Firehouse phantom—Lexington, Kentucky

Fire Station #4, “Vogt Reel House”
246 Jefferson Street
Lexington, Kentucky

N.B. This article was originally published 14 May 2013 as part of “From the Archives—Kentucky Briefs.”

The firemen working out of Fire Station #4 have adopted a ghost as their mascot. Painted on the side of the station’s fire truck is a skull wearing a fire helmet and the words, “The Phantom.” Indeed, the station staff does not shy away from their resident spirit, and even the Lexington City Government webpage detailing the fire department’s facilities mentions the spirit.

The oldest firehouse in the city, the building recalls an era when government buildings were elegantly ornamented and sometimes extravagantly designed. The 1904 building utilizes Jacobean Revival style and retains some of its interior elements including a cast iron spiral staircase fire pole, though a truck now occupies the space where horse stalls once stood. The station’s façade now bears the building’s nickname, the “Vogt Reel House,” name for a former city commissioner who donated the land the station sits upon.

Fire Station #4 Lexington Kentucky Vogt Reel House
Vogt Reel House, 2015, by Todd F. Niemand, published under a Creative Commons License, courtesy of Flickr.

Firefighter Henry McDonald was nearly 70 years old, but still on duty on Christmas Day in 1945. World War II, the most devastating war in history had ended just a few months previous when Japan surrendered in August. He had lived to see two world wars dominate the headlines of the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader (these papers would merge in 1983 to become the Lexington Herald-Leader).

That Christmas Day, he peacefully drifted off the sleep in the firehouse and would not wake. He was laid to rest in Winchester Cemetery down the road from Lexington.

At some point after McDonald’s death, things seemed to indicate that his spirit had taken up residence in the old firehouse. Some heard the sound of heavy boots treading the iron staircase while unexplainable cold breezes were felt. McDonald’s beloved cane-bottom rocking chair was even heard rocking by itself in the attic. While the activity sometimes chills firefighters working in the building, the spirit has earned their respect and affection. An article from the local NBC station, notes that McDonald’s spirit “is a pretty good ghost. So good he has earned a bump in rank.”

The firehouse’s captain remarked, “He has been promoted and now they call him The Captain.”

Sources

The battlefield ghosts of Blue Licks–Kentucky

Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park
10299 Maysville Road
Carlisle
 

Located on the Licking River, the Lower Blue Licks were a mineral spring and salt lick where immense herds of buffalo gathered before they were driven from the area. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 ended fighting in the east, the British and loyal Native Americans continued fighting in the west, particularly in western Virginia, the area that is now West Virginia and Kentucky. After British troops under the leadership of Captain William Caldwell and a contingent of Native Americans unsuccessfully laid siege to the settlement of Bryan Station, on August 19, 1782 they attempted to lure a small militia led by Colonel John Todd (an ancestor of first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln) and famed frontiersman, Lt. Col. Daniel Boone.

The remains of a buffalo path at the Blue Licks Battlefield, 2009. Photo by Mason Brock, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Though the leaders of the patriot militia suspected they were being led into an ambush, Major Hugh McGary mounted his horse and stubbornly rode into the enemy trap. A 15-minute battle commenced killing Col. Todd and Lt. Col. Stephen Trigg and many of their men. Only Boone’s small force was left on the battlefield and, after he ordered a retreat, his son Israel was shot in the neck and killed. The death of Boone’s son and his defeat at Blue Licks would haunt him for the rest of his life.

During the 19th century, the springs attracted visitors wishing to take advantage of the mineral water found in the springs here. The Great Depression brought the construction of a Pioneer Museum here and lodge.

A monument at the Blue Licks Battlefield, 2010. Photo by SuzRstamps, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The multiple layers of a history here have left a varied group of ghosts throughout the park. Campers have encountered a mysterious black-clad woman who appears by campfires to warm her hands. Others have experienced Native American spirits and spectral British soldiers. The founder of the park’s museum was buried next to the building and is known to continue welcoming guests to his museum. Within the park’s lodge, the doors of the dining room are reported to open and close on their own accord.

Sources

  • Battle of Blue Licks. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 April 2018.
  • Morgan, Robert. Boone: A Biography. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2008.
  • Ross, Denita. “Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park’s First Ever Paranormal Weekend.” Fantasma: Kentucky’s Magazine of the Paranormal. Fall 2006.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Sipping with Spirits—Louisville, Kentucky

This article is the first in a series highlighting haunted bars throughout the South. 

META
425 West Chestnut Street
Louisville, Kentucky

The clump of three commercial structures on West Chestnut Street in downtown Louisville could not be more disparate; a delicate Beaux-Arts commercial building stands with an English Tudor structure with an unremarkable and squat building separating the two. The English Tudor building, which seems to be a transplanted British pub, is now occupied by META, one of Louisville’s best-known “upscale dive bars.” The unremarkable building in the middle appears to be occupied by a tattoo parlor, while the tallest building in the group is a strip club.

Opening on December 5 (Prohibition Repeal Day), 2013, META specializes in unique takes on classic cocktails in an atmosphere that hearkens towards sophistication and seediness. META’s location, two doors down from a strip club, and a former strip club, the Show-n-Tell Lounge, adds to the bar’s sense of seediness. According to Thrillist, the spirit of a former dancer remains in the building, perhaps reminding staff and patrons of the building’s darker past. The apparition of this young woman has been seen gliding through the back hallway and some staying late in the bar have reported an uneasy feeling permeating the air. The identity of this young woman is unknown.

In 1912, the Courier-Journal reported on a dinner held at Kerner’s restaurant at this address: “Two dozen adherents of the Prohibition party, half of them women,” met to organize the county’s first Prohibition organization. So, if you encounter a wraith at META, she may be down for a dance or upset at your imbibing.

Louisville Courier-Journal, 17 March 1934.

While I haven’t been able to determine when the building was constructed, there are many clues scattered in the pages of the local paper. A camera shop, Schuhmann’s Click Clinic, occupied the building in the last three decades of the 20th century; while an exterminating business operated here in the latter part of the 1930s. In 1934, a tailor’s shop at this site was the scene of a suicide when a man shot himself in the head in a wash room. Perhaps this poor gentleman’s spirit remains here?

