Pensacola occupies land on Pensacola Bay on the Gulf coast of Florida. Starting with the Spanish who created the first settlement in the continental U. S. on this bay in 1559, the city has existed under five different flags throughout its history. Besides the Spanish, the city has been ruled over by France, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States, with each leaving their own marks, both physically and spiritually, on the city. This article looks at a selection of the haunted places here.
3 West Garden Street
In the early morning hours of November 1, 1905, fire destroyed several buildings on Palafox Street between Garden and Romana Streets including a building owned by lawyer William A. Blount. Following the fire, Mr. Blount commenced construction on a large, and most importantly, fire-proof seven-story structure to house his firm. The Blount Building, designed in the prevalent Chicago Style, was completed in 1907. In 2015, the building underwent a major renovation and it now houses offices of several firms and businesses. A 2005 article on Pensacola hauntings states that the structure “is no stranger to unusual and unexplained activity.”
Baltrusis, Sam. “Ghost Hunter: Pensacola’s Most Haunted.” inweekly, Pensacola Independent News. 20 October 2005.
Blount Building. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 January 2023.
Old Sacred Heart Hospital
1010 North Twelfth Avenue
When it opened in 1915, Pensacola Hospital was the first comprehensive medical facility in the area. Just prior, a citizens committee was set up featuring several prominent locals, including members of the clergy, to bring about the construction of a hospital. The committee partnered with the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to build and run the large institution. The Sisters insisted on engaging Hungarian-born architect Albert O. Von Herbulis to design the building in English Gothic style. The massive four-story building with two large wings opened in September of that year.
The Sisters operated the hospital as Pensacola Hospital until 1949, when the name was changed to Sacred Heart Hospital. In 1965, a new facility was constructed, and the institution left the large Gothic building. Several years later, the Pensacola Private School of Liberal Arts took over and operated within the building. After a decade of deferred maintenance, the building was condemned by the city for safety reasons. The following year, an investment group took over the old hospital restoring and renovating it for use as a business complex.
Today, the old hospital, now known as Tower East, is home to offices and businesses, with a popular pizza joint, O’Zone Pizza, occupying part of the old basement space. Since reopening, tales have emerged of the building being haunted. Some have suggested that the specter of one of the Sisters continues to glide through the old hospital’s halls, still going about her nursing duties.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Pensacola. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.
Queen, Rolla L. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Pensacola Hospital. 16 October 1980.
Romana Street, named for the third Marques de la Romana, stretches from Pace Boulevard to the edge of Pensacola Bay and runs through much of the oldest portions of the city. From its earliest time, the city has been haunted by pirates. In its earliest days, pirates overshadowed the success and prosperity of Pensacola and even now they, and sometimes their victims, continue to the haunt the city in the form of apparitions and paranormal activity.
The legend of the ghost of Romana Street was created through the work of one of these bloodthirsty pirates. One evening in the 1820s a gang of pirates roaming the streets seized upon a young couple. Killing the man, the group tried to kidnap the young lady, but she put up a mighty resistance. With the large diamond ring she wore, the young lady gouged out the eyes of the pirate and he dropped her in pain. Enraged, he began swinging his cutlass blindly. A moment later, he was able to decapitate the young lady.
In the years since the senseless and bloody murder, people walking along Romana Street after dark have seen the specter of a young lady walking along the street without her head. Interestingly, this is not the only headless wraith in the area, a similar specter has been spotted in Government Street, and at a place called Lady’s Walk on Santa Rosa Island, just south of the city.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Pensacola. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.
Johnson, Sandra & Leora Sutton. Ghosts, Legends and Folklore of Old Pensacola. Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Historical Society, 1994.
Once St. Michael’s Cemetery, near the heart of the old city, began to fill up, St. John’s Cemetery was opened in 1876. This cemetery now covers 26 acres a short distance from the city’s original municipal cemetery. Supposedly, the spirits of children and the 19th century outlaw Railroad Bill have been spotted here.
One of the most scandalous graves in this cemetery is that of Mary C. “Mollie” McCoy. She was one of the city’s best-known madams operating her upscale bordello on Zaragoza Street. After her death she was buried here, much to the chagrin of more respectable local ladies who eventually had the city remove the grave marker. But not before the marker acquired the reputation of bringing luck to the love lives of those that touched it. A new marker was erected here in 2012.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
6511 Sudley Road
Some years ago, a reporter for the local Manassas Journal Messenger poetically described a sighting of the apparition of a Zouave on the Manassas battlefield,
A shadow emerges from the among the trees bordering the barren field. The sky is black, and clouds are scudding across the face of the moon. But the moon provides enough light to make out a figure of a man in loose pantaloons scouring the battlefield, searching for something. In a moment, fleetingly, the field is bathed in light as the face of the moon clears. A chill runs down your spine as you realize the man appears to have no head!”
Under the reign of Queen Victoria, the design pendulum swung in the direction of opulent decoration and exotic elements. Victorians took delight in adapting foreign ideals into the Western design language. Even on the battlefield, some military units adopted the fanciful dress and unique training of the French Zouave regiments.
Originally, these regiments were composed of Berbers in French occupied-Algeria, a group of warriors with a fierce reputation, called Zwawa in their language. Even after dropping the units, the French continued to create units attired in similar uniforms and trained in exotic fighting techniques, calling them Zouaves. The idea spread to many other Western armies and was eventually adopted by various military units during the Civil War, especially a number of New York regiments.
One of the best known of the New York Zouave regiments was the 5th New York Infantry Regiment, under the command of Colonel Gouveneur K. Warren. At the Second Battle of Manassas, this regiment was in the V Division of the Union Army of Virginia under the command of General John Pope.
