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
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
80 Meeting Street
Charleston, South Carolina
Author Tim Prasil, who has written a number of novels about “a quirky yet brilliant ghost hunter named Vera Van Slyke,” collected and edited a wonderful volume of newspaper articles of paranormal interest appearing in American papers between 1865 and 1917. While leafing through this book, I happened upon this story from St. Michael’s Church in Charleston.
A Ghost Tolled the Bells. Wahpeton (ND) Times, June 27, 1889
Reprinted from Atlanta (GA) Journal
Before the earthquake shook it down [this is the earthquake that struck the city 31 August 1886], the old guard house or police station was just across the street, in front of the church. Every night for years an old policeman, who had grown old and decrepit in the service of his country and lastly of his city, kept watch at the door. He had seen many strange sights, and he always said that the strangest he had ever seen was the dead man ringing the chimes from the belfry of old St. Michael’s. He had seen the shrouded figure, time and again, climb up to the bells and, not touching the ropes, which had been pulled so often by living hands, swing the heavy iron tongues against the sides of the bells and clash out a fearful melody which thrilled while it horrified the listener.
He would tell you, if you cared to listen to his story, how the ghost had been murdered, for in its normal state it had been murdered by the thrust of an Italian stiletto in Elliot Street. The spirit was “to walk the earth,” “revisit the glimpses of the moon,” ring the old chimes, and do other horrible things, until the murderer was captured.
A few minutes before midnight the old watchman would see this spectral chimer enter the church doors, forgetting to open them, swiftly and in a ghostly way glide up the steps of the winding stair, pause under the bells by the ropes where Gadsden [the church’s bellringer] rings them, climb on into the gloomy belfry and stop beneath the open mouths of the bells. They yawned down upon it, as if striving to swallow up the restless spirit. Suddenly, as if the inspiration had come, the shrouded hand would move silently and rapidly from iron tongue, and the wild eldritch music would swell the air.
This important, landmark church (it has been named a National Historic Landmark), was constructed between 1752 and 1761, making it the oldest religious building in the city. Its bells, which were imported from Britain in 1764, are considered a symbol of the city. The bells were removed during the Civil War and were burned when Columbia (where they were stored) was destroyed by General Sherman. The bells were returned to the Whitechapel Foundry in London to be recast after the war. They have remained in the steeple ever since.
Whenever I visit Charleston, I always savor the chance to step inside its cool and highly decorative interior. Of course, I’m always on the lookout for Harriet Mackie, the supposed ghost bride who appears to visitors. Though, during my daytime visits, she has yet to appear among the throng of tourists who seem to be absorbed in the quiet church.
The legend of Harriet Mackie is based on a factual account. Young Harriet died on June 4, 1804 at the age of 16 or 17. She donned her white wedding dress and fell ill a short time later. Within hours she had passed away. Rumors quickly spread that she had been poisoned as she was poised to inherit her father’s vast estate on her marriage, though the property was to pass to the owners of a nearby plantation if she died beforehand. As her corpse lay in bed still dressed in her wedding white, Charleston’s hoi-polloi paid their respects at her bedside and a French miniaturist, P.R. Vallée, pointed the portrait of the girl’s body.
After her burial, people claimed to have seen the wedding dress clad spirit wandering through the church and the graveyard.
A glance at the graveyard roster reveals that it is the resting place of some of greatest Charlestonians. Interred in this sacred ground are two signers of the U.S. Constitution: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and John Rutledge, and a marvelous assortment of congressmen, mayors, governors, and military leaders.
Recently, I came across the account of paranormal investigator George Dudding and his son who crept into the church’s graveyard after dark in 2018. The pair made their way into the graveyard by way of a back gate that had been carelessly left open. After producing various pieces of investigative equipment, they swept the site for any paranormal activity. While he listened to the chatter from a spirit box, Dudding saw a shadowy figure near a cluster of tombstones. He and his son ducked into the shadows, worried that it might be a security guard. When the figure began to move, it was decidedly not a living being as it moved through several tombstones and a wrought-iron fence. Frightened at their experience, the pair slipped out of the cemetery. Did they encounter the spirit of the bell-ringer or the ghostly bride? Or was it the spirit of one of the many people who rest here beneath the sod?
In the early 20th century, American roads were a mess. In the late 19th century, the railroad was really the only means to travel throughout the country as roads weren’t well-maintained or even necessary except for local transportation. With the advent of the automobile however, “good roads” (as the movement was called) became increasingly crucial. Car owners began to band together to form auto clubs to create roads for themselves.
