990. Attached to the Shively City Hall, the building has seen much community activity over the years. Perhaps this energy has contributed to the paranormal activity. In the auditorium, library staff has heard the sound of a man’s voice, apparently in pain, over the speakers. Lights have flickered off and on, while books and other things have disappeared only to turn up elsewhere.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Woodford County Library
115 North Main Street
Versailles

Some years ago, a high school student working as a page at the library was helping staff close up for the night. Going upstairs, the young man felt the presence of someone behind him. Turning around, he saw an older man with grey hair and dressed in a grey suit with a maroon tie looking at him. As the page attempted to leave that floor, the figure would glide in front of him. He eventually made his way downstairs where he told the staff that he would no longer go upstairs at night.

The Woodford County Library was constructed in 1906, but was lost to a fire after only a year in the new building. The imposing and grand building that still stands on North Main Street was constructed thereafter. The recollections of a librarian interviewed by William Lynwood Montell provides several ghost stories for this building. Besides the young page, a custodian frequently had experiences with objects moving on their own volition.

Sources

  • Jeffrey, Jonathan. “Keeping the Faith: A History of the Library Services in Versailles, Kentucky.” Kentucky Libraries. 1 December 2003.
  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

A restaurant revenant—Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

1905 City Hall
300 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis

N.B. This was originally published 3 June 2014 as part of “Louisiana and Mississippi: Newsworthy Haunts–6/3/14.”

Two hurricanes, Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005, wrecked much of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi including its graceful 1905 city hall. Camille, which made landfall next door in Waveland, blew off the building’s cupola and Katrina also severely damaged the building when it made landfall nearby. Since its restoration, something else may be occasionally wreaking havoc inside the building.

Bay St. Louis Mississippi city hall haunted ghost
Bay St. Louis City Hall a short time after construction. Undated postcard. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Originally, the building housed the mayor’s office, city council chambers, police department, and jail. Over the years, many city departments have occupied the building which, after Katrina’s destructive blow to the city, required extensive restoration. After its Georgian splendor was restored in 2014, the building now houses offices with a Greek and Italian restaurant, Mezzo Mezzo (formerly Sonny’s Cypress Café), occupying the entire first floor. It is here, where the old jail was once located, that quite a bit of paranormal activity has been experienced.

Bay St. Louis Mississippi city hall haunted ghost Hurricane Katrina damage
Bay St. Louis City Hall, September 19, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

An article from a local TV station, WLOX, quotes a restaurant staff member as saying, “We’ve had a lot of things move around, we’ve had glasses fly around. Doors just open and close real quick, and all of our doors have safety mechanisms which [means] you can’t actually open them. There’s just so many things that happened here on a regular basis that just didn’t seem normal.” A staff member interviewed by G-COM, states that mason jars and glasses sometimes fly off the counter and shatter on the floor.

After initially attempting to ignore the activity, the owner and staff decided to call in a paranormal team. G-COM (Ghost Chasers of Mississippi), investigated and captured evidence of three possible spirits in 2014. They produced a video of their investigation which was posted on YouTube. The investigation yielded a number of EVP and some fruitful flashlight sessions.

For the café’s owner, however, the spirits are not fearsome, “nothing bad has really happened, it’s really kind of cool,” she said.

Stories point to an incident in 1928 which may provide the origin of some of the building’s activity. That year, a man incarcerated in the jail shot his way to freedom, killing a man in the process. After he was recaptured, the prisoner became the last person executed by hanging in Hancock County, when he was hung in the Hancock County Courthouse a short distance away. That building may also be haunted by his restless spirit.

Sources

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 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.

Musical fireplaces—A White House Experience

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

While on a book tour last year, the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, revealed that they had a possibly paranormal experience in the White House. One summer during their father’s administration the twins crawled into bed in their respective bedrooms. Jenna’s phone rang, and she woke up to turn it off. As she began to fall asleep again, she heard what she described as “opera, and a woman’s opera voice coming from the fireplace.”

Jenna, Laura, Barbara Bush 2007
The Bush Twins (Jenna on the left, and Barbara on the right) with their mother, Laura pose with Sesame Street character, Elmo, 2007. Photo released by the White House.

After hearing the chilling singing, she fled across the hall to her sister’s bedroom. Two nights later, the twins were both asleep in Barbara’s room when they were awakened by the sounds of “1920s jazz music” emanating from the fireplace. They convinced themselves that their black cat, India, must have jumped upon a piano, though the music was good enough that the cat “would have had to have taken it up.”

