While the initial mission of this blog has so far been to explore haunted locations, I think it’s very important to also cover the sources for much of this information. This morning, I was very excited to discover a package in the mail from Amazon.com. Finally, Barbara Sillery’s The Haunting of Mississippi, published just this month by Pelican Publishing, had arrived!
For those long-term readers of this blog, you will be well familiar with my complaints about the lack of books about Mississippi. So far, I’ve only been able to find two books: Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey, published in 1974, and Sylvia Booth Hubbard’s Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings, published in 1992. So basically, a book has been published every roughly 20 years. While there is other information available in other books and sources, these are the only books devoted completely to the Magnolia State.
I must confess, I’ve only had this book in my hands for a few hours and have only had a chance to read the first two of twenty-four chapters, but what I’ve read is excellent. Skimming the table of contents, I do see many locations that I’m already familiar with and that Windham and Booth have covered, though, judging from the first two chapters, Sillery explores these subjects far more in depth than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Among these familiar hauntings are Vicksburg’s McRaven House and Anchuca; Natchez’s King’s Tavern, Stanton Hall and Linden; and Columbus’ Temple Heights and Waverly. While information on these hauntings is widely available, Sillery provides well-researched history as well as reports of recent unusual phenomenon.
But there are some locations that have not been on my radar such as Tupelo’s Lyric Theatre (which I have since covered here), the ghosts of the city of Greenville and the old state capitol building in Jackson (I’m beginning to think ALL state capitol buildings, old and new, must be haunted). Sillery has done well to add to the list of Mississippi’s hauntings.
Marietta City Cemetery 381 Powder Springs Street Marietta, Georgia
Thanks to a wonderful friend of mine, I now have a marvelous new blog header. The angel tops a monument to Mary Annie Gartrell erected by her sister Lucy. Tradition has it that Lucy visited her sister’s grave twice a week dressed in black mourning clothes. Over time, with Lucy’s biweekly appearances, she became known around town as the “Lady in Black.”
Marietta, located northwest of Atlanta and now a part of a the Atlanta metro area, was chartered in 1834, sometime before the creation of Atlanta. Of course every growing town needs a burying ground and the City Cemetery was established around the time the city was chartered. Over time, it has become the resting place for a cross-section of Marietta’s citizens and during the Civil War, many Confederate soldiers from throughout the South were buried in the adjoining Confederate Cemetery.
Over time, ghosts have been reported in the cemetery. The earliest reports, according to the cemetery brochure published by the Marietta Department of Parks and Recreation, come from a cemetery sexton in 1895 who reported a number of figures in the cemetery. Legend holds that the Gartrell Monument is still visited by a “Lady in Black” over a half-century after the death of Lucy, the original Lady in Black.
Update: 1 November 2017. Since the changeover to a new blog, I have retired my original header, though I’m still using a picture of the Gartrell Monument.
Akamatsu, Rhetta. Haunted Marietta. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Marietta City Cemetery and Confederate Cemetery Brochure. Marietta, GA: Marietta Department of Parks and Recreation. No Date.
Scott, Thomas A. “Marietta.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 30 September 2003.
Though I haven’t really touched on it much yet, the geographical region for this blog includes the District of Columbia. When it was established in 1790, the district was not based in a specific state and instead is under the direct supervision of the Federal Government. With the drama that has and continues to occur in this monumental city, it’s no surprise that there are spiritual remnants. The spirits of past presidents, politicians and their families, civil servants and common people are found throughout the city, from the White House to the Capitol and beyond.
Among the more interesting legends of this most legendary city is that of Statuary Hall in the Capitol. The magnificent domed chamber originally served as the chamber for the House of Representatives in the first half of the nineteenth century. When the House of Representatives moved into a new chamber, legislation was put forth to use the room to celebrate prominent Americans with each state adding statues of two of its most prominent citizens. The collection of statues has grown to the point where only 38 are actually located in the hall with the remainder of the collection scattered throughout the Capitol. The legend associated with this room is that on the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, the statues all climb down from their pedestals and dance to celebrate another year of the Republic’s survival. According to Dennis William Hauck, the guard who swore he saw this happen was dismissed.
Congressional Cemetery 1801 E Street, SE
Established as a private burying ground in 1807, the Congressional Cemetery was not designated as such until 10 year later. It has served as a cemetery for the burial of statesmen and other notables but also as a place to memorialize, with cenotaphs, those buried elsewhere. Two of the more famous burials have sparked legends: John Philip Sousa and Mathew Brady. Sousa, the bandleader and composer known for such patriotic standards as The Washington Post and Stars and Stripes Forever, also invented the sousaphone, a type of marching tuba. Legend has it that the bass tones of a sousaphone are sometimes heard around Sousa’s grave. As for famed Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady, his spirit has been reported wandering among the graves of some of the same government officials who denied Brady compensation for his photographs leaving him destitute.
