This is the sixth entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas.
In searching through back issues of the Atlanta Constitution that have recently been posted on Newspapers.com, I stumbled across two brief articles detailing a haunting in the small town of Toccoa.
Located in Stephens County, in the far northeast corner of the state, abutting the state line with South Carolina, Toccoa is a small mountain town established in the late 19th century along the Georgia Air Line Railroad. A few miles outside town, Currahee Mountain rises from the landscape which provided military training during World War II.
In the early days of the town’s creation after the Civil War and before the town’s incorporation, the town constructed a calaboose, or jail. In small towns, these buildings were generally one room shacks with bars to hold a prisoner or two. Judging from the newspaper’s vague description, I would conclude that the calaboose was this type of building.
Please note that these articles use racist language typical to the period.
27 December 1887
CAGED AND BURNED
A Heartrending Scene at Toccoa, Georgia.
A PRISONER SHRIEKING FOR HELP
While the Guard House is on Fire—Unavailing Efforts to Free the Unfortunate Man.
TOCCOA, Ga., December 26.—[Special.]—Roland Taylor, a negro man, who has been working for Mr. W. J. Hayes for a long time, met a horrible death this morning at twenty minutes past 3 o’clock. He was taken by the marshal some time ago for some violation and locked up. He was released on bond, however, and given time to pay the fine which was imposed on him by the mayor. He failed to come up at the proper time, and last night was arrested again and confined in the calaboose. At the time mentioned, night watchmen Carter and Purcell heard someone screaming at a terrible rate, and upon investigation, found the calaboose on fire. They did all they could to save him, but failed, as the heavy doors were swelled so and the man too far gone. Mr. Carter says he is satisfied the darky set it on fire to make his escape.
This morning there is nothing left to tell the tale but some ashes and a small stack of bones. The coroner has been notified and will hold an inquest.
27 February 1888
THE DEAD MAN’S GHOST
Returns to Haunt the Prisoners Who Succeed Him.
TOCCOA, Ga., February 26.—[Special.]—The town council have had erected a new calaboose exactly on the same spot where the old one was burned Christmas eve, when Roland Taylor was cremated.
The negroes here look upon the new guardhouse with a superstitious awe, and to threaten to put one in strikes terror to his heart. They say the dead negro will surely come back at night, and one darky who was so unfortunate as to remain in custody over night, declares that about 10 o’clock something took him by the legs and pulled most vigorously for some time, all his efforts to release himself from the ghost grasp being in vain. It is needless to say he slept but little remainder of the night.
I have yet to determine the location of this building or if Roland Taylor’s spirit still haunts the area.
- “Caged and Burned.” Atlanta Constitution. 27 December 1887.
- “The Dead Man’s Ghost.” Atlanta Constitution. 27 February 1888.