Thursday, February 4, 2016

An unexpected seafarer—Delray Beach, Florida

Blue Anchor Pub
804 East Atlantic Avenue
Delray Beach, Florida

On the evening of September 29, 1888, two ladies departed from the Blue Anchor Pub into the foggy evening. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, though they were only looking for a customer to pay for a few minutes of pleasure, had appointments with Fate on the dark streets that evening. Around 1 AM the next morning, Stride’s ravaged body was discovered. Eddowes’ mutilated and disfigured body, cut open with a ferocious surgical precision, was discovered nearby about 45 minutes later. Jack the Ripper—as the still unidentified murderer became known—had struck again.

The doors of the Blue Anchor Pub in Chancery Lane off Fleet Street in London would remain open for journalists, barristers, ladies of the evening, and perhaps Jack the Ripper himself, for many decades before they closed for good to London traffic in the mid-1980s. Within roughly a decade of their closing, the doors reopened to customers along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, Florida. When the pub was torn down to allow for a widening project on Chancery Lane, an American developer purchased the exterior of the mid-19th century public house. With its authentic exterior, the Blue Anchor reopened in 1996 and quickly became a popular watering hole for journalists including many from American Media, Inc., publisher of the tabloid magazine, the National Enquirer.

Along with imported ales, beers, and spirits available at the bar, there is one spirit that was apparently imported with the original parts of the Blue Anchor and available only when she decides to appear. Seafaring tradition holds that sailors would gain luck from drinking at a pub called “Blue Anchor” before embarking on a journey over the sea. Perhaps this is the reason that Bertha Starkey was at the Blue Anchor with her seafarer husband the fateful night that she was stabbed by him in a fit of jealousy. Of course no one knew that Bertha’s spirit would eventually go seafaring as her spirit supposedly followed the pub’s exterior to Florida.


A sous-chef at the restaurant met Bertha one evening when a heavy 30-gallon pot hanging from a hook above the stove unhooked itself and fell upon him knocking him down. Not long after, the owner and the head chef later saw a veiled woman walk through the bar. Staff members heard footsteps that are seemingly coming from upstairs, though the bar is only one story. Legend associates this activity with Bertha Starkey, though the activity could also be connected to the various former patrons and staff who walked through the heavy oak doors of the Blue Anchor to escape the foggy streets of London and now exit to the palm tree-lined streets of Delray Beach.

Sources
Lomartire, Paul. “’Enquirer’ boss sent pub owner to Key Biscayne
     To test Nixon’s pool.” The Palm Beach Post. 22 October 2001.
Lomartire, Paul. “Hoist a pint, drink up the history.” The Palm Beach
     Post. 22 October 2001.
Meyer, Meghan. “A pub’s haunting tale.” The Palm Beach Post. 4 March
     2004.
Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts Florida II. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2014.
Thuma, Cynthia & Catherine Lower. Haunted Florida: Ghosts and Strange
     Phenomena of the Sunshine State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2008.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Haunt in the Horseshoe—Sanford, North Carolina

House in the Horseshoe State Park
288 Alston House Road
Sanford, North Carolina

By all accounts, Philip Alston was trouble. A member of the prominent Alston family, some might describe him as a spoiled brat. The house Alston constructed at this horseshoe bend in the Deep River was among the first large plantation home constructed in this region when it was built in 1772. As tensions heated up throughout the colonies, Alston sided with the Patriot cause. Though he was fighting for the same ideals, even the Patriots took umbrage with Philip Alston with Robert Rowan even speaking to the governor of his dislike for Alston’s “domineering” and “tyrannical” attitude.

With the outbreak of fighting, squabbles between neighbors took on more deadly overtones throughout the frontier. Planter David Fanning of South Carolina remained loyal to the British crown and steadfastly rooted out Patriots throughout the area. A small militia under Fanning’s command attacked Alston’s home on the morning of August 5, 1781 in retaliation for the death of one of Fanning’s men at the hands of Alston’s men. That morning, Alston, his wife Temperance, two children, and a small band of his men were at the large white house. When Fanning’s men attempted to attack the house one of the Tories was quickly felled by a bullet to the heart. Soon gunfire poured from the home’s windows while Alston’s children cowered in a fireplace inside.

