Sunday, November 28, 2010

Southern Civil War Ghosts (Part I)

We have shared the incommunicable experience of war…
--- Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Soldier’s Faith”

From the rocky shores of Maine to the deserts of New Mexico, from the white columned plantations of Georgia to the halls of the Capitol in Washington, the American Civil War was experienced across the nation in a myriad of ways. From soldiers gasping their last on the battlefield to widows sobbing softly at home, the whole of the population was touched by this war and the South, more than any other place in the country, saw the brunt of battle. Like the physical scars that still mar the landscape and buildings throughout the South, the war left spiritual scars as well in the form of activity that is still experienced today.

While the South still contains many of the great battlefields of this war, such as Manassas, Antietam, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga and Cold Harbor, there are many smaller places that saw the effects of war. There is no doubt that the great battlefields of the Civil War are haunted, but for this entry I’d like to concentrate on those smaller, lesser known places where the spirits of this war are still felt.

Pope’s Tavern
203 Hermitage Drive
Florence, Alabama

Pope's Tavern, 1934 by W. N. Manning for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Considered the oldest building in the town of Florence, Pope’s Tavern, which has served as a tavern and later a private home, is now a museum. Following a skirmish between Union and Confederate forces in downtown Florence, the building became a hospital serving the wounded from both sides. It continued to be used as a hospital until the end of the war, serving wounded soldiers from battles nearby such as Shiloh and Franklin in Tennessee.

Many of those working in and visiting the museum have experienced spiritual activity that is most likely linked to the tavern’s days as a hospital. One of the bedrooms which is known to have been used for surgeries during the war, leaves some visitors with the sensation of terror and fear. Others have heard moans, agonizing screams and have smelled the odor of blood. Knocking, disembodied footsteps and odd popping sounds have also been heard throughout the museum.

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
US-90
Olustee, Florida

In February of 1864, Union forces set out from occupied Jacksonville, Florida with the intent of making inroads into the state to cut supply lines, free slaves and possibly recruit African-Americans for service in the Union army. Heading west towards Lake City, the Union forces under Brigadier General Truman Seymour encountered entrenched Confederates under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan at Olustee Station near Ocean Pond. Among the union forces involved in this battle was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first and most well known African-American units.

Fighting through thick forest of palmetto and pine, the almost equally pitted troops (5,000 Confederates versus 5,500 Union troops) fought throughout the afternoon of February 20. The Confederates repulsed the Union troops and inflicted heavy casualties, causing the Union to lose some 40% of their forces (203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing, a total of 1,861 men) while the Confederates lost about 20% of their forces (93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing, a total of 946 casualties in all). Union forces retreated to Jacksonville after being beaten back.

The battlefield, preserved as Florida’s first state park in 1912, is home to an annual reenactment and re-enactors have had a number of odd experiences primarily involving full-bodied apparitions. One of the more interesting of these was an encounter between a re-enactor on a horse and a spectral Union soldier. The spectre appeared and tripped the horse throwing the rider. Before the re-enactor could recover, he was smacked in the face by a rifle butt. Looking around, the shaken re-enactor searched for evidence of the soldier who tripped him, no footprints or any evidence was found. While no other documented encounters have been as violent, many have seen apparitions of soldiers.

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

Northwest entrance to the Western & Atlantic RR tunnel.
Photo by Civilentiger, 2003, courtesy of Wikipedia.
As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.

The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.

Like the Olustee Battlefield, it is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.

Sources
Battle of Olustee. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27
     November 2010.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
     these years.” Examiner.com. 22 June 2009.
Glass, Debra and Heath Matthews. Skeletons of the Civil War: True
     Ghost Stories of the Army of the Tennessee. Debra Glass, 2007.
Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley.
     Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy
     Press, 2010.
Pope’s Tavern Museum. City of Florence, Alabama. Accessed 27
     November 2010.
Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia.
     Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center.
     Accessed 28 November 2010.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Colonial Park Cemetery (Newsbyte)

Corner of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Streets
Savannah, Georgia

A new “ghost video” has been released recently by WJW-Fox 8 News out of Cleveland, Ohio. The video, taken in Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery in 2008, shows what appears to be a small child and another figure. The child is seen running in the background and then the figures appear to possibly fly up into a tree then come down a moment later. Investigation by a film special effects crew has determined that the video is not fake and the ghostly figures are inconclusive.

I would have to side with the special effects crew. Yes, the figures are strange, but the young man with the video camera did not investigate the figures any more closely, especially after something fell out of the tree. The video shows the cemetery is also full of people, so a small child running along is not that unusual. I’ve visited the park myself a few times and have noted the many palm trees. To me, the falling object at the end of the video appears to be a palm branch. But fake or real however, this video does provide a good reason to discuss the ghosts of Colonial Park Cemetery.

