Monday, October 25, 2010

Haunted Columbus, Mississippi


The Google News Search feature is quite useful for web-based ghost hunting, especially around Halloween. Newspapers throughout the world are printing articles about local ghosts and ghost tours. I stumbled on an article about a ghost tour being held in Columbus, Mississippi and it put me on the path to a handful of articles. I’ve been able to connect those with a few entries in some books, and voila; I have the basis for a blog entry.

As I stated in one of the first entries, it appears to me that Mississippi has not been as well documented as other Southern states. I still believe this. Where my research might turn up mounds of information, I can usually only find a trickle for the Magnolia State. That’s why I’ve been surprised to find so much information on Columbus. Certainly, this city could be called the best documented city in Mississippi, at least in terms of its ghosts. Of course, it does help that three of the state’s better known hauntings: Waverly, Errolton and Temple Heights; are located in the city.

The banks of the Tombigbee River near Columbus,
Mississippi. Undated postcard courtesy of the Mississippi
State Archives, Cooper Postcard Collection.

“Sprawling leisurely along the banks of the Tombigbee and Luxapalila Rivers, is a city in which there is room to breathe.” That’s how the opening line of the city’s entry in the 1938 WPA Guide to Mississippi begins. It continues and describes the “gracious lines of Georgian porticos forming a belt of mellowed beauty about a modern business district.” Certainly, Columbus is a city known for its concentration of old homes, many of them antebellum. The city was later the birthplace of famed American playwright, Tennessee Williams, who would preserve and analyze the South in his plays; among them, A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Columbus was originally named “Possum Town,” for Spirus Roach who was “gray and bent and wizened” and reminded the local Native Americans of a possum. Roach set up a tavern there in 1817. However, with the arrival of other white men who “expressed their distaste for Indian humor,” the town was given the more respectable name of Columbus in 1821. The city grew as a center for the many planters in the area as well as a center for education with the establishment of Franklin Academy and later, the Columbus Female Institute (now Mississippi University for Women). During the Civil War, the city hosted the state government while Jackson was in Union hands. A story told of the 1863 visit of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, describes the townspeople gathering under Davis’ bedroom window and serenading him. After being awakened by the joyous throng, Davis addressed the crowd, still in his nightshirt, from his balcony. History aside, though, we came about the ghosts…

The following list has been created not just from articles on the ghost tour, but other resources as well.

Friendship Cemetery
Fourth Street South

Created on land by the Order of the Odd Fellows in 1849, Friendship Cemetery includes local citizens and soldiers who fell at the Civil War Battle of Shiloh in 1862. It is a Confederate soldier that is said to still walk through the military section of the cemetery. Visitors to the cemetery are also attracted to the weeping angel that stands over the grave of the Reverend Thomas Teasdale. People grasping the angel’s hand have remarked that it feels lifelike. While the angel’s hand might be explainable phenomena, the soldier’s apparition may not be as easily explained away. I would be interested to find out if the cemetery has been investigated by a ghost hunting organization.

Lincoln Home
714 Third Avenue South

Built in 1833, the Lincoln Home was home to one of the first mayors of the city. Now a bed and breakfast, the home has been marvelously restored and may still be visited by former residents. A woman in white has been reported by neighbors and guests while a dark, black and grey cloud has been witnessed by the owners drifting though the parlor.

Waverly
1852 Waverly Mansion Road

 
Waverly in 1936, this is probably as the house probably
first appeared to the Snows. This was taken nearly 30 years
before the house was rescued. Photo by James Butters for
the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Located between Columbus and West Point in Clay County, Waverly was named a National Historic Landmark in 1974. This graceful house features an octagonal rotunda that rises above the roof of the house. When Robert and Donna Snow discovered the house in the early 1960s, it was an immense, magnificent mess, uninhabited for nearly 50 years that had been left to its ghosts. Though ghosts were not at all on their mind when they began restoration, the spirits of Waverly announced their presence with a loud crash that awoke the family. Locals began to tell stories of hearing the sound of parties coming from the ruined manse as well as the spirit of an Indian riding a stallion through the nearby fields. But no one prepared Mrs. Snow for the plaintive cries of a little girl that she began hearing. Occasionally, between two and four in the afternoon, the impression of a little girl would appear on the bed of one of the upstairs bedrooms.


