Radiance and translucency—Baltimore, Maryland

USS Constellation
Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Mobile’s Haunted Five

Among the oldest cities in the Deep South, Mobile was founded in 1702 by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, of whom the latter is considered the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana. The city’s location on the well-protected Mobile Bay, led to the city becoming a major port for exportation. That strategic location, however, made it a major target during the Civil War, which brought economic devastation to the city; that devastation would last for many decades. Through the 20th century, the port city’s fortunes have been restored and the city has become a major tourist destination with beautiful and large historic districts which are, of course, brimming with spirits.

The genteel ghosts of Mobile have been explored in a number of sources, including three books by Elizabeth Parker: Mobile Ghosts (2000), Mobile Ghosts II (2004), and Haunted Mobile (2009). In this blog, I have covered a few sites in the city including the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Richards DAR House, and the Phoenix Fire Museum.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
26 North Royal Street

Considered one of Alabama’s premier hotels, the Battle House is the fourth hotel on this site, though only the second called the “Battle House.” In 1825, as floods ravaged the state capital at Cahaba, Daniel White moved his inn to Mobile using flatboats. That hotel opened as the Franklin House and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1829. A larger hotel, the Waverly Hotel, was constructed on this site only to be destroyed by fire in 1850. Led by James Battle and his brothers, a group of prominent locals created a company to build a large hotel on this site, and the Battle House opened in 1852.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, this hotel served many luminaries including presidential candidate Stephen Douglas, who was here the night he lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. That hotel burned in 1905, and it was replaced by the current hotel building which opened in 1908. Among the prominent figures who have stayed in this building are President Woodrow Wilson who stayed here in 1913. The hotel went through a difficult financial period in the 1970s and closed in 1974. After being closed for nearly 30 years, the hotel has recently been fully restored and reopened.

Battle House Hotel Mobile Alabama ghosts haunted
The Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa, 2008, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Historic hotels like this rarely do not have ghosts or, at the very least, rumors of ghosts. The Battle House spirits have not been well documented, though an article by Amy Delcambre on the website, VisitSouth.com, includes an interview with George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian. When asked, Moore disavowed a belief in ghosts, though he did recount some of the curious incidents that have taken place here.

One story Moore recounted involved a recently married couple who stayed in the hotel in 1910. The husband left his wife alone while he took care of some business outside of the hotel. When he did not return, she supposedly hung herself in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. After the hotel’s recent reopening, a wedding reception was held in the ballroom where a portrait of the bride was displayed on an easel. The mother of the bride noticed a strange man in a gray suit admiring the picture, when guests began to enter the room, the strange man disappeared.

Other guests here have seen mysterious lights and apparitions in their rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors.

Sources

  • Delcambre, Amy. “Haunted History of the Battle House Hotel.” com. 19 October 2014.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Battle House Royale. 4 June 1975.
  • The Battle House Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 May 2015.

Boyington Oak
Located within Church Street Cemetery, just off Bayou Street

Boyington Oak Chucrh Street Cemetery Mobile Alabama ghost haunted legend
The legendary Boyington Oak in Church Street Cemetery, 2009. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This mighty live oak growing amid the gravestones of Church Street Cemetery is a supposed sign of the innocence of Charles R. S. Boyington. In 1834, within this cemetery, the body of Nathaniel Frost was found; severely beaten and robbed of his money and pocket watch. Boyington, who had been close friends with Frost and, according to testimony, had been seen walking near here with him, was arrested for the murder and found guilty. He was hung before a huge crowd on gallows erected in Washington Square. Before his execution, however, he stated that his innocence would be proven by an oak sprouting from his heart. This tree sprouted not long after Boyington was laid in his grave. Passersby have claimed that whispers are still heard as the wind blows through the branches.

Sources

  • Kirby, Brendan. ”Murders, burglaries and ‘lynch discipline;’ Mobile was a lawless place in the 1830s.” com. 12 June 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Central Fire Station
701 St. Francis Street

Firefighters were shocked in 2010 when the Gamewell Alarm System here lit up. Of course, as firefighters, they should always be prepared, but they’re not usually prepared for dealing with the supernatural. The alarm system was last used in the 1960s, and the system was not connected to a power source, so there was no reason it should be lit up.

The old Gamewell system is displayed on the second-floor museum of this active fire station. Some firefighters have suggested that the system lights may be just more evidence of the presence of Laz Schwarz, a former mayor for whom this facility was dedicated when it opened in 1925. The shadowy figure of a man has been seen here for years and is believed to be the shade of the Mayor Schwarz.

