A Welcome to the Other Side—Review of Handbook for the Dead

Handbook for the Dead
Jacob and Jenny Floyd, et al.
Anubis Press, 2019

I have never been a fan of anthologies, especially those of paranormal stories. It brings up bad memories of when I’ve gotten excited and purchased an anthology, only to find that the stories are fiction. Not that I have anything against fiction, but the problem is that I can’t really add these stories to my own research and library. The books usually end up in a dusty corner of rejected books. Indeed, the stories included in these anthologies are usually milquetoast retellings of old or common legends. Thus, when Jacob Floyd from Anubis Press sent an email requesting that I review this title, I was a bit reluctant.

cover for Handbook for the Dead

My fears were quickly relieved when I began to look through this marvelous book.

Jacob and Jenny Floyd, known as “The Frightening Floyds,” have carved a niche for themselves by publishing a series of books on the paranormal as well as fictional horror. In fact, I have one of their books, Kentucky’s Haunted Mansions, on my Kentucky shelf.

In this recent offering, the Floyds collected a series of true paranormal encounters from several established authors including Pamela K. Kinney, whose books I have reviewed frequently, as well as paranormal investigators, and others. What stands out about this collection is that the Floyds have included further information about the locations where these encounters took place, plus it probes “what these experiences have taught their witnesses.”

Starting with Pamela K. Kinney’s look at her experiences with the ghosts of Virginia Beach’s Cavalier Hotel the book wends its way through a series of fascinating and sometimes terrifying encounters mostly in the South. More than a few of these locations are specifically identified, which makes for more interesting reading especially when I can pursue the subject beyond the pages of this book. Even the experiences in private homes are enhanced by the inclusion of the factoids at the end of each chapter.

Cavalier Hotel Virginia Beach VA
The Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach, VA in 2018. Photo by Anthony-22, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The writing is crisp, clean, and vivid, absorbing to both the casual reader and serious researcher. Of these tales, the one that engaged me most was oddly the story that took place far from the South, a story from Hong Kong. A horse racing track there, the Happy Valley Racecourse, was the scene of a terrible fire in 1918 that took some 600 lives. Ever since, locals have become wary of the area at night fearing the spirits of those who died in the conflagration.

This piece is written from the perspective of a tram driver who worked the night shift on the anniversary of the fire in 1987. Tram drivers were warned to hang a bucket of water on their trams to provide a drink to the thirsty ghosts. This tram driver, however, did not want to give in to superstition and did not hang a bucket. As a result, the tram driver was treated to a dreadful scene that he did not expect.

Overall, this anthology breaks from the usual trite format to provide a creepy volume that is an interesting and insightful read.

Handbook for the Dead is available in both paperback and eBook editions.

Spirited Southern Tidewater—Review of Kinney’s Haunted Surry to Suffolk

Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along
Routes 10 and 460
Pamela K. Kinney
Anubis Press, 2020

The South is a veritable garden of ghostly delights. After researching the region for many years, I continue to be delighted at the depth and the range of stories that have been unearthed and documented. As one of the earliest created of the colonies, Virginia possesses an embarrassment of riches in terms of ghostlore and haunted places.

While many of the Old Dominion State’s ghosts have been documented through the works of authors such as Marguerite Dupont Lee and L. B. Taylor, Jr., there are still areas that have not been properly documented. In recent years, Pamela K. Kinney has taken the lead in documenting the state’s haunted locales. She has produced a book on the state as a whole (Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales), two books on the haunting of Richmond, two editions on the Historic Triangle (which I have reviewed here and here), a book on Petersburg, and she encouraged the writing of a book on the Charlottesville region.

Kinney’s spirited repertoire has recently been expanded with the publication of her Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along Routes 10 and 460, which once again explores a neglected region of Virginia’s ghostlore.

The Virginia Tidewater is one of three main regions of the state. Covering the coastal areas of the state, the Tidewater borders much of the Chesapeake Bay and all those places affected by the tides. This region includes the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula (known as the Eastern Shore), the three peninsulas jutting into the bay (the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and the Virginia Peninsula), and the Southern Tidewater ranges from Virginia Beach to Hopewell lying south of the James River.

