Monday, September 15, 2014

Begowned Ghosts—Higher Ed Haunts of Virginia

Higher education has always nodded towards the traditions of ancient universities especially during rituals like graduation when students and faculty wear traditional scholars’ gowns and regalia. Among those traditions that can be found are ghost stories passed from student to student, though often these tales include a kernel of truth.  Included here are a few stories from Virginia.

Alderman Library
Campus of the University of Virginia

The website for the University of Virginia Libraries notes that the university’s library system incorporates 13 buildings, possesses 5.1 million books and includes reports of two ghosts. The university’s grand Alderman Library was built during the Great Depression as part of FDR’s Public Works Administration. Opening in 1938, the building housed the university’s growing library which originally was house in the magnificent rotunda designed as a centerpiece for the university by Thomas Jefferson.
Alderman Library, 2009, by Vtn5n, courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to accounts from library staff, the two spirits within the library don’t actually haunt the building, but two particular collections of books. Like the inverted and bookish Jefferson, Dr. Bennett Wood Green and Muscoe Garnett were both obsessed with their own personal libraries. When Dr. Green, a Virginia physician, died in 1913, he left his large library to the university. His books were originally shelved in the Rotunda library and that is where his curious spirit was first encountered checking up on his precious books. When his books were moved to the new Alderman Library, he tagged along and his spirit has been seen roaming the old stacks. Footsteps echoing through those same stacks have also been attributed to him. Upon encountering Green’s bookish spirit, one library staff member began bringing her large dog to work with her.

Alumnus and later member of the university’s Board of Visitors, politician Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett housed his extensive library in his home, Elmwood, in Essex County, Virginia. Upon Garnett’s death just before the end of the Civil War, the house was closed and left to decay. While the house decayed, the books seemingly did not. Rumors spread that the library was taken care of by the spirit of a friend of Garnett’s who would rise from his grave nightly to dust and care for the library. The books were donated by the family to the university in 1938 and were shelved in the new Alderman Library. The spirit seen among these books may be the caring spirit or perhaps that of Garnett, himself.

Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and
     Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
Foster, Gaelyn and Jiaer Zhuang. “Alderman Library turns 75.”
     The Cavalier Daily. 16 October 2013.
Pflager, Henry. “Alderman to celebrate 75th anniversary.” The Cavalier
     Daily. 3 October 2013.
Strand, Megan. “Terrifying Tales.” The Cavalier Daily. 13 April 2001.
Truong, Tiffany. “Spirits, ghosts reportedly haunt University grounds.”
     The Cavalier Daily. 30 October 2013.

Ferguson Center for the Arts
Campus of Christopher Newport University
Newport News

Though Christopher Newport University is the youngest comprehensive public university in Virginia, it seems to have acquired a ghost. The building now housing the Ferguson Center for the Arts originally opened in 1957 as Warwick Junior High School. In 1961, the school reopened as Homer L. Ferguson High School and remained a high school until it closed in 1996. Christopher Newport University, which opened in 1960 not long after Warwick Junior High, acquired the building and hired noted architect I.M. Pei to renovate it into a performing arts center.

Along with the old high school, the university also acquired the ghost of a former student. According to the university’s student newspaper, The Captain’s Log, the spirit requires acknowledgment and the theatre students working in the building know to say hello to her when they enter the sound booths. Otherwise, the student may see things in their peripheral vision. The paper notes that a 15 year old female student died in 1968.

Christopher Newport University. “Our Campus.” Accessed 12 September
Christopher Newport University. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     12 September 2014.
“Ferguson High School Closing: Ferguson Memories.” Daily Press. 9 June
Lurie, Victoria. “A Ghost Story.” The Captain’s Log. 30 October 2013.

Payne Hall
Campus of Washington & Lee University

The Colonnade of Washington and Lee University may be one of the most dramatic collections of college buildings in America. Oddly, this section of campus was not “the product of a single architectural concept,” as is stated in the university’s National Register of Historic Places nomination form. In fact, the Colonnade evolved as “an evolutionary product of a building program, extending over nearly one hundred and fifty years.” So remarkable is this collection of buildings that it is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Colonnade, 2008, by Bobak Ha'Eri, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Payne Hall is the second colonnaded building from the left.
The second oldest building in the Colonnade is Payne Hall built in 1831. The building was originally called The Lyceum and used to teach biology. It was renamed Payne Hall after a renovation in the 1930s and is currently used by the university’s English department. After an English class studied James Merrill’s epic poem, “The Book of Ephraim”—a poem composed using an Ouija board—some students and an English professor attempted to communicate with the spirits of Payne Hall via Ouija board. The group possibly communicated with a few spirits. When one spirit was asked which building on campus was the most haunted, it replied by spelling out “B-I-O.” Sometime later, the professor discovered that Payne Hall had historically been used for biology.

Among the stories from Payne Hall are accounts of doors opening and closing by themselves, disembodied footsteps and apparitions. A university press release describes three apparitions that have been seen around this building including, “a dark presence moving swiftly down the back stairs, a person dressed in black swirling down the Colonnade, and a cape wearing figure that whisks into the building.”

Balfour, Amy C. “Payne Hall Restoration: A Marriage of Old and New.”
     News @ Washington and Lee. 14 September 2011.
Hanna, Jeff. “Payne Hall Ghost: Spooked by Renovations?” News @
     Washington and Lee. 27 October 2011.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic
     Places nomination form for Washington and Lee Historic District. 6 October

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Asheville's Haunted Five

I occasionally get emails from people wanting information on hauntings within a specific location. Last week I received an email regarding haunted places in Asheville, North Carolina and I gave five suggestions off the top of my head. So I decided to create a blog entry.

Located in Western North Carolina, Asheville is certainly one of the most scenic of major cities in the state. Until European intrusion into the area, the Asheville region was a part of the Cherokee territory. In the years following the American Revolution and the little known Cherokee War of 1776 (which was fought in this area between the patriot colonists and the Cherokee people), settlers began to make inroads into this captivating place at the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers.

The city of Asheville grew rather slowly with the pace of growth picking up after the railroads began building lines through the city. After George Vanderbilt began work on his magnificent estate, Biltmore, just south of the city, other wealthy elites began to visit the city as a mountain playground. The Depression brought crushing debt to the city and it stagnated for decades until that debt was paid off.

During the last decades of the 20th century and into the new century, Asheville has remolded itself into a Bohemian gathering place and a Mecca for artists and travelers.
The city’s unique blend of all things hip with a very interesting history has ranked it among the most interesting cities in the South.

In this blog I’ve already covered a few haunted locations within the city including the Grove Park Inn and Helen’s Bridge. Asheville is city with numerous haunted places and this is a selection of those places.

Asheville City Hall
70 Court Plaza
Asheville City Hall, July 2012, by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
All rights reserved.
Asheville is most certainly a quirky city and the city’s marvelous collection of Art Deco buildings adds to that quirkiness. The city’s skyline is dominated by its Art Deco styled courthouse where a tragedy supposedly played out not long after the building’s construction. The building was built between 1926 and 1928 on the eve of the 1929 stock market crash that would mire the country in depression for many years. The building’s exuberant Art Deco styling was created by one of the city’s architectural masters, Douglas Ellington. The city’s fathers boasted that upon completion, no town in the nation could boast a finer municipal building.

On the 30th of November 1930, Central Bank & Trust went bankrupt taking all of Asheville’s optimism for the future with it. As the holder of most of the city’s funds, the city entered a period of penury that would last until the city’s debt was paid off in 1976. According to Ken Traylor and Delas House’s Asheville Ghosts and Legends, the city’s failed finances led the city’s financial manager to take a suicidal plunge from the building. It is believed that it is his spirit wearing a three-piece suit that has been seen within the building.

Barley’s Taproom and Pizzaria
42 Biltmore Avenue

While mass-shooting events have become commonplace in our news recently, they are not a new phenomenon. Barley’s Taproom may still ring with the echoes of one particular bloody night in 1906. An escaped convict by the name of Will Harris went on a rampage after he made advances on a woman he barely knew. He shot and killed two police officers nearby then began shooting random passersby in the area including a gentleman killed near the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Eagle Street, near to where Barley’s now stands. Will Harris escaped into the night, but a posse of local citizens hunted him down and shot him south of the city near Fletcher.

