The Terrors of US 29—A Ghost Tour

US 29 from Florida to Maryland

US 29 LaGrange Georgia
A sign for US 29 in downtown LaGrange, GA. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

In the early 20th century, American roads were a mess. In the late 19th century, the railroad was really the only means to travel throughout the country as roads weren’t well-maintained or even necessary except for local transportation. With the advent of the automobile however, “good roads” (as the movement was called) became increasingly crucial. Car owners began to band together to form auto clubs to create roads for themselves.

In the 1910s, these auto trail organizations and automobile clubs reached even further to create the Lincoln Highway, one of the earliest transcontinental highways stretching from New York’s Times Square to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. With its popularity among travelers and local governments alike, the idea was expanded to the South with the creation of the Dixie Highway, which originally connected Chicago to Miami. Not only did this open up the South to tourism, but it brought industry as well.

While this new network of roads was increasingly useful, the Federal Government began investigating ways to expand and organize this network. State roadway standards were introduced in 1914 with the creation of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). Their standards eventually evolved into a U.S. Highway system over the next decade. This system, now nearing a hundred years old, continues to expand to this day.

U.S. Route 29, a north-south highway, connects Pensacola, Florida to Ellicott City, Maryland. Along its route it passes through a number of major cities including Auburn, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; Danville, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Fairfax, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and some of DC’s Maryland suburbs before its termination in Ellicott City, a suburb of Baltimore.

For me, US 29 has a very personal connection. On its route through my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, it passes many landmarks from my youth and is the road on which I currently live. It also figures into several stories that I now tell on my Strange LaGrange Tour. For a few years I have wanted to take a big road trip to visit many of the haunted places I have written about and considered that driving the length of US 29 would make an excellent trip. This article covers many of the haunted locales I plan to visit should the trip come to fruition.

This article is intended to provide links to places I have written about elsewhere on my blog along with several brief entries and other suggested locations that I may cover in the future. This article is not intended as a static article, but will change as I cover more locations along the route of US 29.

Sources

Pensacola, Florida

US 29 begins at the intersection of North Palafox Street and Cervantes Street (US 90 and 98), just north of downtown Pensacola. While there are no haunted places (that I know of) at that immediate intersection, less than a mile south is a cluster of locations. The Saenger Theatre (118 South Palafox) is located at the intersection of South Palafox and Intendencia Street. A block south of the theatre is a cluster of hauntings around Plaza Ferdinand VII (which is haunted) that includes the T.T. Wentworth Museum, the portion of Zaragoza Street between S. Palafox and S. Baylen Streets, the Quayside Art Gallery, Pensacola Children’s Museum, and Seville Quarter. Just east of the Plaza is Old Pensacola Village.

Saenger Theatre Pensacola FL
Saenger Theatre, 2010, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Old Christ Church
405 South Adams Street

Old Christ Church Pensacola FL
Old Christ Church, 2008. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Old Pensacola Village consists of a collection of historic and haunted buildings important to the early history of Pensacola including the 1832 Old Christ Church. The churchyard of the church once held the remains of three of its vicars, but during renovations, their graves were obscured. Some years ago, their remains were recovered during archaeological excavations. During the service marking their reburial, one young man witnessed the three vicars walking among the guests.

Sources

  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 3. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2007.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.
  • Moore, Joyce Elson. Haunt Hunter’s Guide to Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2008.

The entirety of US 29 in Florida in within Escambia County. After passing through the town of Century, the highway continues north into Escambia County, Alabama.

East Brewton, Alabama

After crossing over the creepily named Murder Creek in Brewton, US 29 runs through East Brewton which features a haunting at the old Fort Crawford Cemetery (Snowden Street).

Andalusia, Alabama

US 29 bypasses downtown Andalusia which features a haunted jail. The Old Covington County Jail can be viewed from North Cotton Street behind the courthouse.

Troy, Alabama

As the highway makes its way through downtown Troy, Alabama, it passes near the first of many major institutions of higher learning, Troy University. Two dormitories on the campus, Pace and Shackleford Halls, feature ghost stories.

Pace Hall Troy University Alabama
Pace Hall, 2017, by Kreeder13. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Union Springs, Alabama

Some years ago, I took a trip to Enterprise and drove US 29 past downtown Union Springs. I wasn’t expecting to pass through this small town, but the historic downtown intrigued me. Once I got to my destination, I looked up the town and wrote an article about my trip including the three major haunted places here: the Bullock County Courthouse and Pauly Jail (217 North Prairie Street) and the Josephine Arts Center (130 North Prairie Street).

Bullock County Courthouse Union Springs Alabama
Bullock County Courthouse, 2000. Photo by Calvin Beale for the US Department of Agriculture.

Tuskegee National Forest

North of the city of Tuskegee, US 29 heads through the Tuskegee National Forest, a site of high strangeness that includes tales of ghosts and Sasquatch sightings.

Auburn, Alabama

As US 29 approaches Auburn, it joins with I-85 to bypass the city, though there is a concentration of haunted places in and around downtown and Auburn University. Two locations at the university have been covered in this blog including the University Chapel and the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, both of which are located on College Street.

Draughon Library, Auburn University,
South College Street facade of the Draughon Library at Auburn University, 2017. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Auburn Train Depot
120 Mitcham Avenue

Railroad passengers entering and leaving Auburn have passed through one of the three buildings that have occupied this site since 1847. The first building was destroyed during the Civil War while its replacement was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. The current building was erected in 1904 and served as a rail depot until 1970. The building was left empty in 2003 after being used as a real estate office for some 20 years. The building has served as a restaurant for a number of years and rumor has it that staff has experienced a number of strange doings.

There is a legend about the building recounted in Haunted Auburn and Opelika regarding a young woman who met a young man here. The couple began to meet regularly despite the insistence of the young woman’s father that she would marry another man. The young couple planned to elope, but the young woman’s brother thwarted the plans and killed his sister’s lover. She then threw herself in front of an arriving train. Her wail intertwined with the train’s whistle are supposedly still heard.

Sources

  • Cole, Ashtyne. “City plans to renovate historic train depot.” Auburn Plainsman. 12 June 2014.
  • Serafin, Faith, Michelle Smith and John Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Woodham, Brian. “Restaurant coming to Auburn Train Depot.” Auburn Villager. 3 December 2014.

Opelika, Alabama

As US 29 (still concurrent with I-85) passes into Opelika, it crosses AL 169, which has had some activity.

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

Downtown Opelika also features several haunted locales including the Chamber of Commerce (601 Avenue A) and the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge in Opelika Municipal Park.

Spring Villa Opelika Alabama
Spring Villa, 2010, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The exit with US 280 provides access to Spring Villa (1474 Spring Villa Road), a most unusual plantation home with ghosts and other strangeness. At the next exit, US 29 becomes independent and heads north through Chambers County.

Valley, Alabama

Within the city of Valley, there are several villages clustered around mills including the community of Langdale. US 29 passes between the old Langdale Mill (rumored to be haunted) and Lafayette Lanier Elementary School and the adjoining Langdale Auditorium (6001 20th Avenue) which are known to be haunted.

Langdale Auditorium Valley Alabama
Langdale Auditorium stands next to Lafayette Lanier Elementary. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The city of Valley extends up to the state line with West Point, Georgia. Just before 29 crosses that line it passes through the community of Lanett with its Oakwood Cemetery (1st Street) which is home to the dollhouse grave of Nadine Earles.

West Point, Georgia

West Point Post Office Georgia
West Point Post Office, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In downtown West Point, the Depression era U. S. Post Office (729 4th Avenue) may feature a few spirits. The area also has a small Civil War-era fortification, Fort Tyler, which was constructed to protect an important railway bridge over the Chattahoochee. The four-hour siege that was fought here in April of 1865 left many dead, including the commanders of the fort. These men were buried in Pine Wood Cemetery which is passed by US 29 as it leads north to LaGrange. Both of these locations may be home to paranormal activity.