Sources

Belle of the Boos—Louisville, Kentucky

Belle of Louisville
401 West River Road
Louisville, Kentucky

After the ball is over, after the break of morn,
After the dancers leaving, after the stars are gone,
Many a heart is aching if you could read them all,
Many the hopes that have vanished after the ball.
–Charles K. Harris (1891), classic American Vaudeville song

On nights after the Belle of Louisville has pulled back into the 4th Street Dock and its passengers have disembarked; the ship’s crew has reported that things sometimes get weird. Shadows and apparitions have been seen; disembodied footsteps and voices have been heard all by crewmembers working after hours.

The Belle of Louisville on the Ohio River in the evening, 1972. Photo from the National Archives.

Built in 1914 in Pittsburg as the Idlewild, the Belle of Louisville has served for more than a century as a day packet, ferry, and excursion boat. For decades, the ship provided transportation and pleasure cruises for citizens up and down the Mighty Mississippi and other major rivers. Since the early 1960s, the ship has served the city of Louisville, its purchase and rechristening an attempt to reconnect the city to the river. The ship has been named a National Historic Landmark as one of the last remaining steamships of its type in the country.

Several sources note that the ship is not haunted, at least according to official sources. In 2013, the ship and its sister life-saving station, the Mayor Andrew Broaddus, were featured on an episode of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters. This first public excursion into the ship’s tragic history included a nod to one of the ship’s former captains, Ben Winters. The captain of the ship in the years following World War II, Winters was overseeing the ship when it was raided after authorities were tipped off about illegal slot machines aboard. Winters was struck with a heart attack as a result of the raid and passed away a short time later.

It is believed that Winters’ spirit may remain aboard the ship. One former employee reportedly saw a full apparition of Winters some years ago. While working alone in the ship’s office, the employee looked down to file some papers. When he glanced back up he was face to face with the late Captain Winters. For several seconds, the employee stared at the dead man overcome with a sense of fear before the spirit faded from view.

The Belle of Louisville on the Ohio River at dusk, 1972. Photo from the National Archives.

The episode also uncovered the sad story of “Floyd,” a crewmember allegedly sent to his death by Winters. Legend holds that Winters had a disagreement with a crewmember whom he sent to work on the ship’s paddlewheel. While the man worked, the captain ordered the ship’s boilers to be fired and to head out full steam ahead. The paddlewheel was engaged with the crewmember still on it. The poor man was mangled and drowned in the churning machinery. The spirit of this crewmember may be among the spirits that have not left the ship.

The Belle of Louisville, 2006. By Bo, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Author and tour guide Robert Parker had a terrifying experience while touring the Belle of Louisville on a cold night in September of 2003. After a short tour, Parker and his companion were allowed to explore the ship. The pair stepped into one room where they noticed an uncanny chill. As they began to leave, Parker spied a diamond ring almost hidden in the room’s paneling. He jokingly slid it on his finger and was overcome with a chill. Quickly, he removed the ring and returned it to its ledge in the paneling. Continuing out onto the deck of the ship, Parker and his companion again felt a serious chill near the ship’s calliope. After their experience, the pair learned that a crewmember had been stabbed to death in that area.

Beware, if you find yourself aboard the Belle of Louisville after the ball, you may encounters some of the specters that continue to lurk on the steamer.

Sources

  • Foster, Kevin J. Nomination Form for the National Register of Historic Places for Belle of Louisville. 10 April 1972.
  • Louisville Ghost Hunters Society. “Belle of Louisville,” in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2005.
  • Parker, Robert. Haunted Louisville. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2007.
  • Season 9 Episode 5 Recap: ‘All Ghosts on Deck.’SyFy. Accessed 16 April 2018.

Eight-sided Spirits–Kentucky

Octagon Hall
6040 Bowling Green Road
Franklin, Kentucky

Andrew Jackson Caldwell began this unique plantation home in Franklin, Kentucky in 1847 completing it in 1859 on the eve of war. Kentucky was literally the birthplace of the Civil War being the birthplace of both Lincoln and his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis, but initially, with the secession of its Southern neighbors, the state attempted to remain neutral. When the Confederate army invaded the state and occupied Columbus, Kentucky on the Mississippi, all hell began to break loose. A Confederate shadow government was created to oppose the Unionist state government already in place and the state joined the Confederacy in December of 1861. The provisional capital at Bowling Green had to be evacuated the following year and some eight to ten thousand fleeing soldiers camped on the grounds of Octagon Hall, February 13.

Octagon Hall, 2008, by Kentondickerson. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The pursuing Union army swept through the plantation two days later and while they controlled the area, frequently searched the grounds for hidden Confederates. Wounded soldiers, knowing of the Caldwell’s pro-Confederate leanings, sought out the house as a hiding place. A story told by the Caldwell family involves soldiers being hidden in the cupola that once topped the house. Mr. Caldwell kept bees in the cupola and Confederates would be dressed in bee suits and hidden there. When Union troops would search the house they wouldn’t enter the cupola because of the bees.

There is apparently a host of spirits at Octagon Hall. The suggestion has been made that the building’s unusual shape may exacerbate the hauntings as well as the limestone brick that the house was constructed with. At least one Confederate soldier died in the house when he was shot by Union troops. His apparition has been seen by the director of the Octagon Hall Museum, though he may also be the culprit behind the body-shaped impressions left in beds, footsteps heard throughout the house and doors opening and closing by themselves. This soldier is joined by the Caldwell’s young daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who died in the 1860s when her dress caught fire while she was playing in the kitchen. Her apparition has been seen and heard throughout the grounds of the house with one paranormal group capturing a marvelous A-class EVP of a child calling, “mommy.” A search of YouTube reveals a number of videos of investigations of this unusual house.

Sources

  • The Civil War Years. The Octagon Hall Museum & Kentucky Confederate Studies Archives. Accessed 30 November 2010.
  • Episode 2. “Octagon Hall.” Most Terrifying Places in America, Season 7. Travel Channel. Originally aired 22 October 2010.
  • Kentucky in the American Civil War. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.

