Some paranormal investigators theorize that cemeteries and burial sites should not be haunted because spirits are not thought to remain near their earthly remains. However, this thinking can easily be proven wrong with the sheer number of cemeteries and burial sites that are said to be haunted. This directory lists all cemeteries covered within this blog.
Boyington Oak, inside Church Street Cemetery, Bayou Street, Mobile
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. While I don’t have any haunted places listed along US 29, there are several places close by. See my article, “Montgomery County Mysteries.”
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.
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.
The Tri-Cities Region encompasses the extreme northeastern corner of Tennessee and part of southwest Virginia, surrounding the major cities of Kingsport and Johnson City in Tennessee, and Bristol, VA/TN, which is situated astride the state line. This area, in the heart of Appalachia, is noted for its culture, mountain lore, and ghost stories.
This series looks at a representative haunting in each of the region’s counties and it’s one independent city.
Legend of the Long Dog and Friends US-11W north of Surgoinsville
Perched on the state line with Virginia, Hawkins County is one of the oldest counties in Tennessee. Two major paths make their way through the borders of this county. The Holston River snakes its way through much of the county on its route from Kingsport to Knoxville where it converges with the French Broad River to create the might Tennessee River. The river provided mobility to Native Americans and later settlers to the area.
The Natives also trod a path near to the river that was later dubbed the Great Indian War Path which connected the heart of the Muscogee Nation in Alabama through to what would become Upstate New York. European settlers would later claim this path and use it as they migrated throughout the Appalachians. As settlers claimed the area, the path was utilized as a stage coach route from Knoxville to Kingsport. This road is now followed by US Highway 11 West.
In the late years of the 18th century and into the early 19th, these paths attracted hordes of settlers, but also highwaymen and bandits who preyed like wolves on the unwary travelers, which gave rise to many stories and legends in these parts. Kathryn Tucker Windham, the great Alabama storyteller, published her version of one of these legends from the small town of Surgoinsville in her 1977 book, 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey.
The opening parts of her story, which are likely fictional, describe a common sighting of the “Long Dog” on the road just northeast of Surgoinsville. However, the heart of her piece includes the legend of the “Long Dog” and the experience of Marcus Hamblen, a member of a prominent local family. The legend that she confers involves one of the most famous of the bandits to haunt the state of Tennessee: the infamous John Murrell.
Known as the “Great Western Land Pirate” and the “Rob Roy of the Southwest,” John Murrell was among the most notorious of the thieves and highwaymen who prowled the South. Born in Virginia in 1806, Murrell spent his formative years in Williamson County, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville, this county includes Franklin). Around the age of 16, he was imprisoned for horse theft and remained in the state prison in Nashville until 1830. Upon release, he resumed a rollicking life of crime and recruited others to join his band of outlaws. This dubious group primarily operated along the Mississippi River and along the Natchez Trace from Natchez to Nashville until Murrell’s arrest and conviction for stealing a slave in 1834. For this theft, he served ten
years in prison before he was released in 1844 having been reformed. Later that year Murrell died in Pikeville, Tennessee.
It seems, however, that Murrell’s real life does not hold a candle to his oversized legend. Much of his legend was spurred on by an 1835 pamphlet written by one of the primary witnesses against him. This pamphlet accused Murrell of inciting a slave rebellion, one of the top fears for planters of that era. As a result of the pamphlet, slaveholders and law enforcement throughout Mississippi questioned, tortured, and even hung some of their slaves along with white outsiders who were implicated as being members of Murrell’s gang.
Returning to the legend that haunts the landscape outside of Surgoinsville, Murrell and his men attacked a family camping under a large white oak there. The family’s dog attempted to defend his family from the marauders but was as brutally slaughtered as well as his family. As a result, the spirit of this dog has been known to appear to travelers along this road near the old oak.
One of the more remarkable encounters happened to a young man named Marcus Hamblen. Walking the road one night, Hamblen was shocked to see a luminous and abnormally long dog approach from behind the old white oak. Hamblen picked up a fence rail and swung it at the animal when it got close enough, but the rail passed cleanly through the creature. As he ran the dog continued his pace until the phantom disappeared suddenly at a particular curve in the road. Hamblen supposedly kept his eye out for the curious canine and continued to see his spectral friend many more times.
