Joseph Russ Jr. House
310 West Lafayette Street
One of the issues I consistently encounter in researching the South is the lack of resources on hauntings in the rural South. Many major Southern cities have at least some resource on their ghosts, but beyond those city limits, the resources become fewer. Florida is fairly well covered in its well populated areas, particularly Southern Florida, but its northern section is not so well covered. The Panhandle is very sparsely covered and in my list of hauntings, I have no locations listed in Jackson County…until now.
Sitting just below the line separating Alabama and Georgia, Jackson County, Florida is a reminder of Florida before the building booms of the 20th century. The county seat, Marianna, “The City of Southern Charm,” was founded in 1828 and is currently home to around 6200 people. I’ve just realized that I passed through Marianna on the way to nearby Florida Caverns a few years ago. I remember the town being a very pleasant and typical small southern town, but I certainly would have paid more attention had I known of the ghosts.
The home to Marianna’s Chamber of Commerce, the magnificent Joseph W. Russ Jr. House, is apparently haunted. Appearing today in the Jackson County Floridian is a nice article recounting an investigation of the Russ House. As is typical in these types of stories, a reporter tagged along while a group of paranormal investigators, Emerald Coast Paranormal Concepts from Panama City in this case, investigate a local landmark. The reporter describes how the ghost hunters investigate, their beliefs about ghosts and may briefly describe the investigation itself. This article, however, spends a bit more time discussing the investigation and some of the activity the group encountered.
The Russ House’s unusual porch is the first thing that draws visitors. Fanning out from the main house, the porch is supported by Corinthian columns and topped with a cupola. This porch is part of an extensive remodel of the house that took place in 1910. The home was originally built in the Queen Anne style between 1892 and 1895. The property on which the house was built had been owned by the Russ family since they first settled in Marianna and family constructed homes around this house. The home remained in the family for many years. Parts of the property were sold off when the family’s fortunes soured after the Crash of 1929 including part of the front yard which served as a gas station and a series of businesses.
Still, the house attracted visitors. Merritt Dekle, a descendant of Joseph Russ, writes of his grandmother dealing with visitors who would pull over and knock on the door of the intriguing house. Sometimes they would just ask of its history, but other times they would beg for a tour, to which she would decline politely with “I’m sorry, there’s sickness in the family.” By the time the house passed out of the family, much of it had been neglected. The house was deeded to the Marianna Chamber of Commerce in 1996 and has since been renovated for that purpose.
Employees and visitors to the house have reported a variety of odd phenomena. Footsteps, objects apparently moving on their own accord and the voices of children have been heard. According to the article, the house has been investigated by three other groups, though “minimal spirit activity” was reported. In his history of the house, Merritt Dekle mentions that the house has been considered haunted by locals for many years. He recalls staying in the house as a child and later as an adult and while the house was creepy, he didn’t have any unusual experiences.
During the investigation last Saturday, the group had a few odd experiences. Among the more unusual occurrences were a scraping sound and the word “help” being uttered both heard by the reporter and an investigator. A few other odd incidents were reported and the investigators will review the evidence captured during the evening.
Stay tuned for the results!
- Buckhalter, Deborah. “Ghost hunters coming to Marianna.” Jackson County Floridian. 26 February 2012.
- Dekle, Merritt. “Ghosts of Times Past.” The History of the Russ House. July 2000.
- Dekle, Merritt. “Introduction.” The History of the Russ House. July 2000.
- Delgado, Lauren. “A ghosthunter in the Floridian office.” Jackson County Floridian. 6 March 2012.
- Jackson County,Florida. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 March 2012.
- Joseph W. RussJr. House. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 March 2012.
- Marianna,Florida. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 March 2012.