Friday, March 27, 2015

Encounter with a face—Sweetwater, Tennessee

The Lost Sea
140 Lost Sea Road
Sweetwater, Tennessee

My post on Sweetwater, Tennessee’s The Lost Sea got an anonymous comment a couple weeks ago, “By the way there is nothing haunted about the cave. I work there and I can tell you half of the stuff above is a lie.” Just a day later, I received an interesting report from a visitor who had an experience.

In writing about haunted places, I regularly encounter people who will attest that a location is not haunted while also encountering people who have had experiences in that location they truly believe are paranormal. Who to believe? No one perceives the world around them in the same exact way. This becomes even more complicated when you factor in psychic sensitivities.
A passage within the Lost Sea Cave from my visit in 2011.
Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
To say that a place is not haunted because you personally have not experienced anything is short-sighted and loses sight of people who may be able to sense things where you may feel nothing. It’s for this reason that physical evidence is very important. In this case, the reader who wrote to me about her experience also included two photographs. While I’m not expert on photographic evidence, both photos do contain some odd things. I cannot say for certain whether the photographs are paranormal or not.

This reader from Lakeland, Florida related her experience as follows:

Hi, I had an encounter at the Lost Sea Caves in Sweetwater, TN this past December. I also have pictures that I took. At the time of our visit, I told my husband that there was a young man following me (I have always been “sensitive” but because it scares me, I have never really given it any thought). All I could see of the young man was his face, and that he had a blue hat on. He was not threatening to me, but curious. I did some research when I got home and I learned of the young union [sic] soldier who was spying on the caves and was killed. I am positive that this is who my encounter was with.

I asked her to describe the face and the hat further.

As far as the description of the face and hat. He was young, had a thin, although not super skinny face and a mild complexion. His hat was a medium blue, what I would call a classic union battle cap. [from this description, I would venture it was a Union kepi] What stood out to me the most is that he was young, definitely not over 25. He also seemed kind and curious. I felt like he knew that I knew he was there.

I then ventured to ask if she saw him with her eyes or sensed him. She responded that she “sensed it, but it was the first time that I ever saw clear features.” She continued, “all of the other times, I could definitely sense the energy, but I couldn’t put a physical description on it.”

In my own entry from 2011, I alluded to the legend from the Civil War regarding a Union spy who attempted to sabotage the Confederate saltpeter mining and gunpowder making operation that was located in the cave. Since I wrote that article, I have discovered that there is quite a bit more information on that topic. Larry E. Matthews’ book, Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains, includes this story in their history of the cave.
The first of the reader images. This was taken on the
Lost Sea with the sea's rainbow trout beginning to
mob the boat. There are two orbs in the photo, both
of which could be water vapor, though the orb that was
caught in motion seems quite curious to me. All rights
My photograph of the fish for comparison. Notice the water vapor
"orbs" appear stationary. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The story comes from a diary kept by the Rev. J. H. Coltharp that was discovered before 1934. Sadly, the diary has been lost, but the details of the gunpowder production and the death of the Union soldier were recorded. According to this diary, the cave was the only location in the Knoxville area where saltpeter was mined for Confederate use. This gunpowder was surreptitiously carried to Knoxville and throughout the South by young men who would carry 50 pound cans of it.  

The diary relates that the men working this operation felt relatively safe in the cave as Union troops—this region was occupied by Union troops starting in 1863—wouldn’t enter the cave for fear of getting lost. One Union soldier did manage to sneak past the Confederates stationed throughout the area to guard the cave and was discovered after he had placed dynamite in the cave to destroy it. “He was tied to a large gum tree near the cave and shot.”
The second reader image from one of the dry cave rooms.
There is both a light anomaly and an orb in this photo.
The light anomaly is human shaped, though a flash in a
cave like this can cause many anomalies. Again, this orb
is in motion, which is curious. All rights reserved.
Is this soldier that the young lady from Florida saw? We may never know.

I’d like to thank the young lady from Florida for sharing her story and photographs.

Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
Matthews, Larry E. Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains.
     Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society. 2008.
Powell, Lewis O. Correspondence with a reader from Lakeland, Florida.
     9-14 March 2015.
Powell, Lewis O. “A sunless sea—Craighead Caverns and the Lost Sea.”
     Southern Spirit Guide blog. 6 December 2011.

Monday, March 9, 2015

13 More Southern Rooms with a Boo

This is the second half of my two-part article on Haunted Hotels and Inns of the South that I created just after the blog was first posted in 2010. It was my first really big (almost too big) article and I have attempted over the years to revisit it with the hope of updating, revising and completing it (I originally left off Virginia and West Virginia when I got tired of writing). This article with my article, 13 Southern Rooms with a Boo, is the replacement.

This article is just a sampling (2 from each of the 13 states that I cover here) of the vast array of haunted lodgings throughout the South. Enjoy!

Tutwiler Hotel
2021 Park Place
Birmingham, Alabama

The Tutwiler Hotel, like a ghost, has risen from the dead, almost. When it opened in 1914, the Tutwiler was the finest hotel in the city and was at the heart of its social scene hosting events such as actress Tallulah Bankhead’s wedding reception. The hotel was originally constructed to serve visiting steel company executives in this city that was built on the steel industry. When the industry began to die in the second half of the twentieth century, the hotel fell into disrepair and the 450-room landmark with its 1000-seat ballroom was imploded a year after closing its door in 1972.

