From a dumpster fire to a Husk—Savannah

12 West Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia

In 2006, a ghost tour guide told a reporter from the Houston Chronicle that this one address in Savannah has seen “more conversions than Billy Graham,” a reference to the nationally known evangelist. Of course, these were conversions to one of Savannah’s true religions: belief in the paranormal. According to this tour guide, this site has played host to a panoply of tragedies and, as a result, now hosts paranormal activity.

During this particular tour, guests were allowed to step up to the front door of this forlorn house and take photographs in hopes of capturing evidence of the home’s ghosts. Reportedly, some guests experienced battery drain with their cameras and even motorized wheelchairs. Others were shocked at what appeared in their photos.

This particular site—within Savannah’s massive historic district—has seen a tremendous evolution since the city’s founding in 1733. As noted by a monument in the median of West Oglethorpe within sight of the house, this property was initially the city’s first Jewish cemetery. A burial spot for the local Jewish community was later established some distance away, though, the graves were left at this site, which evolved into a residential area.

12 West Oglethorpe Savannah Husk Restaurant
Husk in October of 2019. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The house at 12 West Oglethorpe is an unassuming Georgian home with an elegant circular porch. Among the numerous homes in Georgia’s oldest city, the house is not as old as some of its neighbors, dating only to around 1898. Built as a home, the structure’s modest history includes the building’s use as an Elks Lodge and later, a performing arts school, until the building was abandoned in 1985.

During the time that the house sat boarded up, ghost stories began to circulate and the home became a fixture on many ghost tours. Here, guides would relate the sad tale of Dr. Brown, a physician who occupied the house in 1876, during the last of the yellow fever epidemics to strike the city. Patients visiting the house brought the illness into the home and one by one, the doctor’s family died after succumbing. Grief stricken, the good doctor sealed himself in one of the upstairs rooms and starved to death.

This is a great story, but total bunk. Yellow fever, which does feature in some local ghost stories, is not spread from human to human contact, but spread by mosquitos. Local tour guide and author, James Caskey was not able to locate any reference to a doctor living on this site (this house didn’t exist in 1876) or anywhere in this area named Brown. While this story isn’t true, that doesn’t discount the paranormal activity here. Some of the activity described by Caskey in his authoritative 2008 book, Haunted Savannah,  includes the apparition of an elderly man seen peering from an upstairs window—despite the fact that there was no floor underneath that particular window—odd sounds being heard by the neighbors, and several strange anomalies appearing in photographs.

A year after Caskey’s book was published, a dumpster fire set by teenage pranksters ignited the modern addition at the back of the house. Photos of the damage show the addition with broken, charred windows and a missing roof. Neighbors, worried about the building’s safety pressed the city for action, though they were thwarted by the slow-turning wheels of government and absentee owners.

Caskey makes an appearance in a recent episode of Haunted Towns on Destination America. The show follows the Tennessee Wraith Chasers as they visit cities and towns throughout the country with haunted reputations attempting to suss out why these places have earned such reputations. Their episode on Savannah concentrates on the legends surrounding Wright Square, located just around the corner from 12 West Oglethorpe. Caskey is interviewed early in the episode where he notes that legend of the square and the house may be connected.

Wright Square, just around the corner from 12 West Oglethorpe. Photo by XEON, 2013, courtesy of Wikipedia.

He also remarks that the house has never been investigated, spurring the show’s investigators to investigate themselves. In fact, another local guide and investigator, Ryan Dunn, explored the house in 2010 and had a frightening encounter. On the second floor Dunn’s camera “powered down for no apparent reason.” He continues, “As I looked up, I saw a black shadow person cross the hallway in front of me from one bedroom to the other.” He describes the shadow figure as being three dimensional and roughly shaped like a person, but with no discernable features.

Dunn also includes a fascinating tale from the 2009 fire. After extinguishing the fire, local firefighters held a fire watch in order to ensure that the fire did not reignite. Staying in the house overnight, the firefighters began to tell ghost stories and daring each other to creep up the stairs to the “haunted room” where Dr. Brown supposedly died. One firefighter bravely entered the room and let out a scream. Dashing down the stairs, the firefighter remained in his vehicle out front for the rest of the evening, refusing to reveal what he encountered in the room.

