Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Writer says that ghosts necessary for heritage

I stumbled across this article while searching for ghosts in back issues of The Anniston Star. Without the influence Mrs. Windham’s wonderful books, this blog would not exist. A friend who knew Mrs. Windham was supposed to have gives me an introduction to her in March 2011 when she came to LaGrange for the Azalea Storytelling Festival. Unfortunately poor health prevented her appearance at the festival and she passed away a few months later. As soon as I heard of her passing, I wrote a memorial.

Though she’s not present with us on this physical plain, her spirit and influence is still flitting like a bird reminding us of the ghosts around us.

The Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama)
21 September 1975
Page 10

Writer says that ghosts necessary for heritage

By Tom Gordon
Star Staff Writer

We need ghosts in order to keep our heritage, says Alabama’s own ghost-writer, Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Our heritage is a mixture of history, folklore, bits of good-natured nonsense and cold-hearted truth. Mrs. Windham, who lives in Selma with her ghost friend Jeffrey, says the heritage is being lost because persons are not taking the time to relax and enjoy life as they once did.

Speaking with intense enthusiasm, Mrs. Windham says that more and more Alabamians are growing up without having their lives enriched by tales and lessons once passed from generation to generation. This high-speed automated age has made it difficult and sometimes unnecessary for people to gather on front porches or in front of fireplaces to talk and learn from each other, she says.

“WE DON’T know who we are or what we are or where we come from,” she says. “We’re not talking about it the way we used to.”

The need to talk about and preserve our heritage, even that part which includes ghosts, was the message Mrs. Windham repeated several times Thursday in a short talk to a noon luncheon of the Anniston Kiwanis Club.

She has repeated it elsewhere—in schools, luncheons, newspaper interviews and on television and radio programs—and in four books of ghost stories she has written in the past few years. The first was “Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.” Other books have presented 13 ghost tales from Mississippi and Georgia, and elsewhere around the South.

MRS. WINDHAM, a former reporter for the Selma Times-Journal, spends a lot of her time tracking down ghost stories and other folklore. “All you’ve got to do is listen” she says, because tales are everywhere. She even comes across many interesting tidbits in her work as a community services coordinator for the Alabama-Tombigbee River Planning and Development Commission’s Area Agency on Aging.

She grew up in Thomasville, in South Alabama’s Clarke County, and her childhood was filled with the church homecomings, family reunions, tall-tale telling, romance and other features she says make the South unique, even today.

She doesn’t remember the first ghost story she was told, but she says she has had a latent interest in spirits and scary stories since her youth. Much of her early ghost learning, she says, came from Thurza, her family’s black cook.

THAT INTEREST was stirred she says, by “Jeffrey”—the name she uses for whoever or whatever it is that walks the floors, slams the doors and scares the cat in her Selma home.

Jeffrey and two ghost stories figured prominently in her Kiwanis Club talk. One story, about the “Jumbo light,” dealt with a man who lived in the now-dead Chilton County community of Jumbo. The man was killed by moonshiners he surprised in some woods one night while making his way home with the aid of a lantern.

LONG-TIME AREA residents still say they see a moving lantern near the old Jumbo community to this day, she says. A Times-Journal photographer traveled to the Jumbo area to take a picture of the phenomenon, she says, and became scared. He was even more started when the pictures he developed showed not only a swinging light moving along a road, but a pair of empty shoes moving along with it.

Whether a ghost tale is true or not matters little to Mrs. Windham. The tale teller’s feeling about the story is more important.

“I can’t get interested in the stories unless I feel they are true to the people who are telling them,” she says.

Monday, December 22, 2014

13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

We've all seen them and we've probably posted links to them on Facebook. They come with a seemingly infinite variety of name, superlative and number combinations: “Top 10 Scariest Haunted Places,” “6 Most Terrifying Places to Eat Dinner,” “50 Academically Prestigious Colleges and Universities with Ghosts,” “23 Super-Duper Awesome Most Haunted Prisons.” During Halloween especially, these “articles” sprout like veritable weeds along the sides of the information superhighway.

Usually, these articles simply rehash the same stories about the same locations and rarely do they ever provide much useful information. The author usually puts in just a modicum of research and produces something that is simply entertaining without providing much depth. It’s like a picture of Kim Kardashian that gets retweeted a million times, it provides nothing useful yet it gets passed around ad nauseum to the enlightenment of no one.

I do, however, have to commend Theresa Racer on her marvelous list of haunted places in all 50 states that she posted on her blog.

This is my attempt at one-upping these “articles.” There are countless haunted locations that are rarely covered, yet, in my humble opinion, are fascinating and worthy of a bit more attention.

University of Montevallo
Montevallo, Alabama

My friend Sarah (not her real name), had some roommate issues her freshman year at this small Alabama liberal arts college. At night in her dorm room in Old Main Residence Hall Sarah and her living roommate would hear whispering and footsteps both in her room and outside her door. These are not uncommon issues for college freshmen, though Sarah’s problem roommate was a former student who died in a fire in 1908. When the school operated as a women’s college in the early 20th century, a student, Condie Cunningham, caught her nightgown on fire while trying to heat fudge in a chafing dish. She went screaming down the hall and collapsed. She died a few days later in the hospital.
Main Residence Hall, 1993. Photo by Jet Lowe for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Set in the small, central Alabama town of Montevallo, the university has a wide-ranging roster of revenants, one of which even plays an annual part in one of the university’s most celebrated events: College Night. This annual event pits the students against each other producing competing musicals. Created in 1923, this event is adjudicated from the other side by the spirit of the competition’s founder, Dr. Walter Trumbauer, known affectionately as “Trummy.” According to Sarah, during dress rehearsals and performances, Trummy “gets crazy in Palmer.” Pipes are known to shake backstage and his spirit is seen in and around Palmer Hall where the competition is held. Trummy swings the battens of the curtains onstage during performances of the show that gets his approval. Usually that show will win.

Among the many other spirits on this campus are Confederate soldiers seen in and around Reynolds Hall. The oldest building on campus, