Monday, December 1, 2014

Ramsdell House (Haunt Brief)

Z. D. Ramsdell House
1108 B Street
Ceredo, West Virginia

Zopher Deane Ramsdell moved to Ceredo, West Virginia at the invitation of Eli Thayer, the town’s founder. An abolitionist, Thayer invited his abolitionist associates from New England to join him in colonizing this area of—what was at that time—the slave state of Virginia. Thayer had founded this town on the southern side of the Ohio River to further his own abolitionist agenda.

A businessman from Abingdon, Massachusetts, Ramsdell arrived in Ceredo in the late 1850s and began building this brick house that still bears his name in 1857 or 1858. It was the first brick house in the area and was possibly constructed atop a Native American burial mound. Part of the home’s basement may have been constructed to hide slaves being guided to freedom on the Underground Railroad. With the outbreak of war not long after his home was complete, Ramsdell immediately joined the war effort on the side of the Union and rose to prominence within the army.
 
Ramsdell House, 2013, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Following the war’s end, Ramsdell was asked by President Ulysses S. Grant to help in the reconstruction of the postal infrastructure in the area. Serving as a state legislator, Ramsdell was active in the creation of free schools for educating local children. The house remained in the Ramsdell family until 1977. The house was restored in the early 1980s and is operated as a small museum.

Tradition holds that the house is paranormally active due to the home’s location atop a burial mound and its use as an Underground Railroad stop. Doors opening and closing and lights turning off and on, all on their own accord are among the types of reported activity. Apparitions and sounds associated with the enslaved people who possibly moved through the house have also apparently been reported. There’s also some belief that both slaves and veterans of the Civil War are also buried on the property.

The home has been investigated three times by Huntington Paranormal with evidence being captured on the first two investigations. Blogger Theresa Racer, the organization’s historic research manager, posits that the evidence the group has collected points to the Ramsdell family as the source of the hauntings rather than Native Americans or slaves.

Sources
Huntington Paranormal. “Ramsdell House Investigations and Research.”
     Accessed 2 November 2014.
National Register of Historic Places nomination form the Z. D. Ramsdell House.
     18 August 1983.
Racer, Theresa. “Legends surround the Z. D. Ramsdell House.” Theresa’s
     Haunted History of the Tri-State. 19 January 2011.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Haunted Theatres of Maryland

Alumni Hall
Campus of McDaniel College
Westminster          

As can be expected, McDaniel College, a small four-year, private liberal arts college has a number of spirits. Founded in 1867—in the turbulent years following the Civil War—the school was founded as Western Maryland College. It was renamed after a benefactor in 2002 to avoid confusion over the school’s affiliations and geography. The name change, however, had no effect over the campus’ lingering spirits.

The massive Renaissance Revival-styled Alumni Hall has dominated the campus since its construction just before the turn of the 20th century. Originally it was constructed to hold commencement exercises, serve as a meeting hall and house religious services for this Methodist Church affiliated school (the school is no longer affiliated with the church). Since the creation of the school’s theatre department, the building has come to house classes, workshops and serves as the main performance space.
 
Alumni Hall, on the right, in 2006, by Alan Levine. Courtesy of
Wikipedia.
A McDaniel student began documenting the school’s spirits in a blog in 2010. While incomplete, the blog does provide a student’s view into the school’s myriad legends. The student recounts three spirits that have been identified in Alumni Hall: Harvey, Dorothy (or Dorthy) and Mr. Steve. It appears that two legends explain Harvey’s presence in the building. One explains that Harvey was a student torn between his love of theatre and his parents’ expectation that he become a Methodist minister. Unable to bear his life without theatre, Harvey killed himself by throwing himself from the auditorium’s balcony just before graduation. The second story involves Harvey becoming inebriated at a college party and falling out of one of the building’s windows. Apparently, it is considered a sign of luck when this former student’s shade is sometimes seen backstage before productions. It is Harvey who is also blamed when things in the building malfunction.

The other two ghosts encountered within this building are Dorothy and Mr. Steve. Dorothy, who is honored by having her portrait in the theatre’s Green Room, is believed to be the source of a woman’s footsteps heard in the hallway just outside that room. When a production is bad she is also said to cry blood, most certainly a ridiculous notion. Mr. Steve, said to be the spirit of a former costume shop foreman, still zealously watches over his former shop. He is said to occasionally steal scissors and measuring tapes while also expressing anger when students make a mess in “his” shop.

Sources
Alexa. “The 3rd Theatre Ghost.” Ghostblogger. 3 May 2010.
Alexa. “Dorthy.” Ghostblogger. 14 April 2010.
Alexa. “Harvey.” Ghostblogger. 12 April 2010.
McDaniel College. “History.” Accessed 18 March 2013.
Rivoire. J. Richard and James F. Ridenour. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Western Maryland College Historic District. 9 May 1975.

Avalon Theatre
40 East Dover Street
Easton

The ghost that haunts the Avalon Theatre demonstrates a fascination with technology. The theatre’s elevator may be operated by an unseen force while the stage’s fire curtain was once dropped without anyone touching it. The theatre opened in 1921 and wowed the public so that one critic described the theatre as the “Showplace of the Eastern Shore.” Acquired by the Schine Theatre Chain in 1934, the theatre was entirely renovated in the Art Deco style. It remained open as a cinema until 1985 when it closed. After extensive restoration, the theatre reopened in 1989 as a performing arts center for the Eastern Shore region.

Sources
Avalon Theatre. Avalon Theatre in History. Accessed 18 March 2013.
Burgoyne, Mindie. “The Avalon Theatre – Haunted History in Easton.” Who Cares
     What I Think. No date.