In the 1910s, these auto trail organizations and automobile clubs reached even further to create the Lincoln Highway, one of the earliest transcontinental highways stretching from New York’s Times Square to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. With its popularity among travelers and local governments alike, the idea was expanded to the South with the creation of the Dixie Highway, which originally connected Chicago to Miami. Not only did this open up the South to tourism, but it brought industry as well.
While this new network of roads was increasingly useful, the Federal Government began investigating ways to expand and organize this network. State roadway standards were introduced in 1914 with the creation of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). Their standards eventually evolved into a U.S. Highway system over the next decade. This system, now nearing a hundred years old, continues to expand to this day.
U.S. Route 29, a north-south highway, connects Pensacola, Florida to Ellicott City, Maryland. Along its route it passes through a number of major cities including Auburn, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; Danville, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Fairfax, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and some of DC’s Maryland suburbs before its termination in Ellicott City, a suburb of Baltimore.
For me, US 29 has a very personal connection. On its route through my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, it passes many landmarks from my youth and is the road on which I currently live. It also figures into several stories that I now tell on my Strange LaGrange Tour. For a few years I have wanted to take a big road trip to visit many of the haunted places I have written about and considered that driving the length of US 29 would make an excellent trip. This article covers many of the haunted locales I plan to visit should the trip come to fruition.
This article is intended to provide links to places I have written about elsewhere on my blog along with several brief entries and other suggested locations that I may cover in the future. This article is not intended as a static article, but will change as I cover more locations along the route of US 29.
US 29 begins at the intersection of North Palafox Street and Cervantes Street (US 90 and 98), just north of downtown Pensacola. While there are no haunted places (that I know of) at that immediate intersection, less than a mile south is a cluster of locations. The Saenger Theatre (118 South Palafox) is located at the intersection of South Palafox and Intendencia Street. A block south of the theatre is a cluster of hauntings around Plaza Ferdinand VII (which is haunted) that includes the T.T. Wentworth Museum, the portion of Zaragoza Street between S. Palafox and S. Baylen Streets, the Quayside Art Gallery, Pensacola Children’s Museum, and Seville Quarter. Just east of the Plaza is Old Pensacola Village.
Old Christ Church 405 South Adams Street
The Old Pensacola Village consists of a collection of historic and haunted buildings important to the early history of Pensacola including the 1832 Old Christ Church. The churchyard of the church once held the remains of three of its vicars, but during renovations, their graves were obscured. Some years ago, their remains were recovered during archaeological excavations. During the service marking their reburial, one young man witnessed the three vicars walking among the guests.
US 29 bypasses downtown Andalusia which features a haunted jail. The Old Covington County Jail can be viewed from North Cotton Street behind the courthouse.
As the highway makes its way through downtown Troy, Alabama, it passes near the first of many major institutions of higher learning, Troy University. Two dormitories on the campus, Pace and Shackleford Halls, feature ghost stories.
North of the city of Tuskegee, US 29 heads through the Tuskegee National Forest, a site of high strangeness that includes tales of ghosts and Sasquatch sightings.
As US 29 approaches Auburn, it joins with I-85 to bypass the city, though there is a concentration of haunted places in and around downtown and Auburn University. Two locations at the university have been covered in this blog including the University Chapel and the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, both of which are located on College Street.
Auburn Train Depot
120 Mitcham Avenue
Railroad passengers entering and leaving Auburn have passed through one of the three buildings that have occupied this site since 1847. The first building was destroyed during the Civil War while its replacement was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. The current building was erected in 1904 and served as a rail depot until 1970. The building was left empty in 2003 after being used as a real estate office for some 20 years. The building has served as a restaurant for a number of years and rumor has it that staff has experienced a number of strange doings.
There is a legend about the building recounted in Haunted Auburn and Opelika regarding a young woman who met a young man here. The couple began to meet regularly despite the insistence of the young woman’s father that she would marry another man. The young couple planned to elope, but the young woman’s brother thwarted the plans and killed his sister’s lover. She then threw herself in front of an arriving train. Her wail intertwined with the train’s whistle are supposedly still heard.
Cole, Ashtyne. “City plans to renovate historic train depot.” Auburn Plainsman. 12 June 2014.
Serafin, Faith, Michelle Smith and John Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
Woodham, Brian. “Restaurant coming to Auburn Train Depot.” Auburn Villager. 3 December 2014.
As US 29 (still concurrent with I-85) passes into Opelika, it crosses AL 169, which has had some activity.
The exit with US 280 provides access to Spring Villa(1474 Spring Villa Road), a most unusual plantation home with ghosts and other strangeness. At the next exit, US 29 becomes independent and heads north through Chambers County.
