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.

Union Cavalry sergeant 1866 Oliver H. Willard Kennesaw battlefield Georgia haunted ghosts
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.

Illinois Monument at Cheatham Hill Kennesaw battlefield Georgia haunted ghost
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.

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.”

North facade during the Lincoln administration.

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.

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.

Haunted Florida, Briefly Noted

“Attention, blog readers! Cleanup on the Florida aisle!” Since the move from Blogger, I’ve been sitting on several articles that needed a bit of cleanup before being reposted. This article combines the remains of my original “Haunted Florida” article along with some theatre entries that were written for a book on haunted Southern theatres, that was never completed.

Athens Theatre—Sands Theatre Center
124 North Florida Avenue
DeLand

Henry Addison DeLand dreamed of creating the “Athens of the South” when he began developing land around a small Florida settlement called Persimmon Hollow. He opened a small academy, DeLand Academy, but after a freeze in 1885 destroyed the orange crop, DeLand returned north short his investment. Wealthy Philadelphia hat maker, John B. Stetson, took over the academy and reopened it as John B. Stetson University, later just Stetson University.

DeLand grew over the next few decades, becoming a center of learning and culture on the east coast of Florida. The Athens Theatre was opened in 1922 with the hope of continuing that cultural influence. The magnificent Beaux Arts style theatre opened as a vaudeville and movie house. In 2009, the building was renovated, restored and reopened as the Sands Theatre Center, a performing arts center for the community.

Athens Theatre, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Within the walls of the theatre two spirits linger. The shade of a stagehand who fell to his death still resides here, but it is the lively spirit of a young actress who is most often felt. Legend speaks of a young actress starring in a show who began a torrid affair with the theatre’s manager. The manager’s wife appeared one day to find the two in flagrante delicto and, after a shouting match, the wife bludgeoned the pretty, young actress to death with a lamp. Actors using the actress’ old dressing room sometimes incur her contempt which is sometimes expressed through objects being thrown or the room’s temperature drastically lowered.

Sources

  • DeLand, Florida. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 March 2013.
  • Martin, C. Lee. Florida Ghosts and Pirates. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.

Coral Castle
28655 South Dixie Highway
Homestead

Coral sculptures at Coral Castle, 2005, by Christina Rutz. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Edward Leedskalnin, an eccentric and possibly brilliant Latvian immigrant, began work on his masterpiece in nearby Florida City in 1923. In 1936 he moved himself and the castle to Homestead where he worked until he died in 1951. There have been questions about how Leedskalnin, who was five feet tall and weighed less than a hundred pounds, maneuvered the massive blocks of coral that sometimes weighed a few tons. When visitors would ask how he did it, he would only answer, “It’s not difficult if you know how.” This has given rise to numerous theories of how this massive complex was constructed including the help of aliens, though engineers surmise that much of his work was done using known techniques.

It is only appropriate that this legendary place has legends attached. More sensitive visitors have noted the existence of energy vortices throughout the complex. Throughout the site, Mr. Leedskalnin’s presence is felt. Other visitors have seen figures appear among the castle’s huge coral blocks.

Sources

  • Coral Castle. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 March 2012.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.
  • Moore, Joyce Elson. Haunt Hunter’s Guide to Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2008.
  • Temkin, Maria & Michael Zimny. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Coral Castle. 2 April 1984.
  • Thuma, Cynthia and Catherine Lower. Haunted Florida. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books,
  • Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida’s Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.

Deering Estate
16701 Southwest 72nd Avenue
Miami

It seems that the former estate of Charles Deering, the founder of International Harvester, may be just crawling with spirits. And a variety of spirits at that. One investigation photographed the possible spirit of a Victorian woman while spirits of Native Americans may be associated with burial grounds nearby. The Deering Estate also features ghost tours of the estate that the League of Paranormal Investigators (LPI) dubbed, “ground-zero for lost spirits.” LPI has documented at least two full-bodied apparitions as well as numerous EVPs.

Richmond Cottage on the Deering Estate, 2010, by Zoohouse. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The estate has been preserved by the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County as a cultural and educational facility. Two buildings dating from 1896 and 1922 remain and are surrounded by swaths of land in its natural state. Battered by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, restoration of the estate took years and the grounds did not reopen to the public until 1999.

Sources

  • Charles Deering. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2010.
  • Charles Deering Estate. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 March 2012.
  • Cohen, Howard. “Halloween howling.” The Miami Herald. 27 October 2011.
  • Malone, Kenny. “Miami’s Deering Estate: A real haunted house?” 28 October 2009.
  • “Miami-Dade Estate deemed ‘severely haunted.’” The Miami Herald. 22 October 2009.

Henegar Center for the Arts
625 East New Haven Avenue
Melbourne

Henegar Center, 2010, by Leonard J. DeFrancisci. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A fine example of adaptive reuse, the Henegar Center is located within an old school building. Having opened in 1920, the Melbourne school was named after a former principal, Ruth Henegar in 1963. The building was closed as a school in 1975 and reopened as the Henegar Center for the Arts in 1991. In addition to opening with a 493-seat theatre, the building also came with a resident ghost, Jonathan. According to Kathleen Walls, Jonathan’s antics include the usual noises attributed to spirits as well as moving actors’ props. The theatre’s balcony seems to be his favorite area of the theatre and he has been spotted there on occasion.

Sources

  • Henegar Center for the Arts. “Our Rich History.” Accessed 25 March 2013.
  • Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida’s Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.