Panoramic view of the Tutwiler Hotel, 2011, by Chris Pruitt.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
With the recovery of Birmingham’s economy, the need for a luxury hotel again arose. Investors purchased the Ridgeley Apartments, a large brick building on Park Avenue that had been constructed by Major Tutwiler at the same time his grand hotel had opened. The apartment building was restored and refurbished into the new Tutwiler Hotel. Not only has the hotel returned from oblivion, but some of its former residents have returned as well. A spiritual knocker raps on the doors of the hotel’s sixth floor late at night. Of course, when the door is answered, no one is seen. Jessica Penot in her Haunted North Alabama tells of the spirit of a young girl who is also seen on the sixth floor and may be the cause of the knocking.

According to Alan Brown, the bartender of the hotel had issues with the lights in the dining room. He would turn them off and leave for the night only to find them on in the morning. After coming in one morning to discover a fully cooked feast laid out on the table, the bartender began saying goodnight to Major Tutwiler upon leaving at night. The lights have remained off. “Good night, Major Tutwiler.”

Brown, Alan. “Knocking at the Tutwiler Hotel.” WierdUS,com.
     Accessed 28 October 2010.
Lewis, Herbert J. “Birmingham.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 8
     January 2008.
Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History
      Press, 2010.

Hay-Adams Hotel
800 16th Street, Northwest
Washington, D.C.

Marian Adams, known by her nickname, “Clover,” is at the center of two ghost stories. One tale concerns her tragic spirit haunting the fourth floor of the Hay-Adams Hotel and the other concerns her eerie grave at Rock Creek Cemetery. Clover was the socialite wife of historian and writer Henry Adams whose autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize but omitted his late wife.

The December 10, 1885 edition of the Washington paper, The Critic, briefly notes Marian Adams’ funeral: “The funeral of Mrs. Marian Adams of 1607 H Street, wife of Mr. Henry Adams, took place from her late residence yesterday. The certificate of Dr. Hagner, filed in the Health office, was to the effect that the deceased died of paralysis of the heart superinduced by an overdose of potassium.” Mrs. Adams was an amateur photographer and used potassium cyanide in developing her photographs. It was believed that she had committed suicide, though rumors swirled throughout the city as to why and even if she had possibly been murdered.

Hay-Adams Hotel, 2008, by AgnosticPreachersKid.
Courtesyof Wikipedia.
The H Street home where Adams had met her death was being rented by the Adams from art collector W. W. Cochran. The couple had been renting the house while an H. H. Richardson-designed home was being built for them on 16th Street. The home was being built next door to the home of John and Clara Hay, close friends of the Adams. Following his wife’s death, Henry Adams moved into the new house and stories came out of the couple’s old house on H Street where residents witnessed mysterious knocking and the ghost of a “sad-eyed lady.”

To mark his wife’s grave, Henry Adams commissioned the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a fitting memorial that was not “intelligible to the average mind.” The sculptor created a bronze figure that sat atop the grave shrouded in cloth. The figure’s face is hidden under a hood and is hidden in shadow. Though neither Saint-Gaudens or Adams called it such, the creepy statue became known as “Grief.” Over the years, tales have been spun to explain the statue’s effect on people and some have reported that the figure has supernatural powers.

Adams passed away in 1918 and the graceful pair of Richardsonian mansion that had been home to Adams and his friends the Hays became the victims of “progress” in 1927. A developer demolished the homes and constructed a large Italian Renaissance-styled hotel which he named for the former owners of the property. At some point, the hotel gained a permanent guest in the form of the shade of Marian “Clover” Adams.

Clover has apparently taken over the hotel’s fourth floor. Maids in unoccupied rooms on that floor have reported hearing the sounds of a woman sobbing, asking “what do you want?” and calling their name. The hotel’s Wikipedia page cites a source as saying that the spirit of Clover Adams is accompanied by the faint smell of almonds. Potassium cyanide is extracted from almonds.

Alexander, John. Ghosts: Washington Revisited. Atglen, PA: Schiffer,
“Funeral of Mrs. Adams.” The Critic. 10 December 1885.
Hay-Adams Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 5
     March 2015.
Rooney, E. Ashley and Betsy Johnson. Washington, D.C.: Ghosts,
     Legends and Lore. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill
     Publishers, 2003.

Don CeSar Beach Resort
3400 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, Florida

Facing the sapphire waters of the Gulf of Mexico stands Thomas Rowe’s palatial pink dream, The Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa. Opened in 1928, the resort was, for a time, the heart of the Jazz Age social scene in Florida, hosting luminaries ranging from novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to baseball legend, Lou Gehrig. The resort survived the tumult of the Great Depression but with Thomas Rowe’s death in 1940, the hotel passed into the hands of his ex-wife. When Rowe died, he had been in the process of changing his will to write out his former spouse, but as this new will remained unsigned at the time of death, the old will was executed. The ex-wife, Mary, was not a business woman and the hotel began to fall into disrepair and was taken over by the government for back taxes.

The immense hotel was transformed by the government into a veteran‘s hospital, stripped of its Old World splendor. Following World War II, the building remained in government hands and served as offices for the Veteran’s Administration and later for other agencies. In 1967, the structure was abandoned and left to the elements. Vagrants, vandals and mice roamed the graffiti painted and trash-strewn corridors. During this time, stories began to circulate of Jazz Age phantoms roaming the beach near the resort and the sound of parties echoing from the ruined patios and terraces.

With the looming threat of demolition, a citizens group banded together to save the pink landmark. The hotel was reopened in 1973 and renovation starting in the early 1980s restored and expanded the resort. Renovations and work in old structures often tends to stir up spiritual activity and such was the case at the Don Cesar. The figure of a man in a tan suit and Panama hat began to be seen poking around the building. Sometimes alone and sometimes seen with a beautiful woman, the man has been identified as Thomas Rowe.