Sources

  • Dials, Renee. “South Alabama re station haunted?” WISH TV. 17 August 2010.
  • Hough, Jere. “New re station museum in Mobile is trip back in time.” com. 26 April 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Malaga Inn
359 Church Street

One of Mobile’s finest inns, the Malaga Inn is noted as being haunted, though the specifics are harder to discern. Elizabeth Parker, the author of three books on haunted Mobile, notes in her blog that she spoke with a few guests who had haunting experiences in this inn that occupies a pair of 1862 townhomes. One guest reported smelling a flowery, perfume-like scent in her room while another guest was physically touched by something she could not see. A different guest awoke to find the apparition of a man standing at the end of his bed.

Sources

  • “Ghost-berfest, Day 31: Ghostober Notebook and Happy Hallowe’en.” Mobile Ghosts Blog. 31 October 2010.

Mobile Carnival Museum
355 Government Street

Housed in the historic 1872 Bernstein-Bush House, the Mobile Carnival Museum displays artifacts from the history of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, the oldest in the nation. Prior to the building’s use as the Carnival Museum, this building contained the Museum of Mobile which did not experience much paranormal activity besides having a men’s patent leather shoe mysteriously appear on the staircase of the carriage house. The staff arrived one morning to find this very nice shoe sitting on the stairs. There was no sign of an intruder, and the building had been tightly secured.

Carnival Museum of Mobile Alabama ghost haunted
The Mobile Carnival Museum, 2008 by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An unseen entity, dubbed “Ralph” by the museum’s staff, is known to make adjustments to displays. After the Carnival Museum began to install its exhibits in 2005, one mannequin was repeatedly found to be lying on its side. Lights throughout the building often turn themselves on after they have been turned off for the night. One of the more mysterious incidents involved a Mardi Gras crown that was found to be missing from an exhibit. After a frantic search, the curator found the crown sitting on a chair next to her desk the following Monday morning. None of the staff fessed up to knowing anything about the missing object. No one is sure who Ralph may be, though the building did house a funeral home for some decades.

Sources

  • Parker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Tending the Garden of Virginia Ghosts—Pamela K. Kinney’s 2nd Edition

Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition
Pamela K. Kinney
Schiffer Publishing, 2019

In 2011 when I was still a novice blogger, Pamela Kinney found my blog and asked if I would review her book on Virginia’s Historic Triangle. Now, eight years later, I’m happily reviewing the second edition.

In that first review, I used the analogy of paranormal researchers and writers tending to ghost stories as a gardener tending to a garden. “They tend to stories that have been cultivated by others; they add and correct facts; update reports of paranormal activity; and generally, maintain stories. They also seek out seeds of information and work to grow these into full stories. If a story isn’t tended it may simply pass into the realm of legend.” This analogy applies to this book even more so than the first.

Pamela Kinney has been very busy in the garden of Virginia ghosts. Since my first review, she has penned a second book on the haunts of Richmond, a book on the paranormal side of Petersburg, as well as short pieces in anthologies, a blog, and fiction works. Watching her comings and goings involving writers’ groups, conventions, book signings, investigations, library appearances and other trappings of a successful writer is fascinating. In fact, she’s living the life I hope to someday attain.

During this time, she has investigated some of the places she covered in her first book and she covers those investigations in her new book. This additional evidence adds to the concise entries Kinney has provided. She has also added in several new locations including Williamsburg’s Fort Magruder Hotel and the Busch Gardens theme park, which heighten the haunted nature of the whole area.

Pamela K. Kinney's 2nd Edition Haunted Historic TriangleKinney’s second edition is a nice upgrade from the first edition. The layout has been adjusted which changes the rhythm of the book, visually speaking, from the crowded and chaotic first edition, when compared side by side, to a book that is more relaxed and consistent. The move from matte to glossy pages also improves the visual appeal of the second edition giving the photographs, especially those that may capture paranormal phenomena, are much clearer.

Overall, the book is a tremendous addition to any bookshelf on paranormal Virginia.

Pamela K. Kinney’s Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition is available on Amazon.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter— Bienville Street

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Bienville Street

This street is named for Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Arnaud’s
813 Bienville Street

In a city famed for its landmark restaurants, Arnaud’s is one of the “Grande Dames.” This distinguished handful includes many of the city’s oldest and most famous eateries including Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, Broussard’s, Brennan’s, and Tujague’s, a few of which are known to be haunted. Opened in 1918 by “colorful” French wine dealer Arnaud Cazenave, Arnaud’s has specialized in and refined the art of classic Creole cuisine in its more than hundred years of existence.