Hotel Blanche
212 North Marion Street
Lake City

For decades, travelers heading down Highway 441 from Georgia to Florida would stop at the luxurious Hotel Blanche in Lake City, among them, gangster Al Capone on his way to Miami. This landmark, the heart of downtown Lake City, has been witness to the city’s history for more than a hundred years. Recently, one of the building’s owners described part of the building as a “death trap.”As the hotel’s clientele dwindled towards the middle part of the 20th century, the hotel began to deteriorate. The ground floors have remained occupied with businesses and the second floor has occasionally been used for office space and meetings, but the third floor has not been in use for some time. In fact, the door to the third floor has been screwed shut; perhaps to contain some force from the Other Side?

Over the past few years, arguments have arisen over what to do with the massive white elephant. The city has considered purchasing the building, though I can find nothing to definitively say if that has occurred. Taking up nearly a block of downtown Lake City, directly across from City Hall, the Hotel Blanche was once the heart of Lake City. The hotel was constructed in 1902 by Will Brown and named for his daughter. The hotel added two wings amidst the tourist boom of the 1920s. The hotel closed in 1967 and its third floor has not been used since that time.

Hotel Blanche, 1908, from a postcard. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

The paranormal history of the hotel is less clear. Greg Jenkins reports in his Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore that the hotel may very well have a “large collection of spirits,” though this hasn’t been officially investigated. Apparently many sounds are heard including children running and giggling. The sounds of door slamming have also been heard as well as many odd smells including perfume, vinegar, and sulfur (which may be an indication of a malevolent entity). The spirits, though, do seem as unsettled as the recent plans for the building.

Sources

  • Burkhardt, Karl. “Renovation of the Blanche Hotel, Lake City’s most famous historic structure, may restore it as a downtown centerpiece.” Lake City Journal. 18 July 2011.
  • Hotel Blanche. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2010.
  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 2. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.
  • Lilker, Stew. “Conversation with Steve Smith, Blanche investment trust spokesman.” Columbia County Observer. 21 October 2009.
  • Lilker, Stew. “The Blanche Hotel: The seventh inning stretch.” Columbia County Observer. 3 March 2010.
  • Lilker, Stew. “The Blanche: The city steps up, Councilman Hill wants to slow down.” Columbia County Observer. 21 October 2009.

Miami International Airport
2100 Northwest 42nd Avenue
Miami

It’s not unheard of that an airport could be haunted. An airport may be the last place that a plane may board before an accident or perhaps a destination that is not reached. Either way, an airport may attract spirits. Miami International was the destination for Eastern Airlines Flight 401 on December 29, 1972. As the plane flew over the Everglades on its approach to the airport, it crashed killing 77 including both pilots. While the plane never arrived, legend speaks of the form of the plane’s captain, Robert Loft, being seen in the airport near where the ticket counters for Eastern Airlines once stood and disappearing into the old Eastern concourse.

Miami International Airport, 2007, by Jason Walsh. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the annals of paranormal phenomena, this plane crash is the focus of many stories. Stories abound of the appearance of the captain and 2nd Officer Don Repo on planes that utilized parts recovered from the crash site. After these stories began to surface, Eastern Airlines reportedly removed all these parts from service. Additionally, during the recovery efforts for victims, many working in the swamps late at night heard whimpering and sobbing and saw phantom faces in the black water.

Sources

  • Eastern Airlines Flight 401. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2010
  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 2. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.

Richey Suncoast Theatre
6237 Grand Boulevard
New Port Richey

The patron attended a performance at the theatre. He sat in his favorite seat, BB1 in the balcony, for the performance and a few hours after leaving was dead of a heart attack. Not only was Willard Clark not just a patron, he was the president of the theatre. Following his death in 1981, he has apparently returned to the theatre he loved so and is not happy when his favorite seat is occupied. Patrons unfamiliar with the story have experienced a distinct chill while watching performances from Clark’s favorite seat. Others have spotted a gentleman in a tuxedo in that seat. For awhile, the seat was simply reserved for the ghost and patrons were told it was broken.

The history of this theatre reflects much of the bumpy history of Florida in the early 20th century. Land booms, busts and the Great Depression fill the history of the state and the theatre felt shockwaves from all of these.

Richey Suncoast Theatre, 2010, by Karm Atwin. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thomas Meighan made a name for himself in silent films. After his 1919 film, The Miracle Man, he officially had become a “star” and he appeared opposite great leading ladies like Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford (known popularly as “America’s Sweetheart”) and Norma Talmadge and under the direction of such greats as Cecil B. DeMille. Talking with his brother, James, a realtor, Meighan became very interested in Florida and bought land there in 1925. Inspired by dreams of making the New Port Richey area a celebrity winter playground, he built a home there and encouraged his friends to visit. When a new theatre opened in town in 1926, it was named, appropriately, the Thomas Meighan Theatre.

The grand opening of the theatre on July 1, 1926 was heralded with a showing of Meighan’s film, The New Klondike. The theatre experienced ups and downs in its business and improvements were made to allow for the latest in film technology: “talkies.” But with the hardships imposed on the area during the Great Depression, the theatre closed its doors. The theatre reopened under a new name in 1938 and continued operating under a variety of names until 1968 when competition from a local multiplex led to the theatre’s closure. It was purchased in 1972 for use as a community theatre. The Richey Suncoast Theatre has continued to operate as a successful community theatre ever since. And Willard Clark continues to watch fabulous performances from his favorite balcony seat.

Sources

  • Cannon, Jeff. “Ghostly Encounters in Pasco County.” com. 25 October 2012.
  • Fredericksen, Barbara L. “Attention ghost: Exit stage left, through wall.” Tampa Bay Times. 31 October 2006.
  • The Meighan/Richey Suncoast Theatre.” The History of Pascoe County. Accessed 3 April 2013.
  • Spencer, Camille C. “Is New Port Richey a truly ghostly town? Or is it a myth?” Tampa Bay Times. 30 October 2009.
  • Thomas Meighan. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 April 2013.

