Death on Wheels–Jackson, Mississippi

Hinds County Courthouse
407 East Pascagoula Street

For about fifteen years, death traveled on wheels throughout the state of Mississippi. During that time, a portable electric chair crisscrossed the state as counties needed to execute inmates. The chair along with portable generators and an executioner would set up in county courthouses or jails in order to do their gloomy work and then move on to the next date with death.

There’s something cruel and disturbing in how Mississippi seemed to delight in their use of “Old Sparky.” Even how the deaths are reported in the local papers is tinged with a sense of pride. Between 1940 and 1954, 73 people met their fates while embraced in the chair’s wooden arms.

Mississippi's portable electric chair
The state’s executioner, Jimmy Thompson, poses with “Old Sparky” with an assembly of young boys. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

When the instrument was first used in 1940, photographs were proudly published in Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger showing the inmate being strapped in and then a second photograph as the first surge of electricity surged through his body. One blogger noted that photography during executions has been banned throughout the country and that they are exceedingly rare with this being one of only two such photos, the other being the infamous photograph of Ruth Snyder being put to death in New York’s infamous Sing Sing.

Despite being stored in the state capitol building in Jackson, death did not claim a victim there until the 9th of February 1944. Just after midnight 23-year-old Elijah Parker was led into the basement of the Hinds County Courthouse to meet his fate.

Clarion-Ledger
9 February 1944
Page 1

PARKER DIES HERE
IN ELECTRIC CHAIR

The Wages of Sin Is Death

With the final words, “Yes, Father,” plainly visible on his lips, Elijah Parker, 23-year-old Madison county negro, died in the state’s portable electric chair at 12:27 this morning for his part in the slaying of T. Henry Gober over a year and half ago.

The negro was led to the chair by Deputy Sheriffs J. T. Naugher and Bob Stone, and as he entered the basement where the electrocution took place he clasped a Catholic prayer book tightly between his hand-cuffed hands.

His pearly white teeth shone brilliantly behind a faint grin as he sat down in the chair, and he watched intently as officials strapped him securely in the chair. Just before his left arm was strapped to the chair, he handed the prayer book to Father Mathis.

Father Mathis uttered a short prayer and then leaned over close to the negro and said, “be sorry for your sins,” to which the negro replied, “Yes, Father.” These were his last words.

Switch Thrown

Seconds later the state’s official electrocutioner, C. W. Watson threw the switch that shot 2,300 volts of electricity through the negro’s body. The chair gave a quick lurch and the strap holding Parker’s left leg to the chair broke loose, and his fists clenched tight.

Fifty-five seconds later, Dr. S. J. Hooper stepped forward, held a stethoscope to the negro’s heart and shook his head indicating that the negro was not dead. Seconds later more voltage was sent through the negro’s body and then Dr. Cecil Walley stepped up and examined the negro and indicated that he was still not dead. Dr. Hooper then examined him and pronounced him dead.

Sheriff L. M. (John) Gordon read the death warrant to the negro in the jail before he was brought down to the basement. Officials said that the negro remained calm until the last and offered no struggle as he was led to his death.

Spectators Look-on

Some several dozen spectators watched what was the first electrocution to be held in Hinds county.

Elijah Parker became the twentieth person to die (the first in Jackson) in the state’s portable electric chair since that method of electrocution was first installed in Mississippi several years ago.

Fifteen persons died in the chair while Jimmy Thompson served as the official electrocutioner and five have met death since C. W. Watson has been electrocutioner.

Although the sheriff of Hinds county is the official custodian of the chair, Parker became the first person to die in it in Hinds county.

Parker was convicted in November 1942 by a Hinds county jury for his part in the bludgeon-slaying of T. Henry Gober, well-known Madison county farmer, in the early morning hours of July 23, 1942, and was subsequently sentenced to death in the state’s portable electric chair by Judge Jeptha F. Barbour, then circuit judge.

Two teen-age accomplices of Parker were tried at the same time and sentenced to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary. Since that time one died at Parchman.

The Hinds county judgement was affirmed by the State Supreme Court when an appeal was taken to that body, and later when the case was carried to the U. S. Supreme Court that body declined to hear it.

The case was returned to the State Supreme Court and the date of execution was reset for February 9, today.

_____

Elijah Parker’s last request was to have the following song words published:

LET MY LAST DAY BE MY BEST
CHORUS

Lord let my last day be my best.
Lord let my last day be my best
And I know good Lord,
You will do the rest.

If I was dying without Jesus,
On my side it would be miserable,
To think about the death I died.

But I have found Jesus,
And now I am satisfied,
Going to work right on;
Until the day I die.

When I am dying friends and relatives
Standing at my bedside crying then
Lord let my last day be my best.

The appearance of the Hinds County Courthouse is foreboding. It is faced with limestone giving the impression that it is a single carved piece of stone rendered in the Art Deco style. Construction commenced in January 1930 and ended in December of that year. The building contained not only courtrooms, and county offices, but a jail and an apartment for the jailer.

Hinds County Courthouse Jackson Mississippi
The Hinds County Courthouse, 2018, by Michael Barera. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

With such a history, the building is no doubt haunted, though there are no modern published reports of paranormal activity within this building. However, an article appeared in a 1947 Clarion-Ledger noting that several custodians had encounters here.

Clarion-Ledger
20 February 1947
Page 1

Do State’s ‘Chair’ Victims Return?

GHOST HAUNTS HINDS
COUNTY COURT HOUSE

Laugh if you will and scoff if you must, but a ghost last night made its grim appearance in the basement of the Hinds County Court House.

The eerie apparition was seen at about 8 p.m. by P. E. Brent, custodian of the building. The ghost has been reported by several negroes during recent weeks as roaming the basement in the vicinity of the spot where the state’s portable electric chair claims its doomed. But last night was the first time a white man actually saw the melancholy, shadowy figure.

Brent had just left the boiler room where he makes an hourly check. He walked toward the stairway and suddenly halted, sweat forming on his forehead, his muscles tense. Standing a few yards away, facing him, was the transparent outline of a man, about 5 feet 9 inches in height. A black hood covered the figure’s head and shoulders. There were no slits for the eyes or nose.

Brent gathered courage and walked slowly toward the immobile figure, amazed at what he saw and determined to solve the mystery. But as he approached, the figure slowly disintegrated before his eyes, leaving nothing but a vivid memory in the custodian’s mind.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Brent said after the strange experience. “But I’m convinced that some sort of apparition in the form of a man with a black hood was standing near the stairway when I emerged from the boiler room.”

Several colored janitors have quit their jobs at the court house during recent months because of their belief that the basement is haunted.

The three present employees, however have taken rather philosophical views of their shadowy colleague. All of them claim they have seen the ghost several times.