Since the old road was paved and named the Lee Highway, sightings of the luminous Long Dog have grown fewer and fewer. Since the Lee Highway was designated US Route 11 West, sightings have nearly stopped, though the white oak is still alive and continues to preside over the now four-lane highway. It should be noted that the oak is on private property, though it can easily be viewed from the road.
This area is no stranger to spectral activity. Heading north from Surgoinsville, just past the old white oak, turn left onto Stoney Point Road. After a short distance, the road turns a corner and a marvelous antebellum brick building comes into view, this is Maxwell Academy. Built around 1852, this building was originally used by the congregation of New Providence Presbyterian Church and also utilized by a school established by the church. The building that still stands was constructed on this site in 1901, to replace the original structure lost in a fire. It seems that the voices of children are still heard within the old building. Justin Guess notes that during an ice cream social held in the building guests were treated by sounds above them, though no one was upstairs.
After the academy building became too cramped to hold both the students and the church, a new church was constructed across the road. It should be noted that the congregation of New Hope Presbyterian Church(214 Stoney Point Road) was among the earliest congregations founded in the state of Tennessee, having been founded in nearby Carter’s Valley in 1780. The church moved to this site around 1800 and the peaceful cemetery surrounding the church dates to this time.
Among the souls who rest here is Colonel George Maxwell, a veteran of the American Revolution who served at the Battle of Kings Mountain. After Maxwell’s death in 1822, a legend has sprouted that a large black dog guards his grave. It is unknown if this dog is the spirit of a former companion or just a spectral guardian protecting the spirit of the military veteran. In addition to this curious canine, phantom footsteps are supposed to be heard around this grave at night.
Brown, John Norris. “The Legend of the Long Dog.” Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee (now defunct). Accessed 18 July 2017.
Brown, John Norris. “New Providence Church.” Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee (now defunct). Accessed 18 July 2017.
Grigsby, Blanche. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for New Providence Presbyterian Church, Academy, and Cemetery. 8 March 1976.
Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Hawkins County, Tennessee. Kindle Edition, 2012.
Libby, David J. “John Murrell.” Mississippi Encyclopedia. 11 July 2017.
Sakowski, Carolyn. Touring the East Tennessee Backroads. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1993.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of AL University Press, 1977.
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.
Among the oldest cities in the Deep South, Mobile was founded in 1702 by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, of whom the latter is considered the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana. The city’s location on the well-protected Mobile Bay, led to the city becoming a major port for exportation. That strategic location, however, made it a major target during the Civil War, which brought economic devastation to the city; that devastation would last for many decades. Through the 20th century, the port city’s fortunes have been restored and the city has become a major tourist destination with beautiful and large historic districts which are, of course, brimming with spirits.
The genteel ghosts of Mobile have been explored in a number of sources, including three books by Elizabeth Parker: Mobile Ghosts (2000), Mobile Ghosts II (2004), and Haunted Mobile (2009). In this blog, I have covered a few sites in the city including the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Richards DAR House, and the Phoenix Fire Museum.
Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
26 North Royal Street
Considered one of Alabama’s premier hotels, the Battle House is the fourth hotel on this site, though only the second called the “Battle House.” In 1825, as floods ravaged the state capital at Cahaba, Daniel White moved his inn to Mobile using flatboats. That hotel opened as the Franklin House and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1829. A larger hotel, the Waverly Hotel, was constructed on this site only to be destroyed by fire in 1850. Led by James Battle and his brothers, a group of prominent locals created a company to build a large hotel on this site, and the Battle House opened in 1852.
Throughout the second half of the 19th century, this hotel served many luminaries including presidential candidate Stephen Douglas, who was here the night he lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. That hotel burned in 1905, and it was replaced by the current hotel building which opened in 1908. Among the prominent figures who have stayed in this building are President Woodrow Wilson who stayed here in 1913. The hotel went through a difficult financial period in the 1970s and closed in 1974. After being closed for nearly 30 years, the hotel has recently been fully restored and reopened.