This most important of houses has been described by many to be one of the most haunted houses in the nation. Certainly, its halls are haunted by the spirit of politics and have been so since John Adams first occupied it in 1800 and its corridors were crowded with hangers-on, lobbyists, and politicians of every stripe, but time has left those same corridors alive with spirits. Many residents and staff of the White House tell stories of things going bump in the night and, indeed, there are so many stories that Dennis William Hauck’s venerable Haunted Places: The National Directory provides a room by room breakdown of the possible paranormal activity.

White House North and South facades
North and South facades of the White House. Photos by Cezary p and MattWade, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Author Jeff Belanger examined the haunting of the White House in his 2008 children’s book, Who’s Haunting the White House? which, though written for children, provides a well-researched look at the panoply of phantoms that have made appearances here. Perhaps the most well-known spirit is that of Abraham Lincoln who has regularly been spotted in and around the bedroom named for him (that room served as his office). Among the witnesses to his spirit were First Lady Grace Coolidge; Maureen Reagan, the daughter of Ronald Reagan; Queen Juliana of the Netherlands; George W. Bush, during his father’s presidency; and various staff members.

Among the other spirits that have been identified in the White House include the spirit of Willie Lincoln, the young son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln; Presidents William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, and John Tyler; First Ladies Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison; and a young British soldier carrying a torch. Reports of possible paranormal activity from these spirits have come from the Lincolns; Harry Truman; Eleanor Roosevelt; the Clintons; and Michelle Obama. Certainly, the Bush twins are in good company among the witnesses to the paranormal in the “People’s House.”

Sources

  • Belanger, Jeff. Who’s Haunting the White House? NYC: Sterling Children’s Books, 2008.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Johnson, Ted. “Is the White House haunted? Jenna and Barbara Bush share their ghost story.” 31 October 2017.
  • Peters, Lucia. “Is the White House haunted? Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Bush just shared the creepiest story ever.” 31 October 2017.

Haunted South Carolina, Briefly Noted

Brick House Ruins
Edisto Island

Built around 1725 by wealthy planter Paul Hamilton, this French style home burned in 1929. While the house is now just a shell, there’s still a ghostly legend attached to it. Two different authors have recorded this story more than 40 years apart, but there are some differences. The basic premise is that a young bride was killed in the house on her wedding day by a jealous and spurned suitor.

Brick House Ruins, 1938, by Thomas T. Waterman for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The main differences in the story concern the identity of the suitor and his method of killing. Margaret Rhett Martin in 1963 identifies the suitor as a local Native American who shot the bride with an arrow; while Geordie Buxton in 2007 identifies the suitor as a Charlestonian, who shot the bride with a pistol. Nevertheless, the spirit of the bride is supposedly still seen staring from the window where she was shot. Buxton also includes that that window sill is still stained with her blood.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie. Haunted Plantations: Ghosts of Slavery and Legends of the Cotton Kingdoms. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press, 2007.
  • Dillon, James. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Brick House Ruins. Listed 15 April 1970.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC: U. of SC Press, 1963.

The Castle
411 Craven Street
Beaufort

Reading something written about the paranormal by someone who is not an acolyte of the subject is always an interesting adventure. Certainly, hauntings don’t usually get written up in the business magazine, Forbes; but then again, the ghost of The Castle is one of the more unusual ghosts in the South. One sentence, in particular, stands out to me, “Though likely the only haunted house in town, ‘The Castle’ is hardly the only antebellum mansion in Beaufort.” A ludicrous statement if there ever was one! Beaufort is one of the many Low Country towns visited by flocks of the living and the dead; hardly a “one haunted house” kind of town.

Stereograph view of The Castle during the Civil War. The house had been commandeered for use as as hospital. Photo by Sam A. Cooley, circa 1862. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

This 2006 article highlighted this magnificent estate that had just been put up for sale for $4.6 million, of course that was nearing the height of the real estate market. In researching the house, I stumbled across the house listed on a real estate website for $2.9 million. I can’t be sure that the house has been for sale all this time, but I can’t help wondering what Grenauche or Gauche, the resident spirit, thinks of all this.

The home’s resident ghost is that of a dwarf. Legend holds that the small being only reveals himself to children who are ill. Terrence Zepke records a conversation that the spirit had with a child in which he said he does not reveal himself to fools. The article in Forbes mentions that the daughter of a recent owner saw the spirit when she was in bed with the chicken pox. Nancy Roberts has the spirit appearing to the daughter of the home’s builder, Dr. James Johnson, while she played in the basement. She saw a jaunty and wizened man in a cap, breeches and pointed shoes.