‘Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants

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

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

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

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

Sources 

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

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, Kentucky

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

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

Sources

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

Old Louisiana State Capitol
100 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth, Mississippi

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

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

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

Sources

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

North Carolina Zoological Park
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, North Carolina

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

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

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

Sources

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

Carter House
1140 Columbia Avenue
Franklin, Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Rockledge Mansion
440 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia

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

Rockledge Mansion by AlbertHerring, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources 

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

Berkeley Castle
WV-9
Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Castle by Jeanne Mozier. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

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

Sources

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

The Siren of Pope Lick Trestle—Kentucky

Pope Lick Trestle
Over Pope Lick Road and Pope Lick Creek
Jeffersontown, Kentucky

The ghastly siren of Pope Lick Trestle has claimed yet another victim. The terror experienced by a young couple from Ohio while visiting this lonely railroad trestle is unimaginable. The couple was exploring the paranormal wonders of Louisville, of which there are many, and expected to tour Waverly Hills Sanitarium last Saturday evening. While trespassing at Pope Lick in search of the famed Pope Lick Monster or Goatman the couple was caught in the middle of the railroad trestle by an approaching train. The female was struck, thrown from the trestle, and killed. Her boyfriend was able to hang from the trestle until the train passed.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus encounters the Sirens, beautiful maiden-like creatures who lured sailors to their death with their enchanting song. It seems the Pope Lick Monster is a variation of the sirens. In this case however, the monster lures teens with the thrill of viewing his ghastly form and when they walk the trestle in search of him some of them have been killed by a train on this busy thoroughfare.

The legend of the Pope Lick Monster is, like most urban legends, rather hard to pin down. The tales appear to have begun circulating in the mid-20th century. At that time, the trestle was a remote place where local teens would congregate to party and “neck” (in other words, to make out or have sex in the parlance of the period). Perhaps it is one of these teens who first saw the mysterious creature described as being half-human and half-sheep or goat. David Domine, a local writer, historian and expert on area legends and lore describes him as having muscular legs “covered with course dark hair. He’s got the same dark hair on the parts of his body. His face is alabaster they say and he has horns as well.” 

The Pope Lick Trestle over Pope Lick Creek, 2013, by David Kidd. From Flickr.

Some descriptions state that the creature uses hypnosis or other mind-altering methods to lure victims onto the trestle. Other stories note that he uses mimicry to recreate the voice of a child or loved-one. Once on the trestle, it’s too late for the victim to escape a passing train. Perhaps nowadays with the preponderance of thrill-seekers especially looking for paranormal thrills, just the thought of seeing the Goat Man’s visage is enough to lure the unwary.

Since the late 1980s, the siren of the trestle has claimed its fair share of victims. A young man died from injuries sustained in a fall from the trestle in 1987. The next year a young man was killed here in February. In 2000 local headlines note another young man killed after falling from the dangerous trestle. With the most recent victim, that makes four, though I suspect there may be more that didn’t immediately appear in newspaper searches. The trestle was constructed in 1929 and there may have been many deaths here over the years.

The exact identity of this murderous creature is also hidden in lore. Some stories make the connection between this creature and the Goatman that haunts the woods of Prince George’s County, Maryland. That creature is supposed to have escaped from a Beltsville, MD government lab, though the creature must do quite a bit of traveling between the two locations. Other stories indicate that the Goatman is the product of an illicit relationship between a local farmer and a member of his flock. Still other stories note that there may have been some type of Satanic ritual involved. The tale of a traveling circus involved in a railroad accident near here tells of the escape of a freak from the car carrying the circus’ freak show is also mentioned as an explanation for the monster here.

In 1988, Louisville filmmaker Ron Schildknecht premiered his short film, The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster. Norfolk Southern immediately expressed concern that the film might encourage locals to trespass on the trestle. Schildknecht added a note about this to the film to appease the railroad. It does appear that the film and the ensuing controversy served to stir up interest in the legend and perhaps add a bit to it.

Walking along railroad tracks, bridges, and trestles is considered trespassing. While these places are seemingly open to the public, they are private railroad property. The young woman killed at Pope Lick isn’t the isn’t the first ghost hunter or legend tripper killed on railroad property in recent years. In 2010, as a group of ghost hunters explored Bostian Bridge near Statesville, North Carolina, a train appeared and one of the young men was struck and killed by it. The victim pushed a young woman to safety and she was injured in the fall. This group of ghost hunters were looking for the ghost train that is known to appear here reliving the horrific train crash that occurred here in 1891.

Pope Lick Trestle may be safely viewed if one travels down Pope Lick Road. A walking trail also parallels the road and passes under the trestle as well. Do not trespass on the trestle! If you hear the siren call of the Goat Man of Pope Lick Trestle, shut your ears and leave the area, he may be calling you to your death.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Bluegrass State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • Bryant, Judy. “Trestle of death: Film depicting legend stirs fear of life imitating art.” The Courier-Journal. 30 December 1988.
  • Bryant, Judy and Lisa Jessie. “Film puts Pope Lick trestle” fatal attraction in the spotlight.” The Courier-Journal. 4 January 1989.
  • Gast, Phil. “’Ghost train’ hunter killed by train in North Carolina.” 28 August 2010.
  • Gee, Dawna. “Numerous urban legends tell of Louisville’s Goat Man.” WAVE3. 9 May 2014.
  • Holland, Jeffrey Scott. Weird Kentucky. NYC: Sterling, 2008.
  • Kuwicki, Holden. “Local legend may have contributed to Pope Lick death. 25 April 2016.
  • Strikler, Lon. “The Pope Lick Monster’s Deadly Trestle.” Phantoms and Monsters Blog. 30 May 2014.
  • Tangonan, Shannon. “19-year-old does after falling from railroad trestle.” The Courier-Journal. 7 November 2000.
  • Wilder, Annie. Trucker Ghost Stories. NYC: Tor, 2012.
  • Yoo, Sharon and John Paxton. “Coroner: Woman killed by train while investigating ‘goatman’ myth.” KLTV. 23 April 2016.

A Southern Feast of All Souls—Feast Wrap Up

The feast is done, the table has been cleared, the guests have left, the spirits have quietly returned to their rest, and the veil between our world and the next has been restored. This season has been great for articles about the haunted South so, I’m wrapping up this Southern Feast of All Souls with a look at some of the new (to me) haunted places that were covered in the news media.

 

Colby Building
191 North Foster Street
Dothan, Alabama

An investigator from Circle City Ghost Hunters said of the Colby Building in downtown Dothan, “Somebody once upon a time put their heart and soul in the building.” Perhaps that soul is still here. According to an October 29th article in the Dothan Eagle, this group investigated the building after numerous reports of paranormal activity in the building surfaced.

While working on my recent book about haunted Alabama, I had a heck of a time trying to find anything on the Dothan area. As the seventh largest city in the state by population, there should be more information on hauntings in the area, sadly there was nothing reliable. Therefore, I was rather excited to see this article appear. The Colby Building was built in 1938 as a J.C. Penney’s Department Store and has since hosted a number of businesses. The building was redeveloped by a private/public partnership in 2008 and currently houses two restaurants, Colby’s on North Foster Street and Bella’s in the back of the building on West Troy Street.