While this single event may have led to some of the activity within Barley’s, according to Kala Ambrose’s Ghosthunting North Carolina, the area also once was the site of the city’s gallows and paranormal activity has been witnessed in the area since the early 20th century. She reports that a man in black has been seen walking down Biltmore Avenue and disappearing at the door to Barley’s. Perhaps this was also the spirit seen by one of Barley’s owners. His experience, as reported in a 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times article, was of seeing a man walk past the windows of the bar. While seeing people outside is not uncommon, it’s very uncommon to see someone walk past the second floor windows.

Though it’s not just outside the building where there is activity. Ambrose reports that the spirit of a woman may haunt the interior with her perfume detected when she is present.

Biltmore House
1 Approach Road

The Biltmore House is the crowning jewel of the marvelous Biltmore Estate constructed by George Vanderbilt over the course of six years in the late 19th century. The house remains the largest privately owned house in the country and is still owned by Vanderbilt’s descendants. It seems that the spirits of former owners and employees still may roam the estate. Spirits identified as those of George Vanderbilt and his wife, Edith, have been encountered as well as those of servants.

Riverside Cemetery
53 Birch Street

Riverside Cemetery is one of Asheville’s most storied cemeteries. It is the resting place of two well-known authors: Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter (known by his nom-de-plume, O. Henry) as well as senators, a couple state governors and three noted Confederate generals. With these noted men rest many of Asheville’s most prominent citizens as well as Confederate soldiers and a number of German sailors who were incarcerated nearby during World War I. Monuments and graves crown stately hills overlooking the French Broad River and lend the cemetery an air of elegance.
Riverside Cemetery, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV.
All rights reserved.
Among these hills, soldiers from the Civil War apparently still march. They have been both seen and heard.

Smith-McDowell House
283 Victoria Road

Asheville’s oldest brick antebellum era building, the Smith-McDowell House has had a long and illustrious history. Built around 1840 by local entrepreneur, James McConnell Smith, the house remained in his family until 1880. The house went through a number of owners until it came into the possession of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in 1974. The campus of the college now surrounds the house.
Smith-McDowell House, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV.
All rights reserved.
As it is with many historic house museums, the Smith-McDowell House has experienced paranormal activity for years. In 2006, the museum called in a local paranormal group, the League of Energy Materialization and Unexplained Phenomena Research (LEMUR), to investigate. The group identified four spirits residing within the home as well as two unidentified paranormal entities.

Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press,
Asheville Now. Asheville History: 1930-1940. Accessed 6 September 2014.
Clark, Paul. “Ghosts are his business Asheville’s own Joshua Warren makes
     a living from the unliving.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 28 October 2005.
Hinson, Mary Alice. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Asheville City Hall. No date.
“Museum looks into paranormal activity.” Hendersonville Times-News.
     13 October 2006.
National Park Service. “Riverside Cemetery.” National Register of Historic
     Places Travel Itinerary: Asheville, North Carolina. Accessed 6 September
National Park Service. “Smith-McDowell House.” National Register of Historic
     Places Travel Itinerary: Asheville, North Carolina. Accessed 6 September
Traylor, Ken & Delas M. House, Jr. Asheville Ghosts and Legends. Charleston,
     SC: History Press, 2006.
Ward, Kevin Thomas. North Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2011.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Newsworthy Haunts 9-1-14

In the past two months, a number of locations in the South have been investigated and written up in local media.

Antiques and Uniques Collectibles
7 Aviles Street
St. Augustine, Florida

In the old quarter of one of the oldest cities in the country, it’s no surprise that ghosts are found everywhere. The building housing this small antique store is a quaint, commercial structure with a balcony that overhangs the sidewalk. Painted a bright, gay yellow, the color gives no clue to the spirits that lurk within. According to a historian quoted in Elizabeth Randall’s Haunted St. Augustine and St. John’s County, part of the building was originally built as a jail, specifically a drunk tank, in the late 19th century. The building was enlarged and has mostly been used as a commercial building throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.
Aviles Street from Constitution Plaza, 2014. Antiques and Uniques
Collectibles is is the yellow building on the left side of the street
just under the sign. Photo by Michael Rivera, courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to an article by paranormal investigator and writer Jamie Pearce for Historic City News, the building houses several spirits including a spectral cat. Pearce states that, “the last time we investigated, five members of my team heard two distinct ‘meows’ inside the store, a store with no cats.” Other spirits, including two possible children, are known to occasionally raid the refrigerator and play with toys. The store’s owner captured video of the refrigerator door opening and closing on its own accord.

