Some paranormal investigators theorize that cemeteries and burial sites should not be haunted because spirits are not thought to remain near their earthly remains. However, this thinking can easily be proven wrong with the sheer number of cemeteries and burial sites that are said to be haunted. This directory lists all cemeteries covered within this blog.
Boyington Oak, inside Church Street Cemetery, Bayou Street, Mobile
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
AL 169, Connecting US 80 to Opelika, Lee and Russell Counties
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fort Knox, Kentucky Ghost Sightings. GhostsofAmerica.com. Accessed 30 July 2020.
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.”
Church Road Cemetery
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.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cinncinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.
MS 33 Bridge over the Homochitto River
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
Marty’s Blues Café
424 West Beacon Street
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.
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.
“Fatal shooting occurs near Philadelphia.” The Union Appeal. 1 August 1940.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 that, 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 one of the greatest, most complicated, and certainly most haunted of Southern writers, William Faulkner. The house where Faulkner lived much of his adult life was built around 1840 by Colonel Robert Shegog, and purchased by Faulkner in 1930.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Belcher, Geoff. “Old Town ‘Haunt’—Paranormal investigators probe historic Bay building.” The Seacoast Echo. 4 April 2014.
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.
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.
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.