Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part I

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. 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 last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve been able to achieve my goal for the state.

Autauga County

Cross Garden
Autauga County Road – 86
Prattville

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

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

Sources

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

Baldwin County

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

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

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

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

Sources

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

Barbour County

Kendall Manor
534 West Broad Street
Eufaula

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

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

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

Sources

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

Bibb County

Brierfield Ironworks Historic State Park
240 Furnace Parkway
Brierfield

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

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

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

Sources

Blount County

Old Garner Hotel
111 1st Avenue East
Oneonta

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

Sources

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

Bullock County

Josephine Arts Center
130 North Prairie Street
Union Springs

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

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

Sources

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

Butler County

Consolation Primitive Baptist Church and Cemetery
Oakey Streak Road
Red Level

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Calhoun County

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

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

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

Sources

Chambers County

Oakwood Cemetery
1st Street
Lanett

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

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

Sources

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

Cherokee County

Lost Regiment Legend
Lookout Mountain
Near the Blanche community

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

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

Sources

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

Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn

During the first few minutes of the first annual Haunted History Tour in the small town of Wetumpka, Alabama, my tour group was shuffled into a room in the unrestored portion of the town’s CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUILDING (110 East Bridge Street). The dingy room was in rough shape and a collection of folding chairs was set out for tour participants. I glanced through a doorway into an adjoining room and was greeted by a scarecrow with a mischievous grin painted on its burlap face.

The Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce just before Wetumpka Haunted History Tour, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The thought ran through my head, “Someone has put out some tacky Halloween decorations out for this tour. Oh my God, I hope the rest of the tour isn’t like this!” My fears were allayed however when the guide began talking about how this scarecrow moved on its own around the third floor. Passersby on the streets outside have noted the scarecrow peering down on them from one of the third floor windows. When they look again the scarecrow is often looking down from a different window. Employees of the chamber of commerce have also noted the scarecrow’s erratic movement, even once finding it torn apart on the floor of the bathroom. Even more shocking was when the scarecrow reappeared “in pristine condition”—to use our guide’s words—the following day in its usual position overlooking downtown.

The chamber’s scarecrow that moves on its own accord. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The scarecrow, along with the other spirited compatriots, is overseeing a revival that’s taking place in downtown Wetumpka and throughout the state of Alabama. The state is beginning to awaken from its long, sad economic dream state and confidently stride back towards a fully awakened existence. Utilizing its own history, hominess, natural hospitality, stories, and even its ghosts, Alabama is brushing off the dust of its past and creating a more hopeful future.

Some of you may have noticed my absence during October. Please forgive me, I have been traveling throughout Alabama taking part in investigations and ghost tours. The life of a blogger can be rather dull when you’re only writing about these places rather than experiencing them. Last Halloween I promised myself that I would leave my schedule open this year so I could take advantage of the various investigations and ghost tours that crop up during the Halloween season. With one exception, all my investigations and tours were in Alabama, a state that I have discovered really wants its stories told.

My first jaunt, the first weekend of October, took me to Sylacauga, the Marble City. Located in central Alabama, Sylacauga (pronounced sil-uh-CAW-guh), is about 45 miles south east of Birmingham. The town was built primarily on marble quarrying: carving up the fine marble vein that spans thirty miles under this section of Talladega County. Near the downtown, the COMER MUSEUM (711 North Broadway Avenue) is situated in an Art Deco-styled marble-clad building built in the 1930s as the town’s library. Sculptures and carvings from the local marble grace the entrance of the elegant building that serves as a virtual attic for the area squirrelling away and displaying an array of historic artifacts.

I was in town for an investigation at the museum with S.C.A.R.E. of Alabama, a group founded by authors Kim Johnston and Shane Busby (who wrote Haunted Talladega County together, Johnston is also the author of Haunted Shelby County, Alabama and Haint Blue: The Rockford Haunting). Members of the group include haunted collector and author Kevin Cain whose book, My Haunted Collection, is now a part of my Southern Spirit Library, he’s also written a number of supernatural fiction works; and Kat Hobson who hosts the radio show “Paranormal Experienced with Kat Hobson” on which I appeared a few months ago and will be appearing at the end of this month. The group hosted this investigation as part of a series of public investigations that they host as fundraisers for the places investigated.

The fascinating investigation concentrated on a number of objects throughout the building that may have spirit attachments. See my rundown of the investigation here, “The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama.”

Entrance to De Soto Caverns, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On the route I decided to stop outside of Childersburg to check out DeSOTO CAVERNS & FAMILY FUN PARK (5181 Desoto Caverns Parkway). As I waited for the cave tour I watched a young father carry his child off the porch of the gift shop heading towards the family’s car. In his arms the child squirmed and cried in the depths of a temper tantrum. As they passed the statue of Hernando de Soto the father said, “Hey look, it’s Hernando de Soto!” The child only screamed louder. Goodness knows that de Soto inspired similar reactions from the natives when he marched through this area in 1540.

Interior of the caverns with a replica of a native burial in place. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Scholars suggest that Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto may have stopped in the area as he hacked his way through the forests and natives of the region. While there is no proof that he visited the cave, there is evidence that it was known to the local natives. Several native burials were located in the main room of the cave as well as the remains of a white trader who was killed after he carved his name in the cave which was considered sacred to the natives. Being a cave fan, I was happy when Johnston and Busby included the cave in their book on haunted Talladega County.

While I have had some creepy experiences in caves (see my experiences at Lost Sea Cave in Sweetwater, TN), I didn’t have anything odd happen. Johnston and Busby note that a young daughter of the cave’s owners had experiences with Native American spirits during her childhood on the property. Worried that these spirits may have been upset by the family’s use of the cave as a tourist attraction, the owners brought in members of the native tribes that once owned the land to cleanse the property and rebury the bones of their ancestors that had originally lain quietly in the cave. Apparently, the spirits have been appeased, though I do wonder if there is any residual energy that may cause some activity on occasion.

Sylacauga itself seems to be waking up however: a number of buildings in its downtown were occupied and open for business including what appeared to be several new restaurants. For dinner I considered BUTTERMILK HILL RESTAURANT (300 East 3rd Street) which occupies an early 20th century house just outside of downtown. Listed in Johnston and Busby’s book, the restaurant shares the house with an assortment of spirits and a dark history that includes a murder within the past decade. While the menu looks delectable, it was a bit pricey for my current budget, though I did take some pictures.

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

My second sojourn to Alabama took place over the penultimate weekend of October. Due to work on Friday, the trip turned out to be rather rushed and I didn’t have much time to really enjoy it the trip up. S.C.A.R.E. of Alabama sponsored an investigation of JEMISON-CARNEGIE HERITAGE HALL MUSEUM (200 South Street East) and the adjoining ARMSTRONG-OSBORNE PUBLIC LIBRARY (202 South Street East) in Talladega. Despite  NASCAR races taking place the same weekend at the nearby (and cursed, supposedly) Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, the leafy streets of Talladega were quiet and still. South Street boasts some fine institutions and a handful of ghosts. On this peaceful night, antebellum MANNING HALL (205 South Street East), the huge, main edifice of the Alabama Institute for the Blind and Deaf, across the street from Heritage Hall was lit up like a beacon. Heritage Hall’s smaller, more feminine, Beaux-Arts façade was lit up as if in graceful answer to Manning Hall’s heavy, masculine Greek Revival colonnade. According to Johnston and Busby, Manning Hall does have some spirits of its own, quite possibly including the shade of the Institute’s founder, Dr. Joseph Johnson.

Manning Hall at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The Jemison-Carnegie Public Library was the dream of Louisa Jemison, a member of the prominent Jemison family who now have a handful of haunted places associated with them. Designed by noted Alabama architect Frank Lockwood, the library was built with a donation of land from Louisa Jemison and the Carnegie Foundation. When the library opened in 1908 local lore tells of a little 8-year-old girl sitting on the top step the first day and her being the first person to check out a book. The little girl, Gentry Parsons, would eventually pen her own books and donated many books to this library.

The facade of Heritage Hall on the night of the investigation.
Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Good architecture has power. In creating beautiful spaces, the architect can physically manipulate those entering the space; the eyes and chin are raised and the dignity of the space encourages those entering to straighten their back out of respect. With better posture, those entering have their senses heightened and the feeling of awe can mellow into a sense of inspiration, lightness, refinement, and freedom. Like the great cathedrals of Europe, the architecture of Heritage Hall does exactly that. The high ceilings, airiness, and grace raises the senses of those walking up the front staircase and entering the front door. The main bay of the building is a large open space with a dramatic staircase directly ahead leading down to the main librarian’s desk.

Interior of Heritage Hall just inside the front door. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved. 
The interior of Heritage Hall looking down the stairs just inside the front door towards the old librarian’s desk. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

After entering for the investigation I was greeted by the museum’s director and given an excellent tour of the building. The open space inside with the walls lined with art from local artists gives the place a sense of veneration and the art displays the tremendous talent throughout the region. I was also introduced to some of the paranormal activity that has been experienced here. With this building being a community center for such a long period of time, the energy that has passed and continues to pass through it has likely left a psychic imprint. That can be one explanation for the disembodied footsteps and doors opening and closing on their own accord. As a library, this building has also inspired passion for many people, people who return to this beloved spot in spirit. Some of the spirits believed to still oversee business here are Miss Willie, a former librarian; Tom Woodson, a long-time director of the museum who died a few years ago; and Louisa Jemison who may return to check on her beloved library.

Main entrance of Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Spooning Heritage Hall like a protective older sibling is the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library which opened in 1979. Sadly, the architects of the newer building did not take their cues from Lockwood’s design. The building is minimalist and angular with no ornamentation; utilitarian modernist at its worst. The interior is very typical late 20th century library design which emphasizes function over design. While the architecture is nothing to write home about, the institution itself seems to be very well stocked and the librarians and staff present were delightful and very interested in the investigation.

Hall of Heroes entrance. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The library itself has experienced a modicum of strange activity particularly around the genealogy room and its adjacent hallway which are actually part of a 2006 addition to the building. That hallway is now the Hall of Heroes, honoring the many men and women of Talladega County who have served in the armed forces. The hall is lined with photographs ranging from World War I to the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this hallway the spirit of a woman has been seen while the sounds of a party sometimes emanate from the genealogy room itself when it’s empty. The investigation of the library and Heritage Hall didn’t really uncover much evidence-wise. After sitting with Ghost Boxes in the main reading room of the library we adjourned to the genealogy room and the Hall of Heroes. Fitted out with computers, microfilm readers, and shelves of books old and new, the genealogy room isn’t particularly creepy, even in the dark. We did an EVP session and at one point seemingly heard a “no,” though I was one of the few people to hear it. It may have also been gastric noises from one of the participants. After relocating to Heritage Hall we didn’t pick up much activity, though we had some K2 spikes when some of men began lounging on Miss Willie’s library desk.

The Hall of Heroes is lined with the photos of men and women who served in the armed forces from Talladega County. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • Johnston, Kim and Shane Busby. Haunted Talladega County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2015.
  • History.”Talladegas Public Library. Accessed 12 November 2016.
  • Our History.” Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall Museum. Accessed 12 November 2016.
  • Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce. Wetumpka Haunted Heritage Tour. 28 October 2016.

The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama

Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
Sylacauga, Alabama

 The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
–William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1

The Comer Museum, 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All
rights reserved.