The cemetery is one of the many Savannah landmarks included on local ghost tours. On many nights someone driving past the cemetery in the early evening will encounter large tour groups stopped outside the cemetery while guides tell stories and tourists snap pictures hoping to capture “orbs.” Interestingly, none of the guides I’ve encountered are very specific about the haunting of the cemetery other than to say ghosts have been encountered there. In my mind when I hear that I want specifics: what did they encounter? Who had these encounters? When? What specifically did they see or hear?

A few of these guides have written books and interestingly, they don’t provide specifics there, either. Of course they provide the requisite historical information and a number of interesting facts, but very little, if anything about the ghosts themselves. James Caskey of the Savannah Haunted History Tour in his book, Haunted Savannah, does provide one personal story. While conducting a tour in November of 2001, Caskey noticed that some of the people in his group had odd expressions on their faces while he talked just outside the cemetery. Turning around, he saw an odd mist near the grave of Edward Malbone which is located just off the main entry path into the cemetery and is perhaps 50-60 feet inside, if I remember correctly. This grave is particularly identifiable as it has a historical marker (one of many in the cemetery) next to it. This mist rose about five and a half feet off the ground and then dissipated. Robert Edgerly, a guide with SeeSavannah Walking Tours, in his Savannah Hauntings, provides the usual historic information and interesting facts, but nothing on the hauntings.

Margaret Wayt DeBolt’s 1984 book, Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales, was the first main book on Savannah hauntings and THE source on ghosts in the city. In its chapter on Colonial Park Cemetery, she provides a quote from a psychic friend who encountered a cold and very sad feeling near one of the mass graves of yellow fever victims, but beyond that, DeBolt resorts to history and interesting facts like the others.

I spoke with one of my best friends, Troy Heard, who worked as a ghost tour guide while he was in graduate school in Savannah. He went on to say that there were no “legendary ghosts” in the cemetery but that it was quite possibly haunted. He went on to say that the stop at the cemetery wasn’t a stop to tell ghost stories but to talk about the cemetery and sometimes voodoo.

Certainly the cemetery’s history could easily allow for ghosts. The oldest extant cemetery in town, Colonial Park opened in 1750 to replace the burying ground originally established in 1733. This older burying ground, located in a lot bordered by York, Bull, Oglethorpe and Whitaker streets, quickly disappeared under the growing city. The cemetery saw interments for 103 years until the cemetery was closed and virtually abandoned in 1853. After years of neglect, the cemetery was opened as a park by the city in 1896, though Christ Church, which owned the property, had to step in to prevent the city from desecrating the cemetery by extending a street through the burying ground. Recent research has indicated that there may be approximately 11,000 burials in this cemetery but only around 600 markers. The additions of sidewalks on two sides of the cemetery and tennis courts and a playground on one side have covered graves.

This burying ground has also seen some of its graves desecrated by occupiers. Both the British who occupied the city during the Revolution and the Union Army who occupied the city during the Civil War vandalized graves.  It was during the Civil War that the greatest amount of vandalism took place including markers being destroyed, dates and ages being altered and some of the vaults being broken into. In addition, vandalism occurred while the cemetery was abandoned in the late 19th century.

It seems Colonial Park Cemetery may be active, perhaps not the most active location in Savannah, a city that’s positively crawling with ghosts, but there may be occasional activity. I would be interested to see a ghost hunting organization investigate this location and seeing what they find.

Sources
     Cleveland, Ohio.15 November 2010.
Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to the
     Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure
     Books, 2008.
DeBolt, Margaret Wayt. Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales.
     Norfolk, VA: The Donning Company, 1984.
Edgerly, Robert. Savannah Hauntings. Savannah, GA: See Savannah
     Books, 2005.
Piechocinski, Elizabeth Carpenter. The Old Burying Ground: Colonial
     Park Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, 1750-1853. Savannah, GA:
     Oglethorpe Press, 1999.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chalmette Battlefield

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin' on
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

-- from “The Battle of New Orleans” by Jimmie Driftwood,
recorded by Johnny Horton in 1959.

Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve
8606 West St. Bernard Highway
Chalmette, Louisiana

The Battle of New Orleans by American painter, Thomas Moran,
1910.
Situated a few miles southeast of the city of New Orleans, the Chalmette Battlefield is the site of America’s greatest victory of the War of 1812. The British first threatened the city with the arrival of a flotilla just off of Lake Pontchartrain. The Americans attempted to block the British from landing but were defeated in the brief Battle of Lake Borgne on December 18, 1814. An attack by the Americans on the British position once they landed on the 23rd was successful only in keeping the British on their toes, though their maintained their position. General Andrew Jackson’s American troops dug in and created earthworks on Chalmette Plantation right along the Rodriguez Canal and bounded on both sides by cypress swamps and the Mississippi River that became known as “Line Jackson.”