Arnaud's Restaurant Bienville Street French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Arnaud’s in 2007, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Cazenave’s ebullient personality—he encouraged everyone to address him with the title “Count”—manifested itself in the restaurant’s atmosphere as well as the food. The haughty strictures of French etiquette were applied to the restaurants numerous dining rooms, the service of the wait staff, and every single place setting. Though he passed in 1948, Count Arnuad is known to continue to adjust place settings if they don’t conform to his standards. Additionally, his dapper spirit, resplendent in an old-fashioned tuxedo, has been spotted by guests and staff alike.

Arnaud's restaurant Bienville Street French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Arnaud’s as seen from Bourbon Street’s Old Absinthe House. The restaurant extands from the middle of the block all the way to the salmon colored building on the corner. Photo 2012, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Upon the Count’s death, operations of the restaurant passed to his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells, a personality in her own right. In 1978, the restaurant passed out of the Cazenave family to the Casbarian family, who continue to run it to the Count’s specifications. In 1983, the Casbarians opened a Mardi Gras Museum on the restaurant’s second floor in memory of Mrs. Wells. It is said that her spirit continues to be seen in that area, sometimes wearing the outsized hats she was known for.

The restaurant’s bar, Le Richelieu, occupies the oldest building on the restaurant’s premises which is said to date to the 19th century. Here patrons and staff have sometimes experienced cold spots and apparitions which may include the inimitable Count Arnaud.

Sources

Sipping with Spirits—Guide to Spirited Southern Bars

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

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Burgundy Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and North Rampart Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Burgundy Street

This street takes its name from Louis, Duke of Burgundy (1682-1712), who was the son of Louis, the Grand Dauphine, and father to King Louis XV of France.

Hotel St. Pierre
911 Burgundy Street

The Hotel St. Pierre, a motley assemblage of buildings, occupies the corner of Burgundy and Dumaine Streets and contains some of the oldest structures in the city. Standing in the carriageway of large building next to the hotel’s lobby, a liveried enslaved man has been spotted. He is believed to be the carriage master who worked here in the mid-19th century. He is seen throughout the day still waiting for a carriage to arrive. During an investigation in 1996, investigators saw this man standing in the carriageway. He was described as a black man “between forty-five and fifty years of age, medium build, wearing a royal-blue colored shirt and pants.”

Hotel St Pierre Burgundy and Dumaine Streets French Quarter New Orleans
The Hotel St. Pierre as seen from across Dumaine Street. The spirit of the carriage master is seen in the large brick building with the red facade on the far right. Photo by Rafal Konieczny, 2004, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Guests staying in one of the hotel buildings just across the street from the lobby have reported encounters with a gray-clad figure, believed to be a Confederate soldier. One guest had an encounter with a spirit that changed channels on the room’s television and later sat on the edge of the bed, chilling the guest’s feet under the covers.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates the Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.

Cosimo’s
1201 Burgundy Street

Several spirits are believed to occupy this cozy neighborhood bar at the corner of Burgundy and Governor Nicholls Streets. Established in 1934, this bar is supposed to be haunted by two entities: a woman who has been seen in the bar wearing a robe and slippers, and a man who is known as “Uncle Joe.” The apparition of the woman may be the spirit of a former resident of the building. Uncle Joe is believed to be the spirit of a former patron who continues to imbibe in the afterlife.

cosimo's bar french quarter new orleans louisiana ghosts haunted
Cosimo’s 2009, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents: Journey Into Darkness…Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Morro Castle
1303 Burgundy Street

For decades, this structure on the corner of Burgundy and Barracks Streets has been the focus of legend and mystery. Even the 1938 WPA guide to the city describes it as a “so-called rendezvous of ghosts.” Jeanne DeLavigne’s monumental 1946 book, Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans, further cultivated the building’s legends. Those legends speak of this building as having been built during the Spanish occupation of the city between 1763 and 1801 and it being used as a garrison for troops. Some stories claim that the building was also used as a prison where many were tortured and kept in abominable conditions.

The truth, however, is far more interesting. Historian Stanley Arthur proved that the structure dates to the 1830s and was used during the city’s occupation by Union forces.

When once again, war arrived at the city’s doorstep in 1862, it came in the form of a blue-clad former resident, Admiral David Farragut, with a fleet of Yankee ships and troops. The city’s defenses were easily overcome, and the Confederate forces fled leaving the humiliated city to the mercy of the Union. General Benjamin Butler took charge of the city imposing martial law with an iron fist.