Standing in the dark, listening to the multitude of odd, disconnected syllables pouring forth from the voice box at the Comer Museum last Saturday evening, this quote popped into my head. While most of the noise from the voice box was unintelligible “squeaking and gibbering” the occasional word would miraculously pop out. Occasionally these odd words would begin to make sense. A question may be asked only to receive an intelligent answer. Someone asked a question of Harriet, the Comer Museum’s own haunted doll, inquiring how old she was only for the assembled group to be treated to a cheeky reply: “nine” said a little girl’s voice a moment later. After one of the group members reminded the doll that she was much older, a spooky girl’s giggle issued from the ghost box. Those present were aghast.

 It’s very appropriate that the Comer Museum–which could be called Sylacauga’s attic—is within a marble clad building. Sylacauga sits atop a huge vein of marble, often considered comparable to Italian marble, and the city if often referred to as “The Marble City.” Originally constructed as the city’s first public library building by the WPA in 1939, the museum’s exquisite marble façade beckoned members of the community for decades before the library moved to a new building in 1979. The old library building was rededicated in 1982 as a local history and art museum. The rooms that were once filled with books are now filled with the detritus of local history. Old signs, photographs, works of art, Native American artifacts, antique clothing, glorious marble sculptures and one creepy-ass (pardon my French) haunted doll, fill the museum from top to bottom.

When I arrived for I was greeted warmly by the members of Spirit Communications and Research of Alabama (S.C.A.Re) who were leading this public investigation. Kat Hobson, who recently interviewed me as a guest on her radio show whisked me off for a tour of the building. The museum is not large, though it seems that every room is packed with historic bits and pieces. Along the way Kat pointed out various things that oddly gave off high EMF readings including an Edwardian gown and a typewriter. On the first floor I was introduced to Harriet, the haunted doll. The doll gave off a weird energy that gave the air around it a tingly sensation. My first reaction was to say, “I don’t like it.” Kat responded, “I don’t really like it either.” 

Harriet, the museum’s haunted doll sits forlornly amidst flashlights and other investigative devices. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

We headed down to the basement where we peeked into a recreation of a pioneer log cabin. Again, the air seemed to tingle with the same odd energy that Harriet had given off. It was uncomfortable, but rather intriguing. I noted that I’m not sensitive, so the energy must be strong if I’m feeling it. Kat is a bit sensitive and pointed out that the group had had some activity in the cabin, particularly some shadow play around the cradle in the center of the room. Much of the rest of the basement is used for art classes and the spirits continue their antics including a little boy who is known to kick people in the shins.

Recreated pioneer cabin in the museum’s basement. Photo 2016, Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Upstairs, the investigation began with the group observing three haunted dolls from the haunted collection of Kevin Cain. With these three far less creepy dolls set up on a glass case, Cain provided the tragic histories behind each doll. With a temperature gauge sitting in front of her, the doll named Tammy may have affected the temperature as Cain related her sad tale. Throughout his story the gauge whined almost with sympathy for Tammy’s calamitous plight. 

Kevin Cain’s haunted dolls. Note the temperature gauge in front of Tammy on the left. Robin sits in the middle with Maci on the right. Photo 2016 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The team and guests for the investigation then headed to basement for a voice box session. Here we were treated to our first taste of the dead’s squeaking and gibbering. During the session, proper names popped through and a few questions were answered directly. Some of the guests had some uneasy sensations there.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of the evening came as the group communed with Harriet. One of the guests holding a thermal imaging camera spotted at odd ball of light in the upstairs balcony. The light was not visible to the naked eye but was present on the thermal camera. Two investigators headed upstairs and looked for a source. After a good deal of waving from the investigators, the light remained on the camera, though no source or reason could be found. The pair of investigators remained upstairs where they began to get the sensation of being touched. Even the admitted skeptic of the group, Shane Busby felt the caress of a hand on his cheek and shoulder. Tristen Cox, the other investigator felt a hand on her upper arm. After she reported being touched Busby pointed his thermal imaging camera at her to reveal a handprint on her arm.

According to Kat Hobson, the haunting of the Comer Museum seems more connected with the various personal artifacts owned by the museum and less with the building itself. I would suggest that the makeup of the building itself and the tremendous marble deposits below may provide a platform for the psychic energy here. Marble is a type of limestone, which some paranormal investigators and researchers consider to be an excellent conductor for psychic energy. Consulting Timothy Yohe’s 2015 work, Limestone and its Paranormal Properties, the author asserts that buildings constructed of limestone can cause powerful EMFs to be emitted which may lend energy to spirits and other entities. The Comer Museum’s large marble façade, the use of marble throughout the building, marble sculptures and architectural elements in the collection may perhaps spur the activity that has been experienced here for years.

The S.C.A.Re of Alabama team with the Southern Spirit Guide. Back left: Lewis O. Powell IV, Shane Busby, Tristen Cox, Kevin Cain. Front left: Harriet the Haunted Doll, Kat Hobson, Kim Johnston.

After the investigation S.C.A.Re’s founder and author Kim Johnston graciously autographed my copies of her books, even inscribing “To Lewis—My favorite blogger” in my copy of Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. She then requested that the investigators take a group photo with me. It seems like many of us were touched physically and emotionally by the people of Sylacauga, both living and dead, I know I was also touched by S.C.A.Re’s graciousness and generosity. Thank you, guys!

Sources

  • Ford, Gene A., Linda Ford, and Christy Anderson. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for B.B. Comer Memorial Library. August 2001.
  • C.A.R.E. of AL. Comer Museum Investigation. 1 October 2016.
  • Yohe, Timothy. Limestone and its Paranormal Properties: A Comprehensive Approach to the Possibilities. Timothy Yohe. 2015.

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.

Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama

Four years ago, just after I started this blog, I created entries for each of the thirteen states that I covered. The “Haunted Alabama” entry was the first and it’s the first to be redone as well. In the past few years, I’ve added quite a number of resources on haunted Alabama to my library as well as collected a few hundred articles. I’m also removing any entries that are expanded on elsewhere and bumping up the number of entries to thirteen. I hope you will enjoy and be informed by this expanded entry!

Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery

Perhaps one of the most important sites in the entire state is built on a place called Goat Hill. This building is the second capitol building on this site, the first having been destroyed by fire in 1849. The current building opened in 1851 and has witnessed the panoply of Alabama history. It was here in 1861 that representatives of six Southern states met to create the Confederate government. Later that year, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens were inaugurated here as the President and Vice President of the Confederate States, respectively. More than a hundred years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. would lead a civil rights march to the steps of this building.

With such history, it’s no surprise that spirits may still wander the capitol’s corridors. One legend concerns a Confederate widow. Desperate to find where her husband had died and was buried, she made inquiries but no information was forthcoming. She continued haunting the corridors in life and evidently in death. Security guards and staff members have seen this desperate woman and continue to hear her footsteps.

Alabama State Capitol, 2006, by Jim Bowen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A security guard is quoted in a 1994 Birmingham News article as having seen a female spirit standing near the statue of Governor Lurleen Wallace. The woman was wearing white opera-length gloves which are reminiscent of the gloves Wallace is wearing in her official state portrait.

Faith Serafin notes in her book, Haunted Montgomery, Alabama, that bathroom sinks near the offices of the state board of convicts are often found with the water running. This may be related to a 1912 murder that occurred here. When a property discpute did not turn out in his favor, Will Oakley shot his stepfather, P. A. Woods, in the offices of president of the convict board. Legend holds that the spirit of Will Oakley is still trying to wash the blood off his hands.

Sources

  • Lindley, Tom. “Ghosts or good stories haunt Capitol’s halls: This Confederate widow will never tell.” The Birmingham News. 27 November 1994.
  • Schroer, Blanche Higgins. National Register of Historic Place nomination form for the Alabama State Capitol. 29 September 1975.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Bear Creek Swamp
County Road 3
Prattville

Just this past Halloween, twenty-one dolls tied to bamboo stakes were found in Bear Creek Swamp. The Autauga County Sheriff’s Office thought they were simply a harmless Halloween prank, but after reports of the dolls began to spread through social media, the sheriff’s office decided to remove them. A reason for the dolls’ placement in the swamp remains mysterious, but then again, Bear Creek Swamp is full of mystery.

A newspaper article regarding the incident noted that the swamp “is a massive bog with a bit of a reputation locally. As a rite of passage, generations of teenagers have entered the area at night looking for creatures and haints said to roam the mist-covered realm. And it’s not unusual to hear reports of loud booms coming from its depths.”

Before the arrival of white settlers, this area was known as a place with pure water and medicinal springs. This area was once the home of the Autauga or Tawasa Indians who were members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. Many of these people were removed by force in the 1830s and marched along the Trail of Tears to be resettled in the West.

Some Native spirits may have remained in the swamp. A hunter told Faith Serafin about seeing a female apparition within the swamp while tracking a deer he and his son had shot. A couple hiking through the area encountered a wild looking woman with a gaunt face who screamed and disappeared into the swamp when they approached. Others, including an investigation team from Southern Paranormal Researchers, have witnessed strange orbs of light in the depths of the bog.

Sources

  • Roney, Marty. “21 dolls on bamboo stakes found in Alabama swamp.” Hattiesburg American. 27 November 2014
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Sutton, Amber. “Officers remove more than a dozen dolls from Autauga County swamp.” AL.com. 25 November 2014.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. “Bear Creek Swamp—September 3, 2006.” Accessed 29 November 2012.

Belle Mont
1569 Cook Lane
Tuscumbia

Built between 1828 and 1832 by Dr. Alexander Mitchell, Belle Mont is now owned by the Alabama Historical Commission and operated as a house museum. This house represents a rare example of what is sometimes termed “Jeffersonian Classicism,” the distinctive version of Palladian architecture that was created by Thomas Jefferson. While most likely not directly designed by Jefferson himself, the house was likely designed by one of his disciples whom he trained.

Belle Mont, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Around the time the house was completed Dr. Mitchell lost his wife and both daughters to a fever and subsequently, he sold the property. The apparitions of a woman and two small girls have been seen in and around the house with the last reported sighting in 1968.

Sources

  • Gamble, Robert S. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Belmont. Jan. 1981.
  • Belle Mont. Alabama Historical Commission. Accessed 16 December 2010.
  • Belle Mont (Tuscumbia, Alabama). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 December 2010.
  • Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of The Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.

Bragg-Mitchell Mansion
1906 Springhill Avenue
Mobile

Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, 2006, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The spirits of the 1855 Bragg-Mitchell Mansion in Mobile include a cat and the spirit of Judge Bragg whose brother Alexander possibly designed the house. One employee and an assistant felt someone board an elevator after they had boarded. Later an air conditioning repairman was locked in the attic from the outside by an unseen force. Another employee after leaving a vase of flowers on a table returned the next morning to find the vase and arrangement shoved under the table on its side.

Sources

  • Coleman, Christopher K. Dixie Spirits: True Tales of the Strange and Supernatural, 2nd Edition. Nashville, Cumberland House, 2002.
  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Fort Morgan
51 AL 180
Baldwin County

With Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan guards the entrance to Mobile Bay. Construction began in 1819 following the British capture of the area in 1815 during the misnamed War of 1812. Using slave labor, this enormous masonry fort was completed in 1834. With rising tension after Alabama’s secession from the Union, the fort was peacefully turned over to the Alabama militia.

Fort Morgan, 2002, by Edibobb. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The fort saw action on August 5, 1864 during the Battle of Mobile Bay when it was attacked and besieged by Union warships. Fort Morgan finally surrendered to Union forces a few days later. It remained in operation until it was abandoned by the military in 1924. It was re-occupied by the military during World War II and then turned over to the State of Alabama in 1946.