During the Tennessee Wraith Chasers’ investigation, they meet a property manager working on the renovation of 12 West Oglethorpe who told them the story of Dr. Brown. While the story is being told, the crew’s camera unexpectedly cuts out. After getting their camera up and running, the property manager tells the investigators that he had had one peculiar incident while working in the house where his name had been called by a disembodied voice. The paranormal team did a sweep of the house including the basement where a temperature gauge registered a temperature of 66.6 degrees. During the evening investigation, the group experienced battery drain, captured a few EVPs, and heard a disembodied voice.

The building opened its doors on January 5th as the Savannah outpost of the Charleston restaurant Husk. In the award-winning hands of chefs Sean Brock and Tyler Williams, Husk opened in Charleston, South Carolina in 2010 in a historic haunted home next door to haunted landmark, Poogan’s Porch. Serving Nouveau Southern cuisine, the chefs playfully rework classic Southern dishes and ingredients bolstered by research into the gastronomic history of the region. The restaurant has also made a point to occupy historic structures in order to preserve the historic built environments in addition to food ways and incidentally, the spirits, of each city where it operates.


  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2007.
  • Cowen, Diane. “Spirited Savannah.” Houston Chronicle. 19 March 2006.
  • Curl, Eric. “Three downtown Savannah historic commercial buildings closed to public and awaiting restoration.” Savannah Morning News. 16 November 2013.
  • Dunn, Ryan. Savannah’s Afterlife: True Tales of a Paranormal Investigator. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.
  • “Savannah.” Haunted Towns. Season 1, Episode 3. Originally aired 9 August 2017.
  • Whiteway, Maria. “Husk is here!” Connect Savannah. 10 January 2018.

The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama

Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
Sylacauga, Alabama

 The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
–William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1

The Comer Museum, 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All
rights reserved.

Standing in the dark, listening to the multitude of odd, disconnected syllables pouring forth from the voice box at the Comer Museum last Saturday evening, this quote popped into my head. While most of the noise from the voice box was unintelligible “squeaking and gibbering” the occasional word would miraculously pop out. Occasionally these odd words would begin to make sense. A question may be asked only to receive an intelligent answer. Someone asked a question of Harriet, the Comer Museum’s own haunted doll, inquiring how old she was only for the assembled group to be treated to a cheeky reply: “nine” said a little girl’s voice a moment later. After one of the group members reminded the doll that she was much older, a spooky girl’s giggle issued from the ghost box. Those present were aghast.

 It’s very appropriate that the Comer Museum–which could be called Sylacauga’s attic—is within a marble clad building. Sylacauga sits atop a huge vein of marble, often considered comparable to Italian marble, and the city if often referred to as “The Marble City.” Originally constructed as the city’s first public library building by the WPA in 1939, the museum’s exquisite marble façade beckoned members of the community for decades before the library moved to a new building in 1979. The old library building was rededicated in 1982 as a local history and art museum. The rooms that were once filled with books are now filled with the detritus of local history. Old signs, photographs, works of art, Native American artifacts, antique clothing, glorious marble sculptures and one creepy-ass (pardon my French) haunted doll, fill the museum from top to bottom.

When I arrived for I was greeted warmly by the members of Spirit Communications and Research of Alabama (S.C.A.Re) who were leading this public investigation. Kat Hobson, who recently interviewed me as a guest on her radio show whisked me off for a tour of the building. The museum is not large, though it seems that every room is packed with historic bits and pieces. Along the way Kat pointed out various things that oddly gave off high EMF readings including an Edwardian gown and a typewriter. On the first floor I was introduced to Harriet, the haunted doll. The doll gave off a weird energy that gave the air around it a tingly sensation. My first reaction was to say, “I don’t like it.” Kat responded, “I don’t really like it either.” 

Harriet, the museum’s haunted doll sits forlornly amidst flashlights and other investigative devices. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

We headed down to the basement where we peeked into a recreation of a pioneer log cabin. Again, the air seemed to tingle with the same odd energy that Harriet had given off. It was uncomfortable, but rather intriguing. I noted that I’m not sensitive, so the energy must be strong if I’m feeling it. Kat is a bit sensitive and pointed out that the group had had some activity in the cabin, particularly some shadow play around the cradle in the center of the room. Much of the rest of the basement is used for art classes and the spirits continue their antics including a little boy who is known to kick people in the shins.

Recreated pioneer cabin in the museum’s basement. Photo 2016, Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Upstairs, the investigation began with the group observing three haunted dolls from the haunted collection of Kevin Cain. With these three far less creepy dolls set up on a glass case, Cain provided the tragic histories behind each doll. With a temperature gauge sitting in front of her, the doll named Tammy may have affected the temperature as Cain related her sad tale. Throughout his story the gauge whined almost with sympathy for Tammy’s calamitous plight. 