LaGrange, Georgia

I have been a resident of LaGrange since early childhood and this town instilled in me a love of ghost stories. For the past couple years, I have been providing a ghost tour of downtown, the Strange LaGrange Tour, on which I feature the LaGrange Art Museum (112 Lafayette Parkway). Along its route through town, 29 passes LaGrange College with its antique centerpiece, Smith Hall. My tour discusses Smith Hall, Hawkes Hall, and the College Chapel, which are all spirited places. The college’s theatre, Price Theatre, off Panther Way, has an assortment of theatre ghosts.

Smith Hall LaGrange College ghost haunted
Smith Hall ,LaGrange College, 2010, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Atlanta, Georgia

In its journey between LaGrange and Atlanta, the road passes a number of haunted locations, though I have yet to cover any of them in this blog.

Fox Theatre Atlanta Georgia
Fox Theatre, 2005. Photo by Scott Ehardt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Downtown Atlanta has a number of haunted places on its famous Peachtree Street including the Ellis Hotel (176 Peachtree Street), the Fox Theatre (660 Peachtree Street), and Rhodes Memorial Hall (1516 Peachtree Street) all of these are covered in my “Apparitions of Atlanta” article.

Moving out of downtown towards Decatur, US 29 runs along Ponce de Leon Avenue. On this route, it comes near Oakland Cemetery (248 Oakland Avenue, Southeast).

Oakland Cemetery Atlanta Georgia
Oakland, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV,
all rights reserved.

Stone Mountain, Georgia

Leaving DeKalb County, the road enters Gwinnett County near Stone Mountain, home of Stone Mountain Park (1000 Robert E. Lee Boulevard). Not only have there been spiritual encounters on the slopes of the titular monadnock, but the park’s Southern Plantation has a number of spiritual residents inside the historic structures.

Stone Mountain Georgia
Stone Mountain, circa 1910, from “Granites of the Southeastern Atlantic States,” by Thomas Watson.

Duluth, Georgia

US 29 runs south of Duluth where the Southeastern Railway Museum (3595 Buford Highway) is located. With a large collection of historic train cars and related things, a number of encounters have been reported within these cars.

The Superb Southeastern Railways Museum Duluth Georgia
President Warren G. Harding’s personal Pullman Car, The Superb,
now housed in the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth.
Photo 2007, by John Hallett. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Watkinsville, Georgia

As the highway leaves Gwinnett County, it passes through Barrow and into Oconee County. South of US 29 is the small town of Watkinsville, where the creepy Eagle Tavern (26 North Main Street) has served customers, and now museum patrons, for more than 200 years.

Eagle Tavern Watkinsville Georgia
The Eagle Tavern. Photo by Lewis Powell, IV, 2010, all
rights reserved.

Athens, Georgia

Concurrent with US 78, US 29 intersects US 441 right at the city limits of Georgia’s historic university town, Athens. Besides many hauntings on campus, the city features many historic structures with ghosts which I have covered in my article, “Town and Gown—Ghosts of Athens and the University of Georgia.” I have written separate articles on three other locations here: the Classic Center (300 North Thomas Street), the T.R.R. Cobb House (175 Hill Street), and the Tree That Owns Itself (277 South Finley Street).

Postcard of the Tree That Owns Itself Athens Georgia
The original Tree That Owns Itself shortly before it fell in 1942. Postcard from the Boston Public Library.

US 29 passes through three more Georgia counties: Madison, Franklin, and Hart before crossing into South Carolina. Unfortunately, I have little information on these counties’ haunted places.

Anderson, South Carolina

The city of Anderson’s Municipal Business Center (601 South Main Street) was the scene of odd, possibly paranormal activity in 2009.

Greenville, South Carolina

One of the more prominent Upstate South Carolina hauntings is Greenville’s Westin Poinsett Hotel (120 South Main Street). The city’s downtown features a number of haunted locales including Connolly’s Irish Pub (24 North Court Square). The city’s Herdklotz Park (126 Beverly Road), north of downtown was formerly the home of a tuberculosis hospital.

West Poinsett Hotel Greenville South Carolina
The Westin Poinsett Hotel, 2012, by Bill Fitzpatrick. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Wofford College is one of several institutions of higher learning located in Spartanburg, nearly all of which have spirits. Wofford’s Old Main Building is the haunt of several spirits.

Old Main Wofford College Spartanburg South Carolina
Old Main Building, 2010, by PegasusRacer28, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

Gaffney, South Carolina

On the way into Gaffney, US 29 passes the small town of Cowpens. A major battle of the American Revolution took place about nine miles north of town and the battlefield is known to be haunted.

In 1968, a serial killer operated in Gaffney and some of the sites where he dumped his victims’ bodies are known to be haunted. These sites include the Ford Road Bridge over Peoples Creek.

Blacksburg, South Carolina

After passing through Blacksburg, US 29 comes near another battlefield from the American Revolution with paranormal activity, Kings Mountain (2625 Park Road).

Charlotte, North Carolina

From Blacksburg, South Carolina, US 29 continues across the state line into North Carolina. I have not covered any locations in Cleveland or Gaston Counties. In Charlotte, I have covered one location, the Carolina Theatre (224-232 North Tryon), though I intend to rectify this in the near future.

Carolina Theatre Charlotte North Carolina
The hulking remains of the Carolina Theatre in 2015. Renovations have since started. Photo by Fortibus, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Salisbury, North Carolina

Some years ago, I discovered an 1898 article from the Salisbury Sun describing the appearance of a ghost on Fisher Street. In addition, I discovered that the building at 122 Fisher Street has been reported as haunted. These locations were written up in my article, “’His ghostship’—Salisbury, NC.”

Salisbury National Cemetery
202 Government Road

The treatment of prisoners by both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War was atrocious and certainly has led to very active haunted locations where the prisons operated. This is certainly evident in Salisbury where an old textile mill was turned into a prison to house 2,000, but eventually held some 11,000. With a number of deaths occurring on a daily basis, a small cemetery was established a short distance from the prison which in 1874 became the Salisbury National Cemetery. According to Karen Lilly-Bowyer, a retired educator and the operator of the Downtown Ghost Walk, the area around the old prison site and the cemetery are quite active and a Union sentry has been spotted around the trenches where the prisoners were interred.

Salisbury National Cemetery North Carolina
Salisbury National Cemetery. Photo by David Haas for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Sources

  • Lilly-Bowyer, Karen. “A war-haunted landscape.” Salisbury Post. 22 January 2011.

Greensboro, North Carolina

Greensboro is home to a number of haunted places including the Biltmore Greensboro Hotel (111 West Washington Street), the Carolina Theatre (310 South Greene Street), and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office (400 West Washington Street).

Carolina Theatre Greensboro North Carolina
Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre in 2008. Photo by Charles Brummitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Yanceyville, North Carolina

As it heads north out of North Carolina and into Virginia, US 29 passes through Caswell County. East of its route is the county seat of Yanceyville with its lovely and haunted Caswell County Courthouse (Courthouse Square).

haunted Caswell County Courthouse Yanceyville North Carolina ghosts spirits
The Caswell County Courthouse, 2009, by NatalieMaynor, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Danville, Virginia

After crossing into Virginia, US 29 briefly runs concurrent with US 58. US 58 BUS goes through Danville, while the regular route takes a southern dip around the city where it meets up with US 29. Near the intersection of US 58 BUS and Riverside Drive is the site of the crash of the Old ’97 Train in 1903. This site has produced anomalous lights ever since.

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

Lynchburg, Virginia

While I have yet to cover Lynchburg in my blog, there are a number of haunted locales here, especially on the campus of Randolph College.

Sweet Briar, Virginia

US 29 passes through the small college town of Sweet Briar, home to the private women’s college Sweet Briar. From the tales that have been told on campus, it seems the founders of the college have remained here.

Charlottesville, Virginia 

The highway bypasses Charlottesville on its west side passing near the haunted University of Virginia, home to several haunted places including the Alderman Library. Southeast of downtown is one of this city’s most well-known monuments, Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway), where the former president may continue to reside. Nearby is also the old Michie Tavern (683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway), where Jefferson and his friends often dined.

