Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spirits of the Camp Creek Disaster—Haunt Brief

Once, McDonough, Georgia was a quiet hamlet. It has now been enveloped by Atlanta’s sprawl and is not so quiet any longer. About thirty miles from downtown Atlanta, McDonough was the scene of the infamous Camp Creek Railroad disaster which is sometimes noted as “Georgia’s Titanic.”
Camp Creek shortly after the train crash, 1900. Courtesy of
Rain had been falling for most of the month of June 1900 and it was beginning to affect the railroads. On the evening of June 23rd, Old Number 7, carrying 48 souls, was bound for Atlanta, but waited at the station in McDonough for another train to arrive from Columbus. When word reached the station that that train was stalled by a washed out bridge, the Old Number 7 was told to book it towards Atlanta. Before pulling out, the train’s engineer remarked, “We’ll either be having breakfast in Atlanta or in Hell.”
Henry County Courthouse and the McDonough Square. It was
here that the bodies of the victims were laid out. Photo 2007, by
John Trainor, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Red Ball Freight sped ahead of the Old Number 7 and cleared the trestle over Camp Creek, a creek that’s usually mild-mannered, though it was swollen this night. The engineer of the No. 7 never could have seen the portion of the trestle that was now missing, having just been washed away and the train plunged into the raging waters of the creek. While some of those aboard died in the initial impact, some drowned and others died in the ensuing fire. Of the 48 souls aboard, only 9 survived. Rescuers pulled the bodies from the wreckage and were laid out in the McDonough town square until they could be taken to one of the two funeral homes, B. B. Carmichael’s or A. F. Bunn & Company. The nine survivors were put up in The Globe Hotel on the square.

As the citizens of McDonough recovered, the spirits from this horrendous disaster have remained. Spirit activity has been reported on the McDonough Square, possibly related to the bodies laid out there. The Dunn House/Globe Hotel (20 Jonesboro Street), where the survivors recovered was moved just off the square, and now houses businesses. A weeping woman has been seen and heard in the building; someone possibly related to this accident. The building that once housed B. B. Carmichael’s Funeral Home, which handled many of the bodies, is now The Seasons Bistro (41 Griffin Street). While it is regularly home to diners, there are also spirits in this building. A pair of diners in the restaurant saw a man preparing the body of a female in the area that now serves as the women’s restroom. When one of the diners described the man, the restaurant’s owner was shocked to realize that the man was B. B. Carmichael.

Beck, Carolyn F. “McDonough.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 20 June 2013.
Walker, Caprice and Dan Brooks. Haunted Memories of McDonough, Georgia.
     McDonough, GA: Bell, Book and Candle Used Book Store, 2006.
Wells, Jeffrey C. In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of
     1900. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Phantoms of the Operas, Y’all—13 Haunted Southern Theatres

Among theatre folks, there’s an old saying, “no good theatre worth its salt will be without a ghost.” The South is not immune to this phenomenon, and its landscape is dotted with many theatres that claim to have a ghost. The variety of theatres is quite astonishing; from 1920s-era movie palaces, to opera houses, to performance spaces created out of old buildings, to modern performance centers, and even cinemas, Many of these sites have wonderful and creepy stories to tell.

Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
501 Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama

This prominent corner of Broad and 5th Streets has witnessed much of Gadsden’s history. A home once stood on this corner until 1860 when the First Baptist Church erected a church here with a graveyard surrounding the building. Around the turn of the 20th century, the church was sold and the graves—at least most of them—were relocated to nearby Forrest Cemetery. Afterwards, a furniture store operated on the site until the building of the Imperial Theatre, which opened in 1920. The theatre changed hands a few years later, was extensively remodeled, and then reopened as the Princess Theatre in 1926. The Princess—a vaudeville and motion picture house—provided the citizens of Gadsden the utmost in comfort and technology until its destruction by fire in 1963. The corner is now occupied by the starkly modern Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts.

Within the Center's modern corridors, galleries, studios and performance spaces there are spirits. Author Betty McCoy reports that two visitors encountered the spirit of a child who was apparently quite confused. The spirit of a young girl is known to have appeared at the Princess Theatre just after it opened in 1926, and many patrons encountered the young and quite curious entity. Is this the same spirit that appeared in the modern arts center? As long as spirits linger, the questions will remain.

Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2011.
Hardin Center for Cultural Arts. “About the Center for Cultural Arts.”
     Accessed 18 March 2013.
McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding
     Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street, Northeast
Washington, D.C.