Decatur House 1610 H Street, NW
Overlooking Lafayette Park and situated just down the street from the White House stands the Decatur House which has recently been opened as the National Center for White House History by a joint effort of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Historical Association. Built in 1818 by Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero of the War of 1812, the house was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, America’s first professional architect. Decatur lived in the house only a little more than a year before he was killed in a duel with Commodore James Barron. Decatur’s spirit has been seen standing at a window perhaps contemplating the duel that would end his life while his wife’s piteous spirit has been heard and felt throughout the house.
Halcyon House 3400 Prospect Street
Hey, wanna buy a haunted house? The recent real estate bubble has even affected ghosts. Originally listed for sale for $30 million, Halcyon House was relisted earlier this year for $19.5 million and is currently listed for $15 million, half of the original listing price. Built in 1787 by Benjamin Stoddert, Secretary of the Navy, this house was later owned by Albert Adsit Clemons, a nephew of Mark Twain who altered the house considerably. According to Dennis Hauck there has been considerable spiritual activity in the house ranging from full apparitions to rapping, footsteps and even people being levitated.
Independence Avenue In the vicinity of FAA Headquarters
Much of early Washington was built on the backs of African-American slaves. Two of the most notorious slave markets, the Williams Slave Pen and the Robey Slave Pen were ironically located along Independence Avenue near what is now the headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration. Witnesses in the area report the clanking of chains and screams in this area.
Indonesian Embassy (Walsh-McLean Mansion) 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Formerly the Walsh-McLean House, the Indonesian Embassy is an architectural masterpiece that is associated with a famous Washington cursed resident: the Hope Diamond. The diamond, a 45.52 carat blue diamond now housed in the Smithsonian Institute, has an infamous, if partially fictitious, history. Legend has it that the diamond has cursed all hands it has passed through including those of Evalyn Walsh McLean, whose husband Edward presented her with the diamond. Labeled by the press as a “talisman of evil,” the diamond was blamed for a series of misfortunes which befell the family including the death of the McLean’s son in an automobile accident, her husband having an affair, their daughter from an overdose of sleeping pills and Evalyn’s demise from disease in 1947. It is Evalyn’s spirit that is supposedly seen descending the grand staircase of the house.
National Building Museum (Old Pension Building) 440 G Street, NW
Some of the first paranormal phenomena witnessed in the 1885 Old Pension Building were odd faces appearing on the simulated onyx Corinthian columns in the main court of the building. In 1917, on the eve of the death of “Buffalo” Bill Cody, a guard saw the veins in the onyx take on the shape of a Native American head and a buffalo. Other faces seen on the columns include George and Martha Washington and eventually got so bad the columns were painted over. Following the painting, the spirits took to the halls in the form of shadowy figures.
Octagon House 1799 New York Avenue
Described by the National Park Service as “a zenith in Federal architecture in the United States, through its brilliant plan which combines a circle, two rectangles, and a triangle, and through the elegance and restraint of the interior and exterior decoration,” construction on The Octagon began in 1798 and was completed two years later. The house was home to Colonel John Tayloe, one of the wealthiest planters in Virginia and his spirit as well as the spirits of two of his daughters have been seen in the house. One daughter died after plunging over the stair’s railing. Among other spirits reported is that of Dolley Madison who spent time in house when it served temporarily as Executive Mansion after the White House was burned by the British.
Woodrow Wilson House 2340 S Street, NW
The shade of our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson apparently appears in two places: Blair House and his home in the northwestern part of the city. Also facing Lafayette Square near the Decatur, Cutts-Madison and White Houses, all of which are haunted, the Blair House is now the official state guest house. According to Michael Varhola, Wilson’s spirit has been seen rocking in a rocking chair in one of the bedrooms. His spirit is also seen in the home he occupied following his presidency and where he subsequently died in 1924. Wilson’s “slow shuffle” aided by a cane, which he used following a stroke in 1919, has been heard frequently in this house.
Blair House. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 December 2010.
Old Phenix Regional Hospital 18th Street Phenix City, Alabama
A front page article in this past Tuesday’s Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer featured this possibly haunted location and presented a number of interesting issues regarding ghosthunting. The article, entitled, “Haunted Hospital?” covers a recent incident where a couple entered the abandoned hospital. After neighbors summoned the police, the couple, who claimed to be conducting a séance, was asked to leave.
By default, it seems most hospitals have some spiritual activity; not only residual activity, but intelligent spirits that have not been able to leave the confines of the place where they died. Throughout the nation and, of course the South, there are numerous hospitals that are known for their spiritual activity. Among them are locations like Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky, an abandoned tuberculosis hospital; the Old South Pittsburg Hospital in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, an abandoned regional hospital that closed fairly recently but is now open for paranormal investigations; and Milledgeville, Georgia’s Central State Hospital, once one of the largest mental institutions in the nation, it is now confined to a handful of buildings sitting on a mostly abandoned campus. Even hospitals still in operation may be counted among those that are haunted including Anniston, Alabama’s Stringfellow Memorial Hospital.