Undated map of the battle line and line of attack. Courtesy
of Wikipedia.

At the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans, prayers were raised by the sisters to the Virgin Mary to ensure an American victory and protect the city. The sisters had prayed a few years earlier in 1812 when fire ravaged the city. Miraculously, the flames were swept away from the convent by a sudden change in direction. The sisters’ prayers were answered on the morning of January 8th when the British launched their main attack in darkness and heavy fog. Perhaps as an answer to the sisters’ prayers, the fog lifted to reveal the troops marching towards the American’s fortifications. Exposed to brutal artillery fire, the British lost many of their senior officers quite early on leaving the soldiers in the field without direction. Despite being outmanned by British forces, the Americans held their ground and incurred few losses. The British, on the other hand, lost 291 soldiers including two generals with over 1,200 wounded and nearly 500 captured or missing.

This decisive American victory served as the final engagement of the War of 1812, despite its occurrence after the end of the war. The war officially ended in Belgium with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve, 1814, some two weeks previous to the battle. Following the tumult of battle, the site returned to its agrarian origins and the Beauregard House was built on part of the battlefield around 1830. The entrenchments, especially those in the area around the National Cemetery, were reused by Confederate and later, Union, forces during the Civil War. Towards the end of the war, a national cemetery was established for the burial of Union troops who had died in the area. The cemetery has seen over 15,000 burials and is now closed. Attempts to memorialize the site date to 1855 when construction began on a marble tower on the battlefield which was completed in 1908.

Modern photo of the battlefield with the remains of the "Line
Jackson" earthworks, battle monument and the Beauregard
House. From the National Park Service.

The Battlefield and National Cemetery now comprise a unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, which preserves a series of cultural and natural resources that represent the rich history and ecology of the region. The park is named for the nineteenth century pirate, Jean Lafitte, who worked in some of the areas preserved in the park and who also came to the aid of the American’s before and during the battle. The spirit of Lafitte is one of the spirits that is said to haunt Destrehan Plantation which I wrote about in the entry on the River Road plantations of Louisiana.

Battlefields appear frequently in paranormal literature. Seemingly, the more important the battle, the more haunted the battlefield and the Chalmette Battlefield is no exception. Though finding good information on the haunting of this battlefield is not as easy. There are two primary sources for information on the ghosts of the battlefield: Jeff Dwyer’s excellent Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans and a blog from the Southern Area Paranormal Society. Outside of these sources, there is information on the haunted, but its validity is questionable.

Jeff Dwyer’s book provides good information on the battle, but he doesn’t say too much about what supernatural elements have been experienced there. He states that cold spots have been felt and that sensitive people have felt a “pulling sensation as if gravity has increased many times.” My skeptical side is apt to not usually believe “feelings” that people may get in a location, especially if that’s the only indication of paranormal activity. 

The other main source for what is taking place in the battlefield involves a good deal more information. The Southern Area Paranormal Society discusses the battlefield and two nearby forts in their blog. Activity they mention on the battlefield include apparitions and voices. They also mention that activity has been reported in the Beauregard House including the sound of footsteps and possible shadow people.

With the amount of information online about this location, I will continue to search for reliable sources on the activity here.

Sources
The Battle of New Orleans. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 19 November 2010.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans.
     Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
Greene, Jerome A. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for Chalmette Unit. Listed 6 July
     1987.
Jean Lafitte. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     22 November 2010.
Manley, Roger. Weird Louisiana: Your Travel Guide
     To Louisiana’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets.
     NYC: Sterling, 2010.
Southern Area Paranormal Society. Fort Beivnue,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rawls Hotel (Newsbyte)

116 South Main Street
Enterprise, Alabama

It seems that ghosts can be good for business; they are a paranormal economic stimulus if you will. With the rise of interest in the paranormal in recent years, businesses are playing up their more supernatural elements in order to attract business. This is certainly evident at the Rawls Hotel in Enterprise, Alabama. A quick visit to the hotel’s website produces a link dedicated to the hotel’s ghosts.

Two recent articles, in the Dothan Eagle and The Southeast Sun, an online newspaper out of Enterprise, have featured investigations of this hotel by the Southern Paranormal Researchers, a Montgomery, Alabama based paranormal group. According to another article from 2002 posted on the hotel’s website, reports of activity at the Rawls began just after World War I (about 1919) and have continued ever since. This activity includes everything from apparitions to the sounds of children’s laughter heard in some of the hallways to objects being moved and lights coming on by themselves. During the hotel’s renovation in the late 1970s, one very interesting event occurred: Hayden Pursley who was working to restore the hotel hung window treatments in the ballroom but returned the next day to find that the window treatments had been taken down. He put them back up to find them down again the next day. When he attempted to put them up a third time, he was hit by a board that flew across the room.

