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.

Spirited Southern Tidewater—Review of Kinney’s Haunted Surry to Suffolk

Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along
Routes 10 and 460
Pamela K. Kinney
Anubis Press, 2020

The South is a veritable garden of ghostly delights. After researching the region for many years, I continue to be delighted at the depth and the range of stories that have been unearthed and documented. As one of the earliest created of the colonies, Virginia possesses an embarrassment of riches in terms of ghostlore and haunted places.

While many of the Old Dominion State’s ghosts have been documented through the works of authors such as Marguerite Dupont Lee and L. B. Taylor, Jr., there are still areas that have not been properly documented. In recent years, Pamela K. Kinney has taken the lead in documenting the state’s haunted locales. She has produced a book on the state as a whole (Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales), two books on the haunting of Richmond, two editions on the Historic Triangle (which I have reviewed here and here), a book on Petersburg, and she encouraged the writing of a book on the Charlottesville region.

Kinney’s spirited repertoire has recently been expanded with the publication of her Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along Routes 10 and 460, which once again explores a neglected region of Virginia’s ghostlore.

The Virginia Tidewater is one of three main regions of the state. Covering the coastal areas of the state, the Tidewater borders much of the Chesapeake Bay and all those places affected by the tides. This region includes the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula (known as the Eastern Shore), the three peninsulas jutting into the bay (the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and the Virginia Peninsula), and the Southern Tidewater ranges from Virginia Beach to Hopewell lying south of the James River.

However, the Tidewater region’s documented ghostlore is spotty. Much of this region is rural (specifically the Eastern Shore, Northern Neck, and the Middle Peninsula) and it usually follows that rural regions have less documented ghostlore than urban areas. This case is no exception. The Virginia Peninsula, the most historic area and most urbanized of the entire region, has an exceptional amount of documented ghostlore. Coverage of the Southern Tidewater is mostly spotty, with decent documentation for Virginia Beach and Norfolk, though far less as you move west along the James River.

In looking into this region a couple years ago, there was relatively little information on haunted locations and ghost stories. Pamela Kinney has filled in this information marvelously with her new book.

The history of European settlement here begins just after the settlement of Jamestown. The area’s location adjacent to the Virginia Peninsula spurred the growth of plantations and eventually the cities of Suffolk, Surry, and Smithfield. As political divisions were established, the area was divided into two counties: Surry and Isle of Wight, and one independent city, Suffolk. Over time, this area has been crossed by two major roads, US Route 460 and Virginia Route 10.

book cover Pamela Kinney Haunted Surry to SuffolkAmong the hauntings that Kinney covers in her book are Bacon’s Castle, one of the oldest brick structures in the country, and St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield, one of the oldest churches. While much of the paranormal activity at Bacon’s Castle has been thoroughly documented, Kinney deftly sketches out the home’s history and hauntings before adding her own experiences investigating there. Other nearby plantations such as Chippokes and Smith’s Fort are included as well to round out the paranormal experiences in Surry County.

St Luke's Church Smithfield Virginia
An 1885 illustration of St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield from The History: American Episcopal Church 1587-1883 by William Stevens Perry.

From Surry, Kinney takes the reader through Isle of Wight County to explore Smithfield and includes several local businesses, a cemetery, St. Luke’s Church, and a couple Civil War fortifications. In Suffolk, the author covers some of the stops on the local ghost tour before heading towards the Great Dismal Swamp, which straddles the state line between Virginia and North Carolina. Within the swamp, Kinney covers the plethora of myths, legends, and mysteries emanating from this impenetrable natural area. Throughout, she adds her own experiences from visits and investigations, making this a fabulous resource on the hauntings of this region.

Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along Routes 10 and 460 is available as an eBook and in print from Amazon.

Superlatives–Virginia

Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center
3105 Berry Hill Road
South Boston

Even the ghosts of Berry Hill are spoken of in superlatives. In fact, the ghosts have found their way into the august pages of the New York Times, a place where even some of the most famous ghosts have yet to tread. In a 2002 article, the Berry Hill Resort is described as “bucolic” and as having, “ghosts. Lots of ghosts.” The reporter spoke with a local paranormal investigator:

“There are three ghosts upstairs,” said Francis Hunt, a local entrepreneur known as Biggy whose hobby is “dowsing,” or ghost hunting. “Malcolm, James Coles, and a lady. Three ladies are in the nursery; four slave ladies and three free black ladies are in the slaves’ quarters.” That adds up to an unlucky 13. Also, he says, 20 or so “immature” ghosts (of babies and children) haunt the main foyer, under the elaborately carved mahogany staircase.

staircase Berry Hill Plantation South Boston Virginia
The magnificent double staircase inside Berry Hill. Taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, no date. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The author continues:

Here at Berry Hill, rumors of celestial squatters have abounded for centuries — tales of phantom horses, mussed sheets, cold-air pockets, rearranged tools, people being “touched” on the shoulder or arm, and apparitions (especially of a young boy) in windows.