However, the Tidewater region’s documented ghostlore is spotty. Much of this region is rural (specifically the Eastern Shore, Northern Neck, and the Middle Peninsula) and it usually follows that rural regions have less documented ghostlore than urban areas. This case is no exception. The Virginia Peninsula, the most historic area and most urbanized of the entire region, has an exceptional amount of documented ghostlore. Coverage of the Southern Tidewater is mostly spotty, with decent documentation for Virginia Beach and Norfolk, though far less as you move west along the James River.

In looking into this region a couple years ago, there was relatively little information on haunted locations and ghost stories. Pamela Kinney has filled in this information marvelously with her new book.

The history of European settlement here begins just after the settlement of Jamestown. The area’s location adjacent to the Virginia Peninsula spurred the growth of plantations and eventually the cities of Suffolk, Surry, and Smithfield. As political divisions were established, the area was divided into two counties: Surry and Isle of Wight, and one independent city, Suffolk. Over time, this area has been crossed by two major roads, US Route 460 and Virginia Route 10.

book cover Pamela Kinney Haunted Surry to SuffolkAmong the hauntings that Kinney covers in her book are Bacon’s Castle, one of the oldest brick structures in the country, and St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield, one of the oldest churches. While much of the paranormal activity at Bacon’s Castle has been thoroughly documented, Kinney deftly sketches out the home’s history and hauntings before adding her own experiences investigating there. Other nearby plantations such as Chippokes and Smith’s Fort are included as well to round out the paranormal experiences in Surry County.

St Luke's Church Smithfield Virginia
An 1885 illustration of St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield from The History: American Episcopal Church 1587-1883 by William Stevens Perry.

From Surry, Kinney takes the reader through Isle of Wight County to explore Smithfield and includes several local businesses, a cemetery, St. Luke’s Church, and a couple Civil War fortifications. In Suffolk, the author covers some of the stops on the local ghost tour before heading towards the Great Dismal Swamp, which straddles the state line between Virginia and North Carolina. Within the swamp, Kinney covers the plethora of myths, legends, and mysteries emanating from this impenetrable natural area. Throughout, she adds her own experiences from visits and investigations, making this a fabulous resource on the hauntings of this region.

Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along Routes 10 and 460 is available as an eBook and in print from Amazon.

Tending the Garden of Virginia Ghosts—Pamela K. Kinney’s 2nd Edition

Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition
Pamela K. Kinney
Schiffer Publishing, 2019

In 2011 when I was still a novice blogger, Pamela Kinney found my blog and asked if I would review her book on Virginia’s Historic Triangle. Now, eight years later, I’m happily reviewing the second edition.

In that first review, I used the analogy of paranormal researchers and writers tending to ghost stories as a gardener tending to a garden. “They tend to stories that have been cultivated by others; they add and correct facts; update reports of paranormal activity; and generally, maintain stories. They also seek out seeds of information and work to grow these into full stories. If a story isn’t tended it may simply pass into the realm of legend.” This analogy applies to this book even more so than the first.

Pamela Kinney has been very busy in the garden of Virginia ghosts. Since my first review, she has penned a second book on the haunts of Richmond, a book on the paranormal side of Petersburg, as well as short pieces in anthologies, a blog, and fiction works. Watching her comings and goings involving writers’ groups, conventions, book signings, investigations, library appearances and other trappings of a successful writer is fascinating. In fact, she’s living the life I hope to someday attain.

During this time, she has investigated some of the places she covered in her first book and she covers those investigations in her new book. This additional evidence adds to the concise entries Kinney has provided. She has also added in several new locations including Williamsburg’s Fort Magruder Hotel and the Busch Gardens theme park, which heighten the haunted nature of the whole area.

Pamela K. Kinney's 2nd Edition Haunted Historic TriangleKinney’s second edition is a nice upgrade from the first edition. The layout has been adjusted which changes the rhythm of the book, visually speaking, from the crowded and chaotic first edition, when compared side by side, to a book that is more relaxed and consistent. The move from matte to glossy pages also improves the visual appeal of the second edition giving the photographs, especially those that may capture paranormal phenomena, are much clearer.

