Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Greetings and Shameless Advertising

First off, Happy Holidays to all, both the living and the dead, may your season be joyous and bright!

Stolen from Facebook...
It is Christmas morning and Santa has visited in the night. One of my gifts came from Q&W Publishers, a recently established publisher that is dedicated to "fine quaint & weird fiction and non-fiction...with an emphasis on speculative and American Southern topics." The book they sent is an anthology, The Old Weird South, featuring a selection of 24 fiction and non-fiction stories and edited by Tim Westover.

Earlier this year, Courtney Mroch of the wonderful haunted travel blog, Haunt Jaunts, sent me a note regarding submissions for this anthology. After a few weeks of consideration as to what to write about, I created a piece based on the Great Locomotive Chase and the ghosts associated with the locations along the old Western & Atlantic Railroad here in Georgia. Though I threw together the piece at the last minute and didn't consider it to be very good, I was surprised to see it selected for inclusion in the anthology. While the stories in it are mostly fiction, my piece is non-fiction and quite similar to the pieces I usually write for this blog.

The book is an excellent look at the wide array of storytelling traditions that exist in and about the South. I would highly recommend it to my readers. It can be purchased from Amazon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Resurrection—Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge (Photos)

Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge
Opelika Municipal Park
Park Road
Opelika, Alabama

Things looked bleak for the Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge on June 5, 2005. Early that morning, a tree had fallen on part of this 105 year old bridge. The damage was so severe that the entire bridge collapsed into Wacoochee Creek. Located in rural Lee County, Alabama, near the community of Salem, it appeared that this was the end for this last remaining covered bridge in the county. It was one of eleven covered bridges remaining in the state.

The Salem-Shotwell Bridge in its new location in Opelika Municipal
Park. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Concerned citizens in the area soon began to salvage the parts of the bridge and placed them in storage. Later on that year, ownership of the remains of the bridge were officially transferred to the City of Opelika who, with the help of the local Kiwanis Club and historical organizations, began a reconstruction of the bridge over Rocky Creek in Opelika Municipal Park. The bridge reopened to fanfare in 2007.

For years before it’s destruction and subsequent reconstruction, stories were told about this lonely bridge. Some of the first stories, according to Faith Serafin, Michelle Smith and Mark Poe in their recent book Haunted Auburn and Opelika, were told of Native American spirits reaching up from the waters of Wacoochee Creek towards unwary travelers crossing the bridge at night. Like so many lonely bridges, this bridge acquired a reputation for other spirits over time. (see my recent entry on Cry Baby Hollow in North Alabama)

The bridge was constructed using wooden pegs,
many of which were reused when the bridge was
reconstructed. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell, IV.
All rights reserved.
Supposedly in the 1960s, a young woman was either strangled or hung herself on the bridge. One story involves the young woman asking a young man to meet her at the bridge for a late night tryst. When the young man didn’t show up, the young woman hung herself.

The death of another woman in a fatal car accident added yet another spirit to the bridge. In this tale a young woman is driving along the country road towards the bridge in a rain storm. As she rounded the curve in the road towards the bridge, the car skidded on the slick road and crashed into the turbulent, storm-riled waters below. Her spirit is said to drift along the stream banks accompanied by the smell of burning flesh.

The reconstruction only rebuilt 43 feet of the original
76 feet of the bridges length. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell, IV.
All rights reserved.
Yet one more accident added a spirit to the bridge: that of a young boy. His pitiful spirit often attracted ghost hunters and curious legend trippers who would leave small toys and gifts behind for the child. It is possibly his spirit who has accompanied the bridge to its new location. The authors of Haunted Auburn and Opelika speak of children playing near the reconstructed bridge playing with a young boy that only they can see.

Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     3 December 2012.
Serafin, Faith; Michelle Smith and Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika.
     Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Of Crying Babies and Bridges (Newsworthy Haunts)

Cry Baby Hollow
Kayo Road Bridge
Hartselle, Alabama

Southern legends and lore are filled with tales of “Cry Baby” and other haunted bridges. Some are modern highway bridges while others are ancient, rickety affairs, perhaps even a historic covered bridge, on lonely dirt roads in the woods. Regardless, stories have become attached to these bridges. Some of the tales are typical: either a mother, an infant or both die in an accident in this lonely spot, thus haunting the place until peace may be found in the afterlife. Another typical version has the mother dropping her infant into the waters under the bridge as she is unable to care for the child. Other bridges are the scenes of deadly accidents, the dumping ground for murder victims. Occasionally rituals appear in these legends with those wishing to encounter the spirit stopping their car on the bridge, bringing candy, flashing headlights, sounding the horn or perhaps calling the name of a particular spirit.

The Decatur Daily of Decatur, Alabama reported on one of its local cry baby bridges, this one located in Morgan County, near Hartselle. Sadly, the article only promotes the legends surrounding the location and provides no information to prove or disprove them.

The old bridge on Kayo Road, off Highway 31, is an unkempt, lonely and apparently a little used bridge. From some of the photographs circulating the internet, it appears that trash has been dumped along the road, though the bridge may also be popular with fisherman. The article describes a local ghost hunting team, Paranormal Research Alliance of Cullman, who investigated the bridge both at night and during the day. The team did feel uneasy at the location, though this is not a true sign of a haunting. Video taken at the bridge had possible moaning or talking in the background, though this may simply be the sound of cars from Highway 31 some two miles away. Otherwise, the team did not capture any conclusive evidence that there may be paranormal activity in the location.

Kayo Road originates at this intersection with US Highway 31.