While the atmosphere of Berry Hill seems to be seething with “celestial squatters,” an investigation with the reporter and a local paranormal team produced few results. Though, one investigator reported that as they drove home their car inexplicably filled with the aroma of pipe or cigar smoke.

Berry Hill Plantation South Boston Virginia
The front facade of Berry Hill with one of its dependencies. Taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, no date. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Berry Hill’s origins are impressive. The property, once owned by William Byrd of (haunted) Westover Plantation, and later statesman and planter Isaac Coles, was inherited by businessman James Coles Bruce from his father. Bruce, whose fortune had been made through a chain of general stores, was considered the wealthiest man in the country at that time, being worth an estimated $4 million. His wealth included some 3,000 enslaved who would work what would become the largest plantation in the state.

Undertaking the task of renovating the plantation’s original home in 1839, Bruce hired architect John E. Johnson to build this impressive manse. The home’s design borrows from the Parthenon of Ancient Greece to create a sense of awe. As one of the greatest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country and possessing “the purest style of Virginia’s surviving Greek Revival houses,” the house has been named a National Historic Landmark. When he died in 1865, Bruce escaped witnessing the collapse of the Southern economy and the downfall of the planter aristocracy, though his spirit may be one of the throng that watches and stirs for the guests and staff of the hotel and conference center that now occupies the house and grounds.

While the New York Times reporter did not witness anything supernatural during her investigation, a reporter from the local South Boston News & Record participated in a different investigation in 2010. Starting at the plantation’s Diamond Hill Slave Cemetery, considered the largest of its type in the South, the group interacted with a number of spirits. To the investigators, the atmosphere seemed “welcoming, inviting, and restful.”

Berry Hill Plantation South Boston Virginia
Berry Hill in 2007. Photo by User: B from Wikipedia. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As the group spread out among various locations on the plantation grounds, they found the spirits to be “social and positive.” In addition to a few EVPs, the group collected several photographs that seemed to show odd figures and shadows within the house. One of the investigators told the reporter that she couldn’t “personally can’t say that Berry Hill is haunted. It’s very possible that there is something there.”

So it may be that even with its dearth of spirits, Berry Hill may not live up to its superlatives in terms of hauntings, but perhaps further investigation will help it to eventually do so.

Sources

  • Ellin, Abby. “Business Travel; A Hotel Stephen King might find just right.” New York Times. 23 July 2002.
  • Rose, Sullivan. “Just in time for Halloween, a ghost hunt at Berry Hill.” South Boston News & Record. 28 October 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Berry Hill. 25 April 1969.

Do ghosts like gelato?—Richmond, Virginia

Stoplight Gelato Café
405 Brook Road

In 2013, as he was renovating the old commercial building in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward, Bryce Given had some unexpected paranormal experiences. He told Richmond BizSense that he was sitting near the front of the shop facing the rear of the building when he saw a white figure that repeatedly moved up the stairs and came back down. It eventually disappeared but it left Given wondering what he had just witnessed.

“The first time I saw it, I was checking all the street lights and car lights’ reflections and ruled all that out. It was just too bizarre.”

When he bought the hundred-year-old building to open a gelato café, he did not consider that one of the obstacles to opening the new business might come from the other side. However, he later noted that he had not had any further paranormal experiences and that perhaps the spirit approved of his work. “I haven’t seen him in a few months, so I think he approves of the renovations I’m doing.”

405 Brook Road Richmond Virginia
405 Brook Road in 1978, photo by John G. Zehmer for the Richmond Department of Planning and Community Development. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to neighborhood lore, the building operated as “a horse depot” and the owner committed suicide in the 1930s as business declined due to the prevalence of automobiles. Perhaps, this is the spirit that was checking up on the building’s renovations?

A reporter for the local CBS affiliate, WTVR, looked into the building’s history and discovered that R. D. Harlow operated a grain and tack business here in the early 20th century. Perhaps this is the business owner who committed suicide? After his ownership, the building passed through a few different hands and operated as several businesses. Given believed that whatever was there approved of what he was doing with the building.