Southern Paranormal Researchers investigated the fort in 2006 and witnessed a good deal of activity including hearing voices, seeing shadow figures and having fully charged batteries drained. They also captured a number of anomalies in photographs and one EVP. Visitors to the fort have encountered phantom smells of gun smoke, the sounds of battle and figures in period clothing.

Sources

  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Schroer, Blanche Higgins. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Fort Morgan. 4 Oct 1975.
  • Southern Paranormal Investigation Team. Fort Morgan Investigation. 16 Dec 2006.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
11288 Horseshoe Bend Road
Dadeville 

A bend on the Tallapoosa River formed an ideal spot for the Muscogee Creek village of Tohopeka. During the Creek War—a civil war within the Muscogee Creek Nation that eventually embroiled white Americans—a band of Red Stick Creeks under Chief Menawa bravely defended this position against white American troops and Native American allies under the command of Andrew Jackson. Some 800 Red Stick warriors were slaughtered here on March 27, 1814, bringing an end to the Creek War of 1813-14 and leaving the Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend stained red with blood.

With the slaughter that occurred here, it’s no wonder that visitors have reported a plethora of paranormal activity here ranging from smells and odd noises to full apparitions. A paranormal investigation by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team produced some photographic anomalies as well as the sound of someone screaming in the vicinity of the Muscogee Creek village site.

The riverbank at the Horseshoe Bend Battlefield, 2015. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation of Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. Accessed 18 Dec 2010.
  • Jensen, Ove. “Battle of Horseshoe Bend.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 26 Feb 2007.

Linn-Henley Research Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham

Linn-Henley Library, 2009, by DwayneP. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Originally opened in 1927 as the Birmingham Public Library, this building is now home to the library’s archives, government documents library, a southern history library and a ghost. Blogger Jessica Penot visited the library in 2012 and noted the “uncanny quiet that fills the building like a tangible presence.” The spirit of Fant Thornley, dedicated library director from 1953 until the 1970s, still makes occasional appearances in his beloved library. The spirit of Thornley has been seen by an electrician and a library staffer and other staffers have smelled the smoke from Thornley’s cigarettes.

Sources

Monroe County Heritage Museum
(Old Monroe County Courthouse)
31 North Alabama Avenue
Monroeville

In 1903, this structure was constructed as a courthouse for Monroe County. It was here that a young Harper Lee, Monroeville’s most famous resident and author of the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, would watch her father as he argued cases. When the novel was filmed on celluloid, the designers replicated the courtroom here on a Hollywood sound stage. This building was used by Monroe County as a courthouse until 1967.

Dome of the Old Monroe County Courthouse, 2008, by Melinda Shelton. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The upper floors of this building still seem to retain some of the energy from the building’s judicial use. Blogger Lee Peacock quotes one man as saying, “Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze. You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or there to be smoking.” Staff members working late here often get the feeling of not being alone and heard odd sounds within this storied building.

Sources

  • Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013
  • Peacock, Lee. “Ten new locations make list of “Spookiest Places in Monroe County.” Dispatches from the LP-OP. 31 October 2014.
  • W. Warner Floyd. National Register of Historic Places nomination  form for Old Monroe County Courthouse. 29 March 1973.

Moundville Archaeological Park
634 Mound State Parkway
Moundville

Between approximately 1120 C.E. and 1450 C.E., Moundville was the site of a large city inhabited by the Mississippean people, the predecessors to the tribes that the Europeans would encounter when they began exploring the South about a century later. At its height, this town was probably home to nearly 1000 inhabitants. Stretching to 185 acres, the town had 29 mounds of various sizes and uses: some were ceremonial while others were capped with the home of the elite.

One of the mounds at Moundville, 1998, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

Sources

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

Old Depot Museum
4 Martin Luther King, Jr. Street
Selma

Old Depot, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A part of the Alabama Ghost Trail, a series of haunted places linked by the Southwest Alabama Regional Tourism and Film Office, the Old Depot Museum features a ghost that reportedly has an affinity for the museum’s elevator.

Sources

  • Old Depot Museum. Alabama Ghost Trail. YouTube. Posted 19 July 2009.

Timmons Cemetery
Buxton Road
Redstone Arsenal

When the Army took over some 40,000 acres in Huntsville in 1941, it swallowed up old farm and plantation land including some 46 cemeteries. Located in the woods off of Buxton Road, the Timmons Cemetery is considered, by some, the spookiest place on the property. Guards patrolling Buxton Road at night have seen a little girl running across the road near the cemetery.

To explain the little girl’s spirit, a legend has surfaced, though apparently not back up by historical documentation. Margaret Ann Timmons was an energetic child and sometimes difficult to control. When work required the family to be in the fields, Margaret would be tied to a chair inside the house. The energetic child wiggled out of her restraints and kicked over an oil lamp that destroyed the house and killed the child. Now, not even death and the stone wall that surrounds the family’s cemetery can restrain her.

Sources

  • “Does a little girl really haunt Redstone Arsenal.” WAAY. 31 Oct 2014.
  • “Redstone Report: Ghost story still haunts Redstone Arsenal.” WAFF. 31 Oct 2011.

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour

A friend of mine recently contacted me and asked for a walking tour of Charleston, South Carolina. This is a tour of Charleston’s haunted highlights. It’s divided into three parts for convenience: South of Broad, North of Broad and Further Afield. For private residences, please respect the residents and simply look.

I’m trying a new system for sources. The bold numbers at the end of each entry correspond with the sources at the end of the article.

I’d like to use one of best descriptions of Charleston to one of my favorite authors:

The city of Charleston, in the green feathery modesty of its palms, in the certitude of its style, in the economy and stringency of its lines, and the serenity of its mansions South of Broad Street, is a feast for the human eye. But to me, Charleston is a dark city, a melancholy city, whose severe covenants and secrets are as powerful and beguiling as its elegance, who demons dance their alley dances and compose their malign hymns to the dark side of the moon I cannot see…

Though I will always be a visitor to Charleston, I will always remain one with a passionate belief that it is the most beautiful city in America and that to walk the old section of the city at night is to step into the bloodstream of a history extravagantly lived by a people born to a fierce and unshakable advocacy of their past. To walk in the spire-proud shade of Church Street is to experience the chronicle of a mythology that is particular to this city and this city alone, a trinitarian mythology with equal parts of the sublime, the mysterious, and the grotesque. But there is nothing to warn you of Charleston’s refined cruelty…

Entering Charleston is like walking through the brilliant carbon forest of a diamond with the light dazzling you in a thousand ways, an assault of light and shadow caused by light. The sun and the city have struck up an irreversible alliance.

— Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline, 1980

South of Broad Street

BATTERY CARRIAGE HOUSE INN (20 South Battery) The Battery Carriage House Inn is possibly one of the more spiritually active locations in the city. A few of the inn’s eleven sumptuous guest rooms are apparently haunted. A couple staying in room 3 were awakened by noise from a cellphone; while this may be quite common, phones are not supposed to make noise when powered off as this phone was. But this activity seems minor compared to the reports from rooms 8 and 10. Guests staying in Room 8 have encountered the apparition of a man’s torso. There is no head or limbs, just a torso dressed in a few layers of clothing. One guest sensed that this figure was quite negative. The spirit in Room 10 is much more pleasant and even described as a gentleman. The innkeepers believe this may be the spirit of the son of a former owner who committed suicide. 5, 14, 23, 33

BLIND TIGER PUB (36-38 Broad Street) Housed in a pair of old commercial buildings, these buildings have served a variety of uses over the years including number 38 serving as home to the State Bank of South Carolina for many years. During the administration of Governor Bill 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 and drinks would be provided compliments of the house. Number 36 housed one of these establishments. During the era of 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 else being present. 10, 20

CHARLESTON BATTERY On the Battery near the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 South Battery, a young woman encountered the apparition of a woman dressed in period clothing. James Caskey posits that the sad-faced apparition may very well have been the spirit of Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr and wife of South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston. In 1812, Theodosia Burr Alston boarded the Patriot in Georgetown, SC as she headed north. The ship was never heard from again. Her spirit has been seen up and down the South Carolina coast. 10, 38

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

CHARLESTON CITY HALL (80 Broad Street) Charleston’s marvelous city hall was originally constructed as a branch of the first Bank of the United States in 1800. It became city hall in 1818. 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 began 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. 13, 20

DANIEL HUGER HOUSE (34 Meeting Street, private) While this mid-18th century home sustained little damage during the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, a young, English visitor to the home was killed on the front steps. This area is prone to earthquakes and the quake that struck the city in 1886 caused massive damage throughout the city. The young man visiting the Huger (pronounced HEW-jee) family here fled the house when the shaking began. As he stood on the front steps a piece of molding from the roof struck him on the head, killing him. He may be the cause of mysterious rapping on the front door prior to earthquakes. 9, 20

Hannah Heyward House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

HANNAH HEYWARD HOUSE (31 Legare Street, private) This simple, but elegant villa-styled house was built in 1789. After Mrs. Heyward’s son, James, left one morning for a hunting trip, she encountered him sitting quietly later that afternoon. When she inquired among the servants when her son had arrived, no one seemed to have seen him. Later that evening some of James’ friends arrived with his lifeless body. Ever since, residents of the home have occasionally seen James sitting in the library. 12, 16, 20

JAMES SIMMONS HOUSE (37 Meeting Street) This house has been named “The Bosoms” because of its bowed front and you may giggle at the silliness of that. The house was built, without bosoms, in the mid-18th century and alterations in the 1840s added the namesake bays. Legend holds that a pirate buried treasure near this house and shot one of his men at the site. The “white, blurry silhouette” of that man has been seen near the house. 9, 10, 18, 20

OLD EXCHANGE BUILDING (122 East Bay Street) Among one of the most important and historic buildings in the city, the Exchange Building was constructed in the late 1760s to support the trade occurring in this, the wealthiest of colonial cities. The building was built on top of the old Half Moon Battery, a section of the original city wall. During the American Revolution, the dungeon held many of Charleston’s most prominent Patriot citizens. In 1791, this building hosted a ball for President George Washington.

It seems that the souls of some of the people imprisoned in the dungeon still stir. Ghost tours passing through the dungeon at night report that the chains used to guard exhibits swing on their own while visitors take photographs with anomalies quite regularly. Cries and moans have been heard here and Alan Brown reports that some woman have been attacked here. One hapless female visitor was pushed up against a wall while another felt hands around her neck. 6, 18, 20

ST. MICHAEL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH (80 Meeting Street) Step inside the cool sanctuary of this mid-18th century church and be on the lookout for a spectral bride. Legend speaks of Harriet Mackie who was supposedly poisoned on her wedding day and remains here in her wedding dress. 18, 20

St. Michael’s, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

ST. MICHAEL’S RECTORY (76 Meeting Street) St. Michael’s Alley, running alongside St. Michael’s Church’s churchyard to Church Street, was the scene of a duel in 1786 that left one young man with mortal wounds. Aroused by the commotion outside his house, Judge Elihu Hall Bay, a noted Charleston jurist, ordered the man’s companions to bring him into the house. Fearing that they could face consequences for their involvement with the dual, the young men fled after seeing their wounded friend into the house. The young man died.