Employees and guests have had experiences in the building including things moving on their own and seeing figures. Others have had their names called and the employees have nicknamed the spirit “’Rachel’ because all kinds of crazy stuff happened.” (I’m presuming this a reference to the television show Friends.) The owner of the restaurants was delighted to host an investigation when Circle City Ghost Hunters inquired about investigating there. The article notes that the activity is explained by a story involving the death of a young woman on the building’s third floor in the 1950s.

Sources

  • Ingram, Debbie. “Plans unveiled for $2.4 million Penney building project.” Dothan Eagle. 18 August 2008.
  • Sailors, Jimmy. “Circle City Ghost Hunters conducting investigation in downtown Dothan.” Dothan Eagle. 29 October 2015.

Suntan Arts Center (Don Vicente Building)
3300 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, Florida

Adjoining the Don CeSar Beach Resort, a palatial pink dream from the Jazz Age, is the Don Vicente Building which was built just prior to the grand hotel to serve as offices during the hotel’s construction. Over the years, the building has seen many incarnations serving as offices for the hotel, a bank and even a firehouse. The building has housed the 50 year old Suntan Arts Center for many years. The center provides classes and support for the local arts community.

The center hosted a ghost tour this year highlighting the paranormal activity that has been experienced in the building. For many years people within the building have encountered the spirit of a man in a white suit. As this building did serve as an office for Thomas Rowe, the hotel’s founder, this spirit has been identified as him. During an investigation of the building in 2013 by SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, the group got a response when Rowe’s name was mentioned. Besides Mr. Rowe’s white-suited spirit there may be other spirits within this building as well.

Sources

  • “Self-guided ghost tour departs from Suntan Arts Center.” TBN Weekly. 28 September 2015.
  • SPIRITS of St. Petersburg Paranormal Investigation Group. “Report for Suntan Arts Center.” Accessed 8 November 2015.

Porter Hall
Mercer University
Macon, Georgia

Porter Hall, a residence hall on the campus of Mercer University, one of the oldest private universities in Georgia, possibly has something mysterious residing on its fourth floor. One student reported that she “heard things like chairs being dragged across the pine, like a hard pine floor.” The fourth floor is not accessible to students and used for storage. Reportedly, only the dorm’s resident advisor has access. When students complain of noise from that floor, the resident advisor will check it out and find the floor empty of living beings.

Sources

Westover Terrace
905 West Main Street
Richmond, Kentucky

When the current owners of Westover Terrace began restoration on the house after they acquired it in 1995, the house was severely dilapidated and vandals had defaced parts of the interior. A pentagram had been painted upstairs, walls and windows had been smashed, and the mantelpieces and radiators had been stolen. Local kids occasionally prowled the creepy house in search of ghosts in this former funeral home. The current owners did not realize they acquired ghosts with this magnificent 1881 home.

As work progressed, the owners and contractors began to have odd experiences including loud crashes and bangs that sounded like sledge hammers being used and heavy furniture being moved. The voice of a little girl was heard asking workers what they were doing and warning them on occasion. While doing repair work on a staircase, one particular board was removed several times. After the owner used a hydraulic nail gun to attach the board, the board disappeared entirely. When the owners finally moved into the home in 2005, the activity seemed to quiet down. Evidently, the ghosts are pleased with the renovations. This is a private home, please respect the owners’ privacy and observe the house from the street.

Sources

  • King, Critley. “The haunted history of Richmond.” Richmond Register. 29 October 2015.

Green Light Bridge
Green Light Road
Winnsboro, Louisiana

An article about Louisiana hauntings from the Shreveport Times highlighted this very interesting location near Winnsboro in Franklin Parish in the northeast portion of the state. The origin of the road’s odd name has been lost to history, but is possibly related to the paranormal green light that is supposed to emanate from underneath the bridge and along the banks of the stream here. The article does not name the creek, but after looking at Google maps, it seems that the road only crosses one stream, Turkey Creek, in its course from LA-15 to its termination at Dummy Line Road.

The possible reasons for the odd green light are varied. A church once existed on one side of the creek and sometime in the mid-20th century a man was hung from a tree in front of the church. A fatal car accident that occurred here may be related to the activity as well. A woman lost her life when her car crashed into a tree. There is also speculation that the woman was frightened by the mysterious green light.

Sources

  • “’Haunted’ Louisiana: Tales of Terror from Shreveport and beyond.” Shreveport Times. 30 September 2015.

Glen Burnie Regional Library
1010 Eastway
Glen Burnie, Maryland

Librarians at the Glen Burnie Regional Library have been spooked by something within this 1969 library for many years. Odd sounds have been heard by staff when they have closed the building at night while books have been pushed to the floor by unseen hands. Staff called in the Maryland Ghost Trackers to investigate. During the investigation, the investigators made contact with a number of male spirits who are apparently hanging around and enjoy making a bit of trouble now and then.

Sources

Ole Tavern on George Street
416 George Street
Jackson, Mississippi

There are several ghosts still patronizing the Ole Tavern on George Street according to a Halloween article from Jackson, Mississippi news station, WAPT. The article highlights a recent investigation of this establishment by the Mississippi Paranormal Research Institute. Employees of the popular eatery have had several eerie encounters with a few possible spirits here.

One employee saw a woman sitting at the bar one morning as he opened up. He had just removed the padlock from the door when he saw the woman. Realizing that no one was in the building, the employee returned to his car until someone else arrived. This spirit is believed to be the spirit of a prostitute who once worked in the building and committed suicide here in the 1970s. The investigation produced evidence that this woman may remain in the building with some other spirits.

Sources

  • “Ghost hunters seek answers from ‘Bitter Hooker.’” 31 October 2015.

A Southern Feast of All Souls—Patient Souls at the Park

E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park
3000 Freys Hill Road
Louisville, Kentucky

 On a cool Sunday morning in Fall, like today, it’s not hard to imagine that E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park is teeming with life. Joggers, bikers, walkers, and families with children throng the paths, playgrounds and Activities Center in the park unknowing of the patient souls that still roam these grounds. Some of these souls may still suffer the effects of the mental illnesses that afflicted them in life. There is some indication that death may not end the mania, though I would prefer to believe that these poor patient’s souls have passed on leaving only the confused energy that they exuded in life.