Morro Castle Old Spanish Garrison french quarter new orleans louisiana ghosts haunted
The Morro Castle, 2011, by Reading Tom. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The city’s military government took over this building for use as a prison and the city’s ardent Confederates found themselves confined here along with local citizens who rebelliously heaped indignations on their Union occupiers. Conditions were notorious and likely led to many of the tales that have circulated regarding this building.

The Morro Castle was divided into apartments many decades ago and has been off-limits to the prying eyes of the public, providing even more fodder for the fanciful fables of ghastly spirits roaming the corridors. Victor C. Klein includes the tale of the Old Spanish Garrison in his 1993 New Orleans Ghosts, basing it on DeLavigne’s version of the story. Six years later, he corrected his original story after talking with a resident of the building. That resident noted that the activity did not live up to the horrifying tales, and only had “the earmarks of a classical ghost story. He [the resident] alleged that cold spots, noises and ghastly odors occurred without all of which were without rational explanation.”

Sources

  • DeLavigne, Jeanne. Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2013. Reprint of original 1946 edition.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts. Metairie, LA: Lycanthropy Press, 1993.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts II. Metairie, LA: Lycanthropy Press, 1999.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—North Rampart Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and Burgundy Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

North Rampart Street

Tile North Rampart Street marker New Orleans
Tile North Rampart Street marker, by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Rampart Street is named for the old city wall, or ramparts, that once stretched along this street from Fort St. Jean at the intersection of North Rampart and Barracks Streets to Fort Bourgogne at the intersection of North Rampart and Iberville Streets. Throughout the early and mid-20th century, Rampart Street was the center of an important African-American commercial and entertainment district. Notably, many of the clubs along this street were influential in the evolution of jazz music.

Sources

  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Rampart Street. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 July 2019.

Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop
826 North Rampart Street

In 2006, tragedy was visited on this typical Creole-style cottage. Death visited the young couple living in the upstairs apartment with the young man strangling his girlfriend and eventually dismembering her body. After he committed suicide some days later by jumping off the top of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel on St. Louis Street, the mutilated remains were found by police in the kitchen of the apartment, some of them cooking on the stove while other parts were stored in the refrigerator. Locals began to refer to the cottage as the “Rampart Street Murder House.”

North Rampart Street Murder House New Orleans
The infamous Rampart Street Murder House (on the right), 2015. Photo by Roman Eugeniusz, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Recently, Bloody Mary; a local Voodoo priestess, psychic, and tour guide; has opened a haunted museum with patrons touring the upstairs apartment. However, this museum has been the focus of criticism from friends and associates of the young couple who accuse Bloody Mary of exploiting the heinous events.

Through the aftermath of the murder-suicide, some have been left wondering if the young man’s actions may have been influenced by supernatural elements around him. Apparently, the building was known to be haunted prior to the tragedy, and part of the downstairs storefront housed, and continues to house, a Voodoo temple. Dana Matthews writes in a Week in Weird article detailing the building that the priestess who operates the temple is well-respected and blameless in what unfolded in the upstairs apartment.

According to Matthews, a “dark, oppressive force…seems to emanate from the very building itself.” In addition, locals have had a sense of being watched and heard disembodied voices both within and without the home. The house was featured on a 2017 episode of Paranormal Lockdown, where investigators Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman experienced uneasy feelings and strange noises while locked into the apartment over the course of 72 hours.

Sources

Olde Victorian Inn
914 North Rampart Street

According to Terry Smith and Mark Jean’s detailed history of this property, this house was constructed in 1852 for wealthy sugarcane plantation owner Lucien Mansion. In 1883, the property was deeded to a woman who was reportedly his mistress. After that time, it may have been operated as a brothel.

The home was purchased in 1940 by Leo Marchand and his wife who occupied the house for many years. Mr. Marchand, or “Uncle Leo” as he was affectionately known, passed away in the dining room in 1977, and Smith and Jean attribute the hauntings to his spirit. Several guests have reported encounters with the spirit of an elderly man. One guest awoke to find a man sitting motionless in his room. When he alerted the innkeeper of the mysterious man’s presence, he pointed to a picture of Uncle Leo saying, “that’s him.”

Rampart Street protest 2017 New Orleans
A protest on North Rampart Street, 2017. The Olde Victorian Inn can be seen on the far left with the rust red wall behind the palm tree. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A maid cleaning another room was startled when the door slammed shut. After the door refused to open, the innkeeper had to summon a contractor to remove the door from its hinges to release the frightened maid. No explanation was ever discovered.

According to Yelp, the inn has since closed.