Overall, the book is a tremendous addition to any bookshelf on paranormal Virginia.

Pamela K. Kinney’s Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition is available on Amazon.

Exploring “ghost-ridden territories”—A Review of Haunted Charlottesville

Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties
Susan Schwartz with photographs by Cliff Middlebrooks Jr.
Schiffer Publishing, 2019

In her introduction to this book, Pamela K. Kinney succinctly describes the Charlottesville region as being among the many “ghost-ridden territories” in the state of Virginia. Susan Schwartz sets out to prove this in her book, Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. Covering some familiar haunts and many that are unfamiliar, Schwartz has laid out a brilliant new guide to this most important region.

Not far from the geographical heart of Virginia, the Charlottesville area encompasses a historically important region within state and national history. Before the arrivals of Europeans, this area was the homeland for several noted Native American tribes and afterwards became one of the first frontiers for new settlers. The growing pains of nationhood were distinctly felt here in the form of military action during the Revolution and the Civil War. Among these hills and valleys lived presidents, planters, statesmen, scholars, industrialists, and many others who may remain in spiritual form.

Prior to this book, the region’s spiritual fabric has only been described in one book, L. B. Taylor’s 1992 Ghosts of Charlottesville and Lynchburg…and nearby environs. While Mr. Taylor’s numerous volumes on the ghosts of Virginia are excellent, his book is nearly 30 years old. Ghost stories need regular tending, with information being updated to include not only new encounters, but fresh historical research which may shed light on these hauntings. Indeed, new stories should also be added as they come to light.

Schwartz masterfully navigates readers to some 77 locations in 12 counties. In the process of this tour, Schwartz examines some familiar hauntings such as Castle Hill Manor, Tuckahoe Plantation, and Gordonsville’s Exchange Hotel with stops that she serendipitously discovered as she traveled the backroads in search of ghosts. From abandoned roadside stores to a small deli in the community of Troy in Fluvanna County, Schwartz provides a fresh and lively commentary on these newly discovered haunts.

cover Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties Susan SchwartzAs she guides readers to these locations, Schwartz does well to cite her sources by including in-line citations. Often, I’m left to puzzle over where an author got their information, but Schwartz sees to it that there is no question. Her bibliography forms an excellent guide to the foundations of her book and is exceedingly useful for researchers like me.

Overall, this book is a spectacular guide to these “ghost-ridden territories” in central Virginia for everyone from the paranormal dilettante to the serious, academic researcher and provides well-marked trails for all to follow to explore the haunted past of the Charlottesville region.

Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties is available on Amazon.

The Myth Keepers – Review of the Chattanooga Ghost Tour

Traveling through the Old Country one may find it so deeply rooted in myth that storied places crowd the landscape; by contrast, the vast American landscape is not so studded with stories, mythic or otherwise, for a variety of reasons. Americans, by their nature, are a forward thinking people who may disregard the relics of the past. With every historic site fated for a date with a bulldozer or old building that succumbs to a wrecking ball, fantastic stories are hauled off to the dump within every heap of earth, brick, steel, or wood. In places where history is not so carelessly razed in the name of progress, the myths are able to take root.

The thought occurred to me as I was on the Chattanooga Ghost Tour the other night, that in many places ghost tours are the only real keepers of local mythology in the classic oral tradition. Certainly, the stories being told on these tours are not myths in the sense of being fictitious, they often come directly from history and often include experiences that have occurred to the guides or their associates. But that these ghost stories are a way of explaining local history makes them myth-like. Ghost stories themselves also preserve some of the more gruesome and salacious moments from history, moments that can help to add living and emotive flesh to the skeletons of those long dead.