Phenix City, located just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Georgia, is the product of the merger of two smaller towns, Girard and Brownsville, which consolidated in 1923. The city acquired a reputation as “Sin City, USA” in the first half of the twentieth century. Organized crime, prostitution and gambling were rampant in the city until a group of citizens banded together to reclaim the city. After the less moral elements of the city were done away with, the city has remained mostly a sleepy bedroom community for Columbus.
The large Phenix Regional Hospital facility opened in 1947 and was heavily in debt when Columbus Regional Health Systems purchased the hospital from the city in 1993. Columbus Regional intended on replacing the facility with a new hospital, but the plans fell through. When the hospital was closed in 2002, the land that had been purchased for the new hospital was used for a rehabilitation hospital instead with Phenix City residents having to seek medical attention in Columbus instead. The old hospital facility was boarded up and put up for sale. According to the article, neighbors have witnessed the homeless and vandals entering the deteriorating building.
Nationwide, ghosthunting is still considered by the general public to be the realm of thrill-seeking teenagers looking to scare themselves silly in dark, abandoned places. Certainly the couple conducting a séance in Phenix Regional doesn’t aid that reputation. With the rise in interest in the paranormal in recent years, many groups have been formed that are respectably investigating locations after procuring the proper permission to investigate. The investigations attempt to document hauntings using practices accepted by the paranormal community; a far cry from silly teenagers and off the cuff séances.
The article doesn’t cite any particular paranormal activity at the hospital. In fact, it is written from a rather close-minded point of view; discounting the mere existence of anything beyond this realm of possibility. I hope in the near future, the editors would take a more open-minded view of the supernatural.
Barnes, Kirsten J. “Haunted Hospital?” Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 7 December 2010.
Lange, Jennifer. “Hospital was victim of economics.” Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 9 April 2002.
Phenix City – Russell County Chamber of Commerce. History Highlights Phenix City, Alabama. Accessed 10 December 2010.
We fired our guns and the British kept a’comin.
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin’ on
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. — from “The Battle of New Orleans” by Jimmie Driftwood, recorded by Johnny Horton in 1959.
Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve 8606 West St. Bernard Highway Chalmette, Louisiana
Situated a few miles southeast of the city of New Orleans, the Chalmette Battlefield is the site of America’s greatest victory in the War of 1812. The British first threatened the city with the arrival of a flotilla just off of Lake Pontchartrain. The Americans attempted to block the British from landing but were defeated in the brief Battle of Lake Borgne on December 18, 1814. An attack by the Americans on the British position, once they landed on the 23rd, was successful only in keeping the British on their toes, though their maintained their position. General Andrew Jackson’s American troops dug in and created earthworks on Chalmette Plantation right along the Rodriguez Canal and bounded on both sides by cypress swamps and the Mississippi River that became known as “Line Jackson.”
At the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans (see my entry on the convent here), prayers were raised by the sisters to the Virgin Mary to ensure an American victory and protect the city. The sisters had prayed a few years earlier in 1812 when fire ravaged the city. Miraculously, the flames were swept away from the convent by a sudden change in direction. The sisters’ prayers were answered on the morning of January 8th when the British launched their main attack in darkness and heavy fog. Perhaps as an answer to the sisters’ prayers, the fog lifted to reveal the troops marching towards the American’s fortifications. Exposed to brutal artillery fire, the British lost many of their senior officers quite early on leaving the soldiers in the field without direction. Despite being outmanned by British forces, the Americans held their ground and incurred few losses. The British, on the other hand, lost 291 soldiers including two generals with over 1,200 wounded and nearly 500 captured or missing.
This decisive American victory served as the final engagement of the War of 1812, despite its occurrence after the end of the war. The war officially ended in Belgium with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve, 1814, some two weeks previous to the battle. Following the tumult of battle, the site returned to its agrarian origins and the Beauregard House was built on part of the battlefield around 1830. The entrenchments, especially those in the area around the National Cemetery, were reused by Confederate and later, Union, forces during the Civil War. Towards the end of the war, a national cemetery was established for the burial of Union troops who had died in the area. The cemetery has seen over 15,000 burials and is now closed. Attempts to memorialize the site date to 1855 when construction began on a marble tower on the battlefield which was completed in 1908.
The Battlefield and National Cemetery now comprise a unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, which preserves a series of cultural and natural resources that represent the rich history and ecology of the region. The park is named for the nineteenth century pirate, Jean Lafitte, who worked in some of the areas preserved in the park and who also came to the aid of the American’s before and during the battle. The spirit of Lafitte is one of the spirits that is said to haunt Destrehan Plantation which I wrote about in the entry on the River Road plantations of Louisiana.