Venice Theatre
140 Tampa Avenue, West
Venice

Venice Little Theatre has grown so much they dropped the “Little” from their name in 2008. Founded in 1950 and first performing in an airport hangar at the Venice Airport, Venice Theatre has expanded into one of the premier community theatre companies in the nation. After the city needed the airport hangar for storage in 1972, the company purchased its current building: a 1926 structure with a tower resembling the St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, Italy, the town’s namesake.

Where actors now play, cadets from the Kentucky Military Institute—which summered in Venice—once sweated and occasionally the spirit of a small girl still roams. She has been seen curiously watching groups of juvenile actors and bouncing a ball in the corridors that once served as the military institute’s gymnasium. Who she is or what she’s doing in this particular building remains a mystery.

Sources

  • Cool, Kim. Haunted Theatres of Southwest Florida. Venice, FL: Historic Venice Press, 2009.
  • History. Venice Theatre. Accessed 31 March 2013.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part V

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.

Lee County

Opelika Chamber of Commerce
601 Avenue A
Opelika

Known also as the Whitfield-Duke-Searcy House for the three families that called this place home, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce may remain the residence of a child’s spirit. Stories from family members reveal that a child may have died in the house in the early 20th century. Chamber staff believes the child may still be in this 1895 home.

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

Some years ago, three employees witnessed a “bright flash of light” descend the home’s front staircase. Another staff member noticed child-sized footprints in the carpet on the back staircase when no children had been in the house. Chairs and other objects here sometimes playfully move on their own accord.

Sources

  • Hines, Nikolaus. “A young ghost toyingly haunts an old house.” Auburn Plainsman. 17 October 2014.
  • Lee County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Lee County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.
  • Mission and History.” Opelika Chamber of Commerce. Accessed 29 June 2015.

Limestone County

Houston Memorial Library
101 North Houston Street
Athens

On the morning of New Year’s Eve 1879, former governor George S. Houston awoke from sleep. At that time a senator representing Alabama in Congress, Houston called out, “John, bring me my shoes. I must return to Washington!” He then closed his eyes and passed away.

While Houston did not make it back to Washington, he is believed to remain in his former home. After Houston’s death, his wife lived here until her death in 1909. The house was turned over to the city for use as a library in 1936. One of the reminders that the library was once a former residence is the chiming of the grandfather clock. This chiming occurs on occasion though no grandfather clock exists in the building.

Governor Houston House, 1934, by W.N. Manning for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Two gentlemen within this building installing central air were bothered by something in the attic some years ago. As they worked, they continued to hear a rustling behind them. At one point both men saw something standing near them out of their peripheral vision. When they turned to look directly at the figure it vanished. Exasperated, the pair told the former governor firmly that they were doing no harm. The kindly spirit allowed them to continue unimpeded.

Sources

  • Black, Shane. Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town. NYC: iUniverse. 2009.
  • Rogers, William Warren. “George S. Houston (1874- 78).” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 21 April 2008.

Lowndes County

Marengo
100 North Broad Street
Lowndesboro

Lowndesboro remains a sleepy town, lost in the haze of its past. North Broad Street, lined with historic structures, many of which date to before the Civil War, is, despite its name merely a country road passing through the community. Among those grand 19th century homes is a transplant, Marengo, which was originally built around 1835 in Autauga County but moved here sometime between 1843 and 1847. If local tradition is to be believed, Marengo’s second owner, Dr. Charles Edwin Reese, is responsible for this remarkable collection of antebellum structures surviving the Civil War.

As General Wilson and his Union troops swept through this part of Alabama destroying anything of military importance as well as other property, Dr. Reese met with the general urging him to spare the town as it was suffering an epidemic of smallpox. To provide proof, Dr. Reese brought a patient with a serious rash. Though it was all a ruse, the general was convinced and spared the town.

It seems, however, that despite the good doctor’s work in the community, his wife Sarah was fearful whenever her husband was called out to visit a patient. She never felt safe in her home, regardless of the large, brass lock that her husband had installed on the front door. Like Sarah Reese, the wife of Lindsay James Powell, Jr., a subsequent owner of the home, also felt unsafe in the house. Powell bought a gun for his wheelchair-bound wife Kathleen’s protection and peace of mind. When, in 1961, Powell discovered his wife shot to death in her bed with the same gun at her side. Kathleen Powell’s death was ruled a suicide while evidence pointed to a possible murder.

Marengo, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Owners of the home since that time have heard the sound of a woman laughing. A psychic visiting the home confirmed that one of the spirits is that of Kathleen. Another psychic flatly stated that no one that had lived in the home had been happy adding that an additional female spirit haunts the home. The house was donated to the Lowndesboro Landmarks Foundation in 1975 and has been used as an events space for many years.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Places in the American South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Lowndesboro. 1 November 1973.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Macon County

Tuskegee National Forest

The smallest national forest in the country, Tuskegee National Forest was created from abused and eroded farmland purchased by the federal government at the height of the Great Depression. Consisting of nearly 11,000 acres, the forest provides recreational opportunities and conservation of natural habitat for the region.

During the Satanic worship scare of the 1980s, rumors spread that teens and young people were engaging in occult rituals deep in the forest here. Higdon and Talley note that some of the spirits raised by these rituals may remain in the more remote woods. Indeed, the forest may also be home to Sasquatch or Bigfoot, as well.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Tuskegee National Forest.” USDA Forest Service. Accessed 14 June 2015.

Madison County

Huntsville Depot
320 Church Street, Northwest
Huntsville

Huntsville Depot, 2010. by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Huntsville Depot has witnessed much of the panoply of railroad history in the area since its construction in 1860. The building has seen the tumult of the Civil War, and a changing transportation picture until its closure as a railroad depot in 1968. It now stands as a museum preserving one of the oldest rail depots in the nation.

