Spirited Southern Encounters—An Appeal

Oconaluftee Indian Village
778 Drama Road
Cherokee, North Carolina

Back in 2012, I was working as a historic interpreter at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC. The village, a recreation of a mid-18th century Cherokee village on an idyllic mountainside, was populated by craftsmen, warriors and a group of British emissaries who were seeking a peaceful end to the Anglo-Cherokee War. As Sergeant Thomas Sumter—who would later be known as “The Gamecock”—I was in this village serving as a military escort to Lieutenant Henry Timberlake who was leading the expedition.

Sign for the village, 2012. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Sumter was being hosted by the family of Tsiyu-gan-si-ni, whose name was translated as “Dragging Canoe,” who would later be a very important Cherokee chief. Dragging Canoe’s little cabin was located in an area containing two cabins and an underground sweat house. Usually, I was the only one in the cabin and I worked hard to keep the place clean and tidy. Cherokee tradition called for a fire in the fireplace at all times even on the hottest days so I maintained the fire which did help to keep the insects away.

The author as Sgt. Thomas Sumter, 2012. Photo by Mia Shirley, all rights reserved.

The region has been part of traditional Cherokee lands for centuries, though this particular patch of land would not have likely been inhabited. Cherokee villages were always built next to a major water source and mountainsides did not provide enough flat space. Historically, there was a village at the bottom of the mountain (where Drama Drive and US 441 intersect). This recreated village was constructed in 1952 under the purview of the Cherokee Historical Association, which also operates the outdoor historical drama, Unto These Hills, in the Mountainside Theatre located across the parking lot.

The village also has a haunted reputation. Having been in operation for over 60 years, many locals have worked here and eventually returned in spirit. Employees would regularly hear voices and laughter emanating from the village in the morning before the gates have been unlocked. One employee heading to her station one morning passed another employee in costume and ready for the day. She wished the woman a good morning and continued walking past her when she realized that the woman she had just seen had been dead for some years. Another employee who led tours past “my” cabin would occasionally glance inside to see another former employee sitting on the bed. That former employee had also passed on some years before.

The entrance to the village, 2012. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

When I had one of my first experiences in the cabin, it really came as no shock. As usual, this particular day I had a fire going and was in need of firewood early that afternoon. During a lull in visitors, I stepped out and gathered some firewood and headed back to my cabin. As I rounded the sweat house that my cabin looked onto, I looked towards the cabin door. A woman dressed in the traditional clothing female interpreters wear was stepping inside my cabin. Thinking it was the interpreter who worked in the cabin next door, I quickened my pace towards the door. Looking inside, there was no one.

After putting my wood down inside the cabin, I looked out the door and the other interpreter was standing in her doorway. “Did you see a woman enter the cabin while I was gone.” I asked.

“Nope, but I haven’t been standing here long.” She answered.

“My cabin” in the village, 2012. This is taken from the same vantage point where I was when I saw the figure enter. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I’m not sure who the woman was or if I was simply seeing things. I don’t have a history of hallucinations nor do I indulge in mind-altering drugs. Perhaps I encountered one of the former employees.

In front of the cabin with a female interpreter. The figure that I saw was dressed just like my friend. Photo 2014, all rights reserved.

Since I started this blog in 2010, I have been collecting the experiences of people throughout the South who have had spirited encounters. Have you had an encounter in the South (I define the South as including the states of Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia)? I’m primarily interested in encounters in places that are public or semi-public in nature. These include places ranging from historic sites to cemeteries, schools to businesses and public spaces in between like roads, parks and natural areas.

I would like to hear about your experiences for possible inclusion in this blog and future publications. You may contact me in the comments here or on my Facebook page. Thank you for reading!

13 Southern Rooms with a Boo

Following on the heels of my article, “Dining With Spirits,” I’ve decided to revamp my Halloween article from 2010 on haunted inns and hotels. That article was so large I published it in two parts so I’m breaking it into a smaller article with just 13 hostelries, one from each of the states that I cover. See part two of this article in “13 More Southern Rooms with a Boo.”

St. James Hotel
1200 Water Street
Selma, Alabama

The Queen City of the Black Belt, Selma, has a remarkable history that is intimately connected with the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, events that, despite their names, were hardly civil. The city is perched on a bluff overlooking the Alabama River and among the collection of buildings that peer down upon the river is the St. James Hotel. Built some 17 years after the incorporation of the town in 1820, the St. James has served patrons for nearly two centuries. The structure was occupied by Union forces during the Civil War, one reason the hotel was not burned like much of the city. Towards the late nineteenth century, the hotel fell on hard times and served a variety of functions. Keeping up with Selma’s drive to bill itself as a tourist destination, the St. James underwent a $6 million restoration in the 1990s which has provided 42 guest rooms, 4 riverfront suites with balconies overlooking the Alabama, the Troup House Restaurant (which utilizes the hotel’s name during the Civil War) and a number of spiritual guests.