On one recent occasion, Ben Britton, one of the negro janitors saw a man walking toward the door. He followed him, since it was late at night and no one was supposed to be in the building. The figure neared the door, opened it and walked out. When Ben got to the door he said he found it locked.

On another occasion, Alec Pools, his co-worker, saw a figure which he said looked like a boy. He told him not to play in the basement. The “boy” turned around and started walking toward him. As Alec started to run, the “boy” disappeared.

Pleas Britton, the third janitor said he saw the ghost practically every week, but added that he “knew he won’t hurt me.”

“He’s one of us,” the negro said. “He couldn’t make heaven or hell and he’s just wandering around. He never does anything. He just wanders around sort of mournful-like. I know he won’t hurt me.”

I pray that if the spirits of any of those who died by way of Mississippi’s death on wheels remain in the Hinds County Courthouse, I sincerely hope they are at peace.

This is not the only spirit from a victim of “Old Sparky” that may continue to haunt the location of their execution. Please see my coverage of Marty’s Blues Cafe in downtown Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Sources

Directory of Haunted Southern Roads and Bridges

Along Southern roadways and bridges, people sometimes experience strange activity. From lonely “Cry Baby Bridges” to apparitions, phantom coaches, and strange sounds and feelings, this directory covers hauntings throughout the South. This directory covers roads, streets, bridges, trails, and sites immediately adjacent to byways.

Alabama

William Gibson Gravesite Springville Alabama
The roadside grave of William Gibson. Photo courtesy of Waymarking.com.

District of Columbia

FAA Headquarters on Independence Avenue, 2009. Photo by
Matthew Bisanz, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida

Georgia

The Haunted Pillar with the Haunted Pillar Tattoo
Shop behind it. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.

Kentucky

haunted Old Richardsville Road Bridge Bowling Green Kentucky ghost crybaby bridge
Old Richardsville Road Bridge, 2014, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louisiana

Maryland

Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mississippi

Homochitto River bridge Rosetta Mississippi 1974 flood
This shows the damage done to the bridge during the April 1974 flood. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina

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

South Carolina

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, 2012.

Tennessee

Siam Steel Bridge Elizabethton Tennessee haunted ghost
The Siam Steel Bridge, July 2008, by Calvin Sneed. Courtesy of Bridgehunter.com.

Virginia

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
The TWA Flight 514 crash site in December of 1975, a year after the crash. These trees were sheared off by the low-flying plane. Photo by C. Brown, courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia

West Virginia Turnpike 1974
A two-lane section of the turnpike in 1974. Photo by Jack Corn for the EPA.

13 Southern Roadway Revenants

Since I started my blog, I have been hesitant to use random encounters from online. Of course, while many of these stories are hard, nay impossible, to prove, some of them do ring with a sense of truth. For a writer like me, one of the most difficult tasks in my research is finding good, firsthand accounts of ghostly encounters, especially for areas where there is a general lack of documented stories (i.e. books, newspaper articles, etc.).

Recently, I have become fascinated with the Ghosts of America website. This website collects stories from people throughout the country. While many of these accounts talk about ghosts in private homes, some discuss specific locations. While wading through this vast collection, I’m looking for specific accounts that not only mention specific locations but have a sense of authenticity as well.

Please note, I cannot guarantee that any of these places are truly haunted or that these accounts are totally truthful.

Since my last article on haunted roads and bridges in Alabama, I decided to look at encounters in every state that I cover. These are the results.

Brown Street
Altoona, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama was named for the English city of Birmingham—one of the earliest industrial cities in the Western world. Altoona, Alabama, which was founded around the turn of the 20th century as a coal-mining town, was named for the great Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Altoona. Likely, the town supplied coal for the burgeoning steel industry centered in nearby Birmingham.

There’s not much to the community of Altoona; Main Street is Alabama Highway 132 as it heads southwest to Oneonta in neighboring Blount County, traveling east you’ll connect with US 278. A post office and several stores form the center of the town with small homes radiating outward.

Brown Street branches off Main Street and winds through rural woods with sporadic houses lining its side before it terminates south of town. An anonymous poster to Ghosts of America documented an interesting encounter on this street. A woman was driving this street at night when her car broke down within 500 yards of 11th Avenue. She pulled off the road and called her husband to come get her.

As she waited on the side of the road, she noted that she felt comfortable as she was familiar with the area. An old Dodge drove past her and she watched as it turned around to check on her. As the vehicle passed her again, she saw an elderly man driving. Slowing down, the mysterious driver smiled at her and nodded, “as if to let me know I would be fine.” Reaching for her phone, the woman looked to see if her husband was nearby. As she looked up again, the vehicle was nowhere in sight, and the witness realized the old Dodge had made no sound at all.

Sources

New York Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC
 

New York Avenue begins auspiciously at the White House heading northwest towards Maryland. As one of the original avenues laid out by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, this thoroughfare originally began at the Potomac River southwest of the White House, but over time those sections of the avenue have been consumed by development, so now only a block remains south of the White House. According to L’Enfant’s plan, the avenue terminated at Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue), though support was garnered around the turn of the 20th century to extend the road into Maryland. This was finally accomplished in 1931.

As New York Avenue stretches northeast away from the hubbub of downtown Washington, its monumental nature falls away and it begins to take on a more plebeian flair as it sidles up to the Amtrak Railyards. Upscale businesses are replaced with light industrial and pedestrian commercial development. Efforts to redevelop the corridor were discussed in 1980 and up through the early 2000s, though much of that work has not come to fruition. A 2005 study of the most crash-prone intersections in the city concluded that five were located on New York Avenue, with the top one being the intersection with Bladensburg Road.

New York Avenue Washington DC
The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, 2016. Photo by Famartin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An encounter posted to Ghosts of America makes note of the avenue’s dicey reputation, especially after dark. “Larry” however, decided to use it as a shortcut around 3 AM one morning. As he waited at a stoplight, a disheveled man approached his car and stopped in front. The light turned green and the man continued to stand in front of his car. Larry honked, though the strange man continued standing there. As he backed his car up to go around, Larry realized that the man did not have legs and was seemingly floating in mid-air. Terrified, he sped away from the scene.

Sources

Melrose Landing Boulevard
Hawthorne, Florida
 

Melrose Landing Boulevard is a sparsely inhabited road through rural Putnam County, Florida, near the towns of Hawthorne and Melrose. According to a poster named Sarah on Ghosts of America, it was along this road that her father and brother came upon a woman standing in the road “in a dress that looked to be out of the 1700’s.” She appeared suddenly, and the truck didn’t have time to stop before passing through her.

Around 3 AM on November 1, 2009, All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween, Sarah turned onto the road at the same place where her father and brother had their earlier incident. As she drove down the road she passed a woman walking “with her long dress all gathered up in her arms.” Realizing that she might need to check on the woman, she turned around and discovered no one around. Sarah also noted that she was returning home from working at a seasonal haunted attraction and was driving a hearse. She considered that the oddity of someone encountering such a vehicle on such a day might have frightened the mysterious woman and that she may have fled into the woods, though Sarah doubted it.

