Strange LaGrange: Ghosts, Legends, & Spirited History—A Walking Tour

There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in proportion.
–Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia,” 1838

The South is a very strange place. Even after years of researching and writing about the South, I continue to find masses of odd stories, not just from ghostlore, but stories regarding cryptids, UFOs, aliens, dreams, premonitions, and other high strangeness. While the South isn’t any more active than any other region in the world, it seems that Southerners, who are natural storytellers, have created a stranger version of their world through their storytelling.

Lafayette Square LaGrange Georgia
Lafayette Square in downtown LaGrange, Georgia. Photo 2012, by Rivers Langley, courtesy of Wikipedia.

My hometown of LaGrange, Georgia has its own strange and storied landscape. Growing up here, I heard stories and tales of haunted places, but was never able to confirm much of this. After starting this blog, I have pursued some of these stories, but rarely with much success. When I got the call from the director of the Troup County Historical Society several months ago, asking if I would be interested in creating this tour, I jumped at the chance. It has always been a dream to create a ghost tour locally, but I never had the backing of such an august group.

As cliché as it may be to say, this tour is a labor of love. Not only has led me to ponder local history, but my own personal history here, as well as reinforcing my love for this little West Georgia town.

The tour winds through downtown LaGrange stopping by a number of historic and haunted locales as well as other places of strangeness, which doesn’t just include ghostlore. During the mid-1990s, this area was the scene of a large number of UFO sightings, leading ufologists to dub it the “Troup-Heard Corridor.” During this time, locals not only witnessed strange things in the skies, a few even had some very close encounters with possible aliens.

Indeed, the strangeness also includes the discovery, in the late 1960s, of an ancient Sumerian tablet, now known as the Hearn Tablet. Discovered by a local housewife in her garden, this apparent ancient receipt in the form of a small lead tablet is certainly out of place and produces many questions as to how it ended up here in West Georgia.

Hearn Tablet ancient Sumerian tablet found in Troup County Georgia
The Hearn Tablet, an ancient Sumerian tablet found in Troup County, Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

From downtown, the strangeness extends all the way to the august halls of LaGrange College, the oldest private institution of higher learning in the state. Recently, a pair of young ladies were working in the college’s Smith Hall late in the evening. The first entered and was walking towards her office when she suddenly tripped over something. Looking around, she tried to identify what she had tripped over, but nothing was there. She realized that it felt as if someone had stuck their leg out to purposefully trip her. Shrugging off the incident, she continued to her office and set to work.

Smith Hall LaGrange College ghost haunted
Smith Hall ,LaGrange College, 2010, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The second young lady arrived a few minutes later, entering the office with a curious expression. She noted that she had had a strange thing happen to her on her way in, describing being tripped in the same manner that the first had. The pair returned to work, now wary of the prankster spirit that has haunted the halls of this building for years.

Stories have circulated for years about a spirit within Smith Hall, but many of the stories don’t exactly add up or stand up to historical scrutiny. Nonetheless, students and staff continue to have experiences here and within several other college buildings. All of these stories contributing to make LaGrange very strange.

Stops on the tour also include the LaGrange Art Museum, whose peculiar history I have examined closely in my article, “Its hideous use—LaGrange, Georgia.”

Strange LaGrange Tour Georgia ghost tour
The Strange LaGrange tour stops in Hill View Cemetery. Photo by Ashley Blencoe, courtesy of VisitLaGrange. All rights reserved.

The Strange LaGrange Tour steps off at 7 PM on Friday nights from the Legacy Museum on Main, 136 Main Street, in downtown LaGrange. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for kids ages 5-12, and can be reserved at the tour’s Eventbrite page. Each tour will last approximately 2 hours and will involve quite some walking, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Come walk with us!

 

“Its hideous use”—LaGrange, Georgia

LaGrange Art Museum
112 Lafayette Parkway
LaGrange, Georgia

N.B. Starting on Friday, June 7th, I will be giving ghost tours of my hometown, LaGrange, Georgia. “Strange LaGrange” will cover all types of oddities, ghosts, UFOs, and strange history throughout downtown. This location is one of the primary stops.

In the January 1, 1892 edition of the LaGrange Reporter, an article appeared hailing a new structure that would be constructed later that year; “the new building will be an ornament to the town – barring its hideous use – and an honor to the county.”

The phrase, “barring its hideous use” is quite curious, though apt when you consider that this building, now dressed in a penitent’s white, opened as the Troup County Jail. This building recalls the cruel history of executions at a time when they were carried out by local governments, rather than at the state level as they are now.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
The tower of the LaGrange Art Museum is popularly thought to have been used for executions, though executions were only conducted in the cellblock. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The Pauly Jail Building Company of St. Louis, Missouri, which today remains in the business of constructing correctional facilities, designed and built this jail along with hundreds of similar structures across the South and throughout the country.

The contract to build the jail was awarded in January of 1892 for the sum of $13,500. Construction likely commenced shortly thereafter and was completed by September.

To test the quality of the steel cells, the Troup County Commissioners summoned a machinist and tools from Georgia Tech to test the steel cells. The LaGrange Reporter notes that Mr. Frank Hudson “entered the steel cells with his compliment of tools, and, after boring, sawing and chiseling for two hours, without making an appreciable impression, desisted.”

interior Troup County Georgia stockade
The interior of the Troup County Stockade is likely similar to the interior of the jail. The sparseness of the facilities provides scant hope to the incarcerated. Photo by Snelson Davis, courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

On September 15th, the “county’s boarders,” as they were deemed by the paper, were moved into the new building. They were given haircuts, a bath, and new uniforms to correspond with their new quarters. The paper continues:

It was a gala day for these unfortunates, and they greatly enjoyed the change from the close, dark, and generally uncomfortable cells in the old structure to their bright, white, clean quarters in the new. It was like going into another and a better world, although they are more prisoners than before, so far as means of escape are concerned. They left their filth and much of their gloom behind. Light, air and larger space will make their confinement henceforth more endurable.

About five years after the jail opened, the Atlanta Constitution took the Troup County Commissioners to task in a brief article on January 1, 1898:

Recently, it has been published that the commissioners of Troup county, in order to provide against the public execution, and with the view of saving the city of LaGrange from the usual crowd which an execution draws together, decided to erect a gallows inside the jail building, where it would be in full view of the two condemned men who were to be hanged therefrom.

The LaGrange Reporter very sensibly urges the commissioners to meet and change this order, taking the ground that the prisoners have some rights as well as the citizens, and that they should not be compelled to pass several days in constant view of the dread instrument which is to execute the sentence of law.

It is hoped that the views of The Reporter will be listened to by the county commissioners, and that some other plan should be adopted. To have a private execution it is not necessary that the jail corridor be used.

