West Virginia Route 901 Near Spring Mills Plantation Berkeley County, West Virginia
In the recent past a couple was driving Route 901 near Spring Mills Plantation late one evening in October. Near Harlan Run the couple entered a bank of fog and the interior of the car became quite cold. The fog began to take on a greenish hue and suddenly, the car came to a stop; the engine went dead and the headlights shut off. The couple was left in cold, silent darkness.
From out of the darkness the couple was stunned to see the form of a bedraggled Confederate soldier appear. He held his back as if he’d been wounded and he appeared to notice the couple as he neared the front of their car. With a thump he laid his hands on the hood and peered pleadingly before collapsing leaving bloody handprints on the car. The husband opened his door and walked to the front of the car to help the pathetic figure who now lay prone in the roadway. When he reached out to the poor soldier the figure disappeared along with the bloody handprints. The couple quickly left vowing never to drive that stretch of road in the dark.
So far I’ve found this story repeated, with some different details, in two sources. There also seems to be some argument as to the exact location of this incident. Walter Gavenda and Michael T. Shoemaker in their 2001 A Guide to Haunted West Virginia provide the most exact location, on Route 901 just over Harlan Run near Spring Mills Plantation. Patty A. Wilson’s 2007 Haunted West Virginia places the story on Route 11, which is described as the “Highway of Bones” due to the many deaths along its run during the Civil War. Gavenda and Shoemaker also state that a noted West Virginia folklorist has recorded a handful of similar stories from this location. This area was certainly the scene of activity during the Civil War.
The area around Harlan Run is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Spring Mills Historic District. This district is comprised of seven different structures including a late 18th century mill, a few houses, Falling Waters Presbyterian Church and its cemetery. Together these buildings remain as an example of a small rural hamlet in the early 19th century. Indeed, they may have also played a part in the conflicts in the region during the Civil War.
According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the historic district, the area did not see any actual fighting, though it may have been used frequently for encampments with the nearby Dr. Hammond House serving as headquarters for a few generals on both sides. Still, this does not explain the frightening apparition in the road, but it does make for a wonderful story. Nor is this the first roadside revenant in the region. These type stories are found associated with many of West Virginia’s winding mountain roads and extending throughout the rural South.
Gavenda, Walter and Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
Taylor, David L. National Register of Historic Places form for the Spring Mills Historic District. October 2003.
Wilson, Patty A. Haunted West Virginia: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Mountain State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill 3501 Lexington Road Harrodsburg, Kentucky
‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free, ‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed, To turn, turn, ‘twill be our delight, ‘Till by turning, turning, we come round right. –“Simple Gifts,” 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett
The members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing are simply known as Shakers. It is a name that refers to their worship services that would include a form of spiritual cleansing by literally and symbolically shaking. This religious order appeared in eighteenth century England from among charismatic Christians reacting against the staid religious atmosphere at that time. The order spread across the Atlantic Ocean and communities appeared on the American landscape, a place where different religious creeds were tolerated.
The religious beliefs of the Shakers required them to create separate communities based upon their beliefs rather than living amongst other creeds in urban areas. Their beliefs dictated a simplicity, austerity and efficiency in their ordered lives. Celibacy was a covenant maintained by all. The Shakers only added to their ranks by inducting believers, though they also purchased slaves which they freed and they adopted orphaned children. The communities were organized into “families” which lived in large dormitory-like structures. The lives of the Shakers were spent joyfully producing things which would build the wealth of the community as a whole.
In all things, simplicity was the rule. In Shaker design an economy of line was practiced. Everything was produced with utilitarian function in mind and most adornment was considered wasteful. They saw that making something well was an act of prayer and devotion to the Creator. Even within their music, Shakers only rarely used harmony. They preferred a pure melodic line uncluttered by anything else. The music does however display a joy and ecstasy that is surprising. These songs reflect joy, happiness and could often inspire dancing.
While the numbers of Shakers diminished in the late nineteenth century, at least one community, Sabbathday Lake in Maine, remains. Other Shaker villages, like Pleasant Hill, Kentucky have been preserved as living history museums.
The community at Pleasant Hill was founded by three missionaries and at its height supported some 500 souls. It is noted that the products of Pleasant Hill were so well made that they often sold for a third more than other products. The village became well known for its hardy livestock and its engineering accomplishments. The converts began to dwindle towards the end of the century and the village was dissolved in 1910. Renewed interest in Shaker life and the village led to preservation efforts that have preserved the village for modern visitors. Visitors may also stay overnight within these historic structures, as well.