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

As US 29 passes out of the city, it comes near a haunted former bed and breakfast, the Silver Thatch Inn (3001 Hollymead Drive).

Brandy Station, Virginia

This small community in Culpeper County was the scene of one of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War in 1863. A small home near the Brandy Station depot was commandeered as a hospital after the battle. The patients left graffiti covering the walls and perhaps spirits as well, giving this home the nickname Graffiti House (19484 Brandy Road). A small, historic church, Fleetwood Church, nearby and the Brandy Station Battlefield are also known to be paranormally active.

Graffiti House Brandy Station Virginia
Graffiti House, 2013. Photo by Cecouchman, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

Warrenton, Virginia

This small, Fauquier County town is home to several haunted places, including the Black Horse Inn, the Hutton House, and a home called “Loretta.”

Manassas National Battlefield Park

This highway cuts directly across the Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County. Through these farm fields and copses of wood, two major battles of the Civil War were fought, the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas on July 21, 1861, and the Second Battle fought on August 29-30, 1862. As a result, this battle is known to be haunted.

Old Stone House Manassas Battlefield Virginia
The Old Stone House on the Manassas Battlefield is one of the most recognizable haunted places here. Photo by William J. Hamblin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Arlington, Virginia

Occupying the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s former estate, Arlington National Cemetery provides a resting place for some 400,000 soldiers from every conflict since the Civil War. With so many dead, there are ghost stories regarding the cemetery, Arlington Mansion, and the surrounding area.

Arlington Mansion Virginia
An 1864 photograph of the Custis-Lee Mansion or the Arlington Mansion, which is now a centerpiece of Arlington National Cemetery.

Washington, D.C.

US 29 enters the nation’s capital on the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River. It continues onto Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown before crossing Rock Creek and becoming an elevated freeway. This point over Rock Creek is significant for two reasons, the bridge itself is haunted and this crossing is at the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

C & O Canal Georgetown
The C&O Canal as it moves through Georgetown. This photograph is looking east from the Wisconsin Street Bridge. Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The canal, which was begun in 1828, was meant to provide transportation of cargo from the end of the navigable portion of the Potomac to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the end, cost overruns ended the construction in Cumberland, Maryland, 184.5 miles from it’s beginning. From the end of construction in 1831 to 1928, the canal was used primarily to ship coal from the Alleghany Mountains to Georgetown. The “Grand Old Ditch,” as it was called, lay abandoned for many years until ownership was overtaken by the National Park Service. The canal is open as a National Historic Park with a trail alongside it. From end to end, the canal is lined with legends and ghost stories.

Along its route through Washington, US 29 comes near many haunted places. For a list of places covered in this blog, please see my District of Columbia Directory.

Montgomery County, Maryland

Montgomery County is a suburban county providing suburbs for Washington. I have discovered that my coverage of Maryland, as a whole, is lacking and I have not covered any locations within this county, though there are a number. I intend on rectifying this as soon as possible.

Elkridge, Maryland

As it wends its way towards its termination in Ellicott City, US 29 passes the town of Elkridge where Belmont Manor and Historic Park (6555 Belmont Woods Road) is located.

Belmont Mansion Elkridge Maryland
Belmont Manor, 2015, by Scott218. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ellicott City, Maryland

On its way towards its terminus, US 29 passes the haunted and quaint Wayside Inn (4344 Columbia Road).

This city’s historic district lies in the valley of the Patapsco River, with Main Street running downhill to a bridge over the river. A tributary, the Tiber River, meets the Patapsco near here and problems with severe flooding have been experienced at points along Main Street. One of these recent floods is discussed in my article on the Judge’s Bench (8385 Main Street). Housing shops, boutiques, and homes, many of the buildings along Main Street also house spirits.

Patapsco Female Institute Ellicott City Maryland
An illustration of the Patapsco Female Institute in 1857, from The Book of Great Railway Celebrations of 1857.

North of downtown are the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute (3655 Church Road).

Northwest of Ellicott City’s historic downtown, US 29 passes over I-70 before quietly ending at Rogers Avenue and Old Frederick Road.

13 Southern Roadway Revenants

Since I started my blog, I have been hesitant to use random encounters from online. Of course, while many of these stories are hard, nay impossible, to prove, some of them do ring with a sense of truth. For a writer like me, one of the most difficult tasks in my research is finding good, firsthand accounts of ghostly encounters, especially for areas where there is a general lack of documented stories (i.e. books, newspaper articles, etc.).

Recently, I have become fascinated with the Ghosts of America website. This website collects stories from people throughout the country. While many of these accounts talk about ghosts in private homes, some discuss specific locations. While wading through this vast collection, I’m looking for specific accounts that not only mention specific locations but have a sense of authenticity as well.

Please note, I cannot guarantee that any of these places are truly haunted or that these accounts are totally truthful.

Since my last article on haunted roads and bridges in Alabama, I decided to look at encounters in every state that I cover. These are the results.

Brown Street
Altoona, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama was named for the English city of Birmingham—one of the earliest industrial cities in the Western world. Altoona, Alabama, which was founded around the turn of the 20th century as a coal-mining town, was named for the great Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Altoona. Likely, the town supplied coal for the burgeoning steel industry centered in nearby Birmingham.

There’s not much to the community of Altoona; Main Street is Alabama Highway 132 as it heads southwest to Oneonta in neighboring Blount County, traveling east you’ll connect with US 278. A post office and several stores form the center of the town with small homes radiating outward.

Brown Street branches off Main Street and winds through rural woods with sporadic houses lining its side before it terminates south of town. An anonymous poster to Ghosts of America documented an interesting encounter on this street. A woman was driving this street at night when her car broke down within 500 yards of 11th Avenue. She pulled off the road and called her husband to come get her.

As she waited on the side of the road, she noted that she felt comfortable as she was familiar with the area. An old Dodge drove past her and she watched as it turned around to check on her. As the vehicle passed her again, she saw an elderly man driving. Slowing down, the mysterious driver smiled at her and nodded, “as if to let me know I would be fine.” Reaching for her phone, the woman looked to see if her husband was nearby. As she looked up again, the vehicle was nowhere in sight, and the witness realized the old Dodge had made no sound at all.

Sources

New York Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC
 

New York Avenue begins auspiciously at the White House heading northwest towards Maryland. As one of the original avenues laid out by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, this thoroughfare originally began at the Potomac River southwest of the White House, but over time those sections of the avenue have been consumed by development, so now only a block remains south of the White House. According to L’Enfant’s plan, the avenue terminated at Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue), though support was garnered around the turn of the 20th century to extend the road into Maryland. This was finally accomplished in 1931.

As New York Avenue stretches northeast away from the hubbub of downtown Washington, its monumental nature falls away and it begins to take on a more plebeian flair as it sidles up to the Amtrak Railyards. Upscale businesses are replaced with light industrial and pedestrian commercial development. Efforts to redevelop the corridor were discussed in 1980 and up through the early 2000s, though much of that work has not come to fruition. A 2005 study of the most crash-prone intersections in the city concluded that five were located on New York Avenue, with the top one being the intersection with Bladensburg Road.

New York Avenue Washington DC
The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, 2016. Photo by Famartin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An encounter posted to Ghosts of America makes note of the avenue’s dicey reputation, especially after dark. “Larry” however, decided to use it as a shortcut around 3 AM one morning. As he waited at a stoplight, a disheveled man approached his car and stopped in front. The light turned green and the man continued to stand in front of his car. Larry honked, though the strange man continued standing there. As he backed his car up to go around, Larry realized that the man did not have legs and was seemingly floating in mid-air. Terrified, he sped away from the scene.