Waverly after restoration. Photo for the Historic American Building
Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.

The voice of the little girl was heard for about five years and then no more, but her spirit is still seen around the house. According to Alan Brown’s Haunted Places in the American South, the identity of this little girl was a mystery until 1997 when records revealed that two little girls staying in the house during the Civil War died during a single, tragic week. One girl died of diphtheria, the other, while playing on the stairs, got her head stuck between two of the spindles. During the struggle to free herself, she died as well.

The magnificent rotunda
of Waverly. Photo for the
Historic American Building Survey
(HABS), courtesy of the Library
of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.
Since her death in 1991, the ghost of Mrs. Snow has been reported sitting on the third floor stairs smoking. Apparently, the ghosts of Waverly are still quite active. The North Mississippi After Life (NMAL), a paranormal investigation group, performed an investigation at the house, though only a small amount of evidence was uncovered.

Princess Theatre
217 Fifth Street South

The 1924 Princess Theater was constructed originally as a vaudeville theater, then converted to cinema as the popularity of vaudeville waned. According to Adelle Elliott, with the Columbus Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the ghost of the theater’s original owner, Mr. Kirkendall, has been seen throughout the theater. A paranormal team photographed a figure standing in the balcony, possibly one of many ghosts within the theater. The theater is still utilized as a performance space.

Errolton
216 Third Avenue South

For more than half a century, the familiar figure of Miss Nellie Weaver rocked on the porch of her father’s home telling stories of Columbus’ past that she had witnessed herself. Until her death in the 1930s, the story of Miss Nellie, as she was affectionately called, was well known in town. Born and raised in the magnificent house on Third Avenue, she had had numerous suitors, but Charles Tucker caught her eye and they were married 1878. In her nuptial mirth, Miss Nellie carved her name with her diamond engagement ring on one of the windows in the south parlor. Charles Tucker left his wife and young daughter, Ellen, a few years later.

Errolton, around the time of Miss Nellie's death.
Photo by James Butters for the Historic American Building
Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.

Miss Nellie and her daughter remained in the home and she supported herself by teaching, though the house slowly decayed. In 1950, the house was purchased by Mrs. Erroldine Hay Bateman who set about restoring the home. It was during this restoration that a careless worker broke the pane of glass bearing Miss Nellie’s signature. The glass was replaced and after the restoration, the residents were surprised to notice the atching had reappeared. Besides this reappearing signature, no other spiritual activity has been reported in this regal, “Columbus eclectic” styled home.

Temple Heights
515 Ninth Street North

Built in the style of a Doric Temple with an odd (at least to me) roof rising above it, Temple Heights is one of the more well known restoration jobs in the city. Dennis William Hauck states that the ghost in this circa 1837 home is that of Miss Elizabeth Kennebrew whose father purchased the house in 1887. Miss Kennebrew died a spinster and was known for her eccentric behavior. Her ghost has been spotted throughout the house and she may also be responsible for the voices heard throughout. The house is open for visitors and events.



Temple Heights, 1936. Photo by James Butters for the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Wisteria Place
524 Eight Street North

Upon the death of William Cannon, who built Wisteria Place around 1854, Jefferson Davis remarked, “I have lost my best friend.” While Cannon did die in this house, the identity of the home’s resident spirit is unknown. According to the Beth Scott and Michael Norman’s Haunted America, a figure in a white shirt has been seen scurrying past the kitchen window towards the door. This house is a private residence.

Calloway Hall
Mississippi University for Women
110 College Street

For information on Calloway Hall, please see my entry of 27 September, Haunted College and University Buildings of the South.

Highland House
810 Highland Circle

Highland House. Undated postcard courtesy of the
Mississippi State Archives, Cooper Postcard Collection.

According to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Historic Driving Tour pamphlet, this house was built by W. S. Lindamood in the “Robber Baron style” around 1902. This was in love with Lindamood. Garthia Elena Burnett, author of one of the articles highlighting the city’s ghost tour states that some interesting EVPs have been captured in this historic residence.