Sweet spirits do surround us now I feel them gathering near. I can perceive their lowly bow And hear their heavenly cheer. –“Celestial Choir,” Anonymous
In Shaker belief, souls remain earthbound until the judgment. Therefore, it’s no surprise to find that the spirits of Shakertown remain. Throughout the village of some 30 restored structures, visitors and staff see plainly clothed Shakers apparently going about their daily business. They have been seen walking through the streets, sitting at looms and occasionally waking overnight guests. Often they may be mistaken for re-enactors, but witnesses soon find that re-enactors were not present in that particular building.
In the 1820 meeting house, the sounds of singing, stomping and clapping have been heard. Thomas Freese, a re-enactor and Shaker singer who wrote a book on the Shaker ghosts of Pleasant Hill had an odd experience in the meeting house. He had gone there with another staff member and while she was upstairs he began vocalizing. As he sang a form appeared on a nearby bench and began to take human shape. Chilled, he left the building. Later, he discovered that the particular vocalization he was doing was used to call meetings.
Throughout Pleasant Hill staff and visitors alike have experienced the quiet simple spirits of the Shakers. One of the more extraordinary experiences happened to a woman staying in one of the restored buildings. Early in the morning she was awakened by a knock at the door. She heard a key turn and a woman in Shaker dress opened the door. She was carrying towels and set them down and slipped out of the room. The woman discovered that a towel she had used to clean her makeup off had been replaced by a clean towel. When she inquired with the staff she was told that the staff does not wear Shaker clothing. She also reported that it sounded that the dryer had been running all night. In Pleasant Hill, the Shakers still bow and bend in the spirit world with quiet simplicity.
Sing on, dance on, followers of Emmanuel! Sing on, dance on, ye followers of the Lamb! –“Brethren Ain’t You Happy?” Anonymous
Freese, Thomas. “Shaker Ghost Stories.” Fantasma: Kentucky’s Magazine of the Paranormal. Fall 2006.
Freese, Thomas. Shaker Ghost Stories from Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005.
Morton, W. Brown, III. National Register of Historic Place nomination form for Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District.
N.B. This article was edited and revised 14 July 2019.
While visiting Charleston a few weeks ago, I took a quick day trip to Georgetown, just up the coast. The drive from Charleston passes numerous roadside stands selling traditional sweetgrass baskets, marshes, and haunted plantations like Hopsewee and Hampton. Driving into Georgetown on US-17, the first glimpse of the city is decidedly industrial. Turning towards town, the view changes quickly to broad, residential streets with sunlight dappled by the moss-laden ancient oaks.
The residential streets beyond are lined with beautifully restored homes and the whole effect of the town is marvelously drowsy and quiet. The town seems lost in an aged and blissful dementia, unaware of time and the rush of the outside world. So many of Georgetown’s stories are just as timeless.
Georgetown is recognized as the third oldest city in South Carolina, though this is argued as the Spanish settled the area in the early 16th century, thus making it one of the oldest cities in the New World. Officially, the city was founded by the English in 1721 and served as a wealthy port city and center for agriculture for this fertile region. Initially, wealth flowed in from the trade in indigo, but following the American Revolution, cultivation of indigo was supplanted by rice which grew especially well in this wet, marshy area. By 1840, almost half of the rice produced in the United States was grown in this region, and Georgetown became the largest port for rice exportation in the world.
The Civil War brought horrors to the country and a blockade to Georgetown’s port, though the war did not scar the city like its neighbor, Charleston. With the loss of slave labor, many of the large plantations in the area struggled to produce the vast amounts of rice that had been produced before the war. Rice, once the port’s main export was replaced by timber and an International Paper plant gave a much needed boost to the local economy following the Great Depression. With such a large an intact historic district, the city has been able to capitalize on its heritage and now attracts tourists and retirees.
Many of the area’s ghosts have been documented by Elizabeth Huntsinger Wolf, in her three volumes: Ghosts of Georgetown, More Ghosts of Georgetown, and Georgetown Mysteries and Legends. Many of these stories appear to be old legends though a few have modern postscripts with activity that has been recently reported. Please note that many of these homes are private residences; please respect the owner’s privacy.
Ruhf, Nancy R. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the City of Georgetown Historic District. 3 February 1971.
Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of South Carolina. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.