The Rawls Hotel was opened initially as the McGee Hotel in 1903 by Japheth and Elizabeth Rawls. It was a small structure built to serve the needs of railroad passengers. After the death of Mr. Rawls, the hotel passed to his nephew who undertook an expansion of the hotel: adding a third floor and wings onto the original building and creating a grand atmosphere. The hotel remained at the heart of Enterprise society functions until it closed in the early 1970s. Towards the end of that decade the hotel was purchased by Mr. Pursley who restored and renovated the hotel, returning it to its former glory.

Southern Paranormal Researchers (SPR) have previously investigated the Rawls Hotel and according to their investigation report, gathered a good deal of evidence. Among the events that were witnessed, were lights coming on by themselves, the sound of a child screaming and an investigator having her hair played with. The investigators also used dowsing rods to explore the hotel. Dowsing is an ancient technique that uses either a Y-shaped rod or two L-shaped rods that has been used to find water sources and spirits. Often when using the two L-shaped rods, investigators will loosely hold the rods by the short end of the “L” and ask the spirits to communicate by crossing the rods. During an investigation of the Rawls by SPR, the investigators believed they contacted the spirit of Hayden Pursley who passed in 2004.

SPR has created an internet radio show, “Down at the Crossroads,” that they host live on Thursday nights at 8 PM CST on their website. I will be a guest this upcoming Thursday, the 18th discussing this blog. Please listen in if you have a chance.

Sources
Brand, Carol. “In search of spirits at historic Rawls Hotel.”
Braun, Melissa. “Haunting in historic Enterprise hotel.”
     The Southeast Sun. 27 October 2010.
“History of The Rawls.” http://www.rawlsbandb.com/. Accessed
     13 November 2010.
“Meet the Ghosts.”  http://www.rawlsbandb.com/. Accessed 13
     November 2010.
Phillips, Greg. “Paranormal investigators examine, praise
     Historic Enterprise hotel.” Dothan Eagle. 23 October 2010.
Southern Paranormal Researchers. Investigation Report for The
     Rawls Hotel. Accessed 13 November 2010.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building (Newsbyte)

200 South Kanawha Street
Beckley, West Virginia

I’m starting a new type of entry. Frankly, I really do enjoy doing heavy, in depth research on locations but it’s difficult to always find the time to research and write extensive blog entries. So, I’m introducing a new type of entry, the “newsbyte,” which will highlight information I find with less research.

So far, West Virginia has been this blog’s Achilles heel. While Mississippi has not been well documented in terms of its ghosts, it seems that West Virginia is in the same quandary. So far, I’ve found 2 books about the ghosts of Mississippi and 4 on the ghosts of West Virginia. Therefore, whenever I find anything on either state I get excited.

Halloween is a wonderful time to pull newspaper articles on ghosts and I was excited to find a great article on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building in Beckley, West Virginia. The article, “Stories of Beckley’s ghosts to be told Friday” from The Register-Herald, is regarding a fundraiser presentation for Theatre West Virginia which has just recently moved into the building. The presentation, called “Beckley’s Ghosts, Legends & Lore,” included storytellers describing experiences with the paranormal, including their own, in Beckley. The article then turns to the stories about the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building.

The article quotes Scott Worley, Raleigh County Historic Landmarks commissioner and historian, as stating that many people have had strange experiences in the building. He includes a story about a phantom saxophone solo that was heard during a show in the theatre. Of course, no one with a saxophone was in the building at the time.

A quick search online produced an investigation report from Eastern States Paranormal, a ghost hunting organization out of Virginia. The investigation, evidently conducted this year but otherwise no date is provided, produced some very interesting results. While the first few hours of the investigation was fairly quiet, the final few hours were particularly active starting during the group’s break with a noise like “a herd of elephants r[unning] across the stage.” For the next few hours the group was bombarded with many noises including “footsteps and doors closing…along with knocks, bangs and every other thing you could expect at a ghost hunt.”

According to the background information provided in the investigation report, the theatre opened in 1931 as a memorial to the veterans of World War I. During the opening ceremony, a set of makeshift bleachers collapsed injuring some including a tuba player who survived despite a broken neck. “Bob,” the tuba player, at some point later took up residence in an apartment in the basement of the building and it is there that his apparition has been seen. James Foster Robinson’s 2008 book, A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia, provides a brief mention of this building and simply identifies the ghost as a “gentleman ghost cloaked in gray” though he also mentions that music and children’s laughter are also heard in the building.

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building is owned by the Raleigh County Commission which has just recently handed over use of the building to Theatre West Virginia, a noted theatre company in the area. At the moment, the company is renovating the building for future use.