The St. James Hotel, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Outlaw Jesse James and his gang were frequent guests in the hotel and a male apparition seen in guest rooms on the second and third floors and in the bar may possibly be Jesse or a member of his gang. The spirit has been accompanied by the distinct jangle of spurs. Investigators in one of the hotel’s ballrooms asked “Is anyone there?” during an EVP session. The voice of a male answered on tape, “Well, that’s a stupid question.” Among other spirits still walking the halls of the St. James are a female and a dog whose barking is heard. So, if you check into the St. James, chances are high that you may encounter something, just don’t ask any stupid questions.


  • “Dead walk.” The Selma Times-Journal. 23 October 2005.
  • Lewis, Herbert J. “Selma.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 12 August 2008.
  • “St. James hosts ‘spirit.’” The Selma Times-Journal. 30 October 2003.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Omni Shoreham Hotel
2500 Calvert Street, NW
Washington, D.C.

Suite 870 of this 1930 hotel has seen three deaths. Juliette Brown, a live-in maid to the hotel’s owner, Henry Doherty and his family, died there unexpectedly as well as Doherty’s wife and daughter some time later. The apartment remained abandoned for some 50 years while guests staying in rooms around the suite would complain of late-night sounds coming from the room. Hotel staff has experienced being locked out of the room and cold breezes in and around the suite which is now known as the “Ghost Suite.” 

The Omni-Shoreham Hotel, 2009, by Jurden Matern. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Writer Eric Nuzum spent a night in the room in 2007 and was awakened in the night by an odd, unexplained creaking that happened five times during the early morning hours. Just before he checked out of the room he discovered that lights he had left on were off. As he stood in the dining room pondering the lights, they turned back on by themselves.

The blog, Phantoms and Monsters published an account in 2012 of a hotel guest who stayed in room 866, just down the hall from the Ghost Suite. Around 2:25 AM he was awakened by moaning that seemingly came from the room next door. This was followed by a woman’s scream that issued from just underneath the guest’s bed. The terrified guest then observed a female form that began to take shape next to the bed. The form was a beautiful, nude female who smiled at the guest before turning and dissipating in a nearby wall.


Crowne Plaza Key West – La Concha
430 Duval Street
Key West, Florida 

La Concha Hotel, 2012, by Acroterion. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The theme that runs through the ghost stories of the La Concha Hotel in Key West is falling from a great height, both deliberately and accidentally. This seven-story hotel, opened in 1926, is the tallest building in the city and has been the scene of suicides and a horrible accident. The building’s history has also experienced some great falls as well. Opened to great acclaim, this luxury hotel was visited by many of the notable names of the age: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, even possibly Al Capone and his cronies, but with the stock market crash in 1929, business seriously dropped. The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane which swept the Keys destroyed the Key West Extension of the East Coast Railway which was one of the island’s major arteries.

Following World War II, the La Concha, much decayed, staggered on through the middle of the twentieth century with only the kitchen and the famous rooftop bar open to the public. The hotel was restored and reopened in 1986 to much fanfare. The La Concha Hotel has recovered from its fall, but, perhaps its spirits have not.

On New Year’s Eve, 1982 or ’83 (sources differ), a young man, unfamiliar with the hotel’s ancient service elevator, fell down the elevator shaft while cleaning up after a party. His spirit seems most active on the fifth floor and obviously, around the elevator. More deliberately, according to Dave Lapham’s Ghosthunting Florida, some 13 people have committed suicide from the rooftop bar of the hotel. Some of their spirits may also remain. One gentleman who took the leap in 2006 reportedly downed a glass of Chardonnay before doing so. Since then, patrons have reported their glasses of Chardonnay were sometimes suddenly jerked from their hands by an unseen force. Hopefully, these fallen spirits have found comfort in the Other Side.


  • Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Volume 1, South and Central Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2008.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnatti, OH: Clerisy, 2010.
  • Rodriguez, Stacy. “La Concha Hotel turns 80.” The Key West Citizen. 20 January 2006.