The city of Valley extends up to the state line with West Point, Georgia. Just before 29 crosses that line it passes through the community of Lanett with its Oakwood Cemetery(1st Street) which is home to the dollhouse grave of Nadine Earles.
West Point, Georgia
In downtown West Point, the Depression era U. S. Post Office(729 4th Avenue) may feature a few spirits. The area also has a small Civil War-era fortification, Fort Tyler, which was constructed to protect an important railway bridge over the Chattahoochee. The four-hour siege that was fought here in April of 1865 left many dead, including the commanders of the fort. These men were buried in Pine Wood Cemetery which is passed by US 29 as it leads north to LaGrange. Both of these locations may be home to paranormal activity.
I have been a resident of LaGrange since early childhood and this town instilled in me a love of ghost stories. For the past couple years, I have been providing a ghost tour of downtown, the Strange LaGrange Tour, on which I feature the LaGrange Art Museum(112 Lafayette Parkway). Along its route through town, 29 passes LaGrange College with its antique centerpiece, Smith Hall. My tour discusses Smith Hall, Hawkes Hall, and the College Chapel, which are all spirited places. The college’s theatre, Price Theatre, off Panther Way, has an assortment of theatre ghosts.
In its journey between LaGrange and Atlanta, the road passes a number of haunted locations, though I have yet to cover any of them in this blog.
Downtown Atlanta has a number of haunted places on its famous Peachtree Street including the Ellis Hotel(176 Peachtree Street), the Fox Theatre (660 Peachtree Street), and Rhodes Memorial Hall(1516 Peachtree Street) all of these are covered in my “Apparitions of Atlanta” article.
Leaving DeKalb County, the road enters Gwinnett County near Stone Mountain, home of Stone Mountain Park(1000 Robert E. Lee Boulevard). Not only have there been spiritual encounters on the slopes of the titular monadnock, but the park’s Southern Plantation has a number of spiritual residents inside the historic structures.
As the highway leaves Gwinnett County, it passes through Barrow and into Oconee County. South of US 29 is the small town of Watkinsville, where the creepy Eagle Tavern(26 North Main Street) has served customers, and now museum patrons, for more than 200 years.
Wofford College is one of several institutions of higher learning located in Spartanburg, nearly all of which have spirits. Wofford’s Old Main Building is the haunt of several spirits.
Gaffney, South Carolina
On the way into Gaffney, US 29 passes the small town of Cowpens. A major battle of the American Revolution took place about nine miles north of town and the battlefield is known to be haunted.
In 1968, a serial killer operated in Gaffney and some of the sites where he dumped his victims’ bodies are known to be haunted. These sites include the Ford Road Bridge over Peoples Creek.
Blacksburg, South Carolina
After passing through Blacksburg, US 29 comes near another battlefield from the American Revolution with paranormal activity, Kings Mountain(2625 Park Road).
Charlotte, North Carolina
From Blacksburg, South Carolina, US 29 continues across the state line into North Carolina. I have not covered any locations in Cleveland or Gaston Counties. In Charlotte, I have covered one location, the Carolina Theatre(224-232 North Tryon), though I intend to rectify this in the near future.
Salisbury, North Carolina
Some years ago, I discovered an 1898 article from the Salisbury Sun describing the appearance of a ghost on Fisher Street. In addition, I discovered that the building at 122 Fisher Street has been reported as haunted. These locations were written up in my article, “’His ghostship’—Salisbury, NC.”
Salisbury National Cemetery 202 Government Road
The treatment of prisoners by both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War was atrocious and certainly has led to very active haunted locations where the prisons operated. This is certainly evident in Salisbury where an old textile mill was turned into a prison to house 2,000, but eventually held some 11,000. With a number of deaths occurring on a daily basis, a small cemetery was established a short distance from the prison which in 1874 became the Salisbury National Cemetery. According to Karen Lilly-Bowyer, a retired educator and the operator of the Downtown Ghost Walk, the area around the old prison site and the cemetery are quite active and a Union sentry has been spotted around the trenches where the prisoners were interred.
Lilly-Bowyer, Karen. “A war-haunted landscape.” Salisbury Post. 22 January 2011.
After crossing into Virginia, US 29 briefly runs concurrent with US 58. US 58 BUS goes through Danville, while the regular route takes a southern dip around the city where it meets up with US 29. Near the intersection of US 58 BUS and Riverside Drive is the site of the crash of the Old ’97 Train in 1903. This site has produced anomalous lights ever since.
While I have yet to cover Lynchburg in my blog, there are a number of haunted locales here, especially on the campus of Randolph College.