Sources
Eastern States Paranormal. Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial
     Theater. Accessed 8 November 2010.
Kuykendall, Taylor. “Stories of Beckley’s ghosts to be told   
     Friday.” The Register-Herald. 28 October 2010.
Lannom, Andrea. “County hands TWV control of Soldiers
     And Sailors Building. The Register-Herald. 25 June 2010.
Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia.
     WV: Winking Eye Books, 2008.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Haunted Williamsburg, Virginia (Photographs)

Williamsburg, Virginia is one of three locations, the others being Jamestown and Yorktown, that form the Historic Triangle of Virginia. These three locations tell the story of the nation’s colonial development from its first settlement to the defeat of the British at Yorktown, ending the American Revolution. Williamsburg was founded as Middle Plantation, a fortified plantation in 1632. When the capital of the Virginia Colony was moved there in 1698, it was renamed Williamsburg. The city was at the heart of much of the anti-British movement in the South that led to the American Revolution.

With the loss of status as a capital in 1780, Williamsburg reverted to being a small provincial town. The town remained a sleepy, provincial town until the dream of Episcopal priest, the Rev. W. A. R. Goodwin began to take shape and return the town to its colonial appearance. With such a concentration of historic structures, these were preserved and more modern structures removed and replaced with recreations of the original structures. This recreation of colonial Williamsburg, now under the control of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is now one of the premier tourist attractions in Virginia.

Of course, with such a concentration of historic structures, Williamsburg has a good deal of paranormal activity. Some of the hauntings in Williamsburg are well documented such as the Peyton Randolph and Wythe Houses, but others aren’t. It is my belief that these hauntings are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be certainly working on trying to find more about the hauntings of Williamsburg.

Brafferton Building
College of William & Mary Campus

Brafferton Building, 2007. Photo by Ser Amantio di Nicolao,
courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built in 1723 with funds provided by English scientist Robert Boyle with the intent to spread the Gospel to the Indians, the Brafferton Building saw many young Native American men pass through its halls and sleep in its rooms. Now serving as the college president’s and administrative offices, the building may still have the spirits of these young Native Americans still roaming it. When the building served as a dormitory for both students and faculty, reports came out of the building of footsteps late at night accompanied by the sound of sobbing and even the sound of Indian drums. Over the centuries the school has been in operation, students have seen the site of a young Native American running bare-chested and barefooted near this building. This building sits near the Wren Building featured later in this entry and across from the President’s House which is haunted by the spirit of a French soldier.  

Chiswell-Bucktrout House
East Francis Street

Chiswell-Bucktrout House, 1959. Photo by Gottscho-
Schleismer, Inc. Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

Built around 1764 (deed books and other records for Williamsburg were destroyed during the Civil War so houses usually cannot be dated exactly), this house was occupied by Colonel John Chiswell when he was accused of murder in 1766. While free on bail awaiting trial, Colonel Chiswell died mysteriously in the house. Now used as lodging, stories have surfaced from this house of people being awakened by spirits touching and talking to them.

Gaol
310 South England Street

Gaol in 1936 before it was restored. Taken for the Historic
American Building Survey, courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

According to Dennis William Hauck’s Haunted Places: The Nation Directory, the old Williamsburg Gaol is haunted by the ghosts of two women who are heard in animated conversation on the second floor of the jailer’s quarters.

Ludwell-Paradise House
Duke of Glouchester Street

Ludwell-Paradise House. Taken for the Historic American Building Survey, courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

Built around 1755 possibly on the site of a much earlier house, the Ludwell-Paradise House was also the first house purchased for restoration by Dr. Goodwin and his partner in the venture, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. In 1805, the house was occupied by Lucy Paradise nee Ludwell. Stories of the former London socialite’s odd quirks quickly spread through town. Among them, Lucy’s penchant for bathing several times a day and her habit of borrowing new hats from other ladies in town to compliment her own dresses. She was also known for conducting carriage tours from a carriage on her back porch that was rolled back and forth by a servant. In 1812, she was committed to the state’s mental asylum, the nearby (and still extant) Public Hospital, where she died two years later. When the house was occupied by one of the vice presidents of the Colonial Williamsburg foundation, they reported hearing the sound of someone running bathwater and bathing on the second floor. Evidently, Lucy continues her eccentric rituals.

Nicholson House
York Street

Nicholson House. Taken for the Historic American Building Survey, courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

Some believe the spirit found in the Nicholson house is that of an itinerant musician, Cuthbert Ogle who is known to have died in the house shortly after arriving in town. Among the scant evidence of Ogle’s existence is an advertisement in the local paper announcing his arrival in 1755 and that he would be teaching “Ladies and Gentlemen to play on the Organ, Harpsichord or Spinet.” A little less than a month later, records indicate that Ogle was dead leaving a little money and a few things. Residents of the house have spoken of feeling a male presence in the house, being tapped on the shoulder by an unseen force and a mysterious scratching coming from the walls of the house.