As Union troops under Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchell swept through North Alabama in 1862, one of his primary objectives was Huntsville and its depot. With the city, Ormsby also captured some 200 ill and wounded Confederate troops. The soldiers were held on the depot’s third floor before being shipped to prisoner of war camps in the North. Graffiti covering the walls preserves some of the experiences of soldiers here.

Visitors and staff within the building have had a variety of experiences. A frequent visitor reported to Alan Brown that she felt a cold spot on the second-floor landing of the staircase. She also described how she and a group of reenactors watched an apparent Confederate soldier peer down at them from a third-floor window. Also on the third-floor, the bust of a Civil War soldier tends to turn on its own accord. A psychic passing through the building described a “cluster of ghosts” within the historic structure.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Gray, Jacquelyn Proctor. When Spirits Walk. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006.
  • Madison County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Madison County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
  • Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Marengo County

Gaineswood
805 South Cedar Avenue
Demopolis

Gaineswood can be considered a historical, architectural, and paranormal treasure. According to the home’s National Register of Historic Places nomination form, Gaineswood is considered by many authorities to be one of the grandest and most important American houses built in the antebellum era. Part of the home’s uniqueness is found in its innovative and extraordinary design, which was conceived and realized by the home’s owner and builder, Nathan Bryan Whitfield. A self-taught architect, Whitfield spent much of his time and energy constructing his magnificent Neo-Classical home starting in 1842 and finishing on the eve of the Civil War in 1861.

After having his fortunes nearly wiped out by war, Whitfield sold the home to his son who allowed it to deteriorate. During this time a tree took root in the floor of the dining room, and goats roamed the halls. The house was restored in the 1890s and passed through a few hands before being bought by the State of Alabama in 1966 and opened as a house museum in 1971. Gaineswood was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Gaineswood, 1939, by Frances Benjamin Johnston for the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Besides the architectural importance of Gaineswood, the house is home to a classic Alabama ghost story originally told by Kathryn Tucker Windham. Mrs. Windham contends that after Nathan Whitfield’s wife died, he engaged Evelyn Carter, the daughter of a U.S. Consul to Greece, to care for his children. The delightful young woman was educated, musically inclined, and added a cultural touch to the home and the children’s lives. Unfortunately, she was taken ill and died during a particularly harsh winter. Miss Carter had requested that her body be returned to Virginia where she could be buried in the family cemetery, yet the harsh winter weather would not allow that. Instead, her body was sealed in a wooden casket and placed underneath the stairs until it could be shipped home.

Soon after, Miss Carter’s unhappy spirit began to roam the house noisily expressing her displeasure. Eerie melodies were heard playing on the piano accompanied by the swish of rustling skirts and disembodied voices. Even after Miss Carter’s remains were returned to her home, the spirit has remained in residence, though sources argue if she may have finally left the house.

Sources

  • Hand, Janice P. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Gaineswood. 13 September 1971.
  • “The Haunts of Gaineswood Plantation.” Ghost Eyes Most Haunted Places in America <www.GhostEyes.com>. 4 August 2009.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Norman, Michael and Beth Scott. Historic Haunted America. NYC: TOR, 1995.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Marion County

Pikeville
Intersection of CR-21, CR-31, and CR-470

Little remains of the town of Pikeville, a small town built alongside the Jackson Military Road. The town served as the county seat of Marion County from 1820 until 1882, when the seat was moved to nearby Hamilton. The old county courthouse still stands, though it is now a private residence, and the town’s cemetery continues to memorialize the dead of Pikeville. This ghost town may also be populated with ghosts.

Sources

Marshall County

Main Street
Albertville

On April 24, 1908, a tornado roared through northeast Alabama killing some 35 residents and destroying a portion of Albertville including much of Main Street. According to Faith Serafin, there has been quite a bit of paranormal activity reported along Main Street including the spirit of a young boy in khaki knee-pants, a white shirt, and suspenders who has been observed running down the street at night. Residents have seen children wearing period clothing playing on the street in the evenings while business owners have reported the front doors of their businesses opening and closing on their own accord.

Main Street, Albertville, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

Mobile County

Phoenix Fire Museum
203 South Claiborne Street
Mobile

Originally located on Conti Street, the old Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company No. 6 building was a state of the art rehouse when it was constructed in 1858. Slightly more than a hundred years later, the neglected building faced demolition for the construction of the Mobile Civic Center. The building was saved by the Mobile Historic Preservation Society, dismantled, and moved to its current location where it now serves as a part of the Mobile Museum of History. Artifacts relating to the history of firefighting within the city are displayed here including antique firefighting vehicles. Not on display, but present within the old building, is a spirit that has been heard stomping around the second-floor and occasionally rifling through an antique secretary located there.

Sources

  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Monroe County

Rikard’s Mill Historic Park
4116 AL-265
Beatrice

Fleeting shadow figures have been spotted at this mill established in 1845. While the original structure is gone, the current mill, built in the 1860s, has been preserved by the Monroe County Museum. The mill has been probed by paranormal investigators, though little evidence of paranormal activity was uncovered.