A cart of straw was set alight and pushed towards the house which began to burn. Fearful of being burned out of the house, Alston sent his wife with a flag of truce to arrange surrender. Fanning agreed to allow Alston and his men to surrender. The Tories plundered the bullet-riddled house but did not burn it.
 
House in the Horseshoe, 2007, by Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Philip Alston remained on his plantation for some years after the war and served in the state senate, though his roguish attitude lead to his fall from grace and in 1790, he was forced to sell his beloved home. Some believe that the rascal spirit of Alston may remain here in the form of footsteps heard in the home, disembodied whispers in the fireplace where the children were hidden and orbs of light seen in the home’s yard.

Source
Barefoot, Daniel W. Spirits of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American
     Revolution. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair. 2009.
Bishir, Catherine W. and Michael T. Southern. A Guide to the Historic
     Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University
     of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC:
     Penguin, 1996.
House in the Horseshoe: Overview.” NC Historic Sites. Accessed 3
      January 2016.
Thompson, Jessica Lee. “House in the Horseshoe.” North Carolina
     History Project. Accessed 3 January 2016.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Apparitions at Allatoona—Cartersville, Georgia

Allatoona Pass Battlefield
Old Allatoona Road
Cartersville, Georgia

Despite Atlanta’s sprawl and the construction of the nearby I-75 corridor, Allatoona Pass Battlefield remains as one of the most pristine battlefields in the country. Located about a mile and a half from bustling I-75, the battlefield seems remote and almost lost in time. The village of Allatoona that existed in 1864 is mostly gone, replaced instead by the Lake Allatoona reservoir and a few buildings of more recent vintage. Even the railroad has abandoned the area, having been rerouted with the building of the reservoir.
 
Allatoona Pass by George Bernard, 1864. The house on the
far left is still standing.
The same house from the photograph above, 2011. Photo
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Looking towards the railroad cut, 2011.
Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The railroad cut, 2011. Photo by Lewis Powell
IV, all rights reserved.
At the time of the Civil War, the Western & Atlantic Railroad provided the vital link between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee which found itself very close to Union territory following the Confederate defeat at Shiloh. This somewhat mountainous region provided one of the first obstacles as the railroad made its way north. Just north of the tiny village of Allatoona slave labor was used to dig a cut through the Allatoona Mountains allowing trains to move easily towards Chattanooga. The village at the south end of the cut mostly consisted of a depot, some warehouses and an odd assortment of houses and shops. After the pass was captured by Federal forces in June of 1864, Sherman ordered that the pass be heavily fortified and three star-shaped earthen forts were constructed to stand guard.
 
The railroad cut looking south, 2012. Photo
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Panoramic view of one of the star forts built to guard the cut
with the author standing by. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
In a last-ditch attempt by the Confederates to capture and destroy Sherman’s supply line to federally held Atlanta, they attacked these forts on October 5th. Under the command of Major General Samuel G. French, the Point Coupee Artillery from Louisiana poured shells onto the well-entrenched units from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota under the command of Brigadier General John M. Corse. After two hours, French sent an order for Corse to surrender, which was refused.
 
Grave of the Unknown Soldier, who may be one of
the spirits haunting this battlefield. Photo 2012, by
Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Legends at this site date to not long after the war when a Confederate soldier (believed to be the spirit of an unknown soldier buried next to the tracks) was seen running alongside passing trains. More recently, the sounds of battle, cries of the wounded, spectral soldiers and an overpowering sense of dread have been reported here.

Sources
Battle of Allatoona. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 15 April 2011.
Lake Allatoona. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 8 April 2011.
Scaife, William R. Allatoona Pass Battlefield: The
      Official Website. 2000.
Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and
     North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Tasteful Spirit—Greensboro, North Carolina

Guilford County Sheriff’s Office
400 West Washington Street
Greensboro, North Carolina

In a recent article about the strange goings-on at the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, the niece of Otto Zenke reported that his spirit may not approve of the vertical blinds used throughout the building. “He would never have approved of all those vertical blinds,” Ginia Zenke responded. “Not when his workrooms churned out beautiful draperies and furnishings for decades.” The sheriff’s office occupies a building that once served as noted interior designer Otto Zenke’s showroom and residence in his final years.