It was reported that the commotion of the men bringing their wounded friend inside and then hurriedly fleeing was heard in the house on a regular basis. It has been noted, however, that since the home was converted to use as a church rectory in 1942, the sounds have ceased. 10, 18, 20

SIMMONS EDWARDS HOUSE (14 Legare Street) Just outside of Francis Simmons’ old home (see the Simmons Gateposts, 131 Tradd Street for more information) a shadowy couple has been seen walking hand in hand on the street. Their identity is unknown. 12, 18

Simmons Gateposts, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

SIMMONS GATEPOSTS (131 Tradd Street) These gateposts, marking where Ruth Lowndes Simmons’ home once stood, serve as sentinels to remind us of a tragic love story. While Ruth Lowndes was from a noble Charleston family, she was almost a spinster when she married Francis Simmons, a wealthy planter. Simmons provided his wife with a fine house here, though he had his own home on nearby Legare Street. When their separate carriages would pass, the couple would rise and bow to the other. An old Charleston legend says that the sounds of a horse and carriage are heard here. James Caskey reports that he felt the rush of air and smelled the odor of sweaty horses as he visited these gateposts at night. 10, 12, 18

SWORD GATE HOUSE (32 Legare Street) In the night, a spirit still prowls the halls of the magnificent house that stands beyond these iron gates wrought with swords. The gates were originally created to be used outside the city’s guardhouse, but were bought by Madame Talvande to guard her students after the city rejected the gates as too expensive. Even after the closure of the elite boarding school, legend speaks of Madame Talvande remaining here in spirit to see that her students remain moral and chaste. 6, 16, 20

THE TAVERN (120 East Bay Street) There are questions as to just how old this little building is. Some sources argue that it may well be one of the oldest buildings in the city, while others argue that it only dates to the early 19th century. Regardless, this building can claim an inordinate amount of history, mostly as a tavern and coffeehouse, as well as ghosts.

One owner spotted the specter of an 18th-century gentleman walking through the back door of the building. Later, his vision was confirmed by a psychic visitor who saw the same gentleman and some other spirits still lingering here. There are numerous stories regarding the spirits who may linger in this old tavern building. 10, 20

THOMAS ROSE HOUSE (59 Church Street) This circa 1735 home may have never been occupied by Thomas Rose, who built the house. However, this house did serve as the residence of Dr. Joseph Ladd, a poet and physician, who was killed in a duel in Philadelphia Alley (see that listing here) with his friend Ralph Isaacs. The argument between them amounted to a misunderstanding, but was played out in the local newspapers and ending in a duel. Ladd, who had the habit of whistling, continues to be heard in the house as well as in the alley where he met the grim specter of death. 18, 20

WHITE POINT GARDENS (Charleston Battery) If you stand at the corner of East Battery and South Battery, look down South Battery for the large stone monument. This monument marks the spot where Pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were executed. These pirates may be among the multitude of spirits here. See my article for further information and sources.

North of Broad Street

1837 BED & BREAKFAST (126 Wentworth Street) A specter from 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 a slave owned by the family that originally constructed this house. After his parents were sold to a Virginia planter, the young boy remained here. In an attempt to reach his parents, George stole a rowboat and 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. 6, 8, 10

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 interviews a former server who reported that she “once walked through a shadow which dissipated around me like smoke.” 10, 36

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.

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

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, William Aiken, Jr. was the largest slave owner in the state where he also served as governor.

Within the slave quarters, two visitors encountered an African-American woman who disappeared in the warren of rooms on the second floor. Two architects within the house in the late 1980s saw the apparition of a woman in the mirror sobbing and silently screaming in the ballroom of the house. Others within the house have taken photographs with possible paranormal anomalies. 7, 19, 20, 30

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. 10, 20

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. 8, 20

BOCCI’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT (158 Church Street) Staff members here were once cleaning up in the second floor dining room. One of the staff members 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. Approaching 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, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This building was constructed in 1868 by the Molony family who operated Charleston’s Irish pub on the ground floor. When Governor Tilman attempted to control alcohol sales in the state, 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. 10, 21

Charleston Library Society, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

CHARLESTON LIBRARY SOCIETY (164 King Street) The Charleston Library Society is the third oldest private library in the country, having been organized in 1748. This structure was built in 1914 to house the library and perhaps some of the spirits that dwell among its highly regarded stacks. William Godber Hinson, whose precious library is housed within this building, 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 in the same area. 4, 20 21

CHARLESTON PLACE HOTEL (205 Meeting Street) Built in the mid 1980s, this structure replaced a number of historic structures that were torn down. Denise Roffe mentions a number of odd occurrences here happening to guests and staff alike. These occurrences include mysterious footsteps, knocking on doors and apparitions. 21

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 church building itself dates only to 1891 while the cemetery surrounding the building is the oldest cemetery in the city. Within its confines is the oldest slate grave marker in the United States: a small, unreadable stone now supported by a wooden frame. Many graves are unmarked and, according to the Bulldog Ghost & Dungeon Tour, many more lie under the adjacent bank parking lot. Among the old graves here there are also spirits. Numerous ghost tours pass by and a few pass through this ancient place. Joanne Davis’ entry on the churchyard in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places reveals that witnesses report orbs, strange mists, apparitions and voices under the ancient oaks here. 1, 11, 17, 21, 25

DOCK STREET THEATRE (135 Church Street) The original Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 as, quite possibly, the second oldest edifice devoted to theatrical performance in the colonies. The structure lasted a little less than two decades before 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.

A man in a tall hat and overcoat is sometimes seen in the theatre’s 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.

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 upon 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. 8, 20, 21, 26, 27

EMBASSY SUITES—HISTORIC CHARLESTON HOTEL (337 Meeting Street) This building that dominates one side of Marion Square hardly looks like a typical chain hotel. This building was constructed as the South Carolina Arsenal in 1829 following the slave insurrection led by Denmark Vesey in 1822. The South Carolina Military Academy was founded here in 1842. The school, named The Citadel thanks to this structure, moved to its present site on the Ashley River in 1922.

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 that remains 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. 8, 29, 38

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.

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 documents to back up the story has proven fruitless. 8, 10, 19, 20

HUSK (76 Queen Street) Now housing Husk, one of the more exclusive of Charleston’s restaurants, 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. 10, 20

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 was awakened to find the spirit 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. 10, 20, 23

Joe E. Berry Hall, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

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 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 alarms problems. Even after replacing the system, the problems persist. Additionally, there are spectral sounds heard within the building including voices. 8, 10, 19

Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

MAD RIVER BAR & GRILLE (32 North Market Street) The Church of the Redeemer was constructed in 1916 to replace the Mariner’s Church that was damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1886. The building’s use as a church ceased in 1964 and the building became a restaurant. Evidently, the spirits residing in the building 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. 9, 20, 21

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. 21

MEETING STREET INN (173 Meeting Street) When it opened in 1982, 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. 20, 23

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 was torn down, but replaced with a reproduction that includes an additional two floors. The spirits here don’t appear to really know the difference and continue to reside here.

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. 3, 10, 20, 21

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 overnight and cause the occasional spectral racket. 10

OLD CITY JAIL (21 Magazine Street) In recent years, this formidable building has become a mecca for ghost hunters and tours within the city. 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 a later writer. If Lavinia Fisher does haunt this place, it is likely only in an attempt to clear her sullied name.

See my other articles on the jail for further information and sources. 2011 article and 2011 tour

OLD SLAVE MART (6 Chalmers Street) Now a museum devoted to the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this building was originally constructed as Ryan’s Mart, a slave market, in 1859. 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 within this building. 10, 20, 21
Old Slave Mart Museum, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

PHILADELPHIA ALLEY (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 and the whistling has been attributed to Ladd’s sad spirit. See the entry for Ladd’s former home, the Thomas Rose House at 59 Church Street, for further information. 10, 16, 20

Pink House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

PINK HOUSE (17 Chalmers Street) This quaint house is among the oldest buildings in the city, having been constructed around 1712. This house is believed to have housed a tavern in that time that was owned and operated by female pirate Anne Bonny. Geordie Buxton suggests that the feminine spirit here may be her shade. 2, 19, 20

POOGAN’S PORCH (72 Queen Street) Poogan, a local pooch, adopted the porch of this restaurant around the time this house was converted from a residence 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.

But 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. 10, 19, 21

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, the theatre was purchased by the Charleston Place Hotel which uses the space for a conference center and ballroom.

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. 21, 37

ST. PHILIP’S 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 structure constructed in 1682. It was replaced in the early 18th century with an English Baroque church. The current structure was built after the Baroque church’s destruction by fire in 1835. Because of its architectural and historical importance, St. Philips is now a National Historic Landmark.

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. 6, 20, 21, 35

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, 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 have heard spectral voices and experienced odd breezes. 7, 10, 19, 20

Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

TOMMY CONDON’S IRISH PUB (160 Church Street) 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. 21

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 saying that this woman was one of the loves of the great American writer, Edgar Allen Poe. Poe did spend some time here and the connection has been made that the woman was celebrated in Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee.” There is no real connection that can be made, but the Lady in White still takes regular strolls through the churchyard here.

Interior of the Unitarian Church, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

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 here. The fan vaulted ceiling is magnificent. 10, 20, 24

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 theatre, 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 within the building. 7, 20, 21

Further Afield

ANGEL OAK PARK (3688 Angel Oak, John’s Island) Considered one of the oldest living things on the East Coast, it is hard to not feel the benevolent energy emanating from this mighty tree. There is evidence that this tree has served as a meeting spot for Native Americans, slaves and slave owners whose spirits still remain among the massive branches. See my article for further information and sources.

ARTHUR RAVENEL JR. BRIDGE (US 17 over the Cooper River) Rising over the old buildings of Charleston is the majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the third longest cable-stay bridge in the Western Hemisphere which connects Charleston and Mount Pleasant. This bridge replaced two bridges: the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge opened in 1929 and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge which opened in 1966.

The John P. Grace Memorial Bridge was the scene of a terrible accident in 1946. A drifting cargo ship rammed the bridge ripping a 240-foot section. As the ship destroyed a section of the bridge a green Oldsmobile with a family of five was traveling over. The car dropped into the water killing the family. The bridge was repaired and continued to be used for many years, though there were reports of an odd green Oldsmobile seen on the bridge with a family of five inside, all staring straight ahead with lifeless eyes. Since the bridge’s demolition, the sightings of the car have stopped. 10, 22, 31, 34

DRAYTON HALL (3380 Ashley River Road) Of all the great homes in Charleston, perhaps no house is described with as many superlatives, and deservedly so, than Drayton Hall. The form nominating this structure to the National Register of Historic Places describes it as “without question, one of the finest of all surviving plantation houses in America.” The house remains in a remarkable state of preservation having been changed very little since its construction in 1738.

According to Ed Macy and Geordie Buxton’s Haunted Charleston, a psychic visiting this home in 2000 saw the bodies of four men dangling from the branches of the majestic oaks that line the approach to the house from the Ashley River. She stated that these men had been hung on orders from William Henry Drayton for their fealty to George III, during the American Revolution. Drayton’s spirit may also be among the spirits still wafting about this estate. Docents and visitors have reported seeing a man peering from the windows of the house and walking the avenue of oaks. 8, 28

FORT SUMTER (Charleston Harbor) On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired here when Confederates led an attack on this fort in Charleston Harbor. Interestingly, no one was killed in the initial bombardment of the fort. After the surrender, the Union commander, Major Robert Anderson, asked that his men be allowed to perform a 100-gun salute to the American flag before it was lowered. During that salute a pile of cartridges exploded wounding six men, two of whom died later of their injuries. One of those men, Private Daniel Hough is believed to return as a smoky form. His possible visage can also be seen in the flag of the Palmetto Guard that was raised in the flag’s place. 15, 26, 32

PATRIOT’S POINT – USS YORKTOWN (40 Patriot’s Point Road, Mount Pleasant) Just days before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the keel of this fighting lady was laid. Just two years later, in 1943, this grand grey ship entered service. She fought in the Pacific during World War II and the Vietnam War. Since the ship’s retirement in 1973 and its donation to Patriot’s Point, guests and staff have had numerous paranormal experiences. See my article for further information and sources.

