Capitol Creepiness—Williamsburg, Virginia

Old Capitol
Duke of Gloucester Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Radiance and translucency—Baltimore, Maryland

USS Constellation
Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street

In 1955, a photographer was poised to snap a photograph of a spirit aboard the USS Constellation, the historic ship docked in Baltimore Harbor. The photographer, Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander Allen Ross Brougham, set up a camera on deck just before midnight December 29th. A friend interested in the psychical world advised him that midnight was the best time to capture something. At 11:59, something materialized on the deck and the lucky photographer snapped the shutter on his camera, capturing an incredible image.

Sometime later, Brougham recalled the moment. “How can you describe a ghost? It’d be difficult to do it justice—the sudden, brightening blueish-white radiance; the translucency.”

ghost USS Constellation Baltimore Sun 1955 Baltimore Maryland
Lt. Cdr. Allen Ross Brougham’s 1955 photograph of a spirit aboard the USS Constellation. This photograph was published in the Baltimore Sun, December 31, 1955.

Just before, the naval officer had detected the sharp odor of gunpowder. The spirit appeared for a brief moment, took a single stride, and vanished after he captured the photograph.

The photograph, which was published in the December 31st issue of the Baltimore Sun, shows the figure of a man beginning to materialize. His right leg, seemingly fully formed, is determinedly stepping forward and a white or gold stripe rises up the side of the spirit’s trousers. From the hips up, the image is blurred by movement, though there is still enough detail to make out that this is a naval officer. The man’s right arm is drawn across his waist as he reaches for the hilt of his sword.

The man’s coat appears to have a swallowtail that seems to lift at the back as he marches forward. Echelons of gold buttons rise on the breast, possibly with fanciful embroidery, and large epaulets crown the shoulders. Above the figure’s craggy face, he seems to wear a captain’s bicorn hat.

US Navy uniforms 1852
An illustration of Navy uniforms in 1852. The second man from the right is a ship’s captain. From the U.S. Navy’s History and Heritage Command Website.

A glance at a history of naval uniforms puts this style to around 1852, dating this figure to around the time that this ship was constructed. In the Sun article, Brougham posits that the uniform is from around 1800, but the figure’s pants with braiding on the side, prove that this is later. A ship’s captain of 1800 would have worn a similar jacket, though with knee breeches and stockings.

USS Constellation 2008 ghosts haunted
The USS Constellation at its permanent berth in Baltimore Harbor, 2008. Photo by Nfutvol, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The history of the USS Constellation is complicated. The sloop-of-war that is docked in Baltimore Harbor was constructed here in 1854, though some parts of the original 1797 frigate of the same name were used. For much of the 20th century, authorities argued that this ship was simply a rebuilt version of the 1797 ship, which has not hold up under close scrutiny. From the date of her construction, the ship remained commissioned by the Navy until 1955—nearly 100 years—before she was retired for preservation as a museum ship.

During her time as a museum ship, the Constellation has seen several restorations and paranormal investigations. Staff and guests have experienced much activity aboard the historic vessel. I plan to explore these encounters in further articles.

Sources

  • Catling, Patrick Skene. “’Ghost’ appears, but Navy doesn’t give up the ship.” Baltimore Sun. 31 December 1955.
  • Mills, Eric. The Spectral Tide: True Ghost Stories of the U. S. Navy. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009.
  • USS Constellation (1854). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 September 2019.

Mobile’s Haunted Five

Among the oldest cities in the Deep South, Mobile was founded in 1702 by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, of whom the latter is considered the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana. The city’s location on the well-protected Mobile Bay, led to the city becoming a major port for exportation. That strategic location, however, made it a major target during the Civil War, which brought economic devastation to the city; that devastation would last for many decades. Through the 20th century, the port city’s fortunes have been restored and the city has become a major tourist destination with beautiful and large historic districts which are, of course, brimming with spirits.

The genteel ghosts of Mobile have been explored in a number of sources, including three books by Elizabeth Parker: Mobile Ghosts (2000), Mobile Ghosts II (2004), and Haunted Mobile (2009). In this blog, I have covered a few sites in the city including the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Richards DAR House, and the Phoenix Fire Museum.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
26 North Royal Street

Considered one of Alabama’s premier hotels, the Battle House is the fourth hotel on this site, though only the second called the “Battle House.” In 1825, as floods ravaged the state capital at Cahaba, Daniel White moved his inn to Mobile using flatboats. That hotel opened as the Franklin House and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1829. A larger hotel, the Waverly Hotel, was constructed on this site only to be destroyed by fire in 1850. Led by James Battle and his brothers, a group of prominent locals created a company to build a large hotel on this site, and the Battle House opened in 1852.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, this hotel served many luminaries including presidential candidate Stephen Douglas, who was here the night he lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. That hotel burned in 1905, and it was replaced by the current hotel building which opened in 1908. Among the prominent figures who have stayed in this building are President Woodrow Wilson who stayed here in 1913. The hotel went through a difficult financial period in the 1970s and closed in 1974. After being closed for nearly 30 years, the hotel has recently been fully restored and reopened.