Sources

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

1870 Banana Courtyard Bed & Breakfast
1422 North Rampart Street

A video on YouTube produced by Haunted History Tours covers their investigation of this bed & breakfast. The video includes interviews with the owners, Mary and Hugh Ramsey, recounting that they have had “numerous comments from guests about ghosts.” Mary continued, “We’ve had too many responsible people who have visited us numerous times say that they felt a presence, so I’ve got to believe now that there’s something going on.”

One of the more interesting reports came from a male guest who was napping in his room while his wife was out. He was awakened by the feeling of a warm breath on the back of his neck and a woman whispering in his ear. When he realized it was not his wife, he jolted awake to find himself alone in his room.

The home was built in the 1870s and during its history reportedly served as an upscale brothel and a funeral home. Perhaps lingering spirits from these uses remain.

Sources

Haunted History Tours. “Haunted News Orleans! Haunted B&B – Banana Courtyard.” YouTube. 8 March 2010.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Basin Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with North Rampart and Burgundy Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition

Basin Street

Basin Street, or Rue Bassin, was named for the canal turning basin that was once located nearby. This portion of the Carondelet Canal provided a large area for ships to turn around and was filled in in the 1920s when its use declined.

Basin Street New Orleans Storyville
Looking “down the line” of bordellos along Basin Street, probably around the turn of the century. This view is from Iberville Street looking towards St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the mid-19th century, Basin Street was one of more prominent residential streets which was overtaken in the 1870s when the many fine homes were converted to use as bordellos, saloons, and music halls. The street formed the edge of the famous Storyville, the city’s most prominent red-light district. Basin Street was immortalized by Spencer Williams in his jazz standard, “Basin Street Blues.” Dr. John’s 1992 cover of the song includes a particularly interesting lyric, “I’m tellin’ ya, Basin Street, that’s the street/Where all the ghouls from Storyville and the St. Louis cemetery meet.”

After Storyville’s demise, the fine homes were demolished and replaced by the Iberville Projects.

Sources

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin Street

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, the first of three such named cemeteries in New Orleans, is the oldest extant cemetery in the city. When it opened in 1789, after the St. Peter Street cemetery was closed due to overcrowding and a year after a disastrous fire swept the city. Initially, the dead were buried underground, though this was found impractical after those graves were swamped because of the high water table. Above-ground vaults were found to be the most practical, and the cemetery grew from the ground up.

Basin Street New Orleans entrance gate to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ghosts haunted
Basin Street entrance gate to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Photo by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

These vaults proved especially useful for holding generations of family members. After a loved one was interred within a vault, the vault would be opened after a period of time and the human remains cast into a crypt at the bottom of the vault while the coffin was usually burned. With this method, many thousands have been buried in this one block cemetery.

Since its opening, the cemetery has come to house a parade of both illustrious and ignoble New Orleanians. Among some of the best names are the great chess player, Paul Morphy, who is associated with the haunted Beauregard-Keyes House; Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the U. S. Capitol Building among many other famous structures; and possibly, Madame Delphine LaLaurie, the infamous mistress of the famous haunted residence on Royal Street.

Perhaps the “Voodoo Queen,” Marie Laveau, is this burial ground’s most famous resident. Believed to have been buried in the tomb of the Glapion family, her grave remains a focal point for paranormal activity, rituals, vandalism, and curious tourists. Tradition holds that Laveau may grant the wish of someone completing a ritual at the tomb. After drawing an X on the tomb, the person is supposed to turn three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and return if the wish is granted. The X is supposed to be circled and the recipient expected to leave an offering. Thanks to this, the tomb is covered with many X’s and has received other vandalism.

tomb of Marie Laveau Basin Street New Orleans St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ghosts haunted
Tomb of Marie Laveau, 2007, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing a woman wearing a “tignon,” or a seven-knotted handkerchief, near this tomb and around the cemetery, who has been identified as Madame Laveau. Tour guide Katherine Smith reports that a guest on one of her tours placed her hand on Laveau’s grave to pray. As she did, she heard a woman’s voice speaking to her. Believing it to be the voice of Laveau, she left an offering and took some photographs. The photographs taken at the tomb were blacked out, despite all the other photographs on that roll of film being fine.

Legends dating to the 1930s speak of cab-drivers avoiding the cemetery for fear of picking up a disappearing hitchhiker who appeared outside the cemetery. It seems that St. Louis No. 1 is home to many restless spirits who are seen walking through the labyrinth of above-ground crypts. One spirit of a man is even said to stop visitors and inquire as to the location of his grave.