Lee House
316 Seventh Street North

Once the home of General Stephen D. Lee, the youngest Confederate lieutenant general during the Civil War, this house was built circa 1847. Lee was later involved with the creation of Vicksburg Military Park. His ghost has been seen sitting in the parlor of his former home, while the shade of his wife has been seen during the annual pilgrimage tours. Her form was so solid, she was mistaken for a costumed guide.



Lee House, 1936. Photo by James Butters for the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), courtesy
of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
Division.

I believe that this list if really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Columbus ghosts. Two homes, due to lack of information, were left off this list, Hickory Sticks and Arbor House. As I continue to pursue Southern ghosts, I will be on the lookout for information on these hauntings and others in this city.

Sources
-----. Lincoln Home circa 1833. AmziLoveLincolnHomes.com.
     2010. Accessed 24 October 2010.
Breland, David. “Local Haunts: Columbus Ghost and Legends
     Tour offers look into town’s spooky past.” The Reflector. 21
     October 2010.
Breland, David. “Visit to Columbus haunts makes for Halloween
     not easily forgotten.” The Reflector. 29 October 2007.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Places in the American South. Jackson,
     MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
Burnett, Garthia Elena. “Ghosts and Legends: A tour of local
     haunts.” The Commercial Dispatch. 14 October 2010.
Columbus Mississippi Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Historic
     Driving Tour, Columbus, Mississippi. July, 2008.
Federal Writer’s Project of the WPA. Mississippi: A Guide to the
     Magnolia State. NYC: Viking, 1938.
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory.
     NYC: Penguin, 2002.
Hubbard, Sylvia Booth. Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern
     Mississippi Hauntings. Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge Press, 1992.
Lowndes County, Mississippi History and Genealogy. Friendship
     Cemetery. Accessed 24 October 2010.
North Mississippi After Life. Waverly Mansion. Accessed 24
     October 2010.
Scott, Beth and Michael Norman. Haunted America. NYC: TOR,
     1994.
Stephen D. Lee. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 25
     October 2010.
Taylor, Troy. “Haunted Mississippi, Errolton, Columbus,
     Mississippi.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998. Accessed 22 October
     2010.
Taylor, Troy. “Haunted Mississippi, Temple Heights, Columbus,
     Mississippi.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998. Accessed 22 October
     2010.
Taylor, Troy. “Haunted Mississippi, Waverly, Columbus,
     Mississippi.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998. Accessed 22 October
     2010.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey.
     Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of Alabama Press, 1974.

13 comments:

  1. I'll have to look at the google News search. This was a great post!

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  2. My wife and I recently moved (back) to Columbus, and while I have had no paranormal investigations in our house, I have heard some strange sounds. We live in a 120-year old Victorian on 5th Ave, South (near some of the homes you list above). The first owner of our house was killed in a gun fight on Christmas Eve and he laid in state on the first landing of our formal staircase. I have heard footsteps, a small child singing, the occasional disembodied word, and dragging sounds. The "Painted Lady," another nearby Victorian on the corner of 5th Ave and 5th Street South is also said to have a face appear in the downstairs window.

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    Replies
    1. Have you ever considered having a paranormal team come investigate your home? You can check our team out if you consider it. Its quite facinating. cmpsparanormal.com

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  3. Anonymous, I'd love to hear more from you about your home and any other haunted places in Columbus. You're welcome to email me: southernspiritguide@gmail.com.

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  4. I lived in Callaway Hall in a corner near the chapel and in Hastings Simmons Hall on the 4th floor (both on MUW campus). Things happened in Callaway that we could not really explain but then again...we were usually tired and punch drunk studying for exams or talking. My friend lived in the 3rd floor clock tower room and said the radios and toilets worked themselves and occasionally, on the stroke of midnight, she'd hear a body fall from a noose. The clock tower was not built when Mary Callaway hung herself, though...so probably girlish imagination. Hastings Simmons scared me so bad once I fled to back campus to the modern dorms and slept in the bed with my best friend- I was that scared!! Some weird stuff happened that year and I don't think it was ghosts..I think it was WORSE. I lived in HS the first year it was reopened to students after a renovation period. I was in the turret room on the 4th floor there.