[The “two condemned men” in this article were George Gill and Will Smith who were sentenced to death for murder. They were supposed to have been executed on January 7, but their sentence was suspended for 30 days, and later commuted to life in prison by the governor.]

The Troup County Commissioners did not take heed of the opinions of the LaGrange Reporter or the Atlanta Constitution and change their decision to hold executions inside the jail.

Troup County Jail LaGrange Georgia now the art museum
A view of the jail, probably in the 1920s. Photo by S. Hutchinson, courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

The first execution to take place inside this building was that of Edmund Scott, August 2, 1901. Scott, an African-American, was put to death for the deaths of Lena and Carry Huguley in West Point, Georgia (in southern Troup County) in 1900. He claimed the shooting was accidental and that one of the young ladies had been his sweetheart.

According to articles in both the LaGrange Reporter or the Atlanta Constitution, Scott was “ready to go.” During his confinement, he had met with pastors from the Methodist Church and the pastor of the Presbyterian Church met with him the morning of his execution. The Constitution provides a good description of the hanging:

The hanging took place inside of the jail at 12:18 o’clock. The gallows is built over the space between the iron cages and the brick wall of the building. Thirty or forty persons saw the hanging. Scott was dressed in a black suit with a standing collar and black tie. He walked up the ladder to the top of the cells without assistance and was calm. He had but little to say and spoke in a low voice. Rev. J. Kelsey, pastor of the colored Baptist Church, offered an earnest prayer. The black cap was then placed over his head. As the noose was being arranged Scott asked:

“Who is placing the rope about my neck?”

The sheriff’s deputy replied:

“Sheriff Brady.”

“The man,” said Scott, “who places the rope about my neck will die.”

The sheriff sprung the trap and Scott’s body went down. Death came in fifteen minutes and the body was cut down in sixteen minutes from the time it dropped. His neck was not broken.

The note that Scott’s neck was not broken is particularly cruel. The use of a drop in hangings is meant to provide a relatively quick and humane death to the condemned with the short, sharp, shock of a jerk of the rope. However, this requires some mathematical calculations involving the height and weight of the condemned and a specific length of rope. If the rope is too short, the condemned will strangle to death. If it’s too long, the condemned could be decapitated.

The next man to die here was Ingram Canady, Jr. who was executed here for the rape of a white woman. Canady, or Canida as his name is sometimes rendered, was hung March 20, 1908. His last words were recorded by the Atlanta Constitution:

I don’t know anything in the world about it; I am ready to meet death, and know my soul will be saved. I don’t know a thing in the world about the crime, and am innocent. All be good; expect to meet you in heaven.

Just before the trap was sprung he said, “The old Master will straighten all mistakes.”

The Reporter noted that again, his neck was not broken. Canady died of strangulation after sixteen minutes.

On January 2, 1909, Lucius Truitt was hanged for the murder of Dock Tatum during a robbery and home invasion. Walter Thomas died here on June 10 of the next year for the rape of a child.

The final man to die here was 22-year-old John Marvin Thompson, who was hanged in July 26, 1918 for the slaying of Troup County Sheriff William Shirey. The sheriff led a raid on an illegal liquor still in the southern part of the county. Thompson, who owned the still, opened fire on the raiding party and the sheriff was killed.

Before “a small crowd of friends of Thompson, his father, and the newspaper men,” Thompson ascended towards the fateful noose. His last words were recorded by the Atlanta Constitution:

I want all of you to know that I am dying innocent of what I am accused of. I have done things that I ought not to have done in my life, and God will forgive me for all I have ever done and take me home.

To his father he said, “Tell all of my people good-bye for me, papa.” His father responded, ““I am sorry for you, John; I wish I could go with you.”

The reporter for the Constitution notes that, “No struggle whatever occurred after the trap was spring, his neck evidently having been broken by the fall.” Thompson was the first and only white man hung in the county as well as being the last man to die a state sanctioned death in the jail. Several years later, the state revoked the privileges of localities to conduct their own executions and executions were removed to state correctional facilities.

With the construction of a new jail facility, the inmates were moved elsewhere in 1939, and the structure was converted to use as an office for the local newspaper, The LaGrange Daily News.” The building also served as a furniture store until the local Callaway Foundation granted funds to convert the building into an art facility.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
The jail probably around the time it ceased being used as a jail in 1939. Photo by S. Hutchinson, courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

I’m still trying to understand the original layout of the building. So far, research has pointed to this first section as being used as a residence for the jailer and his family. I have been told that there was no interior connection between the buildings, therefore to reach the cellblock, the jailer would have to leave his residence and use an outside door to enter.

It should be noted that there is no evidence that the building tower, which resembles a finger uplifted in moral admonishment, is not a “hanging tower.” In the newspaper accounts of executions in the building, all of the hangings took place within the cellblock, and not in the jailers’ personal space.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
Oblique view of the museum building. The section of the building in the foreground was added when the building was converted into a museum. The middle portion with the bricked up windows was the cellblock. The galleries now occupy that portion. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The second section contained the cellblock. This section was also two stories and prisoners were separated by race. Contemporary sources say that white male prisoners were held on the first level with women, juveniles, and people of color being held on the second. On a recent tour of the building, I was able to see the basement space located underneath this section. As we closely looked at the original brick walls, we were able to see names carved into the brick, perhaps by restless inmates.

The conversion to an art museum, reconfigured the building to include office space in the front section with connecting doors between the two buildings. In a space where inmates wiled away their sentences, visitors now contemplate works of art. Sighs of the condemned have been replaced with the joyful chatter of children enrolled in the museum’s educational programs. Growing up here, I spent time at the museum attending an arts camp and classes.

With my curiosity about ghosts, I’d always wondered if the museum was haunted. A co-worker reported to me that she had seen faces peering from the tower windows at night. When I worked for the LaGrange Daily News some years ago, I interviewed the museum’s director and asked about activity. She responded that there were often odd sounds, especially at night.

When I started work on my upcoming ghost tour of downtown, I talked with the current director. She shared with me that she would frequently smell the odor of tobacco smoke in the entrance hall of the museum, which is a smoke free facility and has been for many years. I also spoke with the maintenance man who said he regularly heard footsteps in the building when he was alone at night. He noted that he would walk throughout trying to find the source, but to no avail.

In preparation for my tour, I visited the museum with a sensitive friend. As we walked up the front steps he noted that there were three spirits in residence. Upon entering the gallery portion (which had once been the cellblock), he saw an African-American man standing against one of the walls. He attempted to communicate, but the spirit didn’t want to talk. Walking to the other side of the gallery, we felt a chill in the air where the sensitive detected the presence of a hunched back man.

We attempted communication with the first spirit again. This time, he was a bit more forthcoming and revealed that his cell had been at the back of the space. He proclaimed his innocence, saying that he was defending himself. Still, he was reticent to speak.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
Second floor of the gallery which occupies what was once the cellblock. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Heading to the second floor of the gallery, we encountered a feminine presence, which the sensitive noted was related to a man incarcerated here, “either a mother or an older sister.”