There seems to be no lack of stories about the desolate bridge. Many of the typical cry baby bridge stories have been applied including a mother losing an infant in an accident at the site, though, as I mentioned above, the article provides no evidence if any of these things occurred. The other primary legend associated with the bridge is that of a serial killer who supposedly operated in the area by the name of Frank Hammond or Hammon.

The article includes a story (from the internet, imagine that!) that speaks of Mr. Hammond’s activities in the 1940s. Gory details such as living quarters with human skins tacked to the walls and a family being brutally murdered one by one with the child witnessing his parents’ deaths before being beaten to death with a hammer are included. The killer was finally caught and died in a Georgia prison by his own hand. One would think his heinous activities would have him serving in Alabama prison for many decades before serving time in neighboring Georgia. While the details make for a memorable story, they just don’t all add up. Indeed, it seems that serial killers are far less common than urban legends and lore indicate.

Jessica Penot explores this location in her book, Haunted North Alabama. In gathering stories for the book, she encountered a multitude of origins for this legendary location. According to her, the story may predate European settlement of the region and one story involves a local native woman whose child was swept away by flooding during torrential rains. She also notes that some versions of the legend for this spot include bringing candy bars which may be left to appease the spirit.

It does appear that these stories seem to be told about lonely and desolate places. These places tend to spawn urban legends (or perhaps “rural legends” given this specific location). Is there activity at this old bridge on Kayo Road? Perhaps, but the legend is still interesting in spite of it.

     legend or forgotten truth?Decatur Daily. 31 October 2012.
Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History
     Press, 2010.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Newsworthy Hauntings 11/24/12

I’m still working on settling in after my transition home after working in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, but I’m still collecting news.

USO of North Carolina, Jacksonville Center
9 Tallman Street
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Organized at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United Service Organizations (USO) was created in 1941 to provide recreation to military personnel during the dark days of World War II. The first facility in the United States opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina. After the war, the facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina remained open due to the concerted efforts of volunteers and this facility is the oldest continuously open USO facility. Since the “Great War,” the organization has expanded its efforts from just providing support to military personnel to including their families as well. It seems, however, that this facility may be providing support to those on other planes as well.

A fund-raising ghost hunt was held in the 70 year-old building on Halloween night and led by Dave Tango (a guest investigator from the show Ghost Hunters) and members of the SEPIA (Southeast Paranormal Investigative Association) team. The SEPIA team had previously investigated the building and discovered evidence that there may be paranormal activity in the center. Returning Halloween night for the investigation with the public, they encountered quite interesting activity.

Perhaps the most dramatic bit of paranormal activity was the scratching of one young woman. An avowed skeptic, the young woman had requested that the spirits not touch her. Moments later, she “felt like someone put Icy-Hot across my back.” After complaining that it itched, her sister discovered that she had scratch marks on her back. Generally, the activity reported in the building and witnessed by the paranormal team has been far less malevolent and includes distant music and the moving of small objects.

Daily News Staff. “’Ghost Hunters’ to check out USO of NC.” Jacksonville
     Daily News. 26 October 2012.
Our History.” USO-NC. Accessed 23 November 2012.
Perez Rivera, Jackeline M. “Ghosts make contact at USO.” Camp Lejeune
     Globe. 20 November 2012.
United ServiceOrganizations. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     23 November 2012.

Planter’s Hall
822 Main Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi

It’s interesting to see a building alternate between public and private uses and it’s rare to find a building that has alternated so much as Planter’s Hall has. Built around 1834, this structure was constructed to serve as the local branch of the Planter’s Bank of the State of Mississippi. Like many other Mississippi banks, the bank failed in 1842 and the branch was closed. The building changed hands many times in the years leading up to the Civil War and it was converted into a residence in 1854, though most likely not occupied until 1861.

Planter's Hall in a 1936 Historic American Buildings Survey
photograph by James Butters. Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
When the city, one of the most important cities on the Mississippi River, was laid siege to by the Union army, the house was occupied by a Confederate officer, Colonel Allen Thomas, and his staff. Following the city’s fall, the home may have been occupied by General William Dennis of the Illinois Cavalry. The home soon returned to service as a private residence and remained as such until 1956 when the building was purchased and turned into a museum. Recently, the building returned to status as a private residence, though certainly it is one of the most historic private homes in the city.

According to a recent story from Jackson, Mississippi’s WAPT News, the home’s current residents have been experiencing some possibly paranormal activity. Interestingly, the reporter in this story is doing the investigating himself. While the reporter found few things that were unexplained, the stories from the residents are quite interesting with the home’s owner being awakened to find an angry soldier looming over the bed.

Please keep in mind that this is a private residence and not open for tours. 

Bagley, Clinton I. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for
     Planters Hall. 22 February 1971.
     1 November 2012.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stirrings at The Hut—Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee Historical Association Offices
(known as “The Hut”)
564 Tsali Boulevard
Cherokee, North Carolina

Eliza R. was only five when she had a terrible experience at the Mountainside Theatre. Her family had been picnicking at the picnic shelter below the theatre entrance and she and her cousins had ventured up into the massive and empty amphitheatre. They clung to the back of the theatre, under the shelter when something emitted a “god awful” scream near the stage below. Eliza recalled that it sounded like it may have come from an animal, though it sounded as if the animal was being tortured—the cry was filled with pain and anguish. She remarked that she could do nothing but cry, her feet rooted to the spot. A cousin had to carry her out of the theatre.