Sweet Briar, Virginia
US 29 passes through the small college town of Sweet Briar, home to the private women’s college Sweet Briar. From the tales that have been told on campus, it seems the founders of the college have remained here.
As US 29 passes out of the city, it comes near a haunted former bed and breakfast, the Silver Thatch Inn(3001 Hollymead Drive).
Brandy Station, Virginia
This small community in Culpeper County was the scene of one of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War in 1863. A small home near the Brandy Station depot was commandeered as a hospital after the battle. The patients left graffiti covering the walls and perhaps spirits as well, giving this home the nickname Graffiti House(19484 Brandy Road). A small, historic church, Fleetwood Church, nearby and the Brandy Station Battlefield are also known to be paranormally active.
This small, Fauquier County town is home to several haunted places, including the Black Horse Inn, the Hutton House, and a home called “Loretta.”
Manassas National Battlefield Park
This highway cuts directly across the Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County. Through these farm fields and copses of wood, two major battles of the Civil War were fought, the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas on July 21, 1861, and the Second Battle fought on August 29-30, 1862. As a result, this battle is known to be haunted.
Occupying the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s former estate, Arlington National Cemetery provides a resting place for some 400,000 soldiers from every conflict since the Civil War. With so many dead, there are ghost stories regarding the cemetery, Arlington Mansion, and the surrounding area.
US 29 enters the nation’s capital on the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River. It continues onto Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown before crossing Rock Creek and becoming an elevated freeway. This point over Rock Creek is significant for two reasons, the bridge itself is haunted and this crossing is at the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
The canal, which was begun in 1828, was meant to provide transportation of cargo from the end of the navigable portion of the Potomac to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the end, cost overruns ended the construction in Cumberland, Maryland, 184.5 miles from it’s beginning. From the end of construction in 1831 to 1928, the canal was used primarily to ship coal from the Alleghany Mountains to Georgetown. The “Grand Old Ditch,” as it was called, lay abandoned for many years until ownership was overtaken by the National Park Service. The canal is open as a National Historic Park with a trail alongside it. From end to end, the canal is lined with legends and ghost stories.
Along its route through Washington, US 29 comes near many haunted places. For a list of places covered in this blog, please see my District of Columbia Directory.
Montgomery County, Maryland
Montgomery County is a suburban county providing suburbs for Washington. I have discovered that my coverage of Maryland, as a whole, is lacking and I have not covered any locations within this county, though there are a number. I intend on rectifying this as soon as possible.
This city’s historic district lies in the valley of the Patapsco River, with Main Street running downhill to a bridge over the river. A tributary, the Tiber River, meets the Patapsco near here and problems with severe flooding have been experienced at points along Main Street. One of these recent floods is discussed in my article on theJudge’s Bench(8385 Main Street). Housing shops, boutiques, and homes, many of the buildings along Main Street also house spirits.
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.
Needing a project to carry me through this quarantine, I’ve decided to return to some original blog roots. Just after establishing this blog in 2010, I created a series of articles highlighting ten haunted places within each of the 13 states that I cover. Over time, these articles have been picked apart, rewritten, expanded, and used elsewhere. When I moved this blog, I did not move over those articles. Because I have a backlog of incomplete articles and bits and pieces that haven’t been published I’m creating a new breed of these articles during this quarantine.
Aiken County Courthouse
109 Park Avenue, Southeast
A number of spirits are believed to flit through the rooms and corridors of the 1881 Aiken County Courthouse. One of the spirits is thought to be the ghost of a young girl whose body was once held in the basement morgue of the building. Legend holds that her body changed position after being deposited in the drawer. Supposedly, she continues to roam the building giggling. A male spirit is known to whisper, “hey!” in the ears of employees, while another female spirit sometimes demonstrates her disapproval of the court’s decisions by moving chairs, rattling papers, and sending pens and pencils flying off desks.
Wood, Larry. “Museum’s ghost stories include Dancing with the Devil in Eureka.” Aiken Standard. 13 August 2018.
Beaty-Spivey House (private)
428 Kingston Street
A tragic tale has been told about the Beaty-Spivey House, known as “The Oaks,” since the death of young Brookie Beaty in 1871. Thomas and Mary Beaty had five children, four of which passed before they reached adulthood. After her son fell ill, Mrs. Beaty was greeted by a vision of several angels in the form of her deceased daughters. The angels revealed that they had been sent to retrieve their brother. Rushing into her son’s room, Mrs. Beaty discovered that he had just died.
“Stories become real part of S.C. history.” Florence Morning News. 24 February 1976.