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
The old jail, now dressed in a penitent’s white, provides educational opportunities to many local children, some of whom are featured in murals that currently adorn the building’s brick wall. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This building, which once was so hideous, now rings with the chatter and laughter of children, or the silent contemplation of adult art patrons. It is my sincere hope that whoever the spirits are in this old building, they have finally found the peace.

Sources

  • “The Contract Given.” LaGrange Reporter. 8 January 1892.
  • “Edmund Scott Hanged.” LaGrange Reporter. 9 August 1901.
  • Hanging. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 May 2019.
  • Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Georgia: A Comprehensive Registry, 1866-1964. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2016.
  • “John Thompson hung for Murder of Sheriff.” Atlanta Constitution. 27 July 1918.
  • Johnson, Forrest Clark; Glenda Major, and Kaye Lanning Minchew. Travels Through Troup County: A Guide to its Architecture and History, LaGrange, GA: Family Tree,
  • “Negro Hanged at LaGrange.” Atlanta Constitution. 21 March 1908.
  • “New Jail Received.” LaGrange Reporter. 16 September 1892.
  • “Scott Hanged in LaGrange.” Atlanta Constitution. 3 August 1901.
  • “That Jail Corridor Hanging.” Atlanta Constitution. 1 January 1898.
  • “To Be Hung To-day.” LaGrange Reporter. 20 March 1908.

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—North of Broad

N.B. This article was originally published 13 May 2015 as a single, massive article. It’s now broken up into three sections, South of Broad, North of Broad, and Charleston Environs, which have all been rearranged and revised for ease of use.

Known as the “Holy City” for the number of churches and raise their steeples above the city, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its architecture, colonial and antebellum opulence, as well as its haunted places. This tour looks at the highlights among Charleston’s legends and ghostlore.

Broad Street cuts across the Charleston peninsula creating a dividing line between the most historic, moneyed, aristocratic portion of the city—located south of Broad—and everything else. For convenience, this tour is now divided into separate articles covering the area South of Broad, North of Broad, and the Environs. Locales in this article include places open to the public as well as private homes. For these private homes, please respect the privacy of the occupants, and simply view them from the street.

The tour is arranged alphabetically by street, with the sites in order by street address south to north and east to west.

Archdale Street

Unitarian Church and Churchyard
4 Archdale Street

A lady in white walks through the garden-like churchyard here. Over the years, a story has arisen identifying this woman as Annabel Lee, one of the loves of the great American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe. Poe did spend time in the Charleston area, and some believe that his poem, “Annabel Lee” may be based on an actual person. There is no historical connection that can be made with anyone buried in the churchyard.

This historic churchyard is one of the most magnificent places to sit and contemplate in the city of Charleston. Be sure to also see the interior of the church; the fan vaulted ceiling is magnificent.

interior of the Unitarian Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Interior of the Unitarian Church, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Workers of the Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.

East Bay Street

Southend Brewery
161 East Bay Street

As you pass the Southend Brewery, look towards the third-floor windows. Ill-fated businessman, George Poirer was looking through these windows as he took his life in 1885. His body was discovered hanging from the rafters here after being seen by a passerby the following morning. Poirer was upset over losing his fortune when a ship he had invested in burned on its way out of Charleston Harbor.

Southend Brewery Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Southend Brewery, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This building was built in 1880 for F. W. Wagner & Company. Paranormal activity has been reported throughout the building after its conversion to a brewery and restaurant. In addition to the occasional vision of someone hanging on the upper floors, restaurant staff and patrons have heard spectral voices and experienced odd breezes.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books, 2001.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Broad Street

Blind Tiger Pub
36-38 Broad Street

The Bling Tiger Pub occupies a pair of old commercial buildings which have served a variety of uses over the years. Number 38 served as home to the State Bank of South Carolina for many years, but the story of Number 36 is more interesting and has provided the strange name for the pub.

During the administration of Governor “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman (1895-1918), the state of South Carolina attempted to control the sale of alcohol. Throughout Charleston small establishments sprung up where the citizenry could, for a small admission fee, see a blind tiger, with drinks provided as compliments of the house. Number 36 housed one of these establishments; then during national prohibition, this building housed a speakeasy.

The pub is known to be inhabited by happy spirits according to a former employee. Patrons and staff have seen figures in the building while odd sounds have been heard. Staff closing the back porch have had the motion-activated light come on without anyone being present.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Charleston City Hall
80 Broad Street

Charleston City Hall ghosts haunted
Charleston City Hall, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Charleston’s marvelous city hall was originally constructed as a branch of the first Bank of the United States in 1800. In 1818, it was transformed into city hall. Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a native of Louisiana, was in charge of the city’s defenses during the attack on Fort Sumter, the battle that started the Civil War. He returned later in the war to command the coastal defenses for the Deep South. According to Tally Johnson, his spirit has been seen prowling the halls of this magnificent building. One of Beauregard’s homes, now called the Beauregard-Keyes House, in New Orleans is also the home to spirits.

Sources

  • Johnson, Tally. Civil War Ghosts of South Carolina. Cincinnati, OH. Post Mortem Paranormal, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. 

Calhoun Street

Joe E. Berry Hall – College of Charleston
162 Calhoun Street

This modern building stands on the site of the Charleston Orphan House, which was built in 1790. A story is commonly related that the orphanage was the scene of a fire in 1918 that killed four orphans, though there is no documentary evidence of this. The orphanage was torn down in 1951 and a commercial building erected on the site. After the construction of Berry Hall, the building has been plagued with fire alarm problems. Even after replacing the system, the problems persist. Additionally, there are spectral sounds heard within the building, including voices.

Joe Berry Hall College of Charleston ghosts haunted
Joe E. Berry Hall, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.

Chalmers Street

Old Slave Mart
6 Chalmers Street

Old Slave Mart Museum Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Old Slave Mart Museum, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Now a museum devoted to the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this building was originally constructed in 1859 to house Ryan’s Mart, a slave market. The last slave sales occurred here in 1863, but the misery induced by those few years of sales remains. According to Denise Roffe, museum employees have had run-ins with shadowy figures throughout this building.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Pink House
17 Chalmers Street

Pink House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Pink House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This quaint house is among the oldest buildings in the city, having been constructed around 1712. It is believed to have housed that was owned and operated by female pirate Anne Bonny. Geordie Buxton suggests that the feminine spirit here may be her shade.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie. “You are here.” Charleston Magazine. October 2013.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Church Street

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street

The spirited and storied Dock Street Theatre is covered in depth in my article, “Phantoms of the Opera, Y’all—13 Haunted Southern Theatres.”