Old Capitol
Duke of Glouchester Street

Old Capitol Building from an undated postcard, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

At the foot of Duke of Glouchester street stands the stately Old Capitol building. The third capitol to stand on this spot, this structure witnessed the some of the first contractions in the birth of the nation. According to Michael Varhola, there are many ghost stories associated with this building, but the main one that he describes is the legend that at the stroke of midnight on July Fourth, the spirits of Patrick Henry and other Revolutionary leaders assemble once again. A fanciful legend at most.

Orrell House
East Francis Street

Orrell House. Taken for the Historic American Building Survey, courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

Sheila Turnage documents an odd experience a family had while staying in the Orrell House. While the entire family was watching TV one evening in the living room of this house, they heard the sound of water running in the bathroom. The father went into the bathroom and turned it off. Upon returning to the living room the sound of water was heard once again. Returning to the bathroom, the water was found to be running again. Again, the father turned it off and returned to the living room. Once again the water turned on and the father turned it off. After hearing glass breaking in the bathroom, the father returned to find that a glass had been removed from the medicine cabinet, removed from its plastic wrapping and then thrown to the floor. Turnage also notes that activity had not been previously reported in the house.

Peyton Randolph House
Corner of North England and Nicholson Streets


Peyton Randolph House in 2008. Photo by Jrcla2, courtesy
of Wikipedia.
The Peyton Randolph House is one of the best documented houses in Williamsburg in terms of its spiritual activity and may also be one of the most active locations in the area. Built around 1715 by Sir John Randolph, a member of the House of Burgesses, the house was passed to his son, Peyton who would serve as speaker of the House of Burgesses and later, first president of the Continental Congress. Since his ownership the house passed through many hands and was the scene of many deaths, perhaps some that have left a spiritual imprint on the house. Former residents as well as guides and docents have reported numerous odd sounds as well as apparitions including a man in colonial dress.

Public Records Office
Duke of Glouchester Street

Public Records Office. Taken for the Historic American Building Survey, courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

When the Capitol burned in 1747, many of the colony’s records were destroyed. Legislation was later passed to construct the Public Records Office or Secretary’s Office to house and protect records. Construction began in 1748 and the building was used for records until they were moved to the new capital, Richmond, in 1780. Since that time, the building has served a variety of purposes including as a residence. Legend tells us of a family occupying the building in the early twentieth century who myopic daughter was killed when she stepped in front of a carriage. Since that time, her spirit has been seen lingering around the building she once called home.

Raleigh Tavern
Duke of Glouchester Street

Raleigh Tavern in 2008. Photo by Jrcla2, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In order to recreate Williamsburg as it appeared before the American Revolution, much of the city had to be completely rebuilt as was the case with the Raleigh Tavern. Opened in 1717, this respected tavern served as a meeting place for many involved in the creation of the nation as well as the first meeting site for the fraternity Phi Beta Kappa. In 1859, the old tavern burned and was not rebuilt. When Colonial Williamsburg purchased the site it was occupied by two brick stores which were razed and after finding the remains of the tavern’s original foundation, the tavern arose once again in its original footprint. The building reopened in 1932 and apparently many of the tavern’s spectral residents resumed their parties. Reports of these spectral parties surfaced first in 1856 and have continued since.

Wren Building
College of William & Mary Campus

Wren Building on the campus of the College of William & Mary.
Photo taken 2007 by Highereditor2, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Known as the oldest functioning academic building in the nation, this structure is at the heart of one of the most venerable institutions of higher learning in the nation. As noted earlier, this building has two other haunted structures nearby: the Brafferton Building and the President’s House. Possibly designed by English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, construction on this edifice began in 1695. As one would expect of a building so old, there is evidently some spiritual activity including odd sounds that resonate throughout the structure. Daniel Barefoot in his Haunted Halls of Ivy, describes a professor whose lectures was interrupted by odd noises from the floors above. When the professor and his class investigated, no sources was discovered.

Wythe House
Palace Green

George Wyeth House, 2007. Photo by Ser Amantio di Nicolao,
courtesy of Wikipedia.

In Williamsburg, it seems that the more important the history of a location, as that of the Payton Randolph House, the more likely it is to be haunted. Such is the case with the George Wyeth (rhymes with “with”) House. The home of George Wyeth, patriot leader, Continental Congress leader and one of the Virginia signers of the Declaration of Independence, this large, Georgian house has seen much historical activity in its eight rooms. There are numerous reports of spectral activity as well including people being tapped on the shoulder by an unseen person, apparitions seen throughout the house and even a docent feeling hands trying to push her down the stairs.