Battle House Hotel Mobile Alabama ghosts haunted
The Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa, 2008, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Historic hotels like this rarely do not have ghosts or, at the very least, rumors of ghosts. The Battle House spirits have not been well documented, though an article by Amy Delcambre on the website, VisitSouth.com, includes an interview with George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian. When asked, Moore disavowed a belief in ghosts, though he did recount some of the curious incidents that have taken place here.

One story Moore recounted involved a recently married couple who stayed in the hotel in 1910. The husband left his wife alone while he took care of some business outside of the hotel. When he did not return, she supposedly hung herself in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. After the hotel’s recent reopening, a wedding reception was held in the ballroom where a portrait of the bride was displayed on an easel. The mother of the bride noticed a strange man in a gray suit admiring the picture, when guests began to enter the room, the strange man disappeared.

Other guests here have seen mysterious lights and apparitions in their rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors.

Sources

  • Delcambre, Amy. “Haunted History of the Battle House Hotel.” com. 19 October 2014.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Battle House Royale. 4 June 1975.
  • The Battle House Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 May 2015.

Boyington Oak
Located within Church Street Cemetery, just off Bayou Street

Boyington Oak Chucrh Street Cemetery Mobile Alabama ghost haunted legend
The legendary Boyington Oak in Church Street Cemetery, 2009. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This mighty live oak growing amid the gravestones of Church Street Cemetery is a supposed sign of the innocence of Charles R. S. Boyington. In 1834, within this cemetery, the body of Nathaniel Frost was found; severely beaten and robbed of his money and pocket watch. Boyington, who had been close friends with Frost and, according to testimony, had been seen walking near here with him, was arrested for the murder and found guilty. He was hung before a huge crowd on gallows erected in Washington Square. Before his execution, however, he stated that his innocence would be proven by an oak sprouting from his heart. This tree sprouted not long after Boyington was laid in his grave. Passersby have claimed that whispers are still heard as the wind blows through the branches.

Sources

  • Kirby, Brendan. ”Murders, burglaries and ‘lynch discipline;’ Mobile was a lawless place in the 1830s.” com. 12 June 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Central Fire Station
701 St. Francis Street

Firefighters were shocked in 2010 when the Gamewell Alarm System here lit up. Of course, as firefighters, they should always be prepared, but they’re not usually prepared for dealing with the supernatural. The alarm system was last used in the 1960s, and the system was not connected to a power source, so there was no reason it should be lit up.

The old Gamewell system is displayed on the second-floor museum of this active fire station. Some firefighters have suggested that the system lights may be just more evidence of the presence of Laz Schwarz, a former mayor for whom this facility was dedicated when it opened in 1925. The shadowy figure of a man has been seen here for years and is believed to be the shade of the Mayor Schwarz.

Sources

  • Dials, Renee. “South Alabama re station haunted?” WISH TV. 17 August 2010.
  • Hough, Jere. “New re station museum in Mobile is trip back in time.” com. 26 April 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Malaga Inn
359 Church Street

One of Mobile’s finest inns, the Malaga Inn is noted as being haunted, though the specifics are harder to discern. Elizabeth Parker, the author of three books on haunted Mobile, notes in her blog that she spoke with a few guests who had haunting experiences in this inn that occupies a pair of 1862 townhomes. One guest reported smelling a flowery, perfume-like scent in her room while another guest was physically touched by something she could not see. A different guest awoke to find the apparition of a man standing at the end of his bed.

Sources

  • “Ghost-berfest, Day 31: Ghostober Notebook and Happy Hallowe’en.” Mobile Ghosts Blog. 31 October 2010.

Mobile Carnival Museum
355 Government Street

Housed in the historic 1872 Bernstein-Bush House, the Mobile Carnival Museum displays artifacts from the history of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, the oldest in the nation. Prior to the building’s use as the Carnival Museum, this building contained the Museum of Mobile which did not experience much paranormal activity besides having a men’s patent leather shoe mysteriously appear on the staircase of the carriage house. The staff arrived one morning to find this very nice shoe sitting on the stairs. There was no sign of an intruder, and the building had been tightly secured.