    I dated a guy whose family lived on College St in a very old home that had been used as a funeral parlor in the 1800s and was across from a current day funeral parlor. They said they had a ghost living there but I never felt anything scary or bad. It was very peaceful in the parlor where the funerals were held, in fact. I have been down 3 legged lady road, Waverly, and Heartbeat Bridge. I think the city is not so much haunted as it is fully of good storytellers. We southerners love a good tale.

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  5. I grew up in Columbus, before moving away to attend college. My wife and I returned one weekend during the early summer to visit family. As a treat, they made arrangements for us in a local B&B not far, as I recall, from the downtown library. I can't recall the name of the home or address, but it had a front porch with a swing on the left side, when facing the front of the house. The owner had a small dog, but it refused to enter the room we occupied on the front left facing the house. The room was to the left of the home's staircase and had double-doors with an adjoining bathroom to the back right of the room. We spent most of our time with family, but returned to sleep the one night we spent there. Nothing particularly unusual happened until we woke absolutely frigid. The room was ice cold, such that you could see your breath in the light. I got up to check the heat and went into the adjoining bathroom. It was toasty warm. We piled extra blankets on the bed and tried to talk ourselves back to sleep. Before long, a clock radio in the room switched on full blast to heavy rock music. Figuring it must be an errant alarm from a previous guest, I looked for the clock to turn it off. Before I could, the volume lowered itself. When I turned it completely off, I checked to make sure the radio was off. No alarm was set for the radio. We immediately turned on all the lights and started packing. The room immediately warmed. We shared breakfast with the owner but we left quickly and didn't mention the experience to her. If I can figure out the name or address of the home, I'll post it here.

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    Replies
    1. I've learned the home is no longer a B&B. Still looking into the exact name and address however.

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  6. For more about ghostly activity in Columbus, my book, THE HAUNTING OF MISSISSIPPI delves into the history and mystery surrounding Waverley, Temple Heights, and Rosedale. Other chapters focus on hauntings at historic sites in Natchez, Tupelo, Meridian, Greenville, Lake Washington, Jackson, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Vicksburg. Enjoy!
    - Barbara Sillery

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    1. Oh! I would love to know if anyone else besides me has ever seen a ghostly image of a man in uniform at the new capitol building in Jackson Mississippi ! My God I would like to know whose spirit that was I saw so many years ago.

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    2. Hi there, I'd love to hear about what you saw at the Capitol building. Email me at southernspiritguide@gmail.com.

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  7. NEAR THE BANKS OF THE TOMBIGBY RIVER WHERE IT MEETS COLUMBUS MISSISSIPPI, YOU WILL FIND FRIENDSHIP, CEMETERY AND THE SOULS OF ALL THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED THERE IN THE PAST. THEY HOLD AND GUARD THE HISTORY OF LOVE PASSION, BETRAYAL, AND MURDER AND ESPECIALLY SECRETS THAT THEY HAVE KEPT LOCKED AWAY IN THE HISTORY OF THIS HISTORIAL SOUTHERN TOWN.. IN TOM LOCKE MAYFIELDS NEW BOOK, WHISPERS FROM COLUMBUS PAST, HE UNLOCKS THE VAULTS OF THE PAST AND SHARES WITH US THE STORIES THAT HAVE BEEN FORGOTTEN OR ONLY WHISPERED ABOUT IN THIS OLD SOUTHERN TOWN. LOCKE & CAMPBELL PULBISHING CO. , ON THE WEBB

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  8. I attended the MUW, and while I did not live on campus, I spent a good deal of time alone , working in the Orr Annex. Several things happened there. One morning, I was alone, and tired, so I lay down on the couch in the lower room of the Annex. I was awakened by the sound of the door upstairs opening and closing, and someone calling my name. I got up, to find the door shut and locked, and no one there with me. Another time , I was in the small room past the instructor's office, transcribing a diary on the computer. I was alone, and had the earpiece of a set of headphones in one ear, and was singing. I gradually stopped, and was simply typing on the computer, when I felt my chair being shaken, as if someone had their hand on the back and was shaking it. When I started singing again, it stopped. Another time, I heard a voice, speaking just beside my right ear, but I was unable to make out the words. I never felt as if I were completely alone when I was in the Orr Annex, but I was never frightened.

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