Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—South of Broad

N.B. This article was originally published 13 May 2015 as a single, massive article. It’s now broken up into three sections, South of Broad, North of Broad, and Charleston Environs, which have all been rearranged and revised for ease of use.

Known as the “Holy City” for the number of churches that raise their steeples above the city, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its architecture, colonial and antebellum opulence, as well as its haunted places. This tour looks at the highlights among Charleston’s legends and ghostlore.

Broad Street cuts across the Charleston peninsula creating a dividing line between the most historic, moneyed, aristocratic portion of the city—located south of Broad—and everything else. For convenience, this tour is now divided into separate articles covering the area South of Broad, North of Broad, and the Environs. Locales in this article include places open to the public as well as private homes. For these private homes, please respect the privacy of the occupants, and simply view them from the street.

The tour is arranged alphabetically by street, with the sites in order by street address south to north and east to west.

As an introduction to the more mysterious, shadowy side of Charleston, the opening lines of Pat Conroy’s 1980 novel, The Lords of Discipline, provide a lush and succinct preface. The novel examines the triumph and cruelty of Charleston, and The Citadel (disguised as the “Carolina Military Institute”), Conroy’s alma mater.

The city of Charleston, in the green feathery modesty of its palms, in the certitude of its style, in the economy and stringency of its lines, and the serenity of its mansions South of Broad Street, is a feast for the human eye. But to me, Charleston is a dark city, a melancholy city, whose severe covenants and secrets are as powerful and beguiling as its elegance, who demons dance their alley dances and compose their malign hymns to the dark side of the moon I cannot see…

Though I will always be a visitor to Charleston, I will always remain one with a passionate belief that it is the most beautiful city in America and that to walk the old section of the city at night is to step into the bloodstream of a history extravagantly lived by a people born to a fierce and unshakable advocacy of their past. To walk in the spire-proud shade of Church Street is to experience the chronicle of a mythology that is particular to this city and this city alone, a trinitarian mythology with equal parts of the sublime, the mysterious, and the grotesque. But there is nothing to warn you of Charleston’s refined cruelty…

Entering Charleston is like walking through the brilliant carbon forest of a diamond with the light dazzling you in a thousand ways, an assault of light and shadow caused by light. The sun and the city have struck up an irreversible alliance.

Charleston Battery

Charleston Battery

On the Battery near the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 East Battery, a young woman encountered the apparition of a woman dressed in period clothing. James Caskey posits that the sad-faced apparition may very well have been the spirit of Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr and wife of South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston. In 1812, Theodosia Burr Alston boarded the Patriot in Georgetown, SC as she headed north. The ship was never heard from again. Her spirit has been reported up and down the South Carolina coast.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Theodosia Burr Alston.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.

Battery Carriage House Inn
20 South Battery

The Battery Carriage House Inn is possibly one of the more spiritually active locations in the city. A few of the 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.

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

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.

Sources

  • Ghost Sightings.” Battery Carriage House Inn. Accessed 31 October 2010.
  • Kermeen, Francis. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Hotels and Inns. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Spar, Mindy. “Local haunts among treats for Halloween.” The Post and Courier. 26 October 2002
  • Ward, Kevin Thomas. South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.

White Point Gardens
Charleston Battery

If you stand at the corner of East Battery and South Battery, look down South Battery for the large stone monument. This monument marks the spot where Pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were executed. These pirates may be among the multitude of spirits here. See my article for further information and sources. Another article contains photos from this lovely park.

East Bay Street

The Tavern
120 East Bay Street

There are questions as to just how old this little building is. Some sources argue that it may well be one of the oldest buildings in the city, while others argue that it only dates to the early 19th century. Regardless, this building can claim an inordinate amount of history, mostly as a tavern and coffeehouse, as well as ghosts.

One owner spotted the specter of an 18th century gentleman walking through the back door of the building. Later, his vision was confirmed by a psychic visitor who saw the same gentleman and several other spirits lingering here.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon
122 East Bay Street

One of the most important and historic buildings in the city, the Exchange Building, was constructed in the late 1760s to support the trade occurring in this, the wealthiest of colonial cities. The building was built on top of the old Half Moon Battery, a section of the original city wall. During the American Revolution, the dungeon held many of Charleston’s most prominent Patriot citizens. In 1791, this building hosted a ball for President George Washington.

It seems that the souls of some of the people imprisoned in the dungeon still stir. Ghost tours passing through the dungeon at night report that the chains used to guard exhibits swing on their own, while visitors take photographs with anomalies quite regularly. Cries and moans have been heard here and Alan Brown reports that some woman have been attacked here. One hapless female visitor was pushed up against a wall while another felt hands around her neck.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Church Street

Thomas Rose House
59 Church Street, private

This circa 1735 home may have never been occupied by Thomas Rose, who built the house. However, this house did serve as the residence of Dr. Joseph Ladd, a poet and physician, who was killed in a duel in Philadelphia Alley (see that listing in the North of Broad section) with his friend, Ralph Isaacs. The argument grew out of a misunderstanding; but after playing out in the local newspapers, it ended in a duel in October of 1786. Ladd, who had the habit of whistling, continues to be heard in the house as well as in the alley where he met the grim specter of death.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Legare Street

Simmons-Edwards House
14 Legare Street, private

Simmons-Edwards House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Simmons-Edwards House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Just outside of Francis Simmons’ old home (see the Simmons Gateposts, 131 Tradd Street for more information on this gentleman) a shadowy couple has been reported walking hand in hand on the street. Their identity is unknown.

Sources

  • Graydon, Nell S. South Carolina Ghosts. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop. 1969.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.

Hannah Heyward House
31 Legare Street, private

Hannah Heyward House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Hannah Heyward House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This simple, but elegant villa-styled house was built in 1789. After Mrs. Heyward’s son, James, left one morning for a hunting trip, she encountered him sitting quietly in the library later that afternoon. When she inquired among the servants when her son had arrived, no one seemed to have seen him. Later that evening some of James’ friends arrived with his lifeless body. Ever since, residents of the home have occasionally seen James sitting in the library.