Sources

Articles

  1. Bordsen, John. (10 October 2010) “Find the most haunted places in these Carolina towns. Dispatch-Argus.
  2. Buxton, Geordie. (October 2013) “You are here.” Charleston Magazine.
  3. Dyas, Ford. (24 October 2012) “See the real ghosts at these haunted hotels. Charleston City Paper.
  4. Salvo, Rob. (11 April 2011) “Legends and ghoulish traditions of the Library Society. Charleston Mercury.
  5. Spar, Mindy. (26 October 2002) “Local haunts among treats for Halloween.” The Post and Courier.

Books

  1. Brown, Alan. (2010) Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
  2. Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. (2001) The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books.
  3. Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. (2004) Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press.
  4. Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. (2005) Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press.
  5. Caskey, James. (2014) Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books.
  6. Davis, Joanne. (2005) “Circular Church Cemetery.” in Jeff Belanger’s The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page.
  7. Graydon, Nell S. (1969) South Carolina Ghost Tales. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop.
  8. Johnson, Tally. (2013) Civil War Ghosts of South Carolina. Cincinnati, OH. Post Mortem Paranormal.
  9. Kermeen, Francis. (2002) Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Hotels and Inns. NYC: Warner Books.
  10. Manley, Roger. (2007) Weird Carolinas. NYC: Sterling.
  11. Martin, Margaret Rhett. (1963) Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press.
  12. Mould, David R. and Missy Loewe. (2006) Historic Gravestone Art of Charleston, South Carolina 1695-1802. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.
  13. Pickens, Cathy. (2007) Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press.
  14. Pitzer, Sara. (2013) Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press.
  15. Poston, Jonathan H. (1997) The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
  16. Roffe, Denise. (2010) Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer.
  17. Turnage, Sheila. (2001) Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair.
  18. Ward, Kevin Thomas. (2014) South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer.
  19. Workers of the Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.
  20. Zepke, Terrence. (2004) Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press.

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms

  1. Bull, Elias B. (2 January 1972) Dock Street Theatre.
  2. Dillon, James. (August 1976) Drayton Hall.
  3. Fant, Mrs. James W. (16 May 1970) Old Citadel.

Websites

  1. Aiken-Rhett House Museum.” Historic Charleston Foundation. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  2. Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  3. Battle of Fort Sumter.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  4. Ghost Sightings.” Battery Carriage House Inn. Accessed 31 October 2010.
  5. John P. Grace Memorial Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  6. Our History.” Philip’s Church. Accessed 22 February 2011.
  7. Queen Street Hospitality.” 82 Queen. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  8. Riviera Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  9. South Carolina State Arsenal.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  10. Theodosia Burr Alston.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.

The season for specter-spotting—Newsworthy Haunts 10/9/2014

With the Halloween season already in full swing, media has started pumping out news items profiling our spectral friends throughout the country. Here’s a sampling of recent paranormal news from the South.

Gainesville Public Library
127 Main Street, NW
Gainesville, Georgia

If anything, the Gainesville Public Library does not outwardly appear to be a classic haunted building. The red brick, Brutalist-style building resembles countless modern library buildings throughout the country, but it includes something that many of those libraries do not have: a few ghosts. One of those spirits made an appearance during an investigation last weekend.

The library has been known to be haunted for some time and Nancy Roberts wrote about it in her 1997 book, Georgia Ghosts. The primary spirit Roberts wrote about has been called “Miss Elizabeth” or the “Lady of the Library” by the library staff. One staff member encountered her one night as she was closing. A strange young lady stood near the elevator, “she was only a few feet from me! Her brown hair, which was soft around her face, fell to her shoulders. She was about medium height and wore a long, dark dress, either navy or black.” The staff member turned away momentarily and when she turned back, the strange woman had vanished.

Other staff members described Miss Elizabeth in a 2011 Gainesville Times article as “wearing a long, dark skirt with a white shirt and a dark shawl. Her dark hair is pulled away from her plain face; on her neck she wears a broach.” In addition to seeing this fleeting apparition, the spirit is blamed for turning lights off and on, moving books and possibly riding on the elevator.

While the library building is not old, the property upon which it sits has quite a bit of history. At times during the history of the town, the property was a homestead and also contained a family cemetery. In the 1920s, the graves were moved and a hotel built on the site. The hotel was torn down to build the library.

During the recent investigation, however, it wasn’t Miss Elizabeth who made an appearance; it was the spirit of a small child. During the library sponsored investigation lead up by members of the Southeastern Institute for Paranormal Research, investigators encountered a spirit in the children’s section named Emma. One group heard the giggle of a child, while someone in a different group was touched lightly on the arm and then later another participant had her hair lightly tugged. A sensitive in the group stated that the spirit was a little girl with curly blonde hair dressed in a style reminiscent of the 1950s.

The sensitive remarked that the child seemed to be happy, loved book and “was glad someone had come to play with her.”

Sources

  • Gunn, Jerry. “Ghost hunters seek spirits at Gainesville Library.” Access North Georgia. 20 September 2014.
  • Gunn, Jerry. “Paranormal investigators meet a girl named Emma.” Access North Georgia. 5 October 2014.
  • King, Savannah. “Local ghost hangouts: Gainesville Library.” Gainesville Times. 30 October 2011.
  • Roberts, Nancy. Georgia Ghosts. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1997.

Old Clay County Jail
21 Gratio Place
Green Cove Springs, Florida

The Florida Times-Union has recently 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.

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

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.

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.
  • Hogencamp, Kevin. “It’s Halloween all year at old Clay County jail.” Florida Times-Union. 3 October 2014.

A Spectral Tour of the Shenandoah Valley

I recently had an inquiry from a friend who’s a student at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia regarding a “haunted road trip” he and his friends want to take next month. After consulting my resources, I’ve come to realize that this area of Virginia is not unlike the rest of the state in being a landscape studded with ghosts and legends.

I’ve arranged this tour to incorporate most of the haunted places I’m familiar with in the area with the option to pick and choose whichever places sound most appealing.

This tour begins and ends in Winchester. It heads south down I-81 towards Staunton with a few stops along the way. Staunton, which has a fascinating and haunted history, will be one of the main stops and may include a ghost tour. Heading east, the trip hits the famous Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville and then returns to Winchester. The trip includes a range of haunted places from historic homes to government buildings, churches, battlefields, commercial buildings, cemeteries, a train depot, a former mental hospital and a cave.

Winchester

Of the cities on this tour, Winchester is perhaps the most interesting, historically speaking. The city was chartered in 1752 and during the 19th century was one of the most important cities in the region. It served as a market town and it is here that nine major roads converged along with the Winchester and Potomac Railroad. With the coming of the Civil War, the city’s location made it a prize coveted by both armies. It would famously change hands many times during the war with three major battles taking place here during the course of the war with a host of smaller battles and skirmishes taking place throughout the region. This bloody history has most certainly left a spiritual mark on the region and especially on Winchester.

Winchester’s ghosts have been documented primarily in Mac Rutherford’s 2007 book, Historic Haunts of Winchester: A Ghostly Trip Through the Past. This book is excellent in describing these hauntings more in depth. There is a ghost tour, Ghost Tours Old Town Winchester, Virginia, though they only have a Facebook page that doesn’t provide much information. (website).

STOP #1-ABRAM’S DELIGHT (1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Open daily M-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4, Adults $5, website) One of the best places to understand the early history of Winchester is in the restored home of the Hollingsworth family, one of the first white families to settle in the area. Built by Abraham Hollingsworth in the mid-18th century, the house remained in the family until the City of Winchester purchased it in 1943. The house is apparently haunted by spirits of family members who once lived there. The family’s mill, which is now home to offices for the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, is also the scene of some paranormal activity. Please see my blog entry (An independent spirit—Winchester, Virginia) for further information.

STOP #2-MOUNT HEBRON CEMETERY (305 E. Boscawen Street, Open daily 7:30 AM-6PM, website) Encompassing four different cemeteries, Mount Hebron holds some of the oldest burials in the city. Two of the cemeteries within its precincts date to the mid-18th century, while the large Stonewall Confederate Cemetery was created just following the Civil War. This may also be the most haunted section of this cemetery. The marker for the Patton Brothers, George and Tazewell (Col. George S. Patton was the grandfather of General George S. Patton who lead American forces during World War II), has some reported activity with it involving a lone figure seen near it. Wearing a military greatcoat and peaked hat, the figure walks towards the marker and disappears. Legend holds that the figure may be none other than Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. During the 1930s, Rommel was one of a number of German military leaders who spent time in the area studying the military tactics of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

Entrance and Gate House for Mount Hebron Cemetery. Photo 2010,
by Karen Nutini, courtesy of Wikipedia.

While the Confederate dead—some of whom were unknown—were buried in the cemetery here, the Union dead were buried across Woodstock Lane in the National Cemetery. Mac Rutherford states that people living in the area and passersby just after sundown have seen grayish figures rising from the Confederate part of Mount Hebron and making their way across the street towards the National Cemetery.

STOP #3-DOWNTOWN WINCHESTER’S  haunted sites may be explored easily on foot, so these are grouped together. I’m not including every site, but some of the primary highlights.

STOP #3A-RED LION TAVERN BUILDING (204-208 South Loudoun Street) This historic tavern building was constructed in 1784 by a German Revolutionary War veteran named Peter Lauck. He is known to have had seven daughters one of whom may still be seen and heard in the building. People recently working in the building have been thanked by a soft, feminine voice saying, “danke.” The shadowy figure of a woman in colonial dress is sometimes seen when the voice is heard.

STOP #3B-CORK STREET TAVERN (8 West Cork Street, Open M-Sat 11-1AM, Sun 12-10, website) Occupying a pair of early 19th century residences, the Cork Street Tavern has a pair of ghosts, though there seems to be some uncertainty as to why they’re there. Much of the structure’s history is well-known except for the period during Prohibition when the building may have been used as a speakeasy and brothel. The pair, nicknamed John and Emily by the restaurant staff, have both made their presence known with a variety of activity. Apparitions of both have been seen in the building while Emily’s voice has been heard calling, “John,” a number of times. A spirit has also been known to trip female patrons walking into the non-smoking section. The level of activity here is high enough that it lead an investigator to remark during a 2009 investigation that “nothing holds a candle to Cork Street.” 

STOP #3C-SOUTH BRADDOCK STREET HAUNTS (Block of South Braddock between Cork and Boscawen) This block has spiritual activity from two different wars. The BRADDOCK STREET UNITED METHODIST CHURCH PARKING LOT (Intersection of South Braddock and Wolfe Streets, Southeast Corner) During the French and Indian War (1755-1762), Fort George, one of two forts built in the area under the purview of Colonel George Washington, stood near here. This piece of property was used for drilling recruits and Colonial soldiers have been seen in the area and in the building that once occupied this site.

Soldiers from the Civil War have been seen along this street. After the First Battle of Winchester on May 25, 1862 which was a Confederate victory, Union forces retreated along this street. According to Mac Rutherford, they held their formations along this street until they reached the center of town where they broke rank and ran for their lives. The reports of soldiers seen here usually include large formations of many soldiers.