The original terracotta jail sign from the original Hamilton County Jail has been preserved in front of the current Justice Center. Photo 2017, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

When the Hamilton County Jail was demolished in 1976 to make way for the modern Hamilton County Justice Center, wrecking crews presumably hauled away the remains of the jail’s gallows that had once stood in the building’s basement. The final executions on this gallows were of two young African-American men who had been charged with the murder of a saloon keeper. News of the execution appeared in a number of national papers including the Evening Star in Washington, D.C. which included this note on page two of its January 11, 1895 edition:


George Mapp and Buddy Wooten Punished for Their Crime.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., January 11. – George Mapp and Buddy Wooten, two young negroes, were hanged in the execution room of the county jail a few minutes after 8 o’clock this morning. Wooten died a Catholic, and Rev. Father Walsh was with him on the scaffold.

Mapp, however, refused to have a minister with him. He requested that his body be thrown in the river, and said he would be back tonight to haunt the sheriffs and others who had anything to do with his conviction.

The two negroes murdered Marion L. Ross, an aged white saloon keeper, on Saturday night, December 17, 1892. Robbery was their intention in committing the crime. Wooten confessed, implicating Mapp.

It’s interesting to see Mapp’s threat (some newspapers report that it was Wooten making the threat) included in the newspaper accounts of the execution. Near the gallows in the basement of the jail, there was a series of holding cells—a kind of death row, if you will. Even after Mapp and Wooten’s executions when the gallows sat unused, these holding cells were used. It is reported that when one of these cells was occupied by a particularly rowdy prisoner, a mist would appear and pass over the cell calming the prisoner within.

According to our tour guide, Kevin Bartolomucci, a current jail employee has also noted that when a rowdy prisoner is placed in the holding cell in the processing area, a few times an odd mist has appeared and calmed the prisoner. It seems that death and the transition from and old building to a modern one hasn’t banished the spirits of these two prisoners.

Tour guide Kevin Bartolomucci spins tales about the Hamilton
County Courthouse behind him. Photo 2017 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The Chattanooga Ghost Tour was established in 2007 by Amy Petulla, and it has grown in the ten years it has haunted the streets of Chattanooga. As she was establishing the tour, Amy also joined forces with Jessica Penot to write Haunted Chattanooga, which was published in 2011. Amy sent me a personal invitation to take part in the tour’s grand reopening and tenth-anniversary last weekend. The tour recently had to relocate its offices after the collapse of the 1876 building that housed the offices along with a restaurant. Fortunately, the collapse affected the front portion of the structure only affecting the restaurant, though the building was found to be structurally unsound and demolished.

The new office has a marvelous steampunk feel and visitors are greeted by a talking skull appropriately named Yorick. The new location has also afforded Petulla the ability to introduce a new tour that was debuted along with the festivities. The “Murder and Mayhem Tour” leads visitors on a pleasant walk through some of Chattanooga’s most harrowing murders and history, many of which have left spiritual residue. Along the way, patrons are introduced to murderers, their victims, prostitutes, and a kindly theatre patron, all inhabitants of the pantheon of Chattanooga myths. Besides the new tour, Petulla offers a handful of different tour experiences, some of which involve using various types of ghost hunting instruments. Of the many ghost tours I have taken, this tour ranks among the best for keeping the myths of Southern history alive.

One of the more iconic views along the route of the Chattanooga Ghost Tour: looking up West 8th Street towards the Dome Building, formerly home to the Chattanooga Times. Photo 2017 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On your next jaunt through Chattanooga, be sure to enjoy an introduction to the mythological side of this city!

Please visit the tour’s website for further information. https://chattanoogaghosttours.com/.  


  • Chattanooga Ghost Tours. “Murder & Mayhem Tour.” Led by Kevin Bartolomucci. 10 June 2017.
  • “Two Murderers Hanged.” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) 11 January 1895.

Midnight at the Castle of Good and Evil—Book Review

The Corpsewood Manor Murders in North Georgia
Amy Petulla
History Press, 2016

 Even the name Corpsewood Manor is reminiscent of a haunted house attraction. When I first encountered a description of this remote, northwest Georgia site I discounted the description as a typical internet fiction, one of those countless urban legends that are found in the weedier portions of the web. None of the better sources I followed made mention of this until Theresa Racer, the creator of Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State Blog covered this site. I did some perfunctory research on the site and determined that most of the wild facts about the site were not mere inventions and have always meant to include this story in my blog. I was excited to see Amy Petulla, the owner of Chattanooga Ghost Tours and the co-author of Haunted Chattanooga with Jessica Penot, wrote a book about this fascinating case and haunting.