This regiment was known as Duryee’s Zouaves, as they were sponsored by Abraham Duryee, a prominent mahogany importer.
It was bedizened in the classic Zouave uniform, the rage style of the day: white leggings, baggy red pants, blue jackets with red braid, and tasseled red fezes. Duryee had stocked the regiment with an array of officers of impressive potential; eight of them would advance to the rank of general. These officers drilled the regiment tirelessly, until it rightfully claimed a place alongside the U.S. Regulars in proficiency. Hard fighting and marching on the Peninsula had chiseled the original 848 men down to a hardened five hundred, plus sixty new recruits.
In late August of 1862, just a little more than a year after the First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run (the two sides named battles differently, with the Union naming battles for the nearest body of water—Bull Run Creek in this case—while the Confederates named battles for the nearest town or settlement—Manassas in this case), Confederate troops under General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson captured the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction (now just Manassas) and dug in awaiting the arrival of a wing of Robert E. Lee’s army under Major General James Longstreet.
General Pope, in hopes of “bagging” Stonewall Jackson, sparred with his troops in several small battles before confronting them on the same terrain where First Manassas had been fought. On the morning of August 29, Pope found Jackson dug in along an unfinished railroad line and hurled his men at this position throughout much of the day, though they were time and time again repulsed. That afternoon General Longstreet’s troops arrived to join the fray.
About 4 PM on the afternoon of August 30, the 5th New York found themselves suddenly pelted with bullets after an afternoon of confusion and frustration. Soldiers from Texas and Georgia poured volley upon volley on the nattily dressed New Yorkers, leading one private to remark later, “Not only were men wounded or killed, but they were riddled.” The Federal troops, who had held a hill throughout much of the day, retreated only to be pursued by Confederates who slaughtered them as they fled downhill. Another private noted, “Very few, if any, of that regiment reached the hill beyond. I saw men dropping on all sides, canteens struck and flying to pieces, haversacks cut off, rifles knocked to pieces. I was expecting to get hit every second, but on, on I went, the balls hissing by my head.”
Forty minutes after the assault began, the regiment mustered on Henry Hill, about a mile from where they had been scattered by the Federals. The regiment had counted about five hundred soldiers, though about sixty gathered around the regimental colors. Much of the regiment were “dead, dying and wounded, scattered in the bloodstained stubblefield a mile to the west.” One of Hood’s Confederates, who had been a part of the attack, said it was a “ghastly, horrifying spectacle,” while another reflected that the dead and dying in red pantaloons and blue jackets reminded him of a wildflower dotted Texas hillside in the spring.
Years later when survivors of the Zouave massacre returned to the battlefield to dedicate a monument to their fallen comrades, one posited, “War has been designated as Hell, and I can assure you that where the Regiment stood that day was the very vortex of Hell.” In ten minutes, the New York 5th Regiment had lost about three hundred, with about half of those killed. This was the single greatest number of casualties for a single regiment during the entire war.
In the section of battlefield, now known as New York Avenue, where the New York troops had been decimated, a spate of sightings took place in the mid-1970s. There were so many reports of sightings of a ghostly Zouave that parapsychologist Arthur Berger was led to investigate this phenomenon. He published the results in his 1988 book, Evidence of Life after Death: A Casebook for the Tough-Minded. One witness saw an apparition in typical Zouave dress on several nights. As he tried to approach the figure, it “dissolved.” He returned with his father and they didn’t see anything, though after the witness brought his daughter along, they saw a mysterious figure that seemed to beckon from the wood line.
Another witness, who was part of a reenactor group camping on the battlefield, saw a figure wearing what seemed to be a Zouave uniform in the woods. It raised its hand and appeared to move towards her. She quickly fled. Her husband saw a similar figure later that night with a green glow that was “floating above the ground in figure eights.”
Several of these witnesses returned on a later night and observed forty or fifty Zouaves in the New York Avenue Field through their binoculars. The soldiers were described as having white faces and dark holes instead of eyes. When the soldiers began to approach the group, they fled in terror.
Berger accompanied many of these witnesses to the battlefield one night to investigate these events. While the witnesses saw Zouaves, the investigators did not see them. However, they photographed the areas where the apparitions were reported. When these photos were developed later, they were blank. Other photos taken when nothing was on the field developed clearly.
Do images of the suave Zouaves continue to return to the battlefield where so many of them lost their lives?
Berger, Arthur S. Evidence of Life after Death: A Casebook for the Tough-Minded. Aventura, FL: Survival Research Foundation. Reprinted 2010.
Hennessy, John J. Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma. 1993.
Sandlin, Claudia. “Ghosts march through time at battlefield, legend says.” Washington Post. 26 October 1989.
Quayside Art Gallery
17 East Zaragoza Street
At one corner of Plaza Ferdinand VII in downtown Pensacola is an old firehouse that was converted into an art gallery many years ago. The Germania Fire House was exactly a hundred years old when work began to transform the building into the art gallery in 1973. Since that time, the Quayside Art Gallery has provided space to display and sell the works of many local artists.
The building harbors a spirit that visited a pair of firemen in 1892, a visit that garnered an article in the local newspaper.
Pensacola News 2 December 1892 Page 4
A Haunted Truck House. A Ghost Visits the Night Watchmen of the Germania Hose Company.
For quite a while the boys who sleep at the Germania truck house have been complaining of hearing ghostly noises about their cots regularly two or three nights in the week. They would lock the truck house and hunt in every nook and cranny without finding any visible cause for the sounds, which would be resumed as soon as they would lie down.
The back door seemed to be heavily charged with the spirit presence, and it would crack and shake at such a fearful rate that the boys’ nerves would become all unstrung.