Carnival Museum of Mobile Alabama ghost haunted
The Mobile Carnival Museum, 2008 by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An unseen entity, dubbed “Ralph” by the museum’s staff, is known to make adjustments to displays. After the Carnival Museum began to install its exhibits in 2005, one mannequin was repeatedly found to be lying on its side. Lights throughout the building often turn themselves on after they have been turned off for the night. One of the more mysterious incidents involved a Mardi Gras crown that was found to be missing from an exhibit. After a frantic search, the curator found the crown sitting on a chair next to her desk the following Monday morning. None of the staff fessed up to knowing anything about the missing object. No one is sure who Ralph may be, though the building did house a funeral home for some decades.

Sources

  • Parker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—North Rampart Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and Burgundy Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

North Rampart Street

Tile North Rampart Street marker New Orleans
Tile North Rampart Street marker, by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Rampart Street is named for the old city wall, or ramparts, that once stretched along this street from Fort St. Jean at the intersection of North Rampart and Barracks Streets to Fort Bourgogne at the intersection of North Rampart and Iberville Streets. Throughout the early and mid-20th century, Rampart Street was the center of an important African-American commercial and entertainment district. Notably, many of the clubs along this street were influential in the evolution of jazz music.

Sources

  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Rampart Street. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 July 2019.

Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop
826 North Rampart Street

In 2006, tragedy was visited on this typical Creole-style cottage. Death visited the young couple living in the upstairs apartment with the young man strangling his girlfriend and eventually dismembering her body. After he committed suicide some days later by jumping off the top of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel on St. Louis Street, the mutilated remains were found by police in the kitchen of the apartment, some of them cooking on the stove while other parts were stored in the refrigerator. Locals began to refer to the cottage as the “Rampart Street Murder House.”

North Rampart Street Murder House New Orleans
The infamous Rampart Street Murder House (on the right), 2015. Photo by Roman Eugeniusz, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Recently, Bloody Mary; a local Voodoo priestess, psychic, and tour guide; has opened a haunted museum with patrons touring the upstairs apartment. However, this museum has been the focus of criticism from friends and associates of the young couple who accuse Bloody Mary of exploiting the heinous events.

Through the aftermath of the murder-suicide, some have been left wondering if the young man’s actions may have been influenced by supernatural elements around him. Apparently, the building was known to be haunted prior to the tragedy, and part of the downstairs storefront housed, and continues to house, a Voodoo temple. Dana Matthews writes in a Week in Weird article detailing the building that the priestess who operates the temple is well-respected and blameless in what unfolded in the upstairs apartment.

According to Matthews, a “dark, oppressive force…seems to emanate from the very building itself.” In addition, locals have had a sense of being watched and heard disembodied voices both within and without the home. The house was featured on a 2017 episode of Paranormal Lockdown, where investigators Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman experienced uneasy feelings and strange noises while locked into the apartment over the course of 72 hours.

Sources

Olde Victorian Inn
914 North Rampart Street

According to Terry Smith and Mark Jean’s detailed history of this property, this house was constructed in 1852 for wealthy sugarcane plantation owner Lucien Mansion. In 1883, the property was deeded to a woman who was reportedly his mistress. After that time, it may have been operated as a brothel.

The home was purchased in 1940 by Leo Marchand and his wife who occupied the house for many years. Mr. Marchand, or “Uncle Leo” as he was affectionately known, passed away in the dining room in 1977, and Smith and Jean attribute the hauntings to his spirit. Several guests have reported encounters with the spirit of an elderly man. One guest awoke to find a man sitting motionless in his room. When he alerted the innkeeper of the mysterious man’s presence, he pointed to a picture of Uncle Leo saying, “that’s him.”

Rampart Street protest 2017 New Orleans
A protest on North Rampart Street, 2017. The Olde Victorian Inn can be seen on the far left with the rust red wall behind the palm tree. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A maid cleaning another room was startled when the door slammed shut. After the door refused to open, the innkeeper had to summon a contractor to remove the door from its hinges to release the frightened maid. No explanation was ever discovered.

According to Yelp, the inn has since closed.

Sources

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

1870 Banana Courtyard Bed & Breakfast
1422 North Rampart Street

A video on YouTube produced by Haunted History Tours covers their investigation of this bed & breakfast. The video includes interviews with the owners, Mary and Hugh Ramsey, recounting that they have had “numerous comments from guests about ghosts.” Mary continued, “We’ve had too many responsible people who have visited us numerous times say that they felt a presence, so I’ve got to believe now that there’s something going on.”

