Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Experiences–Georgia

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia

When the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought in 1864, much of the area north of Atlanta was sparsely settled. Over the past few decades as the Atlanta Metro area has expanded, growth has even overtaken the quiet stillness of this place where tens of thousands fought to stop Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.

A Union Cavalry sergeant, 1866, by Oliver H. Willard.

Residential and commercial developments have been constructed and roads cut across parts of the battlefield. It was along one of these roads that a father and son had an interesting experience one night in October of 2007. As the duo drove along, the driver braked as something appeared to start crossing the road in front of the car.

Both Civil War enthusiasts, they were shocked to see a horse with a rider emerge from the darkness. Dressed in the uniform of a Union cavalry officer, the rider held a saber aloft as if to make that point even more apparent. The specter passed through a fence on the opposite side and vanished.

The driver told Atlanta’s 11 Alive News, “My son and I were in a state of almost sheer panic, but we managed to maintain and get on the way home very quickly.”

__________

It has been noted that many residents living in homes built on the battlefield have experienced strange things. After this article appeared, one of these residents wrote in to the paranormal blog Phantoms & Monsters:

I’ve got a bad back and haven’t worked in over a year, so I spend a lot of time in bed. Earlier this year, late spring or early summer, I was in a half-awake state and I noticed the hazy form of what appeared to be someone in Civil War clothing on a horse standing in my bedroom. It was there for only a second and kind of dematerialized. I remember it being a kind of yellowish color.

I wasn’t scared and thought it was probably not so much a ghost but the energy of something that happened here during the Civil War. I am 3 miles from the epicenter of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and probably less than a mile from the cavalry battleground at Mud Creek.

The Illinois Monument at Cheatham Hill, 2013. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Several years ago, I spoke with a family who lived in one of these haunted houses. After moving in and experiencing paranormal activity, they asked their neighbors about it only to find out that they lived with the same thing.

The wife told me that she took the trash out one night. As she rounded the corner of the house, she came face to face with a figure in the dark. Startled, she quickly realized that the figure was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform. Not knowing how to react, she dropped the bag of trash at his feet saying, “here you go!” and ran back into the house. She failed to mention if the ghost put the trash in the receptacle.

Sources

  • Crawley, Paul. “Ghost rider at Kennesaw Mtn.?” 11Alive News. 1 November 2007.
  • Strikler, Lon. “Mailbag: the Kennesaw Mountain ghost rider.Phantoms and Monsters. 8 November 2009.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII

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 almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

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

Talladega County

Talladega Superspeedway
3366 Speedway Boulevard
Lincoln

Curses figure into many Southern legends, especially in places that are legendary themselves, places like Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the home of country music. So, it’s no surprise that the largest and perhaps the most important race track in the NASCAR circuit is home to legends of a curse and other strange activity.

Opening in 1969 as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, the track was anointed with its current name in 1989. Despite initial questions about the safety of the track, the speedway has been used successfully for more than four decades.

Aerial view of the Talladega Superspeedway, 2007, by AuburnPilot. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Stories reveal that the spit of land where the track now sits was cursed. Many tales lay the blame for that curse on the Muscogee Creek people who were forced from this area in the 1830s. These tales are usually the result of romantic, overactive imaginations of white settlers.

Nonetheless, there have been some deaths here starting in 1973 when driver Larry Smith was killed after his car hit the outside concrete wall. Besides a handful of other drivers who have lost their lives here, several freakish accidents have claimed a few more lives. Several drivers on the course have reported hearing voices while racing. Stories of the “Talladega Jinx” became so common that in 2009 the president of NASCAR brought in a Muscogee Creek medicine man to “restore balance to the land.” There is no word if that has worked.

Sources

  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Estes, Cary. “Talladega Superspeedway.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 28 October 2008.
  • Hinton, Ed. “They’re hearing voices at Talladega.” com. 22 April 2009.

Tallapoosa County

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

In a 2008 Tallassee Tribune article, the librarian of the Tallassee Community Library, calls them her “ghostly patrons.” She continues, “When I get here every morning between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and open the door, for about the rst ve seconds, I hear music, laughter, and children.” During times when she is alone in the building, she will hear movement and the peculiar sound of pages being turned coming from one corner. And she is not the only one to have this experience, other employees and patrons have their own stories.

When this unassuming small-town library was featured on an episode of the Biography Channel show My Ghost Story the librarian described how she will often be re-shelving books only to have a force push back against the book. She mentions that at times, entire shelves of books will be found to have been turned around when she opens the library in the morning. The activity eventually got to the point where the librarian asked a paranormal investigation team to look into what may be going on here. Enter David Higdon, an investigator with the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Society and co-author (with Brett J. Talley) of two books on the ghosts of Tuscaloosa and the Black Belt.

The first time Higdon entered the children’s section of the library, he recalls that he felt that, “something just ain’t right in this room.” Later asking for a sign of a presence he heard two loud, distinct knocks, knocks that he found to be very disturbing. After asking for another sign, the investigators were met with a loud crash as the grating over the replace came crashing down. The startled investigators quickly left the room.

The group also investigated the basement of the library, where the librarian reported she heard growls as well as the voices of a group of people in conversation. It was here that a startling EVP was captured; after the spirit was asked for a name, a response was recorded saying, “You may address me as Sergeant Fuller.” From this, investigators believe that at least one of the spirits may be a soldier who died at the field hospital located near here during the Civil War. The children that are heard throughout the building may date to the building’s original use as a clubhouse for local children. As well as the living, the library continues to be patronized by spectral children and soldiers.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • My Ghost Story, Episode 3.3. Biography Channel. 29 October 2011.
  • “Paranormal group visits local library.” Tallassee Tribune. 11 April 2011.

Tuscaloosa County

Little Roundhouse
Campus of the University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa

On April 4, 1865, as much of the rest of the university was blazing under orders from Union General John T, Croxton, this small sentry house—the only actual military building on campus—received little damage. This crenelated Gothic Revival building was constructed in 1860 as the university moved to a military system in hopes of restoring order and discipline. The octagonal building provided shelter for students as they endured guard duty.

Tradition holds that though most students had left campus to help defend the Confederate cause, two eager students remained to “kill Yankees.” As the campus was burning, a Union soldier stumbled upon one of the remaining students asking if there was whiskey on campus.

Little Round House, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landregger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

He was directed to the guardhouse where his companion lay in wait to ambush the thirsty soldiers. By the end of the night, several Union troops lay dead in the Little Round House. While this is a marvelous story, there does not appear to be any truth behind it.

The legend continues that if one puts their ear to the door of the Little Round House, one can hear the sounds of the thirsty Yankees still searching for their whiskey.

Sources

  • Center, Clark E. “University of Alabama (UA).” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 12 September 2009.
  • Crider, Beverly. “Crimson Hauntings: The Ghosts of UA.” com. 10 May 2012.
  • Floyd, W. Warner & Janice P. Hand. National Register of Historic Place Nomination Form for the Gorgas-Manly Historic District. 2 June 1971.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • “Question of Shape: Little Round House, A.” Dialog (UA faculty newsletter). 9 November 2009.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Walker County

Franklin Ferry Bridge
Franklin Ferry Road over the Black Warrior River
Adger

This bridge over the Black Warrior River plays host to the spirit of an angry motorist who supposedly throws sticks and stones at eighteen-wheelers as they pass over the bridge. An article in the Birmingham News mentions this as a legend told among truckers passing through the region. Perhaps this is a spectral case of road rage?

Sources

  • MacDonald, Ginny. “Boootiful Alabama: Don’t let night catch you driving alone.” Birmingham News. 31 October 2002.

Washington County

St. Stephens Historical Park
2056 Jim Long Road
St. Stephens

Occupying a bluff above the Tombigbee River, settlement here precedes the creation of the state of Alabama. In the years following the American Revolution, Spain built a fort atop this bluff, naming it Fort San Esteban. Their stay, however, was temporary, and they lost the fort in the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo, which redrew the boundary lines. In 1799, the fort was occupied by American forces. The establishment of a trading post for trade with local Native Americans attracted frontiersmen to the area and St. Stephens began to grow as a town.

With the creation of the state of Mississippi in 1817, the rapidly growing town of St. Stephens was named as the territorial capital of the Alabama territory. When the territorial government created the state of Alabama in 1819, political wrangling led to Cahaba being named as state capital. St. Stephens’ importance diminished by the capital move, the town slowly withered over the next few decades. By the Civil War, the original town had mostly vanished with the establishment of a new town of St. Stephens several miles away.

An article in a 1928 edition of the Birmingham News relates a legend about St. Stephens. According to the legend, St. Stephens, at its height, was an “ungodly place,” lacking a house of worship. An itinerant preacher wanting to hold religious services asked if he could use a local saloon to that purpose. His suggestion was met with ridicule and the preacher was ordered out of town. As he was forced out he cursed the town with disaster and ruin.

Stories of the prosperous town destroyed after being cursed by a holy man exist throughout Southern folklore. Some sources on this story argue that the holy man in the St. Stephens story is none other than famed Methodist preacher Lorenzo Dow. It is known that Dow passed through the area during St. Stephens’ most prosperous era. While nothing remains of the old St. Stephens above ground, in accordance with the curse, archaeological excavation has slowly begun to uncover the foundations and cellars of this most historic town.

Sources

  • Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Lewis, Herbert J. “Old St. Stephens.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 4 September 2008.
  • Stockham, Richard J. “The Misunderstood Lorenzo Dow.” Alabama Review. January 1963.

Wilcox County

GainesRidge Dinner Club
933 AL-10
Camden

The owner of the GainesRidge Dinner Club does not describe her paranormal experience as a “ghost story” but rather as a “ghost truth.” While in the restaurant one evening preparing for the next day with the cook, the owner went upstairs to retrieve a pot. While upstairs, she heard a voice calling her to come quickly downstairs. The owner raced down the stairs and found the cook in the kitchen calmly preparing food. The cook looked up and said that she had not called the owner, nor did she know who did. After a fruitless search for someone else in the restaurant, the owner and the cook fled the restaurant.

One of the oldest structures in the area, this house is believed to have been built in the 1820s. After the house was opened as a restaurant in 1985, the owners and staff have reported a variety of paranormal manifestations including the spectral crying of an infant and the shade of a tall bearded man. Author Beverly Crider relates in her Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama that a very young relative she took to dinner here saw a spectral dog and later a little boy, neither of which were seen by the adults present.

Sources

  • Alabama Ghost Trail. “Gaines Ridge.” YouTube. 6 July 2009.
  • Brief History of GainesRidge.” GainesRidge Dinner Club. Accessed 7 June 2015.
  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Winston County

AL-5
Between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge

The stretch of Alabama Highway 5 between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge is said to be haunted by the spirit of a young woman who met her death here. According to Barbara Duffey’s 1996 book, Angels and Apparitions, the young woman was killed along this section of highway in 1990. She and her boyfriend were driving a Buick when they began arguing and pulled off the road. After the boyfriend had assaulted his girlfriend, she fled towards the truck stop across the road. As she crossed the road, she was struck by an eighteen-wheeler. Since then, her desperate spirit has been encountered by motorists driving here after dark.

In her book, Trucker Ghost Stories, Annie Wilder includes a story from a Hamilton, Alabama resident. The version of this tale he relates specifies that the young woman was a high school student who had been attending her school’s prom. After a fight with her boyfriend, she asked that he put her out on the side of the road saying she would walk home. While walking down the side of the busy highway, she was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer. He continues, saying that the spirit will climb up on the step of trucks passing through and stare at the driver. This local relates an experience he had while traveling down this stretch of road one evening. He felt the sensation of a spirit’s presence, but he wouldn’t turn his head to see if anything was there.

Sources

  • Duffey, Barbara. Angels and Apparitions: True Ghost Stories from the South. Eatonton, GA: Elysian Publishing, 1996.
  • Wilder, Annie. Trucker Ghost Stories. NYC: TOR, 2012.

“The swift sword of Erin”—Sharpsburg, Maryland

Antietam National Battlefield
5831 Dunker Church Road
Sharpsburg, Maryland

Avenging and bright fall the swift sword of Erin
On him who the brave sons of Usna betray’d!
For every fond eye he hath waken’d a tear in
A drop from his heart-wounds shall weep o’er her blade.

 We swear to avenge them! – no joy shall be tasted,
The harp shall be silent, the maiden unwed,
Our halls shall be mute, and our fields shall lie wasted,
Till vengeance is wreak’d on the murderer’s head.

–Thomas Moore

Georgians should never be pissed off before breakfast. At least this was sentiment expressed by a Georgia soldier (many of whom were likely of Irish stock) from one of General John Bell Hood’s (the Hoods were of old Dutch stock, via New York and Kentucky) divisions when he wrote about the morning of September 17, 1862. The soldier complained, “Just as we began to cook our rations near daylight, we were shelled and ordered into formation. I have never seen a more disgusted bunch of boys and mad as hornets.”

General Robert E. Lee (of English stock) was attempting an invasion of Maryland from which he could terrorize Pennsylvania and, hopefully, bring about a swift end to the war. But, General George B. McClellan’s (from Scottish stock) Army of the Potomac had doggedly pursued him and barred his way towards the Keystone State.

Alexander Gardner’s photo of Confederate dead along the Hagerstown Pike near the cornfields where the initial fighting took place, 1862.

In quiet cornfields on the outskirts of Sharpsburg, Maryland, Union General Joseph Hooker (of English stock) hurled his forces at the Confederates stationed near the Hagerstown Pike. Both armies fed multiple divisions into the conflagration in a cornfield watched over by a modest church built for a German Protestant sect, the Dunkers. Into this meat-grinder soldiers of vast and varied heritage met gun-barrel to gun-barrel with their brothers from Wisconsin, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. By 10 o’clock that morning, some 8,000 men lay dead or wounded.

As carnage washed over Miller’s Cornfield, Confederates took up a position in an old farm road that decades of wagon wheels had eroded below the landscape, an old, sunken road. Around midday, Union forces were directed to attack this surprisingly strong position and each was mowed down. Fourth in line for this onslaught was the 69th New York Infantry, known as the Irish Brigade, led by General Thomas Francis Meagher.

Undated photograph of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher.

Meagher was of solid Irish stock, having been born in the Irish city of Waterford in 1823. His father, a merchant and politician, was Canadian, though his father was born in County Tipperary, Ireland. Young Thomas Francis received his education at the hands of Jesuits in Ireland and later Britain before he settled in Dublin where he became involved in the Irish Nationalist movement.

In the village of Ballingarry, in South Tipperary, Meagher and other “Young Irelanders,” led an attack on a local police unit in 1848. After the police called in reinforcements, Meagher and the other rebels fled. They were arrested and put on trial for treason. The leaders of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848 were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in the British tradition, but a public outcry led the judge to commute their sentence to being exiled to the British penal colony in Tasmania, Australia.