The Don Cesar in 2006 by Porkfork. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The woman is connected with the legend of the hotel. According to the story, Rowe built this pink palace as a monument to his first love, an opera singer. The couple was not allowed to marry and when Rowe built the hotel, he named it Don CeSar for the male lead in Wallace’s opera, Maritana. Supposedly, Rowe’s lady love was an opera singer whom he spotted first playing the female lead in the opera. Perhaps Rowe and his love have finally found the solace in death that they could ill afford in life.

1935 Labor Day hurricane. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     29 October 2010.
Don CeSar. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 28 October
Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore,
     Volume 1, South and Central Florida.Sarasota, FL: Pineapple
     Press, 2008.
Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnatti, OH: Clerisy,
Powell, Jack. Haunting Sunshine: Ghostly Tales from Florida’s
     Shadows. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2001.

The Riverview Hotel
105 Osborne Street
St. Marys, Georgia                              

The verandas of the Riverview Hotel have faced the waters of the St. Marys River for nearly 100 years inviting visitors to stay and “set a spell.” This family-owned hotel has been operated by the Brandon family since the 1920s and has seen the likes of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Admiral Chester Nimitz and Senator Richard Russell. Something, possibly not of this world, seems to occupy Room 8, even when the guest register shows it to be vacant. Innkeeper Jerry Brandon is quoted by Sheila Turnage in her Haunted Inns of the Southeast as saying that a male apparition has been spotted outside of Room 8 and people staying in that room have been touched by an unseen presence. He continues that during a power outage, the lights in the room stayed on. In St. Marys, the spirit world still leaves the light on for you.

Riverview Hotel, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Hampton, Liz. “Living history at the Riverview.” The Florida
     Times-Union. 21 February 2004.
Reddick, Marguerite. Camden’s Challenge: A History of Camden
     County, Georgia.
St. Marys, GA: Camden County Historical
     Society, 1976.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Maple Hill Manor
2941 Perryville Road
Springfield, Kentucky

Some paranormal researchers speculate that ghosts may see a location as they once knew it rather than what exists now. Despite this speculation, I can imagine the ghosts looking out of the windows of Maple Hill Manor would be confused by the flocks of alpacas and llamas grazing outside. The current innkeepers, Todd Allen and Tyler Horton, raise the alpacas and llamas for their wool which may be used to make clothing, jewelry and even teddy bears.

In addition to these exotic animals, the innkeepers appear to have a number of spirits on hand in this historic home built between 1848 and 1851. It was the home of Thomas and Sarah McElroy, their children (a few of whom died in infancy) and the family’s slaves. Some of the spirits that are still encountered may be family members, including a son who plunged to his death when a railing on the stairway gave way and the spirits of the McElroy’s slaves including “Mammy Anne” who has been seen sitting in her former room. These spirits are joined by the apparitions of soldiers who were wounded in the Battle of Perryville, fought nearby. The innkeepers have reported that activity, especially in Harriet Beecher Stowe room where the soldiers were treated, tends to spike around October 8, the anniversary of the battle.

Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena
     of the Bluegrass State.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnatti, OH: Clerisy Press, 2010.

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

During an investigation of T’Frere’s House Bed & Breakfast, Smoke and Mirrors Paranormal captured an EVP of a male voice whispering very gruffly, “that’s it, I want them out!” The spirits here speak a great deal in both English and French. An exterminator was working in the home’s attic when he encountered a small woman who asked him to “viens voir,” or come see. Not wanting to actually see what the mysterious woman wanted to show him, the exterminator fled.

Oneziphore Comeaux, the youngest of seven children, nicknamed T’Frere, meaning “little brother,” built his home in Lafayette in 1880. When the home’s owner, Peggy Moseley decided to open the home as a bed and breakfast in 1986, the name T’Frere’s was perfectly suited for it. When the Pastor family bought the bed and breakfast in 1994, they also didn’t realize their purchase included a ghost.

As the Pastors were moving in the family took a load of things to the house for the night. Their son had forgotten a paper needed for his math homework. He was worrying about it in his room when the sheet suddenly floated down from the ceiling. An investigation of the room did not reveal any reason that the missing paper could have just appeared.

Legend speaks of a young schoolteacher, Amelie, who died when she went to wash her face and fell in the well. When the Catholic Church judged her death a suicide, she was denied burial in the consecrated ground of the cemetery. Amelie’s spirit has been encountered throughout the house, with her mostly making her presence known by rattling pots and pans, turning lights off and on and other mischievous activity.

Coen, Chere. “Ghost hunters search for inn’s oldest ‘resident.’”
     IND Monthly. 18 August 2014.
Coen, Chere. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana. Charleston, SC: History
     Press, 2013.
Ponseti, Valerie. “Ghost Hunt at T-Frere’s.” KATC. 17 August 2014.
Rose, Christopher. “Minding her manor.” The New Orleans Times-
     Picayune.19 April 1992.
T’Frere’s House, Lafayette, LA.” Smoke and Mirrors Paranormal
     Investigators. Accessed 5 March 2015.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Wayside Inn
4344 Columbia Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

The massive three-story granite Wayside Inn on the Columbia Turnpike outside of Ellicott City can claim that “George Washington slept here,” it can also claim a ghost. While the early history of the inn is lost in the shadows, it is known that Washington, as well as other colonial luminaries passed through the area. Most likely, they would have stayed in one of the inns that lined the Old Columbia Turnpike, between Washington, D. C. and Baltimore. Little has been written on the female ghost that haunts the premises, though an article written around the time of the inn’s reopening in 2004, mentions that a friend of the innkeepers heard a door open followed by footsteps to discover that no one was present.