The exact identity of the funny little man is lost in the haze of legend. Some identify him as a court jester who was among the early French Huguenots who settled nearby during the 16th century. Another legend claims him to be a Portuguese dwarf killed in an Indian raid in the early years of the 18th century. According to the stories, the dwarf told a child that he had taken up residence in the old manse because it resembled his old home in the old world. Regardless, his petite spirit may still haunt “The Castle.”

Sources

  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Listing for 411 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC.” com. Accessed 8 January 2012.
  • Roberts, Nancy. South Carolina Ghosts from the Coast to the Mountains. Columbia, SC: U. of SC Press, 1983.
  • Rose, Lacey. “Carolina Castle.” 17 April 2006.
  • Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

Hotel Aiken
235 Richland Avenue West
Aiken

The Hotel Aiken, known for many years as the Holley House, has been a center of the Aiken community since its construction in 1898. Originally constructed to accommodate visitors to Aiken during its time as a winter resort town for the wealthy elite, the hotel is reported to have a handful of spirits who have not checked out.

According to South Coast Paranormal, who investigated the hotel in 2011, rooms 302, 320 and 328 feature spirits. Activity in these rooms includes apparitions, shadows and unexplained noises. While their investigation did not apparently pick up much in these rooms, investigators heard unexplained noises in the attic and witnessed an odd shadow in the basement. South Carolina paranormal researcher Tally Johnson notes that activity is also reported in room 225 where the television regularly turns itself on.

Sources

  • Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the South Carolina Midlands. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • South Coast Paranormal. Case File: Hotel Aiken. Accessed 22 July 2014.

Kings Mountain National Military Park
2625 Park Road
Blacksburg

In a mere 65 minutes, the British lost a good deal in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Not only did they lose the battle, but the British sustained some 244 casualties including the death of Major Patrick Ferguson who lead the British forces into the battle. When Ferguson’s body was later recovered for burial, it had been stripped and urinated upon the by the Americans. It was buried on the battlefield under a traditional cairn or pile of stones. It is at Major Ferguson’s cairn where a pair of re-enactors reported to have encountered the figure of Ferguson smiling at them from the shadows.

Sources

  • Battle of Kings Mountain. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 February 2011.
  • Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.

Old Post Office Building
Park Avenue & Laurens Street
Aiken

Modeled on Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, the Old Post Office Building has been remodeled and restored into an office for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, a company providing management and operations for the nearby Savannah River Site. The post office opened in 1912 and remained as a postal facility until 1971. Also during that time, the basement of the building was renovated into offices for Senator Strom Thurmond. Since retirement, the building has served a variety of uses.

Old Post Office, 2010, by Todd Lista. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to the owner of Aiken Ghost Tours, the flag atop the building was raised and lowered every day. Unfortunately, there was a good deal of danger walking the roof, especially in inclement weather. Legend holds that one of these brave souls fell and died one evening. Ever since, locals have regularly seen and reported a man walking on the roof of building.

Sources

  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC. Newsletter. February 2010.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VI

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. 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.

Montgomery County

Pratt Hall
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

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

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

Sources

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

Morgan County

Old State Bank
925 Bank Street
Decatur

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Perry County

Marion Military Institute
1101 Washington Street
Marion

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

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

Sources

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

Pickens County

Pickens County Courthouse
1 Courthouse Square
Carrollton

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Pike County

Pace and Shackelford Halls
Campus of Troy University
Troy

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

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

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

Sources

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

Randolph County

McCosh Mill
McCosh Mill Road
Rock Mills

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Russell County

Elite Café
1501 Fifth Avenue
Phenix City

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

St. Clair County

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

Shelby County

Old Shelby County Courthouse
1854 Old Courthouse Circle
Columbiana

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

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

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

Sources

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

Sumter County

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part III

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. 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.

Crenshaw County

Patsburg Bridge
AL-59 over Patsaliga Creek
Patsburg

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

Sources

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

Cullman County

Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park
516 CR 1127
Vinemont

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

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

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

Sources

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

Dale County

Claybank Log Church
East Andrews Avenue
Ozark

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

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

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

Sources

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

Dallas County

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum
109 Union Street
Selma

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

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

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

Sources

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

DeKalb County

Hitching Post
6081 AL-117
Mentone

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

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

Sources

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

Elmore County

Robinson Springs United Methodist Church
5980 Main Street
Millbrook

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Escambia County

Fort Crawford Cemetery
Snowden Street
East Brewton

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

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

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

Sources

Etowah County

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Fayette County

Musgrove Chapel Methodist Church
CR 21, North
Winfield

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

Sources

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

Franklin County

Dismals Canyon
901 CR 8
Phil Campbell

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

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

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

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

Sources

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