Battlefields appear frequently in paranormal literature. Seemingly, the more important the battle, the more haunted the battlefield and the Chalmette Battlefield is no exception. Though finding good information on the haunting of this battlefield is not as easy. There are two primary sources for information on the ghosts of the battlefield: Jeff Dwyer’s excellent Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans and a blog from the Southern Area Paranormal Society. Outside of these sources, there is information on the haunted, but its validity is questionable.
Jeff Dwyer’s book provides good information on the battle, but he doesn’t say too much about what supernatural elements have been experienced there. He states that cold spots have been felt and that sensitive people have felt a “pulling sensation as if gravity has increased many times.” My skeptical side is apt to not usually believe “feelings” that people may get in a location, especially if that’s the only indication of paranormal activity.
The other main source for what is taking place in the battlefield involves a good deal more information. The Southern Area Paranormal Society discusses the battlefield and two nearby forts in their blog. Activity they mention on the battlefield include apparitions and voices. They also mention that activity has been reported in the Beauregard House including the sound of footsteps and possible shadow people.
Rawls Hotel 116 South Main Street Enterprise, Alabama
It seems that ghosts can be good for business; they are a paranormal economic stimulus if you will. With the rise of interest in the paranormal in recent years, businesses are playing up their more supernatural elements in order to attract business. This is certainly evident at the Rawls Hotel in Enterprise, Alabama. A quick visit to the hotel’s website produces a link dedicated to the hotel’s ghosts.
Two recent articles, in the Dothan Eagle and TheSoutheast Sun, an online newspaper out of Enterprise, have featured investigations of this hotel by the Southern Paranormal Researchers, a Montgomery, Alabama based paranormal group. According to another article from 2002 posted on the hotel’s website, reports of activity at the Rawls began just after World War I (about 1919) and have continued ever since. This activity includes everything from apparitions to the sounds of children’s laughter heard in some of the hallways to objects being moved and lights coming on by themselves. During the hotel’s renovation in the late 1970s, one very interesting event occurred: Hayden Pursley who was working to restore the hotel was hanging window treatments in the ballroom. Pursley returned the next day to find that the window treatments had been taken down. He put them back up to find them down again the next day. When he attempted to put them up a third time, he was hit by a board that flew across the room.
The Rawls Hotel was opened initially as the McGee Hotel in 1903 by Japheth and Elizabeth Rawls. It was a small structure built to serve the needs of railroad passengers. After the death of Mr. Rawls, the hotel passed to his nephew who undertook an expansion of the hotel: adding a third floor and wings onto the original building and creating a grand atmosphere. The hotel remained at the heart of Enterprise society functions until it closed in the early 1970s. Towards the end of that decade the hotel was purchased by Mr. Pursley who restored and renovated the hotel, returning it to its former glory.
Southern Paranormal Researchers (SPR) have previously investigated the Rawls Hotel and according to their investigation report, gathered a good deal of evidence. Among the events that were witnessed, were lights coming on by themselves, the sound of a child screaming and an investigator having her hair played with. The investigators also used dowsing rods to explore the hotel. Dowsing is an ancient technique that uses either a Y-shaped rod or two L-shaped rods that has been used to find water sources and spirits. Often when using the two L-shaped rods, investigators will loosely hold the rods by the short end of the “L” and ask the spirits to communicate by crossing the rods. During an investigation of the Rawls by SPR, the investigators believed they contacted the spirit of Hayden Pursley who passed in 2004.
SPR has created an internet radio show, “Down at the Crossroads,” that they host live on Thursday nights at 8 PM CST on their website. I will be a guest this upcoming Thursday, the 18th discussing this blog. Please listen in if you have a chance.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building 200 South Kanawha Street Beckley, West Virginia
So far, West Virginia has been this blog’s Achilles heel. While Mississippi has not been well documented in terms of its ghosts, it seems that West Virginia is in the same quandary. So far, I’ve found 2 books about the ghosts of Mississippi and 4 on the ghosts of West Virginia. Therefore, whenever I find anything on either state I get excited.
Halloween is a wonderful time to pull newspaper articles on ghosts and I was excited to find a great article on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building in Beckley, West Virginia. The article, “Stories of Beckley’s ghosts to be told Friday” from The Register-Herald, is regarding a fundraiser presentation for Theatre West Virginia which has just recently moved into the building. The presentation, called “Beckley’s Ghosts, Legends & Lore,” included storytellers describing experiences with the paranormal, including their own, in Beckley. The article then turns to the stories about the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building.
The article quotes Scott Worley, Raleigh County Historic Landmarks commissioner and historian, as stating that many people have had strange experiences in the building. He includes a story about a phantom saxophone solo that was heard during a show in the theatre. Of course, no one with a saxophone was in the building at the time.