Brooklyn-born Otto Zenke arrived in Greensboro in 1937 to work for a furniture store. After going into business for himself with his brother in 1946, Zenke made a name for himself as one of the leading interior designers of the day as he worked on projects for wealthy clients in the area. He collected fine antiques and acquired the delicate, Italianate-styled Eugene Morehead House at 215 South Eugene Street which he turned into a local showplace. In the European style, the home’s library featured murals and paneling. The exquisitely executed gardens surrounding the house became a noted feature on the tours of local garden clubs. Sadly, city officials didn’t see this home as a treasure in their city.

In the 1960s as Greensboro began to execute a plan for “urban development” Zenke’s magnificent home and gardens sat smack dab in the middle of a proposed government center. The property was seized under eminent domain in 1968 and replaced with a Brutalist monstrosity by Argentine modernist Eduardo Catalano. The delicate cottage was razed over two days and the unadorned cast concrete walls of the government center rose over the next few years in its place. While the city did well in hiring a noted architect for the design, the bold architectural lines have always stood very harshly against the more classically based traditional architecture of the city; so much so that Preservation Greensboro remarked in its blog that the style, “has never been at ease” in the city.

Zenke, never one to back down from a challenge, moved across the street into the series of buildings that housed his showrooms and workshops. There, he created a fine residence that rivaled any in the city, though his heart still longed for the delicate cottage that he had lost. Otto Zenke died of cancer in 1984. Not long after his death, when the city bought Zenke’s last residence and converted it to the sheriff’s office, locals noted the irony of the situation.


The building behind the trees with the chimney is the sheriff's office, formerly Otto Zenke's residence.


Otto Zenke has a good reason to stalk the halls of the sheriff’s office and he seems to be particularly active. Law enforcement officials and staff have reported having items on their desks and in their offices rearranged, perhaps to suit Mr. Zenke’s taste. Some employees have had their names called by a male voice while working in the building after hours. Others have heard distinct footsteps rambling through empty rooms and hallways. While the spirit may not be malevolent, it does seem he may be a bit judgmental. If you work in the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, you may want to keep your office tidy.

Sources
Associated Press. “Could ‘weird things’ at Guilford County
     Sheriff’s Office be a ghost?” Burlington Times-News. 13
     September 2015.
Bishir, Catherine W. and Michael T. Southern. A Guide to the
     Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina. Chapel Hill,
     NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Zenke, Ginia. “Lost to progress: The Otto Zenke Buildings.”
     Let me get this straight… 25 March 2012.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Resting high on that mountain—Helen’s Bridge, Asheville

Helen's Bridge
Over College Street between
Windswept Drive and Beaucatcher Road
Asheville, North Carolina

N.B. This article is a revamp of my 2012 article. I have added additional material and pictures.

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain.
You weren't afraid to face the Devil
You were no stranger to the rain.
Go rest high on that mountain…

--“Go rest high on that mountain,” Vince Gill (1995)

The city drops away quickly as you drive up Beaucatcher Mountain from downtown Asheville. College Street—a main thoroughfare through the heart of downtown Asheville, forming one side of Pack Square next to the haunted Art Deco imminence of Asheville City Hall—suddenly becomes a mountain road as it dizzily traverses the side of the mountain. The road enters a gap in the mountain spanned by a lonely, primeval bridge. You have arrived at Helen’s Bridge.
 
Helen's Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
I’ve always visited this site in the morning and it’s always been a bit chilly. The temperature within the gap seems chillier; perhaps it’s the geography or perhaps it’s the wandering spirit of Helen, it’s hard to tell. There’s something about the patina of the stone and the flora growing around the bridge that makes it appear to be a natural part of the landscape, like it’s always been there. This bridge has been here for a little more than a hundred years, enough time for the bridge to settle into the landscape and be ensconced in legend and lore.

In the 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel, by one of Asheville’s greatest native sons Thomas Wolfe, the bridge is immortalized:
They turned from the railing, with recovered wind, and walked through the gap, under Philip Roseberry's great arched bridge….. As they went under the shadow of the bridge Eugene lifted his head and shouted. His voice bounded against the arch like a stone. They passed under and stood on the other side of the gap, looking from the road's edge down into the cove.
Though Wolfe drew a thin veil over his hometown by calling it Altamont, he is describing Asheville and its citizens, so much so that he is reported to have received death threats and did not return to the city for several years after the novel’s publication.

