Resting high on that mountain—Helen’s Bridge, Asheville

Helen’s Bridge
Over College Street between
Windswept Drive and Beaucatcher Road
Asheville, North Carolina

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain.
You weren’t afraid to face the Devil
You were no stranger to the rain.
Go rest high on that mountain…
 –“Go rest high on that mountain,” Vince Gill (1995)

The city drops away quickly as you drive up Beaucatcher Mountain from downtown Asheville. College Street—a main thoroughfare through the heart of downtown, forming one side of Pack Square—suddenly becomes a mountain road. As it dizzily traverses the side of the mountain, the road enters a gap spanned by a lonely, primeval bridge. Something about the patina of the stone and the flora growing around the bridge, make it appear to be a natural part of the landscape, as if it’s always been there. In truth, it has been here for a little more than a hundred years, enough time for the bridge to settle into the landscape and become ensconced in legend and lore. You have arrived at Helen’s Bridge.

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

The temperature here seems chillier; perhaps it’s the geography or perhaps it’s the wandering spirit of Helen; it’s hard to tell. While many are drawn to the bridge’s stark beauty it is the legend and lore that draws others. The legend speaks of a woman named Helen who lived near the bridge with her beloved daughter. After losing her daughter in a fire, the distraught Helen hung herself from the bridge. Some versions associate Helen with the nearby estate of Zealandia, where she was supposed to have been a mistress to one of the estate’s owners, and after becoming pregnant, hung herself in anguish. Researchers have found nothing to document the existence of an actual Helen, although author Alan Brown relates that some of the owners of Zealandia encountered the apparition of a woman on the stairs that they identified as Helen.

Teens have taken to trying to summon Helen by visiting the bridge at night and calling her name three times. It is reported that she will sometimes appear as a light or as an apparition. Others have reported that this ritual will sometimes cause car problems, ranging from odd mechanical issues to dead batteries. Florida author, Jamie Roush Pearce experienced problems with her car’s automatic locks after visiting the bridge and attempting to summon the sad spirit. Pearce briefly glimpsed a figure near her car and discovered the problem with the locks after leaving the site. After dealing with the issue for a week, she returned and asked Helen to leave her car alone. The lock problem has not reoccurred.

The bridge is immortalized in Thomas Wolfe’s 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel, when the main character, Eugene Gant walks with his girlfriend up Beaucatcher Mountain:

They turned from the railing, with recovered wind, and walked through the gap, under Philip Roseberry’s great arched bridge… As they went under the shadow of the bridge Eugene lifted his head and shouted. His voice bounded against the arch like a stone. They passed under and stood on the other side of the gap, looking from the road’s edge down into the cove.

Though Wolfe attempted to draw a thin veil over his hometown by renaming it Altamont, it was clear to the Ashevillians that he was depicting them in his novel. So much so that he is reported to have received death threats and did not return to the city for several years after the novel’s publication.

This rustic stone bridge was constructed as a carriageway for the Zealandia Estate in 1909. It was designed by R. S. Smith, who worked as an architect on the building of the nearby Biltmore Estate and was obviously fluent in the languages of Gothic, Tudor, and Elizabethan architecture.  In 1889, the same year that George Vanderbilt began construction on his magnificent manse that he would call Biltmore, John Evans Brown, who had spent his formative years in Asheville, began to build his estate here on Beaucatcher Mountain. Brown had left the city in 1849 to pursue his dreams of striking gold in the Golden West. When those dreams failed to pan out (pun intended), Brown set out for the green mountains of New Zealand where he found fortune in sheep and politics. He returned to his hometown with fortune in hand in 1888 and began construction on his estate.

Helen’s Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Brown enjoyed his stately, mountainside view of Asheville for a few scant years before his death in 1895. The estate was purchased by Australian native Philip S. Henry in 1903 and this intellectual, art collector, and diplomat set about fashioning the estate into a showplace in this aristocratic resort community. Hiring architect R. S. Smith, Henry began to transform the lofty estate into a European-styled castle in the Tudor style. The carriageway with its notable bridge was constructed during this period. In 1924, Henry opened his estate for the public to see his art collection. Upon Henry’s death in 1933, the estate passed to his daughters and remained in the family until 1961.

When construction began on the nearby Interstate 240 corridor, plans originally called for slicing through part of Beaucatcher Mountain. Local preservationists quickly formed the Beaucatcher Mountain Defense Association to argue for the mountain’s preservation and even more specifically for the protection of Zealandia. A tunnel through the mountain was proposed instead. Though the state department of transportation tore down Philip Henry’s museum in 1976, the estate was named to the National Register of Historic Place in 1977 and was left alone. During the tunneling blasting supports were added to protect the bridge. In 1998 with the supports still in place and stones falling from the looming structure, the city considered demolishing the structure. Local history buffs and preservationists won the fight and the supports were carefully removed. The bridge was structurally sound and it has recently been bought by the city to use as part of a proposed greenway.

