Thursday, January 27, 2011

Haunted Mississippi

A selection of ten hauntings from around the state of Mississippi. As always, I must restate my complaint about the lack of sources on Mississippi ghosts. One of my goals in this “Haunted South State by State” series is to provide a wide variety of ghosts throughout each state as well as a variety of locations. With the lack of sources on Mississippi this has been quite difficult. Therefore, I have a number of hauntings from Natchez and a number of locations that are large plantation homes.

Chapel of the Cross
674 Mannsdale Road
Madison
Chapel of the Cross, 2008. Photo by Natalie Maynor, courtesy
of Wikipedia.

This small Gothic revival chapel in rural Madison County appears to have been taken right out of the English countryside. There is some speculation on the designer but history tells us the actual labor on the church was performed mostly by slaves. Conceived originally as the plantation chapel for the Johnstone family’s Annandale Plantation, Margaret Johnstone continued construction after the death of her husband and willed the church to the local Episcopal diocese upon her death. It is Margaret’s daughter, Helen, who legend purports is the weeping woman seen at the grave of her fiancĂ©e, Henry Grey Vick who was killed in a duel only days before their planned wedding date.

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth
Confederate dead at Battery Robinette after the Second Battle
of Corinth. Battery Robinette is one of the preserved areas of
the battlefield. Photo published in The Photographic History
of the Civil War in Ten Volumes.

Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.

The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.

Dunleith
84 Homochitto Street
Natchez
Dunleith, 1936 by James Butters. Photo taken for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

In the city of Natchez, a city filled with huge, historic mansions, Dunleith sits proudly with its 26 huge Tuscan columns amid the grandeur. The house occupies the site of John Routh’s 18th century plantation, Routhlands. When that house burned, Routh’s son-in-law built Dunleith in 1855. Amid the grandeur of Natchez’s homes, there are also many spirits including the lonely woman who still plays the harp at Dunleith, over a century after she arrived.

Grand Opera House
2206 Fifth Street
Meridian
Grand Opera House, now part of the Riley Center for Education and
the Performing Arts, 2008. Photo by Dudemanfellabra, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

When visitors arrived at Meridian’s Grand Opera House, they ascended a flight of stairs into the magical and enlightening world of theatre, something certainly above the dirty streets outside. This magnificent world was accessible for 37 years, before “The Lady,” as the opera house was called possibly after the portrait of the woman just under the center of the proscenium arch, was closed to the public by its doting owners. Opened by German-Jewish businessmen and half-brothers I. Marks and Levi Rothenberg, the opera house stood as a beacon of culture in the vast sandy plains of Mississippi.

The opera house attracted many of the great names of the theatrical world ranging from the mysterious genius of the French actress, Sarah Bernhardt to the rich tones of the “Black Patti,” Sissieretta Jones, one of the first great African-American opera singers and minstrels. When motion pictures began to dominate the entertainment industry throughout America, the theatre was converted to a motion picture house in 1920. The Saenger theatre company rented the theatre in 1923 and when they wished to close the theatre and gut the building in 1927, Marks and Rothenberg took them to court to stop it. Instead, the theatre was shut up to lay sleeping until work began to restore the theatre for use by Mississippi State University. The Grand Opera House is now a part of the Riley Center for Education and the Performing Arts.

Of course, every theatre must have its ghost and the Grand Opera House is no exception. “The Lady” boasts a lady who sings. Perhaps stirred up by renovations, a female voice has been heard singing in the main house when the building is quiet.

King’s Tavern
619 Jefferson Street
Natchez
King's Tavern, 1934 by Ralph Clynne. Photo taken for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

One of the few mid-18th century buildings standing in the state of Mississippi, King’s Tavern is the home of the legend of Madeline. Historical records indicate that the building became a tavern under Richard King around 1789 serving travelers at the end of the Natchez Trace a path to Nashville, Tennessee. Little is known of Madeline, other than her spirit seems to be the most active in the building. Besides making her presence known through appearances, she also plays with the faucets and manipulates objects and doors throughout the tavern turned modern restaurant.

Linden
1 Linden Place
Natchez
Linden, 1938 by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Another of Natchez’s stately antebellum homes, Linden was built around the end of the 18th century. Now a bed and breakfast, both Linden’s owners and guests has spotted visitors from a different era including a man in a top hat.

