Thursday, August 26, 2010

Exchange Hotel

400 South Main Street
Gordonsville, Virginia

As I’m researching and beginning to write about Southern ghosts, I’ll be highlighting places that appear on my radar due to recent news articles. The Exchange Hotel is one of those places. This article appeared in a recent edition of C-ville, a Charlottesville, Virginia news and arts weekly and I immediately became interested in seeing what I could find on this place.

God bless the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for placing the state’s numerous (over 2,700 statewide) National Register of Historic Places forms online! It makes historical research on this location much easier. If available, these forms can present a fairly accurate history of a location. Unfortunately, outside of Virginia, the National Park Service (NPS), the keepers of the National Register, has only made select forms available online including all forms for National Historic Landmarks (NHLs). Incidentally, NHLs are those places deemed by the NPS to be of national significance and inclusion as an NHL includes automatic listing on the National Register. The editors of Wikipedia have also deemed National Register properties to be notable enough to create separate articles on each which can be quite helpful and often provides information not found on the nomination form, though many places do not yet have articles.

Some places appear to be positively crawling with ghosts and the Exchange Hotel seems to be one of those places. According to the C-ville article, the hotel has been investigated some 20 times, though it doesn’t specify who performed all of those investigations. However, it appears that investigations have yielded a huge amount of evidence, including EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena), photographs, video and recorded personal experiences.

The Exchange Hotel in 2008. From Wikipedia user, Rutke421.
This photograph has been released into the public domain.

It’s no surprise that the Exchange Hotel has ghosts. The three story, late Greek Revival structure was built in 1860 to replace a tavern that had been built on the site in 1840. The site was at the intersection of two major railways, the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) and the Alexandria and Orange (A&O) Railroads and is near the Gordonsville Depot which was built around the same time as the original tavern (the depot is apparently also haunted and has been investigated by the Shenandoah Valley Paranormal Society). The hotel opened in a period of mounting hostility that would eventually lead to the first shots of the Civil War in April of 1861. By June 1862, the hotel was serving as part of the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital, a massive operation that, by war’s end, would treat some 70,000 soldiers, mostly Confederate, but including some Union soldiers as well. These soldiers would pour in from many of the nearby Virginia battlefields including Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station and the Wilderness. Obviously, many died, though I haven’t encountered an exact number, but it is known that just over 700 of those were buried on the hotel property.

Following the sadness of its days as a hospital, the building served as an office for the Freedman’s Bureau, a government agency that provided aid to freed slaves and war refugees between 1865 and 1872. The hotel was soon returned to its original function as a luxurious railroad hotel offering the best of Southern hospitality. The hospitality of the hotel was so well-known that humorist George W. Bagby dubbed Gordonsville “the chicken-leg centre of the universe.” This fine reputation was enjoyed until the hotel closed in the 1940s. The building served as a private residence and later was divided into apartments before being acquired by Historic Gordonsville, Inc. which restored the hotel as a museum.

So far, nothing in my research has indicated when people in the Exchange Hotel began experiencing spectral phenomena. I would speculate that the phenomena began shortly after the building’s usage as a hospital, though I don’t have any evidence of that. Many buildings throughout the South were commandeered for use as hospitals throughout the war and many of those remaining are often considered haunted; witness Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee. This house served as a hospital during and for many months after the Battle of Franklin in 1864 and the activity in the house is at a high enough level that a book has been written specifically about it.

As one might expect of a location with such a varied and bloody past, there are apparently numerous spirits haunting the hotel. Among those spirits are a young African-American male who possibly hanged himself in the kitchen building, a former cook, one the Quartermasters who was in charge of the hotel during the war as well as a female who was possibly his companion and, according to a longtime museum volunteer, the wraith of Major Cornelius Boyle who was the post commander. These spirits and, quite possibly, a host of others have caused a high level of paranormal activity including disembodied voices, apparitions, shadow figures, items being misplaced and witnesses being physically touched.

