Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—North of Broad

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

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

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

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

Archdale Street

Unitarian Church and Churchyard
4 Archdale Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

East Bay Street

Southend Brewery
161 East Bay Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Broad Street

Blind Tiger Pub
36-38 Broad Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Charleston City Hall
80 Broad Street

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

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

Sources

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

Calhoun Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Chalmers Street

Old Slave Mart
6 Chalmers Street

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

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

Sources

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

Pink House
17 Chalmers Street

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

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

Sources

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

Church Street

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street

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

St. Philips Episcopal Church
146 Church Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Bocci’s Italian Restaurant
158 Church Street

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub
160 Church Street

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

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

Sources

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

Old Charleston Ghost Shop
168 Church Street

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

Sources

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

Cunnington Street

Magnolia Cemetery
70 Cunnington Street

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

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

Elizabeth Street

Aiken-Rhett House
48 Elizabeth Street

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Hassell Street

Jasmine House Inn
64 Hassell Street

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

Sources

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

King Street

Charleston Library Society
164 King Street

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

Sources

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

Riviera Theatre
225 King Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Urban Outfitters
(formerly the Garden Theatre)
371 King Street

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

Sources

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

Francis Marion Hotel
387 King Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Magazine Street

Old City Jail
21 Magazine Street

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

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

North Market Street

Mad River Bar & Grille
32 North Market Street

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

 

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

Sources

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

Meeting Street

Mills House Hotel
115 Meeting Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Circular Congregational Church
150 Meeting Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Meeting Street Inn
173 Meeting Street

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

Sources

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

Charleston Place Hotel
205 Meeting Street

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

Sources

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

Embassy Suites—Historic Charleston Hotel
337 Meeting Street

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

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

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

Sources

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

Montagu Street

Benjamin Smith House
18 Montagu Street, private

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

Sources

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

Queen Street

Philadelphia Alley
Between Cumberland and Queen Streets

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

Sources

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

Poogan’s Porch
72 Queen Street

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

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

Sources

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

Husk
76 Queen Street

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

Sources

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

82 Queen
82 Queen Street

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

Sources

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

Pinckney Street

Andrew Pinckney Inn
40 Pinckney Street

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

Sources

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

Wentworth Street

1837 Bed & Breakfast
126 Wentworth Street

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

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

Sources

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

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VI

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is to examine ghost stories county by county, though so far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and on Halloween of 2017, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

For a further look at Alabama ghosts, please see my Alabama Directory.

See part I (Autauga-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.

Montgomery County

Pratt Hall
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

Huntingdon College’s most famous spirit may have followed the college as it moved to Montgomery from Tuskegee. In the school’s original dormitories, the upper floors, known as “Sky Alley,” were supposed to have been haunted by a Red Lady. After the school’s move to its new campus and the construction of Julia A. Pratt Residence Hall in 1912, the Red Lady may have taken up residence on the third floor.

Students still tell the legend of the Red Lady. A young woman arrived at the school from New York. Very much out of place in this Southern school, the woman remained aloof and was shunned by the other students. Depressed, she committed suicide in her room. In life, this young woman had always favored red, and her lonely spirit is still seen drifting the corridors of Pratt Hall in her favorite color.

Sources

  • Enzwiler, Susan & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Huntingdon College. August 1999.
  • Sellers, Shawn. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History. Shawn Sellers 2013.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Morgan County

Old State Bank
925 Bank Street
Decatur

In 2015 a friend of author Jessica Penot was driving through downtown Decatur with her young daughter. As they passed the Old State Bank, the child asked, “Mommy, why was that lady in the black dress murdered?” The mother immediately asked her daughter what she meant, to which the child replied, “Can we quit talking about this now?” The mother did a bit of research and discovered that there are two female spirits associated with the old bank, one who is weeping and one in a black dress.

Old State Bank, 2010, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Literally in “high cotton,” the Bank of the State of Alabama built this structure as a branch in 1833. Nearly a decade later, when the state legislature discovered corruption they refused to renew the bank’s charter, and the bank was shuttered. The building was requisitioned as a hospital during the Civil War as the city passed between control of Confederate and Union forces. At the end of the war, Decatur lay in ruins except for a few buildings including this one.

The identity of the two mysterious female entities is unknown, however. Perhaps they are the lady loves of soldiers who breathed their last here or maybe they are nurses who tended to the wounded. These spirits have been seen by visitors and staff alike, and investigations have uncovered evidence of their presence.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for State Bank Building, Decatur Branch. 15 June 1971.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Penot, Jessica. “The little girl who saw a ghost.” Ghost Stories and Haunted Places Blog. 28 April 2015.