One of the more interesting reports came from a male guest who was napping in his room while his wife was out. He was awakened by the feeling of a warm breath on the back of his neck and a woman whispering in his ear. When he realized it was not his wife, he jolted awake to find himself alone in his room.

The home was built in the 1870s and during its history reportedly served as an upscale brothel and a funeral home. Perhaps lingering spirits from these uses remain.

Sources

Haunted History Tours. “Haunted News Orleans! Haunted B&B – Banana Courtyard.” YouTube. 8 March 2010.

“Its hideous use”—LaGrange, Georgia

LaGrange Art Museum
112 Lafayette Parkway
LaGrange, Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is placing the rope about my neck?”

The sheriff’s deputy replied:

“Sheriff Brady.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—Charleston Environs

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

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

The city of Charleston as seen from one of Fort Sumter’s gun ports. The steeple in the center is St. Philip’s Church, while the one at the right is St. Michael’s. Photo 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

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

Angel Oak Park
3688 Angel Oak Road
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, “A spiritual treasure—Angel Oak,” for a further examination..

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. Connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant, this bridge replaced two bridges, the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge which opened in 1929, and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge which opened in 1966.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

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.

Sources

  • Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • John P. Grace Memorial Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.

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 changed little since its construction in 1738.

Drayton Hall, 2007, by Goingstuckey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Dillon, James. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Drayton Hall. August 1976.

Fort Sumter
Charleston Harbor

Fort Sumter’s sally port with tourists beyond. Photo 2012, by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired here when Confederates led an attack on this Union occupied fort in Charleston Harbor. Interestingly, no one was killed in the initial bombardment. 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 visage can be seen in the flag of the Palmetto Guard that was raised in the flag’s place. The flag is now displayed in the fort’s museum.

Sources

  • Battle of Fort Sumter.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Carolinas. NYC: Sterling, 2007.
  • Zepke, Terrence. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

USS Yorktown—Patriot’s Point
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 lady 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, “The Grand ‘Fighting Lady’—Photos from the USS Yorktown,” for further information and sources.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Louisiana

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

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

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

Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library
Nicholls State University Campus
Thibodaux

Nicholls State University opened originally as Francis T. Nicholls Junior College of Louisiana State University in 1948. Eight years later, the school became a separate entity from LSU and developed a four-year curriculum. While the school is relatively young among schools in Louisiana, the campus has proven to be especially paranormally active. Perhaps the echoes of the 1887 Thibodaux massacre, a protest by African-American farm workers in the area which turned violent when whites began to hunt down and kill organizers and participants, may be to blame for this.

The Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library is one of many campus buildings with reported paranormal activity. According to Point of Vue Houma magazine, the spirit of a girl has been seen wandering the floors of Ellender Library. An article in My New Orleans magazine provides the description of the experience a janitor had one night after hearing footsteps coming from a locked librarian’s office. Moments later he watched as a girl with a bookbag, clad in a mini-skirt and with waist-length brown hair, walked through a wall and vanished. Near the spot where the janitor had his encounter, a student later caught a brief video of a shadowy form crossing the room and vanishing.

Sources

  • Frois, Jeanne. “School spirits in Thibodaux.” My New Orleans. October 2012.
  • “Local haunts: Fact or Fiction?” Point of Vue Houma. 30 September 2015.

Eunice Public Library
222 South Second Street
Eunice

Staff of the Eunice Public Library believe that a spirit may be haunting the building. See my article, “Louisiana Noteworthy Haunts—6/3/2014,” for further information.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
3201 Centenary Boulevard
Shreveport

While the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is more a museum and less a library, I think it still deserves to be listed here. This museum is one of twelve throughout the country that have been established to display documents from the Karpeles Manuscript Library, one of the largest collections of documents and manuscripts in the world. The collection was created by businessman David Karpeles and his wife and contains many notable historical documents including drafts of the Bill of Rights, the Confederate Constitution, Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, and letters from Christopher Columbus.

The Shreveport location is housed within a structure that was constructed as the First Church of Christ, Scientist in the 1920s. The museum has been housed in the old church for roughly 15 years. During that time, museum staff and visitors have had a number of odd experiences including seeing shadow-like apparitions, smelling odd odors, having objects manipulated and moved by unseen hands, and have been touched by or feeling the presence of spirits. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, the state’s most prominent paranormal investigation organization, investigated the building on three separate occasions during 2013, though results were mostly inconclusive.

Sources

Milton H. Latter Memorial Library
5120 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans

When Hurricane Katrina roared into New Orleans in 2005, some believe that the Latter Memorial Library was spared damage by the diminutive spirit of a former silent film star. Indeed, since the library’s opening in 1948, visitors and staff have seen a “woman-child” spirit, as well as smelling the odor of exotic perfume, and witnessing lights mysteriously flickering within the Italianate mansion.