Sources
Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges
     and Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
Brafferton (building). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     5 November 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg. George Wyeth House. www.history.
     org. Accessed 6 November 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg. Ludwell-Paradise House. www.history.
     org. Accessed 6 November 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg. Peyton Randolph House. www.history.
     org. Accessed 6 November 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg. Raleigh Tavern. www.history.org.
     Accessed 6 November 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg. Secreatry's Office. www.history.org.
     Accessed 6 November 2010.
Colonial Williamsburg. Wren Building. www.history.org.
     Accessed 6 November 2010.
Hauck, William Dennis. Haunted Places: The National Directory.
     NYC: Penguin, 2002.
Stephenson, Mary A. Chiswell-Bucktrout House Historical Report,
     Block 2 Building 17 Lot 253-254. Colonial Williamsburg
     Foundation Library. 1959    
Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Tidewater…and nearby environs. Progress
     Printing Co., 1990.
Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Williamsburg and Nearby Environs.
     Progress Printing Co., 1983.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnatti, OH:
     Clerisy Press, 2008.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Haunted Hotels and Inn of the South, Part II

While I have taken pleasure in doing this, this project has turned out to be more time consuming that I have expected. So, I’ve split this second half in half so I’m not freaking out trying to get it finished. I expect to get the conclusion posted sometime in the next week.

Anchuca Mansion
1010 First East Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi

I’m afraid I’m a bit confused about Anchuca. When I research something, I have the bad habit of pulling information but not really reading through it. Therefore, when I sit and write, I sometimes discover inconsistencies. And boy, there are some inconsistencies here. Part of the reason for picking Anchuca was that the story appears in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey. I’ve only recently added this to my library and haven’t completely read the book. Now, Mrs. Windham is a storyteller, and a magnificent one at that, but she’s also a journalist and I hardly expect to find errors in her research, so far it has held up, but the history of Anchuca doesn’t match up with the story Mrs. Windham wrote. In fact, the picture provided of the house isn’t the same Anchuca that is on First East Street in Vicksburg.

Anchuca in 1936 by James Butters. Photo for the Historic
American Buildings Survey, courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

There are a few major differences with the image in Windham and the other images I have of the house. For one thing, Windham’s Anchuca has a transom fanlight window while the other Anchuca has a simple, rectangular transom window. The Windham Anchuca features a window above the front door with an ornamental balcony, while the other house features a fully operational balcony with French doors. Therefore, I think Mrs. Windham photographed the wrong house.

The text explains that the house was originally situated outside the city but was moved into town sometime in the late nineteenth century. Neither the history of the house on Wikipedia, nor the history on the Anchuca Mansion website mention the house being moved. In fact, the website history states that this house was “the first columned mansion in Vicksburg,” when the columns were added to the house in 1847, some 17 years after the house’s construction in 1830.

What is interesting is that Mrs. Windham’s story is similar to the story told by the innkeeper and quoted in Sheila Turnage’s Haunted Inns of the Southeast. The story is this, in brief; the home’s owner had a daughter who was in love with a man her father did approve of. When the daughter was told she could not marry him, the daughter spent the remainder of her life sitting by the fire in the dining room and it is there that her spirit has been seen. Mrs. Windham’s story is very similar with a few different details including the fact that the daughter is seen by her bedroom fireplace. While Turnage’s story does not include names, the names and dates provided by Windham do not match any of the owners or dates in the history of the house. I doubt Mrs. Windham purposely provided the wrong information, nor do I believe the inn’s website or Turnage are wrong, so, at the moment, the spirits of Anchuca are still a mystery.

Cedar Grove Inn
2200 Oak Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi

Unlike the confusion of Anchuca, the history of Cedar Grove is not confusing. 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, who was 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.

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.

Balsam Mountain Inn
68 Seven Springs Drive
Balsam, North Carolina

The Balsma Mountain Inn, 2009. Photo by Brian Stansberry
courtesy of Wikipedia.

 Passengers departing from their trains in Balsam, North Carolina just after the turn of the century were met with an inviting and palatial hotel overlooking the station. They would enjoy the cool mountain air from the double porch with views of the town below. Though the train no longer brings them, visitors today can enjoy the same air and views and, if they stay in room 205, perhaps a nice back rub from a spirit. One guest staying in this room with her husband had a bad back and was awaken by a back rub from him, until she realized he was sound to sleep next to her. The unidentified ghost on the second floor of this hotel which opened in 1908 also rattles doorknobs of rooms on that floor.

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.

Grove Park Inn shortly after it opened in 1913. Photo by
Herbert W. Pelton, courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.


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.

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.