Perry County

Marion Military Institute
1101 Washington Street
Marion

As the oldest military junior college in the country, Marion Military Institute traces its roots to the opening of Howard College in 1842. A Baptist institution, Howard College opened its doors as a school for boys. During the Civil War, when military training became necessary, the school added a military department. In 1863, the college’s chapel and Lovelace Hall were commandeered for use as a Confederate hospital. Operating as the Breckinridge Military Hospital, the military’s sick and wounded filled these school buildings for two years. The dead were buried behind the school’s chapel.

Howard College moved to Birmingham in 1887 and evolved into Samford University, and the Marion Military Institute was established on the legends-filled campus. Students have reported supernatural activity throughout the campus, though sources provide little detail.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • History.” Marion Military Institute. Accessed 5 July 2015.
  • Perry County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Perry County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.

Pickens County

Pickens County Courthouse
1 Courthouse Square
Carrollton

The north side of the late 19th century courthouse bears an arrow pointing towards the garret window at the top of the structure. This arrow points towards the ghostly window pane that is literally at the heart of Pickens County history and legend.

Twelve years after the first courthouse was burned during the Civil War, the second courthouse erupted in flames in 1877. Rumors spread that the courthouse was set alight by a freed slave, Henry Wells, who lived nearby. He was arrested, and a mob gathered on the courthouse lawn to mete out “justice.” Incarcerated in the attic of the building, Wells peered down on the mob screaming his innocence.

Pickens County Courthouse, 1998, by Calvin Beale for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A storm erupted, and a bolt of lightning struck nearby as Henry Wells was hung for his supposed crime, though proclaiming his innocence until the very end. Citizens passing the courthouse the next morning were shocked to see Wells’ visage etched into the pane of the window from which he had peered down on the mob. Frequent washing of the window has not been able to scrub the mysterious image.

As with many legends, there is a mix of fact and fiction at work here. While the image in the window pane is undeniable, the history is confused. Apparently, a lynch mob did gather on the courthouse lawn once, but for a murderer named Nathaniel Pierce. The mob succeeded in lynching Mr. Pierce. Henry Wells was arrested for the arson of the second courthouse, though he was not put to death by a mob. There are also questions as to the actual existence of the windows, which may have been added to the façade sometime after the deaths of both Pierce and Wells.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Pike County

Pace and Shackelford Halls
Campus of Troy University
Troy

Built in 1947 and 1930, respectively, these two residence halls have both been the scene of poltergeist activity. The activity in Shackelford Hall is explained as the product of a young female student’s suicide. Depressed over her fiancée’s death in a war, “Sally Shack,” as tradition identifies her, hanged herself in this building. Rumors state that two female students living here entered their dorm room to find two pens levitating. The incident led the young ladies to vacate their room the following day.

Pace Hall, 2017, by Kreeder13. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the 1990s, a few students in one of these dorms decided to play with a Ouija board in an attempt to contact the spirit in Pace Hall. The group succeeded in contacting something after which the terrified girls witnessed “a paper clip tapping on their window from the outside, and things moving around the room.” As a result, the university had the room cleansed to settle the activity, though students continue to encounter activity throughout the buildings.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunting of Alabama. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2017.
  • Ferrell, Mary. “Ghost stories on campus.” Tropolitan (Troy University). 30 October 2014.

Randolph County

McCosh Mill
McCosh Mill Road
Rock Mills

Though the location is a bit remote, the ruins of this mill have become a popular place for picnicking families and teenagers searching for a thrill. Located on the banks of Wehadkee Creek, this mill possibly dates to the early 1870s when it was constructed by James Eichelburger McCosh, grandson of local industrialist Jacob Eichelburger who built the cotton mills in Rock Mills. The mill, which ground corn into meal and wheat into our, operated until 1958. It was purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1970 as part of the building of West Point Lake. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, the mill remained standing until vandals set it ablaze. The stone foundation and the mill race are the only remaining features at this site.

The ruins of McCosh Mill, 2015. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

This mill figures into lore on both sides of the state line, and there are many stories and much misinformation. A friend of mine, Celeste, and her husband Randy lived near the ruins until recently. The couple would often venture down to the site after dark to enjoy the quiet, and it is here that they have had a few experiences. Randy rode his four-wheeler down to the ru- ins one evening alone, and while he was there felt that something climbed onto the back of the vehicle with him. Fearing what was behind him, he started back home and never looked back. The unsettling feeling did not leave him until the next day.

A photographer and friend of Celeste’s took her children down to Wehadkee Creek to enjoy the water. As they played, the woman took video and photographs. At one point in the video, a woman appears near the children for a split second. After seeing the vid- eo, the startled mother looked over the photographs and saw the same woman in a few of the photographs seemingly watching from the treeline.