Arriving in Australia, nearly all of these political convicts escaped with Meagher and John Mitchel making their way for New York City where both settled and became prominent activists and journalists. Taking up the cause of slavery, Mitchel found his way to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he started the Southern Citizen newspaper, and later he served as editor for the Richmond, Virginia newspaper, the Richmond Enquirer. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, Meagher was moved to support the Union, despite previous sympathies with the South and his friend, Mitchel.

Of his decision to support the Union, Meagher wrote, “It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.” He recruited his fellow countrymen and built Company K of the 69th Infantry Regiment, New York Volunteers, which was now being sent into the hail of gunfire and artillery towards the Sunken Road.

Brig, General Meagher and the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Fair Oaks, 1 June 1862, by Currier & Ives. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

To remind his men of the Irish heritage, Meagher wanted to present each man with a shamrock before the battle, but as none were available, he presented the men with sprigs of boxwood instead. The ranks lined up for their charge into the valley of death while the brigade’s chaplain, Father William Corby, rode up and down giving the men conditional absolution. With their emerald green flags flapping in the breeze, the Irish Brigade marched into the fray with an old, Irish battle cry, “Faugh-a-ballagh!” or “clear the way.” Around 540 of his men were killed before the brigade was withdrawn from the field. Meagher reportedly fell from his horse with some reports that he was drunk, while the official Union report presented to General McClellan states that his horse had been shot.

A statue at the Gettysburg Battlefield of Father William Corby with his hand raised in absolution. Photo by Samuel Murray, 2010, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Following the Irish Brigade’s bravery on the field of glory, the Union was able to beat back the Confederates from the Sunken Road, which earned this once peaceful farm road the gory moniker, “Bloody Lane.” The battle progressed south to a picturesque stone bridge on Antietam Creek where the battle concluded with nothing gained by either side. To historians, the battle proved to be the bloodiest day in American history with some 23,000 souls killed, wounded, or missing.

The battlefield at Antietam has been preserved by the National Park Service and it is considered one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the country. With all the blood that stained the battlefield that day, it’s no surprise that echoes of the battle still ring across the fields and vaporous martial apparitions continue to appear. One of the most commonly told stories from the battlefield concerns the a visit from a class from the McDonogh School, a private school in Owings Mills, Maryland. After touring the battlefield, the teacher allowed the students to wander the park, consider the events that took place there, and write their impressions. When the teacher began reading the students’ papers he was shocked to read that some students heard shouts coming from the Bloody Lane that sounded like someone singing a Christmas carol, something that sounded like “fa-la-la-la!” Was this the old Irish battle cry from the Irish Brigade of “Faugh-a-ballagh?”

Bloody Lane at Antietam, 2005. Photo b y Chris Light, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In his 2012 book, Civil War Ghost Trails, former park ranger Mark Nesbitt includes another fascinating story that asks if the spirits of the Confederates killed at Bloody Lane may also be active. Some years ago, a group of Civil War reenactors decided to camp at Bloody Lane. Just after settling down, the uniformed reenactors began to hear whispering and moaning as well as feeling odd chills. One-by-one they escaped to the safety of their cars leaving one reenactor alone on the battlefield. As they settled into their cars, the men a shriek and saw the reenactor stumbling back from field.

Still shaking from his experience, the reenactor told his friends that he was laying within on the old road. He had heard the same sounds that frightened the others, but he only thought their imaginations were getting the best of them. Suddenly he saw a hand rise from the ground between his chest and his arm. With brute force the hand began to press on his chest as if to pull him into the earth. After he began screaming, the arm vanished.

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Sources

  • Battle of Antietam. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.
  • McPherson, James M. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. NYC: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • John Mitchel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.
  • Nesbitt, Mark. Civil War Trails: Stories from America’s Most Haunted Battlefields. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2012.
  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Thomas Francis Meagher. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.
  • Taylor, Troy. “Haunted Maryland, The Antietam Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland.” Ghosts of the Prairie.
  • Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part V

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. 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 almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

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

Lee County

Opelika Chamber of Commerce
601 Avenue A
Opelika

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

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

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

Sources

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

Limestone County

Houston Memorial Library
101 North Houston Street
Athens

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Lowndes County

Marengo
100 North Broad Street
Lowndesboro

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Macon County

Tuskegee National Forest

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

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

Sources

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

Madison County

Huntsville Depot
320 Church Street, Northwest
Huntsville

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Marengo County

Gaineswood
805 South Cedar Avenue
Demopolis

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Marion County

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

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

Sources

Marshall County

Main Street
Albertville

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

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

Sources

Mobile County

Phoenix Fire Museum
203 South Claiborne Street
Mobile

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

Sources

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

Monroe County

Rikard’s Mill Historic Park
4116 AL-265
Beatrice

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

Sources

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part IV

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. 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 almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

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

Geneva County

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

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

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

Sources

Greene County

Oakmont Bed & Breakfast
107 Pickens Street
Eutaw

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

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

Sources

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

Hale County

Moundville Archaeological Park
634 Mound State Parkway
Moundville

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

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

Sources

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

Henry County

Legend of Huggin’ Molly
Abbeville

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

Sources

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

Houston County

Columbia Manor
306 South Main Street
Columbia

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

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

Sources

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

Jackson County

Russell Cave National Monument
3728 CR-98
Bridgeport

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

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

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

Sources

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

Jefferson County

Bessemer Hall of History Museum
1905 Alabama Avenue
Bessemer

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

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

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

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

Sources

Lamar County

Old Stage Coach Inn
Jackson Military Road
Moscow

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Lauderdale County

Forks of Cypress
Jackson Road
Florence

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Lawrence County

Henry Hill
CR-25
Mount Hope

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

Sources

The something near Sale Creek—Tennessee

Railroad tracks through Sale Creek not far from Shipley Hollow. Photo by Brian Stansberry, 2015, courtesy of Wikipedia.

North from the hubbub of Chattanooga lies the community of Sale Creek. Just north of Sale Creek, Daugherty Ferry Road guides travelers into the Tennessee backwoods through to a place called Shipley Hollow. After Shipley Hollow Road forks from Daugherty Ferry, travelers enter the domain of something that the locals have nicknamed the “Pitty Pat.”

For roughly two centuries travelers through Shipley Hollow have had run-ins with an entity or creature. The horrors of the first encounter are still whispered about, though many of the details have been lost through this inter-generational telephone game. Some iterations of the legend place the first encounter in the 1770s, while the primary source for the written version provides the date as during the 1860s. The 18th century setting is not likely as the area was occupied almost exclusively by the Cherokee people and the legend states definitively that the characters were settlers.

The basic version of the legend tells us of a settler woman and several small children travelling in a wagon at night through Shipley Hollow. From out of the darkness, something startles the horse causing the wagon to overturn on top of the mother killing her. The children disappear into the night, possibly taken by the entity, never to be seen again. Residents and travelers soon began to hear a strange sound pursuing them after dark a strange pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat, led many to sprint towards their destination.

Over the next century, hapless travelers after dark, doctors on house-calls, and local residents were all frightened of the entity that sometimes climbed onto the backs of horses or buggies. In the 1950s, two residents driving down the road late one night had something crash into the side of their car. The impact caused the driver to step on the gas until the pair reached the safety of a nearby house. Expecting to find evidence of the terrible collision, the gentlemen found nothing. The side of the car was intact with nary a scratch or dent. The men returned to the road seeking the remains of what hit their car, but again, the search was fruitless.