One of the park’s paths. Photo 2008, by TeleD, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The grounds of this modest state park were home to Native Americans for centuries before the intrusion of white men into the utopian “Kaintuck” territory. The land was later settled by the Hite family. According to an article from Louisville TV station, WDRB, Isaac Hite died from injuries sustained in a Native American attack here.

In 1869 the state of Kentucky acquired the land and began construction on the State House of Reform for Juvenile Delinquents at Lakeland. This facility evidently went through a series of name and purpose changes with adults being moved to the facility. Around 1900, the facility became Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane.

Throughout the 20th century, the hospital was investigated a number of times after allegations of corruption and abuse surfaced. The old hospital was closed in 1986 with patients being moved into a newer facility nearby. After sitting abandoned for a decade, the deteriorating hospital buildings were demolished by the state. The land near the old hospital that had once served as a farm was converted into a state park in 1974. The park was named for E. P. “Tom” Sawyer, distinguished local judge and county executive who was the father of journalist Diane Sawyer.

Main building of the Central State Hospital, ca. 1920. This is one of the buildings demolished in 1996. Courtesy of Asylum Projects.

While the park grounds were not actually the site of the hospital, they are still possibly occupied by the spirits of some of the patients who died there. Many of the graves of former patients are unknown and may be scattered throughout the park’s property. Paranormal investigators within the park have captured numerous EVPs, especially around the Sauerkraut Cave. Legend holds that patients who became pregnant were brought to the cave and some of those infants were possibly disposed of here. Others mention that the cave was also used by patients trying to escape the facility. For someone escaping through the cave without flashlights or other equipment, it is likely that the escapees got lost and died within the labyrinth.

Of the cave, an article on Louisville.com quotes the park’s naturalist as saying, “They say it’s kind of a sad place. There’s people trapped there, spirits trapped there. There’s a man who’s angry and they say he’s not letting any of the other spirits go.” Indeed, one recent paranormal investigation captured the image of a large burly man within the cave. Should you take some time to visit the park, be mindful of the patient and not so patient spirits of patients who still reside here.

Sources

Phantoms of the Operas, Y’all—13 Haunted Southern Theatres

Among theatre folks there’s an old saying, “no good theatre, worth its salt, will be without a ghost.” The South is not immune to this phenomenon and its landscape is dotted with many theatres claiming to be haunted. The variety of theatres is quite astonishing; from 1920s-era movie palaces, to opera houses to performance spaces that have been created out of old buildings, and even cinemas, so many of these sites have wonderful and creepy stories to tell.

Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
501 Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama

This prominent corner of Broad and 5th Streets has witnessed much of Gadsden’s history. A home stood on this corner until 1860 when the First Baptist Church erected a church here with a graveyard surrounding the building. Around the turn of the 20th century, the church was sold and the graves—most of them—were relocated to nearby Forrest Cemetery. A furniture store operated on the site until the building of the Imperial Theatre which opened in 1920. The theatre changed hands a few years later, was extensively remodeled and reopened as the Princess Theatre in 1926. The Princess—a vaudeville and motion picture house—provided the citizens of Gadsden the utmost in comfort and technology until it’s destruction by fire in 1963.

The starkly modern Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts now occupies the corner. Within its modern corridors, galleries, studios and performance spaces there are spirits. Betty McCoy reports that two visitors encountered the spirit of a child who was apparently quite confused. The spirit of a young girl appeared at the Princess Theatre just after it opened in 1920 and many patrons encountered the young and quite curious entity. The identity of this young entity has always been a mystery. Was she attached to one of the graves formerly on the site? Is she one of the spirits in the modern arts center? As long as spirits linger, the questions will remain.

Sources

  • Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Hardin Center for Cultural Arts. “About the Center for Cultural Arts.” Accessed 18 March 2013.
  • McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street, Northeast
Washington, D.C.

Things have a strange way of disappearing at the H Street Playhouse. Some believe that these odd disappearances may be linked to a spirit within the old theatre, besides, these disappearances are truly strange. Take for instance, the matter of the disappearance of the theatre’s router from the office during a meeting. Members of one of the theatre companies that uses the theatre were meeting in the building when the Wi-Fi suddenly went out. Heading back to the office, which was only accessible through the room where the meeting was being held, the router seems to have completely vanished.

H Street Playhouse, 2012, by Smallbones. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Costumes pieces and props also have a tendency to disappear right before performances. A t-shirt hanging on a rack disappeared without a trace while prop money seemed to have departed briefly from the bag it was stored in during the show. As money was required during the scene, the actors pulled together what bills they had on them to use, though when the props master opened the bag to dole out money for the upcoming scene, the prop money had reappeared.

If the kleptomaniac of the H Street Playhouse is, in fact, a spirit, then there is the question of identity. Tour guide and author Tim Krepp speculates that the spirit may either be the shade of Bruce Robey, who founded the H Street Playhouse with his wife, or perhaps the spirit of a young boy who was severely burned in a fire across the street in 1905. But, perhaps the spirit lies somewhere in the playhouse’s marvelous history.

The Romanesque Revival-styled building was built in 1928 as an automobile showroom. At the time, this particular stretch of H Street boasted so many dealerships it was called “Autombile Row.” This building served as a showroom until 1942 when the building was renovated for use as a cinema for the African-American community that occupied this area. As the social upheavals of the mid-20th century led to the neighborhood’s decline, the building was used for a variety of purposes until its conversion to a live theatre in 2002.

Sources

  • Bell, T. David. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Plymouth Theatre. December 2003.
  • Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Coconut Grove Playhouse
3500 Main Highway
Miami, Florida

The Coconut Grove Playhouse is like a famous actor in a vegetative state. The doctors are faced with a hard choice: unplug him from life-support to let him die or revive him with an expensive, experimental treatment and hope that he makes a full recovery. As of now, the doctors are still arguing over the best course to take.

