Radiance and translucency—Baltimore, Maryland

USS Constellation
Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—Charleston Environs

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

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

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

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

Angel Oak Park
3688 Angel Oak Road
John’s Island

Considered one of the oldest living things on the East Coast, it is hard to not feel the benevolent energy emanating from this mighty tree. There is evidence that this tree has served as a meeting spot for Native Americans, slaves, and slave owners whose spirits still remain among the massive branches. See my article, “A spiritual treasure—Angel Oak,” for a further examination..

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
US-17 over the Cooper River

Rising over the old buildings of Charleston is the majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the third longest cable-stay bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant, this bridge replaced two bridges, the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge which opened in 1929, and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge which opened in 1966.

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

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

Sources

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

Drayton Hall
3380 Ashley River Road

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

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

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

Sources

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

Fort Sumter
Charleston Harbor

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

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

Sources

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

USS Yorktown—Patriot’s Point
40 Patriot’s Point Road
Mount Pleasant

Just days before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the keel of this fighting lady was laid. Just two years later, in 1943, this grand grey lady entered service. She fought in the Pacific during World War II and the Vietnam War. Since the ship’s retirement in 1973, and its donation to Patriot’s Point, guests and staff have had numerous paranormal experiences. See my article, “The Grand ‘Fighting Lady’—Photos from the USS Yorktown,” for further information and sources.

Belle of the Boos—Louisville, Kentucky

Belle of Louisville
401 West River Road
Louisville, Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

The Grand “Fighting Lady”—Photos from the USS Yorktown

Patriot’s Point
40 Patriot’s Point Road
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

I never quite felt comfortable aboard the USS Yorktown. I’m not a small guy and my height (6’2”) required that I ducked my head quite a bit as I moved through the passages of the ship and the camera bag hanging around my neck did not facilitate easy movement either. But there was also a feeling of never being alone on this fighting lady as well. There was a constant stream of visitors through the ship, but at moments when I found myself alone, I felt uncomfortable.

This is evidently not an uncommon experience aboard the ship. Last Wednesday evening as I was heading towards Charleston, a new episode of Ghost Hunters was airing revealing their extraordinary investigation of the ship. Having only read about the episode, I’ll refrain from commenting further on it. Before hearing of their investigation, I’d only read a bit about ghosts aboard the ship and had not pursued any other information.

The USS Yorktown in service sometime in the early 1960s. Photo by the US Navy, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to a Charleston Post & Courier article about the investigation, this show was really used as a platform for revealing the ship’s hauntings to the paranormal world. There seem to have been many staff and visitors to the ship who have had a variety of experiences. Primarily, these experiences tend to be aural: including voices and footsteps. But there are also reports of shadow figures and full bodied apparitions.

The ship was laid down on December 1, 1941, just days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She was named for the USS Yorktown which was lost in the Battle of Midway in 1942. She entered service in 1943 and served admirably in the Pacific throughout the remainder of World War II. Following the war she patrolled the West Coast and served in the Vietnam War. She was retired in 1973 before being donated to Patriot’s Point.

Approach to the ship at Patriot’s Point. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Part of the engine room. One of the docents mentioned that this is where a mechanic was scalded to death by steam. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
One of the bunk rooms. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
One of the labyrinthine passages running throughout the ship. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The “island” rises above the deck. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The ship’s bridge. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • USS Yorktown(CV-10)Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 May 2012.
  • Warren L. “SyFy’s ‘Ghost Hunters’ explore paranormal side of Yorktown.” Charleston Post & Courier. 2 May 2012.

The Haunted Red Stick—Baton Rouge, Louisiana

While I’ve been spending time working on a revision of my entry on Columbus, Mississippi, I decided to take a break and write a little something about another city. The basis of this came from a single 2009 article from The Daily Reveille, the student newspaper of Louisiana State University. Other than that article, and a few scattered references, there’s not much on the ghosts of Baton Rouge.

The name, Baton Rouge, “red stick” in French, refers to a red cypress pole festooned with bloody animals that French explorer Sieur d’Iberville, the founder of the Louisiana colony, encountered in the area. It was placed there to mark the boundary between the hunting grounds of the Houma and the Bayou Goula peoples of the region. Research and archaeological evidence reveal that the area now occupied by Baton Rouge has been inhabited since roughly 8000 BCE. These indigenous peoples have left the area dotted with mounds and other landmarks.

The city was incorporated in 1817 and made state capital in 1849. Architect James Dakin departed from the usual designs for state capitols which paid homage to the U.S. Capitol  building in Washington and designed the building in a Neo-Gothic style complete with turrets, towers and crenellations. The site chosen for this grand castle, overlooking the Mississippi River, is believed to be the location of the red stick that Sieur d’Iberville named the city for.

Since its construction, the OLD LOUISIANA STATE CAPITOL BUILDING (100 North Boulevard), has had a busy and somewhat tragic history. During the Union occupation of the city, the building was used as a prison and a garrison for African-American troops. The building caught fire twice and by the end of the war was left a hulking, gutted ruin. The building was restored in 1882 and at this time much of the building’s noted stained glass was added. The legislature used the building until 1932 when a new, modern, art deco styled state capitol was opened. The building underwent full restoration in the 1990s and is now open as a museum of political history.

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

There is one particularly enduring legend about this Gothic edifice involves a late legislator. Pierre Couvillion, a representative of Avoyelles Parish had a heart attack amid a passionate debate. Though he was buried near his home in Marksville, he spirit may still reside within the halls and chambers of the old building. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.

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

Many spirits, of the ghostly and liquor kind reside in an old bar on the waterfront. The building that now houses THE SPANISH MOON (1109 Highland Road) served as a temporary morgue for victims of the flooding that ravaged the area in the early 20th century. The spirit of a young girl who legend holds was trampled by horses in the building may also reside within the creepy structure.

Another spirit among spirits may be found at WILLIE’S ON THE RIVER (140 Main Street), so named for its resident spirit. Legend holds that Willie was crushed by a falling wall here sometime in the 19th century. Staff members have reported that the spirit is fond of billiards and balls were seen moving by themselves.

Also on the riverfront is the U.S.S. KIDD VETERANS MEMORIAL (305 River Road South), a ship named as a memorial to Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the highest-ranking officer to die during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This memorial ship now serves as a memorial to Louisiana’s World War II veterans.

U.S.S. Kidd, 2013, by Niagara, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This Fletcher-class destroyer saw a great deal of action in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean War as well as serving admirably during the Cold War. It was during service in the campaign for Okinawa that the ship was struck by a kamikaze resulting in the deaths of 38 and 55 wounded. It is perhaps this single event that has left a spiritual impression on the now museum ship. Visitors have encountered various apparitions onboard including the images of a single arm or leg moving as if still attached to a human being.

Along the famous River Road which stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge that is lined with many historical and haunted plantations are the ruins of THE COTTAGE PLANTATION (River Road at Duncan Point) just south of the city. Though now reduced to ruined columns forlornly sitting in a private field by the roadside, these ruins were once part of a grand plantation home until a lightning strike and fire reduced it to rubble in 1960. Legend speaks of a man seen wandering the ruins who is believed to be the specter of Angus Holt who served as a personal secretary to Frederick Conrad. Conrad owned the plantation during the Civil War and died before war’s end. Holt returned to run the plantation until his death in 1880. His spirit still lingers to check on the ruins of the mighty manse.

This handful of spirits is most likely just the beginning of the mélange of spirits still dancing about The Red Stick.

Sources

  • Baton Rouge,Louisiana. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.
  • Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
  • Old Louisiana State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.
  • USS Kidd (DD-661)Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 2011.