Sources

Bemiss Road (GA 125)
Valdosta, Georgia

Connecting Valdosta with Moody Air Force Base and Fitzgerald, GA 125 is named Bemiss Road in Valdosta as it heads towards the small community of Bemiss. A poster on Ghosts of America named Arturias revealed that he drove this road frequently at night over the course of fifteen years. During that time, he witnessed people walking along the road, though on three occasions he “noticed coming up on them that they didn’t have legs under the streetlights. Looked faded out.”

After these experiences, he heard the road referred to as the “Highway of Death.” I can find nothing online to prove or disprove whether this is actually the case and why.

Sources

Baker Road
Fort Knox, Kentucky

Branching off of US 31W, Baker Road serves as a truck entrance to Fort Knox. A post on Ghosts of America from someone going by the handle, Redfraggle, was apparently written by one of those truck drivers who frequently drives Baker Road late at night. While headed towards the Brandenburg Gate, this driver had to swerve “to avoid hitting a dark-haired woman crossing the road.” Dressed in a muumuu, the woman appeared solid and the driver stopped to check on her. The woman only looked at him with a “broken hearted” expression and vanished.

Fort Knox Kentucky entrance sign
A sign at one of the entrances to Fort Knox. Photo 1999, by 48states, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The driver reports that he has seen the woman many times but doesn’t stop for her. In addition, this apparition has appeared along this stretch of road to his fellow drivers.

Please note that this road is on a military base and off limits to the public.

Sources

Fort Knox, Kentucky Ghost Sightings. GhostsofAmerica.com. Accessed 30 July 2020.

Albany Lights
Elbert Stewart Road
Albany/Independence, Louisiana Area

About five miles north of Albany and five miles west of Independence is Elbert Stewart Road, home to the locally known Albany Lights. I can find no other reference to these lights online or in any of my research.

A submission from Larry on Ghosts of America, describes his experiences with the lights throughout his life. According to the post, Elbert Stewart Road was once called Dummy Line Road. The term “dummy line” refers to railroads that were constructed to serve the timber as it cut huge swathes of land throughout the South the end of 19th and into the early 20th centuries. Presumably, these lines were called “dummy” because they did not connect to the transportation rail lines.

The story of the lights involves a brakeman who was killed when he failed to pin the coupling between two cars and was crushed. The lights are supposed to be the brakeman’s signal “that the pinning was made.”

Larry explains that some years ago the road was named for his grandfather and that at 49 years of age, he recalls the lights appearing all his life. Interestingly, he points out that if you have photographic equipment on you, the lights will not appear (what about cellphones?). Otherwise, viewers have an 80% chance of seeing the hazy, bluish colored light.

Interestingly, he notes that the phenomenon has been investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Geographic Society. None of these investigations were successful as they all had photographic equipment on them.

A comment on the post from a nearby resident states that they have encountered the lights here “plus much more.”

Sources

Church Road Cemetery
Church Road
Broomes Island, Maryland

Occupying a small peninsula extending into the Patuxent River, the community of Broomes Island plays host to a haunted cemetery. Not only do spirits haunt the cemetery, but they apparently have spilled out onto surrounding streets. This location is documented in Ghosthunting Maryland by the father and son duo of Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. The Varholas describe a ritual where someone circles the cemetery three times at night, after which a fog rolls in the laughter of young girls can be heard.

A post on Ghosts of America mentions that the cemetery has numerous spirits which have spilled out into the nearby streets where they “scream and laugh.” A comment on this post is from a newspaper delivery man who has encountered the spirit of a young boy who told him and his mother to leave. Afterwhich, they saw it run past the car windows.

Sources

MS 33 Bridge over the Homochitto River
Rosetta, Mississippi

Less than a mile north of the unincorporated community of Rosetta in the Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi State Route 33 crosses the Homochitto River on a fairly new bridge. This bridge has seen multiple iterations as the shallow river erodes the stream banks. For nearly two centuries a ferry crossed here which was eventually replaced by a bridge. That bridge was replaced in 1941. The new bridge was damaged during a flood, and it was repaired and extended in 1956.

By 1974, the bridge was again needing work and it was extended again. Just two months after completion, the bridge was washed out during a flood. This washout claimed the lives of two men who were reportedly standing on the bridge. The current bridge was completed by the MDOT in 1978, though it too, has been extended around 2014.

Homochitto River bridge Rosetta Mississippi 1974 flood
This shows the damage done to the bridge during the April 1974 flood. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A brief post on Ghosts of America states that phantom headlights have been seen on this bridge heading southbound but disappearing before they cross the full length of the bridge.

Sources

South Queen Street Bridge over the Neuse River
Kinston, North Carolina

A couple from out of town was staying at “the hotel that sits right next to the Queen Street Neuse River Bridge,” presumably the Red Carpet Inn and Suites. After dark they walked across the road to get dinner from Hardee’s. As they made their way back to their hotel, they began to hear the sounds of “men screaming, ‘stop the fire’ and the sounds of water splashing” coming from the direction of the bridge. The sounds continued with the noise of a battle. At the same time, they both smelled the odor of cigar smoke. They ran back to their room.

The following day, they mentioned the incident to the hotel manager and were told that a battle was fought there during the Civil War, and that guests routinely report hearing and seeing things around the bridge. The couple reported their experiences on Ghosts of America.

In fact, this was the site of the Kinston Bridge which came under attack by Union troops on December 14, 1862. After defending a defensive line south of the bridge, Confederate troops retreated towards the bridge and crossed into town. Thinking that all his men had crossed, General Nathan Evans ordered his men to set the bridge aflame. However, a number of Confederate troops still remained on the opposite side and were now taking the brunt of artillery fire from both Union troops and their own men on the other side of the bridge.

As these men began to run for the bridge they realized that it was in flames and many were captured by Union forces. General John G. Foster sent his men to douse the flames and continue across the partially destroyed bridge into Kinston. As Evans retreated away from town, Union soldiers looted and destroyed parts of the city.

Sources

US 1
Between Bethune and Cassatt, South Carolina

Stretching between Key West., Florida and Fort Kent, Maine, US 1 is the longest north-south road in the country. While this highway passes through many busy urban areas, it also passes through quiet, rural areas such as this area of Kershaw County. Michael posted on Ghosts of America about his experience on this lonely stretch of road around 12:30 at night.