Jekyll Island Club Resort
371 Riverview Drive
Jekyll Island, Georgia

The grand and glorious spirit of the Victorian Era is evident at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, both in the atmosphere but also in the spiritual energy that persists there among the ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Opened in 1888 by a consortium of America’s elite families, the Jekyll Island Club was an exclusive hideaway for families with names such as Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, Macy and Goodyear. In addition to the grand clubhouse, some families built mansion-sized “cottages.” As America entered into war in 1942, the club closed its doors and sat vacant until the State of Georgia, who now owned the island, attempted, unsuccessfully, to open the club as a resort in the early 1970s. The club opened as a private resort in 1985.

Jekyll Island Club, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Almost from the moment the club opened its doors, tales of ghosts were being told. The president of the club, Lloyd Aspinwall, died during the club’s construction, but some in the crowd spotted him stiffly gliding through the crowd in his usual military manner. He has also been encountered on the Riverfront Veranda of the club. In the annex of the clubhouse, a three-story apartment building called Sans Souci (“without care”), the apparition of Samuel Spenser, former head of the Southern Railroad Company, has been reported, still reading his morning paper. The shade of a former bellhop still knocks on doors requesting laundry.


  • de Bellis, Ken. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Jekyll Island Historic District. Listed 20 January 1972.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

The Brown Hotel
335 West Broadway
Louisville, Kentucky

A sculpted likeness of businessman James Graham Brown stands on the sidewalk just outside the magnificent 16-story hotel he built at the corner of Fourth and Broadway. At his feet sits his little canine friend, Woozem, who, as the story goes, Mr. Brown rescued from a circus that had recently cut the dog’s act. The dog and Mr. Brown lived in the lap of luxury there until the end of their days, perhaps they remain.

Brown Hotel, 2005, by Derek Cashman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Opening in 1923, the Brown Hotel provided four-star accommodations to the citizens of Louisville for a number of decades. The famous Hot Brown was developed in the hotel’s restaurant. The hotel operated until 1971, just two years after the death of James Brown, when it closed its doors. The grand dame held offices for the public school system and when the downtown began a resurgence in the late 1980s, the hotel was renovated and restored to its former glory.

The fifteenth floor of the hotel is currently an unimproved storage space for the hotel and seems to be the center of spiritual activity. It’s believed that it was on this floor that Mr. Brown has his suite and perhaps his spirit still roams the floor. The elevator is often called to this floor by an unseen presence. Two employees reported going up to the floor and as they exited they noticed a third set of footprints in the plaster dust on the floor. A guest who had stayed on the fourteenth floor complained of hearing heavy footsteps and furniture moving all night. Perhaps Mr. Brown and Woozem are just making themselves comfortable.


  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Bluegrass State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • Parker, Robert W. Haunted Louisville: History and Hauntings from The Derby City. Decatur, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2007.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnatti, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.

Bourbon Orleans Hotel
717 Orleans Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

Located just behind St. Louis Cathedral and running along the partier’s paradise of Bourbon Street is the grand Bourbon Orleans Hotel. On my first visit to New Orleans, my family stayed in this marvelous hotel. While we didn’t encounter anything paranormal, I remember spending a few wonderful hours sitting on the balcony watching the crowd below on Bourbon Street.

This graceful building was first opened as the Orleans Ballroom in 1817. It was host to the famous Quadroon Balls, balls where mixed race women (a “Quadroon” was someone whose ancestry was 1/4 of African descent) were introduced to wealthy white men. While these people could not legally marry, the system of plaçage provided these men with mistresses or concubines whom the men would support and provide for. By 1881, the building, with the adjoining Orleans Theatre, had begun to fall into ruin and the buildings were taken over by the Sisters of the Holy Family for use as an orphanage, school and convent. This convent, according to Sheila Turnage, was the first convent for African-Americans in the nation. After some 83 years as a convent, the building was converted into a hotel to serve the booming New Orleans tourist trade.

During my stay, I recall reading or hearing a story from the renovation of the building (though I cannot source it). A worker in the building hurt himself and uttered a vulgarity when an unseen hand slapped him across the face. Certainly, the spirits of nuns and the children that they tended have lingered in this building. Guests often encounter the spirits of children throughout the building. But also, the spirits from the structure’s wilder days as a ballroom do appear as well. Dancing couples have been seen in the ballroom and frock-coated gentlemen are sometimes reported in the men’s restroom off the lobby (once a room for playing poker).