Baltimore Theatre Project
45 West Preston Street
Baltimore

A mysterious man likes to tickle the ivories in a practice room of the Baltimore Theatre Project. He’s known to enter a room, take a seat and play the most wonderful music. Startled listeners have often remarked on how well he plays. Then he’ll disappear.

The building now occupied by the Baltimore Theatre Project does have quite a history. It was originally constructed in 1887 for a male fraternal order, the Improved Order of Heptasophs, and served as Heptasoph Hall until the organization moved to a new structure in 1924. The building’s new owners transformed it into a dance hall, Farson’s Dance Academy and it later became a recreation building and school for the Greek Orthodox church across the street. Its first theatrical use came in 1963 when it served as a performance space for CENTERSTAGE. The founder of Baltimore Theatre Project acquired the building in 1971 and it has served as their home ever since.

Sources
Baltimore Theatre Project. “History of the IOH Building.” Accessed 5 April 2013.
Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Atglen, PA: Stackpole, 2010.

Old Opera House—Odd Fellows’ Hall
140 East Main Street
Westminster

Ghost stories rarely appear in official government records, though the story from the old Westminster Opera House does. The ghost part of the story does not appear in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties but the story of the murder that produced the ghost does appear. So far, it doesn’t appear that anyone has looked for documentation to back up the story and even the person compiling the history of the structure for the inventory seems a bit wary of it, noting that the story only came from the owner of the building.

The ghost story takes us back to the ill-tempered days of Reconstruction (perhaps actually during the Civil War, according to some sources). Maryland, though a slave-owning state, never seceded from the Union and many of its citizens sympathized with their more Southern brothers. During this tumultuous period an Alabama comedian named Marshall Buell took the stage of the opera house to perform. Initially, his politically-charged humor entertained the audience, though they became quite restless as his feckless impersonations of Ulysses Grant and other Union officials crossed the line into insults.

As stones and other projectiles began to be hurled from the enraged audience, Buell hurried and finished his act. At the theatre manager’s suggestion he decided to leave town as quickly as possible, though he would wait in the stable until the opera house cleared to avoid unfriendly encounters in the street. This was Mr. Buell’s last decision. His body, bloodied and bruised, was found in the stable the following morning. Depending on the version of the story, his head is either missing or his throat is cut, ear to ear. In the legends where he was decapitated, his head sometimes appears—almost in the manner of the French Revolution—on a post outside of the theatre, a warning to other actors that beloved leaders should not be mocked.

In the days following the comedian’s untimely demise, he was seen on the streets near the opera house. In one description he was waving and gesticulating as if he was still performing his act. There don’t appear to be any modern witnesses to the unfortunate spirit.

The massive three-story brick structure was constructed in the mid-1850s for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization. Space on the second floor provided a performance venue and actors and theatre companies on the road utilized this space for many years. During the 20th century, the building served a number of other uses including use as a factory and a printing company.

Sources
Carroll County Office of Tourism. Ghost Walk in Carroll County. No date.
Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Atglen, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
Weeks, Christopher. Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties form for Opera House—
     Odd Fellows’ Hall. December 1976.

Tawes Fine Arts Building
Campus of the University of Maryland
College Park

Though no longer home to the Department of Theatre, the Tawes Fine Arts Building retains its theatre and recital hall. The current home to the university’s English department, the building may still also retain its resident spook. Not long after the building’s opening in 1965, students began noticing the sound of footsteps in the empty theatre and would occasionally have mischievous jokes played on them, seemingly from beyond.

With quite a population of resident ghosts on campus, the university archivists have started documenting the stories. According to one of the archivists quoted in Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola’s Ghosthunting Maryland, Mortimer, Tawes’ ghost, may actually be a dog rather than a human spirit. According to campus lore, Mortimer was brought into the theatre during its construction and would frolic on the stage. The theatre’s seats had yet to be completely installed and the house was filled with metal frames the seats would be attached to. The frolicsome canine jumped from the stage into the house and impaled himself on one of the frames. Supposedly, he was buried in the building’s basement.

Sources
Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA, Stackpole,
     2010.
Tawes Theatre. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 5 April 2013.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy
     Press, 2009.


Weinberg Center for the Arts
formerly the Tivoli Theatre
20 West Patrick Street
Frederick

Among the many haunted buildings in this nearly 300 year old town, the old Tivoli Theatre is relatively new. When it opened in 1926, it was one of the largest buildings in town and the most refined theatre in the area. Uniformed ushers, refined surroundings including crystal chandeliers and marble and a Wurlitzer organ to add music to the silent films added to the theatre’s opulence. That opulence drew crowds for many years, though as downtown Frederick declined, so did the crowds drawn to the Tivoli.

Dan and Alyce Weinberg, who had bought the theatre in the late 1950s owned the theatre during its lowest period. After declining sales, and with a theatre on the verge of closure, the Weinbergs witnessed as nearby Carroll Creek flooded downtown Frederick filling the theatre with water and mud. As the flood waters receded, demolition was proposed for the theatre, but the Weinbergs saw that the noble structure deserved more than just that. The theatre was presented to the City of Frederick and it was restored as a performing arts center bearing the Weinberg’s name.

Does the theatre’s restored opulence still attract a few spirits? Perhaps.

One spirit is the rather testy spirit of a former projectionist who supposedly died of a heart attack. His lingering spirit, named Jimmy, is not happy with new employees and he is known to mess up the restrooms when employees are hired. Though, he has been appeased when the final employee to leave wishes him a goodnight. Goodnight, Jimmy!