STOP #3D-38 WEST BOSCAWEN STREET (private) One of Winchester’s most accomplished daughters, Patsy Cline, is associated with this building. It was here, at the G&M Music Store, where Cline bought her first guitar and made some of her first recordings. Visitors to the room that once housed the recording studio have experienced a coldness and claim to have felt the spirit of the famed singer.

STOP #3E-125 WEST BOSCAWEN STREET (private) The circa 1790 home at this site is now occupied by a law firm. Like many buildings throughout the city, this structure served as a hospital for the wounded during the Civil War. Employees of the businesses that have occupied this space over the past few decades have reported hearing footsteps regularly and feeling a cold chill in certain rooms.

STOP #3F-FULLER HOUSE INN (220 West Boscawen Street, private bed and breakfast inn, website) This magnificent home was constructed in 1854 incorporating the late 18th century servants quarters from the Ambler Hill Estate. On the eve of the Civil War, the house was purchased by prominent local dentist, Dr. William McPherson Fuller. This building was also commandeered for use as a hospital during the Civil War and that may explain the presence of a soldier who has been seen in the house.

STOP #3G-HANDLEY REGIONAL LIBRARY (100 West Piccadilly Street, Open M & W 10-8, T & F-Sat 10-5, Th 10-1, website) Opened in 1913, this glorious Beaux-Arts library was constructed as a gift to the city of Winchester from coal baron, Judge John Handley. The face of a man with a “drooping mustache” has been seen peering from the windows of the building’s rotunda. A full apparition of a man with a mustache and wearing a frock coat has been seen by library staff inside the building. Perhaps Judge Handley is checking up on his gift?

The glorious Beaux-Arts facade of the Handley Library. Photo 2011, by Missvain, courtesy of Wikipedia.

STOP #3H—KIMBERLY’S (LLOYD LOGAN HOUSE) (135 North Braddock Street, Open M-Sat 10-6, Sun 11-5, website) Lloyd Logan, a local tobacco merchant, built this home around 1850 and it was considered one of the finest homes in town. When war came, the house was taken over by Union generals Franz Sigel and later by Philip Sheridan. Under orders from General Sigel, Lloyd Logan was thrown in jail and the house and most of its contents were confiscated for army use. Logan’s wife and daughters were later removed from the house and unceremoniously dumped along the Valley Pike. This incident may contribute to the spiritual activity within the home. 

From Braddock Street, look up at the two windows on the south side of the second floor. Passersby have seen the figure of a man pacing and throwing his hands into the air. One witness described him as not “really clear, sort of gray and fuzzy. I think he was even pulling at his hair.” Employees of Kimberly’s have also seen the man in that room and state that he is accompanied by a woman crying in the corner.

STOP #3I—JOE’S STEAKHOUSE (PHILLIP WILLIAMS HOUSE) (25 West Piccadilly Street, Open M-Th 4PM-9:30, F-Sat 11AM-10:30, Sun 10AM-8, website) A Confederate officer is frequently seen staring out the windows of this circa 1845 mansion. Legend holds that this is the spirit of Colonel George S. Patton (the same one buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery above) who died here September 19, 1864 from injuries sustained during the Third Battle of Winchester. He is believed to have passed away on the second floor.

STOP #3J—INDIAN ALLEY Figures of very tall Indians have been witnessed along this street. There are a number of legends dating to the 18th century regarding very tall Native Americans who once lived in the area. Perhaps the spirits of these original inhabitants return? The Indians are generally seen during the first and last light of the day.

STOP #3K—BREWBAKER’S RESTAURANT (168 North Loudoun Street, Open T-Sat 11AM-2AM, Sun 11-9, website) With a core dating the late 18th century, this old commercial building has been home to a continuous line of restaurants since 1910. However, the history does not explain the apparition of a young woman who appears near the fireplace.

STOP #3L—OLDE TOWN ARMORY AND HEIRLOOMS (151 North Loudoun Street, website) Built originally as the Arlington Hotel, this building houses a ghost that was known recently to make a bathroom run every morning. The owners of the shop (not the people currently occupying the space) would have the front door open by itself followed by the sound of footsteps racing into the store and up the stairs. The water in the bathroom would be turned on in the upstairs bathroom. After some time, the spirit began leaving a penny outside the bathroom door. In one case, the spirit left a penny on the floor and placed a penny on the breasts of a female mannequin being stored just outside the bathroom.

STOP #3M—TAYLOR PAVILION (125 North Loudoun Street, private) In its heyday, the Taylor Hotel offered the grandest accommodations in the city. Opening just a decade before the Civil War, the hotel provided accommodations to many of the generals leading troops through the area. Sadly, one of the red-headed call girls who served at the hotel still lingers in this building.

STOP #3N—VILLAGE SQUARE RESTAURANT AND V2 PIANO BAR AND LOUNGE (103 North Loudoun Street, Open M-Th 11:30-10, F-Sat 11:30-12, Sun 11:30-8, website) These two establishments occupy a series of haunted structures all built in the early 19th century. Spirits flit and float throughout the restaurant, but the V2 Piano Bar and Lounge have the real story to tell. This building formerly housed Miller’s Apothecary which opened on this site in the mid-18th century. The apothecary was operated by the Miller family until 1992 when they decided to shutter the business. Subsequent owners of the building have all had run-ins with the resident spirits including Jeanette, a young woman who lived with the Miller family in the 18th century.

Perhaps one of the saddest stories of this location comes from the Civil War. Union soldiers from the 29th Pennsylvania Infantry were quartered in the upstairs rooms. A young African-American male was lynched by the group in a tree just outside the building. The pacing of boots and the shouts of arguing soldiers are still heard here. 

STOP #3O—33 NORTH LOUDON STREET Near this address be on the lookout for a young woman in Civil War era clothing hurrying along the street with a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. This is believed to be the spirit of Tillie Russell, a local woman who legend calls, “The Angel of the Battlefield.”

A small engagement occurred at Rutherford’s Farm outside of Winchester on July 20, 1864. Union forces attacked a Confederate division on General Stephen Ramseur throwing that division into confusion. Capt. Randolph Ridgeley of the 2nd Virginia Volunteer Infantry was seriously wounded when Tillie Russell found him and nursed him through the night. Ridgeley was found the next morning being cradled by Miss Russell and survived his wounds.

For years, people have seen the spirit of Miss Russell leaving the building at 33 North Loudoun pulling her shawl about her shoulders as she heads off towards the battlefield at Rutherford’s Farm.

STOP #3P—OLD COURT HOUSE CIVIL WAR MUSEUM (20 North Loudoun Street, Open M-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5, Adults $5, website) Of all the buildings throughout Winchester that were impacted by the Civil War, the biggest impact was possibly on this building which was constructed in 1840 as the Frederick County Court House. The building served as a hospital and, after the Third Battle of Winchester, a prison for captured Confederates. Many of the scars left on this building including the graffiti left on the walls by soldiers from both sides have been preserved. The building has also been the scene of some rather intense spiritual activity.

Some spiritually sensitive passersby have witnessed gray forms huddled in the building’s courtyard where Confederate prisoners were kept. In the old courtroom, voices have been heard ranging from faint whispers to obnoxious shouting and the cries of the wounded that once crowded this space. During the building’s renovation, workers had tools and equipment moved. Three workers walked off the job when scaffolding was moved from one side of the room to another during a lunch break.

Old Frederick County Court House, 2011, by Saran Stierch. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

STOP #3Q—OLDE TOWN CAFE (2 South Loudoun Street) This large, brick building was originally the family home of the prominent Holliday family and this was the home of Frederick Holliday who served as governor during the 19th century. The building has seen a variety of uses including post office, a dry goods store and drug store. Since its use as a restaurant, the owners have discovered that the building is also the residence of two ghosts. A male spirit has been seen ascending the stairs from the basement, though he always just stops and stares upon reaching the top. A woman’s spirit has been seen entering the building’s front door and rearranging items on the shelves inside the restaurant.

Middletown

STOP #4—WAYSIDE INN (7783 Main Street, private bed and breakfast inn with a restaurant, Larrick’s Tavern, open 12-9 Th-Sat and Sun 10-2, website) This building essentially sits at the center of history for this small town. The motley of old buildings forming the tavern were built over a period ranging from the 18th century through to the late 19th century. The oldest portion of the building, that containing Larrick’s Tavern, is considered the oldest portion and may have been constructed around 1750. The road in front was once part of the Great Wagon Road—the road that helped settle the American “backcountry.” The road here, through the Shenandoah Valley, which enters the valley in Winchester, was originally a Native American trail called the Great Indian Warpath, a trail used by the multitude of Native American tribes—including the Cherokee—throughout this region.

In 1797, this collection of buildings became an inn for the many travelers passing on the road. Leo Bernstein, the garrulous personality who took over the inn the latter half of the 20th century, would always claim that this inn was the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. There does seem to be a good deal of truth behind his claim. It is known that this inn was in operation as war raged up and down the valley during the Civil War and that the inn served both sides.

Wayside Inn. Photo 2008, by DwayneP, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Like most buildings in the area, the inn has a number of Civil War related spirits, though there is the possibility that the inn may have been haunted by the time the war rolled through the region. Lord Fairfax, who had been given much the land in the area, did live nearby and died in Winchester (he’s buried at Christ Episcopal Church) is claimed as the spirit that moans on a nightly basis in the oldest portion of the inn. Bernstein describes the space in Sheila Turnage’s Haunted Inns of the Southeast, “Upstairs is about a three foot space. There was a set of steps going up there. The straw is still there.” Bernstein would like to believe that Lord Fairfax is the source of the moan, who may have been a guest here with his young surveyor, George Washington, in tow. The loft is located just above one of the bars and Turnage mentions that people gather to listen for the moan at 11:30 PM nightly.

Besides odd moans, the inn is home to numerous other spirits and employees and guests have witnessed much activity. Objects have moved on their own accord, a dishwasher had his apron untied repeatedly by unseen hands, and full apparitions have been seen including those of Civil War soldiers. Paranormal investigations have captured much evidence including EVPs of horses whinnying and photographs featuring specters.

STOP #5—WAYSIDE THEATRE (7853 Main Street, now closed) The sad fate of the Wayside Theatre echoes the fate of so many theatres throughout the country. The company was established in 1961, by Leo Bernstein, the owner of the Wayside Inn just down the street. The summer stock theatre provided training for actors such as Susan Sarandon, Peter Boyle, Kathy Bates and Donna McKechnie. After a precipitous drop in revenue, the theatre closed its doors just last year.

The building was originally constructed as a cinema and it is from this period that the theatre’s ghost may come from. “George,” is supposedly the spirit of an African-American man who either worked in the theatre or was a caretaker at some point. His spirit is said to haunt the stage, balcony and basement of the building.

STOP #6—CEDAR CREEK AND BELLE GROVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (Belle Grove, 336 Belle Grove Road, Open M-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-5, $12 Adults, website; Cedar Creek Visitor’s Center, 8437 Valley Pike, Open M-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-4, website) Historically and architecturally, Belle Grove is one of the most important houses in the region and listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is currently owned and operated by the National Trust and most sources state that the docents are discouraged from talking about the spirits which still reside here.