  • “History.” com. Accessed 30 October 2010.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Lord Baltimore Hotel
20 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland

Blogger Lon Strickler of the blog, Phantoms and Monsters, wrote about a visit to the Lord Baltimore Hotel in 1980. Sitting with a friend in the hotel’s lobby, he writes, “I sensed many raw emotions, good and bad…We sat in the lobby over drinks and conversed about our past…but, in the meantime, I was being bombarded by distant sounds of yesteryear. It became so bad that I started to feel claustrophobic and had to make a ‘polite as possible’ excuse to leave.” He has never returned to the hotel.

Authors Melissa Rowell and Amy Lynwander include an account of a hotel employee named Fran in their book, Baltimore Harbor Haunts. In it, Fran describes her personal experiences as well as those of employees working under her. Fran’s account mentions a little girl she encountered on the nineteenth floor. The girl ran past an open doorway and when Fran ran after her, she found the hallway deserted. She turned and saw a couple in formal attire walking towards her. Asking if the little girl belonged to them, she turned towards the direction of the now missing child. Fran turned back to the couple and discovered they had disappeared as well. 

Lord Baltimore Hotel in a 1942 postcard.

Evidently, Fran is not the only person to witness the apparition of a little girl as a guest was awakened to find a young girl in her room crying. When approached, the girl vanished. One of Fran’s coworkers encountered three or four spirits standing in the hotel’s darkened ballroom. When she turned on the lights, all figures were gone.

Certainly, the Lord Baltimore Hotel could be haunted. Built in 1928, the hotel was the largest in the state of Maryland. As one of the tallest buildings in the area at the time, the hotel attracted jumpers after great stock market crash of 1929. Another writer and psychic, Paul Schroeder, had some possible interactions with some of these vestiges of suicides past when he stayed at the hotel. Entering a suite on the 18th floor, he encountered “the reek near the window overlooking the corner was of death and suicide.” After deeming the room unsatisfactory, Schroeder was given another suite where he had “persistent and intermittent visions of a young girl emotionally bereft screaming a face of frozen horror.” He was later told, by the staff, that a young woman had committed suicide on that floor which was believed to be behind much of the paranormal activity on that floor of the hotel.


  • Rowell, Melissa and Amy Lynwander. Baltimore’s Harbor Haunts: True Ghost Stories. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2005.
  • Schroeder, Paul. “Ghosts and nightmares in a haunted Baltimore hotel: The Raddison Lord Baltimore.” UFO Digest. 31 January 2014.
  • Shoken, Fred B. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Lord Baltimore Hotel. 17 March 1982.
  • Strickler, Lon. “Spooky Lord Baltimore Hotel.” Phantoms and Monsters. 31 January 2014.

1010 First East Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi

One guest at Anchuca remarked to the owners that she couldn’t stay in the house because it was too emotional. Indeed, Anchuca’s history is marked with periods of intense emotional turmoil. The house has seen the deaths of some of its past owners, members of their families and then soldiers who came through the home’s doors wounded and ill during the Civil War. Some of them most surely died here as well. Throw in Joe Davis, the brother of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and you have quite the contingent of spirits roaming the halls of Anchuca.

A 1936 photo of Anchuca taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey by James Butters. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

With a name derived from a Choctaw word meaning “happy home,” Anchuca has hosted a number of families during its long history. It was originally constructed in 1830 for politician J. W. Mauldin and was sold to merchant Victor Wilson some years later. Wilson added the Greek revival portico to the house and he and his wife lived here through the tumult of the Siege of Vicksburg when the house served as a hospital. After the war, the home was owned by Joseph Davis who died here in 1870. The house was then purchased by the Hennessy family.

Portraits believed to be Mr. and Mrs. Hennessy grace the wall above the sideboard and with their portraits hang a tale. Some years ago, one of Anchuca’s owners discovered water leaking from the dining room ceiling. He rushed upstairs to the bathroom above the dining room to find that water is coming from the bathroom ceiling and then making its way into the dining room below. He called in a plumber to check the hot water heater and air conditioning unit that were in the attic above the bathroom. As he was looking for the leak, the plumber plunged his hand into the insulation and pulled out these two portraits. The plumber did not find any dampness to suggest a leak and the leaking water mysteriously subsided. Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Hennessy wished to have their portraits restored to a rightful place within their former home?

Besides mysterious water leaks, the spirits of Anchuca also do a bit of redecorating on occasion. Just after purchasing the house, a friend of one of the owners witnessed a spirited display of displeasure. The owner had hung three South American masks on the wall of his quarters. A friend of his watched one afternoon as one of the masks lifted itself off the wall, hung for a moment in midair and then dropped to the floor. The friend fled in fear. The owner picked up the mask and hung it in its spot on the wall and asked the spirits to leave it alone. The masks have not been cast to floor since. The owners, staff and guests have also encountered a female spirit throughout the house.