The boys talked the matter over among themselves and came to the conclusion that this must be the ghost of Jeff Lowe, the negro who was hanged in Pensacola several years ago.
Others thought that this could not be; that the spirit was that of some departed member of the hose company.
The matter remained thus all undecided, and the noises continued, but the climax came at midnight Wednesday.
Geo. Saurez and Willie Britson were alone in the truck house lying upon their cot with the doors all tightly locked. The rapping and ghostly sounds were moving about the room from one side to the other and the back door was clattering like the teeth of a man with a severe chill. The town clock slowly tolled out the hour of midnight, then a queer thing happened.
A faint blue light appeared in the room, out of which was evolved the shadowy form of a man arrayed all in white. It moved slowly toward the cot, and as it advanced it seemed to float through the air instead of walking, as a being in flesh would have done.
The boys were paralyzed with fear, being too badly frightened to cry out. They turned over, burying their faces in the cover and clasped each other so tightly around the necks that each one was complaining yesterday of having sore throats.
The ghost came up to the side of the cot and put its icy hands upon their faces and necks, chilling the blood in their veins and leaving them nearer dead than alive.
The boys remained with their faces hid for what they say was fully half an hour before they recovered sufficiently to peep out, then they found that the mysterious visitor had disappeared as silently as he came.
These facts were gathered last night from George Saurez himself by a representative of THE NEWS.
Mr. Saurez says he does not think it was the ghost of Jeff Lowe, for he was not here when Lowe was hanged. He thinks it was the spirit of a white man.
Since the frightening vision witnessed by George Saurez and Willie Britson, there have been no other publicized reports of paranormal activity from the old firehouse, though the gallery seems to sit on an active place in the city paranormally speaking. Across the street is the former Escambia County Justice Center, which originally housed the county’s jail and courts, as well as serving as the site of executions, including that of Jeff Lowe who is mentioned in the article. This building has been converted into the Pensacola Cultural Center though the negative energy and bad juju that accumulates in places like this remains. See my article on the playhouse phantoms of Pensacola for more information.
Besides the art gallery and the cultural center, Plaza Ferdinand VII, a National Historic Landmark, is crowded by sites that all seem to be paranormally charged. These locations include the Pensacola Museum of History which is located inside the old city hall. The old United States Customs House and Post Office is now occupied by the Artel Gallery, a contemporary art gallery, and supposedly the spirit of a woman who committed suicide here many years ago. Seville Quarter, an entertainment complex consisting of a number of bars and restaurants and located just off the plaza, is apparently haunted by the spirit of former bartender who passed away in one of the coolers.
About. Quayside Art Gallery. Accessed 27 August 2022.
SECOND MUSICIAN. A high, grey cairn. What more is to be said? FIRST MUSICIAN. Eagles have gone into their cloudy bed.
–William Butler Yeats, Deirdre (1907)
Kings Mountain National Military Park 2625 Park Road Blacksburg, South Carolina
By many accounts, Major Patrick Ferguson was refined and cultured, hardly the rough, war-mongering hawk as he is described by Americans. He came from a genteel family that was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment. As a boy, he was personally acquainted with many of those involved with the flourishing of thought, art, and the sciences that occurred in Scotland starting in the early 18th century. He grew up hearing the discussions between philosophers like David Hume and Adam Ferguson, economist Adam Smith, and writers John Home and Tobias Smollett in his family’s drawing room. He eventually was drawn into the military, which brought him here to meet his death on the unrefined Carolina frontier.
His nickname, “The Bulldog,” played on his small stature coupled with an outsized intelligence and tenaciousness. As the British began ramping up military operations against the rebellious colonies, Ferguson feared having to face skilled American marksmen armed with superior long rifles. From this worry Ferguson began to make improvements to the breech-loading rifle which was put into service by the military, though difficulty in production and the gun’s large price tag led to very few actually being put into service.
During the Revolution, the disastrous 1777 Saratoga campaign left the British floundering for a victorious way forward. Efforts began to focus away from the northeastern colonies and towards the South. Both Charleston and Savannah were targeted, and the British secured the cities for themselves. British General Henry Clinton turned over command of troops in the region to General Lord Cornwallis. Throughout the Carolinas troops sparred and the British were victorious at Camden, South Carolina in 1780. Cornwallis ordered his men into the backcountry to recruit loyalists to assist in the fight and to protect his right flank as he dug in in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Cornwallis underestimated the loyalty of the hardy frontiersmen. In early October, Ferguson entrenched his men on a rocky outcrop called Kings Mountain in what is now the Upstate region. The story of the Patriot’s attack on larger British forces is much better told in old ballad:
Come all you good people, O pray you draw near,
A tragical story you quickly shall hear,
Of Whigs and Tories, how they bred a great strife,
When they chased old Ferguson out of his life.
Brave Colonel Williams from Hillsboro came,
The South Carolinians flocked to him amain,
Four hundred and fifty, a jolly, brisk crew,
After old Ferguson we then did pursue.
We marched to Cowpens—brave Campbell was there,
And Shelby, and Cleveland and Colonel Sevier,
Taking the lead of their bold mountaineers,
Brave Indian fighters, devoid of all fears.
They were men of renown—like lions so bold,
Like lions undaunted, ne’er to be controll’d,
They were bent on the game they had in their eye,
Determined to take it—to conquer or die.
We marched from Cowpens that very same night,
Sometimes we were wrong—sometimes we were right,
Our hearts being run in true Liberty’s mold,
We regarded not hunger, wet, weary nor cold.
Early next morning we came to the ford,
Cherokee was its name—and Buford the word.
We marched through the river, with courage so free,
Expecting the foemen we might quickly see.
Like eagles a-hungry in search of their prey,
We chased the old fox the best part of the day.