Pearce, Jamie. “Make some paranormal friends on Aviles Street.” Historic City
     News. 24 August 2014.
Randall, Elizabeth. Haunted St. Augustine and St. John’s County. Charleston:
     History Press, 2013.

2244 Beach Boulevard
Biloxi, Mississippi

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, many of the homes along Beach Boulevard—which look out to the Gulf—sustained extensive damage with some being swept away completely. Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, sustained terrible damage. Some outbuildings were swept away and others damaged severely while some 35% of the museum’s collections were lost. By 2008, the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth, the house had been restored and reopened to the public.

Even after the hurricane’s extensive damage, the spirits have remained. While paranormal investigation groups have lobbied unsuccessfully for years to investigate the estate, a recent shakeup in the museum’s administration finally allowed Mississippi Gulf Coast Paranormal (MGCP) to investigate over a weekend earlier this month.
Beauvoir, 2010. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to articles regarding the investigation, paranormal activity is a very common occurrence at the stunning antebellum home. One paranormal investigation team member stated that while full-body apparitions are a rarity elsewhere, they’re quite normal here. They continued saying that a staff member in the house “sees Jeff Davis a couple times a week standing in the main hall.” In addition to the former president of the Confederacy, apparitions of Davis’ wife, Varina, and his daughter, Winnie, have been captured on film. In addition, a Confederate soldier is commonly encountered on the grounds by staff and visitors alike.

The MGCP investigation apparently captured a few occurrences the first night of the investigation including a rocking chair rocking on its own accord in Davis’ bedroom and many hits on the team’s K2 meters. It will likely be a few weeks before all the video and audio is thoroughly reviewed.

Beauvoir (Biloxi, Mississippi). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     31 August 2014.
Ochs, Patrick. “Ghost hunters return for Round 2 at Beauvoir in Biloxi.”
     The Sun Herald. 9 August 2014.
Ochs, Patrick. “We ain’t afraid of no ghosts: Paranormal group investigates
     Beauvoir.” The Sun Herald. 7 August 2014.

T’Frere’s Bed & Breakfast
1905 Verot School Road
Lafayette, Louisiana

I’ve previously covered the “Little Brother’s” House a few years ago when I started this blog. For background information, please see my previous entry here. I was delighted recently to see that an investigation of this house was recently carried out.

Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, who has methodically investigated haunted places throughout the state of Louisiana, were granted access to investigate T’Frere’s recently after 9 years of trying to get permission.

Like the investigation at Beauvoir, a few minor things happened, the result will not be available for a few weeks.

Coen, Chere. “Ghost hunters search for inn’s oldest ‘resident.’”
     IND Monthly. 18 August 2014.
Ponseti, Valerie. “Ghost Hunt at T-Frere’s.” KATC. 17 August 2014.

Demopolis Public Library
211 East Washington Street
Demopolis, Alabama

While the hauntings at Beauvoir and T’Frere’s have been decently documented, there’s been another investigation recently for a location that has not been documented yet: the Demopolis Public Library. The Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group was called in by the library’s director to find out if the “creaks and quirks” of the old building are simply that or possibly paranormal. The director states that staff have discovered books repeatedly falling off the shelf as well as hearing footsteps in the building’s mezzanine. As with the other investigations, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the results of this investigation.

Averette, Justin. “HAUNTED COLLECTION: Paranormal group
     Investigates Demopolis Public Library.” The Demopolis Times.
     26 August 2014.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Heralded by the Owls—Thomas Divide Ghost Lights

I’ve returned to “real life” and have time to write here again. I wrote this just after seeing the Thomas Divide Lights last Thursday. For further information on the lights, see the previous entry.

August 14, 2014
Cherokee, North Carolina

I’ve been working up here since May and haven’t had time to see the lights until tonight. A friend of mine and I headed up to Thomas Divide Overlook to see the lights. He had been up here last year but had only heard about them; so I offered to take him.

We were alone in the quiet and dark night staring at the ridge hoping something would appear. The chatter of crickets and cicadas issued from the dark forest that surrounded us.