  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Vicksburg. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.
  • Miller, Mary Warren. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Anchuca. 25 February 1981.
  • Sillery, Barbara. The Haunting of Mississippi. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2011.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Grand Old Lady Inn (formerly Balsam Mountain Inn)
68 Seven Springs Drive
Balsam, North Carolina

Balsam Mountain Inn, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Passengers departing from their trains in Balsam, North Carolina just after the turn of the century were met with an inviting and palatial hotel overlooking the station. They would enjoy the cool mountain air from the double porch with views of the town below. Though the train no longer brings them, visitors today can enjoy the same air and views and, if they stay in room 205, perhaps a nice back rub from a spirit. One guest staying in this room with her husband had a bad back and was awaken by a back rub from him, until she realized he was sound to sleep next to her. The unidentified ghost on the second floor of this hotel which opened in 1908 also rattles doorknobs of rooms on that floor.


  • Bordsen, John. “Room with a Boo.” The Charlotte Observer. 25 October 2009.
  • Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of American’s Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

20 South Battery (formerly Battery Carriage House Inn)
20 South Battery
Charleston, South Carolina

Sign for the Battery Carriage House Inn, 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Located at the Southern tip of the city of Charleston overlooking the meeting point of the Cooper, Stono, Wando and the Ashley Rivers is The Battery, one of Charleston’s “best” neighborhoods. It was at The Battery where many of the city’s and state’s best families built grand homes. From the rooftops of these grand homes and White Point Gardens fronting Charleston Harbor that citizens, including the diarist Mary Chestnut watched as the Confederacy laid siege to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Number 20 South Battery is home to the Battery Carriage House Inn, possibly one of the more spiritually active locations in the city.

A few of the Battery Carriage House Inn’s eleven sumptuous guest rooms are apparently haunted. A couple staying in room 3 were awakened by noise from a cellphone; while this may be quite common, phones are not supposed to make noise when powered off as this phone was. But this activity seems minor compared to the reports from rooms 8 and 10. Guests staying in Room 8 have encountered the apparition of a man’s torso. There is no head or limbs, just a torso dressed in a few layers of clothing. One guest sensed that this figure was quite negative. The spirit in Room 10 is much more pleasant and even described as a gentleman. The innkeepers believe this may be the spirit of the son of a former owner who committed suicide.


  • “Ghost Sightings.” com. Accessed 31 October 2010.
  • Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of American’s Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Spar, Mindy. “Local haunts among treats for Halloween.” The Post and Courier. 26 Otcober 2002.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

The Union Station Nashville Yards
1001 Broadway
Nashville, Tennessee

Ghosts are associated with certain types of stone, primarily granite and limestone, water and also iron. The iron rails of railroads that have stretched around the globe have given rise to many ghostly legends associated with railroads. Nashville’s Union Station, first opened in 1900, while no longer hosting the iron rails or even the old train shed, still hosts a few ghosts associated with the railroad. Legend has it that on nights of the full moon, a ghostly train still pulls into the station, while that legend may be a bit ridiculous, staff and guests of the hotel have reported hearing the scream of a steam whistle at times; perhaps a residual noise. 

Union Station Hotel, 2008, by The Peep Holes. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During World War II, Union Station was the point of departure for tens of thousands of troops departing for battlefronts around the world. Two spirits remain from this period. One is the revenant of a young soldier who stands near the tracks seemingly waiting for something. The other is the spirit of a young woman who legend states was killed when she fell onto the tracks in front of a train. With the demolition of the train shed, it is unknown if these spirits are still active.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the grand station saw fewer and fewer passengers as the automobile became the dominant mode of transportation in America. The last train departed the station in 1978 and the station closed its door only to be reopened as a luxury hotel some years later. A more recent legend tells of a middle-aged couple that would meet at the hotel on a weekend once a month. By all accounts, the man appeared to be married, but perhaps not the woman. The lovers would spend the entire weekend in their room but one month, the man did not show up. The woman, in distress, spent the weekend in her room and was later discovered dead with a revolver at her feet. Her room, 711, has seen a good deal of activity, with one guest reporting her bag, which she had unpacked, had been repacked upon while she had stepped into the bathroom. Activity seems to revolve around this room with the spirit of young woman being encountered in the hall outside this room and in surrounding rooms as well.