A quick search online produced an investigation report from Eastern States Paranormal, a ghost hunting organization out of Virginia. The investigation, evidently conducted this year but otherwise no date is provided, produced some very interesting results. While the first few hours of the investigation was fairly quiet, the final few hours were particularly active starting during the group’s break with a noise like “a herd of elephants r[unning] across the stage.” For the next few hours the group was bombarded with many noises including “footsteps and doors closing…along with knocks, bangs and every other thing you could expect at a ghost hunt.”
According to the background information provided in the investigation report, the theatre opened in 1931 as a memorial to the veterans of World War I. During the opening ceremony, a set of makeshift bleachers collapsed injuring some including a tuba player who survived despite a broken neck. “Bob,” the tuba player, at some point later took up residence in an apartment in the basement of the building and it is there that his apparition has been seen. James Foster Robinson’s 2008 book, A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia, provides a brief mention of this building and simply identifies the ghost as a “gentleman ghost cloaked in gray” though he also mentions that music and children’s laughter are also heard in the building.
The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building is owned by the Raleigh County Commission which has just recently handed over use of the building to Theatre West Virginia, a noted theatre company in the area. At the moment, the company is renovating the building for future use.
UPDATE 14 July 2011
In an earlier article, I covered this location in Beckley and recently, a little bit more information has been released about it. Briefly, the building is a theatre opened in 1931 as a memorial to veterans of World War I. During the opening ceremonies for the building, hastily erected bleachers collapsed with a few injuries but no deaths. Legend holds that one of those injured was a band member named Bob. For the remainder of his life, Bob suffered neck problems and was offered a small apartment in the basement of the building. After his death, his spirit has reportedly been encountered.
As I pointed out in the original article, the structure was investigated by Eastern States Paranormal who encountered a great deal of evidence. Patricia Marin, a writer on the paranormal for Examiner.com recently wrote an article about some of the evidence from that investigation that has recently been publicized by the group. The investigation began slowly, but when the group took a break they heard a sound similar to “a herd of elephants running across the stage.” After that, activity filled the space. Sounds included someone, possibly Bob, walking across the stage, response knocking and a sound akin to tap dancing. Some of this evidence has been posted to the website of Eastern States Paranormal, here.
Theresa Racer’s marvelous blog, Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, includes an entry on this location and provides a few more details on the history and the haunting of this structure. According to her, the building has served a variety of uses including a temporary courthouse, county library, YMCA and community center. After my last entry on the building, a good friend of mine who is from Beckley revealed that he had taught art classes in the building.
Racer includes the rumor that the building may be built near a Civil War era graveyard which was used by a local hospital during the war. She notes that two locations nearby, the old Beckley Junior High School (occupied by Mountain State University) and a radio station, may all be haunted by Civil War era spirits associated with the cemetery.
According to Marin’s Examiner article, the building will be taken over by Theatre West Virginia next month.
Eastern States Paranormal. Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial Theater. Accessed 8 November 2010.
Kuykendall, Taylor. “Stories of Beckley’s ghosts to be told Friday.” The Register-Herald. 28 October 2010.
Lannom, Andrea. “County hands TWV control of Soldiers and Sailors Building. The Register-Herald. 25 June 2010.
Williamsburg, Virginia is one of three locations, the others being Jamestown and Yorktown, that form the Historic Triangle of Virginia. These three locations tell the story of the nation’s colonial development from its first settlement to the defeat of the British at Yorktown, ending the American Revolution. Williamsburg was founded as Middle Plantation, a fortified plantation in 1632. When the capital of the Virginia Colony was moved there in 1698, it was renamed Williamsburg. The city was at the heart of much of the anti-British movement in the South that led to the American Revolution.
With the loss of status as a capital in 1780, Williamsburg reverted to being a small provincial town. The town remained a sleepy, provincial town until the dream of Episcopal priest, the Rev. W. A. R. Goodwin began to take shape and return the town to its colonial appearance. With such a concentration of historic structures, these were preserved and more modern structures removed and replaced with recreations of the original structures. This recreation of colonial Williamsburg, now under the control of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is now one of the premier tourist attractions in Virginia.
Of course, with such a concentration of historic structures, Williamsburg has a good deal of paranormal activity. Some of the hauntings in Williamsburg are well documented such as the Peyton Randolph and Wythe Houses, but others aren’t. It is my belief that these hauntings are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be certainly working on trying to find more about the hauntings of Williamsburg.
Brafferton Building College of William & Mary Campus
Built in 1723 with funds provided by English scientist Robert Boyle with the intent to spread the Gospel to the Indians, the Brafferton Building saw many young Native American men pass through its halls and sleep in its rooms. Now serving as the college president’s and administrative offices, the building may still have the spirits of these young Native Americans still roaming it. When the building served as a dormitory for both students and faculty, reports came out of the building of footsteps late at night accompanied by the sound of sobbing and even the sound of Indian drums. Over the centuries the school has been in operation, students have seen the site of a young Native American running bare-chested and barefooted near this building. This building sits near the Wren Building featured later in this entry and across from the President’s House which is haunted by the spirit of a French soldier.