The ruins of the mill are located at the end of McCosh Mill Road which begins in Troup County, Georgia and eventually turns into a dirt road. Continue down this road to reach the mill; though proceed with caution as the road is heavily rutted and damaged from recent logging in the area. The site cannot be reached from Alabama.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner & Ellen Mertins. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the McCosh Grist Mill. 27 May 1976.
  • Interview with Celeste P., LaGrange, GA. 23 July 2015.
  • Randolph County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Randolph County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Russell County

Elite Café
1501 Fifth Avenue
Phenix City

The Elite Cafe with its infamous parking lot where Albert Patterson was shot. He died near where the historic marker now stands. By Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On the evening of June 18, 1954, as state attorney general nominee Albert Patterson walked to his car parked in the parking lot between the Coulter Building and the Elite Café (pronounced ee-light), he was shot three times. He was able to crawl towards the Coulter Building where he died on the sidewalk. The assailant was never apprehended, though he was most likely associated with the organized crime and the rampant corruption in Phenix City that Patterson had been fighting to destroy.

In the early 20th century, Phenix City had a reputation as the wickedest city in America. Fueled by the influx of soldiers to Columbus, Georgia’s Fort Benning, across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, the city had become a haven for prostitution, gambling, alcohol, and other forms of vice. Patterson, a successful lawyer and politician, campaigned on cleaning up the city. Sadly, it took Patterson’s death to spur these changes.

Higdon & Talley report that a gentleman in an old-fashioned suit has been seen in the parking lot and on the sidewalk around the Elite Café and the Coulter Building. Perhaps Patterson is still minding Phenix City hoping it will not return to its sinful ways.

Sources

  • Grady, Alan. “Albert L. Patterson.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 24 July 2007.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
 

St. Clair County

St. Clair County remains the bane in my side. Despite all the searching, both online and in published sources, I cannot find an adequately sourced haunting within the county. Kelly Kazek describes the Flatwoods Community as “a settlement of freed slaves during Reconstruction” that “was later burned.” Nothing online or in the county heritage book provides information on this community. Hopefully, something from St. Clair will soon appear on my radar. If you know of a location here, please send me an email at southernspiritguide@gmail.com.

Shelby County

Old Shelby County Courthouse
1854 Old Courthouse Circle
Columbiana

The oldest remaining courthouse in the state, the Old Shelby County Courthouse has seen a myriad of uses in its long existence. Constructed as a courthouse in 1854, miraculously, this building escaped being burned by Union raiders during the Civil War. The building was used by the county until 1908 when a new courthouse was built nearby. The building was put to use as a hotel and later a boarding house until around 1934 when the public library opened on the second floor. It now serves as a county museum.

Old Shelby County Courthouse, 2016. By Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

A spirit reportedly dwells among the artifacts displayed within the old building. In a room on the second floor, the blinds are regularly adjusted by unseen hands. The same room often gives staff members a creepy feeling, and author Alan Brown reports that some workers in the building at night did see a spectral figure in this room. An investigation conducted in 2002 did not turn up any evidence of spiritual activity, though the investigators did have some strange personal experiences.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. Nation Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Columbiana City Hall. 19 July 1974.
  • Reed, Martin J. “Shelby County’s 1854 Old Courthouse in Columbiana gets new address, improvements.” com. 31 January 2013.
  • “Shelby County ghosts busted.” Shelby County Reporter. 24 July 2002.
 

Sumter County

Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge
Campus of the University of West Alabama
Livingston

The oldest remaining of Alabama’s covered bridges; the Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge may harbor the spirit of an outlaw. The bridge was originally constructed to span the Sucarnoochee River but was moved to the nearby Alamuchee Creek after its replacement by a concrete bridge. It served automobile traffic there until 1958. The Sumter County Historical Society acquired the bridge in 1971, restored it, and moved the bridge to the campus of the University of West Alabama.

Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge, 2007, by Mld74. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The bridge figures into the story of notorious Sumter County Sheri Stephen S. Renfroe. Sometimes known as the “Outlaw Sheriff Renfroe’s notoriety comes from his involvement in murders, leadership in the local Ku Klux Klan, excessive drinking, and embezzlement while in office. Renfroe eventually fled the county, but when he returned he was apprehended by a mob of locals and was lynched either near or on this bridge. A dark shade seen pacing the length of the bridge is believed to be the Outlaw Sheriff Author Alan Brown, a professor at the university who has penned many books on Southern ghosts, stated in a 1994 article that he doesn’t believe the bridge to be haunted.

Sources

  • Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 May 2015.
  • “Bridge harbors legend: Serenity of covered bridge belies dark legend.” Mobile Register. 1 November 2004.

Haunted Florida, Briefly Noted

“Attention, blog readers! Cleanup on the Florida aisle!” Since the move from Blogger, I’ve been sitting on several articles that needed a bit of cleanup before being reposted. This article combines the remains of my original “Haunted Florida” article along with some theatre entries that were written for a book on haunted Southern theatres, that was never completed.