Years later, Eliza, now an employee of the Cherokee Historical Association, has rearranged her desk to avoid the spirits that stalk throughout the association’s offices. The desk in her office—located along the hall of offices on the second floor that parallels US 441 (known as Tsali Boulevard as it passes through Cherokee)—originally faced the door. Tiring of seeing things in the hallway, she rearranged her desk to face the wall. Of course, that hasn’t stifled the activity of the spirits; to her it just makes them less distracting.

The modern, grey building at the intersection of Tsali Boulevard and Drama Drive is the current home to the Cherokee Historical Association. Initially, the building was a small grass hut which served as a box office for the drama and the Oconaluftee Indian Village, both located just up the hill, thus the nickname, “The Hut.” The modern building replaced the hut in the 1970s and now houses offices for the association and possibly some spirits, too.

This unassuming building at the corner of Tsali Boulevard and
Drama Drive may house a number of spirits. Most activity occurs
on the second floor around the offices behind the four windows
on the left side of the building. Photo 2012 by Lewis Powell, IV,
all rights reserved.
 To deal with the voices and footsteps that echo through the building after hours, Philenia W. has a different coping mechanism: she turns on the TV in her office. That’s usually enough to drown out the sounds. Her office—on the other side of the second floor from Eliza’s and facing the Oconaluftee River—really only seems to be plagued by voices. She describes them as the voices of men, women and children, though their words are indistinguishable. Even more interesting, she also has heard the sounds of a penny whistle. While not a common instrument among the Cherokee, the penny whistle was commonly found among European settlers, traders and British soldiers who passed through the area in the 18th century. Philenia described the music being played on the penny whistle as European and not native.

It was not the cheerful piping of a penny whistle that Mike L. and his girlfriend heard in the 2nd floor conference room one evening. While working on college schoolwork, the couple was astonished to hear a guttural and raspy growling/moaning sound that last about 3 seconds emanate from the corner of the room near the window. The startled couple looked over towards the corner but could not determine a cause. Sometime later, Mike was taking an online test in his office with his girlfriend and the couple heard the same noise but just outside the office. His girlfriend looked at him and asked what they should do. Mike had to finish the test so they remained.

Around the same time, Mike and his girlfriend had the same dream the same night. In their dreams a man was standing at the foot of their beds. Both were terrified of the dark silhouetted figure and were frozen with fear. After laying there for a moment, both Mike and girlfriend discovered themselves sitting upright in bed fully awake. By this point the figure had vanished and they were in their respective bedrooms alone.

On Saturdays during the season, Mike will often work the box office by himself. During these days, alone at the secretary’s desk behind the box office window he’s often heard native flute music and the laughter of children in front of the elevator and in the stairwell next to it. Throughout the building he has felt the glare of spectral eyes watching him.

From his office, located just next door to Eliza’s, Mike has had a number of experiences. Just a couple days before I spoke to him, Mike heard footsteps in the hall around closing time. He was the only person present in the building, though he heard distinct footsteps walking down the hall and into Eliza’s office. Something shuffled things in her office and then it went quiet. Mike did not investigate. Like the employees, spirits also apparently like to gather at the office water cooler just outside of Mike’s office. Often, when he’s alone, he’ll hear the cooler bubble up as if it’s in use.

Of the employees in the office, it seems that Eliza experiences the bulk of the activity. She repeatedly hears voices in the early morning when she arrives and late in the afternoon after all have left. She also hears doors opening and closing when she’s alone. One afternoon, during lunch when everyone else was away, Eliza heard the sound of a child running down the hall yelling something. Moments later she heard the water cooler bubble. Assuming the child was a colleague’s son, she thought little of it until the colleague arrived back in the office. When Eliza asked where the colleague’s son was, the colleague replied that he was in school and had been there all day. One afternoon as she was leaving the office kitchen, located at the end of the hall, Eliza saw the same colleague disappearing around the corner at the other end of the hall. Hurrying to speak with her, Eliza was met with an empty hallway and the colleague sitting calmly at her desk.

Perhaps the most interesting occurrence happened in the kitchen. While on the way to a meeting in the conference room, Eliza passed the darkened office kitchen. The door was open and through the crack between the door and the hinges Eliza spied a woman sitting in the room. Eliza recalled that she had tightly curled hair and was simply staring ahead. She took a few steps down the hall and thought that maybe this was someone who was supposed to be at the meeting and had gotten lost. Backtracking, she glanced again through the crack between the door and hinges and she saw the woman still sitting there. Eliza stepped into the room to find no one there.

While speaking to a colleague just around the corner from her office just a couple weeks ago, Philenia heard an odd noise coming from her office. Looking through the doorway into her office she spied the adding machine scrolling paper by itself. When she stepped inside the door it stopped abruptly but returned to its mysterious scrolling when she stepped out again. Her colleague came down the hall to witness the scrolling as well and she stepped into the office and unplugged the machine.

The curious and playful spirits roaming the offices of the Cherokee Historical Association seem rather harmless, but they don’t make work any easier for the employees. While the intersection of Tsali Boulevard and Drama Drive has been an important intersection in Cherokee, that doesn’t adequately explain the presence of spirits in this unassuming structure. While the Oconaluftee Valley has been occupied for thousands of years by the Cherokee, no settlement was known on this precise site. Regardless, the persistent Spirit of the Cherokee lingers on.

Personal Interview with Eliza R., 27 September 2012.
Personal Interview with Mike L., 27 September 2012.
Personal Interview with Philenia W., 21 September 2012.
Personal Interview with Philenia W., 5 October 2012.