As he passes through an undeveloped area, Michael passed a woman walking on the side of the road. He noticed that she had an “old mottled blanket wrapped around her. The entire figure was so very pale. Her hair was blonde, and the blanket appeared to have dark dots on it.” As he passed her, he wondered why someone would be out on a chilly night on this lonely stretch of road. Looking in his rearview mirror, he could only see darkness. The following night he was on the lookout for the woman, but she did not appear. After arriving at work, he told some of his co-workers about the experience only to have someone come in from the next room saying that they had seen the woman as well. Their description matched his, all the way down to the blanket.

Sources

Dolly Parton Parkway
Sevierville, Tennessee
 

An employee for an industrial laundry posted on Ghosts of America that two of his drivers had strange experiences on Dolly Parton Parkway. The first encounter involved a driver as he drove into work around 2:30 AM along Dolly Parton Parkway. He encountered a thick fog, and “came upon 4 men in old tattered clothes pushing a cannon across the road.” Slamming on the brakes, he sat and watched as the men rolled the cannon across the road without noticing him or his car. Going into work, the shaken driver told his supervisor of his experience.

The second encounter also involved a man driving the same stretch of road in the very early morning also driving through a thick patch of fog. “His entire windshield froze completely over with frost to the point where he had to pull over and scrape it with his license.” Interestingly, the temperatures that morning were quite warm.

The poster, Leslie, Googled the area and discovered that a battle was fought near the roadway during the Civil War. Though a small battle, the Battle of Fair Garden was furious, and led to roughly 250 casualties. Most curious is a detail on the recently installed marker near the battlefield: the battle was fought on a cold January morning in a heavy fog.

Sources

East Virginia Avenue (US 460)
Crewe, Virginia

A resident East Virginia Avenue named Larry reported seeing a man walking the street with a lantern in this small Virginia town. He notes that he and his family have lived on the street as long as he can remember and that he has seen this apparition the entire time. While he knows of no other neighbors who have witnessed it, several of his relatives have seen it. One relative visiting from out of town went out to smoke in the front yard around midnight and watched an orange light glide down the street. As the light came closer, it vanished.

The town of Crewe was created in 1888 by the Norfolk & Western Railroad—later Norfolk Southern—as a site for locomotive repair shops. The necessity of the repair shops decreased towards the middle of the 20th century.

Sources

West Virginia State Route 2
New Cumberland, West Virginia

Hancock County is the northernmost county in West Virginia, and the South. It pushes up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and one side of the county is defined by the Ohio River. New Cumberland is one of the towns located on the river. WV 2 runs through the heart of the town.

A post on Ghosts of America from John describes an incident that happened to him as he was driving southbound on WV 2 in New Cumberland in the spring of 1974. As he and his passenger neared railroad tracks and a bridge, “a ‘man’ stepped out in front of my vehicle. He turned and looked directly at me as the hood of my car went through him.” Then he suddenly disappeared. He continues, “I actually saw the upper part of his body in the middle of my hood. The lower part was inside the front of the car.” Reportedly, the man had white hair and beard, and “wore a ‘brimmed’ hat.”

downtown building New Cumberland West Virginia
This building sits at the intersection where WV 2 makes a dog leg in downtown New Cumberland. Photo 2015 by Carol Highsmith, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In tracing the route of WV 2 through New Cumberland, I could only locate one place where a bridge and railroad tracks are close together: at the bridge over Hardin Run. Going southbound, the railroad crossing is about 200 feet after the bridge. Is this where the mysterious apparition appeared to a frightened driver in 1974?

Sources

Specters on Stage—Guide to Haunted Southern Theatres

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.

—Williams Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

The world of the theatre is filled with mysticism, superstition, and spirits. As a theatre person, nearly every theatre I have worked in has this mysterious side, especially in the connection to the spirit world. In his Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, author Jeff Dwyer contends that one can be almost certain that a theatre will be haunted.

There are few certainties in ghost hunting. But when it comes to haunted places, ships and theaters offer ghost hunters the greatest opportunities for encounters with the spirit world. Theaters often harbor the ghosts of actors, writers, musicians and directors because something about their creative natures ties them to the place where they experienced their greatest successes or failures. Stagehands and other production staff may haunt backstage areas where they worked and, perhaps suffered a fatal accident. They may also be tied to room where props are stored. The ghosts of patrons remain long after death because they love the theater or, more likely, they loved an actor who performed regularly at that location.

Much of the mysticism in theatre revolves around actors, especially in how they take on a character. Even the language of an actor bears parallels with the language of ghosts and spirits. Some actors will describe an experience akin to possession when they are inhabiting another’s body and lose themselves. Certainly, within the ritual of preparing for a show, there may be a ritual in applying makeup, getting into costume, and warming up. I’ve watched as some actors will walk the set, absorbing the energy of the world of the play, all of which resembles summoning. If the play utilizes masks, actors may put on the mask in a nearly religious manner. Onstage, the actors are in tune with the energy that surrounds them, including that from other actors, the set, the audience, the crew, and the audience. Once the actor has finished his hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage, these spirits are banished to the world of fiction. But, are they really? Perhaps some of these spirits linger in the theatre?

As for the directors, writers, musicians, technical crew members, and the backstage functionaries, many imbue their work with their own passion, thus leaving a little bit of themselves behind in their work. Even once these people pass on, they may return to the theatres to feed their passion in the afterlife.

The practice of leaving a ghost light onstage when the theatre is dark is wrapped up in superstition and practicality. Some will argue that the light assures the theatre’s spirits that the theatre is not abandoned and provides light for their own performances. In a way, this could be a sacrifice to the genius loci, or the spirit of a location. As for practicality, non-superstitious thespians will contend that a ghost light provides illumination to prevent injuries if someone enters the darkened space.

Theatres are often inherently dangerous places where actors, crew, and even some patrons can, and do, get injured. Indeed, there have been numerous accidents throughout history where deaths have occurred on or just off stage sometimes leaving spirits in limbo within the space. The haunting of the Wells Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia comes to mind. One of the spirits in this 1913 theatre may be that of a careless stagehand who became entangled in the hemp rope-operated fly system (a system that is still in use) and accidentally hung himself. Other deaths may be blamed on medical conditions that have claimed have claimed lives while people are at work.

As for lingering spirits of theatre patrons, a love for theatre or a particular space may be reason enough to return in the afterlife. Though it seems that most of the hauntings by members of the audience are residual in nature with phantom laughter and applause sometimes being heard.

Contributing to theatres’ haunted natures, some theatres occupy spaces that were not intended to be performance spaces. These repurposed buildings may already be haunted, and the spirits adapt to the new use of the location. Among the numerous examples of these types of theatres are the Baltimore Theatre Project in Maryland in an old building originally constructed for a men’s fraternal organization and the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, formerly a post office and courthouse.

Over the decade I have worked on this blog, I have covered a number of theatres and theatre spaces. In addition to places that have formerly served as theatres, I have added movie houses, larger structures that include a theatre, structures that are associated with theatres, and the Maryland home of the Booth family, which included some of America’s most famous and infamous actors in the 19th century.