Athens Theatre—Sands Theatre Center
124 North Florida Avenue
DeLand

Henry Addison DeLand dreamed of creating the “Athens of the South” when he began developing land around a small Florida settlement called Persimmon Hollow. He opened a small academy, DeLand Academy, but after a freeze in 1885 destroyed the orange crop, DeLand returned north short his investment. Wealthy Philadelphia hat maker, John B. Stetson, took over the academy and reopened it as John B. Stetson University, later just Stetson University.

DeLand grew over the next few decades, becoming a center of learning and culture on the east coast of Florida. The Athens Theatre was opened in 1922 with the hope of continuing that cultural influence. The magnificent Beaux Arts style theatre opened as a vaudeville and movie house. In 2009, the building was renovated, restored and reopened as the Sands Theatre Center, a performing arts center for the community.

Athens Theatre, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Within the walls of the theatre two spirits linger. The shade of a stagehand who fell to his death still resides here, but it is the lively spirit of a young actress who is most often felt. Legend speaks of a young actress starring in a show who began a torrid affair with the theatre’s manager. The manager’s wife appeared one day to find the two in flagrante delicto and, after a shouting match, the wife bludgeoned the pretty, young actress to death with a lamp. Actors using the actress’ old dressing room sometimes incur her contempt which is sometimes expressed through objects being thrown or the room’s temperature drastically lowered.

Sources

  • DeLand, Florida. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 March 2013.
  • Martin, C. Lee. Florida Ghosts and Pirates. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.

Coral Castle
28655 South Dixie Highway
Homestead

Coral sculptures at Coral Castle, 2005, by Christina Rutz. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Edward Leedskalnin, an eccentric and possibly brilliant Latvian immigrant, began work on his masterpiece in nearby Florida City in 1923. In 1936 he moved himself and the castle to Homestead where he worked until he died in 1951. There have been questions about how Leedskalnin, who was five feet tall and weighed less than a hundred pounds, maneuvered the massive blocks of coral that sometimes weighed a few tons. When visitors would ask how he did it, he would only answer, “It’s not difficult if you know how.” This has given rise to numerous theories of how this massive complex was constructed including the help of aliens, though engineers surmise that much of his work was done using known techniques.

It is only appropriate that this legendary place has legends attached. More sensitive visitors have noted the existence of energy vortices throughout the complex. Throughout the site, Mr. Leedskalnin’s presence is felt. Other visitors have seen figures appear among the castle’s huge coral blocks.

Sources

  • Coral Castle. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 March 2012.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.
  • Moore, Joyce Elson. Haunt Hunter’s Guide to Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2008.
  • Temkin, Maria & Michael Zimny. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Coral Castle. 2 April 1984.
  • Thuma, Cynthia and Catherine Lower. Haunted Florida. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books,
  • Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida’s Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.

Deering Estate
16701 Southwest 72nd Avenue
Miami

It seems that the former estate of Charles Deering, the founder of International Harvester, may be just crawling with spirits. And a variety of spirits at that. One investigation photographed the possible spirit of a Victorian woman while spirits of Native Americans may be associated with burial grounds nearby. The Deering Estate also features ghost tours of the estate that the League of Paranormal Investigators (LPI) dubbed, “ground-zero for lost spirits.” LPI has documented at least two full-bodied apparitions as well as numerous EVPs.

Richmond Cottage on the Deering Estate, 2010, by Zoohouse. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The estate has been preserved by the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County as a cultural and educational facility. Two buildings dating from 1896 and 1922 remain and are surrounded by swaths of land in its natural state. Battered by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, restoration of the estate took years and the grounds did not reopen to the public until 1999.

Sources

  • Charles Deering. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2010.
  • Charles Deering Estate. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 March 2012.
  • Cohen, Howard. “Halloween howling.” The Miami Herald. 27 October 2011.
  • Malone, Kenny. “Miami’s Deering Estate: A real haunted house?” 28 October 2009.
  • “Miami-Dade Estate deemed ‘severely haunted.’” The Miami Herald. 22 October 2009.

Henegar Center for the Arts
625 East New Haven Avenue
Melbourne

Henegar Center, 2010, by Leonard J. DeFrancisci. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A fine example of adaptive reuse, the Henegar Center is located within an old school building. Having opened in 1920, the Melbourne school was named after a former principal, Ruth Henegar in 1963. The building was closed as a school in 1975 and reopened as the Henegar Center for the Arts in 1991. In addition to opening with a 493-seat theatre, the building also came with a resident ghost, Jonathan. According to Kathleen Walls, Jonathan’s antics include the usual noises attributed to spirits as well as moving actors’ props. The theatre’s balcony seems to be his favorite area of the theatre and he has been spotted there on occasion.