Unfortunately, the vandalism of graves and crime in the area has led the Catholic Diocese of New Orleans to make the decision to close the cemetery to individual tourists. Only licensed tour groups can now enter the cemetery.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
  • Christovich, Mary Louise. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. April 1975.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Ghosts of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.” Ghost Eyes Blog. Accessed 11 January 2011.
  • Marie Laveau. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 July 2019.
  • Saint Louis Cemetery. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 July 2019.
  • Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents Journey Into Darkness…Ghosts & Vampires of New Orleans. De Simonin Publishing, 1998.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Publishing, 2001.

Turnpike Terror—West Virginia

West Virginia Turnpike—Interstate 77
Between Princeton and Charleston

N.B. Part of this article was originally published 22 December 2014 as part of my article, “13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.” This article has been revised and expanded.

If there was ever a place for a ghost, it’s that two-lane holocaust.
–Terry Marchal, “Always on Sunday,” Charleston Mail Gazette, 12 September 1971

The West Virginia Turnpike was plagued with problems from the very beginning. In the early 20th century the very mountains that made “The Mountain State” unique also cut off much of the state’s population from the outside world. To rectify this, the state looked into a major north to south thoroughfare between two major cities.

After a route was chosen, construction involved literally moving mountains at tremendous cost. By the time it opened in 1954, the project’s price amounted to $133 million—around $1.5 million per mile—over two years. But, the staggering statistics do not stop there; construction required the movement of 33 million cubic yards of earth, 16 million pounds of dynamite, 60% of excavation through rock, 116 bridges within the road’s 88 miles, and, sadly, five lost were lost during the project.

As it opened, some even deemed the highway “88 miles of miracle,” though that positive image did not last. Criticism followed with the two-lane road being called “the road to nowhere” by The Saturday Evening Post. As it became packed with the increased traffic brought to it by the Interstate Highway System, even more scorn was heaped upon the highway.

West Virginia Turnpike 1974
A two-lane section of the turnpike in 1974. Photo by Jack Corn for the EPA.

With the traffic and congestion also came a sharp increase in deaths on the road. Terry Marchal’s 1971 quip about the turnpike being a “two-lane holocaust” was apt considering the huge death toll. By 1975, the toll stood at 278 fatalities.

During the late 1970s and into the 80s, the road was expanded into a four-lane highway, which has eased some traffic woes, though congestion remained a problem. Another issue that arose—although the state government could not have foreseen such a thing—was ghosts.

congestion on the West Virginia Turnpike
Modern congestion on the turnpike in Raleigh County, 2006. Photo by Seicer, courtesy of Wikipedia.

By 1971, tales had been told for years about ghostly hitchhikers along the road’s route, when an article appearing in the Martinsville Bulletin of Virginia stirred some interesting commentary among West Virginia newspapers.  The article reports that the Associated Press reported that a West Virginia radio station reported (many people are reporting on others’ reporting in what might be a classic example of the telephone game) that witnesses have encountered a ghostly hitchhiker on the turnpike.

Columnist Bob Wills in the Raleigh Register (in Raleigh, West Virginia) pointed out this farcical reporting in his column on September 20, 1971, describing it as “another case of ‘I know a man who etc…’” Wills reprints the original Martinsville Bulletin article to show how ludicrous it is. The original article in the Martinsville Bulletin takes a humorous turn with the author suggesting several “answers to the mystery of the vanishing hitchhiker,” including “Anything can happen in West Virginia…and will on the West Virginia Turnpike.”

Despite the article’s skeptical tone, it seems that the story itself may still bear a kernel of truth, especially when compared to more recent stories from the turnpike. Wills reprinted the entire Martinsville Bulletin article in his column of which this is the most interesting part, my own notes are provided in brackets:

According to the AP, as reported by a West Virginia radio station, 22 motorists on the turnpike between Princeton and Bluefield [this is the southern end of the turnpike] have reported they picked up a hitch-hiking man who later vanished from their cars. [I can find no evidence of the Associated Press coverage of the hitchhiker, though this may simply be due to the fact that many papers from this period are not yet available online.]

You read that correctly. The man just vanished from their vehicles—in some cases while they were traveling at 65 miles an hour.

Some motorists even reported the car seat belt was still hooked together on the front seat after the man disappeared.

According to the radio station, the neatly dressed man got into the cars when motorists stopped, but said nothing.

But in cases he later spoke one sentence—“Jesus is coming.”

And with that he vanished.

Earlier that month, Bob Wills reported on a message the newspaper received on its reader tip line:

This is Charley Jackson, City Councilman at large, Beckley, West Virginia. Something happened to me not too long ago and people have been asking about it since. Also, it was announced on the radio that I was one of the witnesses that could explain it…it happened on the West Virginia turnpike…Well, this is it:

I was going down the Turnpike and I saw a hitchhiker. I picked up this hitchhiker and I had reached the climax of 60 miles an hour when this gentleman said to me, he said, “Jesus is coming soon.” And then he disappeared. Where he went to, how he left, only God knows. But I do know that it is mighty strange. There were no witnesses, no warlocks, no magic; but something is going on. There is a change that should be made in everyone’s life—and that is my story.