Sources

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part IV

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

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and on Halloween of 2017, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

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

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

Geneva County

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

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

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

Sources

Greene County

Oakmont Bed & Breakfast
107 Pickens Street
Eutaw

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

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

Sources

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

Hale County

Moundville Archaeological Park
634 Mound State Parkway
Moundville

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

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

Sources

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

Henry County

Legend of Huggin’ Molly
Abbeville

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

Sources

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

Houston County

Columbia Manor
306 South Main Street
Columbia

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

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

Sources

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

Jackson County

Russell Cave National Monument
3728 CR-98
Bridgeport

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

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

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

Sources

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

Jefferson County

Bessemer Hall of History Museum
1905 Alabama Avenue
Bessemer

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

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

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

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

Sources

Lamar County

Old Stage Coach Inn
Jackson Military Road
Moscow

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Lauderdale County

Forks of Cypress
Jackson Road
Florence

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Lawrence County

Henry Hill
CR-25
Mount Hope

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

Sources

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part I

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.

Autauga County

Cross Garden
Autauga County Road – 86
Prattville

An odd collection of signs, crosses, and rusting appliances dots two hills along Autauga County Road 86; this is W. C. Rice’s Cross Garden, a testament to the South’s enduring religious fervor and one man’s personal religious devotion. After he was saved and healed of painful stomach issues in 1960, Rice began a journey to save those around him from eternal damnation. Created in 1976, the Cross Garden was maintained by Rice until his death in 2004.

Listed among Time Magazine’s “Top 50 American Roadside Attractions” in 2010, the Cross Garden has attracted a following fascinated with this place’s spiritual ambiance and the paranormal activity that supposedly permeates the area. There is a pair of visitors who claimed to have had their car held in place by an odd force. Others have heard strange sounds coming from some of the old appliances used in the display. Faith Serafin notes that in 2008 a man in a white robe seen stalking through the woods here.

Sources

  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Cruz, Gilbert. “Miracle Cross Garden, Prattville, AL: Top 50 American Roadside Attractions.” Time Magazine. 28 July 2010.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Baldwin County

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

Bay Minette Public Library, 2013, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is believed that the spirit of Bay Minette Public Library’s first librarian, Mrs. Anne Gilmer, is still on duty. A recent librarian encountered Mrs. Gilmer’s spirit while shelving books when she observed a book slowly pulling itself off a shelf and tumbling to the floor. This book was joined by others falling, by themselves, off the shelves. The librarian realized these books had been mis-shelved, and she returned the books to their proper places.

After her long tenure at the library, Mrs. Gilmer’s portrait was removed from its position above the library’s main desk. After some time, the portrait was returned to its original spot and employees began to notice the smell of roses. This same odor returns whenever something good happens in the library; perhaps as a sign of Mrs. Gilmer’s happiness. When the library was moved to the old Baptist church across the street, the librarian issued a verbal invitation for the ghost to join them in the new building just before workers moved Mrs. Gilmer’s portrait. When the elevator began to act strangely, librarians knew that Mrs. Gilmer was continuing her spectral duties in the new library.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Barbour County

Kendall Manor
534 West Broad Street
Eufaula

Crowning the hill of West Broad Street, Kendall Manor, with its white Italianate architecture and cupola resembles the front of a grand steamboat. It is certainly an architectural masterpiece among the hundreds of stately homes in Eufaula. The house, completed just after the Civil War, was constructed for James Turner Kendall, one of the few merchants and planters in the area whose fortune survived the war. A story circulated among the servants about a spirit that appeared near the house as a harbinger of bad luck. The Kendall family thought nothing of it until James Kendall’s manservant saw the spirit of a man in a gray uniform astride a white horse. Reportedly, James Kendall passed away the following day.

Kendall Manor, 2014, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

For many years, this grand house served as a bed and breakfast with a unique staff member. A spectral nursemaid, known as Annie, is apparently on duty and has often been spotted by the children in the house. One family member told of seeing the specter wearing a black dress and starched white apron scowling at him as he and his siblings raced their tricycles on the home’s veranda. It seems Kendall Manor has returned to being a quiet, private residence in recent years, so please respect the home’s occupants.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Kendall Hall. 24 August 1971.
  • Mead, Robin. Haunted Hotels: A Guide to American and Canadian Inns and Their Ghosts. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1995.

Bibb County

Brierfield Ironworks Historic State Park
240 Furnace Parkway
Brierfield

Founded by a group of local businessmen in 1862—as the Civil War was ramping up—the Brierfield Ironworks quickly attracted the attention of the Confederate Government which was interested in the high-quality pig iron produced here. During the war, the ironworks saw the production of about 1,000 tons of pig iron per year. Later in the war was Union General James H. Wilson swept through central Alabama, destroying targets of military importance, Brierfield was targeted and destroyed. Production resumed here after the war and continued until the ironworks was closed in 1894.

The ruins of the Brierfield Furnace by Jet Lowe. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, 1993.

In 1976, the county heritage association turned the ruins into a heritage park. Two years later, the state took over the park, moving several historic structures here including Mulberry Church, which arrived here from its original site near Centreville. Built in 1897, this church is where tradition holds that the daughter of a moonshiner eloped despite her father’s disapproval of her fiancé. At the completion of the couple’s vows, the bride’s father appeared, firing his gun into the church door. The bullet struck both the bride and her new husband who was standing behind her. As a reminder of this tragic incident, the bullet hole remains in the door while the living have encountered the specter of the young bride at the site of her death.

Sources

Blount County

Old Garner Hotel
111 1st Avenue East
Oneonta

Built in 1915, the John Garner Hotel was built to accommodate guests arriving in town via the train depot located nearby. The building now serves as home to several businesses that occupy the first floor of this three-story building. Southern Paranormal Investigators spent an evening in the building in 2007 and were awed by the “findings and activity detected” within. Occupants had reported the smell of brewing coffee and tobacco smoke while the sounds of furniture moving and papers shuffling have also been heard here when the building was empty. The paranormal investigation team captured a few EVPs and photographic anomalies leading them to conclude that possibly three different spirits are present in this old hotel.