“I have a good feeling about the apparition—or spirit—that may be here.” He mused. “But now that the bricks are fixed, and everything is stable and solid again, I may not see him again.”

Discovering a spirit in the building was just one of the surprises on the years long journey that Given and his mother made while trying to open this gelato café. After buying the building in 2010, Bryce Given spent years working on the renovations before succumbing to cancer in 2015. Despite her grief, his mother, Barbara, oversaw completion of the renovations and the opening of the café in 2016. In early 2019, she sold the café to a young couple who have continued the business. If spirits are still active in the building, nothing has been noted, so I’m left thinking that perhaps the spirit may be appeased by the gelato.

Sources

Robinson, Mark. “Café’s first visitor loves the new haunt.” Richmond BizSense. 25 June 2013.

Encounters in Hollywood—Richmond, Virginia

Hollywood Cemetery
412 South Cherry Street

Most of the sources on Richmond’s famed Hollywood Cemetery speak only of the vague legendary hauntings with no personal experiences. There are legends surrounding the large stone Monument of Confederate War Dead that marks the resting place for tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers. Supposedly the soft moaning of the dead is heard here. There is also the cast iron dog marking the grave of a little girl that continues to guard her in death. But there are almost no documented personal experiences here save for one that I discovered in a back corner of the internet.

Ghostvillage.com hardly is a back corner of the internet, though with its thousands of pages of content, some things can seemingly get lost in the shuffle. The website was established in 1999 by author Jeff Belanger and has grown by leaps and bounds as more and more people have shared their paranormal encounters from all over the globe. Among the encounters is one from a sheriff’s deputy who worked off duty at Hollywood Cemetery.

Hollywood Cemetery Richmond Virginia James Monroe Tomb
James Monroe’s Gothic Revival metalwork tomb, 2017. Photo by William M. Ferriter, courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of this deputy’s first experiences happened at the tomb of President James Monroe. While patrolling the cemetery grounds late at night, a group of officers were standing beside the president’s grave. Looking at the size of the grave, the deputy remarked, “He must have been a short son of a…” Out of nowhere, a swarm of flies began to attack him, and he fled towards his van, followed by the flies. Perhaps the president was sensitive about his height?

The deputy notes another experience near the Monument of Confederate War Dead where he regularly encountered a cold spot.

Hollywood Cemetery Richmond Virginia Confederate Pyramid
The pyramidal Monument to the Confederate Dead, 2011. Photo by David Broad, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another notable experience involved the cemetery’s maintenance shed. The deputy was sick in the shed’s bathroom and vomiting into the toilet. He heard the door open and the sound of footsteps with the hair on the back of his neck beginning to stand up. Out loud he said, “Please leave me alone today, people, I’m not feeling well” and the sensation stopped.

Hollywood Cemetery Richmond Virginia
Hollywood Cemetery with the Richmond skyline and James River beyond, 2007. Photo by Andrew Bain, courtesy of Wikipedia.

There is no doubt that there are many spirits still roaming the cemetery’s rustic and hilly 135 acres. Among those at rest here are many notables including President John Tyler, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 28 Confederate generals including J.E.B. Stuart, and many noted authors, diplomats, and businessmen. Some 18,000 Confederate soldiers are also buried here. The cemetery was first envisioned in 1847 with its first burial in 1848. Based on the concept of the rural cemetery, a 19th century idea that was used for many major urban cemeteries around the country, it is now maintained as an arboretum and remains an active cemetery for the living and the dead.

Sources

“Launched into eternity”—Richmond, Virginia

Virginia State Capitol
1000 Bank Street
Richmond, Virginia
 

The mass of human beings who were in attendance were sent, mingled with the bricks, mortar, splinters, beams, iron bars, desks, and chairs to the floor of the House of Delegates and in a second more, over fifty souls were launched into eternity!
Richmond Dispatch, 28 April 1870

Under the headline “HORRIBLE CALAMITY” the Richmond Dispatch was admittedly at a loss of words for the events that had occurred at the state capitol the previous day. A mass of spectators had gathered in a second-floor courtroom to bring about an end to mayoral tensions in the city when the room seemingly disintegrated throwing the mass of humanity through the floor into the room below. The reporter who had been given the sad duty of reporting the events was taken aback in “palsied horror in the undertaking of the narration.” Continuing, he remarked, “To describe it would be beyond the power of man, and with those who witnessed it its recollection will remain indelibly vivid as long as life shall last.”