Sources
Ricksecker, Mike. Ghosts of Maryland. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
Rigaux, Pamela. “Walking with the dead.” Frederick News Post. 23 October 2005.
Weinberg Center for the Arts. “History of the Weinberg.” Accessed 5 April 2013.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Something in the halls of science—Ruston, Louisiana

Center for Rehabilitation Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST)
Louisiana Tech University
711 South Vienna Street
Ruston, Louisiana

If a building can resemble a person, then the CREST Building—also called the Biomedical Engineering Building—resembles the old fashioned, white-clad nurses of old. The building, with its white brick and severe lines recalls the nurses of the Nurse Ratched variety: stiff, prim and starched. Author Jeanne Frois ascribes a more sinister appearance to the building’s windows, “its windows looks like hollow eye sockets holding an empty presence within.”

Perhaps it may be these are the nurses that are still patrolling the halls of this former hospital. The building dates to 1928 when it was built as the Ruston-Lincoln Sanitarium. At that time, the morgue was located on the first floor with the hospital’s surgical suite located on the fourth floor. In 1963, the facility was transformed into a nursing home and served that purpose until the 1970s when the building was turned over for use by Louisiana Tech. Under its lease from the Ruston Hospital Corporation, the building has been used to help improve the lives of the disabled.

While the academic faculty and students are working to improve the lives of the disabled now, it seems that the old nursing staff may continue to check up on their patients as well. In a 2007 article from the university’s newspaper The Tech Talk, one staff member in the building believes the spirit may be the former director of nurses when the building served as a nursing home. According to the article, this woman had an apartment on the fourth floor so that she could respond quickly if there was a problem. This particular staff member worked under this nursing director. She describes her as “never mean,” though she was “strict and firm; she was a stickler for every detail.” The staff member continues, “She had a good heart, though, the patients all loved her, and the doctors loved her because she kept the patients happy.”

Perhaps this devoted nursing director has maintained her devotion in the afterlife, though none of the reports of paranormal activity point to a specific spirit that may be haunting the building. The activity is varied and most commonly includes the sound of doors opening and closing. One staff member working in the building after hours heard the sounds of doors opening and closing all up and the down the hall on the fourth floor. Annoyed and curious, he checked all the doors on the hall to find them all closed and securely locked.
Electronic equipment also sometimes has odd issues within the old building. One student watched as a printing calculator began to print random numbers. A staff member put fresh batteries in a number of toys in preparation for young patients only to find the batteries drained the next day.

There are also issues with the elevator which regularly makes the journey from the first floor to the fourth floor without being called. In his recently published book, The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South, Randy Russell states that the ghost will often open the doors to anyone carrying doughnuts. It’s an absurd notion, but in the world of the paranormal, anything can happen.

Sources
Frois, Jeanne. Around Louisiana: Northern Louisiana.” Louisiana Life.
     September-October 2009.
History: Building.” Louisiana Tech University. Accessed 10 November 2014.
Jones, Davey. “Frightening encounters flourish in old Biomedical Engineering
     Building. The Tech Talk. 25 October 2007.
Russell, Randy. The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South.
     Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2014.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sunrise to sunrise in Fort Pierce, Florida

The sun was rising on what had been a small backwater town in the early twentieth century. The population was growing rapidly and one of the most prominent of local businessmen, Rupert Koblegard, wanted to invest some of his fortune into something that would benefit the citizens of what was being called, “The Sunrise City.” When he approached the city council, the response was, “build a theatre.” After getting a design from architect John N. Sherwood, Koblegard presented the plans to the city council again. He was told that the theatre was too big, to which he replied, “better too large than too small.”

Described as the largest theatre between Jacksonville and Miami, the Sunrise Theatre (117 South 2nd Street) opened on 1 August 1923 with a grand parade through downtown. Onstage, the Fort Pierce Band gave a concert. On screen, the newsreel was followed by a pair of films including a Charlie Chaplin comedy, The Vagabond. The opening of this grand, vaudeville theatre was heralded by the local paper as, “one of the most important events in the development of the town into a wide-awake city.”
 
Sunrise Theatre, 2009, by SebasTorrente. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The stage attracted some of the top vaudeville acts including cowboy entertainer Tom Mix and his wonder horse, fan-dancer Sally Rand and actor Edward G. Robinson. Management passed from Rupert Koblegard, Sr. to his son, Rupert Jr. in 1928 just as the first talking picture equipment was installed in the theatre. Even as other businesses generally limped through the Depression and through World War II, the theatre remained quite vital. The theatre closed in 1983 when its business was sapped by strip malls and development away from downtown.

After sitting derelict for many years, the theatre was purchased by the St. Lucie Preservation Association and was restored in 2006 as a centerpiece for a renovated downtown. The theatre features top-rung entertainment and, quite possibly, some resident spirits. In 2009, three years after its grand reopening, paranormal investigators from the Florida Ghost Team explored the theatre.

In two investigations, the team found evidence to support the assertion that the theatre had paranormal activity. While a group of investigators were investigating the third floor apartment of the theatre’s founder and owner, Rupert Koblegard, Sr., several members of the group had the batteries in the cameras drain. Shortly after, knocking was heard in possible response to an investigator’s questions. Another team member watched as an exit door opened and closed on its own volition. While the evidence is scant, it may very well prove the existence of some spiritual activity within the theatre.