Sources

  • Graydon, Nell S. South Carolina Ghosts. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop. 1969.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Sword Gate House
32 Legare Street, private

Gates of the Sword Gates House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
The titular gates of the Sword Gate House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

In the dark of night, a spirit still prowls the halls of the magnificent house that stands beyond these iron gates wrought with swords. The gates were originally created to be used outside the city’s guardhouse; but were purchased by Madame Talvande to guard her students after the city rejected the gates as too expensive. Even after the closure of the elite boarding school, legend speaks of Madame Talvande remaining here in spirit to see that her students remain moral and chaste.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Meeting Street

Daniel Huger House
34 Meeting Street, private

While this mid-18th century home sustained little damage during the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, a young, English visitor to the home was killed on the front steps. This area is prone to earthquakes and the quake that struck the city in 1886 caused massive damage throughout the city. The young man visiting the Huger (pronounced HEW-jee) family here fled the house when the shaking began. As he stood on the front steps a piece of molding from the roof struck him on the head, killing him. He may be the cause of mysterious rapping on the front door prior to earthquakes.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

James Simmons House
37 Meeting Street, private

This house has been named “The Bosoms” because of its bowed front and you may giggle at the silliness of that. The house was built, without bosoms, in the mid-18th century and alterations in the 1840s added the namesake bays. Legend holds that a pirate buried treasure near this house and shot one of his men at the site. The “white, blurry silhouette” of that man has been seen near the house.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

St. Michael’s Rectory
76 Meeting Street, private

St. Michael’s Alley, running alongside St. Michael’s Church’s churchyard to Church Street, was the scene of a duel in 1786 that left one young man with mortal wounds. Aroused by the commotion outside his house, Judge Elihu Hall Bay, a noted Charleston jurist, ordered the man’s companions to bring him into the house. Fearing that they could face consequences for their involvement with the dual, the young men fled after seeing their wounded friend into the house. The young man passed away in the house.

It was reported that the commotion of the men bringing their wounded friend inside and then hurriedly fleeing was heard in the house on a regular basis. It has been noted, however, that since the home was converted to use as a church rectory in 1942, the sounds have ceased.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
80 Meeting Street

St Michael's Episcopal Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
St. Michael’s, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Step inside the cool sanctuary of this mid-18th century church and be on the lookout for a spectral bride. Legend speaks of Harriet Mackie who was supposedly poisoned on her wedding day and remains here in her wedding dress. For more information see my article, “The Ghastly Bell-Ringer and Bride.”

Sources

  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Tradd Street

Simmons Gateposts
131 Tradd Street

Simmons Gateposts Tradd Street Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Simmons Gateposts, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

These gateposts, marking where Ruth Lowndes Simmons’ home once stood, serve as sentinels to remind us of a tragic love story. While Ruth Lowndes was from a noble Charleston family, she was almost a spinster when she married Francis Simmons, a wealthy planter. Simmons provided his wife with a fine house here, though he had his own home on nearby Legare Street. When their separate carriages would pass, the couple would rise and bow to the other. An old Charleston legend says that the sounds of a horse and carriage are heard here. James Caskey reports that he felt the rush of air and smelled the odor of sweaty horses as he visited these gateposts at night.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Graydon, Nell S. South Carolina Ghosts. Beaufort, SC: Beaufort Book Shop. 1969.
  • Pickens, Cathy. Charleston Mysteries: Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.

The season for specter-spotting—Newsworthy Haunts 10/9/2014

With the Halloween season already in full swing, media has started pumping out news items profiling our spectral friends throughout the country. Here’s a sampling of recent paranormal news from the South.

Gainesville Public Library
127 Main Street, NW
Gainesville, Georgia

If anything, the Gainesville Public Library does not outwardly appear to be a classic haunted building. The red brick, Brutalist-style building resembles countless modern library buildings throughout the country, but it includes something that many of those libraries do not have: a few ghosts. One of those spirits made an appearance during an investigation last weekend.

The library has been known to be haunted for some time and Nancy Roberts wrote about it in her 1997 book, Georgia Ghosts. The primary spirit Roberts wrote about has been called “Miss Elizabeth” or the “Lady of the Library” by the library staff. One staff member encountered her one night as she was closing. A strange young lady stood near the elevator, “she was only a few feet from me! Her brown hair, which was soft around her face, fell to her shoulders. She was about medium height and wore a long, dark dress, either navy or black.” The staff member turned away momentarily and when she turned back, the strange woman had vanished.

Other staff members described Miss Elizabeth in a 2011 Gainesville Times article as “wearing a long, dark skirt with a white shirt and a dark shawl. Her dark hair is pulled away from her plain face; on her neck she wears a broach.” In addition to seeing this fleeting apparition, the spirit is blamed for turning lights off and on, moving books and possibly riding on the elevator.

While the library building is not old, the property upon which it sits has quite a bit of history. At times during the history of the town, the property was a homestead and also contained a family cemetery. In the 1920s, the graves were moved and a hotel built on the site. The hotel was torn down to build the library.

During the recent investigation, however, it wasn’t Miss Elizabeth who made an appearance; it was the spirit of a small child. During the library sponsored investigation lead up by members of the Southeastern Institute for Paranormal Research, investigators encountered a spirit in the children’s section named Emma. One group heard the giggle of a child, while someone in a different group was touched lightly on the arm and then later another participant had her hair lightly tugged. A sensitive in the group stated that the spirit was a little girl with curly blonde hair dressed in a style reminiscent of the 1950s.

The sensitive remarked that the child seemed to be happy, loved book and “was glad someone had come to play with her.”

Sources

  • Gunn, Jerry. “Ghost hunters seek spirits at Gainesville Library.” Access North Georgia. 20 September 2014.
  • Gunn, Jerry. “Paranormal investigators meet a girl named Emma.” Access North Georgia. 5 October 2014.
  • King, Savannah. “Local ghost hangouts: Gainesville Library.” Gainesville Times. 30 October 2011.
  • Roberts, Nancy. Georgia Ghosts. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1997.

Old Clay County Jail
21 Gratio Place
Green Cove Springs, Florida

The Florida Times-Union has recently deemed the Old Clay County Jail to be a place where it is always Halloween. Paranormal investigators have deemed the building to be one of the most active that many of them have seen.

Old Clay County Jail, 2010. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built by the Pauly Jail Company in 1894, the building saw its last inmate in 1972. The building now serves as home to the Clay County Archives. Like most corrections facilities, this building has seen the worst of society and a number of tragedies in its long history. Among the tragedies was the assassination of a sheriff, an inmate suicide, five executions and another suicide on the front lawn.

Reports of activity from the jail include voices, apparitions and hair-pulling. Activity has become so well known that the Clay County Historical Archives website features a page describing the haunted conditions of the building.

Sources

  • Buehn, Debra W. “Old Clay County Jail stars in Local Haunts’ TV show Sunday.” Florida Times-Union. 1 April 2010.
  • Clay County Historical Archives. Ghosts in the Old Jail. Accessed 9 October 2014.
  • Hogencamp, Kevin. “It’s Halloween all year at old Clay County jail.” Florida Times-Union. 3 October 2014.