St. Philips Episcopal Church
146 Church Street

With a commanding view of Church Street, it’s hard to miss St. Philips. The building’s massive portico protrudes into the street and the steeple acts as a stern finger warning the city of the wages of sin. The clean and stringent Classical lines of the church seem to set the tone for the remainder of the city. The first structure on this site was a cypress building constructed in 1682. It was replaced in the early 18th century with an English Baroque church. After the Baroque church’s destruction by fire in 1835 the current building was built. Because of its architectural and historical importance, St. Philips is now a National Historic Landmark.

St Phlips's Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
St. Philip’s Church, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Around this church lies an ancient churchyard that serves as the final resting place for many prominent Charlestonians and a stopping point for numerous ghost tours. To address the ghost tours, just inside the gate to the left of the church building is a small sign stating, “The only ghost at the church is the Holy Ghost.” One of the more recent paranormal events took place in 1987 when a photographer snapped a few pictures just inside the gate. When the pictures were developed, he was shocked to see the image of a woman kneeling on a grave. Further research has indicated that the grave is that of a socialite who had passed nearly a century before. The photograph was taken on the anniversary of her death. 

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Our History.” St. Philip’s Church. Accessed 22 February 2011.

Bocci’s Italian Restaurant
158 Church Street

One evening as staff members were cleaning up in the second-floor dining room. One of them saw someone who they thought was the kitchen manager crouched by one of the walls. He called the manager’s name and got no response. As he approached the figure, the staff member realized that it was someone else and the figure was transparent. Perhaps the figure may be one of people killed in this building during a fire in the 19th century.

Bocci's Italian Restaurant Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Bocci’s, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
All rights reserved.

This building was constructed in 1868 by the Molony family who operated an Irish pub on the ground floor. When Governor Tilman attempted to control alcohol sales in the state (see the entry for The Blind Tiger Pub on Broad Street), the family converted the pub into a grocery with a small room in the back for illegal alcohol sales.

Reports of paranormal activity in the building mostly come from the second and third floors where doors open and close by themselves, voices are heard and there is mysterious rapping on doors.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub
160 Church Street

Tommy Condon's Irish Pub Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

On the floor around the bar of this Irish pub, a metal track still runs reminding visitors of this building’s original use: as a candy factory. According to Denise Roffe, this building is apparently a warehouse for ghosts. She notes that a certain section of the restaurant feels very uneasy to guests and staff alike, while the women’s restroom and the kitchen also play host to spirits. 

Sources

  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010. 

Old Charleston Ghost Shop
168 Church Street

Sadly, this store is now closed, but it was a great place for all things creepy in Charleston. Of course, the shop also had some mischievous spirits that are reported to pull pictures from the walls, rummage through the cash drawers left over night, and cause the occasional spectral racket.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.

Cunnington Street

Magnolia Cemetery
70 Cunnington Street

In the mid-19th century, this cemetery, located outside the bulk of the city of Charleston, became the primary burying ground for the best of Charleston’s citizens. Denise Roffe reports that there are some wandering spirits among the magnificent funerary art here. See my post, “Locked In,” for further information.

Grave of Rosalie Raymond White in Magnolia Cemetery Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Grave of Rosalie Raymond White in Magnolia Cemetery. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Elizabeth Street

Aiken-Rhett House
48 Elizabeth Street

According to Jonathan Poston’s The Buildings of Charleston, this estate is considered “the best-preserved complex of antebellum domestic structures” left in Charleston. The house remained in the family as a residence until it was donated to the Charleston Museum in the 1970s. Since its opening as a museum, the house has been left as is with conservation work done only to prevent deterioration.

This house was constructed in 1817 for merchant John Robinson; but following a financial reversal the house was purchased by William Aiken, Sr., founder and president of the South Carolina Railroad. Aiken’s son renovated the house and added a series of outbuildings including slave quarters to accommodate his many slaves. It is noted that by the eve of the Civil War, Governor William Aiken, Jr. was the largest slave owner in the state.

Aiken-Rhett House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Aiken-Rhett House, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Within the slave quarters, two visitors encountered an African-American woman who disappeared in the warren of rooms on the second floor. A pair of architects within the house in the late 1980s saw the image of a woman in a mirror sobbing and silently screaming in the ballroom of the house. Others within the house have taken photographs with possible paranormal anomalies. 

Sources

  • Aiken-Rhett House Museum.” Historic Charleston Foundation. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books, 2001.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Hassell Street

Jasmine House Inn
64 Hassell Street

The only documented paranormal incident to take place in this 1843 house is rather humorous, though I’m sure the businessman involved did not see it that way. A gentleman staying in the Chrysanthemum Room some years ago awakened to find the apparition of a woman within his room. When he tried to leave the room, she blocked his way and shredded his newspaper. The guest was able to get to the phone and call the front desk to summon the manager. When the manager arrived, the shaken guest was alone in the room, but his mail had been tossed about and his newspaper lay in pieces on the floor.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Ward, Kevin Thomas. South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.

King Street

Charleston Library Society
164 King Street

Having been organized in 1748, the Charleston Library Society is the third oldest private library in the country. Built for the library in 1914, some believe that spirits that dwell among its highly regarded stacks. William Godber Hinson, whose precious collection is housed here, may still remain among his books. One librarian reported to the Charleston Mercury that she saw a bearded gentleman in period clothing near the Hinson stacks. Other librarians in the area have experienced sudden blasts of icy air and heard the sounds of books moving.

Sources

  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
  • Salvo, Rob. “Legends and ghoulish traditions of the Library Society. Charleston Mercury. 11 April 2011.

Riviera Theatre
225 King Street

This Art Deco landmark opened in 1939 and closed as a cinema in 1977. After being saved from demolition in the 1980s, it was purchased by the Charleston Place Hotel which uses the space as a conference center and ballroom.

Riviera Theatre Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Riviera Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Denise Roffe writes that during the theatre’s renovations, a worker had tools disappear only to reappear some days later in the exact spot where he had left them. She also mentions that a young woman touring the building had an encounter with a spectral cleaning woman. She only realized the woman was a ghost when she realized the figure was transparent.

Sources

  • Riviera Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Urban Outfitters
(formerly the Garden Theatre)
371 King Street

Walk in to this store and look up at the magnificent ceiling. This building was once the Garden Theatre, a vaudeville theatre built in 1917. The theatre was restored in the 1980s as a performing space, though most of the fitting were removed when the building was converted for commercial use in recent years. The spirit of an African-American man, possibly a former usher, has been seen here.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books, 2001.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Francis Marion Hotel
387 King Street

The most commonly told legend about this early 1920s-era hotel involves a young businessman from New York City. In 1929, after meeting and falling in love with a lovely lady from Charleston, Ned Cohen asked to be assigned to South Carolina by Florsheim Shoes. The young lady visited him at the hotel but left while he was asleep leaving a note saying that she could not carry on the relationship. In grief, he tucked the note in his suit pocket and jumped from his room to die on King Street below.

rion Hotel Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Francis Marion Hotel, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Guests in Ned Cohen’s former room have reported the window opening by itself. Cohen’s distraught form has been seen in the halls of the hotel while others have been disturbed to see someone falling past their windows. When they look out, everything is normal below. James Caskey reports that a search for documentation to back up the story has proven fruitless.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. 