Belle Grove, 2013, by AgnosticPreachersKid. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The history of Belle Grove begins in the late 18th century with the land being acquired by Isaac Hite, the grandson of Jost Hite, a German immigrant and one of the early pioneers to this area. Construction of the house began in 1794 and ended in 1797. The house remained in the Hite family until just before the beginning of the Civil War when it was bought by John and Benjamin Cooley. The first of two ghost stories begins with this family. Not long after acquiring the house, Benjamin Cooley married a local woman named Hetty. Not long after her arrival in the home, Hetty became the subject of ire from one of the slave woman working there.

Though the details are unclear, Hetty was attacked by the slave and her beaten body was thrown either into the smokehouse or the icehouse on the property. Hetty’s spirit reportedly returns frequently and has been seen throughout the house. According to two sources, she actually let a deliveryman into the house one afternoon after the home had been closed for the day. The deliveryman was returning the antique carpets which had been removed for cleaning. After arriving late, he was let into the house by a woman in a period dress who did not speak but only gestured to where the carpets should be placed. When the staff discovered the carpets had been returned and put in place, they called the cleaning company who put the driver on the phone. They were shocked to hear about the woman who let him in.

A few years after Mrs. Cooley’s death, the estate became the scene of the Battle of Cedar Creek. During that battle, Major General Stephen Ramseur of North Carolina was gravely wounded. He was taken to a room at Belle Grove where he passed away the following morning surrounded by some of his former classmates from West Point from both armies including George Custer. This scene was witnessed by a gentleman some years ago. While idly passing through the house, he glanced into a room to see a group of Civil War soldiers in both blue and grey standing around someone in a bed. Later, when he asked who had been presenting the tableaux that day, he was informed that nothing of the sort was taking place in the house.

Employees have told various paranormal writers that voices and other odd noises are regularly heard in the house, while singing is heard in the slave cemetery on the property.

Early on the morning of October 19, 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launched an attack upon Union forces camping in the area. These forces under General Sheridan (who was headquartered at the Lloyd Logan House in Winchester, see stop #3H) had spent their time clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Confederates. Known as “The Burning,” this period included the destruction of much of the area. Early’s early morning attack was one of the last chances for Confederates to stop the decimation of the valley.

While Early’s attack was initially successful in beginning to route the Federals, Sheridan, hearing the sounds of battle from Winchester, jumped upon his horse and made a triumphant ride to Middletown to rally his troops to victory. At the end of the day, Early’s forces had been driven from the field.

The stories of spirits on this battlefield began not long after the battle ended. These stories included spectral soldiers on the battlefield both singly and in groups and even stories of headless horsemen. Michael Varhola notes, however, that the gentlemen he met working in the visitor’s center, refused to answer his questions about the battlefield being haunted.

Grottoes

Formations within Grand Caverns. Photo 2010 by P199. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

STOP #7—GRAND CAVERNS (5 Grand Caverns Drive, Open 9-5, Adults $18, website) From the oldest continuously operating inn in the country to the oldest operating show cave, Grand Caverns has been open for tourists since 1806. I’ve covered this cave and its ghosts in a blog entry here.

New Hope

STOP #8—PIEDMONT BATTLEFIELD (Battlefield Road) Outside of New Hope, near the community of Piedmont, is an open field that was the scene of a battle, the 5th of June 1864.

Around 5 AM, June 5, 1996, a group of reenactors camping on the southern edge of the battlefield were awakened by an unusual ruckus: the sounds of wagons approaching. In an effort to greet the approaching wagons, a few of the reenactors stepped towards a nearby fence. The sounds, the creak of wagon wheels, the tinkle of chains, the clop of horses hooves and their whinnies, increased for a moment as they apparently neared the awed witnesses then they suddenly ceased. Some of those present later discovered an overgrown trace or wagon road in the woods near the spot where they’d heard the sounds. It is believed that this road may have been in existence at the time of the battle.

Of course, there’s no way to know if the sounds were related to battle or simply spiritual residue from the road’s history. Either way, the reenactors will likely tell this story for years to come.

Staunton

Like Winchester, Staunton has a myriad of haunted locales and a ghost tour. Black Raven Paranormal presents a handful of different tours; see their website for further information.

STOP #9—MRS. ROWE’S FAMILY RESTAURANT (74 Rowe Road) This popular restaurant has been investigated twice in the past few years after employees and guests have had run-ins with spirits. In addition to activity in the building’s attic and basement, the back dining room and men’s room have reportedly had activity. Two local news articles describe the activity as ranging from full apparitions to employees being touched.

STOP #10—DeJARNETTE CENTER (located behind the Frontier Culture Museum, 1290 Richmond Avenue, the center is closed and private property though one of the tours offered by the Ghosts of Staunton tours the grounds, don’t ask for further information at the Frontier Culture Museum, they can’t tell you much of anything) There’s a good deal of misinformation about this location. Of course, mental and psychiatric hospitals tend to be haunted, along with other medical facilities. Among those with a paranormal bent, there is a tendency to exploit these types of places and often repeat misinformation.

DeJarnette Center. Photo 2011, by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the DeJarnette Center, there is a tendency to confuse it with Western State Hospital, which also may be haunted. Though their histories are intertwined, these are two separate facilities. Western State was founded early in the 19th century to handle the overflow from the Williamsburg Hospital which handled the insane and mental cases. The complex that once house Western State has recently been converted into condominiums called The Villages at Staunton.

During the first half of the 19th century, Western State was under the aegis of Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, a revolutionary figure in the field of mental health. His controversial legacy included institutionalizing a eugenics program that forcibly sterilized numerous patients throughout the state.

This facility opened in 1932 originally as the DeJarnette State Sanitarium, a private pay unit of Western State. The state assumed control of this facility in 1975 and renamed it the DeJarnette Center for Human Development. The facility experienced severe budget cuts starting in the mid-70s and continuing until the patients were moved into a newer, smaller facility adjacent to Western State in 1996. Since 1996, the site has been abandoned and waiting for the wrecking ball. Countless ghost stories have been told about the facility, though few have actually been published.

STOP #11—DOWNTOWN STAUNTON Like downtown Winchester, Staunton has a number of haunted places, though the information on them is not as readily available (as opposed to Winchester with Mac Rutherford’s book on its hauntings). I imagine many of these locations will be presented on the Ghosts of Staunton tour.

STOP #11A—STAUNTON COFFEE AND TEA (32 South New Street, Open M-F 7:30-6, Sat 8-5, Sun 8-4, website) This building was the scene of a homicide in August of 1951. Elmer Higgins, a heavy gambler who lived in an apartment on the building’s second floor was shot in the head, execution-style. The murder remains unsolved and it is believed his spirit remains on the premises.

STOP #11B—AMTRAK STATION (1 Middlebrooks Avenue) There has been a train station on this site since 1854. The first station was burned during the Civil War while the second station was destroyed April 28, 1890 by train. The New York Times described the event, “This morning about 3 o’clock a railroad wreck occurred at the Staunton (Chesapeake and Ohio) Station. The vestibule train, due here from the west at 1 o’clocl was two hours late. About 3 o’clock it came whirling on at a speed of seventy miles an hour, the engine having the appearance of a sheet of fire…As the train reached the passenger station the rear sleeper careened, striking the platform covering, tearing away the iron posts, and demolishing the whole platform structure.”

Staunton Amtrak Station. Photo 2009, by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The train was carrying members of a traveling operatic troupe out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The only death to occur was one of the company’s singers, Miss Myrtle Knox who was badly mangled by the accident and bled to death.

Myrtle’s sad spirit has been spotted on the platform wearing a nightgown. Women with long blonde hair have had their hair tugged and it is believed that Myrtle’s spirit may be to blame for that as well.

An old rail car at the depot once contained a restaurant. Visitors to the station have seen odd lights, shadows and heard voices around the old Pullman car. Along the tracks the apparition of a Civil War soldier has been seen. A Confederate soldier was walking these tracks after having a bit too much to drink at a local saloon. He was hit by a train and killed.

STOP #11C— THE CLOCK TOWER BUILDING (27 West Beverly Street) This 1890 structure has been the scene of at least three deaths. Two early deaths on the premises, which was originally constructed as a YMCA facility, include a heart attack and a young woman who fell down a coal chute. Recently, someone fell to their death from the third floor in a possible suicide. These spirits are still said to linger in this old building.

STOP #12—MARY BALDWIN COLLEGE (Intersection of Frederick Street and New Street) According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for this college’s main building, Mary Baldwin is the oldest women’s institution of higher learning associated with the Presbyterian Church. The school was opened in 1842 as the Augusta Female Seminary. In the midst of the Civil War, Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung, former students of the seminary were appointed as principals. They would serve the school through the latter half of the 19th century and Mary Baldwin’s contribution would be recognized in 1895 when the school was renamed for her. The spirits of Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung may remain on campus along with a few other assorted spirits.

In the old Main Building, one of the first buildings constructed on campus, a male spirit named Richard likes to occasionally cause trouble. McClung Residence Hall, just behind the Main Building includes the rooms where Baldwin and McClung lived during their tenure here. Students living there have reported the spirits of both women, with one student even waking up to find a white figure hovering over her as she slept. The Collins Theatre, located inside the Deming Fine Arts Center, also features a spirit, possibly that of one of Mary Baldwin’s most illustrious alums, the actress Tallulah Bankhead. The spirit in the theatre is known to mess with the stage lights.

Gordonsville

Exchange Hotel, 2008, by Rutke421. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

STOP #13—CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AND EXCHANGE HOTEL (400 South Main Street, Open M-Th & Sat 10-4, F 12-4, Sun 1-4, $7 Adults, website) The Exchange Hotel has, in recent years, become one of the Southern meccas for ghost hunters. Opened on the eve of the Civil War, this hotel became one of the premier hospitals for the wounded during the Civil War. With so many deaths here, it’s no wonder that the place is crawling with ghosts. In one of my early blog entries, I’ve covered this location. At one time, the museum offered ghost walks, but I can currently find no information about these. This haunting was also covered on the Biography Channel show, My Ghost Story, first season, episode six.

Sources

  • Abram’s Delight. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  • Armstrong, Derek Micah. “A true ghost story.” The News Virginian. 22 October 2012.
  • Ash, Linda O’Dell. “Respect the spirits, ‘Ghost Hunters International’ star Dustin Pari tells Wayside Inn paranormal investigators.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 7 November 2011.
  • Austin, Natalie. “Local ghost expert shares stories of the supernatural.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 30 October 2004.
  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents. Wikipedia, the Free Accessed 29 September 2014.
  • Daly, Sean. “In Strasburg, a Medium Well Done.” The Washington Post. 31 July 2002.
  • Demeria, Katie. “Joe’s Steakhouse opens new location in Winchester.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 20 June 2014.
  • “A haunting reminder of a darker past at the DeJarnette complex.” The Daily News Leader. 15 September 2012.
  • History. Cork Street Tavern. Accessed 17 September 2014.
  • History. Mount Hebron Cemetery. Accessed 21 September 2014.
  • History of Our Building. Brewbaker’s Restaurant. Accessed 24 September 2014.
  • Klemm, Anna and DHR Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Mount Hebron Cemetery. 25 July 2008.
  • Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal Activity Hunters Investigate Restaurant for Ghost Activity.” 11 January 2013.
  • Lee, Marguerite Du Pont. Virginia Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Lowe, F.C. “Final curtain falls on Wayside Theatre; ending 52-year run.” Winchester Star. 8 August 2013.
  • Middletown Heritage Society. National Register of Historic Place nomination form for Middletown Historic District. 7 May 2003.
  • Peters, Laura. “What goes bump in the night.” The Daily News Leader. 9 October 2013.
  • Powell, Lewis O. “An Independent Spirit—Winchester, Virginia.” Southern Spirit Guide. 31 March 2014.
  • Rutherford, Mac. Historic Haunts of Winchester: A Ghostly Trip Through the Past. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Shulman, Terry. “Did ghostly soldiers pay reenactors a courtesy call?” The News Leader (Staunton, VA). 10 July 2004.
  • Smith, Morgan Alberts & Marisol Euceda. “The Ghosts of MBC.” Up Hill and Down. January/February 2003.
  • Stanley, K.W. “The history of Western State and the Dejarnette Sanitarium.” The News Progress. 20 May 2008.
  • Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.
  • Tripp, Mike. “DeJarnette’s ugly, complicated legacy.” The Daily News Leader. 22 March 2014
  • “Trying to get a glimpse of a ghost at Staunton’s Mrs. Rowe’s.” News Leader. 24 June 2012.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Cedar Creek Battlefield and Belle Grove. 24 April 1969.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Mary Baldwin College, Main Building. 26 July 1973.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Winchester Historic District.  April 1979.
  • The Wayside Theatre—Middletown, VA.” Haunted Commonwealth. 15 May 2010.
  • Westhoff, Mindi. “Paranormal group presents downtown ghost tour.” The Daily News Leader. 24 September 2008.
  • Williams, J.R. “Paranormal investigators examine Cork Street Tavern for ghost activity.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 3 August 2009.
  • Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Winchester Historic Sites. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  • “A Young Singer Killed.” New York Times. 29 April 1890.