A Spectral Tour of the Shenandoah Valley

I recently had an inquiry from a friend who’s a student at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia regarding a “haunted road trip” he and his friends want to take next month. After consulting my resources, I’ve devised a suitable tour of the area’s numerous haunts.

This tour makes a circle through the Shenandoah Valley, beginning and ending in Winchester. It heads south on I-81 towards Staunton with a few stops along the way. After Staunton the tour heads east to include the famous Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville before returning to Winchester. The tour includes a range of haunted places from historic homes to government buildings, churches, battlefields, commercial buildings, cemeteries, a train depot, a former mental hospital and a cave. Some of these locations are open to the public while a few are private and should only be viewed from the street.

N.B. This article has been reworked a bit and I have begun separating these cities into their own distinct articles.

Winchester

The Winchester section of this article has been broken off into its own, separate article, “The Wraiths of Winchester.”

Middletown

WAYSIDE INN (7783 Main Street) This building sits at the core of history of this small town. The motley of old buildings forming the tavern were built over a period ranging from the 18th century through to the late 19th century. The oldest portion of the building, containing Larrick’s Tavern,  may have been constructed around 1750. The road in front was once part of the Great Wagon Road—the road used by settlers pouring into the American “backcountry.” In this area, the Great Wagon Road  was originally a Native American trail called the Great Indian Warpath and used by a multitude of Native American tribes including the Cherokee.

In 1797, this collection of buildings became an inn for the many travelers passing on the road. Leo Bernstein, the garrulous personality who took over the inn the latter half of the 20th century, would always claim that this inn was the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. There does seem to be a good deal of truth behind his claim. It is known that this inn was in operation as war raged up and down the valley during the Civil War and that the inn served both sides.

Wayside Inn. Photo 2008, by DwayneP, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Like most buildings in the area, the inn has a number of Civil War related spirits, though there is the possibility that the inn may have been haunted before that time. Lord Fairfax, who had been given much the land in the area, did live nearby and died in Winchester (he’s buried at Christ Episcopal Church) is claimed as the spirit that moans on a nightly basis in the oldest portion of the inn. Bernstein describes the space in Sheila Turnage’s Haunted Inns of the Southeast, “Upstairs is about a three foot space. There was a set of steps going up there. The straw is still there.” The loft is located just above one of the bars and Turnage mentions that people gather to listen for the moan at 11:30 PM nightly.

Besides odd moans, the inn is home to numerous other spirits and employees and guests have witnessed much activity. Objects have moved on their own accord, a dishwasher had his apron untied repeatedly by unseen hands, and full apparitions have been seen including those of Civil War soldiers. Paranormal investigations have captured much evidence including EVPs of horses whinnying and photographs featuring specters.

WAYSIDE THEATRE (7853 Main Street, now closed) The sad fate of the Wayside Theatre echoes the fate of so many theatres throughout the country. The company was established in 1961, by Leo Bernstein, the owner of the Wayside Inn just down the street. The summer stock theatre provided training for actors such as Susan Sarandon, Peter Boyle, Kathy Bates and Donna McKechnie. After a precipitous drop in revenue, the theatre closed its doors in 2013.

The building was originally constructed as a cinema and it is from this period that the theatre’s ghost may come from. “George,” is supposedly the spirit of an African-American man who either worked in the theatre or was a caretaker at some point. His spirit is said to haunt the stage, balcony and basement of the building.

CEDAR CREEK AND BELLE GROVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (Belle Grove, 336 Belle Grove Road) Historically and architecturally, Belle Grove is one of the most important houses in the region and listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is currently owned and operated by the National Trust and most sources state that the docents are discouraged from talking about the spirits which still reside here.

Belle Grove, 2013, by AgnosticPreachersKid. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The history of Belle Grove begins in the late 18th century with the land being acquired by Isaac Hite, the grandson of Jost Hite, a German immigrant and one of the early pioneers in this area. Construction of the house began in 1794 and ended in 1797. The house remained in the Hite family until just before the beginning of the Civil War when it was bought by John and Benjamin Cooley. The first of two ghost stories begin with this family. Not long after acquiring the house, Benjamin Cooley married a local woman named Hetty. Not long after her arrival in the home, Hetty became the subject of ire from one of the slave woman working there.

Though the details are unclear, Hetty was attacked by the slave and her beaten body was thrown either into the smokehouse or the icehouse on the property. Hetty’s spirit reportedly returns frequently and has been seen throughout the house. According to two sources, she actually let a deliveryman into the house one afternoon after the home had been closed for the day. The deliveryman was returning the antique carpets which had been removed for cleaning. After arriving late, he was let into the house by a woman in a period dress who did not speak but only gestured to where the carpets should be placed. When the staff discovered the carpets had been returned and put in place, they called the cleaning company who put the driver on the phone. They were shocked to hear about the woman who let him in.

A few years after Mrs. Cooley’s death, the estate became the scene of the Battle of Cedar Creek. During that battle, Major General Stephen Ramseur of North Carolina was gravely wounded. He was taken to a room at Belle Grove where he passed away the following morning surrounded by some of his former classmates from West Point from both armies including George Custer. This scene was witnessed by a gentleman some years ago. While idly passing through the house, he glanced into a room to see a group of Civil War soldiers in both blue and grey standing around someone in a bed. Later, when he asked who had been presenting the tableaux that day, he was informed that nothing of the sort was taking place in the house.

Employees have told various paranormal writers that voices and other odd noises are regularly heard in the house, while singing is heard in the slave cemetery on the property.

Early on the morning of October 19, 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launched an attack upon Union forces camping in the area. These forces under General Sheridan (who was headquartered at the Lloyd Logan House in Winchester, see stop #3H) had spent their time clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Confederates. Known as “The Burning,” this period included the destruction of much of the area. Early’s early morning attack was one of the last chances for Confederates to stop the decimation of the valley.

While Early’s attack was initially successful in beginning to route the Federals, Sheridan, hearing the sounds of battle from Winchester, jumped upon his horse and made a triumphant ride to Middletown to rally his troops to victory. At the end of the day, Early’s forces had been driven from the field.

The stories of spirits on this battlefield began not long after the battle ended. These stories included spectral soldiers on the battlefield both singly and in groups and even stories of headless horsemen. Michael Varhola notes, however, that the gentlemen he met working in the visitor’s center, refused to answer his questions about the battlefield being haunted.

Grottoes

Formations within Grand Caverns. Photo 2010 by P199. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

GRAND CAVERNS (5 Grand Caverns Drive) From the oldest continuously operating inn in the country to the oldest operating show cave, Grand Caverns has been open for tourists since 1806. I’ve covered this cave and its ghosts in a blog entry here.