The facts of this story seem like a swirl of bad tabloid journalism. Two gay men, Charles Scudder and Joey Odom, lived in a hand-built castle on a remote mountain ridge in northwest Georgia. The remote location allowed them to escape the pressures of urban living and live in a simple manner without electricity, phones, and the rude interruptions of modern “connected” life. The remote castle acted as a fortress keeping the outside world at bay while allowing them to indulge in decadent pleasures that were viewed with contempt by much of the outside world. Scudder, a former professor of pharmacology at Chicago’s Loyola University, engaged in reading and study in his mountain hideaway where he also dabbled in the occult and the hedonistic tenets of Satanism.

Two local men, Tony West and Avery Brock, had visited the pair a handful of times and even partaken of some of the verboten pleasures that were offered to some of the guests of the castle, when they were struck with the idea of robbing the pair. West and Brock visited Corpsewood on the evening of December 12, 1982 and shot both men to death when they did not reveal where their money was hidden (both Scudder and Odom had a decent sum of money but it was entirely in bank accounts, the pair had no cash on them). The criminals took some valuables from the castle and fled in Scudder’s Jeep. On the road, the two criminals robbed and killed a naval officer they encountered in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Both men were quickly arrested and tried for the murders. They were both found guilty. Both men remain in prison for this horrible crime.

After the discovery of the bodies of Scudder and Odom (as well as their two beloved mastiffs), curious locals flocked to the scene to gawk at the remote castle. The crowds stripped the home clean of souvenirs, even digging up the rose bushes while some of the more valuable items were safely removed by friends and acquaintances of the couple. Many of these items were later believed to have brought bad luck to the owners. The remote castle was soon torched by arsonists and the surrounding forest quickly began to reclaim the site.

As a lover of the paranormal Petulla includes an entire chapter on the paranormal activity that still persists at the site. One of the more fascinating tales she notes came from her masseuse who visited the site one afternoon with friends. At the site of the house they met two middle aged men sitting among the ruins in lawnchairs. After an amicable conversation about the tragedy that had occurred there many years earlier, the masseuse and friends walked away to explore the rest of the site. Returning to the ruins of the house they discovered that the odd men had left. After describing the two men to Petulla she produced a photograph of Dr. Scudder and the masseuse was shocked to say that he had been one of the odd pair.

Petulla revels in the details and personalities involved in this case. The picture she presents is not unlike John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which explores the events surrounding a murder that occurred in Savannah a year before the Corpsewood murders. Like Berendt who had reported on Jim Williams for Esquire and was personally embedded in Savannah society, Petulla worked as an assistant district attorney under David “Red” Lomenick, who had prosecuted West and Brock a few years earlier. This intimate knowledge of the case is born out in exquisite detail in this book.

In all its tabloid-esque elements, Petulla handles the story sympathetically and mostly without casting aspersions on the victims. She also utilizes interviews with locals who were friends of Scudder and Odom and presents them as fascinating eccentrics who simply wished to live their own lives before that was upended by this murderous plot. By incorporating details of the eccentric personalities involved in this case, Petulla presents a scary, bizarre, and thoroughly enjoyable adventure through remote northwest Georgia in the early 1980s.

A Southern Feast of All Souls—Encountering the Souls of Petersburg

Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia & the Tri-Cities Area Pamela K. Kinney
Schiffer Publishing, 2015

When the producers and designers for Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln, were scouting for historic landscapes to use in the film, Petersburg, Virginia came in very high on the list. It can often be difficult to find cities where lines of historic buildings are uninterrupted by modern intrusions, though Petersburg has those. Along with these lines of historic structures the city also has ghosts, many of them and author Pamela Kinney set out recently to meet some of them.

Kinney is often very lucky in her investigations. She seems to be able to capture really great evidence often without the myriad equipment that other investigative teams often lug about. She’ll go into a location with a voice recorder, a camera, and perhaps a Ghost Box. After asking a few prescient questions, she’ll often leave with some interesting answers. While some authors, myself included, simply investigate from the comfort of their desk or a library table, Kinney does the footwork to personally meet many of the ghosts herself.

The range of sites covered in Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia & the Tri-Cities Area provides a unique view into the plethora of hauntings in Petersburg and the surrounding area including Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Chester and Ettrick-Matoaca. Included in this book are Civil War sites, historic churches, a sushi restaurant, theatres, an old motel, cemeteries, and a splendid collection of historic homes. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs, the book is a fun and informative guide to this most historic region of Virginia.

Copies of the book are available at the following sites:

Schiffer Publishing


Barnes and Noble

I have reviewed several of Ms. Kinney’s books including Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 1st Edition and its 2nd edition

A Venerable Lineage—Review of Roger Clarke’s Ghosts

Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof
Roger Clarke
St. Martin’s Press

If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, “What’s your business?” In Macon they ask, “Where do you go to church?” In Augusta, they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is “What would you like to drink?”
–John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

In the South, lineage is everything. It’s not just in Augusta, Georgia where your grandmother’s maiden name may be important, but almost everywhere you will be asked, “Who’s your daddy?” or “Who’s your kin?” In the South, your social standing is determined by your parents and who you are related to. Only if you are very accomplished can judgments be made solely upon your own merits without consideration to your family and relations. Of course, this can all be traced to the Old World origins of Southern aristocracy.

If a Southerner were to inquire about the lineage of ghost-hunting, they should be duly impressed; for it is a long and venerable lineage, one that British film critic Roger Clarke traces in his recent book Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof. Within these pages is a host of important figures whose curiosities have extended into the realm of ghosts. Clarke provides an introduction to Robert Boyle, one of the fathers of modern chemistry, as he extends his curiosity into the existence of spirits and meets with philosopher Lady Anne Conway and noted clergyman Joseph Glanvill to discuss the existence of such anomalies.


After an exploration of the curious events at the Hampshire estate of Hinton Ampner, Clarke introduces us to the large household of the Reverend Samuel Wesley in the rectory at Epworth. Plagued by a spirit that the family eventually named “Old Jeffrey,” this household would eventually produce the Methodist movement lead by the Reverend Wesley’s son, John, with the aid of his brother, Charles. This brief, albeit well-documented case was even commented upon by poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey and its queer details have since elicited modern study. It is also necessary to note that John Wesley would spend a few years ministering in the Georgia colony. A statue of the earnest Wesley now presides over passing ghost tours in Savannah’s Reynolds Square.

Of course, no introduction to British ghost-hunting would be complete without an introduction to a similar family in Essex, in an old rectory called Borley. The family of the Reverend Bull was plagued by spiritual activity that attracted the attention of an early paranormal investigator, Harry Price. His examinations into the home and its legendary history would attract worldwide fascination and skepticism.

As Clarke deftly traces the branches and twigs of ghost-hunting’s British line, he weaves together the famous, the infamous, and a host of curious laity into a legion of ghost-hunters. This family is bound by late night ghost stories exchanged in country parsonages and the palaces of the aristocracy, amateur scholars inquiring of the haunted in dusty volumes, and creepy séances held in the parlors of London. It’s a magical web of spiritual study that existed until the world’s skepticism was aroused, and this web of inquiry was forced underground. Public interest in spiritual study still rears its head, more recently through the vein of popular culture.

Sadly, Clarke’s book only explores the world of ghost hunting from a British perspective. America in and of itself has a rich history steeped in the paranormal and since the 19th century has been at the forefront of spiritual study. Notable instances in America’s contribution to this venerable lineage include the Bell Witch case in Tennessee; the fascination with spiritualism held by Mary Todd Lincoln and the séances she conducted in the White House; the Surrency Poltergeist in Georgia; the Fox sisters and their spiritual communications; the Spiritualist movement of the 1920s; the creation of Cassadaga, a mecca for mediums in Florida; Sarah Winchester and her mystery house; and Louisiana’s Myrtles Plantation, America’s Borley Rectory. However, the remnants of Puritanism and the criticism of the validity of the field throughout the nation have done much to suppress in-depth studies.