Helen’s Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

If you choose to visit Helen, be cautious as the area does have some traffic. There is a dirt turnout off Beaucatcher Road a few yards past the bridge ideal for parking. The top of the bridge is still closed off and Zealandia is private, so please confine your ramblings to the public thoroughfare underneath the bridge. Summoning spirits is never encouraged, especially if you wish to avoid car problems and please be kind to Helen, she’s been through a lot.

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.


  • Bishir, Catherine W., Michael T. Southern, & Jennifer F. Martin. A Guide to the  Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Brendel, Susanne & Bettu Betz. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Zealandia. 12 January 1977.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Burgess, Joel. “City acquires historic bridge.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 25 November 2009.
  • “Death of Col. J. Evans Brown.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 9 July 1895.
  • Interstate 240 (North Carolina). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  • “Saving Helen’s Bridge.” Asheville Community News. 1999.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2013.
  • Tomlin, Robyn. “Zealandia Bridge Repairs Completed; Fixing historic bridge cost much less than originally forecast.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 June 1999.
  • Warren, Joshua. Haunted Asheville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1996.

A Living Cemetery—Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah

Colonial Park Cemetery
Corner of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Streets
Savannah, Georgia

N.B. This entry is comprised of information from two previous blog entries: “Colonial Park Cemetery (Newsbyte)” from 26 November 2010 and “A Figure in Colonial Park Cemetery” from 8 February 2013. The article was edited and revised 15 September 2019.

 It’s an odd thing to think of a cemetery as a living thing, but in Savannah, a city that luxuriates in its historic spaces, Colonial Park Cemetery is very much alive. Locals and visitors alike still crowd the paths and open expanses of green grass between the crumbling monuments, markers, and vaults. The cemetery itself is verdant and spreads out under many old trees. Even spiritual activity shows that the dead residents are, in a way, still residing among us at their burial ground.

The city’s oldest extant cemetery, this space has served as a park since 1895 when the city took over control from Christ Church. In her 1999 history of the cemetery, Elizabeth Carpenter Piechocinski alludes to children once playing within some of the old family vaults that still contained the dusty bones of former Savannahians. The image of children happily playing among bones certainly supports the idea of this cemetery being alive and a place where life and death joyfully intermingle with the ghost stories and occasional evidence also providing tangible support. With the addition of a playground on the East Perry Street side of the cemetery, this becomes even more evident.

gates of Colonial Park Cemetery Savannah Georgia ghosts haunted
The entrance to Colonial Park Cemetery by Eric Fleming, 2007. Released under a Creative Commons License on Flickr.

Piechocinski’s history, The Old Burying Ground: Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, 1750-1853, does make a statement about ghosts within Colonial Park: “There are no documented ghosts associated with Colonial Cemetery. Perhaps all the moving and removing of bodies thoroughly disoriented them, and they remain safely interred.” In 2000, a year after her book was released, Piechocinski made a disturbing discovery in the cemetery. She discovered the remains of a bound goat with its throat slashed. Not far away the goat’s heart was found on a piece of aluminum foil with a coconut and burned candle. It’s unknown if this was the remains of a religious ceremony or a gruesome prank. Nonetheless, perhaps the souls of the dead are not as safely interred as Piechocinski believes. Since the writing of her book, quite a bit has been written about the spirits that still walk here.

In 2010, I wrote about a video that was taken by a tourist in the cemetery. The video, taken on 1 December 2008, shows what appears to be a small child and another figure. The child is seen running in the background and then the figures appear to possibly fly up into a tree then come down a moment later. Investigation by a film special effects crew hired by Cleveland, Ohio news station, WJW Fox News 8 (see their story here), determined that the video is not a hoax and the ghostly figures are inconclusive.

Personally, I would have to side with the special effects crew. Yes, the figures are strange, but the young man with the video camera did not investigate the figures any more closely, especially after something fell out of the tree. The video shows the cemetery is also full of people, so a small child running along is not that unusual. I’ve visited the park myself a few times and have noted the many palm trees. To me, the falling object at the end of the video appears to be a palm branch. However fake or real, this video does provide a good reason to discuss the ghosts of Colonial Park Cemetery.

If anything, this cemetery most certainly should be haunted. While it is not the first cemetery established in Savannah, it is the oldest extant cemetery. When the city was laid out in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, the founder of the city and colony of Georgia, a burial ground was established in 1750 at a site between York, Bull, Oglethorpe, and Whitaker Streets, a location that is a few blocks west of Colonial Park. That cemetery was closed after only seventeen years of use and a cemetery was established at the site of Colonial Park. At the time, this location was outside the city’s walls. Eight years later, the cemetery ownership was given to Christ Church. The cemetery was expanded and opened for the burial of all Christians regardless of denomination. A wall was constructed to surround the cemetery in 1791.