New Hope

PIEDMONT BATTLEFIELD (Battlefield Road) Outside of New Hope, near the community of Piedmont, is an open field that was the scene of a battle, the 5th of June 1864.

Around 5 AM, June 5, 1996, a group of reenactors camping on the southern edge of the battlefield were awakened by an unusual ruckus: the sounds of wagons approaching. In an effort to greet the approaching wagons, a few of the reenactors stepped towards a nearby fence. The sounds, the creak of wagon wheels, the tinkle of chains, the clop of horses hooves and their whinnies, increased for a moment as they apparently neared the awed witnesses then they suddenly ceased. Some of those present later discovered an overgrown trace or wagon road in the woods near the spot where they’d heard the sounds. It is believed that this road may have been in existence at the time of the battle.

Of course, there’s no way to know if the sounds were related to battle or simply spiritual residue from the road’s history. Either way, the reenactors will likely tell this story for years to come.

Staunton

Like Winchester, Staunton has a myriad of haunted locales and a ghost tour. Black Raven Paranormal presents a handful of different tours; see their website for further information.

MRS. ROWE’S FAMILY RESTAURANT (74 Rowe Road) This popular restaurant has been investigated twice in the past few years after employees and guests have had run-ins with spirits. In addition to activity in the building’s attic and basement, the back dining room and men’s room have reportedly had activity. Two local news articles describe the activity as ranging from full apparitions to employees being touched.

DeJARNETTE CENTER (located behind the Frontier Culture Museum, 1290 Richmond Avenue, the center is closed and private property though one of the tours offered by the Ghosts of Staunton tours the grounds, don’t ask for further information at the Frontier Culture Museum, they can’t tell you much of anything) There’s a good deal of misinformation about this location. Of course, mental and psychiatric hospitals tend to be haunted, along with other medical facilities. Among those with a paranormal bent, there is a tendency to exploit these types of places and often repeat misinformation.

DeJarnette Center. Photo 2011, by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the DeJarnette Center, there is a tendency to confuse it with Western State Hospital, which also may be haunted. Though their histories are intertwined, these are two separate facilities. Western State was founded early in the 19th century to handle the overflow from the Williamsburg Hospital which handled the insane and mental cases. The complex that once house Western State has recently been converted into condominiums called The Villages at Staunton.

During the first half of the 19th century, Western State was under the aegis of Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, a revolutionary figure in the field of mental health. His controversial legacy included institutionalizing a eugenics program that forcibly sterilized numerous patients throughout the state.

This facility opened in 1932 originally as the DeJarnette State Sanitarium, a private pay unit of Western State. The state assumed control of this facility in 1975 and renamed it the DeJarnette Center for Human Development. The facility experienced severe budget cuts starting in the mid-70s and continuing until the patients were moved into a newer, smaller facility adjacent to Western State in 1996. Since 1996, the site has been abandoned and waiting for the wrecking ball. Countless ghost stories have been told about the facility, though few have actually been published.

DOWNTOWN STAUNTON Like downtown Winchester, Staunton has a number of haunted places, though the information on them is not as readily available (as opposed to Winchester with Mac Rutherford’s book on its hauntings). I imagine many of these locations will be presented on the Ghosts of Staunton tour.

STAUNTON COFFEE AND TEA (32 South New Street) This building was the scene of a homicide in August of 1951. Elmer Higgins, a heavy gambler who lived in an apartment on the building’s second floor was shot in the head, execution-style. The murder remains unsolved and it is believed his spirit remains on the premises.

AMTRAK STATION (1 Middlebrooks Avenue) There has been a train station on this site since 1854. The first station was burned during the Civil War while the second station was destroyed April 28, 1890 by train. The New York Times described the event, “This morning about 3 o’clock a railroad wreck occurred at the Staunton (Chesapeake and Ohio) Station. The vestibule train, due here from the west at 1 o’clocl was two hours late. About 3 o’clock it came whirling on at a speed of seventy miles an hour, the engine having the appearance of a sheet of fire…As the train reached the passenger station the rear sleeper careened, striking the platform covering, tearing away the iron posts, and demolishing the whole platform structure.”

Staunton Amtrak Station. Photo 2009, by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The train was carrying members of a traveling operatic troupe out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The only death to occur was one of the company’s singers, Miss Myrtle Knox who was badly mangled by the accident and bled to death.

Myrtle’s sad spirit has been spotted on the platform wearing a nightgown. Women with long blonde hair have had their hair tugged and it is believed that Myrtle’s spirit may be to blame for that as well.

An old rail car at the depot once contained a restaurant. Visitors to the station have seen odd lights, shadows and heard voices around the old Pullman car. Along the tracks the apparition of a Civil War soldier has been seen. A Confederate soldier was walking these tracks after having a bit too much to drink at a local saloon. He was hit by a train and killed.

THE CLOCK TOWER BUILDING (27 West Beverly Street) This 1890 structure has been the scene of at least three deaths. Two early deaths on the premises, which was originally constructed as a YMCA facility, include a heart attack and a young woman who fell down a coal chute. Recently, someone fell to their death from the third floor in a possible suicide. These spirits are still said to linger in this old building.

MARY BALDWIN COLLEGE (Intersection of Frederick Street and New Street) According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for this college’s main building, Mary Baldwin is the oldest women’s institution of higher learning associated with the Presbyterian Church. The school was opened in 1842 as the Augusta Female Seminary. In the midst of the Civil War, Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung, former students of the seminary were appointed as principals. They would serve the school through the latter half of the 19th century and Mary Baldwin’s contribution would be recognized in 1895 when the school was renamed for her. The spirits of Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung may remain on campus along with a few other assorted spirits.

In the old Main Building, one of the first buildings constructed on campus, a male spirit named Richard likes to occasionally cause trouble. McClung Residence Hall, just behind the Main Building includes the rooms where Baldwin and McClung lived during their tenure here. Students living there have reported the spirits of both women, with one student even waking up to find a white figure hovering over her as she slept. The Collins Theatre, located inside the Deming Fine Arts Center, also features a spirit, possibly that of one of Mary Baldwin’s most illustrious alums, the actress Tallulah Bankhead. The spirit in the theatre is known to mess with the stage lights.