"History." Accessed 29 October 2010.
Schissler, Eleanor. “B&B’s renovation doesn’t quiet talk of reputed
     ghost.” Howard County Times. 3 June 2004.

Cedar Grove Inn
2200 Oak Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi

Cedar Grove is a house built for love. Built by John Klein as a wedding gift to his bride, Elizabeth Bartley Day, Cedar Grove was completed in 1852 following a grand tour of Europe with her. With the start of the Vicksburg Campaign during the Civil War, the house was one of the first houses in Vicksburg hit by the Union shelling of the city, in fact, a cannonball is still lodged in the wall of the parlor. Mrs. Klein, a native of Ohio, was also a relative of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman who had been a guest in the house. Sherman gave personal assurances to the Kleins that their home would be spared and he personally escorted the family to safety. Following the Kleins evacuation, the house was used by Union forces until after the fall of Vicksburg.

Foyer of the Cedar Grove Inn, 2004, by
Flowerchild48. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
When the Kleins returned to the city after the war, they were met as traitors with turned backs and averted eyes. When the house was purchased in 1983 and conversion into a bed and breakfast began, the Klein’s proud house had fallen into disrepair. The owners have fully restored the house and included homes across the street as cottages including the cottage that John Klein used while the main house was under construction.

I’ve found two main sources on this inn. While there is no confusion about the history, the sources differ on the spiritual guests. Sheila Turnage mentions two spirits, a male spirit, possibly Mr. Klein, whose pipe smoke appears in the gentlemen’s parlor and a female spirit who has been heard and seen on the stairs. Interestingly, my other source, Sylvia Booth Hubbard’s Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings, provides more spirits. Hubbard mentions the possible spirit of Mr. Klein, but also includes the sounds of children playing and an infant crying. She continues by mentioning that a later owner of the home had a sister who committed suicide in the ballroom and that the sounds of a gunshot and a crash are sometimes heard there. Hubbard also indicates that the spirit of a tour guide who lead tours of the hours during the annual pilgrimage has been seen in the house as well. Nonetheless, it seems Cedar Grove has no shortage of history, charm or ghosts.

“Cedar Grove History.” Accessed
     31 October 2010.
Hubbard, Sylvia Booth. Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern
     Mississippi Hauntings.
Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge Press, 1992.
Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of American’s
     Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina

Throughout ghost literature there are tales of female wraiths. Over time many of these female spirits have acquired nicknames, usually relating to the color of their clothing: “White Lady” and “Grey Lady” being the most common. Of course, they do appear in other colors; Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, for instance, has a “Red Lady, but I know of only spirit that appears in that most feminine of colors, pink, and Asheville’s Grove Park Inn is her home.

The legend is almost typical in ghostlore: a young flapper in the 1920s plunged to her death from a fourth or fifth floor railing and her spirit has been seen ever since. Time has kept her anonymity, though I’m curious if a close scan of local papers might reveal her identity. Anonymous she may be, though, the details of her activity seem to be well known. People staying in rooms 545, 441, 448 and even 320 have experienced a variety of strange activity including the appearance of a young woman wearing a pink dress. A North Carolina police chief staying in room 448 felt someone sit on the edge of his bed while a female journalist staying in 441 the same night had doors in her room open and close mysteriously.

Postcard view of the Grove Park Inn, circa 1914.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
The Inn brought in writer and investigator Joshua Warren to investigate the legend of the Pink Lady in 1996. His results, published in his book Haunted Asheville, include some photographic anomalies, but also a number of personal experiences. The Pink Lady still walks this 1913 edifice.

“History.” Accessed 1 November 2010.
Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of American’s
     Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
Warren, Joshua P. Haunted Asheville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain
     Press, 1996.

Rice Hope Plantation Inn
206 Rice Hope Drive
Moncks Corner, South Carolina

Rice Hope Plantation’s resident spirit, Mistress Chicken, certainly ranks among the more amusing spirit names. She was born Catherine Chicken and her grandfather, James Child had founded the nearby community of Childsbury, which no longer exists. Captain George Chicken, Catherine’s father, had been a member of the Goose Creek militia and had been involved in the Yamassee War which helped to exterminate and exile the Yamassee people from the Low Country of South Carolina.

Catherine Chicken’s tale has been told for centuries in this region. After Catherine’s father’s death, her mother remarried and Catherine was placed in a boarding school in Childsbury under the care of Monsieur and Madame Dutarque. Catherine was a sensitive child who bore the strain of the Dutarque’s strict disciplinary methods and she was often punished for minor infractions. Little Catherine had been given some sewing as punishment, but as children are wont to do, she was distracted. Despite the Dutarque’s decree that no student shall possess pets, Catherine Chicken had brought a small pet turtle with her. While she sewed, the turtle had wandered away and Little Mistress Chicken dropped her sewing to pursue it.

Upon finding that the little girl had disappeared, the Dutarques were enraged and Monsieur began to search feverishly for the child. He found her and her small pet and decided to teach the child a lesson with a rather unusual punishment. The child was tied to a tombstone while the cruel schoolmaster threw the small turtle against a stone, killing it before the child’s eyes.