Sources

  • Blount County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Blount County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. Paranormal Investigation Report on The Lobby. Accessed 29 November 2012.

Bullock County

Josephine Arts Center
130 North Prairie Street
Union Springs

The old Josephine Hotel is now home to the Josephine Arts Center. Built in 1880, the Josephine Hotel was a social center here in rural Southeast Alabama. Phantom odors of cigar and cigarette smoke are often encountered in this building along with the sounds of revelry from former patrons.

A 2012 investigation revealed some paranormal activity. At one point during the probe, members of the paranormal team witnessed an orb of light moving through a hallway which they captured on video.

Sources

  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Paranormal Investigation Report for the Bullock County Courthouse. Accessed 29 November 2012.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Tour of Union Springs.” Union Springs, Alabama. Accessed 25 January 2013.

Butler County

Consolation Primitive Baptist Church and Cemetery
Oakey Streak Road
Red Level

On the morning of February 16, 2015, this historic church was lost to a fire. Local officials suspect that the church’s status as a haunted place led vandals to torch the small, rural building. Legend speaks of this place being the scene of a panoply of paranormal activity including demon dogs, or hellhounds; a banshee; and apparitions.

Organized in the 19th century, the church has not had an active congregation for many years, though a few locals maintained the building and cemetery and defended them against the rising tide of vandalism that had begun to overtake it. Teens and amateur “ghost hunters” had damaged the building by burning candles inside, carving their names on the structure, breaking windows, and even painting a pentagram on the floor of the lonely church. The Andalusia Star-News reports that 13 people were arrested in 2007 for burglary and criminal mischief after the police investigated reported illegal activity here.

Local investigator and author Shawn Sellers visited the church with his team in 2013. Upon arriving, two carloads of teens also appeared at the site. The group found the church standing open and showing signs of vandalism. One group of teens brought a Ouija board and attempted to make contact with spirits (something I cannot condone or recommend). A short time later, a man with a flashlight accosted the investigators and mysteriously disappeared after they attempted to speak with him.

Legends surrounding the church include the appearance of a banshee who wails as an omen that someone in the church will die. The grounds of the church are supposedly the domain of red-eyed “hellhounds,” as well as Confederate soldiers, two ghostly children, and a haunted outhouse where those who enter may be locked in. In 2012 reporters from The Greenville Advocate investigated the grounds and encountered nothing. In an article about the investigation, reporter Andy Brown suggested that the stories about this location are merely urban legend. I would like to speculate that if there is paranormal activity here, it may have been drawn by irresponsible use of Ouija boards and rituals being performed here by amateurs attempting to summon spirits.

It is unknown if the loss of the church building has affected the spiritual activity here. Visitors should be warned to use extreme caution when visiting this location and to respect the site and the cemetery.

Sources

  • Bell, Jake. “The Church.” Shawn Sellers Blog. 18 January 2013.
  • Brown, Andy. “Butler County church haunted by tall tales.” Greenville Advocate. 5 October 2012.
  • Edgemon, Erin. “Church said to be haunted burns in Alabama.” com. 17 February 2015.
  • “Fire wasn’t first brush with vandalism for historic church.” Andalusia Star-News. 17 February 2015.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Peacock, Lee. “Bucket List Update No. 165: Visit Consolation Church in Butler County.” Dispatches from the LP-OP. 28 July 2014.
  • Rogers, Lindsey. “Haunted Butler County church destroyed by fire.” WSFA. 16 February 2015.

Calhoun County

Boiling Springs Road Bridge
Boiling Springs Road over Choccolocco Creek
(This bridge is permanently closed to traffic)
Oxford

Known locally as “Hell’s Gate Bridge,” local lore related that visitors to this bridge at night could stop in the middle of the bridge, look back over their shoulders and see the fiery gates of Hell. Other lore tells of a young couple who drowned in the creek here. A traditional ritual said that stopping your car in the middle of the bridge and turning o the lights could summon one of the two people who drowned here. A sign of their presence would appear in the form of a wet spot left on the back seat of the car.

This wooden-decked, steel truss bridge was constructed between 1890 and 1930 and closed permanently in 2005. The Oxford Paranormal Society investigated the bridge in January 2007 and encountered an armadillo that was very much alive; no paranormal evidence was captured. When visiting this site, use extreme caution as the bridge is no longer maintained.

Sources

Chambers County

Oakwood Cemetery
1st Street
Lanett

Within this relatively modern cemetery stands a child-sized brick house complete with a front porch and chimney. The grave of Nadine Earles is among the most unique grave sites in the region. When four-year-old Nadine became ill with diphtheria just before Christmas in 1933, the child’s father had been building a playhouse as a gift for his daughter. After the child passed away on December 18th, the decision was made to erect the playhouse on the little girl’s grave. The playhouse has been well maintained ever since and remains filled with toys.

While not officially haunted, a recent interview with a friend revealed that she had a hard time photographing the grave when she visited. Using a smartphone camera, my friend’s attempts to photograph the grave resulted in black photographs. However, once she stepped away from the grave, the camera functioned properly.

Sources

  • Interview with Celeste Powell, LaGrange, GA. 23 July 2015.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Alabama child’s playhouse mausoleum one of nation’s rare ‘dollhouse’ graves.” com. 5 June 2014.
  • Rouse, Kelley. “Little Nadine’s Grave.” Chattahoochee Heritage Project. 16 December 2011.
 

Cherokee County

Lost Regiment Legend
Lookout Mountain
Near the Blanche community

Extending from Chattanooga, Tennessee, through the northwest corner of Georgia, and into Alabama, the ridge of Lookout Mountain has played a prominent role in the history of the region. During the Civil War when its flanks were crawling with military activity, the mountain bore witness to several major battles and many skirmishes as the Union army attempted to extend its reach into the Deep South.