Gordonsville

Exchange Hotel, 2008, by Rutke421. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AND EXCHANGE HOTEL (400 South Main Street) The Exchange Hotel has, in recent years, become one of the Southern meccas for ghost hunters. Opened on the eve of the Civil War, this hotel became one of the premier hospitals for the wounded during the Civil War. With so many deaths here, it’s no wonder that the place is crawling with ghosts. In one of my early blog entries, I’ve covered this location. At one time, the museum offered ghost walks, but I can currently find no information about these. This haunting was also covered on the Biography Channel show, My Ghost Story, first season, episode six.

Sources

  • Abram’s Delight. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  • Armstrong, Derek Micah. “A true ghost story.” The News Virginian. 22 October 2012.
  • Ash, Linda O’Dell. “Respect the spirits, ‘Ghost Hunters International’ star Dustin Pari tells Wayside Inn paranormal investigators.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 7 November 2011.
  • Austin, Natalie. “Local ghost expert shares stories of the supernatural.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 30 October 2004.
  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents. Wikipedia, the Free Accessed 29 September 2014.
  • Daly, Sean. “In Strasburg, a Medium Well Done.” The Washington Post. 31 July 2002.
  • Demeria, Katie. “Joe’s Steakhouse opens new location in Winchester.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 20 June 2014.
  • “A haunting reminder of a darker past at the DeJarnette complex.” The Daily News Leader. 15 September 2012.
  • History. Cork Street Tavern. Accessed 17 September 2014.
  • History. Mount Hebron Cemetery. Accessed 21 September 2014.
  • History of Our Building. Brewbaker’s Restaurant. Accessed 24 September 2014.
  • Klemm, Anna and DHR Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Mount Hebron Cemetery. 25 July 2008.
  • Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal Activity Hunters Investigate Restaurant for Ghost Activity.” 11 January 2013.
  • Lee, Marguerite Du Pont. Virginia Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Lowe, F.C. “Final curtain falls on Wayside Theatre; ending 52-year run.” Winchester Star. 8 August 2013.
  • Middletown Heritage Society. National Register of Historic Place nomination form for Middletown Historic District. 7 May 2003.
  • Peters, Laura. “What goes bump in the night.” The Daily News Leader. 9 October 2013.
  • Powell, Lewis O. “An Independent Spirit—Winchester, Virginia.” Southern Spirit Guide. 31 March 2014.
  • Rutherford, Mac. Historic Haunts of Winchester: A Ghostly Trip Through the Past. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
  • Shulman, Terry. “Did ghostly soldiers pay reenactors a courtesy call?” The News Leader (Staunton, VA). 10 July 2004.
  • Smith, Morgan Alberts & Marisol Euceda. “The Ghosts of MBC.” Up Hill and Down. January/February 2003.
  • Stanley, K.W. “The history of Western State and the Dejarnette Sanitarium.” The News Progress. 20 May 2008.
  • Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.
  • Tripp, Mike. “DeJarnette’s ugly, complicated legacy.” The Daily News Leader. 22 March 2014
  • “Trying to get a glimpse of a ghost at Staunton’s Mrs. Rowe’s.” News Leader. 24 June 2012.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Cedar Creek Battlefield and Belle Grove. 24 April 1969.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Mary Baldwin College, Main Building. 26 July 1973.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Winchester Historic District.  April 1979.
  • The Wayside Theatre—Middletown, VA.” Haunted Commonwealth. 15 May 2010.
  • Westhoff, Mindi. “Paranormal group presents downtown ghost tour.” The Daily News Leader. 24 September 2008.
  • Williams, J.R. “Paranormal investigators examine Cork Street Tavern for ghost activity.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 3 August 2009.
  • Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Winchester Historic Sites. Accessed 19 September 2014.
  • “A Young Singer Killed.” New York Times. 29 April 1890.

Begowned Ghosts—Higher Ed Haunts of Virginia

Higher education has always nodded towards the traditions of ancient universities especially during rituals like graduation when students and faculty wear traditional scholars’ gowns and regalia. Among those traditions that can be found are ghost stories passed from student to student, though often these tales include a kernel of truth.  Included here are a few stories from Virginia.

Alderman Library
Campus of the University of Virginia
Charlottesville

The website for the University of Virginia Libraries notes that the university’s library system incorporates 13 buildings, possesses 5.1 million books and includes reports of two ghosts. The university’s grand Alderman Library was built during the Great Depression as part of FDR’s Public Works Administration. Opening in 1938, the building housed the university’s growing library which originally was house in the magnificent rotunda designed as a centerpiece for the university by Thomas Jefferson.

Alderman Library, 2009, by Vtn5n, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to accounts from library staff, the two spirits within the library don’t actually haunt the building, but two particular collections of books. Like the inverted and bookish Jefferson, Dr. Bennett Wood Green and Muscoe Garnett were both obsessed with their own personal libraries. When Dr. Green, a Virginia physician, died in 1913, he left his large library to the university. His books were originally shelved in the Rotunda library and that is where his curious spirit was first encountered checking up on his precious books. When his books were moved to the new Alderman Library, he tagged along and his spirit has been seen roaming the old stacks. Footsteps echoing through those same stacks have also been attributed to him. Upon encountering Green’s bookish spirit, one library staff member began bringing her large dog to work with her.

Alumnus and later member of the university’s Board of Visitors, politician Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett housed his extensive library in his home, Elmwood, in Essex County, Virginia. Upon Garnett’s death just before the end of the Civil War, the house was closed and left to decay. While the house decayed, the books seemingly did not. Rumors spread that the library was taken care of by the spirit of a friend of Garnett’s who would rise from his grave nightly to dust and care for the library. The books were donated by the family to the university in 1938 and were shelved in the new Alderman Library. The spirit seen among these books may be the caring spirit or perhaps that of Garnett, himself.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
  • Foster, Gaelyn and Jiaer Zhuang. “Alderman Library turns 75.” The Cavalier Daily. 16 October 2013.
  • Pflager, Henry. “Alderman to celebrate 75thThe Cavalier Daily. 3 October 2013.
  • Strand, Megan. “Terrifying Tales.” The Cavalier Daily. 13 April 2001.
  • Truong, Tiffany. “Spirits, ghosts reportedly haunt University grounds.” The Cavalier Daily. 30 October 2013.

Ferguson Center for the Arts
Campus of Christopher Newport University
Newport News

Though Christopher Newport University is the youngest comprehensive public university in Virginia, it seems to have acquired a ghost. The building now housing the Ferguson Center for the Arts originally opened in 1957 as Warwick Junior High School. In 1961, the school reopened as Homer L. Ferguson High School and remained a high school until it closed in 1996. Christopher Newport University, which opened in 1960 not long after Warwick Junior High, acquired the building and hired noted architect I.M. Pei to renovate it into a performing arts center.