Alabama

Lyric Theatre Birmingham Alabama
Balconies of the Lyric Theatre. Photo by Andre Natta, 2006, courtesy of Flickr.

District of Columbia

Tivoli Theatre Washington DC
Tivoli Theatre, 2005, by D Monack. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida 

Floirda Theatre Jacksonville Florida
Florida Theatre, 1927. Photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

Georgia 

Wink Theatre Dalton Georgia
Wink Theater, 2018. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Kentucky 

Louisville Palace Theatre Kentucky
The house and stage of the Louisville Palace. The theater is designed to ensconce the audience in a Spanish Baroque courtyard. The ceiling is an atmospheric ceiling with clouds. In the 1960s, this balcony was enclosed as a second theater, but this alternation was removed in the 1990s restoration. It’s not hard to imagine spirits spending their afterlife in such a magnificent edifice. A handful of spirits have been reported here including a man in 1930s clothing that has been seen in this balcony. When approached by ushers, the man disappears. Photo taken in 1928, courtesy of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Louisiana

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium Louisiana
The elaborate facade of the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium. Photo by Michael Barera, 2015, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Maryland 

Maryland Theatre Hagerstown
The modern entrance to the Maryland Theatre, 2014. Photo by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mississippi

Temple Theatre Meridian Mississippi
Temple Theatre, 2008. Photo by Dudemanfellabra, courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina 

Carolina Theatre Greensboro North Carolina
Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre in 2008. Photo by Charles Brummitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

South Carolina

Riviera Theatre Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Riviera Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Tennessee

The proscenium arch of the Orpheum Theatre, 2010, by Orpheummemphis. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

Hanover Tavern Virginia
Hanover Tavern, 2007 by BrandlandUSA. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia 

Apollo Theatre Martinsburg West Virginia
Apollo Theatre, 2009, by Acroterion. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Death on the move—Philadelphia, Mississippi

N.B. An article on this location was first posted as part of “A Southern Feast of All Souls—Newsworthy Souls,” 18 October 2015. It has since been updated and expanded.

Marty’s Blues Café
424 West Beacon Street
Philadelphia, Mississippi

Around 2015, the chef of what was then Brandi’s Blues Café, was working in the kitchen early one morning. Startled by a loud bang, he continued working until he heard water running in the sink. He walked over, turned the sink off and returned to his work. Glancing up he saw a figure standing near the kitchen door. It was “about 6 ft. It had a little pot belly. I saw it for three or four seconds.” Thinking it was a co-worker, the chef returned to work. After discovering he was alone in the building he began to hear footsteps and he left the building until his coworkers showed up.

Marty's Blues Cafe Philadelphia Mississippi haunted
Marty’s Blues Cafe, 2014, by CapCase. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite its name, which translates to “brotherly love” in Ancient Greek, Philadelphia, Mississippi is remembered as the scene of one of multitude of heinous tragedies born of the Civil Rights Movement: the murder of three young activists by members of the local Ku Klux Klan. During the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, as activists throughout the state worked to register African-Americans to vote, three activists were stopped for speeding outside of town. They were arrested and taken to the Neshoba County Jail, located on Myrtle Street, just around the corner from the corner from the café.

After being detained for several hours, the young men were released with law enforcement and members of the local Ku Klux Klan on their tails. The car was stopped again and the three, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were shot to death and their bodies disposed of within an earthen dam that was under construction. Once the bodies of the young men were discovered, the murder case was taken over by the FBI and sparked outrage nationwide.

Some resolution came with the conviction of seven defendants in 1967. More resolution came with the 2005 trial of local minister Edgar Ray Killen who was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter for his part in the killings. In 2016, the state’s attorney general announced that the case was closed.

Just twenty-three years previous, Philadelphia was the scene two tragedies that may echo through time to haunt this small downtown café. The first tragedy occurred the morning of July 29, 1940. In a roadhouse or nightclub called the Blue Goose, the business’ owner, James Grady White, became involved in an argument over the operation of pinball machines with Sam McCune, manager of the Mississippi Vending Company. The argument was settled when White shot McCune to death. When authorities were called to the scene, White claimed that the victim picked up a loaded gun sitting on the counter and accidently shot himself.

Several days later, an angry mob set fire to the Blue Goose in retribution for McCune’s murder. White was arrested and secreted to the Hinds County Jail in Jackson, for safe-keeping. After being put on trial, White was found guilty and sentenced to death by electrocution.

In 1940, the state of Mississippi decided “to abandon the traditional rope” and purchase an electric chair. To assist counties in carrying out death sentences, the chair was a portable device that traveled the state with a technician. So proud was the state of their new device, that a photograph of old sparky and the technician, Jimmy Thompson, appeared in Life magazine showing a smirking, tattooed man standing next to the grim wooden chair. It was this chair that was used for James Grady White’s execution.

The Union Appeal in nearby Union, Mississippi, published the details of the execution:

At 2 o’clock, White made his last walk down a short flight of stairs to the room where the chair had been prepared. With a steady step, looking straight ahead, he walked to the chair and seated himself.

Approaching the chair to adjust the straps, Jimmy Thompson, executioner, said “How are you, Grady?”

‘All right,” was the mumbled reply.

White took an apparent keen interest in the adjustment of the device that was to bring him instant death. The only trace of nervousness visible was an occasional wetting of his lips. He maintained stony silence and composure.

A signal was given and the motor was started. As it began Father Diegnan began to pray.

The switch was thrown and White’s pudgy body, grown heavier by months in jail, grew rigid—his hands involuntarily clenched. Only one shock was applied and three doctors, Dr. Claude Yates, Dr. E. L. Laird and Dr. J. H. Lee, pronounced White dead seven minutes later.

The jail building was torn down some years later and replaced with the jail building where the three activists would be held in 1964. That building remains standing with a historical marker reminding the public of those three young lives that were snuffed out years ago. The plain commercial building on West Beacon Street that now houses the cafe was constructed within the same decade that White was. It seems that his spirit, freed from his earthly bonds, may have taken up residence there.

When members of Southern Paranormal called out the name of James Grady White they recorded an EVP responding “Yeah.” Perhaps he remains to sing his own blues.

Sources

Sipping with Spirits—Guide to Spirited Southern Bars

N.B. Last updated 29 May 2020.

Throughout the South, there are many places where you can sip with spirits. This guide covers all of the bars that I have explored in the pages of this blog over the years. Not only have I included independent bars, but breweries, wineries, restaurants, and hotels with bars as well.