  • Harris, Frankie and Kim Meredith. Haunted Nashville. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of American’s Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Traylor, Ken and Delas M. House, Jr. Nashville Ghosts and Legends. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

The Martha Washington Inn & Spa
150 West Main Street
Abingdon, Virginia

War changes many things and the Civil War certainly changed Martha Washington College. The young girls that had studied and gossiped in the college’s rooms became nurses for the wounded young soldiers brought from battlefields far and near and some of those rooms housed able young men who were training on the grounds. Like so many buildings that served as hospitals during the Civil War, the pain and death left its mark upon the college. A number of soldiers still are rumored to walk the halls and occasionally shock guests and staff alike. In addition a ghostly horse, still looking for its long-dead master, still walks the grounds outside.

Martha Washington Inn, 2006, by RebalAt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built as a private residence, General Francis Preston’s 1832 home became an upscale women’s college in 1858. The Great Depression’s punch to the nation led to the school’s closure in 1932 and “The Martha” was later reopened as an inn. The inn is now a part of The Camberley Collection, a group of fine, historic properties.


  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • “History.” The Martha Washington Hotel and Spa. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Rosenberg, Madelyn. “History and Legend Abound at Abingdon’s Martha Washington Inn.” The Roanoke Times. 31 July 1999.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1993.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.

Lowe Hotel
401 Main Street
Point Pleasant, West Virginia

N.B. This article was originally published September 24, 2013, as a newsworthy haunt.

Paranormal events rarely resonate so much within a community or even on a national scale as the sightings of the Mothman have. A series of sightings of this creature occurred between November of 1966 and December of 1967; events that inspired a handful of books, a movie and, for over a decade, a festival in Point Pleasant.

Postcard of the Lowe Hotel circa 1930-45. Courtesy of the
Boston Public Library.

The annual festival has certainly boosted “paranormal tourism” in Point Pleasant and one of the more popular paranormal spots in the city is the Lowe Hotel. During the festival tours will be lead through this haunted, turn of the 20th century hotel. According to an article from the Point Pleasant Register, the current owners of the hotel were initially bothered by the idea that their hotel might be haunted, though as attitudes towards the paranormal have changed, the haunting has become an attraction to tourists.

Theresa Racer, of the blog, Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, presents the best history of the hotel to be found online. The hotel was opened as the Hotel Spencer in the nascent years of the 20th century. The four-story hotel was popular with riverboat traffic operating on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers which meet at Point Pleasant. The hotel was purchased by Homer Lowe in 1929 who renamed it the Lowe Hotel. It operated until the late 1980s when the owner put it up for sale. The current owners purchased the hotel in 1990.

According to Racer, there is a large contingent of spirits within the hotel. The spirit of a beautiful, but disheveled woman has been reported on the mezzanine between the first and second floors. This section houses the dining room and it is here that the spirit is seen dancing to music that only she can hear. On the second floor, a tyke on a tricycle has been seen prowling the halls. Sometimes the sound of a little girl’s laughter will accompany the sound of a squeaky tricycle.

The third floor seems to be the most active with a few of the rooms there being haunted. One of the most remarkable stories involves the suite at 316. A female staying in this suite entered the room one evening to find a man standing by the window looking out. She asked him who he was and he replied that he was Captain Jim and he was waiting on a boat. After noticing the man did not have legs, the woman fled.

Two chairs on the fourth floor seem to have activity surrounding them. The recent article mentions a wheelchair on that apparently moved on its own volition. The chair vanished for about three years only to reappear out of the blue. Racer reports that an old rocking chair in a storage room on that floor is supposed to rock on its own.


  • Racer, Theresa. “The Lowe Hotel, Pt. Pleasant.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 2 March 2011.
  • Sergent, Beth. “History of local hotel a festival favorite.” Point Pleasant Register. 19 September 2013.

At Play in the Field of the Dead—Huntsville, Alabama

Maple Hill Park
1351 McClung Avenue, Southeast
Huntsville, Alabama

What could be creepier than the spirits of children perhaps wistfully singing “Ring Around the Rosie” in a minor key and asking, “will you come play with me?” in a sing-song voice? Why, a playground next to a cemetery that’s crawling with these youthful spirits. It’s from these terrifying images that the legend of the “Dead Children’s Playground” was born.