Blakeney Family Cemetery
John Blakeney Lane Pageland
Irish-born John Blakeney served in the American Revolution under General Francis Marion. When he died at the age of 100, he was interred in this rural family cemetery where he joined many members of his family. According to online rumors, those family members regularly appear to roam amongst the headstones, though the veracity of these stories is questionable.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
328 Greene Street (private)
Known for many years as the “Brown House” due to its unpainted exterior, this now white early 19th-century farmhouse has activity that have led locals to believe it may be haunted. That activity includes the furniture on the front porch being rearranged by unseen hands.
Carolina Country Store & Café 11725 South Fraser Street
The main road from Charleston to Georgetown, U.S. Route 17, passes through many small communities including one called North Santee. This ramshackle general store and gas station has been serving travelers and locals since 1929. As well as selling food, drinks, gas, and souvenirs, this small business also features a ghost. Called Mary Jane by employees, the spirit tends to rattle doorknobs, fiddle with the knobs on the crockpot, call employee’s names, and sometimes appear as a shadow.
Carmichael, Sherman. Legends and Lore of South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
135 McIver Street (private)
When Union troops invaded the town towards the end of the Civil War, General Sherman took up headquarters in the Hartzell House, while General Oliver Howard set up in Enfield next door. Local lore preserves a story that one of Howard’s officers shot a young enslaved girl when she fumbled with the reins of his horse. History does speak to the veracity of this story, though the spirit of this woman is supposed to haunt the home.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Florence National Cemetery
803 East National Cemetery Road Florence
In late 1864, the Confederate government open a prisoner of war camp on the outskirts of Florence. Known as the Florence Stockade, the prison held nearly 18,000 prisoners in miserable conditions. During its operation, nearly 2,800 prisoners died and were interred in trenches outside the prison walls. Following the war, these burials were incorporated as Florence National Cemetery.
Among the graves is that of Florena Budwin, a female who fought in the Union Army alongside her husband. Her grave is believed to be the first burial of a female in a national cemetery.
Investigation by author Tally Johnson reveals that Mrs. Budwin and her comrades may not be resting peacefully. He observed an orb hovering over her tombstone as well as hearing moans and groans from the trenches holding the many other soldiers who died imprisoned.
Florena Budwin. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 July 2019.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Gurganus-Collins House (private)
902 Elm Street
In 2012, the family occupying the 1862 Gurganus-Collins House revealed that their 12-year-old son encountered the spirit of the home’s builder, William Gurganus, sitting on a bed one morning. The apparition “turned and smiled at him,” which prevented the young man from sleeping upstairs for six months.
Saints Delight Road (US-17 ALT) Andrews
Looming over this two-lane road outside of Andrews, this ancient cypress’ story is told in its gnarled trunk and limbs. On the outskirts of the community of Lamberttown, this tree, as legend holds, has been the scene of many hangings since the American Revolution. After the Civil War, several people were lynched from this same tree. Sources indicate that some locals are reticent to pass by the tree late at night. Travelling northeast on Saints Delight from the intersection with Walker Road, the tree is roughly a mile on the left.
Floyd, Blanche W. Ghostly Tales and Legends Along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 2002.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
Orr, Bruce. Haunted Summerville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
Summey, Debby. “The Hanging Tree.” South Strand News. 29 January 2013.
Hopsewee 494 Hopsewee Road Georgetown
Created as a rice plantation around 1740, Hopsewee was the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the four signers of the Declaration of Independence from the South Carolina Colony. Along with his father, he served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, the only father and son within the body. When the Declaration was signed, Lynch’s father was too ill to make the journey, so only his son signed the document.
Hopsewee was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, and the house and grounds are open to the public as a historic site. In addition to the watchfulness of the current owners, it seems that Thomas Lynch, Sr. may remain here watching over the grounds. Some years ago, a neighbor and his son watched as a man in colonial dress and carrying a lantern walked down a road near the house and disappeared into a swamp.
The spirit of the indomitable Thomas Lynch, Sr. may have once revealed his distaste for immodesty. While a crew was filming in the house, the film’s costumer took photographs of the actresses in their costumes. A group photo was taken of the young ladies in their period underclothes. When the picture was developed, a prominent white streak covered all of the women from their necks to just below their knees.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Snell, Charles W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Hopsewee. 4 June 1971.