Chiswell-Bucktrout House East Francis Street
Built around 1764 (deed books and other records for Williamsburg were destroyed during the Civil War so houses usually cannot be dated exactly), this house was occupied by Colonel John Chiswell when he was accused of murder in 1766. While free on bail awaiting trial, Colonel Chiswell died mysteriously in the house. Now used as lodging, stories have surfaced from this house of people being awakened by spirits touching and talking to them.
Gaol 310 South England Street
According to Dennis William Hauck’s Haunted Places: The Nation Directory, the old Williamsburg Gaol is haunted by the ghosts of two women who are heard in animated conversation on the second floor of the jailer’s quarters.
Ludwell-Paradise House Duke of Gloucester Street
Built around 1755 possibly on the site of a much earlier house, the Ludwell-Paradise House was also the first house purchased for restoration by Dr. Goodwin and his partner in the venture, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. In 1805, the house was occupied by Lucy Paradise nee Ludwell. Stories of the former London socialite’s odd quirks quickly spread through town. Among them, Lucy’s penchant for bathing several times a day and her habit of borrowing new hats from other ladies in town to compliment her own dresses. She was also known for conducting carriage tours from a carriage on her back porch that was rolled back and forth by a servant. In 1812, she was committed to the state’s mental asylum, the nearby (and still extant) Public Hospital, where she died two years later. When the house was occupied by one of the vice presidents of the Colonial Williamsburg foundation, they reported hearing the sound of someone running bathwater and bathing on the second floor. Evidently, Lucy continues her eccentric rituals.
Nicholson House York Street
Some believe the spirit found in the Nicholson house is that of an itinerant musician, Cuthbert Ogle who is known to have died in the house shortly after arriving in town. Among the scant evidence of Ogle’s existence is an advertisement in the local paper announcing his arrival in 1755 and that he would be teaching “Ladies and Gentlemen to play on the Organ, Harpsichord or Spinet.” A little less than a month later, records indicate that Ogle was dead leaving a little money and a few things. Residents of the house have spoken of feeling a male presence in the house, being tapped on the shoulder by an unseen force and a mysterious scratching coming from the walls of the house.
Old Capitol Duke of Gloucester Street
At the foot of Duke of Gloucester street stands the stately Old Capitol building. The third capitol to stand on this spot, this structure witnessed the some of the first contractions in the birth of the nation. According to Michael Varhola, there are many ghost stories associated with this building, but the main one that he describes is the legend that at the stroke of midnight on July Fourth, the spirits of Patrick Henry and other Revolutionary leaders assemble once again. A fanciful legend at most.
Orrell House East Francis Street
Sheila Turnage documents an odd experience a family had while staying in the Orrell House. While the entire family was watching TV one evening in the living room of this house, they heard the sound of water running in the bathroom. The father went into the bathroom and turned it off. Upon returning to the living room the sound of water was heard once again. Returning to the bathroom, the water was found to be running again. Again, the father turned it off and returned to the living room. Once again the water turned on and the father turned it off. After hearing glass breaking in the bathroom, the father returned to find that a glass had been removed from the medicine cabinet, removed from its plastic wrapping and then thrown to the floor. Turnage also notes that activity had not been previously reported in the house.
Peyton Randolph House Corner of North England and Nicholson Streets
The Peyton Randolph House is one of the best-documented houses in Williamsburg in terms of its spiritual activity and may also be one of the most active locations in the area. Built around 1715 by Sir John Randolph, a member of the House of Burgesses, the house was passed to his son, Peyton who would serve as speaker of the House of Burgesses and later, first president of the Continental Congress. Since his ownership the house passed through many hands and was the scene of many deaths, perhaps some that have left a spiritual imprint on the house. Former residents, as well as guides and docents, have reported numerous odd sounds as well as apparitions including a man in colonial dress.
Public Records Office Duke of Gloucester Street
When the Capitol burned in 1747, many of the colony’s records were destroyed. Legislation was later passed to construct the Public Records Office or Secretary’s Office to house and protect records. Construction began in 1748 and the building was used for records until they were moved to the new capital, Richmond, in 1780. Since that time, the building has served a variety of purposes including as a residence. Legend tells us of a family occupying the building in the early twentieth century who myopic daughter was killed when she stepped in front of a carriage. Since that time, her spirit has been seen lingering around the building she once called home.
Raleigh Tavern Duke of Gloucester Street
In order to recreate Williamsburg as it appeared before the American Revolution, much of the city had to be completely rebuilt as was the case with the Raleigh Tavern. Opened in 1717, this respected tavern served as a meeting place for many involved in the creation of the nation as well as the first meeting site for the fraternity Phi Beta Kappa. In 1859, the old tavern burned and was not rebuilt. When Colonial Williamsburg purchased the site it was occupied by two brick stores which were razed and after finding the remains of the tavern’s original foundation, the tavern arose once again in its original footprint. The building reopened in 1932 and apparently many of the tavern’s spectral residents resumed their parties. Reports of these spectral parties surfaced first in 1856 and have continued since.