This rustic stone bridge was constructed as a carriageway for the Zealandia Estate in 1909. It was designed by R. S. Smith, who worked as an architect on the building of the nearby Biltmore Estate and was obviously fluent in the languages of Gothic, Tudor, and Elizabethan architecture.  In 1889, the same year that George Vanderbilt began construction on his magnificent manse that he would call Biltmore, John Evans Brown, who had spent his formative years in Asheville, began to create an estate here on Beaucatcher Mountain. Brown had left the city in 1849 to pursue his dreams of striking gold in the Golden West. When those dreams failed to pan out (pun intended), Brown set out for the green mountains of New Zealand where he found fortune in sheep and success as a politician. He returned to his hometown with fortune in hand in 1888 and began construction on his estate.
 
Helen's Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
Brown enjoyed his stately, mountainside view of Asheville for a few scant years before his death in 1895. The estate was purchased by Australian native Philip S. Henry in 1903 and this intellectual, art collector, and diplomat set about fashioning the estate into a showplace in this aristocratic resort community. Hiring architect R. S. Smith, Henry began to transform the lofty estate into a European-styled castle in the Tudor style. The carriageway with its notable bridge was constructed during this period. In 1924, Henry opened his estate for the public to see his art collection. Upon Henry’s death in 1933, the estate passed to his daughters and remained in the family until 1961.

When construction began on the nearby Interstate 240 corridor, plans originally called for slicing through part of Beaucatcher Mountain. Local preservationists quickly formed into the Beaucatcher Mountain Defense Association to argue for the mountain’s preservation and even more specifically for the protection of Zealandia. A tunnel through the mountain was proposed instead. Though the state department of transportation had torn down Philip Henry’s museum in 1976, the estate was named to the National Register of Historic Place in 1977 and was left alone. During the tunnel blasting supports were added to protect the bridge. In 1998 with the supports still in place and stones falling from the looming structure, the city considered demolishing the structure. Local history buffs and preservationists won the fight and the supports were carefully removed. The bridge was structurally quite sound and it has recently been bought by the city to use as part of a proposed greenway.
 
Helen's Bridge, December 2015, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
While many are drawn to the bridge’s stark beauty it is perhaps the legend and lore that draws others. The legend speaks of a woman named Helen who lived near the bridge with her beloved daughter. After she lost her daughter in a fire the distraught Helen hung herself from the bridge. Some versions associate Helen with Zealandia where she was a mistress to one of the estate’s owners. After she became pregnant she hung herself in anguish. Researchers have found nothing to document the existence of an actual Helen. Author Alan Brown relates that some of the owners of Zealandia encountered the apparition of a woman on the stairs that they identified as Helen.

Teens have taken to summoning Helen by visiting the bridge at night and calling Helen’s name three times. It is reported that Helen will sometimes appear as a light or as an apparition. Others have reported that this ritual will sometimes cause car problems ranging from odd mechanical issues to a dead battery. Florida author Jamie Roush Pearce experienced problems with her car’s automatic locks after visiting the bridge and attempting to summon the sad spirit. Pearce briefly glimpsed a figure near her car and discovered the problem with the locks after leaving the site. After dealing with the issue for about a week, she returned and asked Helen to leave her car alone. The lock problem has not reoccurred.
 
Helen's Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
If you choose to visit Helen, be cautious as the area does have some traffic. There is a dirt turnout off Beaucatcher Road a few yards past the bridge, this location is ideal for parking. The top of the bridge is still closed off and Zealandia is a private, so please confine your ramblings to the public thoroughfare underneath the bridge. Summoning spirits is never encouraged, especially if you wish to avoid car problems and please be kind to Helen, she’s been through a lot and deserves a rest high on the mountain.