Along with the old high school, the university also acquired the ghost of a former student. According to the university’s student newspaper, The Captain’s Log, the spirit requires acknowledgement and the theatre students working in the building know to say hello to her when they enter the sound booths. Otherwise, the student may see things in their peripheral vision. The paper notes that a 15-year-old female student died in 1968.

Sources

  • Christopher Newport University. “Our Campus.” Accessed 12 September 2014.
  • Christopher Newport University. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2014.
  • “Ferguson High School Closing: Ferguson Memories.” Daily Press. 9 June 1996.
  • Lurie, Victoria. “A Ghost Story.” The Captain’s Log. 30 October 2013.

Payne Hall
Campus of Washington & Lee University
Lexington

The Colonnade of Washington and Lee University may be one of the most dramatic collections of college buildings in America. Oddly, this section of campus was not “the product of a single architectural concept,” as is stated in the university’s National Register of Historic Places nomination form. In fact, the Colonnade evolved as “an evolutionary product of a building program, extending over nearly one hundred and fifty years.” So remarkable is this collection of buildings that it is now a National Historic Landmark.

The Colonnade, 2008, by Bobak Ha’Eri, courtesy of Wikipedia. Payne Hall is the second building from the left.

The second oldest building in the Colonnade is Payne Hall built in 1831. The building was originally called The Lyceum and used to teach biology. It was renamed Payne Hall after a renovation in the 1930s and is currently used by the university’s English department. After an English class studied James Merrill’s epic poem, “The Book of Ephraim”—a poem composed using an Ouija board—some students and an English professor attempted to communicate with the spirits of Payne Hall via Ouija board. The group possibly communicated with a few spirits. When one spirit was asked which building on campus was the most haunted, it replied by spelling out “B-I-O.” Sometime later, the professor discovered that Payne Hall had historically been used for biology.

Among the stories from Payne Hall are accounts of doors opening and closing by themselves, disembodied footsteps and apparitions. A university press release describes three apparitions that have been seen around this building including, “a dark presence moving swiftly down the back stairs, a person dressed in black swirling down the Colonnade, and a cape-wearing figure that whisks into the building.”

Sources

  • Balfour, Amy C. “Payne Hall Restoration: A Marriage of Old and New.” News @ Washington and Lee. 14 September 2011.
  • Hanna, Jeff. “Payne Hall Ghost: Spooked by Renovations?” News @ Washington and Lee. 27 October 2011.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Washington and Lee Historic District. 6 October 1970.

Louisiana Newsworthy Haunts—6/3/2014

Eunice Public Library
222 South Second Street
Eunice, Louisiana

If there is a spirit haunting the public library in the small town of Eunice, then it may really like children’s literature. According to the librarian, a book by Mary Alice Fontenot, a local children’s author, “has gone missing from our shelves, and after replacing this book, the replacement went missing as well.” But this is only one of a number of incidents that remain unexplained including the staff opening the library in the morning and discovering that the restroom door is locked with the light on inside.

After discovering that a local psychic and paranormal investigator had had odd experiences at the library as a child, the library asked the investigator’s group, On the Edge Soul Seekers, to conduct an investigation. The results were presented to the public on May 29th, with nothing published yet on what those findings were.

Sources

  • Johnson, William. “Is the Eunice Public Library haunted?” Daily World 29 May 2014.

Spring Street Historical Museum
525 Spring Street
Shreveport, Louisiana

At the Spring Street Historical Museum in the old Tally’s Bank Building in Shreveport, the ghost is more interested in the welfare of the employees there than children’s literature. A 2013 article mentions that a museum employee was about to get up on a ladder when he saw the museum’s front door open by itself. The sturdy door was not prone to open easily and the employee was a bit frightened. When he returned to the ladder, he discovered he had not set it up properly and may have fallen should he have climbed upon it.

haunted Spring Street Historical Museum Shreveport Louisiana ghosts
Spring Street Historical Museum, 2015, by Michael Barera. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The museum occupies the Tally’s Bank Building, considered one of the oldest in Shreveport. It was constructed as a bank just after the close of the Civil War. With the South’s economy still rather unstable, the building housed three different banks. The first two failed, but the third—B. Jacob’s Bank—became First National Bank of Shreveport in 1885. That bank occupied this Italianate-style building until the 1950s when the bank needed more space. The structure served as a bar for a number of years until it was donated to the local Colonial Dames organization for use as a museum.

The stories of paranormal activity from the building have led to its being investigated three times. According to a recent article in the Shreveport Times, the primary spirit is of a former bank manager named Edward.

Sources

  • Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office. Document on Tally’s Bank. Accessed 1 June 2014.
  • Spradlin, Courtney. “City Explorer: Step inside downtown’s Spring Street Historical Museum.” Shreveport Times. 28 May 2014.
  • Thomas, Angela. “Before ‘Ghost Hunters,’ Louisiana Spirits Explored Shreveport’s Haunted Past.” KEEL News Radio 710. 13 June 2013.

Shushing rumors—Albertville Public Library

Albertville Public Library
200 Jackson Street
Albertville, Alabama

One of the classic library images is the bespectacled librarian shushing anyone making noise within the solemn and sacrosanct confines of the building. In the case of the librarian at the public library in the small, north Alabama town of Albertville, she’s trying to shush rumors of the library being haunted.

“I find the whole thing embarrassing,” she told a local reporter in 2007. It seems the story started as a joke a few years previous but has taken on a life of its own. I even covered it in an entry called “Some Alabama Hauntings, Briefly Noted,” from January 16 of this year. This is what I wrote:

Should my spirit remain on this plane after my death, it’s my sincere wish that I would remain in a library. The public library in Albertville, a small town in the north east part of the state, is typical of small town libraries throughout the country, but on one account is not so typical: it may be haunted. Built in 1964, the building replaced a much older home. Local legend indicates that spirits from that home may have taken residence in the library building. Apparently harmless, the spirits make their presence known by turning faucets on and playing on the elevator.

In 2010, Albertville was devastated by an EF3 tornado which damaged the library. I can find no word if the spirit remained after repairs.

I have discovered that ghost stories are like a garden, they must be regularly tended. They are forever growing and needing to be weeded. While digging around through newspaper archives, I uncovered a few articles about the library’s ghost.

Of course it’s a bit disappointing to find that there’s no ghost behind the legend, though I’m happy to be able to post a correction. The story also gives us a view into how some folklore is created. According to the librarian, the rumors started when a local television news station ran a story about local businesses and institutions celebrating Halloween. “We were dressed up for Halloween and during the interview some of the girls up front started joking around about the library being haunted. Saying any time a book fell the ghost did it. Just joking around,” the library director continued.