Merrehope
905 Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Drive
Meridian
Merrehope, 2008. Photo by Dudemanfellabra, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Merrehope whose name is a combination of the words Meridian, restoration and hope, is an architectural combination in itself. The home began as a three-room cottage in 1858 and over the years has been added to be each subsequent owner. Of course, some of these owners have remained in spirit as well. Young Eugenia Gary, the teenage daughter of Merrehope’s second owner, John Gary, died of consumption in the house and has remained. Her gentle spirit has been reported by staff and visitors alike. Another, more mischievous spirit may also haunt the Periwinkle Room where staff have seen a human-shaped indention on the bed. When Meridian Star reporter Jennifer Jacob was interviewing a staff member for an article about the haunting, her recorder picked up a “ghastly inhuman screech,” unheard by the interview participants.

Monmouth Plantation
36 Melrose Plantation
Natchez
Monmouth, 1972 by Jack E. Boucher. Photo taken for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The heavy, pondering footsteps of John A. Quitman are believed to be heard in his former home, Monmouth Plantation. Quitman, who purchased the house in 1826, served in the state house of representatives and state senate, then as governor before serving in the Mexican-American War. Upon his return, he was elected as a Representative to Congress. While in Washington, Quitman contracted the “National Hotel Disease,” a mysterious epidemic that struck guests of the National Hotel and is believed to have been caused by poison introduced into the hotel’s food. Quitman died at Monmouth in 1858, but still may be heard there.

Rowan Oak
Old Taylor Road
Oxford
Rowan Oak, 2000. Photo by Gary Bridgman, courtesy of
Wikipedia.

Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished.
--- William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

If the theory holds, residual hauntings are just this, something that happens but is never finished; a haunting where the dead still walk, cry, talk, or laugh among the living.  These things are still heard at Rowan Oak the former home of perhaps the greatest, most complicated and certainly most haunted of Southern writers. The house was built around 1840 by Colonel Robert Shegog and purchased by Faulkner in 1930. The deteriorated state of the house matched the deteriorated condition of the rural South even over half a century after the Civil War. Faulkner, habitually low on money, performed much of the restoration himself. He and his wife experienced odd occurrences in the house and he explained it with the legend of Shegog’s daughter, Judith who he said died trying to sneak out of the house for a tryst with her lover. Researchers, however, have discovered that Judith never existed, but odd sounds still resonate through the old house. Perhaps they are the sounds of life that is unfinished?


Springfield Plantation
Mississippi 553
Fayette
Springfield in an undated postcard from the Cooper Collection,
Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Like Linden in Natchez, Springfield also dates to 1790 and it was here the following year that the controversial marriage between Andrew Jackson and Rachel Robards took place. The controversy stems from questions regarding whether the bride was still technically married to her first husband. The owners of the house have experienced a plethora of odd sounds throughout the house including eighteenth century music coming from the old ballroom.

Sources
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson,
     MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Chapel of the Cross. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 25 January 2011.
Dunleith. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27
     January 2011.
Goeldner, Paul. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination form for Dunleith. Listed 14 September
     1972.
Hubbard, Sylvia Booth. Ghosts! Personal Accounts of
     Modern Mississippi Hauntings. Brandon, MS: Quail
     Ridge Press, 1992.
Jacob, Jennifer. “Merrehope: Meridian’s Haunted Mansion.”
     The Meridian Star. 28 October 2007.
John A. Quitman. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27
     January 2011.
Maddox, Dawn. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination form for Monmouth. Listed 26 April 1973.
Merrehope. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 25
     January 2011.
Mitchell, Dennis J. “Grand Opera House of Mississippi.”
     Mississippi History Now. September 2006.
National Hotel Disease. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 27 January 2011.
Rettig, Polly M. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination form for Rowan Oak. Listed 23 May 1968.
Second Battle of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 27 January 2011.
Siege of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 27 January 2011.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the South. Winston-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
William Faulkner. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 26 January 2011.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Mississippi Ghosts and
     Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of Alabama Press, 1974.

3 comments:

  1. What a rich history the area has! And I love reading anything in regards to the Civil War. I've got familial ties to it, and to WW2 as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't see anything about Vicksburg, which is more haunted than Natchez is.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Zoom in on the Rowan Oak house. There is a face on the front door.

    ReplyDelete