Nearly a hundred years after the cemetery was first established in 1750, the city dedicated space on the newly acquired Springfield Plantation as Laurel Grove Cemetery and closed the South Broad Street Cemetery (as it was known) to burials. Families with members buried in the old cemetery were encouraged to re-inter their loved ones in Laurel Grove. According to records, some 600 burials were transferred to the new cemetery. Others were removed to the newly opened Evergreen-Bonaventure and the Catholic cemeteries as well. For many year, the old cemetery sat lifeless.

On Christmas Day 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman sent a telegraph to President Abraham Lincoln stating, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” Union soldiers, weary from their destructive march across the state from Atlanta, needed a place for quarters within Savannah. The old cemetery grounds proved useful and horses were quartered here. Soldiers also took up residence in some of the old vaults and mausolea. Bored soldiers are noted to have altered some of the tombstones while other stones were moved from their original locations. After the soldiers left, the old cemetery lay neglected for almost 30 years when the city attempted to acquire the space from Christ Church.

Worried that the cemetery would be destroyed, Christ Church sued the city to prevent the sale, but acquiesced when the city assured the church that the cemetery would not be harmed. After some work to restore the cemetery, the site was opened as Colonial Park. In 1998, an archaeological team located some 10,000 grave sites within the cemetery using ground penetrating radar. Only about 600 of these graves are marked with monuments or tombstones.

Edward Malbone marker Colonial Park Cemetery Savannah Georgia ghosts haunted
The historic marker at the grave of artist Edward Malbone. Photo 2011, by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In addition to the somewhat questionable 2008 ghost video, there are other reports of paranormal phenomena here. James Caskey of the Savannah Haunted History Tour in his book, Haunted Savannah, does provide one personal story. While conducting a tour in November of 2001, Caskey noticed that some of the people in his group had odd expressions on their faces while he talked just outside the cemetery. Turning around, he saw an odd mist near the grave of Edward Malbone which is located just off the main entry path into the cemetery and is perhaps 50-60 feet inside, if I remember correctly. This grave is particularly identifiable as it has a historical marker (one of many in the cemetery) next to it. This mist rose about five and a half feet off the ground and then dissipated.

Another tour guide and paranormal investigator, Tobias McGriff, writes in his 2012 Savannah Shadows: Tales from the Midnight Zombie Tour of the “Red Girl,” a red-hued young girl’s image that has been captured in photographs taken by ghost tour participants. She is often captured as she kneels at a grave though one intrepid boy saw and communicated with the red waif. As the tour group began to leave, the child inquired why the little girl was in the cemetery and said that the girl had asked him to remain moving the guide and others in the group to tears.

ghost photo Colonial Park Cemetery Savannah Georgia unedited
Kady Heard’s unedited photo, 2013. All rights reserved.
ghost photo Colonial Park Cemetery Savannah Georgia lightened
Kady Heard’s photo after I lightened it. All rights reserved.

Three close friends of mine have captured some intriguing images in and around the cemetery. In 2013, my friends Troy and Kady Heard were visiting Savannah on their honeymoon. An alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Troy had worked as a ghost tour guide and was giving his wife an impromptu tour. Passing Colonial Park, Kady spotted an owl perched on one of the crypts. She snapped a picture on her smartphone and posted it on Facebook. When I saw the picture I immediately wondered if she had taken a creepy picture of her husband lost in the shadows, though after talking to Troy, I discovered the picture was looking into the locked cemetery. Apparently, the owl is the roundish figure in the lower center of the photo, but what is particularly odd is the human shaped figure above that. I figure that the very bright lines are reflections from the iron fence. I can’t say that this photograph is conclusive evidence of anything, though it is intriguing that it may show something.

ghost photo Colonial Park Cemetery Savannah Georgia
Celeste Warlick’s photograph of the playground, 2012. All rights reserved.

Another friend of mine snapped another intriguing photo at Colonial Park. While passing the playground located at the back of the cemetery on East Perry Lane, Celeste Warlick snapped this photograph in 2012. You can see the playground equipment blurred behind a flurry of orbs. While the orbs themselves are often debated as they can be caused by dust, water vapor, or insects, there are three brightly colored orbs in this photograph. According to an internet meme, orange orbs indicate a healing, protective energy. Perhaps that is what appears here. Perhaps the air is full of water vapor or dust or perhaps Celeste captured another piece of evidence of the living energy that still surrounds Colonial Park Cemetery.