This most famous of Florida theatres went suddenly into a vegetative state in 2006 under mounting debt. Since the theatre company’s closure, the theatre has been embroiled in mounting drama between a cast of politicians, preservationists, thespians and developers. Occupying a prominent corner on Main Highway at Charles Avenue, the location has developers salivating over the money that could come from a luxury condominium development on the site. Some government officials, preservationists and thespians would reopen the playhouse as a theatre and hopefully revive its cherished name. Before its closure, the theatre was a major economic driver in the Coconut Grove, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As the drama fills courtrooms, offices and boardrooms outside of the theatre, faces have been seen peering from the buildings upper windows: spiritual guardians of this 1927 edifice. Ghost tours pass by the site regularly as the Mediterranean Revival structure sits forlornly with its doors locked. The theatre opened gloriously as the Player’s State Theatre on New Year’s Day 1927—a jewel in the Paramount crown. All the amenities of the best theatres were incorporated here including a huge Wurlitzer Concert Grand Organ and air conditioning. Riding high on the great Florida Land Boom of the 20s, the theatre’s fortunes ran out when the real estate bubble burst. The theatre closed in the early 1930s. It was not until 1955 that it would resume use as a theatre, but only after being transformed for use as a live-performance venue.

It struggled even as a legitimate theatre, though it did host a grand assortment of prominent actors and productions on its boards. Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot had its American premier here and the stage has seen the work of such noted thespians as Jose Ferrer, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Ethel Merman. But, until the actors in the current drama come to a resolution, the theatre and the spirits peering from its windows will continue to wait for Godot’s eminent arrival.

Sources

  • Bandell, Brian. “Coconut Grove Playhouse hit with foreclosure.” South Florida Business Journal. 17 January 2013.
  • Feldman, Hal. “Do ghosts walk among us?” Pinecrest Tribune. 28 June 2012.
  • Uguccioni, Ellen and Sarah E. Easton. Designation Report: Coconut Grove Playhouse. City of Miami. 2005.
  • Viglucci, Andres. “Coconut Grove Playhouse board decides not to fight imminent state takeover.” Miami Herald. 2 October 2012.
  • Viglucci, Andres. “Plan for larger theatre at coconut Grove Playhouse remains alive.” Miami Herald. 12 March 2015.
  • Viglucci, Andres. “State says shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse could be sold to private bidders.” Miami Herald. 14 December 2012.
  • Viglucci, Andres. and Christine Dolan. “FIU, Miami-Dade in possible deal to save Grove Playhouse.” Miami Herald. 13 March 2013.

Springer Opera House
103 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia

As a kid, the Springer Opera House was the first local haunting I was familiar with. I recall the intense jealousy I felt when my sister got invited to a birthday party at the Springer and I wasn’t allowed to tag along to “see the ghost.” As a theatre major at Columbus State University, I visited the Spring a number of times and saw a few performances, though still I was distracted by the fact that there may be ghosts wandering about the antique promenades and still taking their seats in the boxes on either side of the stage.

In school, I also began to hear stories from my friends who had worked in the old theatre. Some of the experiences seemed incredible—like the story of a sound technician being levitated in the booth—while others seemed quite credible—a friend’s encounter with a little girl in a hallway who seemingly wanted to play tag but disappeared. When I got hired to work on a book about this theatre, I was excited to possibly experience the spirits there myself.

Interior of the Springer Opera House, 1979. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

I was asked by F. Clason Kyle to work as an editor on his book, In Order of Appearance, a history of the theatre and the many famous personalities—Edwin Booth and John Philip Sousa to Minnie Maddern Fiske and Burt Reynolds—to have walked its boards. Mr. Kyle and I first began by organizing much of the archival material the theatre had. We had our own little room stuffed with boxes of old programs, promotional materials, business papers and the occasional artifact. Among the artifacts was a beaded purse once owned by famed Polish actress, Helena Modjeska. We weren’t sure where the purse was, so we went looking for it.

Before we left the archives room, Mr. Kyle and I had been sorting through the various boxes. We returned to the room after a search of about an hour and I walked straight back to the box I had been searching through. There, sitting on top of the papers within the box was an antique purse. While it was not the Modjeska purse, almost as a consolation prize, an antique pocket watch had been placed on top of the purse. Obviously, if the purse had been there as we were discussing the Modjeska purse I would have asked about it. But to appear after we returned from the search was very odd. Perhaps the Springer’s ghost is similar to the H Street Playhouse’s kleptomaniac spirit.

During my two years working on the book, I also heard footsteps on the second floor and a door slamming shut by itself during a rehearsal. But many others have had more spectacular experiences. The educational director whose office was located on the second floor regularly saw a man walking past her doorway. She also felt a strong bond, motherly really, towards the spirit of a little girl that had been reported throughout the building as well.

There is apparently a host of spirits within the 1871 building, though it seems that the male spirit and the little girl may be the more active. The theatre’s artistic director, Paul Pierce, wrote a book about many of the experiences in the Victorian theatre including his own experience. Pierce had arrived at the theatre early one morning to open the tool room for technicians who were setting up for an event. As he walked through the scene shop, Pierce realized there was a man walking next to him. “Slight of build, he was a young gentleman with a thin, unruly, Van Dyke beard and wearing an ill-fitting tweed suit.”

Pierce walked through the shop with this figure playfully mirroring his stride through the room. They turned a corner and the figure walked behind a screen leaning against the wall. The figure did not emerge from the other side.

Sources

  • Kyle, F. Clason and Lewis O. Powell, IV, editor. In Order of Appearance: Chronicling 135 Years on America’s Most Celebrated Stage. Columbus, GA: Communicorp, 2006.
  • Pierce, Paul. The Springer Ghost Book. Columbus, GA: Communicorp, 2003.

Paramount Arts Center
1300 Winchester Avenue
Ashland, Kentucky

The Paramount Arts Center gained its ghost fairly early in the theatre’s history when, as legend holds, a worker somehow became entangled in the rigging above the stage and died. If this act was an accident or suicide is unknown, but strange things began to be reported in the building. Over time, theatre staff members dubbed the entity “Paramount Joe.”

Just seven months after the Ashland Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1931, the Paramount Theatre opened as a movie palace for the citizens of the city. When the Art Moderne style theatre closed its doors in 1971, locals purchased the building as a performing arts center.

Paramount Arts Center, 2007, by YoungAmerican. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1992, local musician Billy Ray Cyrus (father of Miley Cyrus) chose the theatre for the filming of the video of his hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart.” While there, he was told the story of “Paramount Joe,” and Cyrus claimed that he spoke with the spirit during a break and signed a poster for Paramount Joe. Some years later when an executive removed the poster from its place in the box office the staff returned the next day to find all the pictures had fallen from the walls some having their glass and frames broken. After Paramount Joe’s signed poster was restored, all has returned to normal in terms of the pictures.