Begowned Ghosts—Higher Ed Haunts of Virginia

Higher education has always nodded towards the traditions of ancient universities especially during rituals like graduation when students and faculty wear traditional scholars’ gowns and regalia. Among those traditions that can be found are ghost stories passed from student to student, though often these tales include a kernel of truth.  Included here are a few stories from Virginia.

Alderman Library
Campus of the University of Virginia
Charlottesville

The website for the University of Virginia Libraries notes that the university’s library system incorporates 13 buildings, possesses 5.1 million books and includes reports of two ghosts. The university’s grand Alderman Library was built during the Great Depression as part of FDR’s Public Works Administration. Opening in 1938, the building housed the university’s growing library which originally was house in the magnificent rotunda designed as a centerpiece for the university by Thomas Jefferson.

Alderman Library, 2009, by Vtn5n, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to accounts from library staff, the two spirits within the library don’t actually haunt the building, but two particular collections of books. Like the inverted and bookish Jefferson, Dr. Bennett Wood Green and Muscoe Garnett were both obsessed with their own personal libraries. When Dr. Green, a Virginia physician, died in 1913, he left his large library to the university. His books were originally shelved in the Rotunda library and that is where his curious spirit was first encountered checking up on his precious books. When his books were moved to the new Alderman Library, he tagged along and his spirit has been seen roaming the old stacks. Footsteps echoing through those same stacks have also been attributed to him. Upon encountering Green’s bookish spirit, one library staff member began bringing her large dog to work with her.

Alumnus and later member of the university’s Board of Visitors, politician Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett housed his extensive library in his home, Elmwood, in Essex County, Virginia. Upon Garnett’s death just before the end of the Civil War, the house was closed and left to decay. While the house decayed, the books seemingly did not. Rumors spread that the library was taken care of by the spirit of a friend of Garnett’s who would rise from his grave nightly to dust and care for the library. The books were donated by the family to the university in 1938 and were shelved in the new Alderman Library. The spirit seen among these books may be the caring spirit or perhaps that of Garnett, himself.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
  • Foster, Gaelyn and Jiaer Zhuang. “Alderman Library turns 75.” The Cavalier Daily. 16 October 2013.
  • Pflager, Henry. “Alderman to celebrate 75thThe Cavalier Daily. 3 October 2013.
  • Strand, Megan. “Terrifying Tales.” The Cavalier Daily. 13 April 2001.
  • Truong, Tiffany. “Spirits, ghosts reportedly haunt University grounds.” The Cavalier Daily. 30 October 2013.

Ferguson Center for the Arts
Campus of Christopher Newport University
Newport News

Though Christopher Newport University is the youngest comprehensive public university in Virginia, it seems to have acquired a ghost. The building now housing the Ferguson Center for the Arts originally opened in 1957 as Warwick Junior High School. In 1961, the school reopened as Homer L. Ferguson High School and remained a high school until it closed in 1996. Christopher Newport University, which opened in 1960 not long after Warwick Junior High, acquired the building and hired noted architect I.M. Pei to renovate it into a performing arts center.

Along with the old high school, the university also acquired the ghost of a former student. According to the university’s student newspaper, The Captain’s Log, the spirit requires acknowledgement and the theatre students working in the building know to say hello to her when they enter the sound booths. Otherwise, the student may see things in their peripheral vision. The paper notes that a 15-year-old female student died in 1968.

Sources

  • Christopher Newport University. “Our Campus.” Accessed 12 September 2014.
  • Christopher Newport University. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2014.
  • “Ferguson High School Closing: Ferguson Memories.” Daily Press. 9 June 1996.
  • Lurie, Victoria. “A Ghost Story.” The Captain’s Log. 30 October 2013.

Payne Hall
Campus of Washington & Lee University
Lexington

The Colonnade of Washington and Lee University may be one of the most dramatic collections of college buildings in America. Oddly, this section of campus was not “the product of a single architectural concept,” as is stated in the university’s National Register of Historic Places nomination form. In fact, the Colonnade evolved as “an evolutionary product of a building program, extending over nearly one hundred and fifty years.” So remarkable is this collection of buildings that it is now a National Historic Landmark.

The Colonnade, 2008, by Bobak Ha’Eri, courtesy of Wikipedia. Payne Hall is the second building from the left.

The second oldest building in the Colonnade is Payne Hall built in 1831. The building was originally called The Lyceum and used to teach biology. It was renamed Payne Hall after a renovation in the 1930s and is currently used by the university’s English department. After an English class studied James Merrill’s epic poem, “The Book of Ephraim”—a poem composed using an Ouija board—some students and an English professor attempted to communicate with the spirits of Payne Hall via Ouija board. The group possibly communicated with a few spirits. When one spirit was asked which building on campus was the most haunted, it replied by spelling out “B-I-O.” Sometime later, the professor discovered that Payne Hall had historically been used for biology.

Among the stories from Payne Hall are accounts of doors opening and closing by themselves, disembodied footsteps and apparitions. A university press release describes three apparitions that have been seen around this building including, “a dark presence moving swiftly down the back stairs, a person dressed in black swirling down the Colonnade, and a cape-wearing figure that whisks into the building.”

Sources

  • Balfour, Amy C. “Payne Hall Restoration: A Marriage of Old and New.” News @ Washington and Lee. 14 September 2011.
  • Hanna, Jeff. “Payne Hall Ghost: Spooked by Renovations?” News @ Washington and Lee. 27 October 2011.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Washington and Lee Historic District. 6 October 1970.

 

Newsworthy Haunts 9-1-14

In the past two months, a number of locations in the South have been investigated and written up in local media.

Antiques and Uniques Collectibles
7 Aviles Street
St. Augustine, Florida

In the old quarter of one of the oldest cities in the country, it’s no surprise that ghosts are found everywhere. The building housing this small antique store is a quaint, commercial structure with a balcony that overhangs the sidewalk. Painted a bright, gay yellow, the color gives no clue to the spirits that lurk within. According to a historian quoted in Elizabeth Randall’s Haunted St. Augustine and St. John’s County, part of the building was originally built as a jail, specifically a drunk tank, in the late 19th century. The building was enlarged and has mostly been used as a commercial building throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

Aviles Street from Constitution Plaza, 2014. Antiques and Uniques Collectibles is the yellow building on the left side of the street just under the sign. Photo by Michael Rivera, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to an article by paranormal investigator and writer Jamie Pearce for Historic City News, the building houses several spirits including a spectral cat. Pearce states that, “the last time we investigated, five members of my team heard two distinct ‘meows’ inside the store, a store with no cats.” Other spirits, including two possible children, are known to occasionally raid the refrigerator and play with toys. The store’s owner captured video of the refrigerator door opening and closing on its own accord.

Sources

  • Pearce, Jamie. “Make some paranormal friends on Aviles Street.” Historic City News. 24 August 2014.
  • Randall, Elizabeth. Haunted St. Augustine and St. John’s County. Charleston: History Press, 2013.

Beauvoir
2244 Beach Boulevard
Biloxi, Mississippi

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, many of the homes along Beach Boulevard—which look out to the Gulf—sustained extensive damage with some being swept away completely. Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, sustained terrible damage. Some outbuildings were swept away and others damaged severely while some 35% of the museum’s collections were lost. By 2008, the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth, the house had been restored and reopened to the public.

Even after the hurricane’s extensive damage, the spirits have remained. While paranormal investigation groups have lobbied unsuccessfully for years to investigate the estate, a recent shakeup in the museum’s administration finally allowed Mississippi Gulf Coast Paranormal (MGCP) to investigate over a weekend earlier this month.

Beauvoir, 2010. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to articles regarding the investigation, paranormal activity is a very common occurrence at the stunning antebellum home. One paranormal investigation team member stated that while full-body apparitions are a rarity elsewhere, they’re quite normal here. They continued saying that a staff member in the house “sees Jeff Davis a couple times a week standing in the main hall.” In addition to the former president of the Confederacy, apparitions of Davis’ wife, Varina, and his daughter, Winnie, have been captured on film. In addition, a Confederate soldier is commonly encountered on the grounds by staff and visitors alike.

The MGCP investigation apparently captured a few occurrences the first night of the investigation including a rocking chair rocking on its own accord in Davis’ bedroom and many hits on the team’s K2 meters. It will likely be a few weeks before all the video and audio is thoroughly reviewed.

Sources

  • Beauvoir (Biloxi, Mississippi). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 31 August 2014.
  • Ochs, Patrick. “Ghost hunters return for Round 2 at Beauvoir in Biloxi.” The Sun Herald. 9 August 2014.
  • Ochs, Patrick. “We ain’t afraid of no ghosts: Paranormal group investigates Beauvoir.” The Sun Herald. 7 August 2014.

T’Frere’s Bed & Breakfast
1905 Verot School Road
Lafayette, Louisiana

I’ve previously covered the “Little Brother’s” House a few years ago when I started this blog. For background information, please see my previous entry here. I was delighted recently to see that an investigation of this house was recently carried out.

Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, who has methodically investigated haunted places throughout the state of Louisiana, were granted access to investigate T’Frere’s recently after 9 years of trying to get permission.

Like the investigation at Beauvoir, a few minor things happened, the result will not be available for a few weeks.

Sources

  • Coen, Chere. “Ghost hunters search for inn’s oldest ‘resident.’” IND Monthly. 18 August 2014.
  • Ponseti, Valerie. “Ghost Hunt at T-Frere’s.” KATC. 17 August 2014.

Demopolis Public Library
211 East Washington Street
Demopolis, Alabama

While the hauntings at Beauvoir and T’Frere’s have been decently documented, there’s been another investigation recently for a location that has not been documented yet: the Demopolis Public Library. The Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group was called in by the library’s director to find out if the “creaks and quirks” of the old building are simply that or possibly paranormal. The director states that staff have discovered books repeatedly falling off the shelf as well as hearing footsteps in the building’s mezzanine. As with the other investigations, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the results of this investigation.

Sources

  • Averette, Justin. “HAUNTED COLLECTION: Paranormal group Investigates Demopolis Public Library.” The Demopolis Times. 26 August 2014.