It appears that information on the hotel’s haunting has yet to be published aside from scattered ghost hunt reports and the C-ville article. Though, it does appear that the site is receiving attention from the local ghost hunting community, even appearing in a TV show produced by Research Investigators of the Paranormal or R.I.P., a team out of Richmond, Virginia (see the trailer for the show here). Two other teams, SSPI (lead by Mark Higgins and the subject of the article) and the Shenandoah Valley Paranormal Society, teamed up for two joint investigations of the premises. All three teams were able to collect a good deal of evidence ranging from EVPs to video. Numerous photographs also had anomalies including dark shadows, the de rigueur orb photographs (which are often easy to discount) and a few with some possible human forms. One of the more interesting videos shows a door that just been closed opening by itself while another video captures an odd light in one of the bedrooms. Both investigations by SSPI and the Shenandoah Valley Paranormal Society were concluded with the finding that the Exchange Hotel is haunted.

Certainly, this is a location that is brimming with history and important simply from a historical standpoint. It also appears that with the high amounts of paranormal activity occurring in these locations, this place may also end up being important in a paranormal sense. As always, I would welcome any input readers have on this location.

The Exchange Hotel is open to the public as a Civil War museum. Please see the museum’s website for further information. The museum also hosts occasional ghost walks.

Sources
 
     -----. Civil War Museum at the Exchange Hotel. Accessed 11 August 2010.
     Fitzgerald, Brendan. ‘Investigators say hundreds of ghostly voices speak out
in this Gordonsville hotel.” C-ville, 22 32. 8/10/10-8/16/10.
     National Park Service. Exchange Hotel – Journey Through Hallowed Ground.
 Accessed 11 August 2010.
      R.I.P. Ghost Hunters and Nightquest Paranormal. Investigation of Exchange
Hotel and Civil War Museum, Gordonsville, VA. Accessed 23 August 2010.
      Shenandoah Valley Paranormal Society. Investigation #26 The Exchange Hotel,
Gordonsville, Va. 16 May 2009. Accessed 23 August 2010.
     Shenandoah Valley Paranormal Society. Investigation #28 The Exchange Hotel,
Gordonsville, Va.  21 August 2009. Accessed 23 August 2010.
     Thomas, William H. B. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
for Exchange Hotel. Prepared 10 June 1973. Listed 14 August 1973.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Noxubee County Library

103 East Martin Luther King Street
Macon, Mississippi

Jefferson Street, Macon, Mississippi, probably just after
the turn of the 20th century. Courtesy of the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History, Forrest Lamar Cooper
Postcard Collection.

As I stated in the first entry of this blog, Mississippi is the one Southern state whose ghosts have not been well researched. I have found all of two books specifically on the state though there are stories scattered throughout many other books. Online, there’s very little good information on the state's ghosts as well. This article is the beginning of my attempt to do some justice for Mississippi’s ghosts who have haunted in obscurity for far too long.

So far, I’ve preferred to cover locations that I have quite a few sources for, but, in this case, I only have one source for information on the haunting, though it is a fairly good source. My search for historic resources on the location has been fruitless, indeed finding much information on Noxubee County or the town of Macon has been difficult and the historical sources I have found are fairly old, though still reliable.

Allow me to set the scene with a bit of local history. In 1830, sixty Choctaw leaders met with government agents at a place with the marvelous name of Dancing Rabbit Creek. It was there that the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed on the 27th of September that ceded some 11 million acres of Choctaw land east of the Mississippi River to white settlers in exchange for some 15 million acres in Oklahoma. The ceded land became a huge swath of what is now the state of Mississippi and a small portion of western Alabama. In 1833, the portion of the ceded lands around Dancing Rabbit Creek was established as Noxubee County, so named for the Noxubee River (meaning “stinking water” in the Choctaw language). Near the center of the county, on the Noxubee River, the town of Macon was established as the county seat. The town prospered and, according to the 1938 WPA guide to Mississippi, “the big white- columned homes are the remaining evidence.”

