Wednesday, September 25, 2013

History in Flames—Georgetown, South Carolina

As I’ve been working on this blog, I’ve started to get to know a variety of cities and small towns in the South. Among them, Georgetown, SC has become one of my favorites. I met native son and ghost tour guide extraordinaire, William Goins, earlier this year and began to delve into the city’s glorious past and even more glorious ghosts.

A view of the block that burned this morning. The SC Maritime Museum
in the foreground, sustained some damage, while the buildings towards the
Rice Museum were gutted by the early morning fire. 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
The stillness of downtown Georgetown was broken early this morning as flames devoured a block of Georgetown’s history. This block of commercial buildings in the 700 block of Front Street have residential space above them. At the core of the city's historic district, the buildings between the Rice Museum and the South Carolina Maritime Museum sustained massive damage. The Rice Museum which is not connected was spared, though the Maritime Museum, according to the Georgetown Times, received some damage to its upper floors.

William Goins’ tour began at a bar, Limpin Jane’s, which is where the fire may have started. Much of the building occupied by the bar is a total loss. Harborwalk Books, located a few doors down, which had a marvelous selection of books on local folklore and ghosts, is still standing, though gutted. Most of these buildings dated to the 19th century and had survived the terrible damage inflicted on the city during Hurricane Hugo, the monster hurricane that slammed into the South Carolina coast in 1989. Downtown Georgetown was flooded by the storm surge.

The fire may have started in Limpin' Jane's in the green building.
All the buildings in this picture were mostly destroyed. This
photo was taken earlier this year. Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights
reserved.
Like the many of the surrounding buildings in the historic district there, this block did contain some ghosts. During my ghost tour earlier this year, I inquired if Limpin’ Jane’s had any activity and Goins replied that some possible activity had been observed in the upper areas of the building. There are questions as to if the spiritual fabric of a location is damaged during events like this.

Most certainly the fire may create some spiritual fabric itself. People in buildings that have burned may sometimes smell smoke or, even worse, the odor of burned flesh. There may be spirits at the location of those who died in the fire. In the case of the Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia, the fire’s victims are now believed to haunt the building. The church was constructed to the memory of the victims of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire. The building stands on the site of the theatre and entombs the remains of the victims.

Thankfully, no one was killed in today’s fire in Georgetown, though the fire may leave some marks in the spiritual fabric of the block. I fully expect that the block will be reconstructed incorporating surviving original elements and I hope to see the block to return in even better condition.

Sources
A block of history destroyed.” Georgetown Times. 25 September 2013.
Harper, Scott and Clayton Stairs. “Fire in Georgetown: History up in flames.”
     Georgetown Times. 25 September 2013.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Newsworthy Haunts 9/23


Lowe Hotel
401 Main Street
Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Paranormal events rarely resonate so much within a community or even on a national scale as the sightings of the Mothman have. A series of sightings of this creature occurred between November of 1966 and December of 1967; events that inspired a handful of books, a movie and, for over a decade, a festival in Point Pleasant.

The festival—held just last weekend—has certainly boosted “paranormal tourism” in Point Pleasant and one of the more popular paranormal spots in the city is the Lowe Hotel. During the festival tours will be lead through this haunted, turn of the 20th century hotel. According to an article from the Point Pleasant Register, the current owners of the hotel were initially bothered by the idea that their hotel might be haunted, though as attitudes towards the paranormal have changed, the haunting has become an attraction to tourists.

Theresa Racer, of the blog, Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, presents the best history of the hotel to be found online. The hotel was opened as the Hotel Spencer in the nascent years of the 20th century. The four-story hotel was popular with riverboat traffic operating on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers that meet at Point Pleasant. The hotel was purchased by Homer Lowe in 1929 who renamed it the Lowe Hotel. It operated until the late 1980s when the owner put it up for sale. The current owners purchased the hotel in 1990.

According to Racer, there is a large contingent of spirits within the hotel. The spirit of a beautiful, but disheveled woman has been reported on the mezzanine between the first and second floors. This section houses the dining room and it is here that the spirit is seen dancing to music that only she can hear. On the second floor, a tyke on a tricycle has been seen prowling the halls. Sometimes the sound of a little girl’s laughter will accompany the sound of a squeaky tricycle.

The third floor seems to be the most active with a few of the rooms there being haunted. One of the most remarkable stories involves the suite at 316. A female staying in this suite entered the room one evening to find a man standing by the window looking out. She asked him who he was and he replied that he was Captain Jim and he was waiting on a boat. After noticing the man did not have legs, the woman fled.

Two chairs on the fourth floor seem to have activity surrounding them. The recent article mentions a wheelchair on that apparently moved on its own volition. The chair vanished for about three years only to reappear out of the blue. Racer reports that an old rocking chair in a storage room on that floor is supposed to rock on its own.

Sources
Racer, Theresa. “The Lowe Hotel, Pt. Pleasant.” Theresa’s Haunted History of
     the Tri-State. 2 March 2011.
Sergent, Beth. “History of local hotel a festival favorite.” Point Pleasant Register.
     19 September 2013.

Museum of the Albemarle
501 South Water Street
Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Preserving and interpreting the history and archaeology of the thirteen northeastern counties of North Carolina, the Museum of the Albemarle hosted a different type of digging last weekend. NC Paranormal Research was digging for ghosts within the museum. While the article, appearing in Popular Archaeology, doesn’t present exactly what kinds of activity are happening at the museum, a bit of sleuthing uncovered a couple articles discussing activity.