Sources

Melrose Landing Boulevard
Hawthorne, Florida
 

Melrose Landing Boulevard is a sparsely inhabited road through rural Putnam County, Florida, near the towns of Hawthorne and Melrose. According to a poster named Sarah on Ghosts of America, it was along this road that her father and brother came upon a woman standing in the road “in a dress that looked to be out of the 1700’s.” She appeared suddenly, and the truck didn’t have time to stop before passing through her.

Around 3 AM on November 1, 2009, All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween, Sarah turned onto the road at the same place where her father and brother had their earlier incident. As she drove down the road she passed a woman walking “with her long dress all gathered up in her arms.” Realizing that she might need to check on the woman, she turned around and discovered no one around. Sarah also noted that she was returning home from working at a seasonal haunted attraction and was driving a hearse. She considered that the oddity of someone encountering such a vehicle on such a day might have frightened the mysterious woman and that she may have fled into the woods, though Sarah doubted it.

Sources

Bemiss Road (GA 125)
Valdosta, Georgia

Connecting Valdosta with Moody Air Force Base and Fitzgerald, GA 125 is named Bemiss Road in Valdosta as it heads towards the small community of Bemiss. A poster on Ghosts of America named Arturias revealed that he drove this road frequently at night over the course of fifteen years. During that time, he witnessed people walking along the road, though on three occasions he “noticed coming up on them that they didn’t have legs under the streetlights. Looked faded out.”

After these experiences, he heard the road referred to as the “Highway of Death.” I can find nothing online to prove or disprove whether this is actually the case and why.

Sources

Baker Road
Fort Knox, Kentucky

Branching off of US 31W, Baker Road serves as a truck entrance to Fort Knox. A post on Ghosts of America from someone going by the handle, Redfraggle, was apparently written by one of those truck drivers who frequently drives Baker Road late at night. While headed towards the Brandenburg Gate, this driver had to swerve “to avoid hitting a dark-haired woman crossing the road.” Dressed in a muumuu, the woman appeared solid and the driver stopped to check on her. The woman only looked at him with a “broken hearted” expression and vanished.

Fort Knox Kentucky entrance sign
A sign at one of the entrances to Fort Knox. Photo 1999, by 48states, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The driver reports that he has seen the woman many times but doesn’t stop for her. In addition, this apparition has appeared along this stretch of road to his fellow drivers.

Please note that this road is on a military base and off limits to the public.

Sources

Fort Knox, Kentucky Ghost Sightings. GhostsofAmerica.com. Accessed 30 July 2020.

Albany Lights
Elbert Stewart Road
Albany/Independence, Louisiana Area

About five miles north of Albany and five miles west of Independence is Elbert Stewart Road, home to the locally known Albany Lights. I can find no other reference to these lights online or in any of my research.

A submission from Larry on Ghosts of America, describes his experiences with the lights throughout his life. According to the post, Elbert Stewart Road was once called Dummy Line Road. The term “dummy line” refers to railroads that were constructed to serve the timber as it cut huge swathes of land throughout the South the end of 19th and into the early 20th centuries. Presumably, these lines were called “dummy” because they did not connect to the transportation rail lines.

The story of the lights involves a brakeman who was killed when he failed to pin the coupling between two cars and was crushed. The lights are supposed to be the brakeman’s signal “that the pinning was made.”

Larry explains that some years ago the road was named for his grandfather and that at 49 years of age, he recalls the lights appearing all his life. Interestingly, he points out that if you have photographic equipment on you, the lights will not appear (what about cellphones?). Otherwise, viewers have an 80% chance of seeing the hazy, bluish colored light.

Interestingly, he notes that the phenomenon has been investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Geographic Society. None of these investigations were successful as they all had photographic equipment on them.

A comment on the post from a nearby resident states that they have encountered the lights here “plus much more.”

Sources

Church Road Cemetery
Church Road
Broomes Island, Maryland

Occupying a small peninsula extending into the Patuxent River, the community of Broomes Island plays host to a haunted cemetery. Not only do spirits haunt the cemetery, but they apparently have spilled out onto surrounding streets. This location is documented in Ghosthunting Maryland by the father and son duo of Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. The Varholas describe a ritual where someone circles the cemetery three times at night, after which a fog rolls in the laughter of young girls can be heard.

A post on Ghosts of America mentions that the cemetery has numerous spirits which have spilled out into the nearby streets where they “scream and laugh.” A comment on this post is from a newspaper delivery man who has encountered the spirit of a young boy who told him and his mother to leave. Afterwhich, they saw it run past the car windows.

Sources

MS 33 Bridge over the Homochitto River
Rosetta, Mississippi

Less than a mile north of the unincorporated community of Rosetta in the Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi State Route 33 crosses the Homochitto River on a fairly new bridge. This bridge has seen multiple iterations as the shallow river erodes the stream banks. For nearly two centuries a ferry crossed here which was eventually replaced by a bridge. That bridge was replaced in 1941. The new bridge was damaged during a flood, and it was repaired and extended in 1956.

By 1974, the bridge was again needing work and it was extended again. Just two months after completion, the bridge was washed out during a flood. This washout claimed the lives of two men who were reportedly standing on the bridge. The current bridge was completed by the MDOT in 1978, though it too, has been extended around 2014.

Homochitto River bridge Rosetta Mississippi 1974 flood
This shows the damage done to the bridge during the April 1974 flood. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A brief post on Ghosts of America states that phantom headlights have been seen on this bridge heading southbound but disappearing before they cross the full length of the bridge.

Sources

South Queen Street Bridge over the Neuse River
Kinston, North Carolina

A couple from out of town was staying at “the hotel that sits right next to the Queen Street Neuse River Bridge,” presumably the Red Carpet Inn and Suites. After dark they walked across the road to get dinner from Hardee’s. As they made their way back to their hotel, they began to hear the sounds of “men screaming, ‘stop the fire’ and the sounds of water splashing” coming from the direction of the bridge. The sounds continued with the noise of a battle. At the same time, they both smelled the odor of cigar smoke. They ran back to their room.

The following day, they mentioned the incident to the hotel manager and were told that a battle was fought there during the Civil War, and that guests routinely report hearing and seeing things around the bridge. The couple reported their experiences on Ghosts of America.

In fact, this was the site of the Kinston Bridge which came under attack by Union troops on December 14, 1862. After defending a defensive line south of the bridge, Confederate troops retreated towards the bridge and crossed into town. Thinking that all his men had crossed, General Nathan Evans ordered his men to set the bridge aflame. However, a number of Confederate troops still remained on the opposite side and were now taking the brunt of artillery fire from both Union troops and their own men on the other side of the bridge.

As these men began to run for the bridge they realized that it was in flames and many were captured by Union forces. General John G. Foster sent his men to douse the flames and continue across the partially destroyed bridge into Kinston. As Evans retreated away from town, Union soldiers looted and destroyed parts of the city.

Sources

US 1
Between Bethune and Cassatt, South Carolina

Stretching between Key West., Florida and Fort Kent, Maine, US 1 is the longest north-south road in the country. While this highway passes through many busy urban areas, it also passes through quiet, rural areas such as this area of Kershaw County. Michael posted on Ghosts of America about his experience on this lonely stretch of road around 12:30 at night.

As he passes through an undeveloped area, Michael passed a woman walking on the side of the road. He noticed that she had an “old mottled blanket wrapped around her. The entire figure was so very pale. Her hair was blonde, and the blanket appeared to have dark dots on it.” As he passed her, he wondered why someone would be out on a chilly night on this lonely stretch of road. Looking in his rearview mirror, he could only see darkness. The following night he was on the lookout for the woman, but she did not appear. After arriving at work, he told some of his co-workers about the experience only to have someone come in from the next room saying that they had seen the woman as well. Their description matched his, all the way down to the blanket.

Sources

Dolly Parton Parkway
Sevierville, Tennessee
 

An employee for an industrial laundry posted on Ghosts of America that two of his drivers had strange experiences on Dolly Parton Parkway. The first encounter involved a driver as he drove into work around 2:30 AM along Dolly Parton Parkway. He encountered a thick fog, and “came upon 4 men in old tattered clothes pushing a cannon across the road.” Slamming on the brakes, he sat and watched as the men rolled the cannon across the road without noticing him or his car. Going into work, the shaken driver told his supervisor of his experience.