This book provides a detailed and entertaining exploration of British ghost-hunting. If I were teaching classes about the paranormal, this book would be first on the list of assigned reading. I imagine that eventually this will be counted among the foundational books in paranormal literature. It will certainly hold a prized place on my bookshelf.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, I’m offering a single copy of this book to one lucky reader. To enter, please comment on this post with your favorite entry in this blog. I’ll put all of the names in a hat and select one to receive a copy of this marvelous book. This giveaway will end November 4th.

A House Remembers–Reviewing Sharon Day’s “Growing Up With Ghosts”

Early on in Growing Up With Ghosts Sharon Day recalls an incident when her family was awakened by a tremendous boom. After digging in the basement, Day’s father Stanley, discovers a cannonball. Revealing to the children the cause of the nighttime blast, the children still don’t quite understand.

“How did it make a boom blast last night if it was shot a hundred years ago?” Kathy finally questioned.

As always, we siblings all turned to stare her down for ruining the fun with her questioning nature.

My father squatted down and brushed the trowel across the mortar in the pan. “I’m thinking the house remembers that hit.”

Kathy frowned and couldn’t seem to come up with a reply to that one.

That particular descriptive really struck me as a poetic way to describe this haunting.

This field of paranormal literature is made up almost entirely of haunted house stories of varying lengths. Among the first book length works in this genre are famous works like Harry Price’s The Most Haunted House in England in 1940 about the infamous Borley Rectory and Jay Anson’s 1977 The Amityville Horror, both books dealing with horrific and frightening hauntings. While both accounts end with the families fleeing in terror, Day’s account ends with her family sadly leaving the haunted plantation and the house seemingly responding in sorrow.

As the youngest of four children, Sharon Day spent her formative years growing up in the family’s historic mansion in Fairfax, Virginia. Located not far outside of Washington, DC, the Fairfax area has been at the heart of American history for centuries. Built in the mid 18th century, Aspen Grove, has born witness to the tide of history as its flowed through the area.

Perhaps it was the Civil War that left the biggest of impressions on the home. As many structures throughout the South, the home served as a hospital and was left with bloodstained floors, artifacts littering the grounds and spirits. But unlike the tortured and possibly demonic spirits of 112 Ocean Boulevard in Amityville, New York, the spirits of Aspen Grove seem to be kindly and protective. Just as the spirits and the house seem to adopt the family, the family adopts the spirits in turn in an almost symbiotic relationship.

Through the years, Sharon Day begins to understand her psychic abilities. She and her family witnesses a remarkable amount of activity from odd sounds, booted footsteps, wisps of smoke arising from the cold top of a marble topped table and the apparitions of soldiers. Regarding the spirits with more of a sense of curiosity and little fear, the family adjusted to their spirit compatriots.

The book is a lively coming of age memoir with a spirited cast, living and dead. Day’s memories of her rather ideal childhood is rendered in lively and lush prose. It’s an engrossing and delightful read that does produce some metaphysical questions. I would also highly recommend it for people beginning to explore the paranormal world for the first time or perhaps dealing with a possible haunting of their own.

The book is available in paperback and Kindle ebook editions.

Growing Up With Ghosts by Sharon Day, CreateSpace Publishing, 228 pages





“Just Visiting”—Old Jail Tour, Charleston, South Carolina

Old City Jail
21 Magazine Street
Charleston, South Carolina

N.B. This article was edited and revised 30 June 2019.

ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
A set of old jail keys. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
A barred window. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
One of the jail corridors. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Standing in front of the Old Jail in Charleston, South Carolina, even in the midst of summer heat and humidity, is chilling. The building is imposing and threatening akin to a bully rising to ask, “Do you have a problem with that?”