Main Street Albertville Alabama
Main Street, Albertville, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

From that local interview, the story has grown legs and made its way throughout the internet. The listing of the library on the haunted places list on the infamous site, Shadowlands, has most certainly helped give movement and credence to the rumor. The problem with Shadowlands is that the site is almost entirely user submitted, with none of the information being properly vetted before it’s posted. While there is some truth to some of the entries, many of them are a chaotic jumble of fact and fiction, or just pure fiction. I’ve seen Shadowlands credited in everything from blog posts to books and it’s given rise to many ghost stories and legends.

Possibly using Shadowlands as a source, the library was listed in a 2006 article in the Sand Mountain Reporter, the local paper. The article by Charlotte Christopher lists a number of haunted locations throughout north Alabama. An article detailing the fact that the library is haunted appeared in the same paper in 2007.

In 2008, the library was listed as part of an entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica Blog listing haunted libraries throughout the United States. With the name as respected as the Encyclopedia Brittanica behind the listing, it must be true, right?

The story was picked up on by Jessica Penot in her excellent Haunted North Alabama, published in 2010. Just after the book’s publication, an article appeared in the Sand Mountain Reporter discussing the library’s inclusion in the book and quoting both Penot and the librarian. “With all ghost stories, there is the possibility they are as much legend as fact,” Penot says in the article.

One of the issues she encountered in researching the library was the large tornado that struck the town in 2010. The damaged library was closed for repairs, and she couldn’t find a proper contact to confirm the legends.

She continues in the article, “The fact that a legend surrounds a location like the library only underlines its importance in the community. Places that are central to communities are often the first to have ghost stories spread about them. Because people love these places, the stories spread more quickly.”

Sources

  • Albertville, Alabama. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 January 2013.
  • Christopher, Charlotte. “Haunted sightings in Northern Alabama.” Sand Mountain Reporter. 26 October 2006.
  • Eberhart, George. “Library Ghosts: Southern U.S.Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. 29 Oct 2008.
  • Green, Lionel. “Albertville Public Library earns chapter in new book about haunted locations.” Sand Mountain Reporter. 1 October 2010.
  • Haunted Places in Alabama. Shadowlands. Accessed 15 December 2013.
  • Leak, Clay. “A ghost in the library? Perish the thought.” Sand Mountain Reporter. 31 March 2007.
  • Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Beyond 133 – Chattanooga Public Library

Chattanooga Public Library
1001 Broad Street
Chattanooga, Tennessee

N.B. This article was revised 20 February 2019.

Most libraries have ghosts, though usually these are confined to the 133 section of the Dewey Decimal System: the section for ghosts and the paranormal. The Chattanooga Public Library in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee has a ghost (or possibly more than one) whose range lies far beyond its Dewey Decimal classification. Over the years, patrons and staff have had a variety of experiences ranging from hearing footsteps and voices to seeing apparitions. According to two recent articles from the Times Free Press, books have been thrown off shelves, and chairs have been moved about.

There has been enough activity to warrant the Young Adult Librarian to bring in a paranormal investigation group, the Global Paranormal Society, to investigate. The group spent six hours investigating the library on March 17. The results were publicized recently.

The staff has named the resident spirit “Eugene,” though the spirit’s actual identity is unknown. The building itself is only 36 years old, and neither article mentions any deaths associated with the building, though the land upon which it was constructed, does have quite a history. It was on here that the city of Chattanooga was originally settled.

Evidence shows that Native Americans lived in the area for a few thousand years prior to the Historic Era: that period following European expansion into the Americas. It was here that the powerful Cherokee chief, Tsiyu Gansini or Dragging Canoe, settled with his followers in 1777. The chief’s father, Chief Attakullakulla, and other chiefs including Oconostota, made the decision to ally themselves with the Patriot cause following General Griffith Rutherford’s destruction of many Cherokee towns the previous year. Dragging Canoe set up a series of towns around the Tennessee River and Chickamauga Creek, with the settlers uniting under the name Chickamauga.

Later, another influential Cherokee, John Ross, settled in the same area and named this stop on the Tennessee River “Ross’ Landing.” The natives living here were forced on the Trail of Tears during the Removals in the 1830s. The name was changed in 1838 by the US Post Office to Chattanooga.

Where the library now stands, one of Dragging Canoe’s villages as well as being near to the actual site of Ross’ Landing. So, it’s possible that the library spirit may be from this period. Indeed, the investigators did find some evidence of activity, though they did not conclusively pronounce the library as being “haunted.” Still, Eugene continues to roam I can imagine the public library is pretty interesting place to haunt.

Sources

Book Heaven—Trans Allegheny Books

N.B. This article was edited and revised 6 April 2019.

Trans Allegheny Books
725 Green Street
Parkersburg, West Virginia

Parkersburg Carnegie Library, formerly Trans Allegheny Books, 2010. Photo by Richie Diesterheft, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Trans Allegheny Books truly sounds like heaven. A two-story former library, the building was crammed with some 500,000 volumes of used books with particular concentration on books relating to West Virginia and Appalachia. Until it closed just about this time last year, it was the largest bookstore in the state and a veritable tourist attraction in the region. Unfortunately, it was not to last.

The store was opened by Joe Sakach, a businessman with a passion for books and history, in the mid-1980s. The store flourished in the edifice on Green Street until the death of Mr. Sakach in April of last year. Upon his death the store was closed until his estate was settled by his children. They decided to sell the institution and a huge three-day sale was held in October, the store’s last dying breath.

The store is now a ghost along with the apparitions that lurked around its shelves while in operation. According to Theresa Racer in her marvelous blog on the ghosts of the Tri-State area (West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky), Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, there are four distinct human and possibly three feline apparitions experienced within the century-old building. A small girl has been seen sitting on the magnificent iron stairs in the center of the building who sometimes may trip up patrons. A dapperly dressed man has been seen on the second floor and he may possibly be the same man seen browsing through the world history section. A female spirit may be that of a local newspaper reporter who was violently stabbed to death but who now returns to a place that she considered a second home.

The bookstore is home to living cats but possibly three feline apparitions have also been seen. All of these spirits may be the origins of other paranormal activity including disembodied footsteps, flickering lights, shadow figures and books that move from their shelves.

After its original function as a Carnegie Library, the building’s use as a bookstore is certainly the most appropriate use for the Neo-classical structure. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who built magnificent libraries throughout the nation, presented Parkersburg with a gift of $34,000 to build a library. It opened in 1905 and served the area until 1975. The building was used briefly as a restaurant but that was unsuccessful. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and it appears it is currently unused.