As darkness descended on the tombstones of Strawberry Chapel where the child had been left, the girl grew weary of struggling to cry out and free herself. A slave, out past curfew found her and alerted the locals who found the child limpid with terror and exhaustion. Her limp form was taken to her home where there was a fear she might not awaken. After discovering the culprits behind this travesty, the townsfolk considered hanging for the cruel schoolmasters. Little Mistress Chicken did awaken and exclaimed that she hoped nothing would happen to Monsieur Dutarque. The Dutarques were exiled from the settlement.

Strawberry Chapel where Catherine Chicken was
tied to a tombstone. Photo circa 1940 by Frederick
Nichols for the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Catherine never quite recovered from her ordeal, though she lived a long and fruitful life. Luckins Plantation, where young Catherine had spent happy days before her father’s death eventually became Rice Hope Plantation according to some sources. Joseph S. Freylinghausen, a former senator from New Jersey, purchased the plantation in the early 1920s and remodeled the house there in 1929. It is this house where Catherine is supposed to return to the Heron Room where she rocks in the rocking chair there. Her forlorn spirit is also occasionally heard still crying for help at Strawberry Chapel as well.

Chandler, Andrew W. et al. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for the Cooper River Historic District. 5
     February 2003.
Orr, Bruce. Ghosts of Berkeley County, South Carolina. Charleston,
     SC: History Press, 2011.
     Carolina Plantations. Accessed 7 March 2015.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Magnolia Manor Bed & Breakfast
418 North Main Street
Bolivar, Tennessee

I am certain that one of the first things the citizens of Bolivar, Tennessee would like you to know is how to pronounce their name. While it is named for the South American revolutionary, Simon Bolivar, the town’s name is pronounced to rhyme with “Oliver,” Though I cannot be completely certain, I’m sure the second thing the citizens would want you to know is that Magnolia Manor has wonderful legends associated with it and quite possibly a few ghosts as well.

Just before the Battle of Shiloh, which took place just two counties over, four Union generals: Logan, Sherman, Grant and McPherson, supposedly planned the battle in the Gentleman’s Parlor. (It should be noted, however, that the battle was the result of a surprise attack by Confederate forces.) But the legend continues with the ill-mannered William Tecumseh Sherman making a very disagreeable and telling remark during a meal in suggesting that all Southerners: men, women and children, should be exterminated.

Magnolia Manor’s hostess, Mrs. Miller, the wife of Judge Austin Miller, the home’s builder, excused herself immediately left the room in tears. Ulysses Grant furiously ordered Sherman to apologize. He did so begrudgingly and stormed up the staircase afterwards slashing the banister with his saber. Mrs. Miller was the first of a long line of strong women to oversee this manse and leave a spiritual mark as well—one of Mrs. Miller’s grand-daughters would become the first woman elected to the Tennessee state legislature.

Activity in the 1849 home is at such a level that paranormal investigators have been at work in the house regularly for a number of years. Therefore, being certified as haunted is really just a formality for Memphis Mid-South Ghost Hunters who have been working in the house for quite some time.

The activity in the house ranges from full apparitions to the movement of objects. Guests in the home have witnessed a woman descend the staircase and others have been touched by a female spirit in their rooms while still others have reported a woman pulling the covers from them as they slept.

Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the
     Volunteer State.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Ferree, Lyda Kay. “Magnolia Manor Bed & Breakfast to host ghost tours.”
     The Jackson Sun. 27 September 2014.
Phillips, Bianca. “Bumps in the Night.” Memphis Flyer. 12 July 2007.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F.
     Blair, 2001.

Wayside Inn
7783 Main Street
Middletown, Virginia

This building essentially sits at the center of history for this small town. The motley of old buildings forming the tavern were built over a period ranging from the 18th century through to the late 19th century. The oldest portion of the building, that containing Larrick’s Tavern, is considered the oldest portion and may have been constructed around 1750. The road in front was once part of the Great Wagon Road—the road that helped settle the American “backcountry.” The road here, through the Shenandoah Valley, which enters the valley in Winchester, was originally a Native American trail called the Great Indian Warpath, a trail used by the multitude of Native American tribes—including the Cherokee—throughout this region.

In 1797, this collection of buildings became an inn for the many travelers passing on the road. Leo Bernstein, the garrulous personality who took over the inn the latter half of the 20th century, would always claim that this inn was the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. There does seem to be a good deal of truth behind his claim. It is known that this inn was in operation as war raged up and down the valley during the Civil War and that the inn served both sides.

The Wayside Inn, 2008, by DwayneP. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Like most buildings in the area, the inn has a number of Civil War related spirits, though there is the possibility that the inn may have been haunted by the time the war rolled through the region. Lord Fairfax, who had been given much the land in the area, did live nearby and died in Winchester (he’s buried at Christ Episcopal Church) is claimed as the spirit that moans on a nightly basis in the oldest portion of the inn. Bernstein describes the space in Sheila Turnage’s Haunted Inns of the Southeast, “Upstairs is about a three foot space. There was a set of steps going up there. The straw is still there.” Bernstein would like to believe that Lord Fairfax is the source of the moan, who may have been a guest here with his young surveyor, George Washington, in tow. The loft is located just above one of the bars and Turnage mentions that people gather to listen for the moan at 11:30 PM nightly.

Besides odd moans, the inn is home to numerous other spirits and employees and guests have witnessed much activity. Objects have moved on their own accord, a dishwasher had his apron untied repeatedly by unseen hands, and full apparitions have been seen including those of Civil War soldiers. Paranormal investigations have captured much evidence including EVPs of horses whinnying and photographs featuring specters.