The second encounter also involved a man driving the same stretch of road in the very early morning also driving through a thick patch of fog. “His entire windshield froze completely over with frost to the point where he had to pull over and scrape it with his license.” Interestingly, the temperatures that morning were quite warm.

The poster, Leslie, Googled the area and discovered that a battle was fought near the roadway during the Civil War. Though a small battle, the Battle of Fair Garden was furious, and led to roughly 250 casualties. Most curious is a detail on the recently installed marker near the battlefield: the battle was fought on a cold January morning in a heavy fog.

Sources

East Virginia Avenue (US 460)
Crewe, Virginia

A resident East Virginia Avenue named Larry reported seeing a man walking the street with a lantern in this small Virginia town. He notes that he and his family have lived on the street as long as he can remember and that he has seen this apparition the entire time. While he knows of no other neighbors who have witnessed it, several of his relatives have seen it. One relative visiting from out of town went out to smoke in the front yard around midnight and watched an orange light glide down the street. As the light came closer, it vanished.

The town of Crewe was created in 1888 by the Norfolk & Western Railroad—later Norfolk Southern—as a site for locomotive repair shops. The necessity of the repair shops decreased towards the middle of the 20th century.

Sources

West Virginia State Route 2
New Cumberland, West Virginia

Hancock County is the northernmost county in West Virginia, and the South. It pushes up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and one side of the county is defined by the Ohio River. New Cumberland is one of the towns located on the river. WV 2 runs through the heart of the town.

A post on Ghosts of America from John describes an incident that happened to him as he was driving southbound on WV 2 in New Cumberland in the spring of 1974. As he and his passenger neared railroad tracks and a bridge, “a ‘man’ stepped out in front of my vehicle. He turned and looked directly at me as the hood of my car went through him.” Then he suddenly disappeared. He continues, “I actually saw the upper part of his body in the middle of my hood. The lower part was inside the front of the car.” Reportedly, the man had white hair and beard, and “wore a ‘brimmed’ hat.”

downtown building New Cumberland West Virginia
This building sits at the intersection where WV 2 makes a dog leg in downtown New Cumberland. Photo 2015 by Carol Highsmith, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In tracing the route of WV 2 through New Cumberland, I could only locate one place where a bridge and railroad tracks are close together: at the bridge over Hardin Run. Going southbound, the railroad crossing is about 200 feet after the bridge. Is this where the mysterious apparition appeared to a frightened driver in 1974?

Sources

Specters on Stage—Guide to Haunted Southern Theatres

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.

—Williams Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

The world of the theatre is filled with mysticism, superstition, and spirits. As a theatre person, nearly every theatre I have worked in has this mysterious side, especially in the connection to the spirit world. In his Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, author Jeff Dwyer contends that one can be almost certain that a theatre will be haunted.

There are few certainties in ghost hunting. But when it comes to haunted places, ships and theaters offer ghost hunters the greatest opportunities for encounters with the spirit world. Theaters often harbor the ghosts of actors, writers, musicians and directors because something about their creative natures ties them to the place where they experienced their greatest successes or failures. Stagehands and other production staff may haunt backstage areas where they worked and, perhaps suffered a fatal accident. They may also be tied to room where props are stored. The ghosts of patrons remain long after death because they love the theater or, more likely, they loved an actor who performed regularly at that location.

Much of the mysticism in theatre revolves around actors, especially in how they take on a character. Even the language of an actor bears parallels with the language of ghosts and spirits. Some actors will describe an experience akin to possession when they are inhabiting another’s body and lose themselves. Certainly, within the ritual of preparing for a show, there may be a ritual in applying makeup, getting into costume, and warming up. I’ve watched as some actors will walk the set, absorbing the energy of the world of the play, all of which resembles summoning. If the play utilizes masks, actors may put on the mask in a nearly religious manner. Onstage, the actors are in tune with the energy that surrounds them, including that from other actors, the set, the audience, the crew, and the audience. Once the actor has finished his hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage, these spirits are banished to the world of fiction. But, are they really? Perhaps some of these spirits linger in the theatre?

As for the directors, writers, musicians, technical crew members, and the backstage functionaries, many imbue their work with their own passion, thus leaving a little bit of themselves behind in their work. Even once these people pass on, they may return to the theatres to feed their passion in the afterlife.

The practice of leaving a ghost light onstage when the theatre is dark is wrapped up in superstition and practicality. Some will argue that the light assures the theatre’s spirits that the theatre is not abandoned and provides light for their own performances. In a way, this could be a sacrifice to the genius loci, or the spirit of a location. As for practicality, non-superstitious thespians will contend that a ghost light provides illumination to prevent injuries if someone enters the darkened space.

Theatres are often inherently dangerous places where actors, crew, and even some patrons can, and do, get injured. Indeed, there have been numerous accidents throughout history where deaths have occurred on or just off stage sometimes leaving spirits in limbo within the space. The haunting of the Wells Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia comes to mind. One of the spirits in this 1913 theatre may be that of a careless stagehand who became entangled in the hemp rope-operated fly system (a system that is still in use) and accidentally hung himself. Other deaths may be blamed on medical conditions that have claimed have claimed lives while people are at work.

As for lingering spirits of theatre patrons, a love for theatre or a particular space may be reason enough to return in the afterlife. Though it seems that most of the hauntings by members of the audience are residual in nature with phantom laughter and applause sometimes being heard.

Contributing to theatres’ haunted natures, some theatres occupy spaces that were not intended to be performance spaces. These repurposed buildings may already be haunted, and the spirits adapt to the new use of the location. Among the numerous examples of these types of theatres are the Baltimore Theatre Project in Maryland in an old building originally constructed for a men’s fraternal organization and the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, formerly a post office and courthouse.

Over the decade I have worked on this blog, I have covered a number of theatres and theatre spaces. In addition to places that have formerly served as theatres, I have added movie houses, larger structures that include a theatre, structures that are associated with theatres, and the Maryland home of the Booth family, which included some of America’s most famous and infamous actors in the 19th century.

Alabama

Lyric Theatre Birmingham Alabama
Balconies of the Lyric Theatre. Photo by Andre Natta, 2006, courtesy of Flickr.

District of Columbia

Tivoli Theatre Washington DC
Tivoli Theatre, 2005, by D Monack. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida 

Floirda Theatre Jacksonville Florida
Florida Theatre, 1927. Photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

Georgia 

Wink Theatre Dalton Georgia
Wink Theater, 2018. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Kentucky 

Louisville Palace Theatre Kentucky
The house and stage of the Louisville Palace. The theater is designed to ensconce the audience in a Spanish Baroque courtyard. The ceiling is an atmospheric ceiling with clouds. In the 1960s, this balcony was enclosed as a second theater, but this alternation was removed in the 1990s restoration. It’s not hard to imagine spirits spending their afterlife in such a magnificent edifice. A handful of spirits have been reported here including a man in 1930s clothing that has been seen in this balcony. When approached by ushers, the man disappears. Photo taken in 1928, courtesy of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Louisiana

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium Louisiana
The elaborate facade of the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium. Photo by Michael Barera, 2015, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Maryland 

Maryland Theatre Hagerstown
The modern entrance to the Maryland Theatre, 2014. Photo by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mississippi

Temple Theatre Meridian Mississippi
Temple Theatre, 2008. Photo by Dudemanfellabra, courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina 

Carolina Theatre Greensboro North Carolina
Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre in 2008. Photo by Charles Brummitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

South Carolina

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

Tennessee

The proscenium arch of the Orpheum Theatre, 2010, by Orpheummemphis. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

Hanover Tavern Virginia
Hanover Tavern, 2007 by BrandlandUSA. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia 

Apollo Theatre Martinsburg West Virginia
Apollo Theatre, 2009, by Acroterion. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The curious canines of Surgoinsville—Hawkins County, Tennessee

Terror in the Tri-Cities—Tennessee & Virginia

The Tri-Cities Region encompasses the extreme northeastern corner of Tennessee and part of southwest Virginia, surrounding the major cities of Kingsport and Johnson City in Tennessee, and Bristol, VA/TN, which is situated astride the state line. This area, in the heart of Appalachia, is noted for its culture, mountain lore, and ghost stories.