Kevin Cain’s haunted dolls. Note the temperature gauge in front of Tammy on the left. Robin sits in the middle with Maci on the right. Photo 2016 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The team and guests for the investigation then headed to basement for a voice box session. Here we were treated to our first taste of the dead’s squeaking and gibbering. During the session, proper names popped through and a few questions were answered directly. Some of the guests had some uneasy sensations there.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of the evening came as the group communed with Harriet. One of the guests holding a thermal imaging camera spotted at odd ball of light in the upstairs balcony. The light was not visible to the naked eye but was present on the thermal camera. Two investigators headed upstairs and looked for a source. After a good deal of waving from the investigators, the light remained on the camera, though no source or reason could be found. The pair of investigators remained upstairs where they began to get the sensation of being touched. Even the admitted skeptic of the group, Shane Busby felt the caress of a hand on his cheek and shoulder. Tristen Cox, the other investigator felt a hand on her upper arm. After she reported being touched Busby pointed his thermal imaging camera at her to reveal a handprint on her arm.

According to Kat Hobson, the haunting of the Comer Museum seems more connected with the various personal artifacts owned by the museum and less with the building itself. I would suggest that the makeup of the building itself and the tremendous marble deposits below may provide a platform for the psychic energy here. Marble is a type of limestone, which some paranormal investigators and researchers consider to be an excellent conductor for psychic energy. Consulting Timothy Yohe’s 2015 work, Limestone and its Paranormal Properties, the author asserts that buildings constructed of limestone can cause powerful EMFs to be emitted which may lend energy to spirits and other entities. The Comer Museum’s large marble façade, the use of marble throughout the building, marble sculptures and architectural elements in the collection may perhaps spur the activity that has been experienced here for years.

The S.C.A.Re of Alabama team with the Southern Spirit Guide. Back left: Lewis O. Powell IV, Shane Busby, Tristen Cox, Kevin Cain. Front left: Harriet the Haunted Doll, Kat Hobson, Kim Johnston.

After the investigation S.C.A.Re’s founder and author Kim Johnston graciously autographed my copies of her books, even inscribing “To Lewis—My favorite blogger” in my copy of Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. She then requested that the investigators take a group photo with me. It seems like many of us were touched physically and emotionally by the people of Sylacauga, both living and dead, I know I was also touched by S.C.A.Re’s graciousness and generosity. Thank you, guys!


  • Ford, Gene A., Linda Ford, and Christy Anderson. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for B.B. Comer Memorial Library. August 2001.
  • C.A.R.E. of AL. Comer Museum Investigation. 1 October 2016.
  • Yohe, Timothy. Limestone and its Paranormal Properties: A Comprehensive Approach to the Possibilities. Timothy Yohe. 2015.

A Blow to Identity–LeBeau House

Last month, a group of seven men dealt a heavy blow to Southern identity and to the reputation of paranormal investigation. In search of ghosts, these men broke into the historic LeBeau House in Arabi, Louisiana. Apparently frustrated by the lack of paranormal activity provided by the home’s resident spirits, they set fire to the ancient structure. By the early morning hours of November 22, a small piece of Southern identity lay in ashes, the reputation of paranormal investigation lay open to derision and seven suspects were in jail with their futures in question.

In an article following the fire in The Times-Picayune, Richard Campanella remarked on the “exceptional nature” of the LeBeau House in Arabi, Louisiana. Architecturally, the home was a treasure that showed the mélange of influences at work—French, Creole, American—in the region at the time. But also in terms of identity, the house served as an identifying feature of Arabi and extending further afield to St. Bernard Parish, the New Orleans metro area, the state of Louisiana and the South as a whole. 

The LeBeau House in 2006. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Campanella continues, “the identity and economy of our region rest on the aged timbers and piers of our historical structures.” Indeed, the identity of the South rests on the many historic structures that dot the landscape like tombstones or mile markers to our history. While some of these places are protected, there are still many places like the LeBeau House that are unprotected and desolately waiting for a savior.

Though, it was not just the South’s identity that took a blow in the early morning hours of November 22, the pursuit of paranormal investigation also received a blow from a group of so-called “ghost hunters.” As the news of the home’s spectacular loss was splashed across newspapers from coast to coast some authors looked to blame paranormal investigation itself as one of the reasons for the home’s destruction.