Ash, Linda O’Dell. “Respect the spirits, ‘Ghost Hunters International’
     star Dustin Pari tells Wayside Inn paranormal investigators.” The
     Northern Virginia Daily. 7 November 2011.
Daly, Sean. “In Strasburg, a Medium Well Done.” The Washington Post.
     31 July 2002.
Middletown Heritage Society. National Register of Historic Place nomination
     form for Middletown Historic District.
7 May 2003.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John
     F. Blair, 2001.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press,

General Lewis Inn and Restaurant
301 East Washington Street
Lewisburg, West Virginia

Last August the General Lewis Inn was purchased by a young couple who remarked that it felt surreal owning “the iconic center of Lewisburg.” The new owners are quoted in a Charleston Gazette-Mail article as saying, “quirkiness is what makes the Inn the Inn. It’s unique; it’s not like staying in a Days Inn or a Hampton Inn.” Most certainly, that quirkiness involves the spirits of the General Lewis Inn as well. When questioned about the inn’s haunted reputation, one of the innkeepers responded, “I haven’t met the ghost. Having them or not having them is fine with me.”

The inn’s history has many layers which have contributed spirits to the site. The oldest portion of the inn was originally constructed as a residence for James Withow in 1834. It is from sometime after this time that one of the inn’s spirits, a slave, comes. Legend speaks of a slave named Reuben who was sold after showing disrespect to an overseer. As punishment, he was sold to another plantation nearby. His new owner promised to free all his slaves upon his death, so Reuben hatched a plan to murder him and make it look like an accident. He killed his new master, but was caught and returned to his former owners in Lewisburg. They opted to execute him by hanging him in one of the outbuildings.

The old Withow house was remodeled and added to in the 1920s to create the General Lewis Inn. The new addition was constructed with beams from some of the outbuildings that stood behind the Withow house, those beams included the beam from which Reuben was hung. Reuben’s shade is joined by a black-clad woman who occasionally strolls into the restaurant and takes a seat. When she is approached by a server, she vanishes. A gingham-clad little girl who may have died in the 1850s also plays throughout the inn. She enjoys stealing socks from guests among other antics and it is believed she enjoys rocking in the lobby’s rocking chairs.

Strange sounds are sometimes heard emanating from Room 206. Ghastly moans have been heard by guests both in and out of the room while guests in Room 208 have encountered a female entity.

Gutman, David. “New owners, but same (haunted?) history for the
     General Lewis Inn.” Sunday Gazette-Mail. 31 August 2014.
Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of American’s
     Haunted Inns and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
Richmond, Nancy, Tammy Workman and Misty Murray Walkup. Haunted
     Lewisburg, West Virginia. Privately Published, 2011.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A spirited ‘leap of faith’—Update on the Tennessee Brewery

Tennessee Brewery
495 Tennessee Street
Memphis, Tennessee

The Tennessee Brewery will be saved. A local businessman and school board member has taken up the cause of the massive, decaying Romanesque structure and is transforming it into a residential building that will join the efforts to remake this specific part of town into an arts district.

In April of last year, when last I wrote about this story, plans were underway to hold a beer garden in the old building under the name “Tennessee Brewery Untapped.” This effort was successful in arousing local interest in the structure. The owner at that time had indicated that he would likely demolish the building by the end of the summer unless a buyer came forward. “If not for Untapped, I don’t think people would have focused on the building,” said Billy Orgel, the building’s new owner.
2011 view of the Tennessee Brewery by Reading Tom.
Courtesy of Flickr.
Orgel, CEO of cell phone tower developer, Tower Ventures and also a Shelby County School Board member, led a small group of investors in purchasing the building. Plans have been made to turn the building into lofts with a small amount of possible commercial space on the ground floor. The new owner has said that project will require “a leap of faith by a lot of people.”

There’s no word on what the brewery’s spirits may think of this, though the building’s new owner doesn’t believe there may be anything there. After being approached by a production company wishing to produce something about the building’s haunted history for the Discovery Channel, Orgel responded, “we said we are not interested. We’re not really sure if anything ever even happened in there.” Perhaps the spirits are just enjoying a cold one before resuming their regular haunting activity.

Maki, Amos. “Brewery developer calls for ‘leap of faith.” Memphis Daily
     News. 14 January 2015.
Poe, Ryan. “Developer unveils details about Tennessee Brewery’s future.”
     Memphis Business Journal. 3 October 2014.
Sells, Toby. “Tennessee Brewery plans unveiled.” Memphis Flyer. 13
     January 2015.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A napping specter—Tennessee

Woodruff-Fontaine House
680 Adams Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee

A professor from the University of Alabama wasn’t expecting to meet any of the spectral occupants of the Woodruff-Fontaine House during his visit. During a tour of the house the professor first witnessed “a presence forming before his eyes.” His wife mentioned to the guide that her husband had a sixth sense. In Mollie’s bedroom, the professor began conversing with one docent and sent his family on to see the rest of the house. As he and the docent stood in that bedroom they witnessed the sheets of the bed move as if as they were being smoothed by an unseen hand. Moments later the pillows moved as if being fluffed followed by an indention forming on the bed as if someone had just laid down upon the bed.

Mollie's bed in the Woodruff-
Fontaine House, 2011. Courtesy
of the Memphis CVB on Flickr.
Later that day after the house museum closed, the professor and his family drove past the house and stopped. Glancing up towards the windows of the same room where he’d had his spectral encounter, the professor and his family witnessed the window shutters moving on their own accord. The professor and his family quickly left having had enough of the paranormal for one day.