Sources

  • Ball, Linda Larimore. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Paramount Theatre. October 1975.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Conley, Caitlin. “Paranormal activity at the Paramount Theatre. The Parthenon. 27 October 2011.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Abbey Players Theatre
200 South State Street
Abbeville, Louisiana

The Abbey Players had its founding in 1976 when a small group of thespians staged a successful production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers. The theatre company was incorporated the next year with the intention of presenting quality theatre to the region. After spending a few years staging shows at various venues throughout town, the group began renting an old building on South State Street. Previously housing the Reaux Lumber Company, the building dates to 1908 and was originally opened as a saloon.

After adapting the building for use as an arena stage, the company settled in and now produces 3-4 shows per season as well as children’s productions. Additionally, company members have had experiences in the building that may be paranormal. These include the shade of an elderly woman and the voice of a young girl among other unexplained noises. An investigation by Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations captured a number of personal experiences for the team as well as EVPs.

A couple of these experiences are highlighted in Chere Coen’s Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana. During the investigation, Louisiana Spirits discovered a cold spot that seemed to move around a dressing room. The investigators also heard a disembodied voice greet them with a “hi.”

Sources

Patapsco Female Institute
3655 Church Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

The immortal words of Shakespeare have been uttered within the walls of the Patapsco Female Institute for almost two centuries. Even with only the exterior stone walls remaining, the ruins now provide a perfect backdrop for productions by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare’s numerous ghosts may even provide a camouflage for the ghosts that reside among the romantic ruins.

The Patapsco Female Institute opened in 1837 as an elite finishing school for young women. Among some of the more well known alumnae is Winnie Davis, daughter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Sally Randolph, great granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson served as a headmistress. It was during this time in the balmy days leading up to the Civil War that a daughter of a Southern planter was enrolled here.

The young girl hated the school, longed for home and her father would not allow her to return home. The student contracted pneumonia and her body left the school in a coffin. The student’s spirit, however, has remained to wander the ruins of her former school.

The school closed its doors in 1891 and throughout the 20th century the building served as variety of uses including a convalescent home after World War I, a private residence and a theatre. After local officials condemned the building in the late 1950s, the owner gutted the building of its woodwork leaving just the yellow-tinted local stone walls standing. The space is now owned and operated by the Howard County Government as a historic site and an events space.

The white-gowned apparition of the former student still wanders the grounds.

Sources

  • Hannon, Jean O. Maryland Historic Trust Worksheet for Patapsco Female Institute. January 1978.
  • Hirsch, Rona S. “Ghostly images, spirited debate.” Baltimore Sun. 31 October 2001.
  • Norotel, Russ. Ellicott City’s Guide to Haunted Places. Cosmic Pantheon Press, 2008.
  • Okonowicz, Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.

Cinemark Movies 8
Mall at Barnes Crossing
1001 Barnes Crossing Road
Tupelo, Mississippi

Any location can be haunted. While most people would not expect to encounter a spirit within a fast food restaurant, big-box retailer (like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us) or a recently constructed building, it does happen. In some cases, recent tragic events may spur such a haunting, but other times, there is no obvious reason at all. Such is the case of this haunted multiplex theatre. According to CinemaTreasures.org, this theatre was opened in 1992, seating 1920 people and a couple spirits. A female spirit, nicknamed Lola, quite mischievously moves things and has been seen peering into the break room trashcan. She apparently gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong or missing. A male spirit seems to be more elusive and sticks to the projection room.

Sources

  • Cinemark Movies 8. org. Accessed 27 March 2013.
  • Bud. The Haunted Natchez Trace. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Mountainside Theatre
688 Drama Drive
Cherokee, North Carolina

Part of my own heart lies in the mountains of Western North Carolina around Cherokee. While I was in college I spent the three greatest summers of my life working on the historical drama, Unto These Hills, which has been performed at the Mountainside Theatre since 1950. It’s a humbling experience to be able to tell the story of the Cherokee people who have existed in this area for millennia. Even more humbling is being able to tell that story surrounded by the spirits of the characters and their living descendants.

The theatre is truly a sacred space where we can commune with the spirits of the past, both figuratively and literally. From my first day here, we were always made aware of the presence of spirits in this enormous amphitheatre. Among the host of spirits are Cherokee, sacred spirits from Cherokee mythology (see my entry on my own experience with the Cherokee little people) and former cast members. Some of these spirits can be truly frightening while others provide comfort.

Entrance to the Mountainside Theatre, 2012, by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

In recent years, the Cherokee Historical Association—which operates the drama as well as the Oconaluftee Indian Village (it’s also haunted)—has operated a “Haunted Village” attraction around Halloween. This includes a ghost walk through the theatre and cast housing. In 2013, a zombie run was held at the theatre. During this event participants were chased through the theatre complex and cast housing by a variety of zombies. This included an area just behind the theatre called the ready room. This space is a partially enclosed are where actors may wait once they have put on their costumes. On the wall here is an old pay phone.

The ready room phone, 2014, by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

I was told this story last summer when I was working in Cherokee. One evening in 2013, an hour or so after the zombie run the local police department received a panicked phone call from the Mountainside Theatre. A terror-filled voice begged for help from the theatre. The Cherokee Police Department responded and sent police up the driveway behind the theatre. The theatre complex was quiet and empty without a living soul to be found. The call had been traced to the theatre pay phone. It was discovered, however, that the phone was disconnected.

This is one of countless stories that have been told about the theatre.

Sources

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street
Charleston, South Carolina

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church aggressively pushes itself into Church Street. Its columned porches thrust out so far that the street must curve to accommodate it. Above the street, the tremendous spire rises like an upright, moral finger, a reminder of the moral duties of the citizens of The Holy City. In the next block south of the church and within the shadow of the spire sits the Dock Street Theatre grinning garishly with its whimsical columns at St. Philip’s and the stringent Gothic Revival face of the French Huguenot Church directly across Church Street.

Theatre has always thumbed its nose at the self-righteous morality of good, church-going folk while often lampooning their foibles and failures on its boards, pulling down the saints from their lofty niches. In turn, the righteous have worked to reign in and silence the heckling theatre. This certainly was the case in Colonial America, a place still reeking of the Puritanism and strict morality that afflicted and bound the earliest settlers. Theatre most certainly struggled to gain a foothold on this steep religious mountain. The original Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 as, quite possibly, the second oldest edifice devoted to theatrical performance in the colonies.