Milton Latter Public Library New Orleans Louisiana haunted ghost
Marguerite Clark’s former St. Charles Avenue Mansion, now the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the heyday of silent film, Marguerite Clark was second only to “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford in the hearts of moviegoing Americans. The child-like star gained her popularity first on the New York stage, then on film in 1914. At the height of her fame in 1921, she retired from entertainment to live with her husband in their New Orleans mansion (which now houses this library). Clark’s husband was killed in a plane crash in 1938, and the widow moved to New York where she died in 1940. Due to the loss of many of Clark’s films her fame has been overshadowed by other actresses whose films have survived.

Sources

Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center
315 North Main Street
Opelousas

The building housing the Opelousas Museum has a long and interesting past. It was built in 1935 to house a funeral home and has since hosted a church and the city’s library for about a year. With such a history, and its current use as a repository for relics of the city’s past, there’s little surprise that the building is haunted. Doors open and close by themselves, loud noises issue from empty rooms, and several visitors have sensed such bad vibes that they stop at the museum’s door and refuse to enter.

Sources

Encounter at Plant Hall–Tampa, Florida

Plant Hall—Universityof Tampa
401 West Kennedy Boulevard

Tampa, Florida

Several years ago, I wrote about Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. Originally constructed by Henry Plant as the grand Tampa Bay Hotel, this whimsical edifice had trouble turning a profit, and sold to the city of Tampa. In 1933, the building was converted for use as the University of Tampa, which remains its use today.

About a year after I posted the article, I received an anonymous comment telling a chilling story. This has been edited for clarity.

Several years ago, my husband and I were vacationing and visiting my sister in Florida. On one afternoon we were looking for something to do and my sister suggested we check out the Plant Museum in Tampa. My husband knew I loved architecture and especially grand,old, buildings. I was very excited.

We went in and began walking around. I could just imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. I saw the grand staircase and couldn’t help but walk up several flights ahead of my husband. Then I came to a strange hallway that seemed out of place and as I started walking down the hallway, I felt uncomfortable and I felt just a little bit cold (I thought probably because of all the windows). I felt I had gone to a part of the building that was off-limits to the public and decided to turn back.

A curving corridor. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

My husband was still on the first floor. As I headed toward the top of the stairway of the third-floor landing, I felt that there was a young girl in a long, white dress nearby. I think I sensed her on the way up too, but I thought I must have quite a vivid imagination and tossed it aside.

Then I reached the top of the stairway and looked down the 3 flights and I heard a man whisper, “Go ahead, why don’t you just jump?” I ignored it and heard it again. “Why don’t you just jump?” This scared the hell out of me.

A grand staircase inside Plant Hall. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

The railing I was clutching now seemed so flimsy and low to my body that I could easily fall right over. I felt dizzy and very frightened. I held the railing deliberately and I kept my grip all the way down until I made my way back to my husband. I told him, “I want to leave this place, now!”

In the car, on the way back to my sister’s house, I explained what happened.

This experience has stayed with me for years even though I have put it out of my mind. Recently I saw something on TV today that reminded me of it again. That’s when I decided to look up the history of the Plant Museum and found this web site with the two things I remembered most; the grand stairway and that cold corridor. Does anyone know if, in the history of the hotel, did a young girl, maybe 12-14 years old, fall to her death there? Or commit suicide?

While I cannot validate any of this, especially since the commenter is anonymous, it seems to ring true to me.

Several years ago, I visited Tampa. While I strolled downtown with my partner, I suddenly was greeted with the sight of minarets poking up through the tree canopy across the river. The sight stopped me in my tracks. Just the way that I imagine Henry Plant planned it.

The minarets of Henry Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall, rises above the Hillsborough River across from downtown Tampa. Photo 2014 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The battlefield ghosts of Blue Licks–Kentucky


Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park
10299 Maysville Road
Carlisle
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Haunted Virginia, Briefly Noted


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

Aquia Church
2938 Jefferson Davis Highway
Stafford

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

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

Sources

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

Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Island

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

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

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

Sources

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

Bacon’s Castle
465 Bacon’s Castle Trail
Surry

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

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

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

Sources

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

Belle Isle
Richmond

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

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

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

Sources

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

Michie Tavern
683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

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

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

Sources

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

Monticello
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Old ’97 Crash Site
Route 58 and Riverside Drive
Danville

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

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

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

Sources

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

Rosewell
5113 Old Rosewell Lane
Gloucester

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

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

Sources

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