Beth Elohim Cemetery 400 Broad Street
The second oldest Jewish cemetery in the state, the Beth Elohim Cemetery contains graves of many of the most prominent citizens of Georgetown, including three of the city’s six Jewish mayors. The legend associated with this graveyard involves Pauline Moses who, with her best friend Eliza Munnerlyn, had planned to be wed on the same day at the same time, though in different locations. Both girls contracted yellow fever and died a few days before the weddings. Subsequently, girlish laughter heard emanating from this cemetery as well as the cemetery of Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church just across the street, where Munnerlyn is buried, is thought to be theirs.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Bolem House (private) 719 Prince Street
Possibly the oldest home in Georgetown, recent evidence indicates that it was originally constructed as a tavern. With the influx of sailors into the port, Georgetown would have had at least a few establishments to house and serve them. Residents of the house have since occasionally heard and seen the revenants of some of these long dead sailors. Huntsinger describes the surprise of a family member when he encountered a sailor on Christmas of 1993. The family member went into the kitchen and “encountered a very old man in an old-time sailor’s outfit, and he appeared to have no teeth. The man wandered around the kitchen, then into the hallway, never saying anything and looking somewhat displaced.” The witness asked the rest of the family if they had seen someone and they had not. Hopefully, the poor sailor will soon figure out where he needs to be.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
This house has in the recent past served as a bed and breakfast, but there was a large for sale sign in the yard when I visited a few weeks ago. An internet search doesn’t say if the inn is still open. I do hope that the little girl and the mother who have resided there since before the Civil War are okay. Guests in this home constructed around 1740 have reported seeing and hearing a woman and small girl who may have been victims of a fire in the 19th century. In addition to occasionally smelling smoke, occupants have come face to face with the two spirits and have heard childish giggling and singing. At times, small footprints have even appeared in freshly vacuumed carpet.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Henning-Miller House 331 Screven Street
This lovely, circa 1760 (some accounts state the house is circa 1800, which would make this story false), home boasts a helpful spirit on the staircase. During the American Revolution, British soldiers often imposed themselves on the hospitality of both Tory (British sympathizers) and Patriot families alike. The family living in the Henning House was Tory but had a daughter with Patriot sympathies.
Throughout the South Carolina Low Country, the British had chased Patriot hero, Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion through the swamps and marshes. One evening as the British were sleeping upstairs, of their officers overheard the daughter talking downstairs of Francis Marion being in town. He rose quickly and, in his rush, tripped on the stairs breaking his neck, killing him instantly. Since that incident, anyone losing their footing on the same stairs has felt a hand keeping them from meeting the same fate as that young British officer.
Barefoot, Daniel W. Spirits of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2009.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
(formerly the Harbor House Bed & Breakfast, private) 15 Cannon Street
Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church 300 Broad Street
Opened in 1747, the marvelous church of Prince George Winyah has served the citizens of Georgetown for centuries. For the legend surrounding the churchyard, see the above entry on the Beth Elohim Cemetery.
Pyatt-Doyle House (private) 630 Highmarket Street
This 1790 home is home to what appears to be mostly residual activity. It is noted that when a rocking chair is placed in one bedroom, it will rock on its own. Some visitors have even witnessed a woman holding a baby sitting in the chair. Others have heard the sound of footsteps throughout the house.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
Rice Museum 633 Front Street
Georgetown’s Rice Museum, documenting the history of rice cultivation in the South Carolina Lowcountry, occupies two historic buildings on Front Street: the Old Market Building with its landmark clock tower, and the adjacent Kaminski Building. The Old Market Building once housed, as the name implies, the local market selling produce, livestock and slaves while the upper portions housed the town hall. Over the years the building has served as a jail, a printing shop, and the town police department.
The Kaminski Building, constructed in 1842, the same year as the market, served as retail space for many years. With so much activity over the years, it’s hard to imagine that these buildings wouldn’t contain a ghost or three. Footsteps, particularly those of someone with a peg-leg have been heard in the art gallery in the Kaminski Building. Elizabeth Huntsinger, author of Ghosts of Georgetown and More Ghosts of Georgetown, points out a particular antique sideboard in the museum that may even be associated with the spirit of an enslaved woman.
Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Georgetown County Rice Museum. 8 November 1969.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
Strand Theatre 710 Front Street
This plot of land on Front Street has been occupied by a cinema since the Peerless Theatre was constructed here in 1914. The Strand Theatre opened in 1941 and closed in the 1970s. In 1982 the Swamp Fox Players, a local community theatre company took over the building, slowly restoring its Art Moderne glory.
Almost immediately after taking over the building, company members began noticing the sounds of footsteps in the balcony. During a performance of an original show, Ghosts of the Coast, based upon a series of ghost stories and other haunting tales, actors leaving the theatre began to notice odd cold spots and the sounds of whispers began to emanate from the backstage area. They summoned a local ghost hunter who blamed the occurrence on a scene in the show involving a hoodoo spell. While the cold spots and whispers have since ceased, the footsteps continue.