This series looks at a representative haunting in each of the region’s counties and it’s one independent city.

Legend of the Long Dog and Friends
US-11W north of Surgoinsville

Perched on the state line with Virginia, Hawkins County is one of the oldest counties in Tennessee. Two major paths make their way through the borders of this county. The Holston River snakes its way through much of the county on its route from Kingsport to Knoxville where it converges with the French Broad River to create the might Tennessee River. The river provided mobility to Native Americans and later settlers to the area.

The Natives also trod a path near to the river that was later dubbed the Great Indian War Path which connected the heart of the Muscogee Nation in Alabama through to what would become Upstate New York. European settlers would later claim this path and use it as they migrated throughout the Appalachians. As settlers claimed the area, the path was utilized as a stage coach route from Knoxville to Kingsport. This road is now followed by US Highway 11 West.

In the late years of the 18th century and into the early 19th, these paths attracted hordes of settlers, but also highwaymen and bandits who preyed like wolves on the unwary travelers, which gave rise to many stories and legends in these parts. Kathryn Tucker Windham, the great Alabama storyteller, published her version of one of these legends from the small town of Surgoinsville in her 1977 book, 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey.

The opening parts of her story, which are likely fictional, describe a common sighting of the “Long Dog” on the road just northeast of Surgoinsville. However, the heart of her piece includes the legend of the “Long Dog” and the experience of Marcus Hamblen, a member of a prominent local family. The legend that she confers involves one of the most famous of the bandits to haunt the state of Tennessee: the infamous John Murrell.

Known as the “Great Western Land Pirate” and the “Rob Roy of the Southwest,” John Murrell was among the most notorious of the thieves and highwaymen who prowled the South. Born in Virginia in 1806, Murrell spent his formative years in Williamson County, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville, this county includes Franklin). Around the age of 16, he was imprisoned for horse theft and remained in the state prison in Nashville until 1830. Upon release, he resumed a rollicking life of crime and recruited others to join his band of outlaws. This dubious group primarily operated along the Mississippi River and along the Natchez Trace from Natchez to Nashville until Murrell’s arrest and conviction for stealing a slave in 1834. For this theft, he served ten

John Murrell bandit
Portrait of John Murrell made during his second time in the state prison in Nashville.

years in prison before he was released in 1844 having been reformed. Later that year Murrell died in Pikeville, Tennessee.

It seems, however, that Murrell’s real life does not hold a candle to his oversized legend. Much of his legend was spurred on by an 1835 pamphlet written by one of the primary witnesses against him. This pamphlet accused Murrell of inciting a slave rebellion, one of the top fears for planters of that era. As a result of the pamphlet, slaveholders and law enforcement throughout Mississippi questioned, tortured, and even hung some of their slaves along with white outsiders who were implicated as being members of Murrell’s gang.

Returning to the legend that haunts the landscape outside of Surgoinsville, Murrell and his men attacked a family camping under a large white oak there. The family’s dog attempted to defend his family from the marauders but was as brutally slaughtered as well as his family. As a result, the spirit of this dog has been known to appear to travelers along this road near the old oak.

One of the more remarkable encounters happened to a young man named Marcus Hamblen. Walking the road one night, Hamblen was shocked to see a luminous and abnormally long dog approach from behind the old white oak. Hamblen picked up a fence rail and swung it at the animal when it got close enough, but the rail passed cleanly through the creature. As he ran the dog continued his pace until the phantom disappeared suddenly at a particular curve in the road. Hamblen supposedly kept his eye out for the curious canine and continued to see his spectral friend many more times.

Since the old road was paved and named the Lee Highway, sightings of the luminous Long Dog have grown fewer and fewer. Since the Lee Highway was designated US Route 11 West, sightings have nearly stopped, though the white oak is still alive and continues to preside over the now four-lane highway. It should be noted that the oak is on private property, though it can easily be viewed from the road.

Maxwell Academy Surgoinsville Tennessee
Maxwell Academy in 2015, by Brian Stansberry. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This area is no stranger to spectral activity. Heading north from Surgoinsville, just past the old white oak, turn left onto Stoney Point Road. After a short distance, the road turns a corner and a marvelous antebellum brick building comes into view, this is Maxwell Academy. Built around 1852, this building was originally used by the congregation of New Providence Presbyterian Church and also utilized by a school established by the church. The building that still stands was constructed on this site in 1901, to replace the original structure lost in a fire. It seems that the voices of children are still heard within the old building. Justin Guess notes that during an ice cream social held in the building guests were treated by sounds above them, though no one was upstairs.

New Providence Presbyterian Church Surgoinsville Tennessee
New Providence Presbyterian Church in 2015, by Brian Stansberry. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the academy building became too cramped to hold both the students and the church, a new church was constructed across the road. It should be noted that the congregation of New Hope Presbyterian Church (214 Stoney Point Road) was among the earliest congregations founded in the state of Tennessee, having been founded in nearby Carter’s Valley in 1780. The church moved to this site around 1800 and the peaceful cemetery surrounding the church dates to this time.

tombstone Colonel George Maxwell
The grave of Colonel George Maxwell, 2018, by Glennster. Courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

Among the souls who rest here is Colonel George Maxwell, a veteran of the American Revolution who served at the Battle of Kings Mountain. After Maxwell’s death in 1822, a legend has sprouted that a large black dog guards his grave. It is unknown if this dog is the spirit of a former companion or just a spectral guardian protecting the spirit of the military veteran. In addition to this curious canine, phantom footsteps are supposed to be heard around this grave at night.

Sources

  • Brown, John Norris. “The Legend of the Long Dog.” Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee (now defunct). Accessed 18 July 2017.
  • Brown, John Norris. “New Providence Church.” Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee (now defunct). Accessed 18 July 2017.
  • Grigsby, Blanche. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for New Providence Presbyterian Church, Academy, and Cemetery. 8 March 1976.
  • Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Hawkins County, Tennessee. Kindle Edition, 2012.
  • Libby, David J. “John Murrell.” Mississippi Encyclopedia. 11 July 2017.
  • Sakowski, Carolyn. Touring the East Tennessee Backroads. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1993.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of AL University Press, 1977.

Prison Strike–Tennessee

N.B. This article was originally published as part of “Preserving Haunted History—Tennessee” in 2012. With this update on the structure, this section has been broken out into a new article.

Tennessee State Prison
6410 Centennial Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee

The hulking Tennessee State Prison perched above the Cumberland River has recently been the scene of a prison strike. This strike, however, did not involve prisoners or guards, but a powerful EF3 tornado.

Around 12:30 CST on March 3rd, this powerful tornado touched down near the John C. Tune Airport, which received a tremendous blow before the twister crossed the Cumberland River. Crossing over Briley Parkway and bearing down on the old Victorian prison. Having been put out of commission in 1992 and only used for storage by the state Department of Corrections, the site was thankfully unoccupied by the living.

The tornado’s strike on the seemingly impregnable brick and stone facility caused the walls of the east cellblock to collapse. The prison’s main building, which sits just in front of the cellblocks with an array of castle-like turrets and a high-pitched roof, lost parts of its roof and blew many of the windows out. A nearby building housing records was demolished.

Tennessee State Prison
Interior of one of the cellblocks in 2007. Photo by Dave Scaglione, courtesy of Wikipedia.

After crossing the Cumberland again, the tornado bore down in North and East Nashville, claiming several lives and causing extensive damage before heading east into Wilson County. Another tornado touched down in Putnam County about an hour later and claimed 18 lives as it moved towards Cookeville.