During this dark time, legend speaks of a group of Union soldiers getting lost in the mountain wilderness after a skirmish near Adamsburg, in DeKalb County. After retreating, the soldiers attempted to survive in the dangerous terrain. Fearful locals and enemy soldiers picked off a few of the men while others did not survive the harsh mountainous conditions. The last of these survivors was seen near the Blanche community in Cherokee County. Even decades after the disappearance of these soldiers, tales still circulate of sightings of the “Lost Regiment.” Others have discovered bootprints in the snow that suddenly stop, as if the men have vanished into thin air.

Sources

  • Hillhouse, Larry. Ghosts of Lookout Mountain. Wever, IA: Quixote Press, 2009.
  • Youngblood, Beth. Haunted Northwest Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2016.

Haunted Tennessee, Briefly Noted

Cherry Mansion
265 West Main Street
Savannah

The great Alabama storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, provides the account of three people who witnessed an odd event while sitting on the porch of the Cherry Mansion one evening in 1976. Around 11 PM, the trio watched as a man in a white suit and wide-brimmed hat approached the historical marker in front of the house. The man read the marker and then, in full view of the spectators on the porch, vanished.

haunted Tennessee Cherry Mansion Savannah Civil War
Cherry Mansion, 1974, by Jack Boucher for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The house is magnificently sited on an ancient bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. This home was constructed around 1830 by David Robinson, possibly as a gift to his daughter who was the wife of businessman William Cherry. An ardent Unionist during the Civil War, Cherry offered the use of his home to several Union generals in 1862 who used it in the days leading up to the Battle of Shiloh, which took place about 9 miles south of Savannah. General Charles Ferguson Smith, suffering from a recent leg injury passed away in the house during that time.

On the morning of April 6th, legend holds that General Ulysses Grant’s breakfast was interrupted by an overture of cannon-fire announcing the Confederates’ surprise attack on Union forces camped at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. Furious fighting over a sunken road where Union Generals Benjamin Prentiss and W. H. L. Wallace defended their position against heavy artillery fire from Confederate batteries gave a head wound to Wallace and the area to be nicknamed, “The Hornet’s Nest.” Wallace was taken to Cherry Mansion to receive medical attention.

Legend holds that Wallace’s devoted wife, Martha Ann, had received a premonition of her husband’s death and traveled to Tennessee in hopes that he was unharmed. Arriving in the midst of the battle, she was stunned to find that her husband had been wounded and took up residence at his side in Cherry Mansion. When her husband died a few days later, she was still at his side. People passing the mansion have reported seeing the form of a gentleman in a uniform looking out one of the upstairs windows. This form is widely believed to be that of General Wallace.

This home is a private residence.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • Charles Ferguson Smith. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 December 2017.
  • Cherry Mansion. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 December 2017.
  • Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
  • Hammerquist, Gail. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Cherry Mansion. February 1976.
  • West, Mike. “Tennessee home to tragic Civil War ghost story.” Murfreesboro Post. 26 October 2008.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of AL Press, 1977.

Cocke County Memorial Building
103 North Cosby Highway
Newport

This unassuming building in the small town of Newport in Eastern Tennessee bears the weight of a tragedy. The sadness of this tragic moment in the mid 1960s still echoes now, more than fifty years later.

haunted Tennessee Cocke County Memorial Building Newport ghosts
Cocke County Memorial Building, 2011, by Dwight Burdette. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Opened in 1931 as an American Legion post, the Cocke County Memorial Building was constructed to memorialize locals who had given their lives in the First World War. The building includes a gym with a stage, as well as office and meeting space for the post and the community at large.

On July 9, 1964, near the Cocke County community of Parrottville, a witness observed a plane with a “violet red light burning on the fuselage.” A short time later other witnesses saw the plane flying low with smoke trailing from it. The plane veered off course and crashed on a wooded mountain slope. Moments before the impact, witnesses observed something falling from the aircraft. A search revealed that one of the plane’s emergency exits had been opened and a passenger had fallen. That passenger, as well as the plane’s remaining passengers and crew, a total of 39 souls, perished in the accident.

As Newport had no large facilities to accommodate the remains of the 39 who had died in the accident, investigators and rescue personnel commandeered the Cocke County Memorial Building for use during the operation. Since most of the bodies were in pieces, remains were spread out on the gym floor to aid in identification. After studying the wreckage of the plane and the remains, authorities ascertained that a fire had broken out in the passenger compartment in mid-air. After two weeks, the investigators and the human remains left the Memorial Building, but spirits have lingered.

Author John Norris Brown, who once maintained the excellent blog, Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee (the website is no longer extant, though it can still be found on the Web Archive), was one of the first people to document this haunting in Newport. Though some of his facts about the plane crash were incorrect, he described some of the experiences visitors to the building have experienced: “[they have] felt presences, heard voices, as well as the screams of a woman, and the cries of babies. Feelings of being watched are said to be almost unbearable in the building.”

In an article in Supernatural Magazine, paranormal investigator Anthony Justus describes the experiences of him and his paranormal team during a 2008 investigation. While investigating the building’s sub-basement, Justus encountered an entity that he described as “an intelligence without form.” He eloquently continued: “I saw nothing, heard little but I felt it. A deep resonant cold that chilled me to the bone. I felt threatened and oppressed. As I left the area, I felt its heavy presence behind me, following up those rickety stairs, so close I could feel it on my neck. It was death, it was sadness and it was hate, a predatory thing that lurked in the darkness.”