Alabama

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant Sylacauga Alabama ghosts haunted
Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

District of Columbia

Omni Shoreham Hotel Washington DC ghosts haunted
Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2009. Photo by Jurgen Mattern,  courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida

Island Hotel Cedar Key Florida ghosts haunted
Island Hotel, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Georgia

Jekyll Island Club Hotel Jekyll Island Georgia ghosts haunted
Jekyll Island Club, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern Bardstown Kentucky ghosts haunted
Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louisiana

Hotel Monteleone French Quarter New Orleans Louisiana ghosts haunted
Hotel Monteleone, 2009 by Bart Everson, courtesy
of Wikipedia.

Maryland

Middleton Tavern Annapolis Maryland ghosts haunted
Middleton Tavern, 1964. Photograph for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Mississippi

Weidmann's Meridian Mississippi ghosts haunted
Weidmann’s, 2010, by Dudemanfellabra. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina

Lake Lure Inn North Carolina ghosts haunted
The 1927 Lake Lure Inn. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

South Carolina

Mad River Grill Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Tennessee

Earnestine and Hazel's Memphis Tennessee ghosts haunted
Earnestine and Hazel’s, 2012, by Thomas R.
Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

Michie Tavern Charlottesville Virginia ghosts haunted
Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Mississippi

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

Biloxi Public Library
580 Howard Avenue
Biloxi

Apparently, the Biloxi Public Library is not haunted, but it contains several haunted books. The books were donated in 2014 and the donor contacted the library a short time later to let them know that he and his family believed there was a spirit associated with them.

Biloxi Public Library Mississippi haunted books
Biloxi Public Library, 2013, by Brandonrush. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The donor told the library’s director that his wife acquired the books in the 1960s. For many years, the family had encounters with a female wraith. The director related to the Sun Herald what the gentleman told her, “They would be asleep, then wake up and see the figure of a woman with long, dark hair and what looked like a gauze-like dress. She would hover. When the person woke up, and the apparition startled them, it would disappear.”

While the library still has the books in its collections, no one has been approached by a hovering apparition.

Sources

  • Smith, Tammy. “17 Coast ghost stories that will creep you out.” Sun Herald. 26 October 2016.

Lee County Library
219 North Madison Avenue
Tupelo

George Eberhart includes this library in his Britannica Blog article that was the inspiration for this series. Besides his listing, I cannot locate any further information about this haunting. According to Eberhart, this library, which occupies a 1971 building, sits on the site of the home of politician John Mills Allen. The library’s Mississippi Room utilizes elements from Allen’s home. Books are sometimes found on the floor and turn up missing from the book drop for which the spirit of Allen is blamed.

Sources

Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library
2517 7th Avenue
Meridian

In 2008, a janitor working alone in the Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library had a frightening experience. He was sitting down in the second-floor breakroom when he heard a feminine voice call his name. After searching the building for the mysterious woman, he discovered that he was totally alone.

Staff members have had many odd and creepy experiences in the library. A director reported hearing the elevator ding while he was working late alone in the building. When he investigated, he discovered that the elevator had not moved and there was no reason for the elevator to have dinged. He has also reported feeling a distinct chill accompanied by a feeling of uneasiness. Other staff members have heard voices and the crying of a child here, though no one has seen the spirit.

Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library Mississippi ghost haunted
The Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library, 2018, by Michael Barera. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The library was built in 1967 in the International style that was en vogue at the time. The turn of the century home of A. J. Lyons was demolished to make way for the new library. Lyons’ wife, Josephine, committed suicide in the home. Some have posited that she may be the spirit in the library, though others believe that the spirit may be the shade of Jeanne Broach, the former head librarian. A stern, no-nonsense woman who fit the mold of the classic librarian, Ms. Broach served as head librarian from 1945 to 1975. Perhaps she continues to make sure that the library steadily fulfills its mission.

At the behest of the local newspaper, the Meridian Star, an investigation was conducted of the library in 2008. With author Alan Brown, investigators probed the entire library, but the evidence of a haunting was inconclusive.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Meridian, Mississippi. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Jacob, Jennifer. “Haunted places of East Mississippi and West Alabama: Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library.” Meridian Star. 20 October 2008.

Noxubee County Library
103 East King Street
Macon

Occupying the old Noxubee County Jail, the library still retains some of the jail’s fittings as well as some of its spirits. See my article, “A Mississippi Dante—Noxubee County.”

Rowan Oak
916 Old Taylor Road
Oxford

N.B. Originally published as part of “Haunted Mississippi,” 27 January 2011. 

“Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished.”
— William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

If the theory holds, residual hauntings are just this, something that happens but is never finished; a haunting where the dead still walk, cry, talk, or laugh among the living.  These things are still heard at Rowan Oak the former home of perhaps the greatest, most complicated and certainly most haunted of Southern writers, William Faulkner. The house was built around 1840 by Colonel Robert Shegog and purchased by Faulkner in 1930.

Rowan Oak William Faulkner Oxford Mississippi ghost haunted William Faulkner
William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, 2010, by Gary Bridgeman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The deteriorated state of the house matched the deteriorated condition of the rural South even over half a century after the Civil War. Faulkner, habitually low on money, performed much of the restoration himself. He and his wife experienced odd occurrences in the house and he explained it with the legend of Shegog’s daughter, Judith who he said died trying to sneak out of the house for a tryst with her lover. Researchers, however, have discovered that Judith never existed, but odd sounds still resonate through the old house. Perhaps they are the sounds of life that is unfinished?

While Rowan Oak is not technically a library, it is a literary shrine and Faulkner’s own personal library is preserved within this building.

Sources

  • Hubbard, Sylvia Booth. Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings. Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge Press, 1992.
  • Rettig, Polly M. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Rowan Oak. 30 March 1976.
  • William Faulkner. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 January 2011.

A restaurant revenant—Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

1905 City Hall
300 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis

N.B. This was originally published 3 June 2014 as part of “Louisiana and Mississippi: Newsworthy Haunts–6/3/14.”

Two hurricanes, Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005, wrecked much of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi including its graceful 1905 city hall. Camille, which made landfall next door in Waveland, blew off the building’s cupola and Katrina also severely damaged the building when it made landfall nearby. Since its restoration, something else may be occasionally wreaking havoc inside the building.

Bay St. Louis Mississippi city hall haunted ghost
Bay St. Louis City Hall a short time after construction. Undated postcard. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Originally, the building housed the mayor’s office, city council chambers, police department, and jail. Over the years, many city departments have occupied the building which, after Katrina’s destructive blow to the city, required extensive restoration. After its Georgian splendor was restored in 2014, the building now houses offices with a Greek and Italian restaurant, Mezzo Mezzo (formerly Sonny’s Cypress Café), occupying the entire first floor. It is here, where the old jail was once located, that quite a bit of paranormal activity has been experienced.