Virginia State Capitol Richmond
The state capitol building a few years after the disaster. From the 1879 American Cyclopaedia.

The city of Richmond, over the past decade had witnessed the heights of glory when it was named the capital of the Confederacy to the depths of despair as war waged around it. A portion of the city was left a smoking ruin after the war and the city had to endure the indignities of Reconstruction before self-rule was once again allowed. It was the issues of this self-rule that was the cause of this court session.

Under Reconstruction, the city’s mayor was appointed by the state’s Federal military commander. Appointed in 1868, George Chahoon immediately undertook a purge of former Confederates in the city government and stiffened many local ordinances, causing a good deal of consternation among the city’s citizens. When Reconstruction ended in the state in 1870, the new governor appointed newspaper publisher Henry K. Ellison as mayor. Chahoon and his supporters refused to leave office and with much of the loyalty of the police force, battled the forces of the new mayor and his acolytes.

The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals undertook the case and was poised to announce the verdict on April 27th in the second-floor courtroom inside the state capitol building. Just after 11 AM, the clerk entered the packed courtroom with the two mayors and their counsels were already sitting along with reporters for all the city’s major papers. A piece of the ceiling fell into the courtroom followed by one of the girders supporting the spectator-laden gallery. As the gallery’s structure crashed into the floor, the room’s entire floor gave away sending those gathered and debris to the floor of the House of Delegates chamber below. “In a moment, a few survivors clinging to the windows and fragments of hanging timber, and the bare and torn walls were all that remained to mark the place where only a moment before there was a scene of life, vigor, and hope.”

Virginia State Capitol disaster 1870 Harper's Weekly Virginia State Capitol Richmond
The disaster as illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, 14 May 1870.

Within the twisted rubble lay 62 dead or gravely wounded who would die from their injuries in short order and nearly 250 were injured. Among the casualties were Patrick Henry’s grandson and three members of the state’s General Assembly. The injured included both the men vying for mayor; Henry H. Wells, a former governor; and a former Confederate general, Montgomery Corse.

The cause of disaster was attributed to a poorly designed floor for the courtroom, which had been added to the building some years previous. The architect failed to provide proper support for the courtroom’s floor which had developed a noticeable sag. With the political turmoil brought about by the Civil War and Reconstruction, the sag was overlooked. After the disaster, consideration was made to demolish the capitol, though others decided to repair the noble Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clerisseau designed structure.

Virginia State Capitol Richmond
The state capitol in 2015. Photo by Farragutful, courtesy of Wikipedia.

For many years since the disasters there have been murmurs of paranormal activity within the halls of the venerable state capitol. L.B. Taylor, Jr., the state’s major chronicler of its mysterious events, was the first author to note “some say the eerie cry of mournful voices, muted under tons of debris, can still be heard in the hallowed corridors of the Capitol.” Pamela K. Kinney echoes this description in her 2007 Haunted Richmond.

It wasn’t until the 2013 publication of Paul Hope’s Policing the Paranormal, that the Capitol’s haunting activity has enjoyed a detailed description. Hope, a former member of the Capitol’s police force, records the experiences of many of the force’s officers throughout the complex of buildings that comprise the Capitol complex. At least some of the activity experienced in the building centers on the Old House of Delegates Chamber, the room which witnessed the tragic events of 1870.

Virginia State Capitol Richmond Old House of Delegates Chamber
Old House of Delegates Chamber in 2010. Photo by AlbertHerring, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Only a few days into his training for the Capitol police force, Hope was assigned to work a graveyard shift along with one of the longtime officers. The nightly patrol of the building provided the young officer with his first brush with the odd activity of the Capitol at night. Entering the magnificent Rotunda occupied by Jean-Antoine Houdon’s marble likeness of George Washington, the pair made their entry into the Old House Chamber. Hope notes that the room had a constant mysterious chill, so much so that the doors of the room were sometimes opened to help cool the other parts of the building during the sweltering Southern summers.

Virginia State Capitol Richmond plaque
The plaque in the Old House of Delegates Chamber that the officers were reading when they observed a shadow in the gallery. Photo 2008 by AlertHerring, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Scanning the dark chamber with their flashlights, the training officer encouraged Hope to read the plaque memorializing the 1870 collapse. As the pair stood silently reading the plaque, Hope saw a dark shadow move and then disappear in the gallery above them. The other officer saw this as well and the pair scanned the gallery with their flashlights to determine that no living humans were up there. No one appeared in the gallery, and the pair resumed their patrol after only a brief acknowledgement of the strange moment.

