Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Haunted Georgia

A selection of 10 haunted places from around Georgia.

Central State Hospital
620 West Broad Street

Main Administration Building on the campus of Central State
Hospital, 1937. Photo by L.D. Andrews for the Historic American
Building Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.
Hospitals, especially those devoted to caring (or not so much) for the mentally ill, tend to be magnets for ghost stories and legends. Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, opened initially as the State Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum, was, at its height, the second largest such institution in the nation after New York’s Pilgrim State Hospital. The numerous buildings remaining on the hospital campus attest to the huge numbers of patients that resided in this facility, but they also attest to the severe drop in the same numbers since the 1960s.

Many of these buildings have been abandoned and closed, though intrepid and thrill-seeking teenagers have broken in to “ghost hunt.” Jim Miles’ Weird Georgia publishes reports from a few of these teens who saw apparitions and numerous footprints in the fallen plaster dust (the account describes it as “sawdust”) on the floor. These buildings are sealed, structurally dangerous and not open to visitors. Do not attempt to explore these buildings without securing proper permission.

Christ Episcopal Church and Cemetery
Frederica Road
St. Simons Island
Christ Church, 2008. Photo by Jud McCranie, courtesy of

Christ Church and its surrounding cemetery seem the perfect setting for a ghost story: the small white church sitting among ancient graves and oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Of course, this church is home to a legend. In the balmy days before the Civil War a young woman who was deathly afraid of the dark lived on a plantation on the island. Stories from the West Indian slave-woman who raised her had scared her and her fear led her to become adept at candle making. Saving the wax and stubs from old candles around the house, she made candles that would burn in her bedroom throughout the night. One day after her marriage to a local planter, she burned herself while making candles and the burn became gangrenous. After she died, her husband, disturbed by the idea of his late wife’s grave shadowed by darkness, began to nightly place a candle on her grave. Following his death, the candle continued to reappear and still may continue to this day.

City Auditorium
415 First Street
Macon City Auditorium, 2007. Photo by Macon Dude, courtesy of

Opened in 1925 and featuring an assembly hall about the size of the Pantheon in Rome, Macon’s City Auditorium can seat 2,688 in the Grand Hall, all under what is reportedly the world’s largest copper dome. According to Mary Lee Irby, staff members have had some strange encounters within this colonnaded structure. The sounds of parties and music have been heard drifting through the corridors when the building was empty. Two staff members witnessed a grey mist drifting through the balcony.

Heritage Hall
277 South Main Street

Heritage Hall, 2010. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
Built in 1811, Heritage Hall features a “Ghost Room.” Over the years, numerous odd things have happened to visitors and staff alike in this room. The fireplace features an indelible mark which appears to show a woman holding a baby, possibly Virginia Nisbet and her newborn who died in the room in 1851. The husband of a young couple visiting the house was spooked after he entered the room alone and had someone who he thought was his wife stroke his arm and converse with him. When he realized his wife was not in the room, the couple fled. Others have even seen Virginia lying on the bed in the Ghost Room.

Kennesaw House
1 Depot Street

Kennesaw House, 2006. Photo by HowardSF, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Someone once proclaimed that the Kennesaw House has some 700 spirits. While assigning a number is difficult, it does stress the idea that there are likely many spirits within the walls of this building on Marietta’s lovely, historic town square. This 1840s building has witnessed a range of historic events beginning as a cotton warehouse and being converted into a restaurant and later a hotel once the railroad arrived. It was the building’s proximity to the railroad that also brought in Union spies during the Civil War including those who planned and carried out the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862. It seems that the Kennesaw House’s ghosts come from the building’s use as a hospital and makeshift morgue during the war. Some people using the elevator have been shuttled to the basement where a scene of a period hospital is revealed when the doors open. Others have seen the elegant figure of a man who may be the surgeon who treated soldiers there.

Oakland Cemetery
248 Oakland Avenue, SE

The Sleeping Lion of the Confederacy in the Confederate Section
of Oakland Cemetery, 2005. Photo by J. Glover, courtesy of Wikipedia.
One of the oldest cemeteries in Atlanta and the resting place for some of its most famous offspring, Oakland Cemetery is also the resting place for legends and possibly a few spirits. One of the more common legends associated with the cemetery is the story of the “roll call of the dead.” In the Confederate section some have heard what sounds like a military roll call. Another legend is associated with the grave of Jasper Newton Smith which features a life-size statue of Smith sitting in a comfortable chair. Legend says that at night his spirit rises from his chair and watches over the cemetery.

Pirates’ House
20 East Broad Street

Pirates' House, 1939 or 1944. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Of the haunted places in the state of Georgia, the Pirates’ House is one of the most well known. Opened in the mid-eighteenth century as a tavern for sailors, the building was restored and opened as a restaurant and tourist attraction in the 1950s. During its tenure as a rough sailors’ dive (some pirates may have visited, though hard documentation is difficult to find), the place attracted legends of men being kidnapped, or “Shanghaied,” and forced to work on outbound ships, possibly using a tunnel leading from the basement to the waterfront. The legendary status of the Pirates’ House even led to its inclusion in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as the location of Captain Flint’s death. Some have even suggested that the fictional Flint’s ghost is among the spirits found throughout the building, but other ghosts, however, are not so fictional.

Servers and staff have encountered a number of apparitions. One cook in the kitchen was accosted by a man in the dress of an 18th or 19th century seafarer who walked through the kitchen pausing briefly to glare at him. Another staff member discovered a lone man in one of the dining rooms while closing up. When he looked in on the man a moment later, no one was to be seen. In the upstairs bar, a server left a tray of coffee pots in the prep room only to have them smashed as soon as she left the room.

Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum
1002 Victory Drive

Port Columbus Civil War Naval Museum, 2010. Photo by Lewis
O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
Columbus, located at the end of the navigable portion of the Chattahoochee River, has always been a major port city. When cotton was king, the plantations in west Georgia and east Alabama sent their bales to Columbus from which it was shipped to New Orleans to be sold. Over time, mills, using the river’s water power, were built that transformed the cotton into goods that were exported to the nation and the world. Columbus, known as the “Lowell, Massachusetts of the South,” during the Civil War was a vital industrial city for the Southern cause and it was here that ironclad warships were built for the Confederate Navy. When Union General James Wilson attacked the city in 1865, two ironclads, the CSS Muscogee and CSS Chattahoochee, were scuttled in the river only to be recovered in the 1960s. The National Civil War Naval Museum was opened in 2001 to preserve the remains of these ironclads and document the history of the navies of the Civil War.

A female visitor standing in the gift shop of the museum was smacked in the back between her shoulder blades by a book that flew off the shelf, a common occurrence in the gift shop. During an investigation, a group of investigators in a museum exhibition room were touched by a spirit.  

Sibley Mill
1717 Goodrich Street
Sibley Mill, date unknown. From the Historic American
Engineering Record, Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress.

The Sibley Mill stands as a monument showing the entire history of the manufacturing industry in the South. The site was once occupied by the Confederate Powder Mills, built by the Confederate government when they needed a source for gunpowder in the South. Following the South’s defeat, all but the large chimney of the mill was demolished. In 1880, a group of investors formed the Sibley Manufacturing Company and building from the bricks of the demolished powder works; a phoenix rising from the ashes. As manufacturing has left the South and nation, the Sibley Mill closed in 2006. The mill still sells power produced by its water turbines while the building is awaiting redevelopment. The murder of a mill worker in 1906 has left a spiritual mark on the Sibley and employees often spoke of seeing a lone young woman quietly working at her loom.

Smith Hall
Campus of LaGrange College
Smith Hall, 2010. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Chartered by the state legislature in 1831 as LaGrange Female Academy, LaGrange College, now a coeducational liberal arts college, is the oldest private college in Georgia. Originally housed in a house on Broad Street, the school moved to “The Hill,” just down the street in 1842 and Smith Hall was constructed that same year. Now the centerpiece of a school with some 1000 students, Smith Hall now contains classrooms, offices for a few departments and the dean of student life and quite possibly a few ghosts.

Legend has it that Smith Hall served as a hospital during the Civil War. A young soldier, wounded in a nearby battle, rode miles to get to the school where his sister was enrolled. Having bled the entire trip, he died in Smith Hall shortly after his arrival. The student government has invited celebrity ghost hunters and psychics to the school to speak and do a brief investigation during the Halloween season. Some investigations have produced results.

Akamatsu, Rhetta. Haunted Marietta. Charleston, SC:
     The History Press, 2009.
Bender, William N. Haunted Atlanta and Beyond. Toccoa,
     GA: Currahee Books, 2008.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Georgia. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2008.
Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook
     To Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah,
     GA: Bonaventure Books, 2008.
Chitwood, Tim. “Eerie occurrences at naval museum.”
     Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 10 August 2009.
Chitwood, Tim. “Stroke of the ghost?” Columbus Ledger-
     Enquirer. 23 August 2009.
“City Auditorium.” Macon Centreplex. Accessed
     28 December 2010.
Dolgner, Beth. Georgia Spirits and Specters. Atglen, PA:
     Schiffer, 2009.
Durrence, Debby. “’Ghost chasers’ get spooked at LC.”
     LaGrange Daily News. 23 October 2006.
Edgerly, Robert. Savannah Hauntings! A Walking Tourist
     Guidebook. Savannah, GA: See Savannah Books, 2005.
Hall, Kristi. “Haunted Hot Spots.” Lakelife Magazine.
     Fall 2008.
Irby, Mary Lee. Ghosts of Macon. Macon, GA: Vestige
     Publishing, 1998.
Johnson, Scott A. The Mayor’s Guide to the Stately Ghosts
     Of Augusta. Augusta, GA: Harbor House, 2005.
Joiner, Sean. Haunted Augusta & Local Legends. Coral
     Gables, FL: Llumina Press, 2002.
LaGrange College. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 28 December 2010.
Macon City Auditorium. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 28 December 2010.
Miles, Jim. Weird Georgia. NYC: Sterling Publishing,
Mills, Frederick V., Sr. “LaGrange College.” New Georgia
     Encyclopedia. 17 February 2009.
     Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 28 December
National Park Service. Sibley Mill and Confederate Powder
    Works Chimney. Accessed 28 December 2010.
Oakland Cemetery (Atlanta). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 28 December 2010.
Payne, David H. “Central State Hospital.” New Georgia
     Encyclopedia. 10 February 2006.
Roberts, Nancy. Georgia Ghosts. Winston-Salem, NC:
     John F. Blair. 1997.
Sibley Mill. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 28
     December 2010.


  1. What wonderful information. Nice post!

  2. Thanks for the lovely tour! I'm a new follower who'd found your page through Ghost Stories And Haunted Places... I think I will keep peeking around.

  3. i'm going to be moving go GA in a year or so, and love things that are very historical and especially haunted. :)

  4. The entire campus of chs(central state hospital) is haunted. You can hear voices from the outside of some of the abandoned buildings. Two were converted to prisons.. inmatesraand officers eport apparitions and noises