Sources

  • Henegar Center for the Arts. “Our Rich History.” Accessed 25 March 2013.
  • Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida’s Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.

Hotel Blanche
212 North Marion Street
Lake City

For decades, travelers heading down Highway 441 from Georgia to Florida would stop at the luxurious Hotel Blanche in Lake City, among them, gangster Al Capone on his way to Miami. This landmark, the heart of downtown Lake City, has been witness to the city’s history for more than a hundred years. Recently, one of the building’s owners described part of the building as a “death trap.”As the hotel’s clientele dwindled towards the middle part of the 20th century, the hotel began to deteriorate. The ground floors have remained occupied with businesses and the second floor has occasionally been used for office space and meetings, but the third floor has not been in use for some time. In fact, the door to the third floor has been screwed shut; perhaps to contain some force from the Other Side?

Over the past few years, arguments have arisen over what to do with the massive white elephant. The city has considered purchasing the building, though I can find nothing to definitively say if that has occurred. Taking up nearly a block of downtown Lake City, directly across from City Hall, the Hotel Blanche was once the heart of Lake City. The hotel was constructed in 1902 by Will Brown and named for his daughter. The hotel added two wings amidst the tourist boom of the 1920s. The hotel closed in 1967 and its third floor has not been used since that time.

Hotel Blanche, 1908, from a postcard. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

The paranormal history of the hotel is less clear. Greg Jenkins reports in his Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore that the hotel may very well have a “large collection of spirits,” though this hasn’t been officially investigated. Apparently many sounds are heard including children running and giggling. The sounds of door slamming have also been heard as well as many odd smells including perfume, vinegar, and sulfur (which may be an indication of a malevolent entity). The spirits, though, do seem as unsettled as the recent plans for the building.

Sources

  • Burkhardt, Karl. “Renovation of the Blanche Hotel, Lake City’s most famous historic structure, may restore it as a downtown centerpiece.” Lake City Journal. 18 July 2011.
  • Hotel Blanche. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2010.
  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 2. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.
  • Lilker, Stew. “Conversation with Steve Smith, Blanche investment trust spokesman.” Columbia County Observer. 21 October 2009.
  • Lilker, Stew. “The Blanche Hotel: The seventh inning stretch.” Columbia County Observer. 3 March 2010.
  • Lilker, Stew. “The Blanche: The city steps up, Councilman Hill wants to slow down.” Columbia County Observer. 21 October 2009.

Miami International Airport
2100 Northwest 42nd Avenue
Miami

It’s not unheard of that an airport could be haunted. An airport may be the last place that a plane may board before an accident or perhaps a destination that is not reached. Either way, an airport may attract spirits. Miami International was the destination for Eastern Airlines Flight 401 on December 29, 1972. As the plane flew over the Everglades on its approach to the airport, it crashed killing 77 including both pilots. While the plane never arrived, legend speaks of the form of the plane’s captain, Robert Loft, being seen in the airport near where the ticket counters for Eastern Airlines once stood and disappearing into the old Eastern concourse.

Miami International Airport, 2007, by Jason Walsh. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the annals of paranormal phenomena, this plane crash is the focus of many stories. Stories abound of the appearance of the captain and 2nd Officer Don Repo on planes that utilized parts recovered from the crash site. After these stories began to surface, Eastern Airlines reportedly removed all these parts from service. Additionally, during the recovery efforts for victims, many working in the swamps late at night heard whimpering and sobbing and saw phantom faces in the black water.

Sources

  • Eastern Airlines Flight 401. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2010
  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 2. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.

Richey Suncoast Theatre
6237 Grand Boulevard
New Port Richey

The patron attended a performance at the theatre. He sat in his favorite seat, BB1 in the balcony, for the performance and a few hours after leaving was dead of a heart attack. Not only was Willard Clark not just a patron, he was the president of the theatre. Following his death in 1981, he has apparently returned to the theatre he loved so and is not happy when his favorite seat is occupied. Patrons unfamiliar with the story have experienced a distinct chill while watching performances from Clark’s favorite seat. Others have spotted a gentleman in a tuxedo in that seat. For awhile, the seat was simply reserved for the ghost and patrons were told it was broken.

The history of this theatre reflects much of the bumpy history of Florida in the early 20th century. Land booms, busts and the Great Depression fill the history of the state and the theatre felt shockwaves from all of these.

Richey Suncoast Theatre, 2010, by Karm Atwin. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thomas Meighan made a name for himself in silent films. After his 1919 film, The Miracle Man, he officially had become a “star” and he appeared opposite great leading ladies like Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford (known popularly as “America’s Sweetheart”) and Norma Talmadge and under the direction of such greats as Cecil B. DeMille. Talking with his brother, James, a realtor, Meighan became very interested in Florida and bought land there in 1925. Inspired by dreams of making the New Port Richey area a celebrity winter playground, he built a home there and encouraged his friends to visit. When a new theatre opened in town in 1926, it was named, appropriately, the Thomas Meighan Theatre.