Perhaps one of the souls that was “launched into eternity” here in 1870 has remained within this old chamber for eternity.

The Old House of Delegates Chamber is not the only haunted space within the Capitol building, Hope reports experiences throughout the building and on the surrounding grounds.

Sources

  • George Chahoon. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 January 2020.
  • Hope, Paul. Policing the Paranormal: The Haunting of Virginia’s State Capitol Complex. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2013.
  • “Horrible Calamity.” Richmond Dispatch. 28 April 1870.
  • HUIS 1501. “The Virginia Capitol Disaster of 1870.” UVADisasters Wiki. Accessed 19 January 2020.
  • Kinney, Pamela K. Haunted Richmond. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2007.
  • Taylor, L.B., Jr. The Ghosts of Richmond…and Nearby Environs. Progress Printing, 1985.
  • Virginia State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 January 2020.

“Hard to dance with the devil in your back”–Virginia

This is the seventh entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas. May you have a blessed New Year!

Braley Pond Campground
Forest Development Road 96
West Augusta, Virginia

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh…
–“Shake it out,” (2011) Florence + the Machine

Deep within George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, a paranormal investigator had a frightening experience at a popular campground some miles from civilization.

Elliott's Knob Virginia
A view of Elliott’s Knob, the highest point in Augusta County, in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest a few miles south of Braley Pond. Photo by Aneta Kaluza, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The group of investigators had arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon of October 25, 2003 to investigate Braley Pond Campground. Stepping out of their vehicles, the lead investigator noted that the atmosphere was “so heavy as to be almost palatable, and I knew immediately that [this feeling] was not my own. I was feeling something that belonged to someone else.”

As the group neared the dam, a couple of group members became physically ill and the entire group retreated. Two of the investigators decided to return to the campground after nightfall to investigate further.

Arriving around 11:30 PM, the pair sensed the same heaviness in the atmosphere that they had experienced on the first visit. Moving on, they felt as if whatever had been there before was lying in wait for their return. As they tenuously made their way towards the dam, one of them saw an orb of light in a nearby pine tree. “Roughly thirty or forty feet in the air, looking as though it were nestled in the branches of one of the big pines that flank the opening to the path, was a brightly glowing fluorescent green light.”

After the light mysteriously blinked out, the pair began to hear violent splashing in the water below. Sensing that something was coming after them, the pair took off for the safety of their vehicle. As they ran, one of the investigators was knocked off the bridge into the water. “I don’t know how to explain it except for he literally flew upwards and to the left, as if something had hit him right in the middle of his back, like using his forward momentum, and he went off the side of the bridge into the water.” The pair would later discover that their audio equipment picked up a mysterious screech just before the man was thrown into the water.

When the lead investigator stopped to check on her companion, he was fine but encouraged her to continue running back to the truck. As she stood up on the side of the pond, she began to feel something crawling on her back. She recalled that it moved like an inchworm and felt as if it had tentacles.

Continuing back to the truck, she screamed that something was on her. Both investigators piled back into the vehicle and nothing was found on the investigator, though she continued to feel the thing creeping along her body.

Over the next few months, the lead investigator was plagued by nightmares and dark feelings and images that would surface in her mind periodically. The pair returned to the campground several more times and witnessed odd events, but none as dramatic as the events of that first night. When the lead investigator felt oddly drawn to visit alone, she found herself walking trancelike around the parking lot and suddenly found herself in the restroom without any memory of getting there.

Several weeks later, she and her husband heard a terrifying scream from her eight-year-old son in another room. The boy had witnessed the image of a man standing in the corner “with multiple holes in his chest; wet and covered in blood.”

Following this frightening vision, the dark feelings began to retreat. Revisiting the campground a few years later, the investigator did not sense anything there.

According to the Mysterious Universe website, campers and hikers in the area have encountered sudden feelings of nausea and dread, orbs of light, shadow figures, the sounds of splashing water, and a feeling of being drawn into the water.

What could be the cause of the darkness here? The answer may lie in tragedies that have occurred here. Mysterious Universe notes that the quiet pond has been the scene of suicides, which I have not been able to confirm, but it was here that a vicious gang-related murder took place in May of 2003, some months before the terrifying investigation took place.