At length on King’s Mountain the old rogue we found,
And we, like bold heroes, his camp did surround.
The drums they did beat, and the guns they did rattle,
Our enemies stood us a very smart battle;
Like lightning the flashes, like thunder the noise,
Such was the onset of our bold mountain boys.
The battle did last the best part of an hour,
The guns they did roar–the bullets did shower,
With an oath in our hearts to conquer the field
We rushed on the Tories resolved they should yield.
We laid old Ferguson dead on the ground.
Four hundred and fifty dead Tories lay round—
Making a large escort, if not quite so wise,
To guide him to his chosen abode in the skies.
Brave Colonel Williams, and twenty-five more,
Of our brave heroes lay rolled in their gore;
With sorrow their dead bodies we laid in the clay,
In hopes that to heaven their souls took their way
We shouted the victory that we did obtain,
Our voices were heard seven miles on the plain.
Liberty shall stand—and the Tories shall fall,
Here’s an end to my song, so God bless us all.
–This ballad was found among the papers of Revolutionary soldier Robert Long after his death. The author is unknown. Published in Rev. J. D. Bailey’s Commanders at Kings Mountain, published 1925.
As the battle waged, Major Ferguson rallied his troops astride his horse.
One of Sevier’s men, named Gilleland, who had received several wounds and was well-nigh exhausted seeing Ferguson and his part approaching, attempted to arrest the career of the bold leader, but when his gun only snapped, he called out to Robert Young, one of his comrades: “There’s Ferguson—shoot him!” “I’ll try and see what Sweet-Lips can do,” muttered Young, as he drew a sharp sight, firing his rifle, when Ferguson fell from his horse, and his associates were wither killed, or driven back.
Ferguson was knocked from his mount, and his foot caught in one of his stirrups. Wounded, the Major was dragged by his horse towards the Patriot line. A Patriot soldier approached him, and Ferguson drew his gun and killed him. Moments later, the Major’s body was riddled with a number of bullets, bringing an ignominious end to the illustrious soldier. His body was stripped and urinated upon by the Patriot troops.
After the brief battle—it only lasted about an hour—Ferguson’s remains were buried near the spot where he expired, and a cairn was constructed atop his resting spot. The origins of the cairn extend back into pre-history and many are found throughout the Scottish countryside. Generally, these piles of stones were created to mark the graves of heroes with mourners adding stones to mark their visit. In a practical sense, these stone piles prevented wild animals from reaching the remains. Beyond these uses, a cairn is also supposed to keep a spirit within the grave.
Some years ago, two reenactors were camping on the battlefield and in the evening went to visit Ferguson’s cairn. Both men deposited rocks on the grave. As they began to walk away, both had a sense that someone was standing nearby. They turned expecting a park ranger, though instead they saw a form that resembled the British Major. The figure spoke in a thick Scottish brogue saying, “It doesn’t always work, my lads,” and let out a hearty laugh.
A moment later in front of the frightened witnesses, he fadeded into the darkened forest. If you decide to approach the high, gray cairn of Major Ferguson, just be wary that the spectral Scotsman may be standing nearby.
Bailey, J. D. Commanders at Kings Mountain. Originally published 1925. Reprinted in Greenville, SC: A Press, 1980.
Barefoot, Daniel W. Spirits of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2009.
Old 97 Wreck Site Riverside Drive (US 58 BUS) between Farrar Street and Highland Court
They give him his orders at Monroe, Virginia,
Saying, “Steve, you’re way behind time,
“This is not 38, but it’s Old 97,
“You must put her into Spencer on time.”
He looked round and said to his black, greasy fireman,
“Just shovel in a little more coal.
And when we cross that White Oak Mountain,
You can watch Old 97 roll.”
It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville, And a line on a three-mile grade. It was on this grade that he lost his air brakes; You can see what a jump he made.
He was going down the grade making 90 miles an hour,
When the whistle broke into a scream.
He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle,
And was scalded to death by the steam.
And then a telegram come to Washington station,
This is what it read,
“Oh, that brave engineer that run 97,
“He’s a lyin’ in old Danville dead.”
Oh, now all you ladies better take a warning,
From this time on and learn.
Never speak harsh words to your true-loving husband,
He may leave you and never return.
–“The Wreck of Old 97,” by G. B. Grayson and Henry Whitter
This old, Appalachian ballad obscures the true horror of the events of September 27, 1903 behind a jaunty, cheerful tune and lyrics that hardly echo the true tragedy that occurred in this ravine next to the Dan River. Indeed, the song’s lyrics do not accurately describe the accident.
On that warm Sunday, Southern Railway’s Fast Mail, or “Old 97,” as it was affectionately dubbed, met with several delays leaving Washington, D.C. on its journey south to Atlanta. This did not bode well for the Southern Railway’s reputation or its bottom line. The Fast Mail was generally known for running on time, in fact many residents along the route set their watches by the train’s regular schedule; plus, the company would face steep fines from the U. S. Postal Service for delivering the mail late.
The delays in leaving Washington caused the train to pull into its scheduled stop in Monroe, Virginia nearly an hour late. At this stop the train changed engines and crews. Engine No. 1102, which had been delivered to the railroad just a month previous, was quickly coupled with the rest of the short mail train consisting of a tender (loaded with coal to fuel the engine), two postal cars, an express car, and a baggage car at the end. In the postal cars mail sorters collected the bags of mail along the route and sorted it to insure it reached the proper destination. The express car carried freight including a crate of live canaries on this particular trip; while the baggage car carried additional mail that had been previously sorted, and the train’s safe.