As a part of a city in its early evolution, the original structure lasted a little less than two decades before that spark of a city’s growth, fire, reduced it to a hollowed shell of brick. The theatre was rebuilt and remained a theatre through the remainder of the 18th century. In 1809 the structure became home to the Calder House Hotel (later known as the Planter’s Hotel) run by Alexander Calder—an ancestor of the 20th century American artist of the same name—to serve wealthy visitors to the city. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration cobbled together the collection of old buildings on this site into the current reincarnation of the Dock Street Theatre which incorporates an 18th century styled theatre and possibly a few brick walls dating to the original 1736 theatre.

Dock Street Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

The building incorporates a certain spiritual fabric within its aged physical fabric. Most sources refer to two spirits who reside within the old theatre, though I venture that with the Dock Street Theatre’s long history, there’s also quite a good bit of residual energy manifesting itself.

One of the spirits has been identified as the great British thespian, Junius Brutus Booth. Renowned for his portrayals of Shakespearean characters, Booth fathered three sons who were also destined for the stage: Junius Brutus Jr., Edwin and John Wilkes, three thespians who left their mark on the theatrical world and one who would leave a mark upon the world stage. Edwin followed in his father’s footsteps to become one of the greatest tragedians of his day whilst Junius Jr. found better success in the managing of theatres. John Wilkes earned his notoriety as Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.

According to numerous—mostly paranormal in nature—sources, Booth the elder did stay in the Planter’s Hotel and that the well-dressed gentleman’s spirit seen in and around the theatre is his shade. Though it does ask the question of why would Booth haunt this hotel of all the numerous hotels where he stayed? According to the managing director of the theatre Booth was an alcoholic and possibly mentally unstable. During a stay in Charleston Booth allegedly beat his manager with a fire iron. Just as modern actors and performers are prone to bouts of bad behavior, so were the actors and performers of old. It seems this may belong to the phenomenon of historic landmarks picking among their most famous patrons or residents in order to identify their spirits.

Nevertheless, the spirit is still seen within the theatre. A man in a tall hat and overcoat is sometimes seen in the balcony and may sit in on rehearsals. In her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, Denise Roffe reports on a young woman who saw this gentleman standing in the balcony when she visited.

Though, other stories center on a spirit known as “Netty” or “Nettie.” Likely dating to the same time as the gentleman’s spirit, legend has it that Nettie was a “working girl” who provided entertainment to the gentlemen who patronized the hotel. The legend continues with her dying a violent death on the balcony of the hotel, just above the entrance. While she was out on the balcony one evening, the steel beam supporting the balcony was struck by lightning and she was electrocuted. According to author Terrance Zepke, her spirit form has been observed by passersby and also captured on film. Additionally, she lingers in the second floor backstage hall where she apparently appears to be walking on her knees as the floor was raised during the building’s renovations in the 1930s. Netty is still walking on the original floors.

Sources

  • Bull, Elias B. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Dock Street Theatre. 2 January 1972.
  • Macy, Ed and Geordie Buxton III. Haunted Charleston: Stories from the College of Charleston, the Citadel and the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston. Columbia, SC: U. of SC Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
  • Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

Paramount Center for the Performing Arts
518 State Street
Bristol, Tennessee

In 1991 at the age of 60 the Paramount Theatre, run down and virtually abandoned, rose like its “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ once did from the depths to be reborn as the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 1931, the theatre was meant as a cinema and its small stage had to be enlarged to accommodate live performance in the modern day. Sitting proudly on State Street not far from the Tennessee/Virginia state line, which divides this city, the theatre continues to attract people from all over the region.

According to a 2009 article from the Bristol Herald Courier, the site of the Paramount Theatre was previously haunted. On that site, Bristol’s first hospital stood, a building that had previously been a hotel. During its time as a hotel, a man was shot and killed there. After that, the hotel had trouble renting his room after that as patrons reported hearing and feeling odd things in that room. There is a spirit still hanging around the theatre, though no indication it is the same from the old hotel. The Executive Director has reported that footsteps are still heard in the empty building with the sound of doors opening and closing as well.

Sources

  • Netherland, Tom. “A Timeless Stage: Memories of the Paramount Center.” Originally published in Bristol Herald Courier, 17 February 2009. Republished in A! Magazine for the Arts, March 2013.
  • Paramount Center for the Arts. Cinema Treasures. Accessed 5 March 2013.

Cameo Theatre
703 State Street
Bristol, Virginia

State Street divides city of Bristol and marks the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. The Cameo Theatre, on the north side of the street, is in Virginia while the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts, just a few blocks down, sits on the south side of the street in Tennessee. The division between the theatres also marks a gulf of fortunes between them as well. While the Paramount Theatre remains open as a performing arts center the Cameo is currently for sale. Two years older than the Paramount, the 1925 theatre was opened as a vaudeville house and recently served as an arts facility, hosting arts classes for children. Sadly, finances did not allow that to continue and the theatre was put up for sale in 2010.

According to V.N. Phillips’ book, Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin Cities, the Cameo replaces The Black Shawl, Bristol’s most infamous brothel. Pocahontas Hale, the establishment’s madam, is said to notoriously patrol the sidewalk in front of the Cameo Theatre. Her shade has been spotted wearing the black clothes and wrapped in the black shawl that she always wore in life.

Sources

  • McGee, David. “Cameo Theatre annex’s inventory being sold off to make way for new owner.” Bristol Herald Courier. 16 June 2010.
  • Phillips, V.N. Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin Cities. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Old Main
Campus of Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia

With a cornerstone laid in 1869—just 32 years after the founding of Marshall Academy on the same spot—Old Main continues to carry Marshall University towards the horizon of the future. The structure’s nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places contains the sentimental statement that “alumni consider Old Main and school itself to be identical. Old Main is Marshall University and Marshall University is Old Main.” Not only does this monumental Tudor structure carry students and faculty forward as a university centerpiece and administration building, but it carries a spirit or two as well.

Old Main, 2013, by WVFunnyman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Old Main embodies the history of the school itself in its walls. It is not actually a single building, but five buildings that have been joined over time. Originally one of these building contained an auditorium, though the space has been unused since 1990. School legend relates that a well-dressed man was sometimes seen back stage during performances. Actors and crew back stage would see the man who would be gone with a second glance. This man was identified as a theatre director from the 1920s. The director supposedly disappeared after it was discovered he had embezzled money from the school.

Sources

  • Bleau, Edward R. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Old Main—Marshall University. 28 December 1972.
  • Bozzoli, Carlos. “Old Main Building.” Marshall University Architectural Guide. Accessed 14 March 2013.
  • Donahue, Kelly. “Untitled article.” The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.