As Sherman burned the state capital during the Civil War, the state government moved to Macon temporarily, setting up business at the Calhoun Institute, one of a handful of schools in and around Macon. Two sessions of the state legislature met in these school buildings while one of them, as well as many of Macon’s church buildings, were commandeered for hospitals. Most histories of the area seem to stop just after the turmoil of the Civil War, so one might be tempted to assume that the town returned to being a sleepy hamlet. Judging from the population numbers in the 1938 WPA guide (2,198 people) and the numbers provided by the more recent Wikipedia (2,461 people), it seems that little has changed throughout the bulk of the twentieth century.

Author Alan Brown in his 2004 book, Stories from the Haunted South, writes about the haunting of the Noxubee County Library in Macon. Brown is a professor of English at the University of West Alabama in Livingston and one of a handful of marvelous authors on the subject of Southern ghosts. His books are well researched and cited as well as being wonderfully readable.



The Noxubee County Library is a Richardsonian Romanesque building that was originally built as the county jail in 1907. It served its purpose as a jail for seventy years when a modern jail was constructed nearby. The empty building garnered the attention of local historians and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 1983, the local library board took over the building and began renovations to transform the structure into a public library. In preserving the historic integrity of the original structure, many of the jail’s features were preserved including some of the iron cell bars, original doors, barred windows, and the gallows which remain in working order.

Brown mentions only one incident of paranormal phenomena at the jail; he tells the story of Si Connors, who was the last man executed by hanging in the state of Mississippi. Connors had killed his wife after learning she had had an affair. Following the murder, he walked into Macon still covered in his wife’s blood and announced what he had done. He was arrested and sentenced to hang, though he requested that he not be hung on the gallows inside the jail, but in a public spectacle. According to the Macon Beacon, he claimed to have been visited in jail by his wife’s spirit and Jesus, who forgave his sins. It was noted that he walked to his death so resolutely that the crowd was moved. Shortly after his execution, Mississippi outlawed hanging as a form of execution and the gallows in the Noxubee County Jail remained unused.

Connors’ ghost was later reported to appear in his cell in the jail though no indication has been given that the jail is still haunted. It can be noted that spirits do sometimes fade away as time goes on, though, being a former jail, it’s not hard to imagine the location may still harbor spiritual activity. I have yet to find any other information on paranormal phenomena, and I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has experienced anything odd in or perhaps has investigated the Noxubee County Library.

Further information on visiting the Noxubee County Library can be found at the library website.

Sources

Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Oxford, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. Mississippi:
     A Guide to the Magnolia State. New York: Viking Press, 1938.
"List of National Register of Historic Places Entries in Noxubee County, Mississippi.”
     Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
Macon, Mississippi.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved
     11 August 2010.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns,
     Events, Institutions and Persons Arranged in Cyclopedic Form, Vol.
     II, L-Z. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing Association, 1907.
Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
     Retrieved 11 August 2010.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spring Villa (photographs)

A few more photographs of Spring Villa, Opelika, Alabama.
The side of the house. Photograph by Lewis Powell, IV,
all rights reserved.
The back of Spring Villa with the main house on the right and the
1934 addition on the left. There was a breezeway connecting the buildings
and providing access to the addition's 2nd floor but
it was recently removed. Photograph by Lewis Powell, IV, all rights
reserved.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spring Villa

1474 Spring Villa Road
(Lee County Road 148)
Opelika, Alabama

Stairs and staircases figure into numerous ghost stories. One reason, certainly, must be that stairs are dangerous and can be the cause of dangerous accidents; perhaps even serving as the modus operandi in a murder. I prefer to imagine that ghosts are just trying to find the most dramatic way to enter. Regardless, stairs appear regularly in stories and even have figured into two of the more famous ghost photographs: the photograph of the “Brown Lady” of Raynham Hall and the Tulip Staircase photo from Greenwich, England’s Queen’s House. So, it’s no surprise that the story from the next Southern location involves a staircase as well.