On a chilly evening in early December with a chill wind blowing, the building grows more threatening. While waiting for my 10 PM ghost tour of the building, I stood in the cold with a few couples and spoke with a couple visiting from Rhode Island specifically for Charleston’s ghosts. They were staying in the Battery Carriage House Inn and had rented one of the haunted rooms for the evening. Definitely, they are proof that much can be said of “paranormal tourism.”

Our guide, Susan, was very efficient and no-nonsense; precisely the type that I like as a guide, someone who was down to earth yet open minded. In fact, she reminded me of the actress Ellen Page, someone I would love to just hang out with. She remarked that while the jail looks quite large and imposing from the outside, it is actually much smaller inside.

We walked around back and she discussed the gallows that stood behind the jail for many years. The design, apparently, was somewhat unique and would, at times, decapitate the victim instead of merely breaking their neck. She described one of the final executions, that of a young man who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She ended with the statement “his ghost is said to be one of the many here.”

ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
A cage for the more dangerous criminals. These cages would hold multiple inmates at the same time. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
The building is being stabilized and restored by the American College of Building Arts. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

We moved inside and found ourselves in a cell where torture was described then moved on to a large room with a replica of the cage that was used for the more violent offenders. There was a discussion of criminals and their treatment and we moved again downstairs to see solitary confinement, the kitchen, and some other rooms off a small corridor on the lowest level. The guide pointed out a large room that had served as a surgery during the Civil War. She suggested that if any room had spiritual activity, it was that room.

ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
An original cell door. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
Another cell door. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
Yet another cell door. Note the “peep holes.” Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

We finally entered a dark room next to the exit and were told a bit about paranormal activity involving the possible spirit of a former warden, one who had served at the jail for quite a long time. After this, we walked out a back entrance and the tour was over. I was surprised by the emphasis placed on the history and so little mentioned of the paranormal, this is a haunted jail tour, isn’t it? I cannot blame the guide, she was following a script which she later admitted was very dry and dull, she went so far as to say that all the guides spiced up each tour with additional stories and information.

Being disappointed at the lack of ghosts on the ghost tour, I stuck around to ask the guide what she’d experienced. She was more than happy to fill me in on the details. She mentioned that she had lasted longer as a guide on this tour than anyone else, as many others had been scared away, especially while having to lock up the building alone after tours. Personally, she’s heard voices in the empty building, specifically the sound of men in conversation as well as hearing her name called. She’s also been touched. She mentioned other guides who have felt nausea in certain areas and who’ve had much stranger experiences in the monstrous edifice.

I was happy to finally hear of some specific activity as most sources on the haunting fail to be very specific about the details of the haunting. While the conversation with the guide was quite interesting, it bothers me that few of those details were revealed on the tour. The tour is offered through Bulldog Tours which offers the Ghosts and Dungeon tour which I took a few months ago and which I would highly recommend. Unfortunately, the jail tour is the only real chance the public has of actually touring the interior as well. I’d like to encourage Bulldog Tours to review the script for this tour and add in some more ghosts.

At the outset of the tour, the guide encouraged the group to take pictures. She went on to say that balls of energy, known as orbs, were often captured in and around the building and that this was known as “paranormal activity.” Actually people quite often capture these “orbs” in all types of photographs and, more often than not, these are reflections of light off of water vapor, dust or insects.  Earlier that week, while visiting the Lost Sea in Tennessee, I took a series of photos while in the boat on the underground lake there and these photos, taken in a very humid environment, are filled with “orbs.” In my photos, I did capture one prominent orb. It may be dust or it may be paranormal.

ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
Looking down a flight of stairs. The orb is just below the center of the pic. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
Closeup of the orb. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

I did capture one other anomaly, though this is much stranger. The photo shows one of the upper hallways and is looking towards a set of metal stairs. There are two very bright lights around the stairs. This was taken with a flash and it appears to be very brightly reflected off of something, though I can’t figure out what. There’s a little bit of light reflected on the glossy paint of the stairs, but it’s not so reflective as to reflect back the amount of light in the photo. Again, I can’t say it’s paranormal, but it is odd.

ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
The odd light anomaly. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
ghosts Old City Jail Charleston South Carolina haunted
Closeup of the light anomalies. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.