Bay St. Louis Mississippi city hall haunted ghost Hurricane Katrina damage
Bay St. Louis City Hall, September 19, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

An article from a local TV station, WLOX, quotes a restaurant staff member as saying, “We’ve had a lot of things move around, we’ve had glasses fly around. Doors just open and close real quick, and all of our doors have safety mechanisms which [means] you can’t actually open them. There’s just so many things that happened here on a regular basis that just didn’t seem normal.” A staff member interviewed by G-COM, states that mason jars and glasses sometimes fly off the counter and shatter on the floor.

After initially attempting to ignore the activity, the owner and staff decided to call in a paranormal team. G-COM (Ghost Chasers of Mississippi), investigated and captured evidence of three possible spirits in 2014. They produced a video of their investigation which was posted on YouTube. The investigation yielded a number of EVP and some fruitful flashlight sessions.

For the café’s owner, however, the spirits are not fearsome, “nothing bad has really happened, it’s really kind of cool,” she said.

Stories point to an incident in 1928 which may provide the origin of some of the building’s activity. That year, a man incarcerated in the jail shot his way to freedom, killing a man in the process. After he was recaptured, the prisoner became the last person executed by hanging in Hancock County, when he was hung in the Hancock County Courthouse a short distance away. That building may also be haunted by his restless spirit.

Sources

A houseguest evermore—Mississippi

Dunleith
84 Homochitto Street
Natchez, Mississippi

Benjamin Franklin proclaimed that both fish and visitors smell after three days. So, what if the guest has yet to vacate the house after more than 150 years? The answer at Dunleith is that the guest enters legend and remains to occasionally disturb visitors, guests, and staff members.

Crowning a low hill rising above Homochitto Street, Dunleith takes the form of an ancient Greek temple with columns completely surrounding the main house and providing an exquisite view from any direction. The current house was built after the original house—a late-18th century structure—burned in 1855 after being struck by lightning.

Job Routh built the first home and named the estate Routhlands. After his death, the estate passed to Routh’s daughter, Mary, who married a wealthy, local banker, Charles G. Dahlgren, before they moved into the house. Dahlgren had the current structure built to replace the original house. In 1858, three months after the couple moved into the new home, Mary passed away and, in accordance with his wife’s wishes, Dahlgren sold the house dividing the proceeds among their children. After the 1859 purchase, the new owner renamed the estate Dunleith.

The exact identity of the spectral houseguest is unknown, and she is only known as Miss Percy. Folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham included Miss Percy’s legend in her 1974 book, 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey, and suggests that she was a relative of Mary Routh Dahlgren. This is a possibility. Mary Malvina Routh was born in 1813 and married Thomas Percy Ellis at the age of 15. She had two children by the handsome and educated Mr. Ellis, but he passed ten years after their marriage.

Dunleith, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Among the graves in the Routh family cemetery near the Dunleith property—where Thomas Percy Ellis rests—and within the Natchez City Cemetery—where Mary Dahlgren and her second husband rest—there are no graves bearing the surname Percy, though there are a few that use the name Percy. Therefore, it is possible Miss Percy may have been related to Mrs. Dahlgren from her first marriage, though her exact identity remains unknown.

The legend, as it is commonly recounted, describes Miss Percy as a young woman who ran afoul of the social mores of the time by falling in love. In a time of strict marital customs, Miss Percy began an affair with a dashing Frenchman. Some suggest he was an aristocrat who was part of the entourage of Louis Philippe, the French king who spent time in Natchez on his grand tour of the South before attaining the throne. After saying farewell to her lover, Miss Percy traveled to France, unaccompanied, to be reunited with him. She spent time as a member of the French court and lived a life of luxury, though the man eventually declined to marry the young woman from Mississippi. Socially ruined, she returned to Natchez as a lonely spinster to live out her days with relatives at Dunleith, where she would play her harp for hours each day still dreaming of her lover in France.

While some legends of this type tend to enjoy vague descriptions of activity that “is said” to occur, this activity has witnesses. An article in a 1983 edition of the Hattiesburg American records the stories from a cook, Ella Mae Green, who worked in the house. In fact, Ms. Green states that she almost did not take the job because of the ghost, but Dunleith’s owner convinced her to stay.

Ms. Green provides a visual description of Miss Percy, “she usually came in bones [I presume this means she had a skeletal appearance], but the third time she was wearing a long white gown.” She continued, “you can’t see her face—like smoke around it. She doesn’t talk, just watches, but you can tell she’s unhappy. She died with an unhappy heart.” The cook emphasizes later that the spirit’s face is obscured, saying, “You can’t see her face, but it looks like she has eyes.” According to Ms. Green, the wraith usually stays on the third floor where she can remain undisturbed, but she makes occasional appearances throughout the house including playing her harp in the parlor and making the sound of breaking glass.

While Dunleith’s most famous houseguest continues to roam the main house, she is not the only spectral guest on the estate. Since the mid-1970s, the estate has opened its doors to guests as an inn and the Gothic Revival carriage house has been transformed into a fine dining establishment, The Castle Restaurant and Pub. Staff of the restaurant have had encounters with three spirits in this building including a shadowy man, a woman, and an African-American laborer. While stories of these three spectral guests may be more modern, their stories have been lost in the shroud of time and legend, and none will ever outshine the everlasting, harp-playing, spectral houseguest reigning over the main house evermore.

Sources

  • Brooking, Ann. “Ghost of Dunleith died of an unhappy heart.” Hattiesburg American. 19 October 1983.
  • Dunleith. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 March 2018.
  • Goeldner, Paul. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Dunleith. Listed 14 September 1972.
  • Kane, Harnett Thomas. Natchez on the Mississippi. Originally published in 1947. Republished as an eBook by Pickle Partners Publishing, 2016.
  • Pascoe, Jill. Mississippi’s Haunted Mansions. Gilbert, AZ: Irongate Press, 2012.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of Alabama Press, 1974.

‘Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants

‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the blog, little was stirring…

This move from Blogger to this new site has been tedious and time-consuming. I’ve tossed out a great deal of junky posts and put many posts aside that need to be updated and refreshed leaving me with many bits and pieces that should be republished in a different context. This is a selection of recycled pieces for Halloween.

East Coast/West Coast
138 St. George Street
St. Augustine, Florida

This modest commercial building once housed Kixie’s Men’s Store and some odd activity. The shop employed a young tailor, Kenneth Beeson who would later serve as mayor for the city. While working late one evening he noticed a door opening by itself followed by the sweet scent of funereal flowers. After experiencing odd activity for a while, Beeson put out a tape recorder and set it to record just before he left. When he returned the following morning, he was shocked to discover a plethora of sounds including marching feet and guttural growls. Disturbed by these incidents, Beeson had a priest exorcise the building. The activity ceased.

Sources 

  • Cain, Suzy & Dianne Jacoby. A Ghostly Experience: Tales of St. Augustine, Florida. City Gate Productions, 1997.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosts of St. Augustine. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997.

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.

The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.

Entrance to the old Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, All rights reserved.

It is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.