Then the owls started up. Barred Owls in the valley below us began their call of “who cooks for you, who cooks for y’all” (this is the South after all). Then a pair took up the call closer to us. Cherokee lore holds that owls are often heralds of bad news and death so I find the calls a bit nerve-wracking. As the owls continued a small light appeared on the ridge. It flickered, and the glow began to grow a bit. It appeared to move a bit, though that may be simply been an optical illusion.

The beacon was lit for about 5 minutes then, as abruptly as it had appeared, it disappeared. The owls started their calling again, though the light did not return. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thomas Divide Ghost Lights

Thomas Divide Overlook
Mile Marker 464
Blue Ridge Parkway
Near Cherokee, North Carolina

High, high on the mountain
And down in the valley below,
It shines like the crown of an angel
And fades as the mists come and go.
Way over yonder,
Night after night until dawn…

--- from the classic Bluegrass song, “The Brown Mountain Light,” by
Scotty Wiseman

Thomas Divide sign. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
My mother couldn’t quite grasp what we were seeing a couple years ago.

“You mean there’s nothing over there?”

“Well, there’s a mountain, but it’s inside the park so it’s undeveloped.”

My parents and I returned to watching the lights up on the mountain across the valley from the Thomas Divide Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The lights put on a spectacular show for us that night as well as the other spectators who had gathered to observe the mysterious phenomena. We watched for a few minutes as the lights flickered on, shone brightly for a few minutes, then flickered off, all from the ridge opposite. One light appeared to divide in two and another light changed color—from a white light to red. At one point, the lights even appeared like the brake lights of a car.

View from Thomas Divide. The lights appear along
the ridges in the distance. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell
IV, all rights reserved.
Continuation of the view from Thomas Divide. Photo 2014,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
I’ve written quite a bit about Cherokee, North Carolina, where I’m currently spending the summer. Sitting at the heart of the Qualla Boundry—commonly known as the Cherokee Indian Reservation—this land is filled with the magic and mystery of the Cherokee who have existed here for centuries. As a Cherokee friend of mine stated a few years ago, “To the Cherokee, the supernatural is just natural.” Here, ghosts and spirits are just another feature of the landscape. The spiritual activity here is stunning and ranges from ghost lights to full-blown apparitions.

Ghost light lore is found throughout the world and on every continent. Throughout the South these ghost lights appear with regular frequency: from Maryland’s Hebron Light to Florida’s Oviedo Lights, Beauregard, Mississippi’s Illinois Central Light to Georgia’s Surrency Light. North Carolina has a number of ghost lights: the Maco Light in Wilmington, the Cove City Light, the Vander Light in Cumberland County, the Pactolus Light in the small town of Pactolus and the previously mentioned Brown Mountain Lights on Brown Mountain near Morganton. Notably, the Maco, Vander and Pactolus Lights are associated with railroad tracks. The Brown Mountain Lights, according to L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations, were first seen by the local Native Americans and first recorded by German engineer, John William Gerard de Brahm one of the first explorers of the area. The lights have been seen by many and various legends have grown up to explain them.

Of course, science has attempted to explain these various lights throughout the world. Commonly, they are explained as swamp gas or, more properly, biogas that’s released as organic matter decays. Another explanation lies in ball lightning, a phenomena that’s not well understood. For many of these lights, their frequency would seem to rule out the ball lightning theory and certainly in dry area such as the desert surrounding Marfa, Texas, home to the famous Marfa Lights, the dry conditions would rule out swamp gas. The Brown Mountain Lights have been investigated by the United States Weather Service and the Geological Survey and neither have conclusively explained the lights. The Geological Survey blamed car headlights and locomotive headlights, but that would not explain the sighting dating to the eighteenth century, well before the existence of cars and trains.

The Thomas Divide Ghost Lights are apparently North Carolina’s least known ghost lights. So far in my research, I’ve found little documentation, but I can personally say that there is something going on at Thomas Divide. On more than one occasion, I’ve watched the strange lights.

To experience the lights one drives up to the Thomas Divide Overlook after dark and parks facing the Thomas Divide Ridge ahead across the valley. After flashing your headlights and possibly honking your horn the lights may appear in the distance. The first time I saw the lights, they appeared as balls of lights that shot up vertically in the air like a bottle rocket, but then circled around to drop back to earth only to shoot up again to follow the same route. The lights were rather dim when I saw them in the middle of the summer, but according to an article in the Western Carolina University Western Carolinian, they are brighter in the winter.