Wolf, Elizabeth Huntsinger. Georgetown Mysteries and Legends. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2007.
Waterman-Kaminski House 622 Highmarket Street
Next door to the Pyatt-Doyle House is the even earlier Waterman House, built around 1770. This house is home to two separate legends. One speaks of a little boy whose family left him in the care of the home’s owners while they journeyed north during the summer. The family was lost at sea and the little eight-year-old soon fell sick with grief and died. His pitiful spirit is still seen here occasionally.
The other legend concerns a young woman who fell for a faithless sea captain. Returning from a trip he presented his love with a vial of exotic perfume. After her lover left her home, the sweetheart watched him from a third-floor window. With horror she observed him entering a local tavern, eventually emerging with another young lady. Distraught, the young woman drank the contents of the vial and died. Her sad spirit is said to still watch from the window on summer evenings.
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 416 Francis Street, East
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.
Public Gaol 461 East Nicholson 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 207 East 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 139 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 500 East 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. I have covered the spirits of the Old Capitol in depth in a separate article.
Orrell House 302 Francis Street, East
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 100 West Nicholson Street
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 433 East 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 whose 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. This article has been broken out into a separate article.
Raleigh Tavern 410 East 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 101 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.
Gratz Park Historic District Bounded by Second Street, the Byway, Third Street and Bark Alley Lexington, Kentucky
Old Morrison Transylvania University Campus
Transylvania University was almost 40 years old when the European with the odd name of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz strode into the large, Federal Main building. Rafinesque had journeyed “across the woods,” as the Latin name of the university implied, to take on a professorship of botany as well as teach Italian and French, languages from his broad repertoire.
His Christian name belied his birthplace, Constantinople, where he was born to a French trader father and a Turkish-born German mother. His education was as mixed as his heritage and upbringing. A polymath autodidact, he taught himself Latin and early on began to collect natural specimens, ranging from plants to shells. Rafinesque spent time in the fledgling United States and in various locales in Europe returning to the States in 1815. Travelling throughout the states, he gathered, described and named an astounding array of species and studied the Native Americans who were just beginning to be pushed west of the Mississippi River.
His new employer was also on an upward trajectory. Transylvania University had grown in its forty years of existence into one of the premier universities in the U.S. As one of the nation’s top ranked schools, it produced and employed some of the greatest names of the day including lawyer and later statesman, Henry Clay who served as a professor; Stephen Austin, the “Father of Texas;” Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy; and the fiery abolitionist, Cassius Clay. The medical school included in its faculty, smallpox vaccination pioneer Samuel Brown and Benjamin W. Dudley, the most imminent surgeon in the Mississippi Valley.
These two upward trajectories maintained a parallel course briefly and then collided in the spring of 1826 when university president Horace Holley dismissed Rafinesque. Officially, the reason was that Rafinesque had acted unprofessionally and had missed numerous classes, but the unofficial reason, according to campus gossip, was the affair that Rafinesque was carrying on with Holley’s wife. When informed of his dismissal, an incensed Rafinesque uttered a curse, “Damn thee and thy school as I place a curse upon you!”
Rafinesque quietly returned to Philadelphia where he lived the remaining years of his life. He died of stomach cancer some 14 years later. According to legend, friends of Rafinesque had to break into his home to steal his corpse as his landlord was planning to sell it to a local medical school in lieu of back rent. He was buried in Philadelphia, but, in 1924, a campus organization rallied to have his remains returned to rest on campus; an “Honor to Whom Honor is Overdue,” as the words are inscribed on his crypt in Old Morrison. The group, though, was somewhat unsuccessful. Recent tests on the remains have discovered that they are fact the remains of Mary Ann Passamore, one of the handful of others interred in Rafinesque’s plot in the cemetery.
While Rafinesque still rests in Philadelphia, his curse still may linger in Lexington. President Horace Holley resigned the following year and died unexpectedly of yellow fever. Two years later, the main building was destroyed by fire. Following the destruction of the campus, the campus was moved across the street. The University’s upward momentum as one of the premier universities slowed as well, perhaps a result of the curse?
Old Morrison, designed by architect Gideon Shryock, was completed in 1834 and considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in America. The edifice was restored to its original appearance in 1962 which removed unsympathetic additions added in the late nineteenth century. On January 27, 1969, a fire swept the newly restored building leaving only exterior walls standing, according to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form. Daniel Barefoot in his Haunted Halls of Ivy, points out that a little more survived: the crypt of Rafinesque was completely untouched by fire. Even more, he reports that firefighters saw the figure of a man standing in the doorway of the crypt while the fire raged around.