With a name meaning “big swamp” in the language of the Muskogee Indians who once lived in the area, Opelika is a town in east central Alabama adjoining the city of Auburn. The area was sparsely settled until 1848 when the building of the Montgomery & West Point (Georgia) Railroad opened up the area to further development. A stop on this railroad line, just south of Opelika was Yongesboro, a stop that bore the name of William Penn C. Yonge.

It is likely that the summer camp held for many years, starting in the 1930s, in Spring Villa Park created the story about Mr. Yonge being killed on the staircase of his home by a vengeful (vengeance is another item that figures into many ghost stories) slave. It was this murder that of course led to his ghost haunting the house and the grounds. Just like the myth of the Ezekiel Harris House in Augusta, history and legend don’t match up.

William Penn C. Yonge (no source has yet provided his full name) was, according to Horace King’s biographers, from Marianne, Florida and had returned to the South after going to California for the Gold Rush. He married, Mary, the oldest daughter of John Godwin, a Columbus, Georgia builder. Godwin had moved from South Carolina to Columbus, located just 30 miles southeast of Opelika, with Horace King to build a bridge across the Chattahoochee River, the river divides Georgia from Alabama from Columbus south to Florida. Quite possibly, money that Yonge had earned in the Gold Rush provided the capital for him to build a house as well as going into business. Yonge, with two other investors created the Chewacla Lime Company in 1851 and it was around this time that he also built Spring Villa. It’s important to note the area’s geology includes large amounts of limestone as well as quartz, both of which are believed to provide energy to spirits.

Horace King, John Godwin’s building companion, is a fairly important name in the South. An African-American, King distinguished himself as an important architect and builder, especially of bridges. King constructed massive town lattice truss bridges over most major rivers throughout the Deep South. At the time of the building of Spring Villa, King was a freedman, but as a slave, Godwin had been his master. Though records do not exist, it is quite possible that King was both the designer and builder of Spring Villa with some aid from the owner’s father-in-law, John Godwin.


Spring Villa from the front. Photograph by the author,
2010. All rights reserved.
The house is designed in the Carpenter or Vernacular Gothic Style. This style, which became popular in America in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, adapted the lines and elements of Gothic architecture, usually rendered in stone, in wood. The fa├žade of Spring Villa, identical on both sides of the house, sports three steeply pitched gables decorated with wooden millwork and topped with a decorative finial. The center gable is taller and is situated over a door with the two on either side being smaller and situated over windows. All three gables also feature latticework balconies that may perhaps be a nod to Kings use of lattice in bridges. The interior is quite simple and features two floors with a living and dining room divided by a hall on the first floor. The second floor has two bedrooms with a hall and a small miscellaneous room between them. The halls are connected by a narrow circular staircase, the staircase that was supposedly the scene of a murder.

The house is described as having initially been a showplace with gardens and lakes where the Yonge’s held lavish parties and events. Following the death of her husband, Mary Godwin Yonge sold the entire 455 acre plantation to the Chewacla Lime Works (the name for the company changed slightly) and later the estate passed into the hands of the Renfro family. The Renfro’s sold the property to the City of Opelika to use as a water supply. The house was restored by the Lee County Civil Works Administration in 1934 and a matching kitchen added perpendicular to the back of the house. The grounds were developed to accommodate a summer camp, the same camp that likely created the legend. The grounds were then turned into a city park and remain so to this day.

The legend of Spring Villa states that William Penn C. Yonge was a cruel slave-owner and one of his slaves, with revenge in his heart, hid in a niche on the stairs and stabbed his master to death on the thirteenth stair. Of course, there are some major issues with this. William Penn C. Yonge died in 1879 and was buried in a small cemetery near the house. That presents a problem if a slave murdered him as slavery had been abolished in 1865, 14 years earlier. The second issue is that Mr. Yonge reportedly died of natural causes. Even though the legend is entirely derailed by history, that fact does not preclude the house from being haunted.