When I saw them with my parents, the lights were very bright; so bright it was like looking at a lighthouse. There was already a crowd assembled, so we didn’t worry about flashing our headlights. At other times, however, the lights are quite dim, possibly affected by fog or mist in the area.

There are numerous legends behind the lights. The WCU article does mention the legend stating that it involves a Cherokee shaman who tried to remain in the beloved mountains that the Cherokee had called home for centuries after the American government ordered their removal. Believing he and his family could remain on their land, they escaped into the deep coves of the mountains. Many natives escaped into the mountains and were tracked by soldiers. When the shaman was caught he was executed as an example to the others. His body was dismembered and the parts spread throughout the mountains. The Thomas Divide Lights are his spirit attempting to find all of his parts.

Other legends include the lights as being from the lanterns of the Cherokee Little People or fireballs hurled by Judaculla, a mythical giant from Cherokee lore. More sensible people have suggested that the lights may be hikers or from camp fires, though that would not explain the erratic movement or the lights changing color.

Like the Brown Mountain Lights, these lights may be just as old. A recent article about the phenomenon from The Smoky Mountain News, quotes the Beloved Man of the Cherokee, Jerry Wolfe. Nearing 90 years of age, he recalls seeing the lights when he was a teenager. A local paranormal investigator is quoted in the article as saying that, according to lore from various Cherokee families, the lights have been seen since the 18th century.

Regardless of their origin, the lights still flicker and glow nightly and I’m glad I was able to share them with my parents.

This is a rewrite and edit of the entry posted on this topic September 12, 2010

Ball lightning. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September
Brown Mountains Lights. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     12 September 2010.
Hester, Margaret. “The Thomas Divide.” The Western Carolinian. 10
     November 2006.
Kasper, Andrew. “Theories swirl around perplexing mountain lights.”
     Smoky Mountain News. 23 January 2013.
L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations. History.
     Accessed 12 September 2010.
Rivers, Micheal. Appalachian Mountain Folklore. Atglen, PA: Schiffer,
Toomey, Michael. John William Gerard de Brahm. Tennessee Encyclopedia
     of History and Culture. Accessed 12 September 2010.
Will-o’-the’wisp. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2010.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Old Folks Still at Home (Newsworthy Haunts)

Museum of Seminole County History
300 Bush Boulevard
Sanford, Florida

That’s where the old folks stay.
--“Old Folks at Home,” Stephen Foster, 1851

It’s rather fitting that a former old folks home is now the home to a county historical museum. Of course, it’s no surprise that the same location remains home to old folks who have passed on. Such is the case of the Seminole County Old Folks’ Home which now houses the county’s historical museum.
Seminole County Old Folks' Home, now home to the county's
historical museum. Photo by Ebyabe, 2006, courtesy of
In the era before the advent of government assistance, many local governments provided poor houses and poor farms where the poor and indigent could seek shelter and attempt to support themselves. Seminole County constructed this building in 1926 as part of an 82 acre county farm. This site was operated as the county’s “Old Folks’ Home” until 1964 when the structure was converted for use as the county’s Agricultural Center. It served in that capacity until a new center was built in the early 1980s. The structure became the county’s museum in 1982.

However, it seems like some of its residents may have not left. A recent article in Florida Today notes that the museum is now providing paranormal activity tours of the building. With a tablet computer as a guide, guests can see evidence from the two paranormal investigations of the building and discover the varied types of paranormal activity witnessed in each room.

While the spirits have not been identified, many of their activities have been noted.  One guest had their sunglasses knocked from their head while a museum employee has discovered lights on that she specifically turned off. In one case, the employee experienced what she described as a feeling of being lightly tased. Investigations of the museum have uncovered photographs of orbs and EVPs.

     Florida Today. 17 June 2014.
Old Folks Home Marker.” Accessed 18 June 2014.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Louisiana and Mississippi: Newsworthy Haunts—6/3/2014

First up, we have a pair of hauntings from Louisiana:

Eunice Public Library
222 South Second Street
Eunice, Louisiana

If there is a spirit haunting the public library in the small town of Eunice, then it may really like children’s literature. According the librarian, a book by Mary Alice Fontenot, a local children’s author, “has gone missing from our shelves, and after replacing this book, the replacement went missing as well.” But this is only one of a number of incidents that remain unexplained including the staff opening the library in the morning and discovering that the restroom door is locked with the light on inside.