At Monroe, Joseph Andrew Broady, known by his nickname, “Steve,” was put in charge as engineer. Responsible for overseeing the actual operation of the locomotive, he set the speed and operated the brakes when necessary. Steve Broady had been hired by the railway only recently. Despite his greenness to the company, he was an experienced engineer, though there is some contention as to why he was put in charge of the Old 97 train that day. Broady was experienced on this particular route and knew the dangers that he would encounter, especially on the Stillhouse Trestle that led into downtown Danville, but up to this day, he had only handled heavier freight trains which handled much differently from the light mail train he was running on this day.
Despite the opening lyrics of the song, in which Broady is ordered to pull the train into Spencer, North Carolina on time, he was given orders in Monroe to do the opposite. The orders noted that the train was going to run late and that he was not to make up for the lost time.
Broady was joined by fireman Albion C. “Buddy” Clapp and a student fireman, John Madison Hodge, who would feed coal into the engine when necessary. As a result of their hard work, these men would often be covered in soot and grease from the coal, thus the descriptive line in the song, “his black, greasy fireman.” With Broady maintaining the operation of the engine, the train’s conductor would oversee the operation of the train as a whole, and this task was given over to John Thomas Blair. Broady’s crew was completed by the addition of a flagman, James Robert Moody, who rode in the final car and would signal to oncoming trains if the train stalled on the track.
To handle the mail, eleven postal workers were on board. They were Jennings Dunlap, Percival Indermauer, John H. Thompson, Paul M. Argenbright, W. Scott Chambers, Daniel P. Flory, Napoleon C. Maupin, Frank E. Brooks, Charles E. Reames, Louis Spies, John L. Thompson, and express messenger W. R. Pinckney. The train pulled out of the station at Monroe before safe locker Wentworth Armistead could get off. He was in charge of securing the trains’ safes and remained at the station to ensure that the train’s safes could not be opened and robbed en route. The addition of the safe locker brought the number of souls aboard the train to eighteen.
What may have transpired in the cab of Old 97 as it traversed the rolling landscape south towards Danville is unknown. In the intervening years since the accident, much blame has been heaped on Steve Broady, with many (including the song) describing him as reckless and negligible. Historian Larry Aaron seems to think that this estimation is incorrect, and that he was well respected by his peers and that the blame for the incident may be due to his inexperience at handling such a train rather than his carelessness.
The railroad’s southern route into Danville was precarious as the train would have to navigate the Stillhouse Trestle over Stillhouse Creek just before crossing the Dan River. On the approach to the trestle, the train descended a grade of about three miles and could build up a decent amount of momentum. At the side of grade was a sign warning the engineer to slow down and the railway’s rules (which Broady had been tested on) required the engineer to slow the train’s speed on trestles and bridges. The trestle immediately curved to the left, bringing the train parallel with the river and the mill complex that occupied the river’s north bank. After following the river for a short distance, the train would then cross a bridge over the river and directly into downtown Danville.
Even before the train entered North Danville, residents near the track noted the train sped by unusually fast.
One local resident, E. H. Chappell, later described his experience years later saying that he had gone out to his well for a drink of water.
It was a roaring sound and while I couldn’t see the track from where I stood because it ran through a deep fill at that point, I saw a great pillar of billowing dust, moving very fast. It was the train, of course, and she was making a weird, unusual noise. I remember I turned to my mother, who was with me, and said, “She’ll never make the trestle.”
A later author described the piercing scream of the train’s whistle as she roared towards the Stillhouse Trestle.
The whistle…gave a series of blasts on the approach to Lima and finally set up a constant broken wailing down the three-mile grade to the Dan Valley. It was the death cry of a runaway locomotive and it chilled the hearts of all who heard it. People turned in their yards, ran out on their porches, stopped still along the streets in North Danville. All eyes turned in the direction of the approaching train. With bated breath and anxious hearts, they waited.
Of what happened next, one eyewitness simply said, “It just split the curve.” Steve Broady likely realized that the train was moving far too fast to make the curve and desperately tried to apply the brakes and put the engine into reverse. But, it was all too late. The engine jumped the curve bringing all four cars with it as it arced through the air and into the ravine 75 feet below. The engine landed first digging into the ground and the cars splintering on top. The final car rolled onto its side though it remained mostly intact. In a heartbeat, ten lives were snuffed out while all the others were injured, some critically. Within days, one of the injured men passed away bringing the casualties to eleven.
Locals, having heard the tremendous crash, began to rush to the scene. The alarm bell of the mill next to the trestle was sounded and church bells began to ring. Crowds, many dressed in their Sunday best, were greeted by broken and twisted wood and metal piled in the ravine with smoke and steam filtering out from the buried engine. Victims, their bodies mangled and some even scalded by the steam, lay entwined with the wreckage, with the living crying out for aid. The canaries that had been confined to a crate in the express car were flitting about the wreckage lending bright pops of yellow to the surreal scene.
A rescue effort was soon underway as locals began to sift through the wreck searching for the living the dead. Steve Broady was found near the creek at the bottom of the ravine, rather than still in the engine as the song describes. One of his rescuers reported that:
The skin came off his arm just like a chicken that’s scalded. Somebody came from the houses above, and two or three men helped me pick up the engineer and put him on the bank. He drawed two or three breaths and that was the end of him.
Historian Larry Aaron notes that:
The sights and sounds on that Sunday afternoon destroyed not only the train but also whatever charm the day would have held. The crashing sound and shaking ground; the dust, debris, smoke and fire; the mournful cries of wounded and dying men; the sheet-covered bodies on mattresses; the wagons hauling the wounded to the Home for the Sick; the proud locomotive steeped in mud; and the postal cars shredded like paper—all created a surreal scene. For a host of onlookers, that serene Sunday afternoon became a nightmare to remember.