Magazine Street

Old City Jail
21 Magazine Street

In recent years, this formidable building has become a mecca for ghost hunters and tours. Sadly, much of the legend surrounding the old jail is either exaggerated or total bunk. While many deaths likely occurred here, the number of 40,000 used by many guides is highly inaccurate. Also, the stories told about the crimes and execution of Lavinia Fisher are mostly fictional. Yes, Lavinia Fisher was held here, and she and her husband were executed, but her crimes and rebellious demeanor on the gallows are the product of fiction. If Lavinia Fisher does haunt this place, it is likely only in an attempt to clear her sullied name.

I have covered the jail in two articles: one looks at a televised investigation, and the second recounts my own tour of this most haunted building.

North Market Street

Mad River Bar & Grille
32 North Market Street

Mad River Grill Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

 

The Church of the Redeemer was constructed in 1916 to replace the Mariner’s Church that was damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1886. Services in the church ceased in 1964 and the building became a restaurant. Evidently, the spirits residing here do not approve of the building’s use as a restaurant. Bottles behind the bar have been thrown off the shelf and broken and electrical problems often occur with the restaurant’s system and computer systems. 

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Meeting Street

Mills House Hotel
115 Meeting Street

The current Mills House Hotel is a reproduction of the original that was constructed on this site in 1853. By the early 1960s, the building was in such a severe state of disrepair that the original had to be torn down and replaced with a reproduction. The spirits don’t appear to really know the difference and continue their residence.

Mills House Hotel Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mills House Hotel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Denise Roffe reports that several children’s spirits have been reported here along with the specter of a man in a top hat. Confederate soldiers have also been seen prowling the corridors, hearkening back to the hotel’s use as a base for Confederate forces during the Civil War.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Dyas, Ford. “See the real ghosts at these haunted hotels. Charleston City Paper. 24 October 2012.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010. 

Circular Congregational Church
150 Meeting Street

The long span of Meeting Street was named for the Congregational meeting house that has been located on this site since the 1680s, shortly after Charleston’s founding. The Romanesque Revival church dates only to 1891, while the cemetery surrounding it includes some of the oldest graves in the city.

Circular Congregational Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
The Circular Congregational Church, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Many graves are unmarked and, according to the Bulldog Ghost & Dungeon Tour, many more lie under the adjacent bank parking lot. Numerous ghost tours pass by through this ancient place. The entry on the churchyard in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places reveals that witnesses report orbs, strange mists, apparitions ,and voices under the cemetery’s ancient oaks.

Sources

  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted places in these Carolina towns. Dispatch-Argus. 10 October 2010.
  • Davis, Joanne. “Circular Church Cemetery.” in Jeff Belanger’s The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page, 2005.
  • Mould, David R. and Missy Loewe. Historic Gravestone Art of Charleston, South Carolina 1695-1802. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2006.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
  • Zepke, Terrence. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

Meeting Street Inn
173 Meeting Street

The Meeting Street Inn was one of the first bed and breakfasts to open in this city during the tourism boom of the 1980s. Guests staying in Room 107 have been awakened to the specter of a woman, while Room 303 has had its deadbolt lock while guests are out of the room.

Sources

  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Ward, Kevin Thomas. South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.

Charleston Place Hotel
205 Meeting Street

When construction commenced on the Charleston Place Hotel it replaced a number of historic structures that were demolished. Denise Roffe mentions a number of odd occurrences happening to guests and staff alike throughout the hotel. These occurrences include mysterious footsteps, knocking on doors, and apparitions.

Sources

  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Embassy Suites—Historic Charleston Hotel
337 Meeting Street

Dominating one side of Marion Square, the Embassy Suites hardly looks like a typical chain hotel. This building was constructed as the South Carolina Arsenal in 1829 following the 1822 slave insurrection led by Denmark Vesey. The South Carolina Military Academy was founded here in 1842. Renamed The Citadel thanks to this formidable structure, the school moved to its present site on the Ashley River in 1922.

Embassy Suites Charleston SC formerly SC State Arsenal and The Citadel ghosts haunted
Entrance to the Embassy Suites, 2014. Photo by Niagara, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Guests and staff members of this hotel have encountered the spirit of a Citadel cadet who remains in this building. He appears dressed in the school’s military uniform, one that has remained unchanged from its original appearance. The only detail that indicates to the living that this is a ghost is the fact that the top of this young man’s head is missing.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Old Citadel. 16 May 1970.
  • South Carolina State Arsenal.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.

Montagu Street

Benjamin Smith House
18 Montagu Street, private

This late 18th century home sustained damage during a hurricane in 1811. Legend holds that as the chimney collapsed, the enslaved woman who served as a nanny to her owner’s children shielded them from the falling bricks with her body. She was killed as the bricks pummeled her, but the children were saved. This home has since been divided into apartments and College of Charleston students living here have encountered the enslaved woman several times.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Queen Street

Philadelphia Alley
Between Cumberland and Queen Streets

The name Philadelphia, meaning “brotherhood,” contradicts this space’s occasional use as a dueling site. The sounds of dueling remain here accompanied, according to some reports, by a faint, spectral whistling. It was here that the duel of Joseph Ladd and Ralph Isaacs commenced in October of 1786. The whistling has been attributed to Ladd’s sad spirit continuing to haunt the spot where he was mortally wounded. Spectral whistling is also heard in his former home, the Thomas Rose House at 59 Church Street, which is detailed in the South of Broad section.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Poogan’s Porch
72 Queen Street

Poogan, a local canine, adopted the porch of this restaurant as his home around the time this house was converted into a restaurant. Upon his death, the restaurant owners afforded him a prime burial spot just inside the gate. One author witnessed a child playing under his parent’s table one evening. The way the child was laughing and cavorting with something unseen, the assumption was made that the child may have been playing with the spirit of Poogan.

While Poogan remains a playful resident, it is the spirit of Zoe St. Armand who dominates this restaurant. St. Armand was one of a pair of spinster sisters who lived here for many years. The wraith of Zoe has been spotted in the women’s restroom and lingering at the top of the stairs by patrons and staff alike.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Husk
76 Queen Street

Now housing Husk, one of the more exclusive restaurants in the city, this Queen Anne styled house was built in the late 19th century. James Caskey published the account of a couple who saw a small, fleeting black shadow while dining here. Husk has recently opened a location in Savannah in a haunted building.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

82 Queen
82 Queen Street

For 33 years, 82 Queen has been serving some of Charleston’s finest meals in its 11 dining rooms. The restaurant utilizes a building built in 1865 where diners and staff have reported fleeting glimpses of apparitions. James Caskey in his Charleston’s Ghosts interviewed a former server who reported that she “once walked through a shadow which dissipated around me like smoke.” 