Sources
Bishir, Catherine W., Michael T. Southern, & Jennifer F. Martin. A Guide
     to the  Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC:
     University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.”
     Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
Brendel, Susanne & Betty Betz. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Zealandia. 12 January 1977.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Burgess, Joel. “City acquires historic bridge.” Asheville Citizen-Times.
     25 November 2009.
“Death of Col. J. Evans Brown.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 9 July 1895.
Interstate 240 (North Carolina). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     30 December 2015.
“Saving Helen’s Bridge.” Asheville Community News. 1999.
Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce,
     2013.
Tomlin, Robyn. “Zealandia Bridge Repairs Completed; Fixing historic
     bridge cost much less than originally forecast.” Asheville Citizen-Times.
     1 June 1999.
Warren, Joshua. Haunted Asheville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain
     Press, 1996.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Living Cemetery—Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah

Colonial Park Cemetery
Corner of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Streets
Savannah, Georgia

N.B. This entry is comprised of information from two previous blog entries: “Colonial Park Cemetery (Newsbyte)” from 26 November 2010 and “A Figure in Colonial Park Cemetery” from 8 February 2013.

It’s an odd thing to think of a cemetery as a living thing, but in Savannah, a city that luxuriates in its historic spaces, Colonial Park Cemetery is very much alive. Locals and visitors alike crowd the paths and open expanses of green grass between the crumbling monuments, markers, and vaults. The city’s oldest extant cemetery, this space has served as a park since 1895 when the city took over control from Christ Church. In her 1999 history of the cemetery, Elizabeth Carpenter Piechocinski alludes to children once playing within some of the old family vaults that still contained the dusty bones of former Savannahians. The image of children happily playing among bones certainly supports the idea of this cemetery being alive and a place where life and death joyfully intermingle with the ghost stories and occasional evidence also providing tangible support.

The entrance to Colonial Park Cemetery by Eric Fleming, 2007.
Released under a Creative Commons License on Flickr.

Piechocinski’s history, The Old Burying Ground: Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, 1750-1853, does make a statement about ghosts within Colonial Park: “There are no documented ghosts associated with Colonial Cemetery. Perhaps all the moving and removing of bodies thoroughly disoriented them, and they remain safely interred.” In 2000, a year after her book was released, Piechocinski herself made a disturbing discovery in the cemetery. She discovered the remains of a bound goat with its throat slashed. Not far away the goat’s heart was found on a piece of aluminum foil with a coconut and burned candle. It’s unknown if this was the remains of a religious ceremony or a gruesome prank. Nonetheless, perhaps the souls of the dead are not as safely interred as Piechocinski believes. Since the writing of her book, quite a bit has been written about the spirits that still walk here.

In 2010, I wrote about a video that had been taken by a tourist in the cemetery. The video, taken December 1, 2008, shows what appears to be a small child and another figure. The child is seen running in the background and then the figures appear to possibly fly up into a tree then come down a moment later. Investigation by a film special effects crew hired by Cleveland, Ohio news station, WJW Fox News 8 (see their story here), determined that the video is not a hoax and the ghostly figures are inconclusive.

Personally, I would have to side with the special effects crew. Yes, the figures are strange, but the young man with the video camera did not investigate the figures any more closely, especially after something fell out of the tree. The video shows the cemetery is also full of people, so a small child running along is not that unusual. I’ve visited the park myself a few times and have noted the many palm trees. To me, the falling object at the end of the video appears to be a palm branch. But fake or real however, this video does provide a good reason to discuss the ghosts of Colonial Park Cemetery.

If anything, this cemetery most certainly should be haunted. While it is not the first cemetery established in Savannah, it is the oldest extant cemetery. When the city was laid out in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, the founder of the city and the colony of Georgia, a burial ground was established in 1750 at a site between York, Bull, Oglethorpe, and Whitaker Streets, a location that is a few blocks west of Colonial Park. That cemetery was closed after only seventeen years of use and a cemetery was established at the site of Colonial Park. At the time, this location was outside the city’s walls. Eight years later, the cemetery ownership was given to Christ Church. The cemetery was expanded and opened for the burial of all Christians regardless of denomination. A wall was constructed to surround the cemetery in 1791.

Nearly a hundred years after the cemetery was first established in 1750, the city dedicated space on the newly acquired Springfield Plantation as Laurel Grove Cemetery and closed the South Broad Street Cemetery (as it was known) to burials in 1853. Families with members buried in the old cemetery were encouraged to re-inter their loved ones in Laurel Grove. According to records, some 600 burials were transferred to the new cemetery. Others were removed to the newly opened Evergreen-Bonaventure and the Catholic cemeteries as well. The old cemetery sat lifeless for many years.