Monday, October 8, 2012

2012 Mountainside Theatre Ghost Walk and Haunted Village

Oconaluftee Indian Village
(just up the road from the theatre)
778 Drama Road
Cherokee, North Carolina

It was quite creepy taking a ghost tour of the place where I am currently living, especially driving back to my apartment after the tour and wondering if anything had been stirred up by the guests or the stories that were told. I got back to my room and called one of my best friends. While we were chatting I thought I heard a female voice, but I’ll attribute that to an overactive imagination. At least I hope.

Allow me, for a moment, to shamelessly plug this event that I’m involved with. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’ve been working at the Oconaluftee Indian Village since the beginning of summer. The village will close for the season on the 20th, but will then reopen a few days later for the Haunted Village. The theatre ghost walk will be taking place ever Saturday night throughout the month of October in addition.

Quickly, the Haunted Village is a haunted tour of the village with staged frights and scares. I’ll be working this once the village closes. Please come check it out!

The ghost walk, however, is not staged and has the possibility of scaring you just as much.

The Mountainside Theatre is an open-air amphitheater built in the late 1940s for the outdoor historical drama, Unto These Hills, which opened July 1, 1950. The show has been running for 62 years and is expected to run for many years more. Renovations over the years have changed the face of the public areas of the theatre, though much of the backstage still exists in its original form. Up the hill from backstage is cast housing, consisting of a number of cabins, two large dormitories and a few other buildings. Cast housing is also included on the tour.

The tour begins at the village box office where you may purchase tickets for the Haunted Village ($10) and the Ghost Walk ($10, though you may pay $18 for a combination ticket). After a quick ride, you’ll gather at the entrance to the very dark amphitheater to begin the tour. The guides are members of the maintenance staff: gentlemen who have experienced much throughout the property. Personally, hearing the stories told by the people who have experienced these things rather than costumed actors, is far more compelling.

The stories at the theatre range from full bodied apparitions to weird sounds and lights in the now boarded up dressing rooms coming on by themselves. While walking past one of the men’s dressing rooms, we noticed that the light was on through the cracks in the door. The door was locked and no one would have had any reason to be the room recently. We were then told that the door to the same dressing had opened by itself twice during tours last year. The door was still locked when the maintenance men went to close it.

Devoid of people, the Boys' Dorm hallway is creepy enough
in the daylight. Visitors will traverse this hallway as part of the
2012 Ghost Walk. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights
We moved up the hill towards cast housing. We were told of curtains in one of the cabins that were seen to move quite frequently and the story of one maintenance man encountering a very real bear one night. He was charged by the creature which fully bypassed him and appeared to be being chased by a “ball of fog.” The tour ended with a walk through the long hallway of the Boys’ Dorm. Here, over the years, actors have had a variety of experiences, myself included. We didn't experience anything, but it was creepy nonetheless.

The ghost walk is a fun experience on a cool night in the mountains. Once the Haunted Village opens on October 26th, I’m sure the two experiences will frighteningly complement each other.

The Mountainside Theatre Ghost Walk will continue every Saturday evening throughout October 8-10 PM. The Haunted Village opens on October 26th and will run through Halloween Night. Doors open at 7 PM. The Haunted Village will also feature actor Tony Todd, the Candyman in the thriller of the same name, who will be greeting visitors on Halloween Night.

Proceeds will go to support the Cherokee Historical Association.

For further information: http://cherokeeadventure.com/oconaluftee-haunted-trail/

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Newsworthy Hauntings 9/30/12

Greystone (Camp House)
1306 North Broadway Street NE
Knoxville, Tennessee

Throughout the South, hauntings can be found in unlikely places: Wal-mart stores, fast food restaurants, and amusement parks among them. From WATE-TV 6 in Knoxville, Tennessee, comes word that their own studios may be haunted. The studios are located in a rambling, Richardson Romanesque Victorian-era mansion that even gives the appearance of being haunted. Constructed by Major Eldad Cicero Camp, Jr., the wealthiest man in East Tennessee at the time, the home took five years to construct and featured elaborate woodwork, jeweled stained glass windows and imported marble mantelpieces. The house remained in the family for some forty-five years after completion and then was divided into apartments by the family.

Oblique view of Greystone. Photo 2010 by Brian Stansberry.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. 
 WATE moved into the house in the 1960s and restored the house adding studio space in the back. Most recently, the house was investigated by the team from Appalachian Paranormal Investigators. Station employees have had experiences throughout the old house including a door that will not remain closed and a custodian who filmed something moving on the second floor which she filmed on her phone. The results of the most recent investigation will not be known for a few weeks. This is not the first investigation on the premises. The home was investigated in 1988 and the investigators detected the spirits of a man and a teenage girl.

Something interesting to note, one of the comments notes that the t-shirts worn by the Appalachian Paranormal Investigators team has the word “Appalachian” misspelled.

Greystone(Knoxville)Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30
     September 2012.
     30 September 2012.
     30 September 2012.
     Mansion." WATE-TV 6. 24 September 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

“A multitude of the heavenly host”—Old Gray Cemetery (Photos)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2: 13-14 (KJV)

Old Gray Cemetery
543 North Broadway
Knoxville, Tennessee

One of the host of angels at Old Gray. This
one adorns the monument Ora Brewster. Photo
2010 by Brian Stansberry. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Like so many Victorian cemeteries, Old Gray Cemetery is adorned with a host of angels guiding us towards heaven, mourning the deceased or standing silent vigil over the dead. The cemetery traces its founding to 1850 and it was joined by the neighboring Knoxville National Cemetery in 1863 when General Ambrose Burnsides needed a location for the burial for Union troops occupying the city. Since its founding, Old Gray, named for poet Thomas Gray (who penned Elegy in a Country Churchyard), the cemetery has become the resting place of many notable citizens of Knoxville.