The staircase of Spring Villa during the 1934
restoration of the house. Photograph taken
by W. N. Manning for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS).
Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.
Over the years visitors to Spring Villa have reported a variety of paranormal phenomena, though I have been unable to determine how long visitors have experienced anything unusual. Phenomena reported has included people seeing figures in the upper stories of the house and the 1934 addition, though currently the second floor of the addition cannot be reached without a ladder as the breezeway between the buildings has been torn down. Voices, music from a piano (the house is apparently not furnished) and the sound of footsteps have also been reported. Visitors also report feelings of unease and also feeling hands pushing them on the 13th step.

So far, I have not seen the story of Spring Villa in any books of ghost stories, though my library is lacking in books on Alabama. Online I have found reports of investigations by two Alabama based paranormal investigation organizations: the Alabama Paranormal Research Team and Southern Paranormal Research. Interestingly, the City of Opelika website for Spring Villa Park features a history written by Southern Paranormal Research that presents the legend of William Penn C. Yonge, usually governmental organizations shun ghost stories and legends about their properties.

The Alabama Paranormal Research Team has investigated the house on numerous occasions and it has included an investigation report on its website. One interesting account that they report involves a camp counselor called “Magic Mike” who reportedly witnessed a man playing the piano in the empty house. Mr. Harrellson, reportedly the director of Opelika Parks and Recreation, found the man sitting on the floor of the empty residence crying and shocked at the scene he had just witnessed. Unfortunately, the team fails to include a source for this story. The team also reports that one of their researchers located the details of the deaths of three young girls who drowned in a lake on the property, though again, no citation is given. The evidence that the group presents includes a few examples of EVP (electronic voice phenomena – when voices are picked up on recording devices, though not heard by those present at the time) and some interesting video.

Southern Paranormal Research, who investigated the house and grounds in 2008, presents a more complete report as well as some very compelling evidence. In their investigation of May 24th, investigators made some interesting discoveries in trying to debunk some of the phenomena. They explain that matrixing may be responsible for figures being seen in the upper stories. In other words, the minds of witnesses may simply be fooled by the odd interplay of light and architecture into seeing figures. The team also notes that sound carries very well throughout the house which might explain some of the sounds heard by witnesses. The remaining investigation appears to be mostly of the grounds where the team did have some odd experiences, hearing things in the woods and seeing a large, shadowy figure on the road. Some EVPs were also recorded that are rather interesting including a growl and laughter possibly from a child. The director’s final verdict suggests that further study is needed, though there is apparently a good deal of paranormal phenomena going on. The report for the team’s second investigation is incomplete, but does include an EVP of a man screaming that is rather haunting.

On a hot and muggy recent Sunday, I visited Spring Villa. After driving around and around and having to take a detour (part of Spring Villa Road is closed for repair), I finally discovered the park. My iPod seemed to pick up on the location and began playing a recording of the folk song, “Garry Owen,” which certainly set the mood. The park was almost spookily devoid of visitors or any other humans and seemed the proper setting for the opening of a horror film. Birds and bugs chirped and chortled as I approached the house. The house certainly appears to be haunted and the dreadful condition of the house only adds to the feeling. Paint is peeling, a few balconies are missing, one of the boards from a balcony hangs by a single nail, the windows of the main house appear to the covered with black plastic from the inside and the buildings appear to have not been well maintained since the 1934 restoration. As I approached one of the side chimneys to take a photograph, I was met with the titter of bats in the eaves. I immediately thought of a line from one of Horatio’s speeches in Shakespeare’s Hamlet where he describes Rome just before the fall of Julius Caesar where “The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead/ Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.” Perhaps the sheeted dead still squeak and gibber here just as the bats; it’s certainly not hard to imagine so.

Spring Villa Park is owned by the City of Opelika. The website for the park does not state if the house may be toured.