After discovering that a local psychic and paranormal investigator had had odd experiences at the library as a child, the library asked the investigator’s group, On the Edge Soul Seekers, to conduct an investigation. The results were presented to the public on May 29th, with nothing published yet on what those findings were.

Johnson, William. “Is the Eunice Public Library haunted?” Daily World
     29 May 2014.

Spring Street Historical Museum
525 Spring Street
Shreveport, Louisiana

At the Spring Street Historical Museum in the old Tally’s Bank Building in Shreveport, the ghost is more interested in the welfare of the employees there than children’s literature. A 2013 article mentions that a museum employee was about to get up on a ladder when he saw the museum’s front door open by itself. The sturdy door was not prone to open easily and the employee was a bit frightened. When he returned to the ladder, he discovered he had not set it up properly and may have fallen should he have climbed upon it.

The museum occupies the Tally’s Bank Building, considered one of the oldest in Shreveport. It was constructed as a bank just after the close of the Civil War. With the South’s economy still rather unstable, the building housed three different banks. The first two failed, but the third—B. Jacob’s Bank—became First National Bank of Shreveport in 1885. That bank occupied this Italianate-style building until the 1950s when the bank needed more space. The structure served as a bar for a number of years until it was donated to the local Colonial Dames organization for use as a museum.

The stories of paranormal activity from the building have led to its being investigated three times. According to a recent article in the Shreveport Times, the primary spirit is of a former bank manager named Edward.

Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office. Document on Tally’s Bank.
     Accessed 1 June 2014.
Spradlin, Courtney. “City Explorer: Step inside downtown’s Spring
     Street Historical Museum.” Shreveport Times. 28 May 2014.
Thomas, Angela. “Before ‘Ghost Hunters,’ Louisiana Spirits Explored
     Shreveport’s Haunted Past.” KEEL News Radio 710. 13 June 2013.

1905 City Hall
300 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Two hurricanes, Katrina in 2005 and Camille in 1969, tossed this Bay St. Louis landmark about pretty badly. Camille blew off the building’s cupola and Katrina severely damaged the building when it made landfall near Bay St. Louis. Now, tenants of the restored building are experiencing something that’s tossing things around inside the building.

Originally, the building housed the city’s Mayor’s office, City Council chambers, police department and the jail. Over the years, many city departments have occupied the building which, after Katrina’s destructive blow to the city, required extensive restoration. After its Georgian splendor was restored recently, the building now houses a variety of businesses and offices with a restaurant, the Cypress Café, occupying the entire first floor. It is here, where the old jail was once located, that quite a bit of paranormal activity has been experienced.

An article from a local TV station, WLOX, quotes the café’s owner as saying, “We’ve had a lot of things move around, we’ve had glasses fly around. Doors just open and close real quick, and all of our doors have safety mechanisms which [means] you can’t actually open them. There’s just so many things that happened here on a regular basis that just didn’t seem normal.” After initially attempting to ignore the activity, the owner and staff decided to call in a paranormal team.

The café has just seen its second investigation after an earlier investigation by The Atlantic Paranormal Society. Just recently, G-COM: Ghost Chasers of Mississippi, investigated and captured evidence of three possible spirits.

Legend points to an incident in 1928 which may provide the origin of some of the building’s activity. That year, a man incarcerated in the jail shot his way to freedom, killing a man in the process. After he was recaptured, the prisoner became the last person executed by hanging in Hancock County.

For the café’s owner, however, the spirits are not fearsome, “nothing bad has really happened, it’s really kind of cool,” she said.

G-COM has produced a video of their investigation, it can be viewed here.

Belcher, Geoff. “Old Town ‘Haunt’—Paranormal investigators probe
     historic Bay building.” The Seacoast Echo. 4 April 2014.
Showers, Al. “1905 city hall restored in Bay St. Louis.” WLOX. 29 October
Showers, Al. “Could the historic city hall in Bay St. Louis be haunted?”
     WLOX. 29 May 2014.