Battery Carriage House Inn
20 South Battery
Charleston, South Carolina

Located at the Southern tip of the city of Charleston overlooking the meeting point of the Cooper, Stono, Wando and the Ashley Rivers is The Battery, one of Charleston’s “Best” neighborhoods. It was at The Battery where many of the city’s and state’s best families built grand homes. It was from the rooftops of these grand homes and White Point Gardens fronting Charleston Harbor that citizens, including the diarist Mary Chestnut watched as the Confederacy laid siege to Fort Sumter. Number 20 South Battery is home to the Battery Carriage House Inn, possibly one of the more spiritually active locations in the city.

A few of the Battery Carriage House Inn’s eleven sumptuous guest rooms are apparently haunted. A couple staying in room 3 were awakened by noise from a cellphone; while this may be quite common, the phone is not supposed to make noise when it is powered off as this phone was. But this activity seems minor compared to the reports from rooms 8 and 10. Guests staying in Room 8 have encountered the apparition of a man’s torso. There is no head or limbs, just a torso dressed in a few layers of clothing. One guest sensed that this figure was quite negative. The spirit in Room 10 is much more pleasant and even described as a gentleman. The innkeepers believe this may be the spirit of the son of a former owner who committed suicide.

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

Rice Hope Plantation’s resident spirit, Mistress Chicken, certainly ranks among the more amusing spirit names. The name belongs to a spirit that is known to rock in a rocking chair in the Heron Room. Legend states that a child from this plantation which was established in the latter half of the eighteenth century, attended a nearby school run by a strict schoolmaster. To punish the little girl some misdeed in class, the girl was tied to a tombstone at a nearby chapel. The schoolmaster forgot the child and she was not found until long after dark. While unhurt, the child was emotionally scarred. Sources disagree as to whether the rocker in the rocking chair is the child’s grandmother or a nanny, but legend states the rocker is comforting the child.

Union Station Hotel
1001 Broadway
Nashville, Tennessee

Ghosts are associated with certain types of stone, primarily granite and limestone, water and also iron. The iron rails of railroads that have stretched around the globe have given rise to many ghostly legends associated with railroads. Nashville’s Union Station, first opened in 1900, while no longer hosting the iron rails or even the old train shed, still hosts a few ghosts associated with the railroad. Legend has it that on nights of the full moon, a ghostly train still pulls into the station, while that legend may be a bit ridiculous, staff and guests of the hotel have reported hearing the scream of a steam whistle at times; perhaps a residual noise.

Union Station Hotel, 2008, by The Peep Holes, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

During World War II, Union Station was the point of departure for tens of thousands of troops departing for battlefronts around the world. Two spirits remain from this period. One is the revenant of a young soldier who stands near the tracks seemingly waiting for something. The other is the spirit of a young woman who legend states was killed when she fell onto the tracks in front of a train. With the demolition of the train shed, it is unknown if these spirits are still active.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the grand station saw fewer and fewer passengers as the automobile became the dominant mode of transportation in America. The last train departed the station in 1978 and the station closed its door only to be reopened as a luxury hotel some years later. A more recent legend tells of a middle-aged couple that would meet at the hotel on a weekend once a month. By all accounts, the man appeared to be married, but perhaps not the woman. The lovers would spend the entire weekend in their room but one month, the man did not show up. The woman, in distress, spent the weekend in her room and was later discovered dead with a revolver at her feet. Her room, 711, has seen a good deal of activity, with one guest reporting her bag, which she had unpacked, had been repacked upon while she had stepped into the bathroom. Activity seems to revolve around this room with the spirit of young woman being encountered in the hall outside this room and in surrounding rooms as well.

Sources
-----. “About Anchuca.” AnchucaMansion.com. Accessed 31
     October 2010.
-----. “Cedar Grove History.” CedarGroveInn.com. Accessed
     31 October 2010.
-----. “Ghost Sightings.” BatteryCarriageHouse.com. Accessed 31
     October 2010.
-----. “History.” GroveParkInn.com. Accessed 1 November 2010.
Anchuca. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 31 October
     2010.
Bordsen, John. “Room with a Boo.” The Charlotte Observer. 25
     October 2009.
Chandler, Andrew W. et al. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for the Cooper River Historic District. Listed
     5 February 2003.
Harris, Frankie and Kim Meredith. Haunted Nashville. Atglen, PA:
     Schiffer, 2009.
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.
Spar, Mindy. “Local haunts among treats for Halloween.” The
     Post and Courier. 26 Otcober 2002.
Traylor, Ken and Delas M. House, Jr. Nashville Ghosts and Legends.
     Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winton-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
Union Station (Nashville). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     3 November 2010.
Warren, Joshua P. Haunted Asheville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain
     Press, 1996.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey.
     Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of Alabama Press, 1974.