A story from WCHS ABC 8 in Charleston, West Virginia, provides a marvelous glimpse inside the bookstore.

Sources

  • Carnegie Library (Parkersburg, West Virginia)Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 October 2011.
  • Kurtz, David. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Carnegie Library. 20 August 1979.
  • Mancini, Jess. “Trans Allegheny Books closing.” The Marietta Times. 6 October 2010.
  • Murphy, Jody. “Trans Allegheny Books continues to be closed.” Parkersburg News and Sentinel. 20 June 2010.
  • Racer, Theresa. “Trans-Allegheny Bookstore, Parkersburg.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 23 May 2011.

A Mississippi Dante–Noxubee County

Noxubee County Library
103 East King Street
Macon, Mississippi

N.B. Revised 28 December 2017.

Downtown Macon Mississippi around the turn of the century haunted Noxubee County Jail Public Library ghosts miraculous vision
Jefferson Street, Macon, Mississippi, probably just after the turn of the 20th century. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Forrest Lamar Cooper
Postcard Collection.

Sitting in a jail cell in the newly opened Noxubee County Jail in 1907, Si Connor was visited by Jesus. “Jesus have been here since I been in jail and have taken me to hell and showed me everything there, and what sort of place it is,” he told a reporter a couple weeks before his execution. Connor was shown a “big fire” with a “man toting water to the folks in the fire.”

“Hell,” continued the inmate, “is a right big place. Yassah, I spec it is as big as Macon, maybe bigger.” In preserving the African-American man’s dialect, the unnamed reporter from the Macon Beacon showed no compassion for the man’s vision, based on race and class. Interestingly, Connor points out that the fire contained both whites and blacks.

Connor’s next vision took him to the gallows that had been erected for his own state-sponsored demise. The sheriff put the noose around his neck and a pair of angels appeared and told him, “Si, don’t you be skeered or shamed or nothing for you is a child of God.” The angels flew him to heaven where he was greeted by his grandmother, sister, and “my little baby.” “I saw lots of Noxubee county folks up there. Yassah, white people too.” Continuing in his vision, Connor replies, “Jesus Christ told me to tall all the people down here to believe in him and He would save them.”

The reporter notes that “the condemned man tells all this with earnestness and sincerity, but with the same silly smile he wore when on the witness stand telling of killing his wife with an ax.” The jailer is quoted saying that Mr. Connor “has no dread of death, saying he wants to stay here as long as he can but is ready to go and doubtless he is. As a horrible example to a portion of his race, he will prove a failure.”

Allow me to round out the scene with a bit of local history. In 1830, sixty Choctaw leaders met with government agents at a place with the marvelous name of Dancing Rabbit Creek. There the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed on the 27th of September ceding some 11 million acres of Choctaw land east of the Mississippi River to white settlers in exchange for some 15 million acres in Oklahoma.

The ceded land became a huge swath of what is now the state of Mississippi and a small portion of western Alabama. In 1833, the portion of the ceded lands around Dancing Rabbit Creek was established as Noxubee County, so named for the Noxubee River; meaning “stinking water” in the Choctaw language. Near the center of the county, on the Noxubee River, the town of Macon was established as the county seat. The town prospered and, according to the 1938 WPA guide to Mississippi, “the big white- columned homes are the remaining evidence.”

As Sherman burned the state capital, Jackson, during the Civil War, the state government moved to Macon temporarily, setting up business at the Calhoun Institute, one of a handful of schools in and around Macon. Two sessions of the state legislature met in these school buildings while one of them, as well as many of Macon’s church buildings, were commandeered for hospitals.

Most histories of the area seem to stop just after the turmoil of the Civil War, so one might be tempted to assume that the town returned to being a sleepy hamlet. Judging from the population numbers in the 1938 WPA guide (2,198 people) and the numbers provided by Wikipedia (2,461 people in the 2000 census), it seems that little has changed throughout the bulk of the twentieth century.

The original Noxubee County Jail was constructed in Macon in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War. Around the time the new jail was constructed, the old jail was described by a local attorney and state representative as being, “no jail at all.” Unfortunately for the local citizenry, the old jail was regularly the scene of prisoners simply removing bricks from the masonry walls to escape.

Macon Mississippi haunted Noxubee County Jail Public Library ghosts miraculous vision
The Old Noxubee County Jail and current library, 2009. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Hailed for its luxurious appointments, the new jail offered “steam heat, electric lights, hot and cold baths and ‘saw and file-proof cells,” which “will minister to [the prisoners’] comfort and pleasure their sense of the magnificent.” The new facility was constructed by the Pauly Jail Company, a company out of St. Louis that has been constructing correctional facilities since 1856. Quite a number of the historic (and haunted) jails remaining throughout the South were constructed by this company.

Recognizing the need for a modern facility, a new jail was constructed in 1978. The historic importance of the old jail was noted and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places the same year it closed. In 1983, the building was renovated for use as a public library all the while maintaining some of the inner workings of the original building including bars and unused gallows.

About two weeks after Connor reported his description of the inferno to the Macon Beacon, gallows were erected for him across the street from the jail. During the days leading up to Connor’s hanging, he was allowed to preach to crowds of African-Americans that gathered below his window. On Friday, September 26th, 1907, before a crowd that had gathered to witness “the deep damnation of his taking off,” Connor left this world.

Connor walked, dressed almost entirely in black, resolutely to the scaffold and spoke in a strong voice before the noose placed over his neck and the trap sprung. The paper describes the scene with a sense of wonderment. “There were curious ejaculations as to the expressions of wonder at the nerve he exhibited in the face of horrible death, and there were—from the emotional members of his own race—exclamations of admiration for his courage and his religious faith that braved the terrors of the unknown future.”

According to Alan Brown, inmates of the jail reported that Connor continued to make appearances within the building and that his spirit still abides in the library that once held him. Perhaps this Mississippi Dante is still trying to save the living souls of Noxubee County.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Oxford, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. Mississippi: A Guide to the Magnolia State. New York: Viking Press, 1938.
  • “The Hanging.” Macon Beacon. 28 September 1907.
  • Macon, Mississippi. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 August 2010.
  • Newsome, Paul & William C. Allen. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Old Noxubee County Jail.  28 September 1978.
  • “A Noxubee Dante.” Macon Beacon. 14 September 1907.
  • “Noxubee’s New Jail.” Macon Beacon. 11 May 1907.
  • Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions and Persons Arranged in Cyclopedic Form, Vol. II, L-Z. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing Association, 1907.
  • Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 August 2010.