As darkness fell in Danville, “flares and lanterns hung on trees and poles” lent their light to the tragic scene as well as the harsh light of an engine that was parked on the trestle. Within hours of the disaster crews began to repair the trestle, completing their work in time for a train to pass the next morning. The engine was pulled from the dirt and set upright. After major repairs, it was returned to service.
The memories of that horrible day have lingered in Danville for more than a century. The song “Wreck of Old 97” came into existence some years after the tragedy along with questions over its authorship. Musicians continue to cover the jaunty song, repeating the sad story of Old 97’s tragic jump.
In the decades that have passed since the accident the trestle has been torn down and the mill next to it was destroyed by fire recently. Riverside Drive, which carries US 58 BUS, now runs parallel with the Dan River and speeds right by the overgrown ravine where the wreck occurred. US 58, along with US 29, is one of the two major US highways serving modern Danville. In 1947, a historical marker was placed next to the busy road describing the crash as “one of the worst train wrecks in Virginia history.” It also incorrectly reports the death toll as nine.
Perhaps echoes of the wreck continue to be experienced today? A short time after the horrid events, locals began to report that lights were seen in the ravine, moving like the lanterns brought out by rescuers as darkness fell. Even as the spot became treacherous and overgrown, the lights continued to appear. Some reported to still hear the shriek of the train’s whistle on the disaster’s anniversary without a train nearby.
In his Ghosthunting Virginia, author Michael Varhola describes a trip to Danville to check out the site. As he spoke with several locals, he was met with no reports of activity at the site nowadays. Perhaps the echoes of that tragic day have begun, like memories, to fade into the mist of time?
In total, eleven men who lost their lives in the wreck and they were: Joseph Andrew “Steve” Broady, John Thomas Blair, James Robert Moody, Albion C. “Buddy” Clapp, John Madison Hodge, John L. Thompson, Paul M. Argenbright, W. Scott Chambers, Daniel P. Flory, Louis Spies, and Wentworth Armistead.
Aaron, Larry G. The Wreck of the Old 97. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.
Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia, Vol. II. B. Taylor, Jr.: 1994.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
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
Most people have heard of the National Register of Historic Places which was established in 1966 by the Historic Preservation Act. Maintained by the National Park Service (NPS), this list denotes places of historical importance throughout the country and within all U.S. territories and possessions. Since its establishment, it has grown to cover nearly 95,000 places.
While the National Register is widely known, the National Historic Landmark (NHL) program is little known. This program denotes buildings, districts, objects, sites, or structures that are of national importance, essentially a step-up from a listing on the National Register. The criteria for being designated as a National Historic Landmark includes:
Sites where events of national historical significance occurred;
Places where prominent persons lived or worked;
Icons of ideals that shaped the nation;
Outstanding examples of design or construction;
Places characterizing a way of life; or
Archeological sites able to yield information.
Among the listings on this exclusive list are the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia; Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building in New York City; and the White House in Washington. Currently, there are only 2,500 landmarks included on the list.
The state of Maryland has more than 1,500 listings on the National Register and has 76 National Historic Landmarks. In addition to these listings, there are seven other nationally important sites that are owned and operated by the National Park Service, so they are technically National Historic Landmarks, though because they are fully protected as government property and do not appear on the list of NHLs.
This article looks at the Maryland landmarks and other protected properties with reported paranormal activity. This article has been divided up and this looks at the first eleven landmarks on the list.
National Historic Landmarks, Part I
Clara Barton National Historic Site
5801 Oxford Road
While this site is owned and operated by the National Park Service, it is listed on the list of National Historic Landmarks as well. I have covered this location in my article on “Montgomery County Mysteries.”
42 East Street Annapolis
This masterpiece of Georgian architecture is also counted as part of the National Historic Landmark listed Colonial Annapolis Historic District. I have briefly covered the paranormal activity here in my article, “Brice House Photos—Annapolis.”
Chestertown Historic District
Hynson-Ringgold House (private)
106 South Water Street
Located on the Chester River on the state’s Eastern Shore, Chestertown was a major port town for several decades in the latter half of the 18th century. As a result, the town is graced with a number of grand merchant’s homes, including the Hynson-Ringgold House, which now comprise this NHL historic district.
The earliest part of this lovely Georgian house was constructed in 1743. As it passed through the hands of various owners, it has gained many additions. Over the years it has been owned by and attracted luminaries who, and who possibly even remain to haunt it. Since the 1940s, the house has served as the home for the president of Washington College.
Rumors of the house being haunted have been circulated since the 1850s, though the only documented story speaks of a maid who lived and worked in the home in 1916. After having her faced touched while she tried to sleep in the attic garret, she eventually refused to sleep in her room.
College of Medicine of Maryland—Davidge Hall
University of Maryland School of Medicine
522 West Lombard Street
Davidge Hall is the oldest medical school building in continuous use in the country, as well as possessing the oldest anatomical theater in the English-speaking world. This elegant, Greek-revival structure was built in 1812 and its anatomical theater reminds us of the dicey issue of anatomical training in early America. While it was important for future physicians to understand anatomy by dissecting human cadavers, there were no established protocols for actually procuring these bodies. Even the most well-established medical institutions and educators often turned to “resurrection men” to steal bodies from local cemeteries and burying grounds, which obviously caused a great deal of consternation among the families of those who were recently deceased.
Dr. John Davidge, an Annapolis-born physician for whom this building was later named, began providing training to local medical students in 1807. Not long after opening his school, which included an anatomical theater, an angry mob interrupted a dissection, stole the corpse and they may have also demolished the building. Following the riot, a bill officially establishing a medical school was passed by the state’s General Assembly. The use of stolen bodies in the College of Medicine ended in 1882 when a bill was passed providing medical schools in the state with the bodies of anyone who had be buried with public funds, including criminals and the indigent.