Later, the team members found balls from a Bingo game being thrown from the bleachers in the gym, bouncing and rolling across the wooden floor. During this time, Justus caught a glimpse of a young boy standing in the corner of the room who disappeared as he approached. The most spectacular event of the evening was noted as being a moment when a set of doors that were locked violently threw themselves open gouging the plaster walls and cracking one of the wooden doors. It seems that the spirits from the plane crash are unhappy at being stuck in this plane of existence.

Sources

Cragfont
300 Cragfont Road
Castalian Springs

Cragfont was built to impress. Constructed of stone on a bluff over a spring that feeds into nearby Bledsoe’s Creek, this was the first stone house constructed on the Tennessee frontier. With craftsmen and artisans brought from Maryland, James Winchester began work on his home in 1798, finishing around 1802. Besides providing a fine home for his family, Cragfont served as a gathering spot for locals and as a stop for travelers.

haunted Tennessee Cragfont Castalian Springs ghosts
Cragfont, 2008, by Brian Stansberry. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

James Winchester was already an accomplished individual when he built his home, having served as a Patriot officer during the American Revolution. In the latter years of the 18th century, Winchester had served in the North Carolina Constitutional Convention and worked towards the establishment of the state of Tennessee, after which he served in the newly created legislature. During the War of 1812, Winchester left Cragfont to serve his country. He died here in 1826.

A home that has witnessed the whirlwind of history that Cragfont has witnessed must surely be haunted. Caretakers of the home have noted that furniture and objects apparently move during the night when the house is locked up, while beds will appear to have been slept in. Both visitors and staff have reported seeing apparitions and hearing disembodied footsteps and voices within the house.

Sources

  • Brown, John Norris. “Cragfont Mansion Hauntings.” Ghosts & Spirits of Tennessee. Accessed 31 January 2011.
  • Coop, May Dean. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Cragfont. 16 June 1969.
  • James Winchester. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 31 December 2017.
  • Morris, Jeff; Donna Marsh; & Garett Merk. Nashville Haunted Handbook. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
  • MTSU Center for Historic Preservation. Cragfont, Sumner County, Tennessee, Historic Structure Report. July 2012.

Hunt-Phelan House
533 Beale Street
Memphis

Legend holds that at the height of a yellow fever epidemic in 1873, the Hunt family fled their Memphis home after entrusting a chest of gold to a manservant, Nathan Wilson. Upon their return, Wilson was found dead in his room and the chest missing. The only clue to the whereabouts of the chest being mud on the servant’s boots indicating that he may have buried the chest. Stories have emerged that Wilson’s specter is sometimes seen around the house and will guide fortunate witnesses to the buried fortune.

haunted Tennessee Hunt-Phelan House Memphis ghosts
Hunt-Phelan House, 2010, by Thomas R. Machnitzki. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marking the Lauderdale Street end of the “infamous section” of Beale Street where Blues music first developed, the Hunt-Phelan House has just as infamous a history. Built in 1832 by George Wyatt, during the Civil War the house was used a headquarters for Confederate General Leonidas Polk while planning the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi and a few months later after the fall of Memphis, the house was headquarters for Union General Ulysses S. Grant while he planned the Vicksburg Campaign. The house then served as a Freedmen’s Bureau and was finally returned to the family by President Andrew Johnson in 1865. More recently, the house was operated as The Inn at Hunt-Phelan featuring four-star accommodations and restaurants.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
  • Lester, Dee Gee. “Hunt-Phelan House.” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
  • Lovett, Bobby L. “Beale Street.” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.

Orpheum Theatre
203 South Main Street
Memphis

At the other end of the “infamous section” of Beale Street from the Hunt-Phelan House is the dazzling Orpheum Theatre. Opened in 1928, the “New” Orpheum replaced the opera house that originally occupied this site from 1890 until its destruction by a fire in 1923. The Orpheum is among the ranks of hundreds of theatres throughout the country designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Rapp and Rapp, which designed hundreds of theatres throughout the country some of which, like the Paramount in Ashland, Kentucky; and the Tivoli in Chattanooga, are known to be haunted.

haunted Tennessee Orpheum Theatre Memphis ghosts
The proscenium arch of the Orpheum Theatre, 2010, by Orpheummemphis. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Grand Opera House was added to the Orpheum circuit in 1907. Made up of the finest theatres from coast to coast, the Orpheum circuit featured the top vaudeville headliners, bringing them to Memphis audiences for almost two decades. Following a performance by singer Blossom Seeley on October 17, 1923, the theatre was gutted by a fire causing approximately $250,000 (about $3.5 million in today’s dollars) in damage. A new, state-of-the-art theatre was constructed on the site opening on November 19, 1928. This new theatre continued to bring cream of the crop stars to Memphis as well as films, which were accompanied by a huge Wurlitzer organ.

As any good theatre has a ghost, it’s no surprise that the Orpheum features some very well-known ghost stories. Around the time that the theatre was sold to the Memphis Development Foundation in 1976, Vincent Astor, a local historian, took some friends to the theatre to show them the Wurlitzer organ. While the group was watching him play, someone asked about the little girl they observed playing in the lobby. Wearing a white dress, black stockings, and with long braids, but no shoes, this girl was repeatedly seen in the theatre sometimes sitting in a specific seat in the balcony.

During an investigation by a class from the University of Memphis, a Ouija board was used to contact the playful spirit. At that time, the spirit was identified as “Mary,” a little girl who died in 1921. In a video posted by the theatre, Astor relates that, including Mary, there may be as many as seven spirits within the theatre.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
  • Orpheum Memphis. “Orpheum Ghost Stories with Vincent Astor.” YouTube. 29 October 2012.
  • Orpheum Theatre (Memphis). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 January 2018.
  • Williamson, James Floyd, Jr. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Orpheum Theatre. January 1977.

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.

‘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 recycled pieces for Halloween.

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.

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.