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014. 

Pinckney Street

Andrew Pinckney Inn
40 Pinckney Street

Occupying a pair of historic structures at the corner of Pinckney and Church Streets, the Andrew Pinckney Inn has been described as “mind bending” after dark; with a plethora of odd noises and movements. However, the spirits are known to be friendly.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Wentworth Street

1837 Bed & Breakfast
126 Wentworth Street

A specter recalling Charleston’s infamous, slave-holding past is said to haunt the rooms of this bed and breakfast. Legend holds that the spirit, affectionately named George, was enslaved by the family that originally constructed this house. After his parents were sold to a Virginia planter, the young George remained here. In an attempt to reach his parents, George stole a rowboat but drowned in Charleston Harbor.

The story cannot be corroborated, though the spirit’s antics continue. Patrons have reported feeling small feet walking on their beds sometimes accompanied by the sound of a whip cracking. One couple had the doors to their armoire open and close on their own accord throughout the night.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.

Haunted Virginia, Briefly Noted

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

Aquia Church
2938 Jefferson Davis Highway
Stafford

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

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

Sources

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

Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Island

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

Assateague Island Lighthouse Virginia ghost haunted
Assateague Lighthouse, 2007, by DCwom, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

Bacon’s Castle
465 Bacon’s Castle Trail
Surry

Bacon's Castle Surry Virginia ghost haunted
Bacon’s Castle, 2006, by Yellowute, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

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

Sources

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

Belle Isle
Richmond

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

Belle Isle Richmond Virginia ghost haunted
Belle Isle, 2012, by Morgan Riley, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

Michie Tavern
683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Michie Tavern Charlottesville Virginia ghost haunted
Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

Monticello
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Monticello Charlottesville Virginia ghost haunted
Monticello, 2013, by Martin Falbisoner, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

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

Abijah Thomas House Marion Virginia ghost haunted
Octagon House, 2007, by RegionalGirl137, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

Old ’97 Crash Site
Route 58 and Riverside Drive
Danville

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

Wreck of the Old '97 Danville Virginia ghosts haunted 1903
The wreck of the Old ’97, 1903.

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

Sources

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

Rosewell
5113 Old Rosewell Lane
Gloucester

Rosewell ruins Virginia ghosts haunted
Rosewell ruins, 2002, by Agadant, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

Haunting Legislation–West Virginia

West Virginia State Penitentiary
818 Jefferson Avenue
Moundsville, West Virginia

N.B. According to this article from WTOV, the language in these bills covering the leases on the WV Penitentiary has been removed and the leases will remain in place in their current forms.

The biggest news in the Southern paranormal world in the past few days has been two pieces of legislation currently wending their way through the West Virginia state legislature. The bills, House Bill 4338 and Senate Bill 369, would terminate the current lease of the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville held by the Moundsville Economic Development Council (MEDC). Furthermore, it would restrict leases to five years and allow the state to terminate a lease at any time. This threatens the use of the prison for tours, events, paranormal investigations, and seriously damages tourism in the northern region of the state.

The West Virginia State Penitentiary as seen from atop the Grave Creek Mound, 2016. Photo by Rhonda Humphreys, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The stern, Gothic edifice with a commanding view of the Ohio River has dominated the literal and economic landscape of the region for more than a century and a half. From its construction following the end of the Civil War, through years of housing the most dangerous inmates in the state and 94 executions, prison breaks, riots, and finally decommissioning in 1995 the Moundsville prison has been a major economic driver for the area. After the prison’s closure damaged the local economy, the Moundsville Economic Development Council signed a lease with the state department of corrections to employ the massive sandstone fortress in the tourism industry.

The MEDC opened the site for tours and eventually rolled out the red carpet for those wishing to explore the darker, paranormal side of the building. Paranormal television spread the gospel of the tremendous activity found throughout the building. Over the years, hundreds of investigators have walked among and interacted with the numerous spirits that continue to roam the halls of the West Virginia Penitentiary. In short, the site has become a paranormal mecca.

Several books have been written about the haunted prison including two excellent books by West Virginia investigator and writer Sherri Brake, and several articles by local paranormal blogger and investigator Theresa Racer. It should be noted that few hauntings become as well-known as to garner a single book, much less more than one book and numerous articles.

Despite all this interest, and the work conducted by MEDC to bring people to this often ignored region of West Virginia, legislators have not provided a reason for the inclusion of this action in the bills. In fact, there are a couple legislators who are working to remove the language regarding the prison from the bill. The bills are necessary to reform the state department of corrections, which is woefully in need of change; however, this change needs not have such a detrimental effect on the tourism industry in Moundsville.

Theresa Racer’s coverage of the WV State Penitentiary on her blog, Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.

Sources

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part II

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. 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 County-Cherokee County) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Chilton County

Refuge Bridge
County Road 32 over Walnut Creek
Clanton

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

Sources

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

Choctaw County

Tombigbee River
Near Pennington

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

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

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

Sources

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

Clarke County

Mount Nebo Cemetery
Mount Nebo Road

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

Sources

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

Clay County

Hudson House (private)
Ashland

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

Sources

Cleburne County

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

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

Sources

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

Coffee County

Old Coffee County Jail
329 Putnam Street
Elba

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

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

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

Sources

Colbert County

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

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

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

Sources

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

Conecuh County

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

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

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

Sources

Coosa County

Oakachoy Covered Bridge site
Covered Bridge Road
Equality

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

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

Sources

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

Covington County

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

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

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

Sources

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

A haunt in Hamilton County, Florida

Old Hamilton County Jail
501 Northeast 1st Avenue
Jasper, Florida

When it closed in 1984, Jasper, Florida’s Hamilton County Jail was the oldest operating jail in the state. In the 91 years it was operational, this building witnessed tremendous tragedy and sadness, such emotion that imprinted itself on the walls of the structure. Even before its closure, ghost stories about the jail circulated throughout Hamilton County, in fact, the National Register for Historic Places nomination form mentions that the building has a haunted reputation within the local folklore

Old Hamilton County Jail, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built by the Pauly Jail Company, a St. Louis-based company that constructed jails throughout the country, the jail in Jasper includes a tower suitable for carrying out justice. The historians who wrote the National Register nomination weren’t sure if executions had actually been conducted within the building, though local rumors insist to that fact. Local historian Johnny Bullard stated in a 2014 article that three people met their fates here. He further notes that one or two of these executions were among the last hangings east of the Mississippi.