Things have a strange way of disappearing at the H Street Playhouse. Some believe that these odd disappearances may be linked to a spirit within the old theatre. Take, for instance, the matter of the disappearance of the theatre’s router from the office during a meeting. Members of one of the theatre companies were meeting in the building when the Wi-Fi suddenly went out. Heading back to the office, which is only accessible through the room in which the meeting was being held, the router was discovered to have completely vanished.

H Street Playhouse, 2012, by Smallbones. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Costume pieces and props also have a tendency to disappear right before performances. A t-shirt hanging on a rack disappeared without a trace. In another instance, prop money seemed to have departed briefly from the bag in which it was stored during the show. As money was required during the scene, the actors pulled together what bills they had on them to use, though when the props master opened the bag to dole out money for the upcoming scene, the prop money had reappeared.

If the kleptomaniac of the H Street Playhouse is, in fact, a spirit, then there is the question of identity. Tour guide and author Tim Krepp speculates that the spirit may either be the shade of Bruce Robey, whom, with his wife, founded the H Street Playhouse or perhaps the spirit of a young boy who was severely burned in a fire across the street in 1905. But, perhaps the spirit's identity lies somewhere in the playhouse’s marvelous history.

The Romanesque Revival-styled building was built in 1928 as an automobile showroom. At the time, this particular stretch of H Street boasted so many dealerships it was called “Automobile Row.” This building served as a showroom until 1942 when the building was renovated for use as a cinema for the African-American community that occupied this area. As the social upheavals of the mid-20th century led to the neighborhood’s decline, the building was used for a variety of purposes until its conversion to a live theatre in 2002.

Bell, T. David. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Plymouth Theatre. December 2003.
Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press,

Coconut Grove Playhouse
3500 Main Highway
Miami, Florida

This most famous of Florida theatres went suddenly into a vegetative state in 2006 under mounting debt. Since the theatre company’s closure, the theatre has been embroiled in a mounting drama between a cast of politicians, preservationists, thespians and developers. Occupying a prominent corner on Main Highway at Charles Avenue, the location has developers salivating over the money that could come from a luxury condominium development on the site. Some government officials, preservationists and thespians would reopen the playhouse as a theatre and hopefully revive its cherished name. Before its closure, the theatre was a major economic driver in Coconut Grove, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
As the drama fills courtrooms, offices, and boardrooms outside of the theatre, faces have been seen peering from the buildings upper windows: spiritual guardians of this 1927 edifice. Ghost tours pass by the site regularly as the Mediterranean Revival structure sits forlornly with its doors locked. The theatre opened gloriously as the Player’s State Theatre on New Year’s Day 1927—a jewel in the Paramount crown. All the amenities of the best theatres were incorporated here including a huge Wurlitzer Concert Grand Organ and air conditioning. Riding high on the great Florida Land Boom of the '20s, the theatre’s fortunes ran out when the real estate bubble burst and the theatre closed in the early '30s. It was not until 1955 that it would resume use as a theatre, but only after being transformed for use as a live-performance venue.

It struggled even as a legitimate theatre though it did host a grand assortment of prominent actors and productions on its boards. Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot had its American premier here, and the stage has seen the work of such noted thespians as Jose Ferrer, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Ethel Merman. But, until the actors in the current drama come to a resolution, the theatre and the spiritual spectators peering from its windows will continue to wait for Godot’s eminent arrival.

Bandell, Brian. “Coconut Grove Playhouse hit with foreclosure.”
     South Florida Business Journal. 17 January 2013.
Feldman, Hal. “Do ghosts walk among us?” Pinecrest Tribune.
     28 June 2012.
Uguccioni, Ellen and Sarah E. Easton. Designation Report: Coconut
     Grove Playhouse. City of Miami. 2005.
Viglucci, Andres. “Coconut Grove Playhouse board decides not
     to fight imminent state takeover.” Miami Herald. 2 October
Viglucci, Andres. “Plan for larger theatre at coconut Grove
     Playhouse remains alive.” Miami Herald. 12 March 2015.
Viglucci, Andres. “State says shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse
     could be sold to private bidders.” Miami Herald. 14 December 2012.
Viglucci, Andres. and Christine Dolan. “FIU, Miami-Dade in
     possible deal to save Grove Playhouse.” Miami Herald. 13
     March 2013.

Springer Opera House
103 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia

As a kid, the Springer Opera House was the first local haunting I was familiar with. I recall the intense jealousy I felt when my sister got invited to a birthday party at the Springer, and I wasn’t allowed to tag along to “see the ghost.” As a theatre major at nearby Columbus State University, I visited the Springer a number of times and saw a few performances, though I was distracted by the fact that there may be ghosts wandering about the antique promenades and taking their seats in the boxes on either side of the stage. 