From the stage of the Sunrise Theatre, one must only make a short jaunt to see real sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean from the steps of the majestic Boston House (239 Indian River Drive) which has wistfully been staring out to sea since 1909. Now sidled up next to a starkly modern neighbor, the house seems to retain its peaceful, old-fashioned aura as well as some of its tales. Like the Sunrise Theatre, these tales originate in the sunrise of the city of Fort Pierce.

Along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, many tales begin with Henry Morrison Flagler. Originally a partner of John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, two visits to Florida in the late 1870s provided him with the impetus to develop this rural state into a vacationer’s paradise. Flagler’s project built a railroad line, the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC), from Jacksonville all the way to Key West. Along the way, the trains stopped in towns and cities graced with Flagler’s grand hotels. This little Florida project for Flagler developed into a lifelong obsession for him and a coup for a backwater state that has turned it into one of America’s greatest “Vacationlands.”
 
The Boston House, 2009, by SebasTorrente. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
It was the FEC that brought William Turpin Jones to Florida, initially as a mechanic but he rose to be an engineer and was relocated to Fort Pierce. Around this time, Jones was an engineer on a train that struck dynamite that was left on the tracks by careless workers. Jones was seriously injured but after his recovery he returned to work. He was awarded a settlement of $6000 for his injuries. With this princely settlement Jones constructed a magnificent home in Fort Pierce which he named Cresthaven. The house was completed in 1909 and William Jones moved in with his wife and five children.

Jones retired from the FEC and worked on maintaining his groves of oranges and pineapples and selling real estate until he was unexpectedly appointed as sheriff of St. Lucie County in 1915. This unexpected turn of events took place after the previous sheriff, D.S. Carlton, was shot to death downtown by Marshall D.J. Disney in what was described as a “wild west shootout.” Known for his honesty, the governor appointed Jones to the position and he held it until he resigned in 1920. Though he had commanded much respect as sheriff, Jones’ business interests were taking a financial loss and he resigned to turn his attention back to those interests. Eventually, he returned to work for the FEC.

During his time as sheriff, a shade of tragedy was drawn over this home. In 1918, Jones’ 10-year-old son, Clifford, was involved in an incident with one of his playmates. The boys were playing in the home’s living room. Clifford reached for his father’s gun and it fired striking his young friend, William Fee. The young friend was mortally wounded and died later that evening in the hospital.

After the Depression hit, Jones struggled just as many did throughout the country. From a friend he accepted a loan using his home as collateral. The friend passed away and the note on Cresthaven passed to Rose Whitney, a sister of the friend. Unable to meet the terms of the loan, Jones was forced to sell the house to Ms. Whitney who moved in with her sister. Since the sale of the house to the sisters, the house has passed through a series of owners. Subsequent owners have used the large house for offices and most recently it housed law offices. The grand edifice is currently for sale.

Some of the earliest stories of paranormal activity in the house date back to the early 1970s. These reports include the sightings of Native Americans on the home’s front lawn, a red-haired maiden and “hanging victims.” There is also mention made of possible séances being held in the house, though there is no record to support that assertion.

The activity that seems more believable (to me, at least) is the activity reported while the house was occupied by law offices for almost 30 years. During that time employees would sometimes open the building in the morning to be greeted by the odor of coffee brewing. The smell of flowery perfume has also been associated with activity.

The second and third floors seem to have hosted much of the activity. One office employee was shocked as her keyboard levitated and a plant bent over. The daughter of one of the partners watched as random letters appeared on the screen of a word processor monitor, though it was turned off. Lights would turn off and on and on one occasion a passerby called one of the lawyers to report that every light in the building was on late one night. When the lawyer opened the building the next morning, not one light was on.

Even more curious is the apparition of a woman. One poor copy machine repairman was surprised to see a woman in Victorian clothing on the third floor. The figure disappeared into a wall. One of the lawyers watched as the silhouette of a woman appeared in a third floor window. He was standing with a group of eight people and all but one saw the shadow.

At some point in the past few decades a story has sprung up to explain this feminine shade. The story states that the elderly spinsters who took over the house after William Jones lost it utilized the house as a bed and breakfast. Among the vacationers staying there was a family named Perkins. The father and his young son went fishing and did not return. The spirit of the wife, Mrs. Aleacon Perkins, is still waiting for her family to return.

Research conducted by members of the GRIM (Ghostly Research into the Metaphysical) Society has found no historical record to support this tragic story. However, the group has compiled an impressive history of house, some of which was used in compiling this profile. So for now, the lady staring into the sunset from the upper windows of the Boston House remains lost in the twilight of history.

Sources
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Grigas, Catherine Enns. “Living History: Boston House Home to Haunting
     Tales.” Indian River Magazine. 21 January 2011.
GRIM Society. “The Historic Boston House.” GRIM Society Blog. 14
     October 2007.
Harrington, Tim; W. Carl Shiver and Brent A. Tozzer. National Register
     of Historic Places Nomination form for the Sunrise Theatre. September 2001.
“Koblegard Theatre Interests Sold.” The News Tribune (Fort Pierce, FL). 3 April
     1955.
Mattise, Jonathan. “At Sunrise Theatre, things did go ‘bump’ in the night,
     Paranormal investigators said.” Fort Pierce Tribune. 28 September 2009.
Mattise, Jonathan. “Unsettling experiences noted when Florida Ghost
     Team returns to Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce.” Fort Pierce Tribune. 5
     October 2009.
Pincus, J.h. and Michael F. Zimny. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Boston House. 20 February 1985.
“The Restoration of the Sunrise Theatre.” Palm Beach Post. 19 February 2006.
Sunrise Theatre. “History.” Accessed 5 April 2013.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

“Blew our schoolhouse away”—Duffield, Virginia

Rye Cove Intermediate School
158 Memorial School Lane
Duffield, Virginia

Oh listen today and a story I tell
With saddened and tear dimmed eyes
Of a dreadful cyclone that came this way
And blew our schoolhouse away.
--“The Cyclone of Rye Cove” by A. P. Carter, originally covered by
The Carter Family

In the news business there’s the old maxim, “if it bleeds, it leads,” thus headlines are often gory. Americans were jarred on the 3rd of May, 1929, by headlines about the huge storm that passed through Virginia and the rural wooden schoolhouse in Rye Cove that didn’t stand a chance against one of the storm’s tornados. The Associated Press story about the tornado was printed in papers from Maine to California.