Lamar High School
216 North Darlington Avenue
School ghostlore is often the product of overactive young minds, and that seems to be the case here. According to author Tally Johnson, a student athlete at Lamar High School was killed in a tragic automobile accident during her senior year. In her memory, the school retired her number and enshrined a picture and her shoes in the school’s trophy case as well as establishing a scholarship in her name. Supposedly, the young lady returns to the school gym on the anniversary of her death.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Lincoln Village Apartments
712 South 8th Street Hartsville
The end of this small apartment complex came ignominiously with a small fire in one building in 2015. Two years later, the City of Hartsville chose to demolish this blighted property. A local resident who lived across the street told a reporter for WMBF (the Myrtle Beach NBC affiliate) that the complex—which was abandoned in 2000—brought down the morale of the entire neighborhood.
Perhaps the decaying state of this property aroused ghost stories, but the idea has been bandied about online for a number of years. A small cemetery is supposed to exist on the site, though the graves are unmarked. Legend speaks of some of the buildings having been built over graves, though there is nothing to prove this.
Stories speak of residents experiencing “babies crying and adult voices begging for help in otherwise empty apartments.” Tally Johnson spoke with a sheriff’s deputy who said that law enforcement had been called to the property several times by reports of lights on and people inside the abandoned buildings. There is no word if the demolition has ended these urban legends.
For nearly two centuries, the old Lower River Warehouse that sidled up next to the Waccamaw River served as a main shipping point for goods being brought to Conway by many of the town’s best-known families. A few years ago, the building housed a haunted Halloween attraction, Terror Under the Bridge. While employees were working to manufacture scares for their guests, they were being frightened by actual paranormal activity. An employee working the fog machines in the back of the building fearfully noticed that the fog was blowing against the draft created by an open window and door. Footsteps were sometimes heard in the empty building as well.
Carmichael, Sherman. Legends and Lore of South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
Lucas Bay Light
Near Gilbert and Little Lamb Roads Conway
Along these country roads near the community of Bucksport is Lucas Bay. The bay is not a typical large body of water, but a “Carolina bay,” an elliptical depression in the landscape. Occurring all over the east coast, these bays hold special significance geologically and ecologically, while this particular bay is also a part of the landscape of legend.
Stories tell of a mother in the area towards the end of the Civil War, when Union troops were advancing through the state. Hearing rumors of the approach of troops and worried about her infant, the mother hid the swaddled child underneath a bridge, while she returned home to secure her meager possessions. When a storm erupted during the night, the mother rushed into the rain and wind to find her child. Both mother and child were lost in the deluge.
Since that time, many have witnessed an odd light near Lucas Bay and the account of this mother and her child is retold. This story bears many of the hallmarks of the typical “Crybaby Bridge” legend, and, as is usually the case, there are no historical records to back up the story. Paranormal investigators have confirmed that the area is rife with spirits, though they cannot confirm the legend either.
Memorial Hall Campus of Coker University Hartsville
This small, private liberal arts college (which has just recently changed its name to Coker University) has a 15-acre campus, around 70 faculty members, about 1,200 students, and one resident spirit. A college history attributes the hauntings of Memorial Hall and the school’s former and current library buildings to a student, Madeline Savage, who attended the school in the 1920s. According to legend, Savage died on campus, but historical records only note her enrollment as a student from 1920 to 1921. Her whereabouts after that time are unknown.
Though she may have disappeared from the historical record, she has supposedly remained active in Memorial Hall, the oldest residence hall on campus. Students in this circa 1916 dormitory have had a variety of encounters with the other side. Madeline has appeared wearing a long, white gown, while she has been heard crying in empty rooms.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Upper Long Cane Cemetery
Greenville Street Abbeville
About 2 miles north of the town of Abbeville, the Upper Long Cane Cemetery serves as a resting place for about 2,500 souls. According to local folklore, the first burial on the site occurred around 1760 when John Lesley buried a young girl who was either a relative or visitor to his home. The girl had succumbed to severe burns she received while making lye soap. With her burial, the family established the spot as a family cemetery. Over time, the cemetery became a prominent cemetery for locals.
According to John Boyanoski, the cemetery was investigated by the Heritage Paranormal Society from Georgia. While there were no stories of activity in the cemetery, its age led them to believe that there might be something. During a review of photographs taken during the investigation, members of the group were shocked to see the image of a balding man wearing a blazer in one of the photos. When the photo was taken, a living person was not seen walking through the frame.
Boyanoski, John. More Ghosts of Upstate South Carolina. Mountville, PA: Shelor & Son Publishing, 2008.
Power, J. Tracy, et al. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Upper Long Cane Cemetery. 29 October 2010.
130 History Lane Pendleton
A former resident of Woodburn, which is now a house museum, reported several encounters with a little girl in the house. Since that time, a photograph has been taken that seems to show the figure of a young girl in the window of the nursery. Police have also seen a figure peering at them from the same window.