Wren Building College of William & Mary Campus
Known as the oldest functioning academic building in the nation, this structure is at the heart of one of the most venerable institutions of higher learning in the nation. As noted earlier, this building has two other haunted structures nearby: the Brafferton Building and the President’s House. Possibly designed by English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, construction on this edifice began in 1695. As one would expect of a building so old, there is evidently some spiritual activity including odd sounds that resonate throughout the structure. Daniel Barefoot in his Haunted Halls of Ivy, describes a professor whose lectures was interrupted by odd noises from the floors above. When the professor and his class investigated, no sources was discovered.
Wythe House Palace Green
In Williamsburg, it seems that the more important the history of a location, as that of the Payton Randolph House, the more likely it is to be haunted. Such is the case with the George Wyeth (rhymes with “with”) House. The home of George Wyeth, patriot leader, Continental Congress leader and one of the Virginia signers of the Declaration of Independence, this large, Georgian house has seen much historical activity in its eight rooms. There are numerous reports of spectral activity as well including people being tapped on the shoulder by an unseen person, apparitions seen throughout the house and even a docent feeling hands trying to push her down the stairs.
Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
The Google News Search feature is quite useful for web-based ghost hunting, especially around Halloween. Newspapers throughout the world are printing articles about local ghosts and ghost tours. I stumbled on an article about a ghost tour being held in Columbus, Mississippi and it put me on the path to a handful of articles. I’ve been able to connect those with a few entries in some books, and voila; I have the basis for a blog entry.
As I stated in one of the first entries, it appears to me that Mississippi has not been as well documented as other Southern states. I still believe this. Where my research might turn up mounds of information, I can usually only find a trickle for the Magnolia State. That’s why I’ve been surprised to find so much information on Columbus. Certainly, this city could be called the best documented city in Mississippi, at least in terms of its ghosts. Of course, it does help that three of the state’s better known hauntings: Waverly, Errolton and Temple Heights; are located in the city.
“Sprawling leisurely along the banks of the Tombigbee and Luxapalila Rivers, is a city in which there is room to breathe.” That’s how the opening line of the city’s entry in the 1938 WPA Guide to Mississippi begins. It continues and describes the “gracious lines of Georgian porticos forming a belt of mellowed beauty about a modern business district.” Certainly, Columbus is a city known for its concentration of old homes, many of them antebellum. The city was later the birthplace of famed American playwright, Tennessee Williams, who would preserve and analyze the South in his plays; among them, A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Columbus was originally named “Possum Town,” for Spirus Roach who was “gray and bent and wizened” and reminded the local Native Americans of a possum. Roach set up a tavern there in 1817. However, with the arrival of other white men who “expressed their distaste for Indian humor,” the town was given the more respectable name of Columbus in 1821. The city grew as a center for the many planters in the area as well as a center for education with the establishment of Franklin Academy and later, the Columbus Female Institute (now Mississippi University for Women). During the Civil War, the city hosted the state government while Jackson was in Union hands. A story told of the 1863 visit of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, describes the townspeople gathering under Davis’ bedroom window and serenading him. After being awakened by the joyous throng, Davis addressed the crowd, still in his nightshirt, from his balcony. History aside, though, we came about the ghosts…
The following list has been created not just from articles on the ghost tour, but other resources as well.
Friendship Cemetery Fourth Street South
Created on land by the Order of the Odd Fellows in 1849, Friendship Cemetery includes local citizens and soldiers who fell at the Civil War Battle of Shiloh in 1862. It is a Confederate soldier that is said to still walk through the military section of the cemetery. Visitors to the cemetery are also attracted to the weeping angel that stands over the grave of the Reverend Thomas Teasdale. People grasping the angel’s hand have remarked that it feels lifelike. While the angel’s hand might be explainable phenomena, the soldier’s apparition may not be as easily explained away. I would be interested to find out if the cemetery has been investigated by a ghost hunting organization.
Lincoln Home 714 Third Avenue South
Built in 1833, the Lincoln Home was home to one of the first mayors of the city. Now a bed and breakfast, the home has been marvelously restored and may still be visited by former residents. A woman in white has been reported by neighbors and guests while a dark, black and grey cloud has been witnessed by the owners drifting though the parlor.
Waverly 1852 Waverly Mansion Road
Located between Columbus and West Point in Clay County, Waverly was named a National Historic Landmark in 1974. This graceful house features an octagonal rotunda that rises above the roof of the house. When Robert and Donna Snow discovered the house in the early 1960s, it was an immense, magnificent mess, uninhabited for nearly 50 years that had been left to its ghosts. Though ghosts were not at all on their mind when they began restoration, the spirits of Waverly announced their presence with a loud crash that awoke the family. Locals began to tell stories of hearing the sound of parties coming from the ruined manse as well as the spirit of an Indian riding a stallion through the nearby fields. But no one prepared Mrs. Snow for the plaintive cries of a little girl that she began hearing. Occasionally, between two and four in the afternoon, the impression of a little girl would appear on the bed of one of the upstairs bedrooms.