These stories have filtered down to today, and the legend was documented in historian Curtis Coulter’s 1990 book, A Sentimental Journey Down Country Roads: Stories of Sale Creek, Tennessee. Coulter included the original legend and the 1950s collision described above. Georgiana Kotarski included information from Coulter’s book, but she also adds a story from November 2004. Early one morning a pair of deer hunters took up in two deer stands they had set up near Shipley Hollow. Using walkie-talkies to communicate, the pair arrived in the early morning darkness. One of the hunters noticed that the deer seemed to be moving about earlier than expected.

Communication between the hunters was interrupted by static over the walkie-talkies. Peering into the darkness of the woods, one of the hunters heard something moving in the forest. His eyes, having adjusted to the light, soon saw something blocking out the small slivers of light that filtered through the trees. The inky shadow surrounded him, and he felt it breathing on his neck. The feeling lifted after five fearful minutes. After this frightening incident, the hunter began asking around about ghost stories from the area and discovered Coulter’s book.

In 2010, curious teenagers were attracted to the area by tales of ghosts, but they found a gun-toting local who held them until the police arrived. Since the curious teens had not stepped out of their cars, nor had they entered the cemetery, the police arrested the man who held them for false imprisonment. While this incident is not terribly important, the articles do provide a picture of the things that people are still encountering in Shipley Hollow. One of the articles states that “those who visit the cemetery drive around a loop three times, then stop and listen.” One of the teens said, You are supposed to hear weird sounds and sometimes you can even see a light.” The loop is Shipley Cemetery Road, which branches off Shipley Hollow Road to the Shipley Cemetery and loops around to the main road.

Another article about the 2010 incident includes another brief story from the area. That story speaks of a woman being kidnapped, murdered, with her body tossed into a well near the cemetery.

If you head out to Shipley Hollow, you may want to run if you hear a pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat sound, though also be on the lookout for gun-toting locals.

Sources

  • “Case bound to grand jury against teacher who held ‘ghostbusters’ with a rifle.” The Chattanoogan. 17 November 2010.
  • Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
  • Stone, Michael. “Popular haunt.” Chattanooga Times-Free Press. 11 September 2010.

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A Road of Legend —US-1 in Maryland

Stretching from Key West, the southernmost point in the country to the Canadian border at the St. John River in Fort Kent, Maine, US-1 connects the East Coast. In the South it links together important cities from Miami to Jacksonville, Florida; Augusta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Richmond and Arlington, Virginia; Washington, D. C.; to Baltimore, Maryland before entering into Yankee territory. It also links historic and haunted cities like St. Augustine, Florida; Aiken and Camden, South Carolina; Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria, Virginia before it solemnly passes The Pentagon, with Arlington National Cemetery beyond it, before crossing the Potomac into Washington.

US-1 in Maryland, 2004 by Doug Kerr. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

US-1 may be considered among the most haunted roads in the country. Not only does it directly pass a number of haunted places, but many more can be found within a short drive of this legendary road. This tour samples just a few of the legendary spots found alongside or near this legendary road.

Pig Woman Legend
Cecil County

As US-1 dips south out of Pennsylvania into the countryside of Maryland, it enters Cecil County, the domain of the Pig Woman. According to local folklorist, Ed Okonowicz, the Pig Woman stalks the northern counties of the state as well as the marshes of the Eastern Shore, though the primary setting is usually in Cecil County. Okonowicz’s version of the tale begins near the town of North East where a farmhouse caught fire in the 19th century. The lady of the house was horribly burned in the fire and witnesses watched her flee into the nearby woods. She usually confronts drivers near a certain old bridge and causes cars to stall. The drivers see the specter of the Pig Woman who scratches and beats on the car. Terrified drivers who flee their vehicles are never seen again, though those who stay in their cars are left with horrible memories and odd scratches as well as dents on their vehicles.

This tale has been told around Cecil County for decades with hotspots for Pig Woman encounters being reported around North East, Elkton, and, in the 1960s, near Rising Sun, through which US-1 passes. Matt Lake, author of Weird Maryland, associates this tale with tales from Europe that tell of a woman with a pig-like face, particularly stories that ran rampant in early 19th century London. Despite deep European roots, the Pig Woman Legend remains fairly unique among Southern ghostlore.

Sources

  • Lake, Matt. Weird Maryland. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2005.
  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Wormuth, Laura. “Decoding the Pig Lady of Elkton legend.” 31 October 2013.

Susquehanna River
At the Conowingo Dam
Between Cecil and Harford Counties

 The Conowingo Dam, built between 1926 and 1928, carries US-1 over the Susquehanna River. Only five miles from the Pennsylvania border, this area was rife with activity when the Underground Railroad was in operation before the Civil War. Slaves seeking freedom in Pennsylvania would ply the river at night looking for red lanterns on the riverbanks that marked the safe houses. Slave catchers also used red lanterns to capture contraband slaves only a scant few miles from freedom in order to return them to their owners. Flimsy rafts were often employed here that led to the drowning deaths of some.

1930s era postcard of the Conowingo Dam. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Along the river, the red lights are supposed to bob and dance on the riverbanks even today while the moans of slaves and even spectral bodies floating in the water are encountered by hikers, campers, and fishermen in the area.

Sources

  • Okonowicz, Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2007.
  • Ricksecker, Mike. Ghosts of Maryland. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Peddler’s Run
Flowing parallel to Glen Cove Road and MD-440
Near Dublin

On the western side of the river, one of the tributaries offering up its waters to the Susquehanna is named for a ghost; it’s called Peddler’s Run. As the legend states, in 1763 a poor peddler on the Dublin-Stafford Road (now MD-440) was found decapitated near John Bryarley’s Mill on Rocky Run. Locals buried the body near the creek where it was discovered. Not long after the peddler’s burial, his specter was seen walking along the creek without his head. In 1843 a skull was found by another local farmer. Presuming it to be that of the now legendary peddler, the skull was buried with the traveler’s remains. The peddler’s spirit was not seen again, though his name still graces the creek.

Sources

  • Dublin, Maryland. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 September 2016.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin Press, 1995.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Tudor Hall
17 Tudor Lane
Bel Air

As it hurries towards Baltimore, US-1 passes through the county seat of Harford County, Bel Air. Northeast of downtown is Tudor Hall, the former home of the famous and infamous Booth family. Junius Brutus Booth, one of the greatest American Shakespearian actors of the first half of the 19th century, built this Gothic-style home for his family. In this fine home, Booth’s family were immersed in the family occupation of acting. The halls rang with snippets of Sheridan and Etheredge while family members are supposed to have performed the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet using the balcony on the side of the house. Some of the elder Booth’s children would achieve their own celebrity including his sons Edwin, Junius Brutus Jr., and his daughter, Asia. Booth’s son, John Wilkes, who inherited his father’s fiery personality, would achieve notoriety after he assassinated President Lincoln after the end of the Civil War heaping infamy of Shakespearean proportions on the family name.

As word of Lincoln’s assassination spread, troops began to seek out members of the Booth family. Troops searched Tudor Hall which was still owned by the Booths but being rented to another family. The house passed out of family hands a few years later and has been owned by a host of individuals. Now owned by Harford County, the house is home to the Center for the Arts and is open a few times a month for tours.