In school, I also began to hear stories from my friends who had worked in the old theatre. Some of the experiences didn't appear believable—like the story of a sound technician being levitated in the booth—while others seemed quite credible—a friend’s encounter with a little girl in a hallway who seemingly wanted to play tag but disappeared. When I got hired to work on a book about the Springer, I was excited at the possibility of garnering first-hand experience with the spirits of the theater.

Interior of the Springer Opera House, 1979. Courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
I was asked by F. Clason Kyle to work as an editor on his book, In Order of Appearance, a history of the theatre and the many famous personalities—Edwin Booth and John Philip Sousa, to Minnie Maddern Fiske and Burt Reynolds—to have walked its boards. Mr. Kyle and I first began by organizing much of the archival material the theatre had. We had our own little room stuffed with boxes of old programs, promotional materials, business papers and the occasional artifact. The theatre was supposed to possess a beaded purse once owned by famed Polish actress, Helena Modjeska though we weren’t sure where the purse was, so we went looking for it.

After sifting through the various boxes within the archive room, we decided to expand our search, still to no avail. When we returned to the archive room I walked directly to the box I had been sorting through. Sitting atop the papers was an antique purse and a pocket watch. While this was not the Modjeska purse we had been searching for, the miraculous appearance of these items was startling. The room had been locked during the search, so where did these items come from? Perhaps the Springer's ghost is similar to the H Street Playhouse’s kleptomaniac spirit?

During my two years working on the book, I also heard footsteps on the second floor and a door slamming shut by itself during a rehearsal, but many others have had more spectacular experiences. The educational director, whose office was located on the second floor, regularly saw a man walking past her doorway. She also felt a strong, motherly bond towards the spirit of a little girl that had been reported throughout the building as well.

Within this 1871 building, it seems that the little girl and a male may be the more active among a host of spirits. The theatre’s artistic director, Paul Pierce, wrote a book about many of the experiences in the Victorian theatre including his own. Pierce had arrived at the theatre early one morning to open the tool room for technicians who were setting up for an event. As he walked through the scene shop, Pierce realized there was a man walking next to him. Pierce described him as, “slight of build, he was a young gentleman with a thin, unruly, Van Dyke beard and wearing an ill-fitting tweed suit.”

Pierce walked through the shop with this figure playfully mirroring his every stride through the room. They turned a corner and the figure walked behind a screen leaning against the wall. The figure did not emerge from the other side.

Kyle, F. Clason and Lewis O. Powell, IV, editor. In Order of Appearance:
     Chronicling 135 Years on America’s Most Celebrated Stage. Columbus,
     GA: Communicorp, 2006.
Pierce, Paul. The Springer Ghost Book. Columbus, GA: Communicorp,

Paramount Arts Center
1300 Winchester Avenue
Ashland, Kentucky

Just seven months after the Ashland Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1931, the Paramount Theatre opened as a movie palace for the citizens of the city. When the Art Moderne-style theatre closed its doors in 1971, locals purchased the building as a performing arts center.

The Paramount Arts Center gained its ghost fairly early in the theatre’s history when, as legend holds, a worker somehow died when he became entangled in the rigging above the stage. Whether this act was an accident or suicide is unknown, but strange things began to be reported in the building. Over time, theatre staff members dubbed the entity “Paramount Joe.”

Paramount Arts Center, 2007, by YoungAmerican.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
In 1992, local musician Billy Ray Cyrus (father of Miley Cyrus) chose the theatre for the filming of the video of his hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart.” While there, he was told the story of “Paramount Joe,” and Cyrus claimed that he spoke with the spirit during a break and signed a poster for him. Some years later when an executive removed the poster from its place in the box office the staff returned the next day to find all the pictures had fallen from the walls some having their glass and frames broken. After Paramount Joe’s signed poster was restored the pictures have not moved, at least not of their own accord.

Ball, Linda Larimore. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for the Paramount Theatre. October 1975.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2009.
Conley, Caitlin. “Paranormal activity at the Paramount Theatre.”
     The Parthenon. 27 October 2011.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS:
     University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy
     Press, 2010.