Wills says that the reporters who listened to the recording were well familiar with Councilman’s Jackson’s voice and the voice on the recording was not his.

While they also noted that the story was “a thin tale with an evangelistic bent” the story does seem to bear the hallmarks of more recent stories from the turnpike. In the intervening years, several state troopers have reported experiences here including one who discovered a little girl who appeared lost and wandering on the side of the road. After picking up the unusually quiet child and putting her in the backseat of his car. During the drive the trooper glanced in his rear-view mirror and was shocked to discover the child had vanished.

Another trooper encountered a pedestrian along the turnpike and arrested him as pedestrians are forbidden from walking along the road. Placing the handcuffed man in the back seat of his patrol car, the officer headed back to headquarters. At some point during the drive, the trooper looked in the rear-view mirror to find the back seat was empty. The pedestrian simply vanished leaving the handcuffs on the seat.

ghostly hitchhiker haunted West Virginia Turnpike
West Virginia Turnpike as it passes through Fayette County. Photo 2006 by Seicer. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Blogger Theresa Racer writes in her blog of her own experience. She and her mother were traveling along the turnpike when they passed “a scraggly looking young man wearing dark clothing and carrying an olive green army-like sack” standing in a particularly lonely area of the interstate. After passing him, they looked in their rear view mirror to see the figure had vanished. They turned their car around and did not see anyone along that same lonely stretch of interstate.

Folklorist Dennis Deitz posits in his The Greenbrier Ghost and other Strange Stories that the road cuts across two creeks where tragedies have occurred. Along both Paint and Cabin Creeks there were many mines where miners were killed in accidents. He also notes that both creeks have experienced flooding that has killed residents in the area. During the turnpike’s construction in the 1950s there were also a number of old cemeteries that were moved, perhaps these hitchhiking spirits are trying to find their way back to their earthly remains?

For further stories of ghostly hitchhikers in West Virginia, see my article on Fairmont’s Old Grafton Road, and  WV Route 901 in Berkeley County.

Sources

  • Deitz, Dennis. The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories. South Charleston, WV: Mountain Memories Books, 1990.
  • Gavenda, Walter and Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
  • Monday, Christopher R. “The West Virginia Turnpike: “88 Miles of Miracle.” West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. Volume 11, No. 2.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WV Turnpike.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 2 March 2011.
  • “West Virginia Turnpike History.” West Virginia Parkways Authority. Accessed
  • Wills, Bob. “The Turnpike Ghost turns up on tape.” The Raleigh Register. 14 September 1971.
  • Wills, Bob. “Virginian enlarges TP ‘Ghost’ tale.” The Raleigh Register. 20 September 1971.

A host of stories—Georgetown, South Carolina

Heriot-Tarbox House
(formerly Harbor House Bed & Breakfast, private)
15 Cannon Street

N.B. This article was originally published as part of my 2011 article, “Ghosts of Georgetown, SC.”

Atop a bluff overlooking the Sampit River is the Heriot-Tarbox House topped with a distinctive red roof that can been seen from Winyah Bay. Constructed around 1765, the house was the home of Dr. Charles Fyffe, a Scottish-born physician and planter who also constructed the brick warehouse across the street. Just past the house is a small marina that was created by him as well.

Heriot-Tarbox House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
The Heriot-Tarbox House from Cannon Street. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

During the dismal days of the American Revolution, Dr. Fyffe remained loyal to the British crown and oversaw a loyalist hospital for refugees in Charleston. After the British surrender at Yorktown, the doctor faced deportation for his loyalties. In his appeal, he argued that he had treated wounded Patriots as well. He was allowed to stay, though his estate and property was seized. Remaining loyal to the Crown, he made his way to Colonial India where he served as a physician before succumbing to madness. He was committed to a mental asylum in Calcutta (now Kolkata) where he lingered until his death in 1810.

A couple years after Dr. Fyffe’s death in India, his former home and docks became entangled in another legend. In December of 1812, the lovely Theodosia Burr Alston, the wife of the newly sworn governor of South Carolina, Joseph Alston, may have stayed in the home before boarding the schooner, Patriot, headed to New York to visit her father.