Tudor Hall, 1865. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Booth’s legacy has extended from the theatrical realm into the spiritual. The spirits of several Booth family members have been reported throughout the South including John Wilkes Booth’s spirit which may still stalk Ford’s Theatre in Washington and Dr. Mudd’s farm in Waldorf, Maryland, where he was treated for a broken leg after his dastardly deed at the theatre. Legend holds (wrongly so) that Edwin’s dramatic spirit still appears on the stage of Columbus, Georgia’s Springer Opera House where he appeared in the early 1870s as well as in the halls of the Players’ Club in New York City where he died. Junius Brutus Booth’s fiery spirit may still roam the halls of Charleston, South Carolina’s Dock Street Theatre, formerly the Planter Hotel, where he stayed in the 1850s. Appropriately the building was transformed into a theatre in the 1930s.

Of course, the family’s seat in Bel Air may also be haunted by members of the spirited family. One couple who owned the house told the Washington Post in 1980 that they once were greeted by small brown and white pony. The curious creature looked into the couple’s car and then peeked into the house through a rear window. Moments later the creature vanished. The couple believed the animal was the spirit of Junius Booth’s favorite pony, Peacock. The same couple had a dinner party interrupted by spectral antics when a guest asked for seconds. The hosts and their guests were astonished as the top of a cake lifted up and landed at the place of that guest. People who have lived and worked in the house continue to tell stories of unexplained footsteps, voices, and things moving on their own accord with this storied house.

Sources

  • Allen, Bob. “In Maryland, a couple preserves the estate of the ill-starred Booth family.” The Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA). 21 December 1986.
  • Meyer, Eugene L. “House Booth built is slightly spooky.” Washington Post. 10 January 1980.

Perry Hall Mansion
3930 Perry Hall Road
Perry Hall

It is arguable that the namesake of this Baltimore suburb is actually haunted. This grand colonial mansion sat derelict for many years and acquired a reputation of being haunted. The legend that has persisted about this house states that builder of this home and his wife both died on Halloween night in the late 18th century and that in the time since, some 50 other people have died here under mysterious circumstances some of whom still haunt the house. Though, according to the mansion’s website, none of this is true.

Baltimore businessman Harry Dorsey Gough acquired this vast estate in the 1770s and constructed this mansion which he named for his family’s ancestral home in Britain. Gough lived the life of a colonial playboy for a while after Perry Hall was constructed but after a visit to a Methodist meeting in Baltimore, he converted to the new Christian denomination. After distinguishing himself as a planter, businessman and politician, Gough passed away here in May of 1808 (not Halloween as the legend states). The estate remained in the family until 1852 when it began its long journey in the hands of others. Baltimore County acquired the derelict house recently and will be used as a museum and events facility.

In a 2011 article for the Perry Hall Patch Jeffrey Smith, then president of the Friends of Perry Hall Mansion debunked some of the legends around Perry Hall. Using the version of the legend in Matt Lake’s 2006 book, Weird Maryland, Smith breaks down the points of the legend. While there have likely been deaths in the house, the 50 deaths under mysterious circumstances that the legend purports are absurd. Smith notes that the house is hooked up to electricity and lights seen inside may have simply been left on by a previous visitor. Where the legend states that visitors have been unable to capture video of the house is also preposterous. While this house has reasons to be haunted on account of its history, there are no stories to support that assertion.

Sources

  • Coffin, Nelson. “Perry Hall Mansion shuttered while updates considered.” Baltimore Sun. 1 March 2016.
  • History of the Perry Hall Mansion.” Historic Perry Hall Mansion. Accessed 23 September 2016.
  • Lake, Matt. Weird Maryland. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2004.
  • Smith, Jeffery. “Perry Hall’s most renowned and mistaken ghost story.” 31 October 2011.

Green Mount Cemetery
1501 Greenmount Avenue
Baltimore

As US-1 bypasses downtown Baltimore it forms a northern border for this venerated cemetery. After visiting Boston’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, the first “garden cemetery” in the country, Samuel Walker, a Baltimore merchant, began to draw up plans for a similar cemetery to occupy a former estate called Green Mount. Hiring Benjamin Latrobe, architect for the U.S. Capitol Building, to design this park-like cemetery which opened in 1838. In the decades since, the cemetery has become the resting place for famed statesmen, artists, writers, and military figures, as well as the infamous including John Wilkes Booth who is buried with his family.

Gates of Green Mount Cemetery, 2010, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

While numerous articles state that Green Mount is haunted, none of them connect specific stories with this august resting place. However, the cemetery has one very interesting connection to the paranormal, the grave of Elijah Bond, the creator of the Ouija Board. It was not until recently that Bond’s grave was marked, appropriately with a stone engraved with his Ouija board design.

Sources

  • “Baltimore headstones, horrors for a hair-raising, haunted Halloween.” The Towerlight (Towson University). 27 October 2013.
  • History.” Green Mount Cemetery. Accessed 23 September 2016.
  • Oordt, Darcy. Haunted Maryland: Dreadful Dwellings, Spine Chilling Sites, and Terrifying Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2016.

Hilton Mansion
Campus of the Community College of Baltimore County
Catonsville

Hilton 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As US-1 leaves Baltimore it swings by the suburb of Catonsville. According to a 2004 lecture given on the haunts of Catonsville, community college faculty held contests to select a member to attempt to spend the night in this haunted mansion. Some encountered the sword-wielding Confederate soldier who is supposed to guard the home’s main staircase. Author Tom Ogden notes that the apparition of a woman wearing a nightgown and holding a candle has also been encountered here. The house dates to the early 19th century, though the interior was completely replaced in the early 20th century. The home now serves as the college’s Center for Global Education.

Sources

  • Hagner-Salava, Melodie. “’Spirited’ talk evokes ghosts of Catonsville’s past.” Catonsville Times. 4 March 2004.
  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Colleges and Universities: Creepy Campuses Scary Scholars and Deadly Dorms. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2014.

Historic Savage Mill
8600 Foundry Street
Savage

Located between Baltimore and Laurel, Savage, Maryland is a quiet, unincorporated community on the banks of the Little Patuxent River. Downtown Savage lies between busy I-95 and slightly less busy US-1. The community was created as a mill town providing employees for the Savage Manufacturing Company’s textile mill which was constructed in the 1820s. The mill was in operation for more than a hundred years before it closed just after World War II. The old mill complex was used for the manufacture of Christmas ornaments for a few years before it was purchased for use as a warehouse. In 1985, the mill was reopened as a venue for boutiques, restaurants, and antiques dealers.

Aerial view of Savage Mill and the Little Patuxent River, 1970, by William E. Barrett for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The mill has since become one of the driving forces for tourism to the area drawing more than a million people in 2010, but not all those people are attracted by shopping and attractions at the mill, some are brought because of the ghosts. The owners of the mill started ghost tours in the mid-2000s to capitalize on the ghost stories surrounding the mill complex.

Throughout the mill complex, spirits of former millworkers still linger. Merchants and patrons of the mill have heard their names called, been tripped by the puckish little girl’s spirit on the steps of the New Weave Building, seen faces at the windows, or perhaps encountered the spirit of Rebecca King who fell down the steps in the mill’s tower.

Sources

  • Alexander, Sandy. “Using the supernatural to sell Howard County.” Baltimore Sun. 4 October 2004.
  • “Ghostly history.” Washington Times. 23 October 2004.
  • Hoo, Winyan Soo. “At Maryland’s Savage Mill, history and commerce converge.” Washington Post. 28 April 2016.

St. John’s Episcopal Church
11040 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville

Like a moralizing parent looking over wild children, St. John’s Episcopal Church presides over the sprawl of US-1 (known as Baltimore Avenue here) as it passes through Beltsville. During the Civil War this commanding site featured a Federal artillery battery. The wife of a rector here in the 1970s recorded a number of experiences with spirits both in the church and in the churchyard. One evening while the wife and her children picked flowers in the churchyard they were startled to hear the sounds of a service coming from the church. After intently listening, the family entered the sanctuary to find it darkened and empty.