Historic hotels like this rarely do not have ghosts or, at the very least, rumors of ghosts. The Battle House spirits have not been well documented, though an article by Amy Delcambre on the website, VisitSouth.com, includes an interview with George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian. When asked, Moore disavowed a belief in ghosts, though he did recount some of the curious incidents that have taken place here.
One story Moore recounted involved a recently married couple who stayed in the hotel in 1910. The husband left his wife alone while he took care of some business outside of the hotel. When he did not return, she supposedly hung herself in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. After the hotel’s recent reopening, a wedding reception was held in the ballroom where a portrait of the bride was displayed on an easel. The mother of the bride noticed a strange man in a gray suit admiring the picture, when guests began to enter the room, the strange man disappeared.
Other guests here have seen mysterious lights and apparitions in their rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors.
Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Battle House Royale. 4 June 1975.
The Battle House Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 May 2015.
Located within Church Street Cemetery, just off Bayou Street
This mighty live oak growing amid the gravestones of Church Street Cemetery is a supposed sign of the innocence of Charles R. S. Boyington. In 1834, within this cemetery, the body of Nathaniel Frost was found; severely beaten and robbed of his money and pocket watch. Boyington, who had been close friends with Frost and, according to testimony, had been seen walking near here with him, was arrested for the murder and found guilty. He was hung before a huge crowd on gallows erected in Washington Square. Before his execution, however, he stated that his innocence would be proven by an oak sprouting from his heart. This tree sprouted not long after Boyington was laid in his grave. Passersby have claimed that whispers are still heard as the wind blows through the branches.
Kirby, Brendan. ”Murders, burglaries and ‘lynch discipline;’ Mobile was a lawless place in the 1830s.” com. 12 June 2013.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.
Central Fire Station 701 St. Francis Street
Firefighters were shocked in 2010 when the Gamewell Alarm System here lit up. Of course, as firefighters, they should always be prepared, but they’re not usually prepared for dealing with the supernatural. The alarm system was last used in the 1960s, and the system was not connected to a power source, so there was no reason it should be lit up.
The old Gamewell system is displayed on the second-floor museum of this active fire station. Some firefighters have suggested that the system lights may be just more evidence of the presence of Laz Schwarz, a former mayor for whom this facility was dedicated when it opened in 1925. The shadowy figure of a man has been seen here for years and is believed to be the shade of the Mayor Schwarz.
Dials, Renee. “South Alabama re station haunted?” WISH TV. 17 August 2010.
Hough, Jere. “New re station museum in Mobile is trip back in time.” com. 26 April 2009.
Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
Malaga Inn 359 Church Street
One of Mobile’s finest inns, the Malaga Inn is noted as being haunted, though the specifics are harder to discern. Elizabeth Parker, the author of three books on haunted Mobile, notes in her blog that she spoke with a few guests who had haunting experiences in this inn that occupies a pair of 1862 townhomes. One guest reported smelling a flowery, perfume-like scent in her room while another guest was physically touched by something she could not see. A different guest awoke to find the apparition of a man standing at the end of his bed.
“Ghost-berfest, Day 31: Ghostober Notebook and Happy Hallowe’en.” Mobile Ghosts Blog. 31 October 2010.
Mobile Carnival Museum 355 Government Street
Housed in the historic 1872 Bernstein-Bush House, the Mobile Carnival Museum displays artifacts from the history of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, the oldest in the nation. Prior to the building’s use as the Carnival Museum, this building contained the Museum of Mobile which did not experience much paranormal activity besides having a men’s patent leather shoe mysteriously appear on the staircase of the carriage house. The staff arrived one morning to find this very nice shoe sitting on the stairs. There was no sign of an intruder, and the building had been tightly secured.
An unseen entity, dubbed “Ralph” by the museum’s staff, is known to make adjustments to displays. After the Carnival Museum began to install its exhibits in 2005, one mannequin was repeatedly found to be lying on its side. Lights throughout the building often turn themselves on after they have been turned off for the night. One of the more mysterious incidents involved a Mardi Gras crown that was found to be missing from an exhibit. After a frantic search, the curator found the crown sitting on a chair next to her desk the following Monday morning. None of the staff fessed up to knowing anything about the missing object. No one is sure who Ralph may be, though the building did house a funeral home for some decades.