Of course, the cemetery is also the home of specters, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it here. Legends have circulated for decades regarding a “Black Aggie” that has been seen on the grounds. The Black Aggie appears as a figure in a dark robe prowling about the grounds. Initially, the legend sprouted up around the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. The memorial features a statue representing grief by the noted sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. Since its installation, legends have sprouted up around this haunting figure. However, the name for the specter actually stems from a copy of the statue that was sold to General Felix Agnus in Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. This statue inspired so many legends and endured so much vandalism it was removed and now graces the garden of the Dolley Madison House in Washington. Since this time, Black Aggies have been associated with numerous cemeteries throughout the world.

A pair of angels. Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
When I visited the cemetery last year in early December, it was cold and the stones sat huddled on the hills under leaden skies; skies that would later that day produce light snow. While I did not encounter any Black Aggies, I did see a number of apparently homeless people wandering through. In fact, I was greeted at the cemetery gates by a young woman shouting profanities as she strolled down the street. That, coupled with the homeless people, did add a sense of unease to this otherwise peaceful resting place.

Numerous sources say simply that the Black Aggie has been reported by many people, though there are no specific reports provided. Dr. Alan Brown in his 2009 book, Haunted Tennessee, provides one unique report. In the 1990s, two teenage boys emboldened by beer, decided to try to photograph the spirit. They drove out to the cemetery and drank while hurling epithets towards the wraith. After urinating on one of the graves, one of the young men saw something black begin to ooze from the ground and form into a black shape. The boy fled as the shape began to pursue him and he jumped into the car shouting for the driver to go. The fleeing teens did, however, get a photo of the spirit before leaving, though, according to Brown, no one else has seen this picture.

Detail from the Mead Monument. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
In searching online, it does seen that some of the local paranormal organizations have investigated the cemetery during the day, though the cemetery has yielded little, if any, evidence of paranormal activity. If you, dear reader, happen to find yourself in Knoxville, I would encourage a visit to Old Gray, and be sure to watch for the Black Aggie.

The magnificently decorated Mead Monument.
Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The gates of Old Gray Cemetery,  Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved. 
A circle of important monuments greets visitors to Old Gray.
Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The cemetery is perched on a series of rolling hills. The gleaming,
white stones are apart of neighboring Knoxville National Cemetery.
Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The lovely monument to Lillian Gaines.
Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved. 
A hillside of monuments.  Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved. 
The unique Horne monument pays homage to two Confederate
soldiers.  Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Monuments dot a gentle slope.  Photo 2011 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved. 

Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the
     Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Brown, John Norris. “Old Gray Cemetery.” Ghosts & Spirits of Tennessee.  
     Accessed 23 September 2012.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. “Black Aggie.” The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and
     Spirits, 3rd Edition. NYC: Checkmark Books, 2007.
Knoxville National Cemetery. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     24 September 2012.
Welcome. Old Gray Cemetery website. Accessed 24 September 2012.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Second Blogiversary

Two years ago tonight I launched my first writing venture online as the Southern Spirit Guide. Since that point I have posted over 150 (give or take) posts and I’m now receiving over 100 unique hits a day. Regardless, I have stuck to it, through thick or thin: quite an achievement for me.

 Those regular readers out there may have noticed a recent lag in posting. Since moving to Cherokee, NC, for work, my time has been fairly limited and I have little time to write. In addition, I’m ramping up work on a book and that has taken quite a bit of time and thought as well. Recent developments, though, will provide me a bit more free time and I plan to produce more.

 Thank you for your support of this endeavor and stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Down, Though Not Quite Out, in Memphis

It seems that the further I read about hauntings in Memphis, the more I see a city that has been down on its luck for the past few decades. So many of Memphis’ haunted sites are incredible architectural treasures, yet they sit empty and crumbling. Certainly, it reflects the ill fortune of large cities over the second half of the 20th century as they sprawled outwards while their hearts withered. Among Memphis’ haunted locales are a number that have been abandoned (or, in one case, partially abandoned) and legends have sprouted up concerning them.

At least two of these buildings have legends that may have been invented to accompany their lonely states: the Sears Crosstown Building (495 North Watkins Street) and the Sterick Building (8 North 3rd Street).

Opening in 1927, the Sears Crosstown Building was once the showplace of Memphis. Looming over North Watkins Street, just north of downtown, the enormous Art Deco structure housed retail, catalog, a merchandise warehouse and distribution space for Sears Roebuck and Company, at that time, the largest retailers in the nation. The building’s 11 stories and 17 story tower encompass 1.4 square feet of space. When the building opened on August 8th of that year, many sources say an estimated 47,000 people walked through the doors.

The Sears Crosstown building, 2008. Photo by Anthonyturducken,
released under a Creative Commons License.
Until the store closed in 1983 (the building totally closed for good in 1993), it was considered the height of retailing in the city. Since that time a single person patrols the monstrous structure keeping vandals and curiosity seekers out. His only companions may be the occasional ghosts that may or may not exist.

Laura Cunningham’s Haunted Memphis (History Press, 2009) includes a description of some of the activity supposedly witnessed in the building. This includes apparent residual activity such as the sounds of shoppers and escalators as well as doors opening and closing on their own accord. Cunningham also mentions that the parking garage may be haunted by the spirit of a homeless man who was killed there and buried nearby. Unfortunately, there are no specific reports of any of this activity, nor are the witnesses identified, therefore this has to be chalked up to urban legend.

Perhaps, more evidence will come to light as the building is used. An organization is already formulating plans to create an arts hub within the cavernous building. Late last year an artist installed a lighting installation that lit up various windows in an array of colors. We can hope that as the building sees more activity that more reports of paranormal activity will filter out.