The story of the storm appeared on the front page of the Alton Evening Telegraph in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, incidentally noted to be one of most haunted cities in the Midwest.

RYE COVE, Va., May 3, (AP)—Grief stricken parents searched the debris of the Rye Cove Consolidated school today, fearful of finding additional victims of the tornado that yesterday claimed the lives of 13 children and one teacher in the greatest disaster ever known to this western Virginia mountain village.

The tragedy at Rye Cove has been the worst thing to occur in this tight-knit community in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Indeed, the spirit world will not let the community forget this tragedy and, according to folklorist Charles Edwin Price, the ghastly roar of the tornado’s wind and the accompanying cries of children are still heard on the anniversary of the fateful day.

The history of this quiet cove in the Appalachians began with a tragedy in 1773 when a group of settlers were attacked here. Despite treaties forbidding settlers from settling in territory claimed by Native Americans, settlers began to make their ways into that territory. On the evening of October 9, a group of settlers including James Boone—son of the famed frontiersman, Daniel Boone—were set upon by natives attempting to guard their territory. The sleeping settlers were fired upon as they slept with two killed instantly. Two others escaped into the woods while Boone and another settler were tortured before being killed. One African slave hid in the forest and witnessed the ordeal while another slave was taken by the natives.

Rye Cove’s baptism by blood was just the beginning. Other settlers filtering into the area had their lives cut short in similarly bloody ways. Permanent settlement did not begin until after the American Revolution, though Rye Cove—due to its isolation—grew very slowly. Additionally, farming in the area was made difficult by the large outcroppings of limestone that punctuated the land throughout the cove.

The hard-scrabble families in the cove eventually built a school in the mid-19th century which was replaced by a modern schoolhouse in 1907. By 1923, the Rye Cove Consolidated School had grown to eight rooms and an auditorium. This was the building that housed some 150 students around noon on May 2, 1929.

The school’s principal, A. S. Noblin, was at lunch when his landlady noted the storm that was brewing outside. As he left his boarding house to return to the school he saw the black shape that was quickly making its way up the valley. Noblin reached the schoolhouse just in time to watch one of the automobiles parked outside the school rise into the air. Moments later, the wooden building disintegrated into a mass of splintered wood with students, teachers, chalkboards, pot-bellied stoves and other debris careening through the air.

Noblin told a reporter for the Scott County Herald-Virginian, “Trees were swaying. As it neared the school building it became a black cloud…I think I yelled. It struck the building. The next thing I remembered I was standing knee deep in a pond 75 feet from where the building stood before it was demolished.”

The Bee, a newspaper in Danville, Virginia, picks up the story. “The two-story frame schoolhouse was ripped from its foundations, torn asunder and strewn over a distance of 300 to 400 yards, some of the children were blown almost 100 yards while others were buried in the wreckage.”

Anxious parents and neighbors from throughout the valley soon flooded the scene and began digging through the wreckage. Included among the many neighbors who came to help was A. P. Carter who would compose a song mourning that Rye Cove, “where in life’s early morn, I once loved to roam,” was now “so silent and lone.” The search was intensified when overturned pot-bellied stoves began to ignite the wooden debris of the school.
Headlines from The Bee of Danville, Virginia, 3 May 1929.
The Bee of Danville, Virginia, picks up the story: “Great confusion followed the tornado, anxious fathers worked feverishly in the ruins, fearful that they might discover the bodies of their children. The anxiety of parents was intensified because the injured children were hurriedly rushed away for hospital treatment before the parents arrived.” Rye Cove’s remote location lead rescuers to evacuate the most seriously injured to Clinchport, Virginia while some were taken by train to Kingsport, Tennessee.

In the end, the lives of twelve students and one teacher were lost amid the ruins of the schoolhouse. The remainder of the school term was canceled and a new school was constructed on the site with a memorial plaque installed in memory of the thirteen victims whose memory is still stirred by the sound of howling winds and screams every May 2.

Sources
Associated Press. “22 Dead and 100 hurt is state’s toll.” The Bee (Danville,
     Virginia). 3 May 1929.
Associated Press. “Death toll from storm reaches 49.” Alton Evening
     Telegraph (Alton, Illinois). 3 May 1929.
McDaid, Jennifer Davis. “Rye Cove Cyclone.” Encyclopedia Virginia
     23 November 2010.
Mills, Elizabeth. “Rye Cove High School: A Brief History.” Scott County
     Public Schools. Accessed 5 November 2014.
Price, Charles Edwin. “Death in the Afternoon: The Rye Cove Tornado.”
     Rootsweb FOLKLORE-L Archives. 28 April 2000.
Price, Charles Edwin. The Mystery of Ghostly Vera and other Haunting Tales
     Of Southwest Virginia. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1993.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dining with Spirits—Halloween 2014

In celebration of Halloween, I’m exploring 13 haunted restaurants throughout the South.

Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Bar
316 North Court Street
Florence, Alabama

Walking into Trowbridge’s, one can certainly get a sense of stepping back in time. With a checkerboard floor, mint green upholstery and food prepared using original recipes; the restaurant seems to be a holdover from the first half of the 20th century. But there is something else at Trowbridge’s that hearkens back to an earlier time: a spirit from the Civil War.

Trowbridge’s opened in 1918 primarily selling ice cream and eventually serving sandwiches and hot dogs at its lunch counter. The site where Trowbridge’s would eventually stand was originally occupied the home of the Stewart family. During the Civil War, Charles Daniel Stewart left his family’s home carrying the Confederate banner for the Florence Battalion. It was that same flag that Stewart was bearing when he was wounded during the First Battle of Manassas, one of the first serious engagements of the Civil War.

The young standard bearer lived for almost a month after being wounded in the battle. Restaurant staff members in the building that now occupies the site of his home have seen a young man within the restaurant. He’s most often seen briefly in passing but when the viewer turns he has vanished. Perhaps Stewart’s spirit just enjoys the shakes.

Sources
Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of the Shoals Area.
     Debra Johnston, 2002.
Trowbridge’s, Florence, Alabama.” Choppedonion.com. Accessed 30 October
     2014.

Wok and Roll Chinese and Japanese Restaurant
604 H Street, NW
Washington, DC

While Charles Daniel Stewart may have to develop a taste for milkshakes and hot dogs, the spirits of Mary Surratt and the conspirators involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln may have to develop a taste for General Tso’s Chicken and sushi. Wok and Roll Chinese and Japanese Restaurant is housed in the building that once housed Mrs. Surratt’s Boarding House where the conspirators met in the days leading up to Lincoln’s fateful night at Ford’s Theatre. Legends tell of spirits still flitting through the historic structure.

The building was constructed in 1843 as a single-family residence. Mary Surratt’s husband, John, purchased the property in 1853 and rented the building while he constructed a tavern at a crossroads in nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland. He was later named postmaster of the community that formed around his family’s tavern. After the outbreak of war, John Surratt passed away leaving his wife and family in somewhat dire financial straits. John’s son, John Junior was named postmaster in his father’s place, but he was arrested about two years later for working as a mail courier for the Confederacy with whom he sympathized.
 
The Surratt Boarding House, 1890, by Matthew Brady.
After the arrest of her son and being deprived of his income as a postmaster, Mary Surratt moved her family to their Washington home while she rented the family’s Maryland tavern. The family began taking on boarders and was drawn into the conspiracy to kidnap the president. To what extent Mary Surratt was involved is still rather unclear, but in the roundup that followed John Wilkes Booth’s shooting of Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, Mary was arrested and charged in the conspiracy. She was tried before a military tribunal and subsequently found guilty.

Even after she was found guilty, many requested that she be pardoned including her daughter, Anna. Mary Surratt was executed on the hot summer afternoon of July 7, 1865, along with three of the conspirators; the first woman executed by the Federal Government. After her execution, Mary Surratt’s Boarding House was attacked by a mob which began to strip the building for souvenirs before they were stopped by police.
 
Wok & Roll Restaurant now occupies the old
Surratt Boarding House. Photo 2008, by Leoboudv.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Anna Surratt sold her mother’s boarding house not long after the execution and subsequent owners reported that they encountered “muffled sounds,” whispers and sobs. When John Alexander was putting together the 1998 edition of his book on Washington ghosts, he met with the owner of the Chinese grocery that existed in the building at that time. The Chinese grocer replied that he “had no complaints.”   

Sources
Alexander, John. Ghosts, Washington Revisited: The Ghostlore of the Nation’s
     Capitol. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998.
Mary Surratt. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 4 November 2014.
Pousson, Eli. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the
     Mary E. Surratt Boarding House. May 2009

Ashley’s of Rockledge
1609 US 1
Rockledge, Florida

Some believe that Ethel Allen’s rough road to her grave included a stop at Jack’s Tavern, her favorite local hangout. Last year, I wrote about paranormal investigators conducting an EVP session at Ms. Allen’s grave in the Crooked Mile or Georgiana Cemetery on Merritt Island. After asking if she was present, investigators received a reply, “yes.”

On November 21, 1934, Ethel Allen’s mutilated body was found on the banks of the Indian River in Eau Gallie, some 16 miles away. The nineteen year old had been seen just a few days before when she stopped at a local packing house to say goodbye to a friend. Ethel was leaving to visit her mother, accompanied by a male acquaintance and she may have also stopped by her favorite local hangout, Jack’s Tavern, now Ashley’s of Rockledge. The Tudor-style restaurant has paranormal activity, some of which has been attributed to Ethel Allen.

A variety of sources state that Ethel may have been murdered within the walls of the restaurant in a storeroom (possibly near the famously haunted ladies restroom) or just outside the building. A local genealogy blog makes no mention of where Ethel may have met her end, but I get the feeling it probably was not in or around the busy tavern. The stories of the restaurant’s haunting are quite readily available though they seem to sometimes perpetuate different variations of the murder.

The activity runs the gamut from simple, cold breezes being felt to voices and screams to full apparitions being seen and captured on film. Some sources also note that the activity does not seem to be limited to just the possible shade of Ethel Allen. There are other possible spirits including a child and an adult male. It does seem that Ashley’s may be one of the most paranormally active restaurants in the state.