Parker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.
Tree That Owns Itself 277 South Finley Street Athens, Georgia
…the Tree was happy… –Shel Silverstein, “The Giving Tree,” 1964
When I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child many moons ago, I found the story disturbing. There is more than a bit of sadness in this story of altruism, and I found that disquieting. Perhaps this was one of my first introductions into that grey area where noble ideals spar with reality. That place where morality and immorality square off, where the dramatic tension lies between the blacks and whites of good and evil.
The legend of Athens, Georgia’s Tree That Owns Itself exists in this same grey realm of fact and legend. When I stumbled across this 1916 article while browsing the historic newspaper collection of the Digital Library of Georgia, I was happy to be able to add this story to my collection on Athens. Unfortunately, the bottom corner of the paper has been torn and part of the paragraph describing the phantom is lost.
GHOST HAUNTS TREE THAT OWNS ITSELF _____ AT LEAST THAT IS STORY COMING OUT FROM ATHENS, AND THERE IS MUCH SPECULATION OVER REPORT. _____
Atlanta, July 1—Has the ghost of William Jackson come back to haunt the Tree That Owns Itself?
That’s the tale they are telling in Athens, Ga., where on a big hill in the center of the city stands a giant white oak, the only tree that owns itself, trunk, twig and leaf, together with eight feet of land on all sides.
Early in the nineteenth century William Jackson was one of the largest plantation owners of Clarke county. Under the white oak, which is four or five hundred years old, he used to sit and direct his slaves at work. When he died, this paragraph was found in his will:
“For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.”
Now comes the report that a phantom has been seen beneath the Tree That Owns Itself.
[page torn]…mist of a man, fading is-
[page torn]…a man with powdered
[page torn]…a broad hat
[page torn]…and laces and frills sitting there under the tree, with one hand resting gently on the bark.
Was it the ghost of William Jackson?
Ask the boys of that college town—they don’t know.
A surprisingly thorough article on Wikipedia examines the legend and its inconsistencies, noting that the first documented version of the tree’s legend appeared in the Athens Weekly Banner in 1890. That article, couched in the heroic language of the period, describes the tree as seeming to “stand straighter, and hold its head more highly and proudly as if we knew that it ranked above the common trees of the world.” The 1890 article continues with the history of the tree but noting that the tree’s deed of ownership is mysteriously missing from the county’s records.
Since 1916, the original tree succumbed to rot and fell on October 9, 1942. The Athens Junior Ladies Garden Club took up the cause of the tree and replaced it with a sapling grown from one of the original oak’s acorns. The current tree, sometimes deemed “Son of the Tree That Owns Itself,” continues to flourish from its space on South Finley Street. The tree is now surrounded with a retaining wall and a chain barrier with a plaque denoting the tree’s ownership of itself. Perhaps Col. William Jackson still appears on occasion to rest beneath the stately branches that he gave so much for?
“Deeded to itself.” Athens Weekly Banner. 12 August 1890.
“Ghost haunts tree that owns itself.” Daily Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, Georgia). 1 July 1916.
One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is to examine ghost stories county by county, though so far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.
Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and on Halloween of 2017, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.
“Big Oak” Robert Fowler Memorial Park South River Street Geneva
Before the establishment of Geneva County, early settlers gathered under the massive, leafy branches of what is now known as the Big Oak or Constitution Oak. This live oak’s age and size have led to its inclusion in the list of Alabama Famous and Historic Trees. Supposedly the huge branches of the tree have been used for hangings and the spirits of those who died here may continue to haunt this location.
As workers were working on the restoration of Oakmont, a spirit in the house wanted more heat. After continuing to find a heater on in the home, construction workers taped the control knob so that the heat could not be turned on. However, the spirit thought otherwise and turned the heat on again.