The grand opening of the theatre on July 1, 1926 was heralded with a showing of Meighan’s film, The New Klondike. The theatre experienced ups and downs in its business and improvements were made to allow for the latest in film technology: “talkies.” But with the hardships imposed on the area during the Great Depression, the theatre closed its doors. The theatre reopened under a new name in 1938 and continued operating under a variety of names until 1968 when competition from a local multiplex led to the theatre’s closure. It was purchased in 1972 for use as a community theatre. The Richey Suncoast Theatre has continued to operate as a successful community theatre ever since. And Willard Clark continues to watch fabulous performances from his favorite balcony seat.

Sources

  • Cannon, Jeff. “Ghostly Encounters in Pasco County.” com. 25 October 2012.
  • Fredericksen, Barbara L. “Attention ghost: Exit stage left, through wall.” Tampa Bay Times. 31 October 2006.
  • The Meighan/Richey Suncoast Theatre.” The History of Pascoe County. Accessed 3 April 2013.
  • Spencer, Camille C. “Is New Port Richey a truly ghostly town? Or is it a myth?” Tampa Bay Times. 30 October 2009.
  • Thomas Meighan. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 April 2013.

Venice Theatre
140 Tampa Avenue, West
Venice

Venice Little Theatre has grown so much they dropped the “Little” from their name in 2008. Founded in 1950 and first performing in an airport hangar at the Venice Airport, Venice Theatre has expanded into one of the premier community theatre companies in the nation. After the city needed the airport hangar for storage in 1972, the company purchased its current building: a 1926 structure with a tower resembling the St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, Italy, the town’s namesake.

Where actors now play, cadets from the Kentucky Military Institute—which summered in Venice—once sweated and occasionally the spirit of a small girl still roams. She has been seen curiously watching groups of juvenile actors and bouncing a ball in the corridors that once served as the military institute’s gymnasium. Who she is or what she’s doing in this particular building remains a mystery.

Sources

  • Cool, Kim. Haunted Theatres of Southwest Florida. Venice, FL: Historic Venice Press, 2009.
  • History. Venice Theatre. Accessed 31 March 2013.

Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

“Blew our schoolhouse away”—Duffield, Virginia

Rye Cove Intermediate School
158 Memorial School Lane
Duffield, Virginia

Oh listen today and a story I tell
With saddened and tear dimmed eyes
Of a dreadful cyclone that came this way
And blew our schoolhouse away.
–“The Cyclone of Rye Cove” by A. P. Carter, originally covered by
The Carter Family

In the news business there’s the old maxim, “if it bleeds, it leads,” thus headlines are often gory. Americans were jarred on the 3rd of May, 1929, by headlines about the huge storm that passed through Virginia and the rural wooden schoolhouse in Rye Cove that didn’t stand a chance against one of the storm’s tornados. The Associated Press story about the tornado was printed in papers from Maine to California.

The story of the storm appeared on the front page of the Alton Evening Telegraph in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, incidentally noted to be one of most haunted cities in the Midwest.

RYE COVE, Va., May 3, (AP)—Grief stricken parents searched the debris of the Rye Cove Consolidated school today, fearful of finding additional victims of the tornado that yesterday claimed the lives of 13 children and one teacher in the greatest disaster ever known to this western Virginia mountain village.

The tragedy at Rye Cove has been the worst thing to occur in this tight-knit community in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Indeed, the spirit world will not let the community forget this tragedy and, according to folklorist Charles Edwin Price, the ghastly roar of the tornado’s wind and the accompanying cries of children are still heard on the anniversary of the fateful day.

The history of this quiet cove in the Appalachians began with a tragedy in 1773 when a group of settlers were attacked here. Despite treaties forbidding settlers from settling in territory claimed by Native Americans, settlers began to make their ways into that territory. On the evening of October 9, a group of settlers including James Boone—son of the famed frontiersman, Daniel Boone—were set upon by natives attempting to guard their territory. The sleeping settlers were fired upon as they slept with two killed instantly. Two others escaped into the woods while Boone and another settler were tortured before being killed. One African slave hid in the forest and witnessed the ordeal while another slave was taken by the natives.

Rye Cove’s baptism by blood was just the beginning. Other settlers filtering into the area had their lives cut short in similarly bloody ways. Permanent settlement did not begin until after the American Revolution, though Rye Cove—due to its isolation—grew very slowly. Additionally, farming in the area was made difficult by the large outcroppings of limestone that punctuated the land throughout the cove.

The hard-scrabble families in the cove eventually built a school in the mid-19th century which was replaced by a modern schoolhouse in 1907. By 1923, the Rye Cove Consolidated School had grown to eight rooms and an auditorium. This was the building that housed some 150 students around noon on May 2, 1929.