Sources

  • Carter, Dennis. “Hunting for haunts.” The Gazette. 25 October 2007.

Tawes Fine Arts Building
Campus of the University of Maryland
College Park

Moving south out of Beltsville, US-1 passes through College Park and the University of Maryland Campus. Though no longer home to the Department of Theatre, the Tawes Fine Arts Building retains its theatre and recital hall. The current home to the university’s English department, the building may still also retain its resident spook. Not long after the building’s opening in 1965, students began noticing the sound of footsteps in the empty theatre and would occasionally have mischievous jokes played on them, seemingly from beyond.

With quite a population of resident ghosts on campus, the university archivists have started documenting the stories. According to one of the archivists quoted in Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola’s Ghosthunting Maryland, Mortimer, Tawes’ ghost, may actually be a dog rather than a human spirit. According to campus lore, Mortimer was brought into the theatre during its construction and would frolic on the stage. The theatre’s seats had yet to be completely installed and the house was filled with metal frames the seats would be attached to. The frolicsome canine jumped from the stage into the house and impaled himself on one of the frames. Supposedly, he was buried in the building’s basement.

Sources

  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA, Stackpole, 2010.
  • Tawes TheatreWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 5 April 2013.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Bladensburg Dueling Ground
Bladensburg Road and 38th Street
Colmar Manor

When Washington outlawed dueling within the limits of the district, the hotheaded politicians and gentlemen of the district needed a place to “defend their honor.” They chose a little spot of land just outside the district in what is now Colmar Manor, Maryland. The activities at the dueling ground provided the name for the nearby waterway, Dueling Creek or Blood Run, now blandly called Eastern Branch. When the city of Colmar Manor was established in 1927, the city used dueling imagery on its town crest including a blood red background, a pair of dueling pistols and crossed swords.

Senators, legislators and military heroes are among the hundred or so men who dueled at this place in some fifty duels that are known and countless others that took place at this spot. Commodore Stephen Decatur was killed here in a duel with Commodore James Barron in 1820 and Representative John Cilley of Maine, who knew little of firearms, died here after combat in 1838 with Representative William Graves of Kentucky. The spirit of Stephen Decatur has been seen here along with other dark, shadowlike spirits that still stalk the old dueling grounds. The bloody grounds are now a park that stands silently amid the roaring sprawl of suburbia.

Sources

  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Taylor, Troy. “The Bladensburg Dueling Grounds, Bladensburg, Maryland.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

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Just whistling Dixie—Rural Hall, North Carolina

Payne and Edwards Roads
Rural Hall, North Carolina

The ritual is thus: drive out at night to the bridge where Edwards Road crosses over Payne Branch, stop your car in the middle of the bridge, and put it into neutral. Open the windows and begin to whistle “Dixie.” Supposedly the engine will die and you will be unable to restart the car until it is pushed from the bridge.

Author Michael Renegar tells of a friend of his who performed this ritual and was frightened by the results. This friend, a young man and two female companions ventured out to haunted Payne Road one night looking for a thrill. The trio performed the ritual on the bridge and lo, and behold, the car sputtered and died. The young man got out and pushed the car off the bridge and was able to crank the car, despite the feeling of being watched that emerged once he exited the vehicle. Reportedly, the vehicle never acted the same after that. Besides the scary moments the trio experienced on the bridge, the three also noted that when they drove past one of the old cemeteries an angel on the edge of the cemetery faced away from the road, but was facing them as they drove past the second time.

Burt Calloway and Jennifer FitzSimons record an earlier encounter on the bridge where a young man was hoping to impress his date by pitting his bravado against the spirited forces at this bridge. The young couple performed the ritual and the young man left his date sitting in the car as he strutted around the lonely bridge provoking the spirits to come out. A thunderstorm was rolling up and lightning revealed something to the young man. He stumbled, terrified back to the car and attempted to crank it. It refused to start and the young man just sat stunned in the driver’s seat. His date, not too pleased with his sudden fear, cranked the car and drove them away from the bridge. The young man only revealed to his date that he saw a ghost during the lightning’s flash.

The stories of Payne and Edwards Roads have circulated in this rural area of Forsyth and Stokes Counties for decades. The legendary history has entered the digital realm where it is discussed and argued among the more than 3500 members of the Legend of Payne Road group on Facebook. To add more fuel to the fiery legends that exist about this location, the viral website Only In Your State published an article last Friday repeating many of the disputed legends of these haunted roads.

First off, there is a great deal of confusion regarding the exact location of the hauntings. Edwards Road branches off from Broad Street in Rural Hall. Google Maps notes that the road is NC-1903 until after it intersects Forsto Road at which point it becomes NC-1961. Apparently, the haunted portion of the road is located south of Payne Branch where the road has a series of curves before crossing over Payne Branch. Edwards Road terminates at Payne Road just north of the bridge. Payne Road east of Edwards is NC-1961, while the western section is NC-1962. At some point, part of Payne Road may have been renamed Edwards Road, but that is only speculation, however the roads do appear to have been named for the families that once owned the land: the Paynes and the Edwards.

The Only In Your State article notes three legends associated with this road, though, like all legends, these legends change from storyteller to storyteller and article to article. The first legend involves the story of Payne Edwards, a cruel plantation owner whose daughter was impregnated by a slave. After killing the slave Edwards began to practice devil worship and eventually killed his entire family and burned the plantation killing all the remaining slaves.

A different version of the story casts Payne Edwards as the head of a large household here in the 1930s. After losing his mind he decided to murder his family and tied his wife to a chair in the living room. One by one he escorted his children and had them kiss their mother before he took them upstairs and slit their throats. The wife was able to escape and was beheaded by Edwards who then threw the couple’s infant child into a well.

While these stories are both grotesquely fascinating, they are utter balderdash. One of the best sites for a well-researched view of this story is the blog of the North Carolina Room of the Forsyth County Public Library. Last Halloween, one of the research librarians presented these two stories from Payne Road and checked their validity against the historic records. She found no record of Payne Edwards, though an early settler in the area, Robert Payne, owned land in the area. According to the Federal Census, Robert Payne was also a slave owner and had several children, though most apparently survived him.

The detail of a man murdering his entire family is also quite interesting. This detail is borrowed from an actual murder that occurred nearby in 1929. On Christmas Day, Charlie Lawson systematically killed his wife and six of his seven children (his oldest son was away from the family farm) and then shot himself a short time later. Lawson’s reasons for the murders went to the grave with him, though family and acquaintances have speculated that domestic issues including possible incest may have led to the tragedy. This gruesome mass murder elicited awe and curiosity from locals for many years and the family’s farmhouse was open as a tourist attraction for many years. Interestingly, these murders occurred roughly 5 miles from Payne and Edwards Roads on Brook Cove Road outside of Germanton. Though the family’s ramshackle farmhouse was demolished decades ago, there are still reports of paranormal activity in the area linked to the family’s murder.

While this tragedy did not occur in the Payne/Edwards Road area, there are a number of documented tragedies that have occurred here. In 1955, Milus Frank Edwards—who lived at the curve in Edwards Road just south of the bridge—committed suicide with a stick of dynamite. From the Gastonia Gazette, 7 October 1955:

Man Takes Life with Dynamite

Danbury—(AP)—A 73-year-old Stokes county man committed suicide yesterday with a dynamite explosion.

Sheriff Harvey Johnson said Milus Frank Edwards of Rt. 1, Rural Hall, apparently parked his pickup truck in a shed at his home, climbed into the truck bed and set off a stick of dynamite near his head.