A 2016 article quotes the president of the Hamilton County Historical Society as saying that no executions took place within the walls of the buildings, but that gallows were constructed for that purpose outside the building. Notice of a 1916 execution at the jail appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. Interestingly, the paper did not use the name of the criminal, only addressing him as “the murderer of Deputy Raiford Royals,” “the condemned,” and “black man.” While noting that the execution took place on a specially constructed scaffold outside the jail, the article remarks that there was some joy during this most somber of occasions: “As the fatal moment drew near he [Walter Durham, the condemned] laughed and joked with his executioners—smiling even in the very face of death. He claimed he was ‘right with God,’ and was ‘going yonder’—pointing upward. He then asked the negroes present to sing a hymn, himself joining in, and the large crowd was curiously quiet while the mournful dirge floated on the passing breeze.”

After being allowed to pen a brief letter to his parents in Hahira, Georgia, the noose was adjusted around his neck and Mr. Durham called for one of his ministers to pray with him. That minister had departed, but a white minister, the Reverend W. B. Tresca of the local Methodist church stepped forward to offer a prayer. The sheriff stepped forward and “launched the soul of the murderer into eternity.” The National Register form offers that Durham’s execution may have been swift and public because of the local outcry over Deputy Royals’ death.

In addition to executions, it is also noted that several other deaths occurred here including a suicide. However, the wife of a deputy sheriff who lived here gave birth to both of her sons in the building, adding some moments of levity to the building’s dark history.

Old Hamilton County Jail, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Investigators have been combing the jail for years looking for evidence of paranormal activity. Newspapers have documented some of the encounters that have occurred here. In 2010, a female investigator entered a bedroom that had once housed members of the warden’s family and sensed a spirit. She told the Gainesville Sun that she felt “a strong pressure on my shoulders and chest. And then my stomach starts to turn and I get this tingling feeling in my legs.”

Historian Johnny Bullard demurred when asked if he had personally had any experiences within the jail. He visited the old jail once with a friend late at night. He told the Suwannee Democrat, “I heard something. I saw something that moved…like a shadow, and I didn’t stick around. It was frightening enough to me that I did not stay around.” He continued, saying that others have heard some frightening sounds including voices and footsteps in the empty building.

Sources

  • Arteaga, Allison. “Paranormal investigators help North Florida.” Gainesville Sun. 16 October 2010.
  • Bulger, Peggy & Larry Paarlberg. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Old Hamilton County Jail. 16 May 1983.
  • Northeastern Florida Paranormal Investigators. Investigation Report for Old Hamilton County Jail. September 2010.
  • “Public execution of a negro at Jasper.” Tallahassee Democrat. 17 September 1916.
  • Taylor, Joyce Marie. “A spooky time at the haunted old jail in Jasper.” Suwannee Democrat. 23 October 2014.

A Calhoun County haunt, finally!

Old Calhoun County Jail
20830 Northeast W.C. Reeder Drive
Blountstown, Florida

When I was working on part two of my series on Florida Hauntings, County by County—Part II, I ran into a problem that has persistently plagued me: I had information on a haunting, but it was far too little. For several years, the sheriff of Calhoun County, Florida has opened the old jail in Blountstown as a haunted attraction to raise money for charity. Articles covering the event have hinted at actual paranormal activity in the jail, but none have specifically discussed the activity, until this Halloween.

Old Calhoun County Jail, by Forrest Granger, circa 1940. From the Forrest Granger Collection, www.floridamemory.com.

In a November 1st article for the Panama City ABC affiliate, WMBB, a former jail chief reported that the jail is “haunted by trouble.” The jail chief began working at the facility in 1984 and during her tenure the sheriff shot and killed an inmate in the building. “The sheriff shot him, and the place [the bullet hole, presumably] is still in the wall. He got to the top of the steps and he died,” the retired jailer noted.

After that incident, the jailer began to see “mysterious movements” while on her rounds through the building. One evening, she reached the top of the steps and heard the sound of a door slamming. Calling another officer, he investigated but was not able to locate the source of the sound.

Old Calhoun County Jail, 2015, by Jimmy Emerson. Courtesy of Flickr.

The old jail was constructed in 1920 and served the local sheriff until 2007. A few years ago, the sheriff came up with the idea of taking people through the building for a few scares as the “old jail is scary on a regular day.” According to the sheriff, this haunted jail event will open the building to visitors for future Halloween.

Sources

 

‘Empty, save the memories’–Louisiana

Beauregard Parish Jail
205 West First Street
DeRidder, Louisiana

Joe Genna’s last hours were full of pain and misery just as the last moments of J. J. Brevelle’s life had been. On the fateful evening of August 28, 1926, Genna and Molton Brasseaux robbed and beat Brevelle, a 43-year-old cab driver, on the outskirts of DeRidder and dumped his body in a mill pond. As he awaited hanging within the Gothic confines of the Beauregard Parish Jail, Genna tried to take his own life by swallowing several poison pills. The Shreveport Times takes up the story:

Genna, pale and haggard and apparently deathly ill from the effects of the several poison tablets he swallowed in his cell Thursday night, required the assistance of deputy sheriffs to walk from his cell to the death chamber. The deputies supported him while he stood to make his statement of repentance and express willingness to die. Friday he repented of his act for having attempted to take his life.

The paper notes that at 12:54 on Friday afternoon, March 9, 1928, Genna “mounted the scaffold at the Beauregard parish jail and was dead five minutes later of a broken neck. Molton Brasseaux walked to the same scaffold to meet his death about twenty minutes later.”

The hangings of Genna and Brasseaux took place under the auspices of the stumpy Gothic central tower of the Beauregard Parish Jail. While the “Collegiate Gothic” architecture of the building has been deemed the most fanciful of all the jails in the state, it still lends a cruel sense of ominousness to the building squatting on its haunches next to the proudly standing Beaux-Arts courthouse. Under the jail’s foreboding tower, a circular staircase rises with cells off each round. Hangings could be conducted here allowing for the whole of the jail’s population to witness the death-drop of the convicted. This horrifying feature was used this one time, though it did lend a nickname to the building, the “Hanging Jail.”

Beauregard Parish Jail, 2005. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

For a little over a hundred years these two siblings, the beautiful courthouse and the ugly jail, have existed side by side. Constructed for the newly established Beauregard Parish in 1914, the courthouse continues to operate while the jail is vacant, save for tourists, spirits, spirit-hunters, and memories, having been replaced by a new facility in 1984.

The day of the hanging in 1928, schoolchildren were witness to a pair of black wicker coffins being carried from the jail, though the pair of convicts may not have left spiritually. In 2006, the state’s most notable paranormal investigative organization, Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, explored the jail. The group did detect some activity that was unexplained as well as having some personal experiences hearing footsteps and flowing water. During their second investigation, the group’s report notes that many of the windows are open thus allowing ambient noise from the street to filter in, which may be mistaken for paranormal activity.