The school’s principal, A. S. Noblin, was at lunch when his landlady noted the storm that was brewing outside. As he left his boarding house to return to the school he saw the black shape that was quickly making its way up the valley. Noblin reached the schoolhouse just in time to watch one of the automobiles parked outside the school rise into the air. Moments later, the wooden building disintegrated into a mass of splintered wood with students, teachers, chalkboards, pot-bellied stoves and other debris careening through the air.

Noblin told a reporter for the Scott County Herald-Virginian, “Trees were swaying. As it neared the school building it became a black cloud…I think I yelled. It struck the building. The next thing I remembered I was standing knee deep in a pond 75 feet from where the building stood before it was demolished.”

The Bee, a newspaper in Danville, Virginia, picks up the story. “The two-story frame schoolhouse was ripped from its foundations, torn asunder and strewn over a distance of 300 to 400 yards, some of the children were blown almost 100 yards while others were buried in the wreckage.”

Anxious parents and neighbors from throughout the valley soon flooded the scene and began digging through the wreckage. Included among the many neighbors who came to help was A. P. Carter who would compose a song mourning that Rye Cove, “where in life’s early morn, I once loved to roam,” was now “so silent and lone.” The search was intensified when overturned pot-bellied stoves began to ignite the wooden debris of the school.

Headlines from The Bee of Danville, Virginia, 3 May 1929.

The Bee of Danville, Virginia, picks up the story: “Great confusion followed the tornado, anxious fathers worked feverishly in the ruins, fearful that they might discover the bodies of their children. The anxiety of parents was intensified because the injured children were hurriedly rushed away for hospital treatment before the parents arrived.” Rye Cove’s remote location lead rescuers to evacuate the most seriously injured to Clinchport, Virginia while some were taken by train to Kingsport, Tennessee.

In the end, the lives of twelve students and one teacher were lost amid the ruins of the schoolhouse. The remainder of the school term was canceled and a new school was constructed on the site with a memorial plaque installed in memory of the thirteen victims whose memory is still stirred by the sound of howling winds and screams every May 2.

Sources

  • Associated Press. “22 Dead and 100 hurt is state’s toll.” The Bee (Danville, Virginia). 3 May 1929.
  • Associated Press. “Death toll from storm reaches 49.” Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois). 3 May 1929.
  • McDaid, Jennifer Davis. “Rye Cove Cyclone.” Encyclopedia Virginia 23 November 2010.
  • Mills, Elizabeth. “Rye Cove High School: A Brief History.” Scott County Public Schools. Accessed 5 November 2014.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. “Death in the Afternoon: The Rye Cove Tornado.” Rootsweb FOLKLORE-L Archives. 28 April 2000.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. The Mystery of Ghostly Vera and other Haunting Tales Of Southwest Virginia. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1993.

Newsworthy Haunts 3/19—Fike High School

Ralph L. Fike High School
500 Harrison Drive
Wilson, North Carolina

High school is scary enough. You already have teenage angst compounded by raging hormones and with modern teenage drama; it makes for a volatile situation. It’s even worse, I imagine, with ghosts thrown in.

Schools, ranging from preschools to university buildings, appear frequently on lists of haunted places. In his 2003 book, Haunted Schools, A.S. Mott suggests several reasons why schools may be rife with spiritual activity. Some activity can be linked with the land upon which the school sits, while others have been the scene of deaths, accidental or otherwise, that may contribute to a haunting. Students who pass on away from school, may return to the place where they spent their formative years, or devoted faculty or staff members may continue their duties in the afterlife.

Some of these stories are simply urban legends that flourish within the school community. They bear the hallmarks of oral storytelling as each teller adds their own flourishes compounding the exaggerations and inaccuracies, though there sometimes remains a kernel of truth.

Among haunted schools in the South, there are some very notable haunted schools including C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport Louisiana; Airport High School in West Columbia, South Carolina; Bristol Tennessee High School in Bristol, Tennessee; and Matthew Whaley Elementary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

North Carolina has a few notable haunted high schools including Erwin High School in Asheville, which was built on the site of a potter’s field cemetery. While most of the graves were moved prior to construction, it’s possible that some were missed which might account for some of the activity.

haunted Erwin High School Asheville North Carolina ghosts built on a cemetery
Asheville, North Carolina’s haunted Erwin High School, 2012. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I always wondered if my alma mater, LaGrange High School in LaGrange, Georgia was haunted. The school’s main building dates to the 1940s with many modern additions. Parts of the building were creepy, though I never heard anything substantial as to activity. Not that I wasn’t interested, in fact, I worked on an independent study my senior year about ghosts. While anxiety and procrastination marred that project, I believe all that work was really ramping up for the debut of this blog.