With the widespread damage done at the Tennessee State Prison, there are now questions as to what to do with the massive historic facility. Since its closure, the building has been used for storage and a news story several years ago reported that while the building was well built, that there were no plans to restore the building or hold tours due to the presence of asbestos and other dangerous materials.

Tennessee State Prison
Main Building of the Tennessee State Prison, 2006. Photo by
Pepper6181, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The prison opened in 1898 to replace the old prison, which had been built in 1830. The new prison was constructed using prisoner labor and after opening, outbuildings were constructed using salvaged materials from the old prison. The day the prison opened, some 1400 prisoners were transferred into the facility which had been built to house only 800. For almost a century, the prison was overcrowded, and the treatment of prisoners was one of the issues driving the creation of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution nearby.

When the prison closed in 1992, an injunction was issued preventing the state from ever using the prison to house inmates again. While the building has sat abandoned, it has been used as a set for a variety of movies including Earnest Goes to Jail and The Green Mile. It has also been used for television and recently was used for the video for Pillar’s “Bring Me Down.” Guards now patrol the grounds keeping away the criminal and the curious.

Like hospitals and battlefields, most prisons tend to have paranormal activity. Visitors to the Tennessee State Prison have reported numerous sounds including the sound of the heavy metal doors closing. Other visitors have encountered apparitions of prisoners in the corridors and exercise yards while people passing by have reported seeing faces peering from the windows.

It is unknown what effect the tornado’s damage will have on the prison’s paranormal populace, though, I imagine that it will continue to have activity very much like the Kentucky State Penitentiary. Even if the state decides to demolish the magnificent building, I believe that the land has been imprinted with much of the negative energy and the site will remain haunted for centuries to come.

Sources

A general and friends–Greene County, Tennessee

Terror in the Tri-Cities—Tennessee & Virginia

The Tri-Cities Region encompasses the extreme northeastern corner of Tennessee and part of southwest Virginia, surrounding the major cities of Kingsport and Johnson City in Tennessee, and Bristol, VA/TN, which is situated astride the state line. This area, in the heart of Appalachia, is noted for its culture, mountain lore, and ghost stories.

This series looks at a representative haunting in each of the region’s counties and it’s one independent city.

Greene County, located on the state line with North Carolina, was established in 1783 and named for Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. The name of the county’s seat, Greeneville, is also named for him.

General Morgan Inn and Conference Center
111 North Main Street
Greeneville

When the Grand Central Hotel opened in Greeneville in 1884, it was considered the “finest hotel from Chattanooga to Roanoke.” In recent years however, it could be considered the most haunted hotel from Chattanooga to Roanoke.

On a recent investigation one of the more active spirits informed investigators that there were 26 spirits within the hotel. If the spirit it believed, that is nearly a single spirit per room of this 30-room Victorian hotel. Certainly, the spirits have made their presence known.

Among the prominent spirits here is that of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, who was killed near the site of the hotel in 1864. Definitely, the dashing general didn’t imagine that he would spend eternity in a hotel in Greeneville, Tennessee bearing his name, but evidence proves that he remains here.

John Hunt Morgan
General John Hunt Morgan, from The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes: Volume Four, The Cavalry, published in 1911.

Alabama-born Morgan settled in Lexington, Kentucky, where his home still stands and may be haunted. After the outbreak of war, Morgan signed up with the Confederate Army and raised a regiment of Kentucky cavalry which served in the Battle of Shiloh in early 1862. In hopes of convincing Kentucky to secede and join the Confederacy, Morgan conducted a series of raids through the state, eventually moving across the Ohio River into Ohio and Indiana. The raid across the Ohio was unsuccessful and ended with Morgan and his men being captured and incarcerated in Union POW camps.

Ever the dashing and cavalier cavalry officer, Morgan escaped and was assigned to oversee troops in Eastern Tennessee and Virginia. During a surprise Union raid on Greeneville, Morgan, who was staying in the nearby Dickson-Williamson Mansion, attempted to mount his horse and was unceremoniously shot in the back and killed. Before his untimely death, he arrogantly proclaimed that he would never be taken alive.

Years later, with the construction of the hotel, General Morgan was honored in the hotel’s presidential suite where a photograph of him has been hung. Since that time, those staying in Room 207 or nearby have had strange experiences. One hotel staff member reported that the front desk will get complaints about noise in that room. Knowing that the room is unoccupied, the front desk clerk will assure the guest that they will ask the occupant to quiet down.

General Morgan Inn Greeneville Tennessee
The General Morgan Inn in 2015, photo by Steven C. Price. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Aside from the ruckus in Room 207, the hotel’s restaurant, Brumley’s, has a spirit that’s fond of spoons. Dubbed “Grace,” she “is notorious for stealing spoons, and only spoons, from place settings overnight. But, she only takes from her preferred Green Room.” A server in the restaurant told WJHL, “So, you’ll walk through, and you’ll be like, ‘Ugh, there’s a spoon missing.’ When we polish them, we’re always like really low on spoons. We have to order spoons like all the time. So, it’s crazy. Why spoons? I don’t know. And where she puts them, I don’t know.” Not only that, the spirit regularly adjusts pictures on the wall so that they hang crookedly.

Another spirit, known as “Front Desk Bill,” makes appearances from the neighboring Depot Street Hotel, and is believed to be the spirit of a former hotel employee who loved his job so much that he has remained after his death.

With so many spirits and so much activity, it’s no surprise that this may be one of the most active hotels in the region.

Sources

The lascivious lady–Carter County, Tennessee

Terror in the Tri-Cities Series—Tennessee & Virginia 

The Tri-Cities Region encompasses the extreme northeastern corner of Tennessee and part of southwest Virginia, surrounding the major cities of Kingsport and Johnson City in Tennessee, and Bristol, VA/TN, which is situated astride the state line. This area, in the heart of Appalachia, is noted for its culture, mountain lore, and ghost stories.

This series looks at a representative haunting in each of the region’s counties, and it’s one independent city.

Carter County, Tennessee, situated on the state line with North Carolina, possesses a number of haunted places, especially around its county seat, Elizabethton, where just outside of town the Siam Steel Bridge once stood.

Birchfield Cemetery
Dark Hollow Road
Roan Mountain

Roan Mountain, which is shared by Tennessee and North Carolina, is the center of many folktales and legends. For centuries, a mysterious hum or singing has been heard near the top of this mountain and has never been adequately explained as well as the sounds of a spectral bull.

Roan Mountain Tennessee
The town of Roan Mountain with its namesake mountain rising up behind it. Photo 2015 by Brian Stansberry, courtesy of Wikipedia.

On the flanks of the mountain winds a mysterious road called Dark Hollow Road. With such a creepy name, it’s no wonder that the road has spirited legends associated with it. The legend here revolves around a woman named Delinda. In some sources, she is a prostitute, simply a renowned lover, or sometimes she is suggested to be a witch. Most sources agree, however, that she was carrying on relationships with many local men, most of whom were married. In fact, she was suspected of spreading illness to these men, further angering the already spurned wives.

Blogger Jason Norris Brown recounts in his now, sadly defunct blog, Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee, that Delinda was in love with a man named Jankins. When he died, she was suspected of climbing into his casket in order that they spend eternity together. Another version of the legend has the women of the town killing her and hiding her body in Mr. Jankins casket. Following the burial, locals began to notice a shadowy figure around the cemetery at the bend in the road.

A darker version of the story has Delinda being murdered by a group of angry wives. She was invited to a quilting bee, but after her arrival she was tarred and feathered before being hung in a nearby tree.

Birchfield Cemetery Roan Mountain Tennessee Dark Hollow Road
The Birchfield Cemetery on Dark Hollow Road, 2016. Photo by Loyal Limb, courtesy of Find-a-Grave.