Sources
 
Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation Report: Spring Villa Mansion,
     Opelika, AL. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
City of Opelika. Spring Villa. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
Lee County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Lee County, Alabama.
     Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Company, 2000.
Lupold, John S. and Thomas L. French, Jr. Bridging Deep South Rivers: The Life and
     Legend of Horace King. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2004.
Opelika Parks and Recreation. Spring Villa Park. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
Southern Paranormal Research. Investigation Reports for Spring Villa, May 24, 2008 and
     September 20, 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2010.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Purpose

I’ve had a fascination with ghosts since I was a kid. Growing up in the South, I can recall Sunday afternoons on my grandparent’s front porch listening to the adults talk. On occasion, there would be whispers of haunted houses and ghosts. Usually, I wouldn’t be given much more information so as “to not scare me,” but I was hooked. As I grew up, I collected books of ghost stories whenever I could find them. So, it’s only natural that I would consider writing my own book (and I still plan to and hopefully, more than one) but for now, I’m turning to the blogosphere as I gather my sources.


So why concentrate on Southern ghosts? For one, I’m a Southerner. Much of my family has been in the South since arriving in Virginia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Over time, they travelled south and ended up here in Georgia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. My own blood is bound up in the struggle to create this place. This is a land my forefathers wrought. As they always say, write about what you know, so what better than to support my local ghosts and indeed, the South is positively infested with them. Not only that, but I believe that in the national conversation now taking place on the topic of ghosts and the paranormal in general, Southern ghosts have been given a bit of the cold shoulder.

Certainly, Southern ghosts have not been ignored, far from it. Some of the most famous and important hauntings in the United States can be found in the South, these include Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville, Kentucky; The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana; Moundsville Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia; the Manassas Battlefield, Manassas, Virginia; the “Bell Witch,” Adams County, Tennessee; the Surrency Poltergeist, Surrency, Georgia; the Brown Mountain Lights, North Carolina; the Antietam Battlefield, Antietam, Maryland; Bobby Mackey’s Music World, Wilder, Kentucky; plus cities that seem to be crawling with ghosts: Savannah, Georgia; St. Augustine, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; Franklin, Tennessee; Natchez, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; Washington, D.C. and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

History provides many reasons why the South has earned its ghosts but I am loathe to describe the South as the most haunted region or even more haunted than any other region. Indeed I bristle at the use of the phrases “more haunted” or “most haunted.” A location either has activity or it does not; like death, there is no grey area. Some cities or locations may appear to have more activity or more spirits but considering the fact that many places are poorly researched, I believe it’s bad form to state that a place may be “more haunted” when its ghosts have simply been better researched. For example, Savannah, Georgia which has eight books about its ghosts (that I can count off the top of my head), compared to Chattanooga, Tennessee which may be just as haunted but has, to my knowledge, not a single book about its ghosts. Savannah is simply better researched but may not actually be “more haunted.” I’ll step off my soapbox now.

The South is the location of some of the earliest European settlements in North America in addition to numerous Native American settlements, many of which were taken over by European settlers. This early history begins to provide a foundation for Southern ghost stories which are often punctuated with Native American curses, violated burial grounds and lands in general. Add to this equation the scars of war: various conflicts among and with Native Americans as well as part of the American Revolution and the bulk of the Civil War. Round out all of this bloody history with religious ecstasy and slavery and its proceeding horrors of racism culminating in the Civil Rights Movement and you have a place that is teeming with spiritual energy.