On the evening of May 21, 2003, two young men picked up 19-year-old Christopher Kennedy in nearby Staunton. Kennedy had reportedly become a member of the Los Angeles-based street gang, the Crips. After being picked up by two other members, the group drove to the Braley Pond Campground. A short time previous, Kennedy admitted to his grandfather that he had joined the gang and expressed his anxiety that he was “too young to die.” An account of the murder in the Staunton, Virginia News Leader says, “Kennedy first left with Noa and Tinsley voluntarily and might have realized he was going to be killed on the way out to Braley Pond.”

Once they arrived at the pond, Kennedy was stabbed 12 times in the chest and back at the water’s edge. It was there that his partially submerged body was found. In the initial reports of the murder, police speculated that Kennedy had tried to leave the gang.

Details of the murder would line up with some of paranormal activity reported here: feelings of nausea and dread, splashing of water, and the investigator’s son’s vision of a wet man with holes in his chest and covered in blood.

Allow me to speculate a bit on this haunting. I sincerely hope that Kennedy’s spirit is at rest, and it seems that his residual energy may be felt at the campground. The lead investigator, who is sensitive, noted in her journal that she felt “another presence ‘behind’ the original one. This one didn’t feel like the others. In fact, it didn’t feel human.” This leads me to believe that perhaps this inhuman spirit may be an elemental, or nature, spirit angered by the intense violence that took place in its domain. In fact, it was this spirit’s ire that attached itself to the investigator and haunted her.

If you visit the Braley Pond Campground, enjoy the scenery, but beware that this beauty has a darker side.

Sources

‘He said we could descend’—Bluemont, Virginia

This is the first entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 30 more days until All Hallows Eve! 

TWA Flight 514 Crash Site Memorial
VA-601
Bluemont, Virginia

Early on a chilly morning in 2004, a long-haul trucker pulled into a closed gas station near the intersection of VA-7 and VA-601 to check his map. It was extremely dark in this rural, mountainous area, though close to the bustle of cities like Winchester, Leesburg, and suburban Washington, D.C.

He was startled by a knock on the door of his cab, turned on the interior light, and rolled down his window. Staring into the dark, chilly morning, he saw a man standing next to his truck oddly wearing an airline uniform.

The man climbed up onto the side of the truck and asked if the trucker could give him a lift. The trucker noticed the TWA insignia on the man’s cap and the four stripes of a captain on the shoulder of his short-sleeved shirt. The man also reeked of kerosene.

“I am with TWA. I have to get to Dulles Airport to work a flight. Please give me a ride. I’ll pay you.”

“Well, how about I give you a ride to the next open store where you can call a taxi?” the trucker responded.

“Okay, thank you.” the captain muttered awkwardly. “He said we could descend.”

The trucker invited him to get in and the captain jumped down off the side of the truck.

As he walked around the front, the captain suddenly vanished. Shaken, the trucker got out of his cab to investigate, even looking under the truck with a flashlight. The captain was nowhere to be seen.

Agitated, the trucker continued his lonely route home pondering his strange encounter, made especially strange when he realized that TWA had gone bankrupt just two years prior. A little research revealed that his experience had occurred a short distance from the crash site of TWA Flight 514 in 1974.

The trucker recounted his story on the Your Ghost Stories website where it was picked up by the late L.B. Taylor, Jr. and included in his 2010 Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories.

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
TWA Flight 514 crashed around this rocky outcropping on VA-601. A small memorial is now located here. Taken in March 2017 by Engelalber, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The crash site today, along a wooded stretch of VA-601 on the flanks of Mount Weather, is marked by a small memorial stone set upon a rocky outcropping. It was at this site on the morning of December 1, 1974, the TWA Boeing 727 with 92 souls aboard slammed into this mountain on their descent into Dulles Airport. Miscommunication between the pilot and air traffic control led the plane to shear off the tops of trees before it disintegrated.

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
The TWA Flight 514 crash site in December of 1975, a year after the crash. These trees were sheared off by the low-flying plane. Photo by C. Brown, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ghost stories concerning the crash site have circulated for some time receiving attention from the nearby Queen City Cryptic Researchers who checked out the site in October of 2018. According to their case file, the group witnessed lights in the woods around the crash site as well as a hearing voices. They also noted feeling a powerful energy there.

Sources

  • Dead Pilot?Your Ghost Stories. 5 May 2007.
  • Rogers, Dawn. “Case File—TWA Flight 514 Crash Site.” Queen City Cryptic Researchers. 22 October 2018.
  • Taylor, L.B. Jr. The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • TWA Flight 514. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 October 2019.