On Christmas Day 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman sent a telegraph to President Abraham Lincoln stating, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” Union soldiers, weary from their destructive march across the state from Atlanta, needed a place for quarters within Savannah. The old cemetery grounds proved useful and horses were quartered here. Soldiers also took up residence in some of the old vaults and mausolea. Bored soldiers are noted to have altered some of the tombstones while other stones were moved from their original locations. After the soldiers left, the old cemetery lay neglected for almost 30 years when the city attempted to acquire the space from Christ Church.

Worried that the cemetery would be destroyed, Christ Church sued the city to prevent the sale, but acquiesced when the city assured the church that the cemetery would not be harmed. After some work to restore the cemetery, the site was opened as Colonial Park. In 1998, an archaeological team located some 10,000 grave sites within the cemetery using ground penetrating radar. Only about 600 of these graves are marked with monuments or tombstones.

In addition to the somewhat questionable 2008 ghost video, there are other reports of paranormal phenomena here. James Caskey of the Savannah Haunted History Tour in his book, Haunted Savannah, does provide one personal story. While conducting a tour in November of 2001, Caskey noticed that some of the people in his group had odd expressions on their faces while he talked just outside the cemetery. Turning around, he saw an odd mist near the grave of Edward Malbone which is located just off the main entry path into the cemetery and is perhaps 50-60 feet inside. This grave is particularly identifiable as it has a historical marker (one of many in the cemetery) next to it. This mist rose about five and a half feet off the ground and then dissipated.

Another tour guide and paranormal investigator, Tobias McGriff, writes in his 2012 Savannah Shadows: Tales from the Midnight Zombie Tour of the “Red Girl,” a red-hued young girl’s image that has been captured in photographs taken by ghost tour participants. She is often captured as she kneels at a grave though one intrepid boy saw and communicated with the red waif. As the tour group began to leave, the child inquired why the little girl was in the cemetery and said that the girl had asked him to remain moving the guide and others in the group to tears.

Kady Heard's unadulterated photo, 2013.
All rights reserved.
Kady Heard's photo after I lightened it.
All rights reserved. 



















Three close friends of mine have captured some intriguing images in and around the cemetery. In 2013, my friends Troy and Kady Heard were visiting Savannah on their honeymoon. An alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Troy had worked as a ghost tour guide and was giving his wife an impromptu tour. Passing Colonial Park, Kady spotted an owl perched on one of the crypts. She snapped a picture on her smartphone and posted it on Facebook. When I saw the picture I immediately wondered if she had taken a creepy picture of her husband lost in the shadows, though after talking to Troy, I discovered the picture was looking into the locked cemetery. Apparently, the owl is the roundish figure in the lower center of the photo, but what is particularly odd is the human shaped figure above that. I figure that the very bright lines are reflections from the iron fence. I can't say that this photograph is conclusive evidence of anything, though it is intriguing that it may show something.
 
Celeste Powell's photograph of the playground, 2012.
All rights reserved.
Another friend of mine snapped another intriguing photo at Colonial Park. While passing the playground located at the back of the cemetery on East Perry Lane, Celeste Powell snapped this photograph in 2012. You can see the playground equipment blurred behind a flurry of orbs. While the orbs themselves are often debated as they can be caused by dust, water vapor, or insects, there are three brightly colored orbs in this photograph. According to an internet meme, orange orbs indicate a healing, protective energy. Perhaps that is what appears here. Perhaps the air is full of water vapor or dust or perhaps Celeste captured another piece of evidence of the living energy that still surrounds Colonial Park Cemetery.