Sources
Boonstra, Michael. “1934 Murder of Cocoa’s Ethel Allen.” Michael’s Genealogy and
     Brevard County History Blog. 9 April 2011.
History. Ashley’s of Rockledge. Accessed 3 November 2014.
Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: Vol. 1 South and
     Central Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.
Neale, Rick. Brevard’s spookiest spots are dead center for teams of specter-
     spotters.” Florida Today. 27 October 2013.
Thumas, Cynthia and Catherine Lower. Haunted Florida. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole, 2008.
Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.


Tondee’s Tavern
7 East Bay Street
Savannah, Georgia

With the immense host of spirits that inhabit the city of Savannah, chances are high that activity may be found most anywhere. Occupying part of a mid-19th century bank building, Tondee’s Tavern utilizes the name of a important colonial era tavern that existed in the city. The building’s history dates to 1853 when its lower floors were occupied by the Central Railway and Banking Company. The upper floors of the building were used as offices for a slave dealer, Joseph Bryan.

Stories of spirits within the building have evidently existed for some time, but the spirits made themselves very well-known recently. In late June of this year, a passerby on the street left a cigarette in a flower box in front of the building. The cigarette smoldered for a few hours before erupting into flames early in the morning. Meanwhile, two employees slept downstairs; a fairly common practice when employees close the previous night and must open the next day.

A closed-circuit security camera picked up the scene at the front of the restaurant. Over the course of two hours, as the flames can be seen building outside the window, a number of white orbs are seen almost frantically zipping through the air. Something woke the two young women asleep in the basement and they were able to begin extinguishing the flames before they could do more damage. The tavern’s owner, however, is still wondering if the orbs were spirits trying to save the building and his business.

Sources
     Do Savannah. 29 October 2014.
Ghost City Tours. “The Ghosts of Tondee’s Tavern.” Accessed 31 October 2014.

Jailhouse Pizza
125 Main Street
Brandenburg, Kentucky

In a fairly creative use of a historic building, the old Meade County Jail is now a pizzeria. Built in 1906 by the Pauly Jail Company, this building was the third jail built for Meade County. The pizzeria’s website states that some of the inmates have apparently never left, including one who has been dubbed, “Bigsby.” These spirits have been both seen and heard.
 
Old Meade County Jail, 2011, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
A recent investigation by the Hopkins County Paranormal Society was able to capture, what one investigator calls, “the best evidence ever.” Video taken during the investigation shows a blanket being pulled out and down. Audio evidence was also captured that includes footsteps, a scream and possibly a female child.

Sources
History.” Jailhouse Pizza. Accessed 31 October 2014.
Johnson, William G. Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory form for Meade
     County Jail. Summer 1983.
Landon, Heather. “Best Creepy Historic Sites in the US.” The Daily Meal.
     14 October 2014.

Antoine’s
713 St. Louis Street
New Orleans, Louisiana
 
Antoine's, 2007 by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Antoine Alciatore, like so many Europeans at that time, dreamed of making it big in the United States and immigrated in 1838 to make good on those dreams. After a couple years of struggling in New York City, he set his sights on that most French of cities, New Orleans and this is where he opened Antoine’s. In 1868, the restaurant moved to its current location that now boasts 14 unique dining rooms. Alciatore left New Orleans in 1874 bound for Marseilles where he died; his beloved restaurant was left in the hands of his son and his family has continued to own and run the restaurant. Antoine continues to return to check up on this famed New Orleans institution and he continues to be seen in the Japanese and Mystery Dining Rooms. Other specters in 19th century clothing have been seen peering from the mirrors in the washrooms as well.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican, 2007.
History. Antoine’s Restaurant. Accessed 8 January 2011.

Puccini Restaurant
12901 Ali Ghan Road, NE
Cumberland, Maryland

At Puccini, patrons may get a bit of the paranormal with their pasta. With your fettuccini, you may hear disembodied footsteps or perhaps there may be some voices heard as you enjoy your vino. Don’t mind them, they won’t hurt you.

The building now housing Puccini was near fighting on August 1, 1864 as Confederates were defeated in the Battle of Folck’s Mill. Many of the wounded were brought into the George Hinkle house (as it was known at that time) where they were treated. Of course there may also have been a few deaths in the house during that time. Some of those soldiers may have also written or carved their names on the walls in the attic.

Employees of the restaurant as well as guests have reported quite a bit of activity over the years. From footsteps to shadow figures to full apparitions, people in this building have had many experiences. The restaurant was investigated a few years ago by member of the team from City Lights Paranormal Society of Easton, Pennsylvania. The investigators were able to capture a good deal of audio evidence including a number of EVPs.

Sources
Barkley, Kristin Harty. “Paranormal investigator believes Cumberland
     restaurant haunted.” Cumberland Times-News. 29 October 2010.
City Lights Paranormal Society. Puccini Restaurant. Accessed 29 April
     2014.
History.” Puccini. Accessed 3 November 2014.

Weidmann’s Restaurant
210 22nd Avenue
Meridian, Mississippi

Like Antoine’s in New Orleans, Meridian’s Weidmann’s restaurant was also started by an immigrant and has become a local institution after more than a century. Weidmann’s was opened by Felix Weidmann, a Swiss immigrant. While Antoine’s has remained in the same location, Weidmann’s location changed a number of times before it settled into a location in 1923.
 
Weidmann's, 2010, by Dudemanfellabra. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The haunting of Weidmann’s seems to be mostly residual activity. Sounds echo through the restaurant with no obvious source. For his 2011 book, Haunted Meridian, Mississippi, Alan Brown spoke with one employee who recalls hearing sounds associated with livestock near the restaurant’s freezers where livestock may have been kept before Weidmann’s moved in. But animal sounds are just a small part of the repertoire associated with the spirits of Weidmann’s.