Theodosia was the daughter of the disgraced former Vice President Aaron Burr. Serving under President Thomas Jefferson, Burr was suspected of treasonous acts and was arrested in the wilds of the Alabama territory. He was carried to Richmond, Virginia where he was put on trial. Though he was acquitted of the charges, Burr sought refuge in Europe for several years before returning to New York in 1812, just before the outbreak of war between the Americans and the British.

Theodosia Burr Alston painted by John Vanderlyn.
Contemporary portrait of Theodosia Burr Alston painted by John Vanderlyn.

Burr’s daughter, married to wealthy South Carolina planter, Joseph Alston, remained in America during her father’s exile in Europe. Theodosia waited until December, after her husband’s inauguration as governor, to travel to New York to see him. After the birth of her son, Aaron Burr Alston, Theodosia’s health had deteriorated, but that was worsened with his death from malaria in June 1812 at the age of 10. Therefore, travel for Theodosia would be difficult on her health, not to mention the risks of travel. While the two-week carriage ride from South Carolina to New York would be extremely taxing, travel by sea also proved dangerous, especially now that the country was at war with Britain. Indeed, stormy winter seas and the threat of pirates also presented their own dangers.

As Governor Alston could not leave the state during wartime, he engaged a friend, Dr. Timothy Greene, to accompany his ailing wife on her journey. Passage was secured on a schooner, the Patriot, which had been working as a privateer, in other words, the vessel carried guns and was authorized to attack British ships.

Before her departure on New Year’s Eve, 1812, Theodosia, accompanied by her husband, Dr. Greene, and servants, traveled to Georgetown from her husband’s plantation, The Oaks, on the Waccamaw River. Local legend tells that the group was feted at the Mary Man House (528 Front Street) that evening. Where the group stayed the night, however is a matter of speculation, and stories point to them staying at Dr. Fyffe’s former home.

The next morning, she boarded the Patriot at the docks just outside the house for her journey. The ship sailed out of Winyah Bay past the Georgetown Light on North Island into oblivion and legend. Whatever became of the Patriot and Theodosia after leaving Georgetown is unclear. Stories abound as to the fate of the Patriot and its passengers often involving romantic hallmarks like piracy, plank-walking, murder, wreckers on the North Carolina coast, and suicide. According to Richard N. Côté’s Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy, recent research has uncovered facts relating to a severe storm off of the North Carolina coast just days after the departure of the Patriot from Georgetown.

Since her disappearance, tales have swirled about her tragic figure making appearances in spiritual form from the Charleston Battery, up the coast to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. In Georgetown, these tales are rife, with Theodosia supposedly making appearances at the Mary Man House, where she may have been feted the night before her final journey. Legend holds that she also makes appearances in and around the Heriot-Tarbox House as well as being seen near Charles Fyffe’s brick warehouse across the street.

Heriot-Tarbox House 1963 HABS Library of Congress
Heriot-Tarbox House in 1963, taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The house, however, also hosts another legend involving the daughter of a later resident. This young lady, which sources do not identify, like so many other local ladies, fell in love with a sea captain. As fathers of this period were wont to do, he disapproved of the relationship. His daughter did find a way to communicate with her lover by placing a lantern in one of the top floor windows of the house.

Though the couple never married, the woman continued to hang the signal lantern hoping for her lover’s return. By the time the Civil War, the woman lived alone as a spinster surrounded by a pack of loyal dogs. She used the lantern hung in her high dormer to signal to blockade runners after the Union bottled up the bay. Not long after the war, she grew more and more reclusive. One evening after her dogs were heard baying through the night, concerned neighbors broke into the house to find her body surrounded by her beloved dogs. Her wraith is still supposedly seen followed by spectral dogs while the light still appears in the dormer window.

Heriot-Tarbox House 1963 HABS Library of Congress
The river elevation of the house. The ghostly light is supposed to appear in one of the upper dormers. Photo taken 1963, for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

According to author Elizabeth Huntsinger, the high dormer was later used during Prohibition to signal to rum runners at work in the bay. Part of me wonders if perhaps the story of the lantern in the dormer window is an invention of those smugglers. Certainly, it is a reason for locals to not question the odd light. Ghost stories are sometimes used to keep the curious at bay; perhaps this is at work in this house on the bay.

For further ghosts of Georgetown, see my article, “Ghosts of Georgetown, South Carolina.”

Sources

  • Côté, Richard N. Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy. Mount Pleasant, SC: Corinthian Books, 2002.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
  • South Carolina Picture Project. Heriot-Tarbox House—Georgetown, South Carolina. Accessed 10 July 2019.
  • Theodosia Burr Alston. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 8 July 2019.
  • Zepke, Terrance. Ghosts and Legends of the Carolina Coasts. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.