Museum of the Albemarle, 2006 by Ajsanjua. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The museum is the northeast branch of the North Carolina Museum of History and has been open since 1967. Originally housed within an old state highway patrol station, the museum recently constructed a new building adjacent to the waterfront. It also is next to a cemetery. Combined with the mass of antiques and artifacts housed within the museum, this may be to blame for the activity within the building.

Fred Fearing was a local historian and raconteur. In retirement he’d created an organization called the Rose Buddies, which hosted small parties for boaters visiting the port where he’d present a rose to each woman visiting. A museum supporter, he spent a great deal of time at the museum where he reminded the staff that they would not have to spend money after his death. After his burial in the adjoining Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, he would haunt the museum and protect the museum and many of the items he’d donated.

Not long after Fearing’s death, a visitor to the museum encountered a gentleman at the museum. He was holding a rose and told her stories from the town’s history. After speaking to her, he turned, walked down the hallway and disappeared. Other times, a gentleman has been seen within the museum. An article from the Norfolk, Virginia, Virginian-Pilot reveals that some evidence was uncovered by the investigators, but doesn’t reveal specifics.

Sources
“Ghosts in the Nation’s Attics?” Popular Archaeology. 13 September 2013.
Hampton, Jeff. “Deceased historian reportedly haunting E-City museum.” Virginian-
     Pilot. 29 October 2010.
Hampton, Jeff. “In the spirit of things at Museum of the Albemarle.” Virginia-Pilot.
     23 September 2013.
Kelly-Goss, Robert. “Haunted Albemarle: Are the area’s halls of history haunted?”
     The Daily Advance. 27 October 2012.
Museum of the Albemarle. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 September
     2013.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Catching up on Georgia research

Please pardon the lack of posting. I’m currently working not one, but two, jobs and my time has been very limited. When I do have a little time, however, I’ve been working on research.
                              
Most of my research could be termed as arm chair ghost hunting. I start by scouring the books in my library, then move to other media sources—periodicals, newspapers and trustworthy blogs—looking for more information. To keep up with these disparate sources, I have spreadsheets—one for each of the 13 states I’m working on—listing hauntings by locations, with other pertinent information like address, city and county, then a column of references—with page numbers for books.

It’s a decent system that works for me. If I’m in need of finding haunted places in a specific area, I can sort the listings by city or county. When I need to find something I can simply pull the book from the shelf or go to the computer file and find it. Though it does take time to scour each book or article and add that information to the spreadsheet.

I have neglected Georgia for awhile, while working on other states. Though, it is hard to neglect my home state for too long. Jim Miles has just published three marvelous books on Georgia’s Civil War ghosts: Civil War Ghosts of North Georgia, Civil War Ghosts of Atlanta and Civil War Ghosts of Central Georgia and Savannah, and I’ve busily gotten these entered into the spreadsheet.

They’ve inspired me to start a heavy duty search for Georgia ghosts and I’ve found many interesting hauntings. Here are a couple of some of the more interesting hauntings.

Southeastern Railway Museum
3595 Buford Highway
Duluth

According to a 2008 article from Accent Gwinnett Magazine, a few of the pieces of rolling stock in the museum’s collection also contain ghosts. The “Washington Club” car from the old Atlantic Coast Line Railway is the supposed residence of a man in old fashioned attire. The story contains reports of two separate visitors encountering the mysterious man.

President Warren G. Harding's personal Pullman Car, The Superb,
now housed in the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth.
Photo 2007, by John Hallett. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

President Warren G. Harding’s personal Pullman sleeper, The Superb, is also housed here and quite possibly houses a restless spirit. During a presidential cross-country tour in 1923, Harding collapsed and died in San Francisco. The Superb transported his body back to Washington.

The museum was founded in 1970 by the Atlanta chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The grounds occupy some 35 acres and displays nearly 90 items of rolling stock. A quick search reveals that in the past the museum has operated ghost tours of its haunted collection.

Sources
Bieger, Emily. “Mysterious man from days gone by.” Accent Gwinnett
     Magazine. July-August 2008.
Southern Railway Museum. “About.” Accessed 31 August 2013.
Southern Railway Museum. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 31 August
     2013.
The Superb. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 31 August 2013.

Louisville Market House
West Broad Street at Mulberry Street
Louisville

As to whether the old market house in downtown Louisville is haunted remains to be seen, I did come across an article about an investigation conducted there in 2006. The organization that investigated, the Georgia Ghost Society, no longer has a website and is presumably defunct, like many paranormal organizations. Therefore, there’s nothing readily available on what the group found during their investigation.

Market House, 1934. Photograph by Branan Sanders for the Historic
American Buildings Survey, Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Division.
The building itself is quite intriguing. Since its construction towards the last years of the 18th century, the market house has seen the sale of many things including slaves. The building was constructed during the few years that Louisville served as a capital of Georgia from 1796 to 1806. Under the building’s ancient roof is a bell that was originally sent by Louis XVI of France (for whom the city is named) to a convent in New Orleans. On its journey, it was supposedly captured by pirates and sold in Savannah.

Sources
Ellison, Faye. “Ghost society hopes to stir up spirits at Market House.” The
     News and Farmer. 26 October 2006.
Workers of the Writers’ Program of the WPA in the State of Georgia. Georgia:
     A Guide to its Towns and Countryside. Athens, UGA Press, 1946.