The voice of the little girl was heard for about five years and then no more, but her spirit is still seen around the house. According to Alan Brown’s Haunted Places in the American South, the identity of this little girl was a mystery until 1997 when records revealed that two little girls staying in the house during the Civil War died during a single, tragic week. One girl died of diphtheria, the other, while playing on the stairs, got her head stuck between two of the spindles. During the struggle to free herself, she died as well.
Since her death in 1991, the ghost of Mrs. Snow has been reported sitting on the third floor stairs smoking. Apparently, the ghosts of Waverly are still quite active. The North Mississippi After Life (NMAL), a paranormal investigation group, performed an investigation at the house, though only a small amount of evidence was uncovered.
Princess Theatre 217 Fifth Street South
The 1924 Princess Theater was constructed originally as a vaudeville theater, then converted to cinema as the popularity of vaudeville waned. According to Adelle Elliott, with the Columbus Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the ghost of the theater’s original owner, Mr. Kirkendall, has been seen throughout the theater. A paranormal team photographed a figure standing in the balcony, possibly one of many ghosts within the theater. The theater is still utilized as a performance space.
Errolton 216 Third Avenue South
For more than half a century, the familiar figure of Miss Nellie Weaver rocked on the porch of her father’s home telling stories of Columbus’ past that she had witnessed herself. Until her death in the 1930s, the story of Miss Nellie, as she was affectionately called, was well known in town. Born and raised in the magnificent house on Third Avenue, she had had numerous suitors, but Charles Tucker caught her eye and they were married 1878. In her nuptial mirth, Miss Nellie carved her name with her diamond engagement ring on one of the windows in the south parlor. Charles Tucker left his wife and young daughter, Ellen, a few years later.
Miss Nellie and her daughter remained in the home and she supported herself by teaching, though the house slowly decayed. In 1950, the house was purchased by Mrs. Erroldine Hay Bateman who set about restoring the home. It was during this restoration that a careless worker broke the pane of glass bearing Miss Nellie’s signature. The glass was replaced and after the restoration, the residents were surprised to notice the atching had reappeared. Besides this reappearing signature, no other spiritual activity has been reported in this regal, “Columbus eclectic” styled home.
Temple Heights 515 Ninth Street North
Built in the style of a Doric Temple with an odd (at least to me) roof rising above it, Temple Heights is one of the more well known restoration jobs in the city. Dennis William Hauck states that the ghost in this circa 1837 home is that of Miss Elizabeth Kennebrew, whose father purchased the house in 1887. Miss Kennebrew died a spinster and was known for her eccentric behavior. Her ghost has been spotted throughout the house and she may also be responsible for the voices heard throughout. The house is open for visitors and events.
Wisteria Place 524 Eight Street North
Upon the death of William Cannon, who built Wisteria Place around 1854, Jefferson Davis remarked, “I have lost my best friend.” While Cannon did die in this house, the identity of the home’s resident spirit is unknown. According to the Beth Scott and Michael Norman’s Haunted America, a figure in a white shirt has been seen scurrying past the kitchen window towards the door. This house is a private residence.
Highland House 810 Highland Circle
According to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Historic Driving Tour pamphlet, this house was built by W. S. Lindamood in the “Robber Baron style” around 1902. This was in love with Lindamood. Garthia Elena Burnett, author of one of the articles highlighting the city’s ghost tour states that some interesting EVPs have been captured in this historic residence.
Lee House 316 Seventh Street North
Once the home of General Stephen D. Lee, the youngest Confederate lieutenant general during the Civil War, this house was built circa 1847. Lee was later involved with the creation of Vicksburg Military Park. His ghost has been seen sitting in the parlor of his former home, while the shade of his wife has been seen during the annual pilgrimage tours. Her form was so solid, she was mistaken for a costumed guide.
N.B. This article was edited and revised 25 February 2019.
The Brice House is one of three large, brick, and quite similarly designed, Georgian houses in Annapolis (the others being the William Paca House and the Hammond-Harwood House). According to various sources, all three are haunted, but the best information I have found so far, attests to the haunting of the Brice House.
The house was erected between 1766 and 1773 by Colonel James Brice who would later serve two-terms as mayor of Annapolis and acting governor for the state of Maryland in 1792. The house remained in the family until the 1870s and passed through other private hands until the 1920s when St. John’s College purchased it. Restoration began in the 1950s under private ownership. The house is now owned by the International Masonry Institute which uses the flanking pavilions. The main house is occasionally open for tours. The house was named a National Historic Landmark in 1970.