This is why I’m jealous of the student named in this recent article from the Wilson Daily Times; she’s gathering paranormal evidence about her high school for her senior project.

Certainly it appears that there are some very strange things going on at Fike High School. This project got its impetus when a student watched her classroom door close by itself during class. Moments later, the door opened again about six inches and a nearby projector head flipped downward by itself. The student began asking questions which has culminated in her concentrating on the school haunting as her senior project.

Witnesses to these phenomena include teachers, janitors and the assistant principal. A coach walking along one hallway began to notice the classroom doors closing by themselves as he passed. The assistant principle saw a white figure in the hallway when she was a student, while a current math teacher started hearing odd sounds one night as he was working late. He went to the main office to check the security cameras and noticed the motion detectors were alerting him to movement in the second floor hallway. When he went to look, he saw a white figure at the end of the corridor.

The student has called in a paranormal team, The Paranormal Detectives, to investigate. The results of the investigation will be publicized in the local paper.

Wilson County North Carolina Courthouse
Wilson County Courthouse in downtown Wilson, North Carolina. Photo 2014, by Ammodramus. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The school, built in 1958, occupies the site of a farm, though the student has been unable to find evidence of any particularly traumatic events occurring there. “I need to keep digging to find out if anything traumatic happened.” she said.

Sources

A tornado victim returns–William Winston House

Winston House
Deshler High School Campus
200 Northeast Commons Street
Tuscumbia, Alabama

N.B. Edited 4 March 2019.

1874 Alabama tornado ghost haunt William Winston House Judith Winston victim Tuscumbia haunting Deshler High School
William Winston House, 2010. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith. From the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

In recent days, tremendous storms and tornados cut their way across the South. The storms affected Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and especially hard hit was Alabama. Northern Alabama felt the brunt of the storm in urban areas like Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville; but also in small towns like Cullman, Rainsville, and a little town in Franklin County with the unusual name, Phil Campbell. Just north of Franklin County is Colbert County and its seat, Tuscumbia. It was here that a tornado in the late nineteenth century left a spiritual mark.

On November 22, 1874, as a tornado bore down upon her home, Judith Winston, the lady of the house tried to take cover. She failed, and was crushed beneath rubble. Her sons pulled her from the wreckage still alive, but she lived only a little while. According to Debra Johnson, she breathed her last in the front bedroom on the eastern side of the house.

Tuscumbia, Alabama began its rise to prominence as the town of Occocopoosa, along the military road completed in 1820 by General Andrew Jackson linking Tennessee with Louisiana. The town’s name was changed to Big Spring in 1821 and the next year to Tuscumbia. The richness of the area’s land and the abundance of game brought settlers to the area along with business and eventually the railroad. Tuscumbia rose as one of the leading cities in the region.

Among early settlers were members of the prominent Winston family. Descended from Captain Anthony Winston, a cousin of Dolly Madison and Patrick Henry, the Winstons fought at the side of Andrew Jackson and acquired land in Virginia, Tennessee, and finally Alabama. Further descendants would serve as governors of both Alabama and Mississippi as well as a senator from Alabama.

William Winston began construction on this magnificent edifice in 1824, and it was completed nine years later. This Georgian house is the largest remaining antebellum house in the city. It remained in private hands until 1948 when it was purchased by the City of Tuscumbia for the new campus of Deshler High School. Restoration efforts began on the house in the early 1980s and these efforts were boosted by the home being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Since that time, the home has served as a house museum and events space.

1874 Alabama tornado ghost haunt William Winston House Judith Winston victim Tuscumbia haunting Deshler High School
The magnificent “flying staircase” in the Winston House, 2010. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith. From the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Mrs. Winston may be the source of some rather interesting phenomena that has occurred in the house. One woman setting up chairs for her daughter’s wedding was disturbed by the chairs rattling by themselves. Upset, the woman questioned the home’s curator and was told that Mrs. Winston simply wanted an invitation to the event. Once the mother of the bride issued an oral invitation, the rattling ceased. Debra Johnston also credits Judith Winston’s spirit with the “weeping walls” in the downstairs entry hall when there is the threat of a storm.

Jessica Penot, author of Haunted North Alabama and the Ghost Stories and Haunted Places Blog, identifies one of the spirits in the home as William Winston, the home’s builder. She states that his spirit has been seen standing at the top of the stairs and wandering through the halls. She also speaks of white figures seen through the windows of the house at night after it is closed.

Sources

  • April 25-28, 2011 tornado outbreak. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 May 2011.
  • Garfrerick, Beth. “National Register Nomination Boosts Tuscumbia Restoration.” The (Tuscumbia, AL) Times-Daily. 21 January 1982.
  • Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of The Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.
  • Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.
  • Thornton, Linda. “Tuscumbia.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 22 May 2009.