A coroner’s jury ruled that death was self-inflicted.

Aubrey Edwards, son of the dead man, said his father had made several threats to end his life.

Sadly, this was among a handful of suicides to plague this family. According to the North Carolina Room blog, Mr. Edwards had four siblings also take their own lives. The blog poster further speculates that this is the beginning of the urban legends that surround these roads.

A more recent misdeed in the area can only be used to back up the tragic nature of this place. In December 1992 several men picked up a young woman in Winston-Salem. The young woman was driven to an old logging road off Payne Road. She was tied to a tree, raped, possibly tortured, and stabbed to death. More than a decade later one of the men involved was found guilty, though that conviction was later overturned based on DNA evidence.

This photograph appears in the 1990 book, Triad Hauntings, and is identified as the “Payne Road House,” though I cannot positively identify it as the haunted farmhouse.

While many of the legends that have accumulated around this area appear to be mostly fantasy embellished with fact, the experiences of locals and investigators cannot be denied. Writer Edrick Thay includes an interesting post-script to this research in his 2005 book, Ghost Stories of North Carolina. In a chapter entitled “The Haunted Farmhouse,” Thay recounts an investigation of an abandoned farmhouse by Haunted North Carolina Paranormal Investigators and Research that the group first looked into in 2002. Thay attempts to disguise the location saying that the lead investigator “refuses to disclose the farm’s location, except to say that it may or may not be around Winston-Salem.” Later details of the history make it certain that this is the old Edwards farmhouse outside of which Frank Edwards died by his own hands. “With this abandoned farm, the sheer number of the deaths from suicide and foul play over the last 50 years is staggering.” The investigator continues noting “gruesome accounts of people exploding themselves with sticks of dynamite, of the Mafia-style executions of two individuals beneath the awnings of an outbuilding and of the torture and grisly murder of a prostitute.”

During the several investigations the group has conducted here they have encountered high levels of activity in and around the old farmstead. On the first investigation several investigators were touched by unseen hands. One had their backpack grabbed and a nearby video camera proved her experience while another was touched on the hand leaving a red welt. Voice recorders used throughout the investigation recorded a number of EVPs including one with “many plaintive voices calling ‘help us!’” Perhaps the most interesting moment occurred when four investigators simultaneously witnessed a shadowy apparition moving along the banks of the nearby creek.

This investigation was conducted some years ago before the farmhouse and outbuildings were destroyed by vandals and an arsonist. Payne and Edwards Roads have both been paved and the mysterious haunted bridge has been replaced by a culvert. Despite these intrusions of modernity, teens and the curious still drive this road at night legend tripping. Hopefully they’re not just whistling Dixie.

Sources

  • Breedlove, Michael. “Local Haunts: Investigating the haunted side of the Twin Cities.” Winston-Salem Monthly. 29 September 2014.
  • Calloway, Burt & Jennifer FitzSimons. Triad Hauntings.Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 1990.
  • The Legend of Payne Road.” North Carolina Room— Forsyth County Public Library. 29 October 2015.
  • “Man takes life with dynamite.” Gastonia Gazette. 7 October 1955.
  • “Prosecutors confident they can convict Penland anew.”Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 August 2005.
  • Rakestraw, Emory. “Driving down this haunted North Carolina road may give you nightmares.” Only In Your State. 26 August 2016.
  • Renegar, Michael. Roadside Revenants and Other North Carolina Ghosts and Legends. Fairview, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 2005.
  • Renegar, Michael. Tar Hell Terrors: More North Carolina Ghosts and Legends. Fairview, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 2011.
  • Thay, Edrick. Ghost Stories of North Carolina. Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Publishing, 2005.
  • Whitmire, Tim. “Lawyers: DNA tests show Penland wrongly Convicted in ’92 killing.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 9 July 2005.

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Resting high on that mountain—Helen’s Bridge, Asheville

Helen’s Bridge
Over College Street between
Windswept Drive and Beaucatcher Road
Asheville, North Carolina

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain.
You weren’t afraid to face the Devil
You were no stranger to the rain.
Go rest high on that mountain…
 –“Go rest high on that mountain,” Vince Gill (1995)

The city drops away quickly as you drive up Beaucatcher Mountain from downtown Asheville. College Street—a main thoroughfare through the heart of downtown, forming one side of Pack Square—suddenly becomes a mountain road. As it dizzily traverses the side of the mountain, the road enters a gap spanned by a lonely, primeval bridge. Something about the patina of the stone and the flora growing around the bridge, make it appear to be a natural part of the landscape, as if it’s always been there. In truth, it has been here for a little more than a hundred years, enough time for the bridge to settle into the landscape and become ensconced in legend and lore. You have arrived at Helen’s Bridge.

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

The temperature here seems chillier; perhaps it’s the geography or perhaps it’s the wandering spirit of Helen; it’s hard to tell. While many are drawn to the bridge’s stark beauty it is the legend and lore that draws others. The legend speaks of a woman named Helen who lived near the bridge with her beloved daughter. After losing her daughter in a fire, the distraught Helen hung herself from the bridge. Some versions associate Helen with the nearby estate of Zealandia, where she was supposed to have been a mistress to one of the estate’s owners, and after becoming pregnant, hung herself in anguish. Researchers have found nothing to document the existence of an actual Helen, although author Alan Brown relates that some of the owners of Zealandia encountered the apparition of a woman on the stairs that they identified as Helen.

Teens have taken to trying to summon Helen by visiting the bridge at night and calling her name three times. It is reported that she will sometimes appear as a light or as an apparition. Others have reported that this ritual will sometimes cause car problems, ranging from odd mechanical issues to dead batteries. Florida author, Jamie Roush Pearce experienced problems with her car’s automatic locks after visiting the bridge and attempting to summon the sad spirit. Pearce briefly glimpsed a figure near her car and discovered the problem with the locks after leaving the site. After dealing with the issue for a week, she returned and asked Helen to leave her car alone. The lock problem has not reoccurred.

The bridge is immortalized in Thomas Wolfe’s 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel, when the main character, Eugene Gant walks with his girlfriend up Beaucatcher Mountain:

They turned from the railing, with recovered wind, and walked through the gap, under Philip Roseberry’s great arched bridge… As they went under the shadow of the bridge Eugene lifted his head and shouted. His voice bounded against the arch like a stone. They passed under and stood on the other side of the gap, looking from the road’s edge down into the cove.

Though Wolfe attempted to draw a thin veil over his hometown by renaming it Altamont, it was clear to the Ashevillians that he was depicting them in his novel. So much so that he is reported to have received death threats and did not return to the city for several years after the novel’s publication.

This rustic stone bridge was constructed as a carriageway for the Zealandia Estate in 1909. It was designed by R. S. Smith, who worked as an architect on the building of the nearby Biltmore Estate and was obviously fluent in the languages of Gothic, Tudor, and Elizabethan architecture.  In 1889, the same year that George Vanderbilt began construction on his magnificent manse that he would call Biltmore, John Evans Brown, who had spent his formative years in Asheville, began to build his estate here on Beaucatcher Mountain. Brown had left the city in 1849 to pursue his dreams of striking gold in the Golden West. When those dreams failed to pan out (pun intended), Brown set out for the green mountains of New Zealand where he found fortune in sheep and politics. He returned to his hometown with fortune in hand in 1888 and began construction on his estate.