Abbey Players Theatre
200 South State Street
Abbeville, Louisiana

The Abbey Players had its founding in 1976 when a small group of thespians staged a successful production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers. The theatre company was incorporated the next year with the intention of presenting quality theatre to the region. After spending a few years staging shows at various venues throughout town, the group rented an old building on South State Street, which previously housed the Reaux Lumber Company. The building dates back to 1908 and was originally opened as a saloon. After adapting the building for use as an arena stage, the company now produces 3-4 shows per season, as well as children’s productions.

Company members have had experiences in the building that may be paranormal. These include the shade of an elderly woman and the voice of a young girl among other unexplained noises. An investigation by Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations captured a number of personal experiences for the team as well as EVPs. During the investigation, Louisiana Spirits discovered a cold spot that seemed to move around a dressing room. The investigators were also greeted by a disembodied voice saying “hi.”  These experiences are highlighted in Chere Coen’s Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana

Coen, Chere Dastugue. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana. Charleston, SC:
    History Press, 2013.
Finding a Home: Beginnings.” Abbey Players. Accessed 3 March 2013.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigation Summary    

Patapsco Female Institute
3655 Church Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

The immortal words of Shakespeare have been uttered within the walls of the Patapsco Female Institute for almost two centuries. Even with only the exterior stone walls remaining, the ruins now provide a perfect backdrop for productions by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare’s numerous ghosts may even provide a camouflage for the ghosts that reside among the romantic ruins.

The Patapsco Female Institute opened in 1837 as an elite finishing school for young women. One of the more well-known alumnae was Winnie Davis, daughter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The great granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, Sally Randolph, served as a headmistress.

It was during the balmy days leading up to the Civil War that a daughter of a Southern planter was enrolled here.The young girl hated the school, longed for home and her father would not allow her to return home. The student contracted pneumonia and her body left the school in a coffin. However, the white-gowned apparition of the former student still wanders the grounds.

The school closed its doors in 1891 and throughout the 20th century the building served as variety of uses including a convalescent home after World War I, a private residence and a theatre. After local officials condemned the building in the late 1950s, the owner gutted the building of its woodwork leaving just the yellow-tinted local stone walls standing. The space is now owned and operated by the Howard County Government as a historic site and an events space.

Hannon, Jean O. Maryland Historic Trust Worksheet for Patapsco Female
     Institute. January 1978.
Hirsch, Rona S. “Ghostly images, spirited debate.” Baltimore Sun.
     31 October 2001.
Norotel, Russ. Ellicott City’s Guide to Haunted Places. Cosmic Pantheon
     Press, 2008.
Okonowicz, Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole
     Books, 2007.

Cinemark Movies 8
Mall at Barnes Crossing
1001 Barnes Crossing Road
Tupelo, Mississippi

Any location can be haunted. While most people would not expect to encounter a spirit within a fast food restaurant, big-box retailer (like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us) or a recently constructed building, it does happen. In some cases, recent tragic events may spur such a haunting, but other times, there is no obvious reason at all. Such is the case of Tupelo's Cinemark Movies 8. According to, this theatre was opened in 1992, seating over 1,900 people and a few spirits. A female spirit, nicknamed Lola, quite mischievously moves things and has been seen peering into the break room trashcan. She apparently gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong or missing. Another spirit, seemingly male, is more elusive and tends to frequent the projection room.

Cinemark Movies 8. Accessed 27 March 2013.
Steed. Bud. The Haunted Natchez Trace. Charleston, SC: History
    Press, 2012.

Mountainside Theatre
688 Drama Drive
Cherokee, North Carolina

Part of my own heart lies in the mountains of Western North Carolina around Cherokee. While I was in college I spent the three greatest summers of my life working on the historical drama, Unto These Hills, which has been performed at the Mountainside Theatre since 1950. It’s a humbling experience to be able to tell the story of the Cherokee people who have existed in this area for millennia. Even more humbling is being able to tell that story surrounded by the spirits of the characters and their living descendents.

The theatre is truly a sacred space where we can commune with the spirits of the past, both figuratively and literally. From my first day here, we were always made aware of the presence of spirits in this enormous amphitheatre. Among the host of spirits are Cherokee, sacred spirits from Cherokee mythology (see my entry on my own experience with the Cherokee little people) and former cast members. Some of these spirits can be truly frightening while others provide comfort.

Entrance to the Mountainside Theatre, 2012, by Lewis O.
Powell, IV. All rights reserved.
In recent years, the Cherokee Historical Association—which operates the drama as well as the Oconaluftee Indian Village (it’s also haunted)—has operated a “Haunted Village” attraction around Halloween. This includes a ghost walk through the theatre and cast housing. In 2013, a zombie run was held at the theatre. During this event participants were chased through the theatre complex and cast housing by a variety of zombies. This included an area just behind the theatre called the ready room. This space is a partially enclosed are where actors may wait once they have put on their costumes. On the wall here is an old pay phone.