Sources
Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to the
     Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure
     Books, 2008.
“Fox 8 Exclusive: Video Proof of Afterlife?” WJW Fox 8 News.
     15 November 2010.
McGriff, Tobias. Savannah Shadows: Tales from the Midnight Zombie
     Tour.  Savannah, GA: Blue Orb Publishing, 2012.
Piechocinski, Elizabeth Carpenter. The Old Burying Ground: Colonial
     Park Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, 1750-1853. Savannah, GA:
     Oglethorpe Press, 1999.
Stratford, Suzanne. “Do you believe? Experts analyze teen’s ghost video.”
     WJW Fox 8 News. 23 February 2011.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

” As the Georgia moon sends ghastly shafts”—Albany, Georgia

In searching through some old Alabama newspapers I stumbled across this fascinating article from Albany, Georgia. Located in southwest Georgia, Albany ranks as the 8th largest city in the state, though its distance from major interstates has limited its growth. It should also be noted that a non-Georgian can easily be  identified by how they pronounce the name Albany. Most Georgian’s know that the town’s name is pronounced as AWL-benny rather than ALL-bany.

In addition to being a damn good ghost story, this article provides fascinating historical details. The article begins by calling on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the great Scottish writer and physician who created the great Sherlock Holmes. Sir Conan Doyle had a fascination with spiritualism and was active in the British spiritualism movement. This article does comment somewhat on the spiritual movement that was sweeping America at this time, particularly with its description of locals gathering to hear these spirit voices.

Even more interesting is the inherent racism and disregard for African-Americans that permeates the tone of this article. Wikipedia provides a summary of how the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois had described the city in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk:
He described it as a typical African-American majority-populated rural town in the Deep South. Du Bois discussed the culture, agribusiness, and economy of the region. Du Bois described Albany as a small town where local sharecroppers lived. Much of the soil had been depleted of nutrients because of intensive cotton cultivation, and people found it hard to make a living. Once a bustling small city with an economy dependent on cotton, it had numerous cotton gins. The planters were dependent on slave labor and Albany had declined steadily in the late 19th century. After the disruption of the Civil War and poor economy of the late nineteenth century, the local agricultural economy suffered. Du Bois wrote that Dougherty County had many decaying one-room slave cabins and unfenced fields. Despite the problems, local folklore, customs, and culture made Albany a notable small city in the South. [from Albany, Georgia]

The Anniston Star
9 June 1922
Page 1

Page Sir Conan, Georgia City is Haunt of Ghost

Spirit of a Hanged Negro is Making Folk Uncomfortable in Albany, Ga.

ALBANY, Ga., June 9.—(United Press)—Call for Sir Conan Doyle! Call for Mr. Doyle!

Albany has a “spirit” he may commune with to his heart’s content, if he isn’t too high toned a spiritualist to attend the same séance with the ghost of a hanged negro.

Z.T. Pate and his family live in what used to be the Warden’s quarters of an old abandoned jail here. The rear of the building, where years ago, prisoners waited their fate, is now but a shell, bit the ancient warden’s quarter’s [sic] make a comfortable home for the Pates.

Recently while in the rear of his house, Pate said he heard a voice—a negro’s voice—speak clear and distinctly out of nowhere—“Boss, dis rope aroun’ mah neck shore do hurt.”

Pate was startled, but interested. He told others about it but got the usual answer—a skeptical laugh.

Then he invited in a few of his neighbors. They sat in the back room and listened. Nothing happened until they became quiet, the [sic] again the voice from nowhere saluted them.

Now it’s one of Albany’s chief places of interest.

Each night as the Georgia moon sends ghastly shafts throughout the broken windows of the old jail a party of Albanites gather in the Pate’s home and listen. They have not been disappointed yet, Pate says.

The voices will not answer a question. It will ask them and comment upon things said in the room. A person, in a whisper, will say something as a test to one sitting by him. Although no other person in the room can hear what has been said, the strange voice comments intelligently upon what the whisperer has told or asked his neighbor.

The building has been examined throughout for wires and none have been found. Nothing that could be used for a radio receiving set is in the building. Tests have been made to see if a ventriloquist is responsible and the theory abandoned.

Recently two gentlemen of color were taken in the ghost chamber.

“Who is them niggers, Mr. Pate?” the voice demanded.

With terror gripping the negroes, [sic] Pate answered giving their names. The building seemed about to collapse according to those present. Sounds of breaking woodwork of falling furniture and breaking glass were heard. The negro visitors lost only a few seconds in decamping.


There are many here who laugh at Pate’s ghost as it is called but none have solved the mystery of the strange voice yet, and they still come nightly to “listen in.”