Woodburn was constructed around 1830 as a summer home for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a son of the prominent Pinckney family. Named for his uncle who was one of the authors of the U. S. Constitution, Pinckney was a prominent lawyer, politician, and planter.
Hornsby, Ben. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Woodburn. 15 October 1970.
Staed, John. “Does Woodburn Historical House still hide some secrets?” Anderson Independent. 29 June 2010.
This is the fourth entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 27 more days until All Hallows Eve!
Angel Oak Park
3699 Angel Oak Road
John’s Island, South Carolina
A long dirt road leads away from sprawl of Charleston to a quiet place of natural repose surrounding the Angel Oak. It had already been a long day for myself and my partner when we arrived about twenty minutes before the park closed for the day. There were still crowds of visitors milling about, taking pictures, and lolling under the massive oak.
Since my first visit in 2011, after which I wrote this blog entry, little has changed with the oak itself, though the insistent signage discouraging people from climbing or damaging the oak has multiped. The tree’s gargantuan trunk is now surrounded by a rope so that it almost appears to be a museum exhibit. Perhaps the crowds of tourists arriving just before closing time detracted from the park, but the place seemed to be missing the sacred feeling I felt on my first visit.
This was my partner’s first visit, and he did get a feeling of awe in the presence of the wondrous tree. We have discovered, he is sensitive to paranormal. While I may occasionally pick up changes in the energy in some places, I generally don’t pick up on much at all. My partner, however, is quite sensitive to these changes. He can feel them in the form of a sense of uneasiness, or sometimes he might be nauseated or perhaps he might feel a headache coming on.
At the Angel Oak, he said he felt a sense of pressure, nearly to the point of having a headache and also nausea. As we wandered under the branches, he continued to complain of these feelings. We didn’t stay long and as we walked back to the car, the feelings lifted. While there may be a rational explanation for these feelings, it is curious that he only felt them under the tree’s wide canopy.
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.
Atop a bluff overlooking the Sampit River is the Heriot-Tarbox House topped with a distinctive red roof that can been seen from Winyah Bay. Constructed around 1765, the house was the home of Dr. Charles Fyffe, a Scottish-born physician and planter who also constructed the brick warehouse across the street. Just past the house is a small marina that was created by him as well.
During the dismal days of the American Revolution, Dr. Fyffe remained loyal to the British crown and oversaw a loyalist hospital for refugees in Charleston. After the British surrender at Yorktown, the doctor faced deportation for his loyalties. In his appeal, he argued that he had treated wounded Patriots as well. He was allowed to stay, though his estate and property was seized. Remaining loyal to the Crown, he made his way to Colonial India where he served as a physician before succumbing to madness. He was committed to a mental asylum in Calcutta (now Kolkata) where he lingered until his death in 1810.
A couple years after Dr. Fyffe’s death in India, his former home and docks became entangled in another legend. In December of 1812, the lovely Theodosia Burr Alston, the wife of the newly sworn governor of South Carolina, Joseph Alston, may have stayed in the home before boarding the schooner, Patriot, headed to New York to visit her father.
Theodosia was the daughter of the disgraced former Vice President Aaron Burr. Serving under President Thomas Jefferson, Burr was suspected of treasonous acts and was arrested in the wilds of the Alabama territory. He was carried to Richmond, Virginia where he was put on trial. Though he was acquitted of the charges, Burr sought refuge in Europe for several years before returning to New York in 1812, just before the outbreak of war between the Americans and the British.
Burr’s daughter, married to wealthy South Carolina planter, Joseph Alston, remained in America during her father’s exile in Europe. Theodosia waited until December, after her husband’s inauguration as governor, to travel to New York to see him. After the birth of her son, Aaron Burr Alston, Theodosia’s health had deteriorated, but that was worsened with his death from malaria in June 1812 at the age of 10. Therefore, travel for Theodosia would be difficult on her health, not to mention the risks of travel. While the two-week carriage ride from South Carolina to New York would be extremely taxing, travel by sea also proved dangerous, especially now that the country was at war with Britain. Indeed, stormy winter seas and the threat of pirates also presented their own dangers.
As Governor Alston could not leave the state during wartime, he engaged a friend, Dr. Timothy Greene, to accompany his ailing wife on her journey. Passage was secured on a schooner, the Patriot, which had been working as a privateer, in other words, the vessel carried guns and was authorized to attack British ships.
Before her departure on New Year’s Eve, 1812, Theodosia, accompanied by her husband, Dr. Greene, and servants, traveled to Georgetown from her husband’s plantation, The Oaks, on the Waccamaw River. Local legend tells that the group was feted at the Mary Man House (528 Front Street) that evening. Where the group stayed the night, however is a matter of speculation, and stories point to them staying at Dr. Fyffe’s former home.