Within view of the resting dead of adjacent MAPLE HILL CEMETERY (202 Maple Hill Street), children happily play on the playground equipment at Maple Hill Park. Lore says that only some of those children are alive. According to Jessica Penot in her 2010 Haunted North Alabama, the playground has gained notoriety among teens out for a scare. They will sometimes sneak into the park at night to witness the paranormal phenomena that supposedly plagues the park.

Maple Hill Cemetery Huntsville Alabama
A view of Maple Hill Cemetery, 2006. Photo by LonelyPilgrim, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The internet is rife with stories involving a murderer killing children here in the 1960s and the playground being constructed as a place of solace for parents whose own children rest just yards away in the cemetery. Even Wikipedia had an article (which now appears to have been deleted) though it is riddled with inaccuracies. These stories are mostly just common internet lore, the actual history of the park is a bit more pedestrian.

Other than its close proximity, Maple Hill Park is not a part of Maple Hill Cemetery. Local ghost authority, Jacquelyn Proctor Reeves, is quoted in a 2012 article as saying there is no evidence that anyone has ever been buried in the area of the park. The property, according to Penot, was originally a stone quarry from 1945 to 1955. After the quarry’s closure, the land was donated to the City of Huntsville and the property became a park in 1985.

Some sources provide the park’s founding as 1822, which is the date for the founding of the cemetery. The cemetery was founded by planter Leroy Pope, the founder of Huntsville, only a decade after the city’s incorporation in 1811. Pope would find his final rest here in 1844. Now spanning some 100 acres, the cemetery has some 80,000 interments and within its fences lie five state governors and a number of congressmen with a host of the local citizenry.

The history of the park, however, does not provide any indication that it might be haunted. Penot questioned a number of park visitors for her book and discovered that many of them had stories to tell about odd occurrences in the park. The most common activity recorded seems to be that the swings will often move by themselves. During her investigation, Penot witnessed this activity herself. In fact, there are a number of YouTube videos showing this phenomenon. Others report to Penot that voices of children have been heard. Of course, one must consider that the park is in a residential area and these voices may be from living neighbors.

A local paranormal organization, the Alabama Paranormal Society (APS), has investigated the location in the past few years and did experience some activity. A psychic with the group was able to determine that there were a number of spirits in the park. They believe that the spirits are wanderers who travel to the park from the cemetery. So far, I have not been able to find any documentation that there is activity in the cemetery.


Rending the veil—Historic Preservation in Alabama

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom…
— St. Matthew 27:51 (KJV)

One of Eufaula’s magnificent mansions seen through the veil of trees of North Eufaula Avenue. Photo 2014 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Frequent travelers on Alabama Highway 431 know the short section that passes through north Eufaula as a verdant meditation, a brief respite from the normal hustle of this four lane highway. For about a quarter mile, the road narrows from four to two lanes; the speed limit drops while ancient oaks spread their branches over the road, and historic homes keep watch from the sides. Travelers throughout north Georgia and Alabama know this lush drive, called North Eufaula Avenue, as they head towards the Florida Panhandle. Movie-goers may recognize this street from the Reese Witherspoon film, Sweet Home Alabama. In the film, the lead character drives down this historic roadway on the way to her Alabama home.

Historic preservationists often talk about the “historical fabric” which includes the concrete things that actually make up a historic structure, but also the things surrounding a structure that help to provide a complete historical picture, or context, if you will. Within a historic district this may include outbuildings, the roads and streets, sidewalks and other fixtures, plantings and the arboreal canopy. North Eufaula Avenue and its trees are a major feature of the historic fabric of the Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District, which encompasses the residential neighborhoods to the north and west of Eufaula’s downtown.

The Alabama Department of Transportation is ramping up to rend part of the fabric of North Eufaula Avenue, considered by many to be the most iconic street in the city, if not the whole state. In an effort to ease occasional congestion on Highway 431—proponants argue that the congestion only occurs a few times a year—the DOT has decided to expand the two lanes to four through the historic district. This will require the destruction of part of the median and the removal of a few trees as well as trimming the arboreal canopy. Aside from this minor destruction to the physical fabric, the construction would cause some drastic changes to the aesthetics and spiritual fabric of the district.

Quite simply, the increased traffic will destroy the quiet beauty of the district. But there’s also the possibility that the spiritual fabric of the district may be harmed. In cities ranging from New Orleans, Louisiana to Savannah, Georgia to Frederick, Maryland and Williamsburg, Virginia—places where the historical fabric is very much intact—there often seem to be many ghosts. Perhaps the ghosts remain because the historical fabric has not been disturbed. While documentation for Eufaula’s spirited side is sorely lacking, there is one documented haunting on North Eufaula Avenue. The grand SHORTER MANSION (340 North Eufaula Avenue) has graced this lovely street since 1884, though it was remodeled into its current form starting in 1901.