There are reports that drivers near the cemetery have experienced an odd bump to their cars, sometimes feeling like a person has jumped on the bumper, which has been blamed on the spirit of Delinda trying to hitch a ride. One story cited by several sources, describes a group of friends driving past the cemetery at night when their car begins to buck wildly as if the driver was stepping on the accelerator and the brakes at the same time.

Paranormal investigator and researcher Justin H. Guess notes in his 2012 book on the hauntings of Carter County that visitors to the cemetery throwing a coin up in the air will have it disappear before it hits the earth. Perhaps Delinda is still trying to collect her fee?

The identity of the exact cemetery has not been reported, though after some digging, it appears this may be the Birchfield Cemetery, which is located across the road from another small family cemetery, the Gibbs Cemetery. Please have respect for the families who own these cemeteries and their loved ones who are buried here.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Brown, Jason Norris. “The Phantom Jumper of Dark Hollow.” Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee.
  • “Do you believe in ghosts?” Johnson City Press. 30 October 2012.
  • Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee. Kindle Edition, 2012.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Tennessee: Your Travel Guide to Tennessee’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. NYC: Sterling, 2010.

A spirited retirement—Memphis

This is the eleventh entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas. 

The Green Beetle
325 South Main Street
Memphis, Tennessee

Following a paranormal investigation of Memphis’ oldest bar, The Green Beetle, one of the investigators from the Memphis Ghost Investigation and Spirit Rescue Team spoke of the spirit of the tavern’s original proprietor, “He’s already crossed over, but this is his retirement.”

She was speaking of Frank Liberto, the son of Italian immigrants who opened The Green Beetle in 1939, just a few blocks from the famed Orpheum Theatre (which has its own ghost). Liberto cooked in the kitchen while his wife, Mary, held down the front of the restaurant. Over the years, the tavern attracted the likes of entertainers like Elvis, Hank Williams, and Desi Arnaz, though with urban flight that began in the 1960s, the business’ reputation began to decline. The tavern became a dive bar and the clientele became rowdier, often breaking into fights.

Green Beetle Memphis Tennessee
The Green Beetle has been situated in this building at the corner of South Main Street and Vance Avenue since 1939. The tavern is located next door to this corner store. Photo 2013, by Thomas R. Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Liberto closed the business in 1971, but not before changing the deed to ensure that all the building be forever called “The Green Beetle.” The building passed through a number of hands before being acquired by Liberto’s grandson who wished to reopen his grandfather’s business. It seems that despite having passed, Liberto is still watching over his business.

The investigators made contact with the spirit of an “older gentleman who they say had gray hair and a lively personality.”

“He’s charming and very handsome,” one of the group’s sensitives remarked. She also remarked that he often spent time in the building’s basement. “I feel the older gentleman might come down here a lot to spend time with his grandson.”

But the owner’s spirit isn’t the one slinking around the old bar, investigators discovered the spirit of a woman, Marilyn, who often expresses her displeasure. “We picked up a female, that’s at the bar a lot and she hates the music, especially when it’s loud.” Team members surmised that she possibly lived in an apartment above the bar and died from hitting her head. She “is something of a barfly who likes being around people at the tavern.”

A bartender complained that “we’re going through a lot of wine glasses because whatever hangs out here likes to throw them off my wine rack behind the bar.” He went further to note that the glasses don’t just fall from the rack that they “shoot off the wine rack and shatter.” Additionally, Marilyn likes to play with patrons by tapping them on the shoulder.

To make her spirited retirement, the investigators informed the bartender that he needed to “set out a wine glass and pour her a little drink and give her a little respect. And play some nice music.”

If you’re looking to sip with spirits in Memphis, you may also enjoy the spirited atmosphere of Earnestine and Hazel’s just down the street from The Green Beetle.

Sources

Sipping with Spirits—Guide to Spirited Southern Bars

N.B. Last updated 29 May 2020.

Throughout the South, there are many places where you can sip with spirits. This guide covers all of the bars that I have explored in the pages of this blog over the years. Not only have I included independent bars, but breweries, wineries, restaurants, and hotels with bars as well.

Alabama

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant Sylacauga Alabama ghosts haunted
Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

District of Columbia

Omni Shoreham Hotel Washington DC ghosts haunted
Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2009. Photo by Jurgen Mattern,  courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida

Island Hotel Cedar Key Florida ghosts haunted
Island Hotel, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Georgia

Jekyll Island Club Hotel Jekyll Island Georgia ghosts haunted
Jekyll Island Club, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern Bardstown Kentucky ghosts haunted
Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louisiana

Hotel Monteleone French Quarter New Orleans Louisiana ghosts haunted
Hotel Monteleone, 2009 by Bart Everson, courtesy
of Wikipedia.

Maryland

Middleton Tavern Annapolis Maryland ghosts haunted
Middleton Tavern, 1964. Photograph for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Mississippi

Weidmann's Meridian Mississippi ghosts haunted
Weidmann’s, 2010, by Dudemanfellabra. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina

Lake Lure Inn North Carolina ghosts haunted
The 1927 Lake Lure Inn. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

South Carolina

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

Tennessee

Earnestine and Hazel's Memphis Tennessee ghosts haunted
Earnestine and Hazel’s, 2012, by Thomas R.
Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

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

West Virginia

An Incident at the Siam Steel Bridge—Elizabethton, Tennessee

Site of the Siam Steel Bridge
Steel Bridge Road over the Watauga River
Elizabethton, Tennessee

An ugly, modern concrete bridge now crosses the Watauga River in the Siam Valley outside of Elizabethton, Tennessee. This crossing was formerly occupied by an impressive steel bridge that was constructed in 1941. Stories, with many historical inaccuracies, have circulated for decades.

Siam Steel Bridge Elizabethton Tennessee haunted ghost
The Siam Steel Bridge, July 2008, by Calvin Sneed. Courtesy of Bridgehunter.com.

The most common story speaks of a time just after the construction of the bridge, when the area was a popular “Lovers’ Lane” of sorts. A young couple was spending time underneath the bridge one night when they were attacked by a vagrant. The couple was stabbed with the young lady dying on the spot, while the young man was able to hail a passing car and climb into the back seat. He was rushed to the hospital where he passed away. According to the story, the police spent more than a year looking for the assailant, but to no avail.

The imminent Tennessee folklorist Charles Edwin Price published an account of this story in his 1992 book, Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee, though some of his details are inaccurate. He dates the murder to the 1920s or 1930s, before the actual construction of the bridge and he provides names for the young couple, Tom Jackson and Wanda Smithson.

In his short, but excellently researched eBook, Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee, researcher and investigator Justin H. Guess delved into local records on this murder only to discover that there were none. He did, however come across the marvelous account of an incident at the bridge experienced by a sheriff’s deputy. This account was published in a HubPages article published in 2008. Bracketed comments are mine.

On July 18th, 1977, the first report of paranormal activity was documented. Beecher Davis, a Gate City, Virginia [in Scott County, about 40 miles north of Elizabethton] sheriff’s deputy, arrived at the Carter County Sheriff’s department around 1:42am in a panic. He stated that he was driving over the steel bridge when the passenger’s side door flew open and then slammed shut. He slammed on the brakes and noticed an indention in the passenger’s seat, as if someone were sitting there. He then caught a glimpse in his mirror of a dark figure that appeared to be wearing a dark cloak and hood. He said that it appeared to be inching closer to the car, but it didn’t look like it was walking. He stated at that point, he got out of the car and nothing was there. He became even more startled at that point and drove off to the Sheriff’s station.

Joey Parsons, the author of the HubPages article, states that this was the first documented experience of some 185 that have been documented over the years. Sadly, he doesn’t include who is doing the documenting.

In recent years, the one lane bridge was deemed structurally deficient and in 2010 was demolished and replaced with a less charming and attractive sibling bridge. It is unknown if paranormal activity has continued at the site.

Sources

  • Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee. com. 2012.
  • Parsons, Joey. “A Great American Haunting: The Watauga River Bridge.” 23 September 2008.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1992.
  • Siam Steel Bridge.” Bridgehunter.com. Accessed 14 April 2019.