Sources

  • DeFeo, Todd. “Antebellum railroad tunnel still a marvel after all These years.” com. 22 June 2009.
  • Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
  • Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Accessed 28 November 2010.

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Old Louisiana State Capitol
100 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

When the state capitol was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, the city donated land atop a bluff over the Mississippi for the capitol building. Architect James Dakin designed a Neo-Gothic building very much unlike the other state capitols which were often modeled on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The magnificent crenellated and be-towered structure was used as a prison and garrison for soldiers under the city’s Union occupation and during this time it caught fire twice leaving it a soot-stained shell by the war’s end. The building was reconstructed in 1882 but abandoned in 1932 for Governor Huey Long’s new state capitol.

Old State Capitol, 2009, by Avazina. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Even before the capitol burned during the war, there was a ghost gliding through its halls. Pierre Couvillon, a legislator representing Avoyelles Parish, enraged by his colleagues’ corruption, suffered a heart attack and died. Though he was buried in his home parish, his spirit was said to reside in the capitol; perhaps checking up on his colleagues. When the capitol building underwent restoration in the 1990s, the spirit or spirits in the building were stirred up and activity has increased. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.

Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.

Sources

  • Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
  • Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Louisiana. NYC: Sterling Publishers, 2010.
  • Old Louisiana State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.

Jericho Covered Bridge
Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls
Harford County Near Jerusalem, Maryland

Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.

Sources

  • Jericho Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  • Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth, Mississippi

Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.

The railroad junction at the heart of Corinth. Photo 2013, by Ron Cogswell. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Second Battle of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.
  • Siege of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.

North Carolina Zoological Park
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, North Carolina

North Carolina lawyer and folklorist Daniel Barefoot has done much to preserve North Carolina and Southern legends and ghost stories in his books. His series, North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred provides a single ghost story or legend from each of the state’s one hundred counties. From Randolph County, smack dab in the middle of the state, comes the legend of the aptly named, Purgatory Mountain, now home to the NC Zoo. The state-owned zoo is the largest walk-through habitat zoos in the world and a major attraction in the region.

NC Zoo sign, 2010, by Eleazar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the Civil War, much of rural North Carolina was resistant to seceding from the Union and, as a result, the state was the final state to secede. Still, many citizens, including the peaceable Quakers of Randolph County resisted joining the butternut ranks. Recruiters were sent to these areas to nudge and sometimes force the inhabitants to join. One particular recruiter in this area earned the nickname, “The Hunter,” for his harsh methods.  He rounded up a group of Quaker boys, tied them roughly and marched them to Wilmington to join the army, but a few escaped and returned, bedraggled to their rural homes. When the recruiter returned, this group of escaped boys shot him outside of his cabin at Purgatory Mountain. His malevolent spirit is still supposedly stalking the crags of his mountain home.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • North Carolina Zoo. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 April 2012.

Carter House
1140 Columbia Avenue
Franklin, Tennessee

By some accounts, the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some historians have even deemed it the “Gettysburg of the South.” Fought right on the edge of the town of Franklin, the battle hit very close to the home front and absolutely hammered the farm of the Carter family which was located at the center of the main defensive line. During the furious fighting, the Carters, neighbors and slaves cowered in the basement of the house, emerging after the battle to witness the carnage spread through their yard and around their house. The house and outbuildings still bear bullet holes, attesting to their experience.

Fanny Courtney Carter, who was 8 years old when the battle overtook her family’s farm, later recalled the day following the battle: “Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were clod and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writing in agony and calling ‘Water! Water!’ I can hear them even now.” Fanny’s brother, Tod, who had enlisted in the Confederate army was found some yards from the house, his body riddled with eight bullets, but still clinging to life. The family brought him into the parlor of his home where he died on December 2.

Carter House by Hal Jesperson, 2009. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The pastoral fields that once surrounded the Carter House as well as the town of Franklin that saw so much blood that November day have mostly been lost to development though the spiritual imprint of the battle is still felt throughout the city. The spirit of Tod Carter may be one of the more active spirits at the Carter House. He has been seen sitting on the edge of the bed where he may have died and according to Alan Brown, he took a tour of the house, correcting the tour guide when she didn’t use the correct name or date and disappearing before he and the guide could descend to the basement.

Apparently he’s not the only lingering spirit. Poltergeist activity in the house has been attributed to Tod’s sister, Annie. Objects have moved from room to room and one visitor on a tour watched a figurine that jumped up and down.

Sources

  • Battle of Franklin (2009). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena Of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • O’Rear, Jim. Tennessee Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.

Rockledge Mansion
440 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia

The town website for Occoquan (pronounced OK-oh-qwahn), Virginia states that the city, “has an inordinate amount of spooks per capita” and then goes on to list a number of locations in the town with ghosts. Among this remarkable collection of haunted locations is the magnificent Georgian mansion, Rockledge, which commands a literal rock ledge above Mill Street. The town was founded in the mid-eighteenth century as a port on the Occoquan River and during the Civil War this northern Virginia town served as a post office between the North and the South.

Rockledge Mansion by AlbertHerring, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Quite possibly the work of colonial architect, William Buckland, Rockledge was built in 1758 by local industrialist John Ballandine. In the yard of this house the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen and possibly heard. One witness saw the soldier then noticed peculiar wet footprints on the front steps that appeared to be from hobnail boots, the kind that would have been worn by soldiers during the war. Many people have heard loud footsteps in the house as well as someone knocking at the door. So far, no source has identified this soldier.

Sources 

  • Occoquan History. com. Accessed 16 November 2010.
  • Occoquan, Virginia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Streng, Aileen. “Benevolent ghost believed to haunt mansion.” com. 27 October 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Rockledge Mansion. Listed 25 June 1973.

Berkeley Castle
WV-9
Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Castle by Jeanne Mozier. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Berkeley Springs, also known as “Bath,” has attracted visitors who come to take the waters of the mineral springs located there. Overlooking this quaint town from a commanding position on Warm Spring Mountain sits Berkeley Castle, seemingly a piece of medieval Britain transplanted. Modeled and named after Britain’s own Berkeley Castle, the castle was built as a wedding gift from Colonel Samuel Suit for his bride, Rosa Pelham. The Colonel, who was quite a bit older than his bride, died before the castle was finished and his widow finished the building. She lived in the castle after his death and squandered the fortune she inherited and died penniless well away from the castle, but legends speak of her return.

The castle was purchased by paranormal investigators in 2000 but sold fairly shortly after that. Once open for tours, the castle is now primarily a private residence, though it may be rented for weddings, parties and other events.

Sources

  • Fischer, Karin. “Castle in Eastern Panhandle could be in need of a new lord this spring.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. 21 November 2000.
  • History Berkeley Castle. Berkeley Castle. Accessed 19 March 2011.
  • Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia. Winking Eye Books, 2008.