According to Melissa Rowell and Amy Lynwander’s Baltimore Harbor Haunts, there are reports of disembodied voices and strange sounds within the building. Perhaps the spirits of some of those who were dissected remain here?
The city of Annapolis dates to 1649 when a small settlement named Providence was established on the shore where the Severn River enters the Chesapeake Bay. Throughout the 18th century, the village grew into a prosperous port and administrative city. Its importance was recognized when it was named as the temporary capital of the United States following the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
With its dearth of colonial buildings, much of its historic district was promoted to a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Of course, with much of the historic built environment remaining many of these structures are haunted. Two taverns among them—Middleton Tavern and Reynolds Tavern—that I covered in my article, “One national under the table’—The Haunted Taverns of Annapolis.”
USS Constellation Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street Baltimore
The last remaining sail-powered warship designed and built by the United States Navy, the USS Constellation was constructed here in Baltimore in 1854 and includes parts from the first Constellation constructed in 1797. Since the ship was decommissioned and preserved as a museum ship in 1955, stories have come from visitors and staff alike of ghosts and assorted paranormal activity being witnessed on board. The same year the ship opened to the public, a photographer remained aboard the ship late one night hoping to capture the image of one of the ship’s ghost. He was rewarded with the image of a 19th century captain striding upon the deck captured on film. I have covered his story here.
B & O Ellicott City Station Museum
2711 Maryland Avenue
There is perhaps no better place to meet one of Ellicott City’s spectral residents than the old Baltimore & Ohio Train Station in downtown. One local resident discovered this fact as he walked to work one foggy morning. Just outside the old station he was approached by a young boy who was apparently lost. The resident told the little boy he would help him find his mother. Taking his hand, they began to walk towards the restaurant where the man worked. Oddly, the man didn’t take any heed to the boy’s old-fashioned clothing, but as they neared the restaurant the child let go of the man’s hand. As he turned the man was shocked to see no one behind him. The little boy had vanished.
The Ellicott City Train Station was witness to the first rail trip ever made in this country on May 24, 1830. That day a horse drawn rail car opened rail service spanning the twenty-six miles between Baltimore and Ellicott City. That day, the station was being built and would be completed in 1831. Over the last nearly two hundred years, as rail service has come and mostly gone in the United States, this station has remained standing and is now one of the oldest remaining train stations in the world and the oldest in this country. Throughout its history it has seen the comings and goings of the citizens of Ellicott City including many sad farewells and happy greetings, all of them leaving their psychic traces on the thick stone walls.
The little boy encountered by the restaurant employee is not the only spectral resident that has been seen here. Staff and visitors alike continue to have odd experiences in the museum.
Amidst the hostilities of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Fort Frederick was constructed on the Maryland frontier to provide shelter and protection attacks from Native Americans and the French. During the Pontiac Uprising of 1763, hundreds of frontier residents found shelter within the fort. During the American Revolution, the fort was pressed into service as a POW prison, housing up to a thousand British and Hessian soldiers at one point. After the founding of the fledgling United States, it was no longer needed and sold at public auction. As fighting broke out during the Civil War, however, the fort was once again pressed into service, although it was quickly found to be unnecessary. The state of Maryland acquired the site as a park in 1922.
While the fort saw mercifully little action, many deaths occurred within its walls from disease. From these grim times of illness, spirits have been left who continue to roam the old battlements and grounds. Among them, a “Lady in White” has been seen drifting through the fort.
Fair, Susan. Mysteries and Lore of Western Maryland. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
19 Maryland Avenue Annapolis
Annapolis has a wealth of colonial brick mansions, all of which are a part of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District, and several of which are important enough to afford individual listings as National Historic Landmarks, including Brice House, the William Paca House, the Chase-Lloyd House (just across the street), and the Hammond-Harwood House. These homes may also share an architect in common, William Buckland. Unfortunately, some of the homes are only attributed to his had as documentation has not survived.
The Hammond-Harwood House is considered most likely to have been designed entirely by Buckland. In fact, the front elevation of the house can be seen in painter Charles Wilson Peale’s contemporary portrait of the architect. On the table at Buckland’s side is a piece of paper with a drawing of the home. It is known, however, that the home’s design was adapted by Buckland from a plate in Andrea Palladio’s 1570 magnum opus, I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (Four Books of Architecture).
Construction on this home for Matthias Hammond, a wealthy planter with fifty-four tobacco plantations, in 1774. The magnificent manse remained a private home for a succession of wealthy families until St. John’s College purchased the house in 1924. A non-profit took over operation of the home in 1940 and it remains a house museum.
Over the years, a legend has sprung up regarding Matthias Hammond’s fiancée. It is believed that Hammond may have never occupied the house once it was completed and the legend states that he neglected his fiancée during the construction, much to her chagrin. Tired of waiting for completion on the mansion, she broke off the engagement, though she later returned to him as a mistress. Witnesses have spotted a woman in colonial dress peering from the windows of the home and have claimed that the spirit may be the aggrieved mistress. Upon her death, she was buried on the property in a secret crypt. According to writer Ed Ockonowicz’s interview with the home’s manager, this legend is not true.
In the dark years prior to the Civil War, John Brown began to formulate plans to liberate the enslaved population. In 1858, he cast his eyes on the small town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia with its Federal armory. His plan was to use his motley crew of men to capture the armory and use the arms stashed there to arm local slaves and foment rebellion. He rented a small farm that had once been home to the late Dr. Booth Kennedy several months before the planned attack. In this spot on the Maryland side of the Potomac River Brown and his men drew up plans for his raid and gathered arms. The raid was put into action on October 16, 1859 and lasted until the arrival of General Robert E. Lee with a detachment of Marines from Washington.