In downtown Memphis, the Sterick Building has dominated the skyline for nearly a century. Opened in 1930, the building’s name is a combination of the surnames of its owners, R. E. Sterling and Wyatt Hedrick. The building was the tallest building in the South for some years and a grand jewel in the crown of Memphis. The building rises 29 grand floors in the Gothic Revival Style.

The boarded up entrance to the Sterick Building, 2009.
Photo by Samuel Grant, courtesy of Wikipedia.
That grand jewel has been tarnished quite a bit over the years and the massive structure now sits empty. Financial issues have taken their toll over the decades. As development in Memphis expanded outward, the building’s tenants vacated one by one until the last tenants left in 1986. It has been empty since. The valuable land that the building rests upon is only leased and the building reverts to the landlord’s ownership at the end of its 99 year lease in 2025. Therefore, the current owners and anyone who tries to do anything to the building before that point will lose most of their investment. The Downtown Memphis Commission has made recommendations, but these may only join the past recommendations that have been nixed as too expensive.

The Sterick Building rises 29 stories above 3rd Street.
Photo 2011, by Reading Tom. Released under a
Creative Commons License. 
So for now this massive white elephant sits on 3rd Street longing for people to fill its corridors and offices again while the occasional spirit may still prowl about. Again, like the reports of activity from Sears Crosstown, the reports from the Sterick Building are somewhat vague. Cunningham points out two specific incidents that may have left a spiritual mark upon the building: both involving people plunging to their deaths. One vague incident involved a young woman committing suicide to “save herself from a loveless marriage.” Another incident occurred in 1981 when a man attacked a woman in the building. As building security pursued the man he broke a window and climbed out onto the ledge from which he plunged to his death. Cunningham notes that employees in the building reported hearing the screams of someone falling outside their windows. Additionally, there are also reports of residual activity including lights on in empty offices and the sounds of people working.

While specific details of the hauntings of the Sears Crosstown and Sterick buildings may be hard to come by, details from the Tennessee Brewery (495 Tennessee Street) are quite prevalent. The massive Romanesque Revival structure looms over Tennessee Street quite close to the muddy Mississippi River. According to Memphis Paranormal Investigations, LLC, this building is quite active and they have captured quite a bit of evidence in their 12 investigations of the structure.

The Tennessee Brewery at the height of its operations. Courtesy
of Wikipedia.
Investigations have uncovered the sounds of footsteps and numerous photographic anomalies. Cunningham mentions that “loud noises, strong enough to rattle windows, can be heard throughout the building.”

Organized in 1877, this massive brewery was constructed in 1890. By the turn of the 20th century the Memphis Brewing Company was the largest brewery in the South and among the largest in the nation. Like most breweries throughout the nation, the brewery closed during Prohibition. With the repeal of the 18th Amendment, the brewery reopened under the auspices of John Schorr, the son of one of the early owners. The brewery’s beer was named “Goldcrest 51” in 1938 and was the most popular brand of beer in the region until the brewery closed in 1954.

The Tennessee Brewery, 2008, by Otto42. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Following its closure, the building was used as a scrap metal company until 1982. As the scrap metal company, the building was little changed and it has been a virtual time capsule with few changes made except those to keep the building in compliance with building codes. The city almost demolished the building in the 1990s, but a buyer jumped in and purchased the structure and brought it up to code. However, the building still remains vacant, though plans have been considered for its use as an arts space similar to Sears Crosstown. Certainly, such a magnificent edifice deserves to be cared for and maintained.

Bailey, Tom, Jr. “Towering vision: Project would remake Sears Crosstown
     into Memphis arts village.” The Commerical Appeal. 13 February 2011.
Cunningham, Laura. Haunted Memphis. Charleston, SC: History Press,
Lauderdale, Vance. “When the Sterick Building was Supreme.” Ask
     Vance: The Blog of Vance Lauderdale. 28 November 2008.
McCoy, Chris. “Signs of Life at Sears Crosstown Tower.” Live from Memphis.
     21 October 2011.
Patterson, Sara. “Tennessee Brewery has intoxicating beauty, sobering
     challenges for developers.” The Commercial Appeal. 28 August 2011.
Pickrell, Kayla. “Haunted Memphis: Brewery a piece of history.” The
      Commercial Appeal. 24 July 2012.
Risher, Wayne. “Memphis officials pushing for plan to redevelop long-
     vacant Sterick Building.” The Commercial Appeal. 3 May 2012.
Risher, Wayne. “Skyline Orphan: Once the towering jewel of Downtown
     Memphis, rehabbing of Sterick Building poses tall order.” The
     Commercial Appeal. 27 December 2011.
Tennessee Brewery. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 24 July 2012.
Wolf, Cindy. “Sears Crosstown, before the doors closed.” The Commercial
     Appeal. 27 February 2011.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beyond 133 – Chattanooga Public Library (Newsbyte)

Chattanooga Public Library
1001 Broad Street
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Most libraries have ghosts though usually these are confined to the 133 section of the Dewey Decimal System: the section for ghosts and the paranormal. The Chattanooga Public Library in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee has a ghost (or possibly more than one) whose range lies far beyond its Dewey Decimal classification. Over the years, patrons and staff have had a variety of experiences ranging from hearing footsteps and voices to seeing apparitions. Books have been thrown off shelves, and chairs have been moved about.

There has been enough activity to warrant the Young Adult Librarian to bring in a paranormal investigation group, the Global Paranormal Society, to investigate. The group spent six hours investigating this modern library on March 17. The results were publicized recently.