At table one, a legend is oft told of a young couple visiting the restaurant during the Great Depression. The couple had recently become engaged and had enough money to treat themselves to a meal in the restaurant. Henry Weidmann, the restaurant’s owner at the time, picked up the tab and encouraged the couple to return for their first anniversary. The legend continues that the young couple did not return to their table in the restaurant in life, but they have continued to return in death. They are supposed to be seen on occasion sitting quietly at the table holding hands under the table.

Sources
Brown, Alan. Haunted Meridian, Mississippi. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2011.
Weidmann’s Restaurant. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 4 November
     2014.

Four Square Restaurant
2701 Chapel Hill Road
Durham, North Carolina

Bartlett Mangum built his house in 1908 on the outskirts of Durham and the house is now the only part of his 80-acre farm that has remained standing. The house remained in the family until Mangum’s daughters were moved to a nursing home in 1956. The house passed through a variety of owners who rented out the house or used it for commercial purposes including a variety of restaurants. During the early 1960s, the house was even used as a racially-integrated church.

The Mangum daughters, Inez and Bessie, inherited the house in 1927 and tradition holds that they did not speak to each other for many years due to a feud. According to an article by Colin Warren-Hicks in the local progressive paper, Indy Week, restaurant staff believes that the spirit of Inez Mangum still flits about her old house. Cooks in the kitchen reported to Warren-Hicks that pots and pans would move on its own accord. Dinner and glassware left on a certain mantelpiece in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms would often be inexplicably knocked to the floor.

Sources
Dickinson, Patricia S. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Bartlett Mangum House. 5 December 1988.
Warren-Hicks, Colin. “The Devil went down to Four Square Restaurant.”
     Indy Week. 22 October 2014.

Connolly’s Irish Pub
24 East Court Square
Greenville, South Carolina

This unassuming Irish pub in downtown Greenville, South Carolina is a front for a secret. Just outside the pub and behind the street door that provides access to this old commercial building’s second floor is an unused floor that is supposed to have served as a brothel some years ago. A recent investigation of this building by local investigator and ghost tour operator Jason Profit produced video of small orbs of light flitting through the corridor.

Sources
     Greenville bar.” WSPA. 31 October 2014.

McDonald’s #2338
3470 Lebenon Pike
Hermitage, Tennessee

It’s my sincerest hope that the victims of the horrible event that happened here in 1997 are at rest; they most certainly deserve to be. On March 23, 1997, Paul Dennis Reid forced his way into this McDonald’s at closing time. After shooting three of the employees, he stabbed a fourth employee seventeen times before leaving with the restaurant’s money. The three shooting victims died while the stabbing victim survived. Just a month before, Reid had robbed a nearby Captain D’s brutally shooting and killing two employees. Before he was captured by the police, he managed to kill a total of seven people, all fast food employees. Reid passed quietly in prison just last year.

According to the Nashville Haunted Handbook, published in 2011, this restaurant has been plagued by a general sense of unease as well as shadow figures. After viewing this location on Google Streetview, it appears that this McDonald’s location may have a new building—the chain has been tearing down older restaurants and replacing them with new buildings. Though, since the building has been replaced, it is unknown whether this activity has persisted.

Sources
“2 Slain at Nashville McDonald’s.” Chicago Tribune. 24 March 1997.
Morris, Jeff; Donna Marsh and Garett Merk. Nashville Haunted Handbook.
     Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
Wilson, Brian. “Tennessee mass murderer Paul Dennis Reid dead.”
     WBIR. 1 November 2013.

Coffee Pot
2902 Brambleton Avenue, SW (US 221)
Roanoke, Virginia

Just who or what is causing the odd activity at Roanoke’s landmark roadhouse, The Coffee Pot, is still a question. Primarily, the activity generally involves the movement of objects. One bartender was cleaning ashtrays and stacking them on the bar one evening after the restaurant had closed. They had already stacked a number of ashtrays when they witnessed the stack rise into the air and then drop back down on the bar. Startled, she returned to work only to have the stack of ashtrays rise and fall again. After that, she grabbed her things and left.
 
The Coffee Pot, 2009, by Patriarca12. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
A manager noted that spices would often disappear from their accustomed spot only to reappear in a very different location sometimes days later. Bottles of wine and other cooking utensils have been known to fly across rooms, while paranormal investigators have been able to photograph orbs and have captured EVPs within the restaurant.

The Coffee Pot, with its distinctive large coffee pot, was constructed in 1936 along what had been a fairly rural road. Over time, US 221 has grown along with the restaurant’s business. As a roadhouse, the restaurant has become known for its musical entertainment including Willie Nelson who played an impromptu concert at the restaurant in 1970s.

Sources
Hill, Helen. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for The
     Coffee Pot. December 1995.
Hurst, Chris. “Looking for ghosts at The Coffee Pot in Roanoke.”
     WDBJ7. 24 October 2010.
Taylor, L. B. Jr. Haunted Roanoke. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Yellow Bank Restaurant
201 East German Street
Shepherdstown, West Virginia

In the historic town of Shepherdstown, the 1906 Jefferson Security Bank now houses the Yellow Bank Restaurant. The bank was converted to a restaurant some years ago and now houses the restaurant where table 25 was the scene of some activity in the 1990s when a patron reported to the restaurant’s manager that she couldn’t sit at the table because of the ghost. The bartender also reported that he had glasses fall from the glass rack and break.

Sources
Molenda, Rachel. “Town serves as home to ghosts from past.”
     The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 28 October 2011.