The Shorter Mansion, 2014. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Considered an outstanding example of neoclassical architecture, the house remained in the politically prominent Shorter family until 1965 when it was purchased by the Eufaula Heritage Association which has operated the house as a museum, memorial and events facility since. The house has been used frequently for weddings and it is in some of the wedding photos taken here that two spirits are purported to appear, though the man in the top hat and the woman in pink have also made some rare appearances in person as well. In one case, a staff member encountered the woman in pink and spoke to her in the parlor. The staff member turned away from the woman for a moment and turned back to her to find she had disappeared.

In 2007, Southern Paranormal Researchers, a paranormal investigation organization out of Montgomery, investigated the house. In their investigation report they note that there is other activity that has been witnessed within the house including phantom smells, items being moved and a feeling of being watched. Over the course of two investigations, the investigators had a few personal experiences including hearing “loud laughing” and banging in the next room. A possible apparition was observed as well as shadow figures. The investigators concluded that the house had residual energy manifesting itself, though there is the possibility of an intelligent spirit at work here as well.

While the activity at the Shorter Mansion is the only documented paranormal activity on North Eufaula Avenue, I imagine there is activity in many of the other graceful structures along the avenue. It is accepted in the paranormal community that renovation and remodeling can stir up activity, though it may also eventually lead to a decrease. Certainly, the activity from cities that have lost much of their historic fabric is decreased, witness Southern cities like Atlanta, which has little-reported activity from its core.

A sign advertising the Eufaula Pilgrimage in the median in front of the Shorter Mansion, 2014. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The battle of North Eufaula Avenue is turning into a David and Goliath type fight. The city government, citizens and supporters of historic preservation have taken a stand against the state DOT and the Governor, who has come out in support of the road widening. Walking down North Eufaula Avenue just last month, I observed that nearly every house had signs against the widening prominently displayed. But the saddest sight seemed to be a large sign advertising the Eufaula Pilgrimage that is held annually in the spring. As if to rub in the destruction, the DOT originally scheduled the widening to be completed by the start of the pilgrimage.

One of the many anti-widening signs lining North Eufaula Avenue, 2014. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Proponents of the widening have tried to stop or at least put the construction on hold through legal means. A lawsuit in federal court was dismissed just before the new year because the federal government is not involved in this battle. The judge suggested that the heart of the matter is really who owns the median of North Eufaula Avenue. Just yesterday (January 2), the mayor and members of the city council voted to not sue the state over the median’s ownership. It now appears that barring any further delays, Eufaula’s verdant veil will be rent beginning on Monday.

While the fate of North Eufaula Avenue looks bleak, another historic and haunted Alabama site appears to be off the chopping block. The future of Prattville’s landmark PRATT COTTON GIN (Bridge Street) building has been up in the air for a few years. The huge mill complex, which provides a background for downtown Prattville, has been abandoned since 2011. Recently, developers have taken an interest in the buildings, some wishing to demolish the buildings for their brick and wood while others have bandied the idea of renovating the mill into residential lofts.

One of the old entrances to the building now locked within the more modern structure. Photo 1997, by Jet Lowe for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

On Monday, the mill complex was sold on the courthouse steps to the Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority, which will immediately begin to stabilize the buildings and begin creating a plan to reuse the old mill. The HPRA purchased five large mill buildings constructed between 1843 and 1912, some 40 acres of mill property, the millpond, and a few spirits.

Downtown Prattville with the Daniel Pratt Cotton Gin in the background. Photo 2010 by Spyder_Monkey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Before the advent of child labor laws, mills throughout the country employed young children. Often lacking safety policies and devices, millworkers were sometimes seriously injured or killed. At some point in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, sources do not provide a date, a young boy named Willie Youngblood was killed in one of the mill buildings. After his death, a woman was observed near the mill clad in black. Legend says that she threw herself off the mill dam.

The Pratt Cotton Gin with the mill dam in the foreground. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, 1974 for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Believed to be the spirit of Willie’s mother, the darkly dressed figure has been seen by millworkers for decades. Recently, the mill buildings were investigated as part of the SyFy Channel show, Deep South Paranormal. While the team was able to capture some evidence during their investigation, the most impressive evidence was video of a black-clad figure walking on the mill dam. Perhaps the veiled figure won’t be rent from her nightly dam walk by the mill’s renovation.