The raiders holed themselves up in a fire engine house which came under fire from the Marines. Eventually the soldiers were able to break their way inside and arrested all the remaining raiders including Brown himself. Brown was quickly put on trial for his leadership in the raid and was executed in nearby Charles Town roughly a month and a half after the failed raid began, on December 2. Since his death, his spirit has been drawn back to many of the places associated with the raid, including the Kennedy Farm.
In 1989, a reporter from the Washington Post interviewed a student who was renting a room inside the historic farmhouse. He reported hearing the sounds of footsteps climbing the stairs to the farmhouse’s second floor where the conspirators slept in the days leading up to the raid. He told the reporter, “it sounds like people are walking up the stairs. You hear snoring, talking and breathing hard. It makes your hair stand up on end.” The student and his roommate would often play video-games late into the evening to avoid going to bed, after which activity usually started. In the years since the interview, a number of people associated with the building have also had frightening experiences there.
Thomas, Dana. “On a tour of Harpers Ferry’s favorite haunts.” Washington Post. 31 October 1989.
Maryland State House
State Circle Annapolis
Located at the center of State Circle, the Maryland State House is the oldest state capitol building still in use, having been built in the final decades of the 18th century. Construction began on the building in 1772 and it was finally completed in 1797, after being delayed by the American Revolution. Even in its incomplete state, the building was used between 1783 and 1784 as a meeting place for the national Congress of the Confederation.
The building’s most prominent feature is the central drum topped with a graceful dome and cupola. So prominent is this feature that it appeared on the back of the Maryland state quarter when it was produced in 2000. This dome plays a part in the capitol’s ghost story.
Legend speaks of a plasterer, Thomas Dance, who was killed while he worked on the building when he fell from the scaffold upon which he was working. According to a guide from the Annapolis Ghost Tour, the contractor refused to pay Dance’s pension and outstanding wages to his family and confiscated his tools, leaving his family destitute.
While it is not known what has kept Mr. Dance’s spirit bound to the state house, he is blamed for much of the paranormal activity within the building. The spirit of a man seen walking on the balustrade at the top of the dome and within the building at night is believed to be Dance. Flickering lights and blasts of chilly air experienced by the living here are also blamed on him.
The Ellis Hotel
176 Peachtree Street
In downtown Atlanta, the city’s most famous thoroughfare, Peachtree Street, is lined with many possibly haunted landmarks. On any haunted tour of the city, one of the primary stops should be 176 Peachtree St.—The Ellis Hotel.
This boutique hotel may offer ghosts in addition to its usual amenities.
The Ellis opened originally in 1913 as the Winecoff Hotel. It was here in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 7th, 1946, that a fire broke out. The 15-storey hotel, often advertised as ‘absolutely fireproof,’ was booked to capacity with Christmas shoppers, families in town to see the premier of the new Disney film, Song of the South, and some 40 Georgia high school students in town for a mock legislative session.
Starting in a third-floor corridor, the fire spread quickly. As the old hotel lacked modern fire preventive measures and the fire spread wildly up the single escape stairwell trapping everyone above it. The Atlanta Fire Department impressively responded with nearly 400 firefighters, 22 engine companies and 11 ladder trucks, four of them aerial. However, ladders were only able to reach people partway up the burning hotel.
As flames licked at their doors, guests began jumping or trying to lower themselves on improvised ropes of bed sheets. Others tried to propel themselves across to the Mortgage Guarantee Building across the alley off Ellis Street. The alley soon became dangerous as bodies began to fall. The sun rose that day to reveal 119 lives snuffed out among the still smoking carnage.
Sadly, the Winecoff itself was absolutely fireproof, just not the combustible interiors. The hotel’s modern incarnation as the Ellis can attest to that. Outside the hotel, a historical marker reminds passersby of “Georgia’s Titanic” while spirits may remain in the hotel as reminders to the tragedy.
Guests and hotel staff have cited a tremendous variety of paranormal activity. The building’s elevators have been known to act strangely and operate on their own accord. During the renovations into the Ellis Hotel, workers reported finding their tools moved or missing as well as hearing footsteps and voices coming from empty rooms. Guests have reported hearing screams and the sound of running within empty corridors while some have awakened to the odor of smoke within their rooms.
Staff members have also reported that calls come to the hotel switchboard from unoccupied rooms while the smoke alarm mysteriously goes off at 2:48 AM, the time the fire started. People outside the hotel have also claimed to have seen faces in the windows, some of them appearing to scream in pain.
After The Winecoff Fire was published in 1993, I bought a copy and passed it to my parents once I finished it. A short time later, we were in Atlanta one evening and decided to drive past the old hotel building. The huge building still stood derelict and we drove slowly down Ellis Street. Peering down the alley between the hotel and the old Guarantee Mortgage Company building where so many had leapt to their deaths, we spied some graffiti scrawled on the wall of the hotel. “The police tape is soaked in blood,” it read as if to remind viewers of the sacred somberness that continues to haunt the scene of the country’s deadliest hotel fire.
Christian, Reese. Ghosts of Atlanta: Phantoms of the Phoenix City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2008.
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.
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.
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
US 29 cuts directly across the Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County. Among these farm fields, hills and wooded copses, two major Civil War battles–the First and Second Battle of Bull Run or Manassas–were fought. The first battle was fought on July 21, 1861, and the second battle was fought on August 29-30, 1862. As a result, this battlefield is known to be quite haunted. New York Avenue, so named for the New York regiments that were decimated here during the second battle, is known to be haunted by the apparition of a Zouave soldier.
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.