Allegedly, a group of seven men broke into the LeBeau House in search of the home’s storied ghosts. Some of the men had been smoking marijuana and alcohol may have also been involved. An officer from the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s office remarked that the men became frustrated trying to summon spirits and decided to set the house ablaze. Within minutes, the 10,000 square foot mostly wood frame structure became fully involved and by sunrise had been reduced to smoldering ashes.

Though they had already broken the tenants of responsible paranormal investigation by breaking into the secured house for an unauthorized investigation, their abject stupidity led them further to destroy the landmark. Even if the fire was set without the intent to destroy the home, the men were obviously too dense to think through the possible consequences of doing such a thing in an old wood structure.

The circa 1854 home was one of the largest unrestored antebellum structures in the New Orleans Metropolitan area. The Mereaux Foundation, which owned the property, had been looking for ways to preserve the home and had done basic work to shore up the decaying structure. They’d also secured the structure with a chain-link fence and by boarding up the windows and doors.

According to the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff, Jimmy Pohlmann, “we all heard ghost stories [about the LeBeau House] while growing up.” Those same stories drew the seven suspects to the house where they may have tried provoking the spirits before destroying the house. Most stories involve a very typical woman in white who is seen within the ancient structure.

In an article from Mother Nature Network, the author derides paranormal investigation by describing it as “harmless (and fruitless) fun,” that can have a “dark, dangerous side.” It continues by recounting a few recent incidents where ghost hunters have been injured or even killed while pursuing ghosts. Among them, a 2010 incident where a ghost hunter was killed by a train while investigating Bostian Bridge near Statesville, North Carolina, the scene of a tragic, 19th century rail disaster.

These seven men—it’s interesting that they come in a sacred number—have, with their selfish actions, wounded the reputation of paranormal investigation as well. Granted, the reputation was not the greatest to begin with, but as this story has spread the reputation has been furthered sullied.

To hopefully begin the process of repairing our public image I have two proposals.

First, there is a need to rebrand ourselves a bit. To accomplish this there is a need for us to retire the phrase “ghost hunting” in describing what we do. It’s an issue of implications. By describing what we do as “investigating,” we are implying a methodical, organized search that may involve evidence—exactly what a detective does. “Hunting” on the other hand, implies seeking out and killing, certainly the opposite of what we’re intending to do. Therefore, “paranormal investigation” is the best choice. We’re seeking to understand spirits, not destroy them.

Second, there is a need for a code of conduct. I would suggest an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken by health professionals. There are a number of points I think should be included:

  • “First, do no harm.” The Latin phrase primum non nocere does not actually appear in the Hippocratic Oath, though often it is thought to be adapted from it. Most certainly, this sums up in four words what paranormal investigators need to consider: the further implications of what they do. There should be no harm to the locations, the spirits, the property owners or the investigators. Hikers often use the phrase “leave no traces, only footprints.” This is much along the same lines.
  • Respect above all. This is respect for everyone and everything. While we’re trying to protect everything and do no harm, holding everyone and everything in high regard is also important. This includes not provoking the spirits. If we hold them in high regard then bullying them should be out of the question. But also respect for other investigators and their findings.
  • Pay heed to cultural norms. Investigators may often encounter cultural and religious norms that may be opposite of or contradict their own staunchly held beliefs. If we are to respect everyone, spirits included, there is a need to understand and tolerate these differences in others.
  • Respect for history. Not only is it important to be respectful of history in its physical sense, but being respectful of historical facts. Do the research and have respect for the sources. Too often legends are taken at face value while actual historical facts are ignored. Historical research is not a simple task and does not end once the investigation begins. It is an ongoing process.
  • Keep an open mind. Not only that, but keep what a friend of mine called the “Eleventh Commandment: Do not take thyself so f—ing seriously.”

This is a rough outline. If something else should be added, please let me know.

Of course, I understand that an oath does little to prevent people from straying, it does instill a sense of honor, something that will help immensely with creating a cohesive sense of identity.


  • Alexander-Bloch, Benjamin. “Seven suspects in LeBeau Plantation fire were looking for ghosts, sheriff says.” Times-Picayune. 22 November 2013.
  • Campanella, Richard. “In LeBeau House’s ashes, a lesson in carpe diem.” Times- Picayune. 25 November 2013.
  • Monteverde, Danny. “Historic LeBeau Plantation in Arabi burns to the ground.” New Orleans Advocate. 27 November 2013.
  • Radford, Benjamin. “Ghost hunters burn historic mansion near New Orleans.” Mother Nature Network. 2 December 2013.