The next morning, she boarded the Patriot at the docks just outside the house for her journey. The ship sailed out of Winyah Bay past the Georgetown Light on North Island into oblivion and legend. Whatever became of the Patriot and Theodosia after leaving Georgetown is unclear. Stories abound as to the fate of the Patriot and its passengers often involving romantic hallmarks like piracy, plank-walking, murder, wreckers on the North Carolina coast, and suicide. According to Richard N. Côté’s Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy, recent research has uncovered facts relating to a severe storm off of the North Carolina coast just days after the departure of the Patriot from Georgetown.
Since her disappearance, tales have swirled about her tragic figure making appearances in spiritual form from the Charleston Battery, up the coast to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. In Georgetown, these tales are rife, with Theodosia supposedly making appearances at the Mary Man House, where she may have been feted the night before her final journey. Legend holds that she also makes appearances in and around the Heriot-Tarbox House as well as being seen near Charles Fyffe’s brick warehouse across the street.
The house, however, also hosts another legend involving the daughter of a later resident. This young lady, which sources do not identify, like so many other local ladies, fell in love with a sea captain. As fathers of this period were wont to do, he disapproved of the relationship. His daughter did find a way to communicate with her lover by placing a lantern in one of the top floor windows of the house.
Though the couple never married, the woman continued to hang the signal lantern hoping for her lover’s return. By the time the Civil War, the woman lived alone as a spinster surrounded by a pack of loyal dogs. She used the lantern hung in her high dormer to signal to blockade runners after the Union bottled up the bay. Not long after the war, she grew more and more reclusive. One evening after her dogs were heard baying through the night, concerned neighbors broke into the house to find her body surrounded by her beloved dogs. Her wraith is still supposedly seen followed by spectral dogs while the light still appears in the dormer window.
According to author Elizabeth Huntsinger, the high dormer was later used during Prohibition to signal to rum runners at work in the bay. Part of me wonders if perhaps the story of the lantern in the dormer window is an invention of those smugglers. Certainly, it is a reason for locals to not question the odd light. Ghost stories are sometimes used to keep the curious at bay; perhaps this is at work in this house on the bay.
Standing proudly on the corner of Front and St. James Streets among the oak and moss shaded residential section of Georgetown, the Cleland House is among the oldest houses in town, having been built in 1737. From this corner it has witnessed the whole panoply of American history, some of it even passing over its thresholds.
During the American Revolution, the Prussian General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben; French generals Baron Johann de Kalb and Gilbert de Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette; made visits to the house while they were giving aid to American forces. Later, Vice President Aaron Burr stayed at the home while visiting his daughter, Theodosia.
The story behind this house reads very much like an old-fashioned ghost story. Anne Withers, possibly related to John Withers who is listed on the historical marker in front of the house as one of the owners, fell in love with a dashing sea captain. After one of his voyages he returned to Georgetown, and presented his fiancée with a rare gift, an ancient Egyptian bracelet, which featured a series of scarabs.
The scarab, an Ancient Egyptian amulet representing the common dung beetle, is found throughout the ancient world. Some scarabs were used as ornaments, while others were used as seals. During the era of the New Kingdom (1535-1079 BCE), scarabs began to be included in the wrappings of mummies. To the ancient Egyptians, the lowly dung beetle symbolized resurrection and new life as it laid its eggs within animal dung which it rolled into a ball. In the ancient religion, the beetle, personified as the god, Khepri, was believed to roll the sun into the sky.
Anne Withers, the blushing bride, saved the bracelet to wear on her wedding day. After putting on her wedding gown, she placed the bracelet on her wrist and carried on with her other preparations. Just as she was about to descend the staircase of the Cleland House, the bride let out a scream and fell down the stairs. By the time she tumbled to the floor at the foot of the stairs, she was dead.
Rushing to her side, her family discovered blood dripping from underneath the bracelet. When it was removed, the scarabs were found to have tiny legs that had dug into the bride’s pale flesh.
Leaving Georgetown soon after his fiancée’s death, the heartbroken took the bracelet to London where it was examined by a chemist. He discovered that the legs on the scarabs had been rigged to open by the warmth from human skin. Each leg contained poison that would be injected into the hapless victim. He surmised the bracelet had been made to afflict the person who stole the artifact from a tomb.
Ever since Anne Withers’ wedding day death, her form, still wearing nuptial white, has been seen in the gardens of the Cleland House.
A search of cemetery records on FindaGrave.com does not bring up a burial for Miss Withers.
Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.