The ready room phone, 2014, by Lewis O.
Powell, IV. All rights reserved.
I was told this story last summer when I was working in Cherokee. One evening in 2013, an hour or so after the zombie run the local police department received a panicked phone call from the Mountainside Theatre. A terror-filled voice begged for help from the theatre. The Cherokee Police Department responded and sent police up the driveway behind the theatre. The theatre complex was quiet and empty without a living soul to be found. The call had been traced to the theatre pay phone. It was discovered, however, that the phone was disconnected.

This is one of countless stories that have been told about the theatre.

Connor, William P., Jr. History of the Cherokee Historical
     Association 1946-1982. Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Historical
     Association, 1983.
Powell, Lewis O., IV. “Getting Personal—Cherokee, North
     Carolina.” Southern Spirit Guide. 7 September 2012.
Powell, Lewis O., IV. “Mountainside Theatre—A Peronsal
     Experience.” Southern Spirit Guide. 10 May 2011.

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street
Charleston, South Carolina

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church aggressively pushes itself into Church Street. Its columned porches thrust out so far that the street must curve to accommodate it. Above the street, the tremendous spire rises like an upright, moral finger, a reminder of the moral duties of the citizens of The Holy City. In the next block south of the church and within the shadow of the spire sits the Dock Street Theatre grinning garishly with its whimsical columns at St. Philip’s and the stringent Gothic Revival face of the French Huguenot Church directly across Church Street.

Theatre has always thumbed its nose at the self-righteous morality of good, church-going folk while often lampooning their foibles and failures on its boards, pulling down the saints from their lofty niches. In turn, the righteous have worked to reign in and silence the heckling theatre. This certainly was the case in Colonial America, a place still reeking of the Puritanism and strict morality that afflicted and bound the earliest settlers. Theatre most certainly struggled to gain a foothold on this steep religious mountain. The original Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 as, quite possibly, the second oldest edifice devoted to theatrical performance in the colonies.

As a part of a city in its early evolution, the original structure lasted a little less than two decades before that spark of a city’s growth, fire, reduced it to a hollowed shell of brick. The theatre was rebuilt and remained a theatre through the remainder of the 18th century. In 1809 the structure became home to the Calder House Hotel (later known as the Planter’s Hotel) run by Alexander Calder—an ancestor of the 20th century American artist of the same name—to serve wealthy visitors to the city. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration cobbled together the collection of old buildings on this site into the current reincarnation of the Dock Street Theatre which incorporates an 18th century styled theatre and possibly a few brick walls dating to the original 1736 theatre.

Dock Street Theatre, 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.
The building incorporates a certain spiritual fabric within its aged physical fabric. Most sources refer to two spirits who reside within the old theatre, though I venture that with the Dock Street Theatre’s long history, there’s also quite a good bit of residual energy manifesting itself.

One of the spirits has been identified as the great British thespian, Junius Brutus Booth. Renowned for his portrayals of Shakespearean characters, Booth fathered three sons who were also destined for the stage: Junius Brutus Jr., Edwin and John Wilkes, three thespians who left their mark on the theatrical world and one who would leave a mark upon the world stage. Edwin followed in his father’s footsteps to become one of the greatest tragedians of his day whilst Junius Jr. found better success in the managing of theatres. John Wilkes earned his notoriety as Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.

According to numerous—mostly paranormal in nature—sources, Booth the elder did stay in the Planter’s Hotel and that the well-dressed gentleman’s spirit seen in and around the theatre is his shade. Though it does ask the question of why would Booth haunt this hotel of all the numerous hotels where he stayed? According to the managing director of the theatre Booth was an alcoholic and possibly mentally unstable. During a stay in Charleston Booth allegedly beat his manager with a fire iron. Just as modern actors and performers are prone to bouts of bad behavior, so were the actors and performers of old. It seems this may belong to the phenomenon of historic landmarks picking among their most famous patrons or residents in order to identify their spirits.

Nevertheless, the spirit is still seen within the theatre. A man in a tall hat and overcoat is sometimes seen in the balcony and may sit in on rehearsals. In her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, Denise Roffe reports on a young woman who saw this gentleman standing in the balcony when she visited.