  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to the Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2008.
  • “Fox 8 Exclusive: Video Proof of Afterlife?” WJW Fox 8 News. 15 November 2010.
  • McGriff, Tobias. Savannah Shadows: Tales from the Midnight Zombie Tour. Savannah, GA: Blue Orb Publishing, 2012.
  • Piechocinski, Elizabeth Carpenter. The Old Burying Ground: Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, 1750-1853. Savannah, GA: Oglethorpe Press, 1999.
  • Stratford, Suzanne. “Do you believe? Experts analyze teen’s ghost video.” WJW Fox 8 News. 23 February 2011.

” As the Georgia moon sends ghastly shafts”—Albany, Georgia

N.B. This article was edited and revised 20 May 2020.

In searching through some old Alabama newspapers, I stumbled across this fascinating article from Albany, Georgia. Located in southwest Georgia, Albany ranks as the 8th largest city in the state, though its distance from major interstates has limited its growth. It should also be noted that a non-Georgian can easily be  identified by how they pronounce the name Albany. Most Georgian’s know that the town’s name is pronounced as AWL-benny rather than ALL-bany.

In addition to being a damn good ghost story, this article provides fascinating historical details. The article begins by calling on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the great Scottish writer and physician who created the great Sherlock Holmes. Sir Conan Doyle had a fascination with spiritualism and was active in the British spiritualism movement. This article does comment somewhat on the spiritual movement that was sweeping America at this time, particularly with its description of locals gathering to hear these spirit voices.

birds eye view of Albany Georgia 1885
A birds-eye view of Albany, Georgia, 1885.

It should be noted that this article is a product of the Jim Crow South. I do not personally condone this racist ideals or language that permeate this article.

For a glimpse at the lives of African-Americans in Albany at this time, Wikipedia provides a summary of African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois’s  1903 description of the city is his book, The Souls of Black Folk:

He described it as a typical African-American majority-populated rural town in the Deep South. Du Bois discussed the culture, agribusiness, and economy of the region. Du Bois described Albany as a small town where local sharecroppers lived. Much of the soil had been depleted of nutrients because of intensive cotton cultivation, and people found it hard to make a living. Once a bustling small city with an economy dependent on cotton, it had numerous cotton gins. The planters were dependent on slave labor and Albany had declined steadily in the late 19th century. After the disruption of the Civil War and poor economy of the late nineteenth century, the local agricultural economy suffered. Du Bois wrote that Dougherty County had many decaying one-room slave cabins and unfenced fields. Despite the problems, local folklore, customs, and culture made Albany a notable small city in the South.

The Anniston Star
Anniston, Alabama

Page 1
9 June 1922

Page Sir Conan, Georgia City is Haunt of Ghost

Spirit of a Hanged Negro is Making Folk Uncomfortable in Albany, Ga.

ALBANY, Ga., June 9.—(United Press)—Call for Sir Conan Doyle! Call for Mr. Doyle!

Albany has a “spirit” he may commune with to his heart’s content, if he isn’t too high toned a spiritualist to attend the same séance with the ghost of a hanged negro.

Z. T. Pate and his family live in what used to be the Warden’s quarters of an old abandoned jail here. The rear of the building, where years ago, prisoners waited their fate, is now but a shell, but the ancient warden’s quarter’s [sic] make a comfortable home for the Pates.

Recently while in the rear of his house, Pate said he heard a voice—a negro’s voice—speak clear and distinctly out of nowhere—“Boss, dis rope aroun’ mah neck shore do hurt.”

Pate was startled, but interested. He told others about it but got the usual answer—a skeptical laugh.

Then he invited in a few of his neighbors. They sat in the back room and listened. Nothing happened until they became quiet, the [sic] again the voice from nowhere saluted them.

Now it’s one of Albany’s chief places of interest.

Each night as the Georgia moon sends ghastly shafts throughout the broken windows of the old jail a party of Albanites gather in the Pate’s home and listen. They have not been disappointed yet, Pate says.

The voices will not answer a question. It will ask them and comment upon things said in the room. A person, in a whisper, will say something as a test to one sitting by him. Although no other person in the room can hear what has been said, the strange voice comments intelligently upon what the whisperer has told or asked his neighbor.

The building has been examined throughout for wires and none have been found. Nothing that could be used for a radio receiving set is in the building. Tests have been made to see if a ventriloquist is responsible and the theory abandoned.

Recently two gentlemen of color were taken in the ghost chamber.

“Who is them niggers, Mr. Pate?” the voice demanded.

With terror gripping the negroes, [sic] Pate answered giving their names. The building seemed about to collapse according to those present. Sounds of breaking woodwork of falling furniture and breaking glass were heard. The negro visitors lost only a few seconds in decamping.

There are many here who laugh at Pate’s ghost as it is called but none have solved the mystery of the strange voice yet, and they still come nightly to “listen in.”

A search for other newspaper accounts and the exact location of this jail has been fruitless.


  • Albany, Georgia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 December 2015.
  • “Page Sir Conan, Georgia City is Haunt of Ghost.” Anniston Star. 9 June 1922. Page 1.