Built in 1908 as a wedding gift for Mary Elizabeth and Charles Alexander Webb, it was not until Oakmont began the transformation into a bed & breakfast that the owners discovered that they might have to share the house with spirits. After the restoration, numerous spectral sounds began to be heard including tremendous crashes and disembodied footsteps. It doesn’t appear that this bed and breakfast is open any longer.
Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill Publishers, 2003.
Moundville Archaeological Park 634 Mound State Parkway Moundville
Between approximately 1120 C.E. and 1450 C.E., Moundville was the site of a large city inhabited by the Mississippian people, predecessors to the tribes that the Europeans would encounter when they began exploring the South about a century later. At its height, this town was probably home to nearly 1,000 inhabitants. Stretching to 185 acres, the town had 29 mounds of various sizes and uses: some were ceremonial while others were topped with the homes of the elite.
Visitors and staff have often mentioned a certain energy emanating from this site. A Cherokee friend of mine visited and while atop one of the mounds let out a traditional Cherokee war cry. Afterward, he noted that there was a palpable change in the energy. Dennis William Hauck speaks of the “powerful spirit of an ancient race” that “permeates this 317-acre site.” Southern Paranormal Researchers notes that park staff has witnessed shadow figures, odd noises, and doors opening and closing by themselves in the buildings on the site. Higdon and Talley add orbs and cold spots found throughout the location to the list of paranormal activity here.
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Southern Paranormal Researchers. Paranormal Investigation Report for Moundville Archaeological Park. 10 February 2007.
Legend of Huggin’ Molly Abbeville
For over a century, a legend has dwelled in the dark streets of Abbeville: the legend of Huggin’ Molly. This specter is thought to target children on the streets after dark. Most versions describe Molly as a large woman who prowls the dark streets in search of children walking alone. After pursuing a child, she would embrace them and scream in their ear. Most sources agree that this tale was perhaps created to frighten small children and keep them from staying out too late, though the story has remained. In fact, a restaurant named after the legendary figure has recently opened.
Smith, Michelle. Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Columbia Manor 306 South Main Street Columbia
During the Halloween season, this unassuming white frame house is home to nightmares of the fictional kind. However, this house is home to real nightmares as well. Built in 1864, this home has served several uses including serving as a hospital and later a sanitarium for those suffering from pellagra, a severe vitamin deficiency.
Following renovations to transform the house into a haunted attraction, the spirits have begun to act out. The owner of the house told the producers of the BIO Channel show, My Ghost Story, about tools that would go missing only to be found in their original location a short time later, mysterious footsteps, and the shade of an older gentleman that the owner and another volunteer saw standing in the house. He also mentioned the swinging of a chandelier in the foyer which a paranormal investigator has linked to the suicide by hanging of a nurse there.
“Enter at your own risk; they dare you.” Dothan Eagle. 18 August 2014.
“Haunting Columbia Manor.” Dothan Eagle. 19 October 2013.
My Ghost Story, Episode 3.3. Biography Channel. 29 October 2011.
Russell Cave National Monument 3728 CR-98 Bridgeport
One of the most significant archaeological sites in the state, Russell Cave has revealed evidence that this site has been in use by humans for at least 8,000 years. That evidence includes human remains, pottery shards, spear points, arrowheads, and charcoal from ancient fires. The remains of various animals, including some prehistoric species, have also been unearthed here.
Within the cave, some visitors have experienced an uneasy feeling, sometimes even sensing ghostly presences while others have heard spectral sounds and seen apparitions. With thousands of years of human occupation, it’s no surprise that spirits remain here.
Kidd, Jessica Fordham. “Russell Cave.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 22 September 2010.
Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.
Bessemer Hall of History Museum 1905 Alabama Avenue Bessemer
While the Bessemer Hall of History Museum displays an eclectic mix of items from Bessemer’s past, including a cell door from the local jail where Martin Luther King, Jr. was briefly incarcerated, it appears that a former exhibit may still be haunting this building. For many years, the museum displayed the mummy of a local woman who had taken her life in 1906. Hazel Farris shot and killed her husband during a domestic incident at their home in Louisville, Kentucky. After neighbors summoned the police, Farris shot and killed three of them and fled the state.