Though, other stories center on a spirit known as “Netty” or “Nettie.” Likely dating to the same time as the gentleman’s spirit, legend has it that Nettie was a “working girl” who provided entertainment to the gentlemen who patronized the hotel. The legend continues with her dying a violent death on the balcony of the hotel, just above the entrance. While she was out upon the balcony one evening, the steel beam supporting the balcony was struck by lightning and she was electrocuted. According to author Terrance Zepke, her spirit form has been observed by passersby and also captured on film. Additionally, she lingers in the second floor backstage hall where she apparently appears to be walking on her knees as the floor was raised during the building’s renovations in the 1930s. Netty is still walking on the original floors.

Bull, Elias B. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for the Dock Street Theatre. 2 January 1972.
Macy, Ed and Geordie Buxton III. Haunted Charleston: Stories
     from the College of Charleston, the Citadel and the Holy City.
    Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston. Columbia, SC:
     U. of SC Press, 1997.
Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina.
     Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL:
     Pineapple Press, 2004.

Paramount Center for the Performing Arts
518 State Street
Bristol, Tennessee

In 1991 at the age of 60 the Paramount Theatre, run down and virtually abandoned, rose like its “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ once did from the depths to be reborn as the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 1931, the theatre was meant as a cinema and its small stage had to be enlarged to accommodate live performance in the modern day. Sitting proudly on State Street not far from the Tennessee/Virginia state line, which divides this city, the theatre continues to attract people from all over the region.

According to a 2009 article from the Bristol Herald Courier, the site of the Paramount Theatre was previously haunted. On that site, Bristol’s first hospital stood, a building that had previously been a hotel. During its time as a hotel, a man was shot and killed there. After that, the hotel had trouble renting his room after that as patrons reported hearing and feeling odd things in that room. There is a spirit still hanging around the theatre, though no indication it is the same from the old hotel. The Executive Director has reported that footsteps are still heard in the empty building with the sound of doors opening and closing as well.

Netherland, Tom. “A Timeless Stage: Memories of the Paramount
     Center.” Originally published in Bristol Herald Courier, 17 February
     2009. Republished in A! Magazine for the Arts, March 2013.
Paramount Center for the Arts. Cinema Treasures. Accessed 5 March 2013.

Cameo Theatre
703 State Street
Bristol, Virginia

State Street divides city of Bristol and marks the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. The Cameo Theatre, on the north side of the street, is in Virginia while the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts, just a few blocks down, sits on the south side of the street in Tennessee. The division between the theatres also marks a gulf of fortunes between them as well. While the Paramount Theatre remains open as a performing arts center the Cameo is currently for sale. Two years older than the Paramount, the 1925 theatre was opened as a vaudeville house and recently served as an arts facility, hosting arts classes for children. Sadly, finances did not allow that to continue and the theatre was put up for sale in 2010.

According to V.N. Phillips’ book, Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin Cities, the Cameo replaces The Black Shawl, Bristol’s most infamous brothel. Pocahontas Hale, the establishment’s madam, is said to notoriously patrol the sidewalk in front of the Cameo Theatre. Her shade has been spotted wearing the black clothes and wrapped in the black shawl that she always wore in life.

McGee, David. “Cameo Theatre annex’s inventory being
     sold off to make way for new owner.” Bristol Herald Courier.
     16 June 2010.
Phillips, V.N. Ghosts of Bristol: Haunting Tales from the Twin
    Cities. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Old Main
Campus of Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia

With a cornerstone laid in 1869—just 32 years after the founding of Marshall Academy on the same spot—Old Main continues to carry Marshall University towards the horizon of the future. The structure’s nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places contains the sentimental statement that “alumni consider Old Main and school itself to be identical. Old Main is Marshall University and Marshall University is Old Main.” Not only does this monumental Tudor structure carry students and faculty forward as a university centerpiece and administration building, but it carries a spirit or two as well.

Old Main, 2013, by WVFunnyman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Old Main embodies the history of the school itself in its walls. It is not actually a single building, but five buildings that have been joined over time. Originally, one of these building contained an auditorium, though the space has been unused since 1990. School legend relates that a well-dressed man could sometimes be seen back stage during performances. Actors and crew back stage would see the man who would be gone with a second glance. This man was identified as a theatre director from the 1920s. The director supposedly disappeared after it was discovered he had embezzled money from the school.

Bleau, Edward R. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Old Main—Marshall University. 28 December 1972.
Bozzoli, Carlos. “Old Main Building.” Marshall University
     Architectural Guide. Accessed 14 March 2013.
Donahue, Kelly. “Untitled article.” The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.

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.