The staff has named the resident spirit “Eugene,” though the spirit’s identity is unknown. The building itself is only 36 years old, and neither article mentions any deaths associated with the building. The land, upon which it was constructed, though, does have quite a history. It was here that the city of Chattanooga was originally settled.

Evidence shows that Native Americans lived in the area for a few thousand years prior to the Historic Era: that period following European expansion into the Americas. It was here that the powerful Cherokee chief, Tsi-yu Gan-shi-ni or Dragging Canoe, settled with his followers in 1777. The chief’s father, Chief Attakullakulla, and other chiefs including Oconostota made the decision to ally themselves with the Patriot cause following General Griffith Rutherford’s destruction of many Cherokee towns the previous year. Dragging Canoe set up a series of town around the Tennessee River and Chickamauga Creek and these Cherokee became known as the Chickamauga.

Later, another influential Cherokee, John Ross, settled in the same area and named this stop on the Tennessee River “Ross’ Landing.” The natives living here were forced on the Trail of Tears during the Removals in the 1830s. The name was changed in 1838 by the US Post Office to Chattanooga.

According to the article, one of Dragging Canoe’s villages was located where the library now stands. Ross’ Landing is located in the area as well. So, it’s possible that the library spirit may be from this period though much water has passed under the bridge since that time and the spirit could be more modern. Indeed, the ghost hunters did find some evidence of activity though they did not conclusively pronounce the library as being “haunted.” Still, Eugene roams still beyond the 133 section. I can imagine the public library is pretty interesting place to haunt.

Chattanooga,Tennessee. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     3 July 2012.
Chickamauga Wars. Wikipedia, the Free Encylcopedia. Accessed
     3 July 2012.
Dragging Canoe. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3
     July 2012.
     library tonight.” Chattanooga Times Free Press. 29 June 2012.
     Chattanooga Public Library.” Chattanooga Times Free Press.
     30 June 2012.
Ross’s Landing. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 3 July 2012.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Warriors of Nikwasi

Nikwasi Mound
Nikwasi Lane
Franklin, North Carolina

Throughout the South and across the country, Native Americans have left a legacy, though one that has been obscured. This legacy delves deeply into our geography, language, culture and into the heart of our national identity. Certainly, the geographic legacy is the most evident with places throughout the nation bearing names derived from Native American names or descriptions. While some place names have been translated into English, often the names in their native forms (or a version thereof) have been stripped of their meanings and roots; so to most people it’s just a funny sounding name devoid of meaning.

Besides names, there are some Native American landmarks remaining, though very few. Mostly these are earthworks such as mounds that have survived the elements and the destructive nature of modern man. Franklin, North Carolina has one of these landmarks: the Nikwasi Mound, the former centerpiece for a major town of the same name. The meaning of that name has been lost to history, though the mound remains; now sandwiched between commercial buildings and the business route of busy US 441. When I visited last week, I had to drive past the landmark a few times before even picking it out amongst the urban sprawl.

There is controversy as to who actually constructed the mound. Wikipedia credits the Mississippean culture peoples as having originally constructed the mound around the year 1000 CE. Though, in speaking to local Cherokee, they take credit for it themselves. Members of the Cherokee tribe, who later used the mound up until most of them were removed from the area in the early 19th century, will often describe their origins by saying they have always been here (in the Southern Appalachians). The more academic answer is that their origins are disputed. Some believe that the Cherokee have existed in the area for much of the first millennia, while others believe that the Cherokee arrived as late as the 15th century CE. Despite these arguments, however, the mound is quite ancient.

James Mooney, the late 19th and early 20th century ethnographer who preserved much of the Cherokee’s knowledge, history and legends in his seminal work, History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee states that some believe the mound was built as a townhouse mound to protect the townhouse (which served as a the center of village life) from flooding. According to Mooney, these mounds were constructed by piling earth atop the grave of a prominent chief or priest or possibly the remains of chiefs or priests from each of the seven clans. Along with these burials were included other sacred objects including an eagle feather (the eagle was one of the more sacred creatures to the Cherokee). The earth would be lain over these things and a hollow cedar log placed in the center of the mound to protect the sacred fire that will burn in the townhouse.

The townhouse served as the focal point of village life. Within this seven-sided building (seven being a sacred number to the Cherokee) business was conducted: legal, social, governmental and religious business and it was here that all the members of the village could sit. In the center of the building, under a small hole in the center of the roof acting as a chimney, burned the sacred fire from which all of the fires in the village were kindled. These fires at the hearths of local homes were kept burning throughout the year but were extinguished before the ceremony of the Green Corn. At that time, all the fires were extinguished and hearths swept clean. Embers from the eternal fire in the council house were taken to create new home fires. During this ceremony of renewal all debts and sins were erased and all started anew with a clean slate, so to speak. Mooney states that it is possible that the truly everlasting flames were only found in the larger towns like Nikwasi and nearby Kituhwa (near Bryson City, NC and considered by the Cherokee to be the “center of the earth”).

The Nikwasi Mound, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

It was here in 1730 that Sir Alexander Cumming, a Scottish trade envoy, crowned Chief Moytoy of Tellico as “Emperor of the Cherokee.” The town, and likely the townhouse with it, was destroyed in 1761 in hostilities that included the massacre of peace chiefs at Fort Prince George (in the Province of South Carolina) and the siege of Fort Loudon (in what is now Tennessee) all leading up to the expedition of Henry Timberlake (which included Sgt. Thomas Sumter and trader John McCormack) to the Cherokee to sue for peace in 1762. The town was again destroyed during the in 1776 by American General Griffith Rutherford as part of the Chickamauga Wars. Nikwasi was rebuilt but then ceded to the white man in treaties signed in 1817 and 1819. While some Cherokee in the area escaped in the mountains, they were later resettled on the nearby Qualla Boundry.