Helen’s Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Brown enjoyed his stately, mountainside view of Asheville for a few scant years before his death in 1895. The estate was purchased by Australian native Philip S. Henry in 1903 and this intellectual, art collector, and diplomat set about fashioning the estate into a showplace in this aristocratic resort community. Hiring architect R. S. Smith, Henry began to transform the lofty estate into a European-styled castle in the Tudor style. The carriageway with its notable bridge was constructed during this period. In 1924, Henry opened his estate for the public to see his art collection. Upon Henry’s death in 1933, the estate passed to his daughters and remained in the family until 1961.

When construction began on the nearby Interstate 240 corridor, plans originally called for slicing through part of Beaucatcher Mountain. Local preservationists quickly formed the Beaucatcher Mountain Defense Association to argue for the mountain’s preservation and even more specifically for the protection of Zealandia. A tunnel through the mountain was proposed instead. Though the state department of transportation tore down Philip Henry’s museum in 1976, the estate was named to the National Register of Historic Place in 1977 and was left alone. During the tunneling blasting supports were added to protect the bridge. In 1998 with the supports still in place and stones falling from the looming structure, the city considered demolishing the structure. Local history buffs and preservationists won the fight and the supports were carefully removed. The bridge was structurally sound and it has recently been bought by the city to use as part of a proposed greenway.

Helen’s Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

If you choose to visit Helen, be cautious as the area does have some traffic. There is a dirt turnout off Beaucatcher Road a few yards past the bridge ideal for parking. The top of the bridge is still closed off and Zealandia is private, so please confine your ramblings to the public thoroughfare underneath the bridge. Summoning spirits is never encouraged, especially if you wish to avoid car problems and please be kind to Helen, she’s been through a lot.

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Sources

  • Bishir, Catherine W., Michael T. Southern, & Jennifer F. Martin. A Guide to the  Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Brendel, Susanne & Bettu Betz. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Zealandia. 12 January 1977.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Burgess, Joel. “City acquires historic bridge.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 25 November 2009.
  • “Death of Col. J. Evans Brown.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 9 July 1895.
  • Interstate 240 (North Carolina). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  • “Saving Helen’s Bridge.” Asheville Community News. 1999.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2013.
  • Tomlin, Robyn. “Zealandia Bridge Repairs Completed; Fixing historic bridge cost much less than originally forecast.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 June 1999.
  • Warren, Joshua. Haunted Asheville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1996.

Some Alabama Hauntings, Briefly Noted

This entry was originally posted 16 January 2013, it has been edited and expanded a bit.

Bama Theatre
600 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa

Architect David O. Whilldin employed a theme of simplicity versus the exotic in his design for the Bama Theatre. The façade of the theatre utilizes limestone (a stone that may conduct paranormal energy) cut in the simplified geometry of Art Deco and Moderne lines. Step into the lobby, and a patron will find themselves immersed in the exuberance of an Italian Renaissance courtyard modeled on that of the Davanzati Palace in Florence. Perhaps Whilldin’s theme was meant to illustrate the condition of so many Americans during the Great Depression: leading simple and austere lives on the outside while their inner selves are vivacious, imaginative and highly cultured. Opening in 1938 and built with funds from the Works Progress Administration, the Bama Theatre can be considered one of the last of the great American atmospheric movie palaces.

Marquee of the Bama Theatre, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The identities of the spirits at the Bama Theatre are unknown. While research into the theatre’s past has revealed no deaths to link to the haunting, this may be a case of residual energy remaining after years of audiences and performers in the theatre. One particularly interesting story involves an employee who arrived early one morning. As he was making coffee, he heard the elevator moving. He stood at the doors expecting to greet the passenger, but when the doors opened, a blast of icy air greeted him, this is perhaps the most chilling of the paranormal events in this building.

Others working in the building have reported shadow figures, odd lights, and the distinct feeling of being watched. The building was probed by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team in recent years, though little evidence to support a haunting was uncovered.

Sources

  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation Report on The Bama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL. Accessed 29 November 2012.
  • Higdon, David & Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • “History.” The Bama Theatre (bamatheatre.org). Accessed 4 March 2013.

Bluff Hall
405 North Commissioners Avenue
Demopolis

The fortunes of Demopolis’ Lyon family reflect the rise and fall of the entire state during the 19th century. While the family owned a large plantation, Bermuda Hill, outside of town, it required a home in town for business and social functions. This home, Bluff Hall, was constructed in 1832 by Allen Glover for his daughter Sarah and her husband, Francis Strother Lyon.

Bluff Hall, 2008, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The revised WPA guide to the state describes the house as “fortress-like in its strength and severity,” an apt description for the magnificently sited home. Occupying one of the bluffs above the Tombigbee River, the home illustrates the Lyon family’s remarkable and powerful position in the region. Francis Lyon, the home’s first owner, served in the Alabama State Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Confederate Congress, all the while running his plantation at Bermuda Hill. The home remained in the Lyon family until just after the turn of the 20th century when another family purchased it as a residence. The Marengo County Historical Society purchased the home in 1967 and restored it to its antebellum glory.

Since its purchase by the historical society, evidently no one had stayed the night in the home until 2003. A group of people staying overnight encountered odd sounds during the evening. When the President of the local Chamber of Commerce went to investigate, she was confronted with the apparition of a child on the stairs. Local historians have suggested that the child was the spirit of Leonidas Mecklenburg “Merk” Polk, Francis Lyon’s grandson and grandson to Confederate General Leonidas Polk, who passed away in the home of scarlet fever in 1877.

Sources

  • “Area rich in ghost stories, folk lore.” Demopolis Times. 30 October 2008.
  • Bluff HallWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 December 2012.
  • Francis Strother Lyon. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 December 2012.
  • Hendrix, Barry H. “Image may have been real.” Demopolis Times. 5 November 2003.
  • Walker, Alyce Billings. ed. Alabama: A Guide to the Deep SouthNew Revised Edition. NYC: Hastings House, 1975.

Interstate 65
Between Evergreen and Greenville

This roughly 40-mile stretch of I-65 between Evergreen, in Conecuh County, and Greenville, in Butler County, is the setting for a legend. Like much of the state of Alabama, this area was initially part of the vast nation of the Muscogee, or Creek, people. After Alabama’s creation in 1819, land-hungry white pioneers flooded the area and tensions rose as the Muscogee watched the theft and degradation of their homeland. Skirmishes between the two groups brought violence and orders of removal from Washington. Thousands of Muscogees were forcibly removed from their rich and fertile homeland and resettled in the dry and barren Oklahoma territory.

The Muscogee left behind villages, farmland, hunting grounds, trails, and the bones of their ancestors. According to legend, I-65 cuts a swath through part of this sacred Muscogee territory and, as a result, this section of interstate is cursed. One commonly quoted statistic on this stretch of road states that “between 1984 and 1990, there were 519 accidents, 208 injuries, and 23 deaths on this 40-mile stretch of highway, though the road is straight, even, and well maintained.”

Many of these accidents are supposedly caused by something, possibly a human figure, darting across the road. A 2002 Birmingham News article says that Native American spirits have been seen in this area, “some as tall as 50 feet, towering over the pine trees in the interstate median.” Other reports involve mysterious, bright lights temporarily blinding drivers. Then again, this may just be another old Indian curse legend.

Sources

  • Granato, Sherri. “Haunted America: Interstate 65 in Evergreen, Alabama.” Yahoo Voices. 24 October 2011.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Haveman, Christopher. “Creek Indian Removal.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 23 February 2012.
  • MacDonald, Ginny. “Boootiful Alabama: Don’t let night catch you driving alone.” Birmingham News. 31 October 2002.

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