Beautiful Hazel settled in Bessemer and confessed her crimes to a man with whom she had fallen in love. He betrayed her to the police, and Hazel ingested arsenic, ending her life. Her corpse was sent to a local funeral home which only put the unclaimed body in storage where it mummified. The funeral home began to charge admission to view the grisly final remains of Miss Farris, and over the course of many years, the mummy was loaned to various exhibitors. In 1974, the museum borrowed the mummy as part of a fundraiser, and the museum displayed it for quite some time.
After the mummy’s exhibition in 1981, the museum placed it in permanent storage. National Geographic produced a documentary about Hazel’s corpse in 2002 with various scientists examining it before it was eventually cremated. The old train depot that has housed the museum since 1994 has had some paranormal activity through the years, some of which has been attributed to Hazel. Lights turn off and on within the old building, and other odd sounds have been heard.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
Old Stage Coach Inn Jackson Military Road Moscow
Also known as the Moore-Hill House, this circa 1834 stagecoach stop was the scene of a murder in 1881. A Mrs. Armstrong was killed by an African-American man with a grappling hook on a chain. After the gruesome killing, the cook ran out the back door and alerted the men working in the nearby fields. The supposed murderer was hunted down and lynched in the front yard. This event is believed to be the cause of paranormal activity in and around the house. Tradition speaks of a glowing orb that is seen in the front yard and the spirit of Mrs. Armstrong clanking down the stairs with the hook and chain that killed her.
When I initially wrote the above entry for my book way back in 2015, I struggled with how little information existed about this house and the grim murder that took place here. As I was visiting the library yesterday, I decided to take a second look at the research for this particular location. Evidently, I didn’t look hard enough the first time.
Situated on Andrew Jackson’s Military Road, a route constructed after the War of 1812 connecting Nashville, Tennessee with New Orleans, the Moore-Hill House was built for James Moore, an early politician in the state. For many years the house served as a stagecoach inn, but it was an incident in 1881 that gave the house a notorious reputation. According to family legend, a Mrs. Armstrong was killed by an African-American man with a grappling hook on a chain. After the gruesome killing, the cook ran out the back door and alerted the men working in the nearby fields. The supposed murderer was hunted down and lynched in the front yard. After consulting newspapers of the period, the events did not take place exactly as family memory recalls.
Two brief reports appearing in area newspapers in December of 1881 attest that the murder was bloodier that family legend recounts. An African-American man (described in one newspaper as a “crazy negro”) attempted to seize one of the Armstrong children. The child’s mother, Mrs. Winchester Armstrong, and her mother tried to wrestle the child away and both were killed. The newspaper reports that the child’s mother was struck in the head with an ax. Moments later, Mr. Armstrong approached and shot and killed the assailant.
“A heart-rending murder…” Pickens County Herald and West Alabamian (Carrollton, AL). 7 December 1881.
Hill, Beulah and Pat Buckley. “History.” Accessed 6 June 2015.
“Horrible murder of two women by a crazy negro.” The Marion Times-Standard. 14 December 1881.
Lamar County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Lamar County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.
Forks of Cypress Jackson Road Florence
Crowning a hill above Jackson Road are the skeletal remains of the graceful Forks of Cypress, built in the latter half of the 1820s. Until it burned in June 1966, the house was known as one of the grandest homes in the area. James Jackson, an Irish-born venture capitalist who moved to the area in 1818 and is considered the founder of the city of Florence, constructed the home.
Even before a conflagration destroyed the house, it was known to be haunted, and spirits may continue to roam the picturesque ruins. The Jackson family cemetery not far from the house has also seen some paranormal activity. Debra Johnston records an incident whereby a visitor to the cemetery one afternoon encountered a young man on horseback. As he talked with the strange young man, he realized the young man was one of the sons of James Jackson. The visitor was astonished when he shook hands with the man and watched him vanish before his eyes.
Southwest of the ruins, a bridge spanned Cypress Creek until its recent demolition. Known as “Ghost Bridge,” the bridge was associated with a typical crybaby bridge story. The woods near the bridge, tradition holds, are supposed to be haunted by a spirit carrying a lantern, a possible holdover from a skirmish fought here during the Civil War.