The city of Franklin was created in 1819, following one of the Cherokee treaties and the Nikwasi Mound remained outside the city as a curiosity. The old mound was part of farmland and in discussion with a local Cherokee historian I was told that a man with a plow and a team of horsemen took a week to plow the mound down in the early 20th century. So much for preserving history!

When the mound was threatened by a developer just after World War II, a prominent local attorney, Gilmer Jones, raised $1500 in pennies from local school children to purchase the mound. The mound was deeded to the Town of Franklin to be preserved for posterity, though the property only consists of the mound and the adjoining properties have been developed commercially. The mound has been sitting quietly under a historical marker until recent years. Or has it?

The mound from a different angle, note the dead grass and the
commercial sprawl around it. Photo 2012 by Lewis Powell IV, all
rights reserved.

Cherokee legend speaks of the mound as being inhabited by the Nunne’hi, the race of “immortals” whose name translates, according to James Mooney, as “people who live anywhere.” The Nunne’hi (pronounced nun-eh-HEE) are similar to the Yunwi Tsunsdi, or the “Little People,” in that they are also spiritual defenders of the Cherokee, though the Little People are small as their name indicates while the Nunne’hi appear as regular humans when they wish to be seen. The Nikwasi mound is believed to be one of their homes. This became known many moons ago during a pitched battle when the Cherokee found themselves losing against a fierce enemy. This invader had fought their way through many villages and was now moving into the mountains. As their numbers waned in the heat of battle, the Cherokee defending Nikwasi had begun to fall back. I’ll allow Mooney to take it from here:

…suddenly a stranger stood among them and shouted to the chief to call off his men and he himself would drive back the enemy. From the dress and language of the stranger the Nikwasi people thought him a chief who had come with reinforcements from the Overhill settlements in Tennessee. They fell back along the trail, and as they came near the townhouse they saw a great company of warriors coming out from the side of the mound as through as open doorway. Then they knew that their friends were the Nunne’hi, the Immortals, although no one had ever heard before that they lived under Nikwasi mound.

The Nunne’hi poured out by hundreds, armed and painted for the fight, and the most curious thing about it all was that they became invisible as soon as they were fairly outside of the settlements, so that although the enemy saw the glancing arrow or the rushing tomahawk, and felt the stroke, he could not see who sent it.

The invaders were sent fleeing with the Nunne’hi in full pursuit. When the attackers attempted to take cover behind rocks and trees, the arrows followed and found their targets. Only half a dozen were left to return to their villages with the awful news of their comrades’ deaths. These survivors sat down some distance from the battlefield and cried. As they wept, the Nunne’hi chief approached and explained that they deserved this terrible defeat for attacking a peaceful tribe. The attackers fled and the Nunne’hi returned to their mound unscathed.

Legend holds that the Nunne’hi may have also appeared during the Civil War when a contingent of Federal troops were supposed to make a surprise raid against the town of Franklin. The town was supposed to be guarded by only a small force of Confederate troops. When the Federals arrived, they spied a large group of defenders and did not attack. Perhaps the Nunne’hi had taken to wearing butternut grey?

While the Nunne’hi are rarely visible, they are heard quite often. As they are fond of drumming and dancing, their music and merrymaking is sometimes heard near their townhouses. Though when the curious attempt to trace the source of the sounds, the sound travels. At least one source states that these sounds sometimes issue from the mounds, but I can find no specific reports of these sounds. Such sounds, however, are heard throughout Cherokee country. In conversation with a Cherokee friend, I was told that one of the Nunne’hi townhouses may be located on one of the mountains that forms the Oconaluftee River valley in downtown Cherokee, NC. He stated that people often heard the sounds of a party from this mountain which is opposite the mountain where the Mountainside Theatre is located. Incidentally, I have personally heard the sounds of a party coming from that direction while sitting at the Mountainside Theatre late at night. My friend went on to state that the sounds are rarely heard any longer as the sounds of modern life now drown them out.

Just today I spoke with some friends who had been swimming last night along the Oconaluftee River just north of Cherokee. They reported that they had heard the sounds of drumming and laughter nearby, but were unable to trace the source. They presumed that it was the Yunwi Tsunsdi and left them alone. Both spirit races are known for their music and merrymaking, though I wonder if the music they heard was issuing from an unknown Nunne’hi townhouse.

Nikwasi mound still stands, only a fraction of what it once was and now denuded of grass. Recently, the town of Franklin sprayed herbicide on the mound angering the Eastern Band of Cherokee and raising questions as to how to better care for this precious landmark. While the anger lingers, there is renewed hope that a good preservation solution can be put into place that will preserve this sacred place. If you happen by the mound late at night, roll down your windows and perhaps, over the noise of modern life, you’ll hear the ancient ruckus of a Nunne’hi party.

Cherokee. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 June 2012.
Dalrymple, Maria. “Nikwasi Mound deed could be transferred to
     create park.” Macon County News. 3 September 2009.
McKie, Scott. “Herbicide put on Nikwasi mound.” Cherokee One
     Feather. 9 May 2012.
Mooney, James. History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees.
     Asheville, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 1992.
Moytoy of Tellico. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17
     June 2012.
Nikwasi. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 June 2012.
Pruett, Kimberly. “Nikwasi Mound debate continues.” Macon
     County News. 30 June 2011.