As for the cold shoulder, like I’ve said, it’s not that the South has been ignored, but it hasn’t gotten as much attention as I think it deserves. In the realm of television for example, which is one of the main reasons for the rise in interest in the paranormal, Ghost Hunters and its spinoff Ghost Hunters International (which doesn’t concern us) on Syfy, A&E’s Paranormal State and The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures are among the best known paranormal television shows at the moment. Out of curiosity, I decided to tally the number of Southern hauntings these shows investigated. Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State both center on ghost hunting organizations that are located in the Northeast (Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, respectively), so it’s no surprise to find that Southern ghosts are not as well represented. Ghost Hunters, currently in the middle of its sixth season, has aired 112 regular episodes as well as 6 specials (not counting those specials that do not feature an actual investigation), only 9% of the regular episodes feature locations in the South, while half of its specials feature locations south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

On the other hand, Paranormal State, which has ended its fourth season, is less concerned with locations and more with helping people experiencing paranormal activity, therefore, the locations of its investigations are not always revealed. Based on the episode list on Wikipedia, of its 65 episodes, 24% are Southern. It also appears that the show takes a more varied array of locations, geographically, so roughly a quarter of the locations would more accurately reflect the South in terms of the rest of the nation.

Ghost Adventures seems to represent the South fairly well. Having aired three seasons, 30% of its 26 episodes involve Southern locations. The show’s first season featured a wide array of Southern locations ranging from Birmingham, Alabama’s Sloss Furnaces to Wilder, Kentucky’s Bobby Mackey’s Music World. The show also featured five live specials of which three deal with Weston, West Virginia’s Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

Within the publishing world the coverage of the South is spotty. While, yes, there are a few hundred books on the South ranging from books covering a variety of Southern stories to books on specific states, regions and cities, there are still large geographic areas that are not well covered. For example, the state of Mississippi has a grand total of two books about it. Besides Mobile (with two books), no other major cities in Alabama have books about them (the 10 largest would be Birmingham, Montgomery, Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Hoover, Dothan, Decatur, Gadsden and Huntsville), yet there are two books about the town of Muscle Shoals (population 12,846) in northwest Alabama. In Georgia, South Georgia remains virtually unwritten about. In fact, most rural areas throughout the South are poorly covered.

Online, the situation is fairly bleak. There are a host of user submitted sites but this information is questionable and untrustworthy. One of the largest of these sites is Shadowlands which has been copied repeatedly and parts of it are spread all over the Web (If you notice a long list of haunted places on a site, find the corresponding list on Shadowlands and compare them, they will usually be exact). While these lists of haunted places are quite interesting and extensive, they are rife with mistakes and cite no sources. A Google search of Southern ghosts does produce a few blogs, one on Tennessee and another on North Carolina, both of which are well written, but neither cite sources. There is also a decent site on Alabama ghosts from author Alan Brown, Alabama Ghostlore, but the site covers only 20 locations and again, cites no sources, though, to his credit, Mr. Brown’s books are very well sourced. While all of these blogs are well written, much of the information presented throughout the Internet is poorly written and filled with spelling and grammatical errors as well as historical issues.

My plan for this blog is to begin to address these inadequacies with in-depth research (when I can), a healthy dose of skepticism and decent writing. Beyond that, I plan to explore not only well-known hauntings, but those hauntings that have received little attention. Since I have a strong interest in research, I am analyzing and synthesizing information from a variety of resources, not only those relating to the paranormal, but historical resources which may prove or perhaps discredit legends and paranormal sources.

This is a huge task to accomplish and not without myriad difficulties. One major issue comes from research. Historical research from a distance can be difficult at times and currently the range of my travels is limited. I will try to do as much digging as I can online and use the resources of local libraries, but that sometimes runs up against a brick wall. I do welcome information from readers and other interested parties, though, please, provide sources!

One other point I should address is in the title of this blog and that is the word “guide.” I wish for this blog to serve as a travel guide, of sorts, to the haunted locations of the South. These are places where my primary interests lie: places that can be readily identified and in some cases visited. While simple ghost stories can be interesting, if they lack a specific location, they lose my interest and are simply stories. Without a location, these stories cannot provide a historical context which can often help to provide an explanation of why this place is haunted.

If you have read this far, thank you! I hope you will continue reading this blog. If you have information on Southern ghosts and hauntings, please let me know and I will look into them for possible inclusion.