Farris, Johnathan A. & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Forks of Cypress. 2 May 1997.
Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of the Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.
Henry Hill CR-25 Mount Hope
Almost as common as Cry Baby Bridges throughout the South are “Gravity Hills;” roads or hills where a car put in neutral will seemingly be pushed up an incline. Along County Road 25, just outside of the community of Mount Hope, is a dip in the road where legend has it a man named Henry was killed. Most legends have Henry’s car breaking down along this road and him trying to push it out of the way when he was struck and killed by another vehicle. When a car is stopped here, Henry still dutifully pushes the car to safety to prevent another driver from having to endure a similar end.
The city of Charleston incorporates not only the bustling peninsula where the city was originally built, but it now encompasses parts of some of the surrounding barrier islands like James and John’s Islands. Until fairly recently, John’s Island has been somewhat rural. Following the Civil War it was home to communities of freed slaves and their descendants, but developers have begun turning the island into a bedroom community for the city of Charleston. This has caused quite a stir among locals as the quiet nature of the island has rapidly changed with sprawling commercial and residential developments. The magnificent Angel Oak, whose leafy branches have provided shade and solace for centuries, is now at the center of one of the controversies over the island’s development.
Angel Oak is considered to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi. However, dating a living tree can be difficult. Signs posted around the tree give the age at between 300-400 years old, though many other sources estimate it to be in excess of 1500 years old. This tree has withstood hurricanes, war, pestilence and small, screaming children climbing its branches and yet continues to provide a gentle, loving embrace to thousands of visitors year after year.
The tree is a remarkable sight. Southern Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) are not known for their height–this tree is only 65 feet high–but for their sprawling branches, which, in this case, loll over an area of some 17,000 square feet. The massive trunk is over 25 feet in circumference with the largest branch being 11 feet in circumference. During a performance under the oak, the Charleston Ballet Company was able to fit its entire company, 19 dancers, behind the trunk. To prevent the massive limbs from breaking off, wooden and metal posts have been erected along with steel wires to help support some of the larger, more unstable branches. Walking near the tree and under its massive branches is a memorable experience.
There is a marvelous energy here. The atmosphere is calming and moving, like being in the presence of an enlightened being, I felt protected and supported by this massive thing, it’s almost god-like; it’s divine. The spiritual energy is just as strong. This spot naturally offers a plethora of legends and stories. The most common stories involve the spirits of slaves appearing among the leafy branches. It should be noted that the tree’s name is a reference to the Angel family who once owned the plantation that surrounded this massive treasure.
Author Denise Roffe in her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina, interviewed an elderly African-American woman who was descended from the slaves who once toiled on the island’s plantations before the Civil War. She recounted the legends of the tree including that the tree was once home to huge birds (probably vultures) who would feast on the bodies of slaves hung in there. The old woman continued saying that many people were buried under the tree including Native Americans who met under its shady branches before the area was settled by the white man. She stated that these spirits are still experienced around the oak and that they also work to protect the tree. Certainly if there are bodies under the soft ground around the tree, it’s not hard to imagine that the tree has fed off of the remains, adding to the tree’s allure.
Besides the spirits there, the mission of protecting the tree has become part of the lives of many living beings who have organized to fight development of the area. The development threat does not directly affect the Angel Oak itself but the land surrounding Angel Oak Park. The park is owned by the City of Charleston, but outside of the few acres that comprise the park, the now wooded property is privately owned. Recently, a developer proposed constructing a residential development that would contain around 600 housing units, thus destroying the peaceful sylvan atmosphere of the area. The fear of many of those working to prevent this development is that while the oak is untouched, the destruction of the surrounding forest would eventually lead to the demise of the tree itself. The woods surrounding the tree are believed to be one of the reasons for the tree’s survival as it provides protection from high winds and destructive flooding. The fight is still being waged for this peaceful place with the spirits standing behind those of us who would see the tree protected for generations to come.
UPDATE: Preservationists with Save Angel Oak and the Lowcountry Open Land Trust purchased the surrounding 18 acres in 2014 sparing the tree from development.
Angel Oak. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 December 2011.