Old Morrison was restored and still stands a symbol of the school, though odd things still happen. A security guard in the buildings claims to have been tripped by something in the dark hall. Every few years, tragic things occur on campus and of course, the curse is invoked. But, Old Morrison faces a historic district where some even stranger events may occur.
Hunt-Morgan House 201 North Mill Street
Just a block down North Mill Street from Old Morrison sits one of the more historic structures in the region, the Hunt-Morgan House. Originally known as Hopemont, the house was built in 1814 by John Wesley Hunt. One of the first millionaires west of the Alleghenies, John Hunt Morgan was the head of an illustrious family that included his grandson, General John Hunt Morgan, a notable Confederate general and Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist.
The legend of the Hunt-Morgan House dates to the Civil War. The Morgans had a slave named Bouviette James, known to the family as Ma’am Bette. Ma’am Bette served as the nursemaid to the Morgan’s children and by all accounts was a valued member of the family. Upon her death, she was laid out in the parlor and four of the Morgan’s sons, whom she had raised, served as pallbearers. She was even buried in the family plot, but, she would not rest there. After she passed, one of the children became grievously ill. The child’s nurse fell asleep at the child’s bedside and awoke to see a woman, wearing Ma’am Bette’s signature red shoes and turban sitting at the child’s side. The child died soon after, but the thought of Ma’am Bette guiding the child in the afterlife was comforting to the Morgans.
Maria Dudley House 215 North Mill Street
Sitting among Federal and Greek Revival houses, the starkly Victorian Maria Dudley House stands out. This 1880 structure remains a private residence, but one that, according to Jamie Millard, author of the article that inspired this entry, possesses a dark energy. Millard describes a recent incident where a young man was apparently thrown over a stair railing which broke his arm. Indeed, others have felt a disturbing presence in the rear portion of the house and a family dog refused to go into that portion. Unfortunately, I have found no further information on this house.
John Stark House 228 Market Street
On the opposite side of Gratz Park, the John Stark House, also a private residence, was built in 1813 and was occupied by Gideon Shryock during the building of Old Morrison. Later, this house was the home of Dr. Robert Peter, Union Surgeon General during the Civil War. Perhaps the apparition of a Union soldier that has been seen here is one of Dr. Peter’s former patients.
Bodley-Bullock House 200 Market Street
Built around 1814-5, the Bodley-Bullock house has seen a range of owners in its history. The house was built by General Thomas Bodley, a veteran of the War of 1812. After losing the house in the financial crisis of 1819, the house passed through a series of hands. During the Civil War, the house was used as a headquarters for both Confederate and Union troops. It is noted that grand balls were held under both sides. The house’s illustrious history ended with Mrs. Minnie Bullock who purchased the house in 1912. Mrs. Bullock lived in this house longer than anyone and helped in the restoration of the Hunt-Morgan House. Upon her death, the house was restored and opened as a house museum as well.
Reports of spiritual activity have been reported by museum staff and visitors. A photographer taking a bridal portrait in the house apparently captured the image of a woman and a small child standing on the staircase behind the bride. Staff members believe the woman is Mrs. Bullock who is disapproving of some of the activity in her old home. In her will, Mrs. Bullock stipulated that there would be no drinking in the house, but the will was changed when it was decided the house would be used for events as well as a museum.
Gratz Park Inn 120 West Second Street
Hospitals almost invariably have haunting and the Gratz Park Inn, built as the Lexington Clinic, is no exception. With construction beginning in 1916 and opening its doors to the public in 1920, this structure is one of the few 20th century structures in the historic district and among the founders of the clinic was Dr. Waller Bullock, husband of Minnie, who resided in the Bodley-Bullock House just down the street. This building served as a clinic until 1958 when the clinic moved. The building was then used as the offices of an engineering firm which closed its doors in 1976. The building remained vacant until it was bought and renovated for use as an inn in 1987. It now ranks as one of the top inns in the region.
Among the inn’s non-paying guests are three spirits: a young girl, a man and a classic “lady in white.” The little girl is described differently in the two sources I have consulted. The Jamie Millard article names her “Little Annie” and states she plays quietly with her doll on the third floor. Alan Brown in his Haunted Kentucky, calls her Lizzie and says her voice is most commonly heard laughing and playing, though she did crawl in bed with a guest and fall asleep on evening. The Millard article goes on to describe the other two spirits: John is a humorous spirit and the “lady in white” is apparently looking for something or someone.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Bluegrass State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.