More recent investigations have captured even more compelling evidence. During one investigation, an investigator asked “Do you know that you’re dead?” and recorded the response, “I’m alive. I’m alive.” A photographer taking photos of the jail a few years ago may have captured the image of a jailer sitting on the porch. Starting last year, the jail has been opened at night during the Halloween season allowing visitors to explore the building in the dark.

Scribbled on the wall of a cell, graffiti reveals that at least one inmate expected to remain in this dark place forever: “Here inside these chambers of death I will dwell forever more. I lost my heart, my mind and my soul just because of a bolted door.”

Sources

Florida Hauntings, County by County—Part II

This is part two of a project to examine a ghost story from every single county in Florida.

See part I (Alachua-Brevard Counties) here.
See part II (Broward-Clay Counties) here.

Broward County

Stranahan House
335 Southeast 6th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale

View of the Stranahan House from the New River, 2010. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

When viewed from the New River, the Stranahan House is nestled among many large buildings, an apt context for the site from which this city sprang. Frank Stranahan moved to Florida in 1893 to operate the ferry across the New River here. He also built a trading post to encourage trade with the Seminole Indians who lived on the opposite shore. After marrying the local schoolteacher, Ivy Cromartie, Stranahan eventually constructed the current house in 1901 as a wedding gift. The house served as an office for Stranahan’s many business interests as well as a family home for many years until a series of events in the 1920s began to sap his business interests.

In 1926, Florida was struck by a massive hurricane that moved ashore near Miami resulting in hundreds of deaths and striking a tremendous blow to business interests throughout the state. Saddled with financial ruin and a diagnosis of prostate cancer—which was untreatable at the time—Frank Stranahan attempted suicide. As a result, Stranahan was confined to a local sanitarium. With his death being imminent, his wife wrote to the sanitarium pleading for her husband’s release so he could die at home. Once he was finally released, Stranahan could not find his way out of the abyss of depression and not long after his homecoming, he chained himself to a sewer grate and threw himself into the river. Despite valiant attempts to rescue him, Stranahan drowned.

Ivy Stranahan continued living in the house and filled its rooms with borders to make ends meet. Continuing her husband’s community activism, Stranahan worked to build Fort Lauderdale into a modern and vibrant community. Eventually, she rented out the first floor of the house as a restaurant while continuing to live on the second floor. She died in 1971 and left the house to her church who eventually sold it to the local historical society. The house was restored as a house museum in the early 1980s and is open to the public.

The house remains the home of Frank and Ivy Stranahan who are still very much spiritually in residence along with several other spirits including a small Seminole girl who collapsed and died at the front door. The house has opened at various times for ghost tours. In 2003, an article in the local paper described the spooky experiences a group of schoolchildren had on a tour, “”Some smelled perfume, the eyes in Frank’s portrait downstairs moved, laughter came from the vents in the dining room, and one child felt someone tap him on the shoulder when he was upstairs.” An article from later that year recounts that docents in the house have experienced doors opening and closing by themselves, beds being found in disarray moments after being made, and the odor of lilac perfume believed to be one of Ivy Stranahan’s favorite.

Sources

  • Carr, John Marc. Haunted Fort Lauderdale. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2008.
  • Kneale, Dennis. “Campaign planned to save historic Stranahan house.” Fort Lauderdale News. 13 August 1981.
  • LeClaire, Jennifer. “Stranahan House gets in the Halloween spirit.” Sun-Sentinel. 24 October 2003.
  • Wallaman, Brittany. “Putting tourists in good spirits.” Sun-Sentinel. 1 September 2003.

Calhoun County

Information on a Calhoun County haunt was not available when this article was first created. I have recently explored the haunting of the Old Calhoun County Jail in Blountstown.

Charlotte County

Indian Spring Cemetery
5400 Indian Spring Road
Punta Gorda

The resting place of the 20th governor of Florida and founder of Punta Gorda, Albert Gilchrist, Indian Spring Cemetery was laid out by him on land donated to the city by city councilman, James Sandlin. A nearby spring feeding into Alligator Creek may have been used by Native Americans, thus the name. Over its nearly 150 years of existence, more than 2000 souls have been laid to rest here under the moss-draped oaks.

Paranormal activity here consists of audio phenomena with sounds of weeping, wailing heard within the empty cemetery. Cemetery lights, a phenomenon where orbs of lights are scene around burial locations, have also been experienced here. Dave Lapham includes the experience of a local who, while walking with her mother and her dog, witnessed orbs of light floating about three to four feet above the ground. Fearing the lights, the group fled.

Sources

  • Charlotte County Government. “Indian Spring Cemetery.” Accessed 4 September 2017.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.

Citrus County

Crystal River Archaeological State Park
3400 North Museum Point
Crystal River

The Crystal River on Florida’s west coast is one of many natural wonders in the state. Fed by warm waters from some 30 natural springs, the Crystal River is known for its large numbers of West Indian Manatees who luxuriate in the gently heated water. On the river banks, Native Americans built their own utopia, the remains of which are preserved in Crystal River Archaeological State Park.

Sunlight falls on one of the mounds at Crystal River Archaeological State Park, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This state park encompasses a complex of six mounds that include burial mounds; middens, or refuse mounds; and platform mounds atop which high-status officials may have lived. Among the mounds are two remarkable steles, or stone monuments, one of which features the crude likeness of a human face. Steles are generally regarded as a feature found among the civilizations of Central America, and very rarely found among North American civilizations.

For her 2004 book, Finding Florida Phantoms, Kathleen Walls spoke with a ranger who reported that voices had been heard among the mounds when no one was present, and some apparitions have apparently been spotted here as well.

Sources

  • Cox, Dale. “Crystal River Archaeological State Park—Crystal River, Florida: Prehistory on the Crystal River.” com. Accessed 5 September 2017.
  • Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida’s Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.

Clay County

Old Clay County Jail
21 Gratio Place
Green Cove Springs

The Florida Times-Union has deemed the Old Clay County Jail to be a place where it is always Halloween. Paranormal investigators have deemed the building to be one of the most active that many of them have seen.

Built by the Pauly Jail Company in 1894, the building saw its last inmate in 1972. The building now serves as home to the Clay County Archives. Like most corrections facilities, this building has seen the worst of society and a number of tragedies in its long history. Among the tragedies was the assassination of a sheriff, an inmate suicide, five executions and another suicide on the front lawn.

Old Clay County Jail, 2010. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Reports of activity from the jail include voices, apparitions, and hair-pulling. Activity has become so well known that the Clay County Historical Archives website features a page describing the haunted conditions of the building.

Sources

  • Buehn, Debra W. “Old Clay County Jail stars in Local Haunts’ TV show Sunday.” Florida Times-Union. 1 April 2010.
  • Clay County Historical Archives. Ghosts in the Old Jail. Accessed 9 October 2014.