The Woodruff-Fontaine House was built as and remains one of the finest homes in Memphis. The noble French Second Empire-styled home was built for businessman Amos Woodruff who had made his fortune as a carriage maker and banker while dabbling in many other businesses including the railroad. Woodruff spent $40,000 on his magnificent manse, a tremendous sum especially in the Reconstruction era South. Upon the home’s completion, Woodruff and his family moved in, just in time for Amos’s daughter, Mollie’s, wedding.

Mollie and her husband, Egbert Woolridge, took up residence in the home along with her parents after her marriage. It was here in 1875 where Mollie’s first child died just after his birth. A few short months later Mollie’s husband passed in the house after a bout with pneumonia. Mollie married in 1883 just before her parents sold the house to cotton trader Noland Fontaine.

Fontaine maintained the home’s elegant reputation and during his residency luminaries alighted upon the house including President Grover Cleveland, Vice President Adlai Stevenson and musician John Philip Sousa. The home remained in the Fontaine family until 1929 when it was sold and was home to an art school until 1959. The home was acquired by the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities. It has been a house museum for many years paying tribute to the Woodruff and Fontaine families.
The Woodruff-Fontaine House, 2011. Courtesy
of the Memphis CVB on Flickr.
Stories about the home’s spectral occupants have been circulating for years. Many who have had encounters with these mostly unseen residents have speculated that one of the primary spirits is Mollie Woodruff who spent a few happy years in the home before tragedy struck. More recently, the home was investigated by The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) team for the TV show Ghost Hunters. It’s interesting that Adams Street, where the Woodruff-Fontaine House sits was once known as “Millionaire’s Row,” and is now known as Victorian Village. Here, many of the mansions remain and many of them are noted as being haunted. Perhaps this is the most paranormally active street in Memphis?

Brown, Alan. Haunted Places in the American South. Jackson, MS:
     University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
Cunningham, Laura. Haunted Memphis. Charleston, SC: History
     Press, 2009.
Harper, Herbert L. National Register Nomination form for The Lee and
     Fontaine Houses of the James Lee Memorial. 4 November 1970.
Hudson, Patricia L. and Sandra L. Ballard. The Smithsonian Guide
     to Historic America: The Carolinas and The Appalachian States. NYC:
    Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1989.
Longo, Jim. Ghosts Along the Mississippi, Haunted Odyssey II. St. Louis,
     MO: Ste. Anne’s Press, 1993.
Our History. Woodruff-Fontaine House. Accessed 25 February 2015.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Introducing the Southern Spirit Guide Store!

I have just added a page for buying Southern ghost books! If you're looking for something new, Southern and creepy to read, please check out my recommendations. On this page, I'm providing a list of the best books about Southern ghosts with a brief review and a link to purchase each book. Each purchase will help to support this blog.

This page will be updated regularly, so be sure to bookmark it and check back often!

Liberty Hall, Frankfort, KY, a haunted location featured in Alan Brown's Haunted
Places in the American South,
one of a number of books featured in the Southern
Spirit Guide Store. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Encounter with a Gentleman—New Orleans

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

In the world of paranormal stories and legends, many people often speak in generalities when talking about hauntings. Singular personal encounters are sometimes grouped together as a hauntings are described so, a frightening encounter hearing a voice may be reduced to “disembodied voices have been heard.” A singular incident which may be very telling may sometimes be stripped of detail and even importance as an author retells the event. Indeed, I am guilty of this as well, though I’d like to rectify this in highlighting specific encounters with Southern ghosts.

As I have been searching for events, I have come to realize just how these generalizations often harm the subjects they are describing. Where a number of fascinating stories of encounters may exist, these encounters have been grouped together and only render the nature of a particular haunting in general terms. At times, generalizations about a particular location may serve to obscure the singular encounters. This problem often tends to rear its head when places gain notoriety for being haunted; places like the famous Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar in New Orleans.

After searching a number of sources on New Orleans ghosts, I finally was able to locate a long and very detailed description of an encounter at this most famous and historic of NOLA watering holes. This encounter is documented in Dan Asfar’s 2007 Ghost Stories of Louisiana. The author speaks of a couple spending their honeymoon in New Orleans. After taking a ghost tour, the couple stumbled upon the bar and was drawn into the curious building, though their ghost tour had made no mention of it being haunted.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, 2004, by Lobberich. Courtesy
of Wikipedia.
Once inside, the wife was enchanted by the dark and crowded bar: “You couldn’t see across the bar because it was so dark and crowded inside, but it was so special. It’s hard to explain, but it was so real inside, you know? We could have been sitting down there 200 years ago, and I think it would have looked very much the same.” After sitting down, the wife felt an odd chill, though she dismissed it after it dissipated quickly.

The chill returned a few minutes later, “It wasn’t like a normal cold from cold weather. It was more as though the cold was coming from inside. I felt it like a cold hand in my back. It came so fast it made me jump in my seat.” Her husband noticed behavior and asked if she was ok. She asked him if he felt the cold, but he did not. The woman rose to head to the restroom and she felt something following her as she walked. The feeling left her in the restroom and she calmly returned to her table.

Upon sitting, she noticed an odd gentleman nearby. He was standing among a group of people talking, though they did not seem to notice him. “It was dark, but from what I could see, he was a very handsome man. He had broad shoulders. It was hard to see his face clearly, but I could see that he had a very big mustache, and also a big hat.”

She saw him and the cold, clammy feeling she had felt before resolved and the young woman felt “normal again.” “Even though I couldn’t see his face too clearly in the dark, I knew this man was smiling at me.” She felt herself smiling back.  Her husband noticed and inquired as to who she was smiling. She turned away for a couple to second to ask, “Can you see that man?” When she pointed to where the smiling gentleman had been standing there was no one there.
An anonymous, early 19th century portrait
purported to be Jean Lafitte. From the Rosenberg
Later, when the couple was on a history tour, the guide described Jean Lafitte and mentioned that his spirit is supposedly seen within this building that he supposedly built.

This ramshackle structure may be one of the oldest buildings in this ancient city, but like everything else in this city, that is arguable. Most likely, the building was built in the 18th century, most likely the latter portion of that century. Legends hold that this building was associated with the famous pirate, Jean Lafitte, a swashbuckling and romantic hero who appears in countless Louisiana legends and ghost stories.

Lafitte is supposed to have used this building as a cover for his operations within the city. Here he may have carried on operations dealing with ill-gotten goods as well as some of the “black ivory” (African slaves) that may have also dealt with. Historians have argued that the building may have never actually been used as a blacksmith shop, though others imagine that a hammering blacksmith may have served as a good cover for the illicit dealings taking place in the back of the building.

Woven into this legendary history are many mentions of ghosts, including the possible shade of Lafitte. While imbibing in Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, be on the lookout for a smiling gentleman. If you see him, smile back but don’t look away.

Ambrose, Kala. Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire
     Legends, and Cities of the Dead. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press,
Asfar, Dan. Ghost Stories of Louisiana. Auburn, WA: Lone Pine
     Publishing, 2007.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
     New Orleans.” Preservation Nation Blog. 20 November 2014.
Sillery, Barbara. The Haunting of Louisiana. Gretna, LA: Pelican
     Publishing, 2006.
Snell, Charles W. National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings for
     Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. 10 May 1968. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Spirited Southern Encounters—An Appeal

Oconaluftee Indian Village
778 Drama Road
Cherokee, North Carolina

Sign for the village, 2012. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights
Back in 2012, I was working as a historic interpreter at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC. The village, a recreation of a mid-18th century Cherokee village on an idyllic mountainside, was populated by craftsmen, warriors and a group of British emissaries who were seeking a peaceful end to the Anglo-Cherokee War. As Sergeant Thomas Sumter—who would later be known as “The Gamecock”—I was in this village serving as a military escort to Lieutenant Henry Timberlake who was leading the expedition.

Me as Sgt. Sumter, 2012.
Photo by Mia Shirley, all
rights reserved.
Sumter was being hosted by the family of Tsiyu-gan-si-ni, whose name was translated as “Dragging Canoe,” who would later be a very important Cherokee chief. Dragging Canoe’s little cabin was located in an area containing two cabins and an underground sweat house. Usually, I was the only one in the cabin and I worked hard to keep the place clean and tidy. Cherokee tradition called for a fire in the fireplace at all times even on the hottest days so I maintained the fire which did help to keep the insects away.
The entrance to the village, 2012. Photo by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
The region has been part of traditional Cherokee lands for centuries, though this particular patch of land would not have likely been inhabited. Cherokee villages were always built next to a major water source and mountainsides did not provide enough flat space. Historically, there was a village at the bottom of the mountain (where Drama Drive and US 441 intersect). This recreated village was constructed in 1952 under the purview of the Cherokee Historical Association, which also operates the outdoor historical drama, Unto These Hills, in the Mountainside Theatre located across the parking lot.

The village also has a haunted reputation. Having been in operation for over 60 years, many locals have worked here and eventually returned in spirit. Employees would regularly hear voices and laughter emanating from the village in the morning before the gates have been unlocked. One employee heading to her station one morning passed another employee in costume and ready for the day. She wished the woman a good morning and continued walking past her when she realized that the woman she had just seen had been dead for some years. Another employee who led tours past “my” cabin would occasionally glance inside to see another former employee sitting on the bed. That former employee had also passed on some years before.

"My cabin" in the village, 2012. This is taken from the same vantage
point where I was when I saw the figure enter. Photo by Lewis Powell
IV, all rights reserved.
When I had one of my first experiences in the cabin, it really came as no shock. As usual, this particular day I had a fire going and was in need of firewood early that afternoon. During a lull in visitors, I stepped out and gathered some firewood and headed back to my cabin. As I rounded the sweat house that my cabin looked onto, I looked towards the cabin door. A woman dressed in the traditional clothing female interpreters wear was stepping inside my cabin. Thinking it was the interpreter who worked in the cabin next door, I quickened my pace towards the door. Looking inside, there was no one.

In front of the cabin with a female interpreter.
The figure that I saw was dressed just like my
friend. Photo 2014, all rights reserved.
After putting my wood down inside the cabin, I looked out the door and the other interpreter was standing in her doorway. “Did you see a woman enter the cabin while I was gone.” I asked.

“Nope, but I haven’t been standing here long.” She answered.

Me standing in the cabin
doorway last summer. Photo
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights
I’m not sure who the woman was or if I was simply seeing things. I don’t have a history of hallucinations nor do I indulge in mind-altering drugs. Perhaps I encountered one of the former employees.

Since I started this blog in 2010, I have been collecting the experiences of people throughout the South who have had spirited encounters. Have you had an encounter in the South (I define the South as including the states of Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia)? I’m primarily interested in encounters in places that are public or semi-public in nature. These include places ranging from historic sites to cemeteries, schools to businesses and public spaces in between like roads, parks and natural areas.

I would like to hear about your experiences for possible inclusion in this blog and future publications. You may contact me in the comments here or on my Facebook page.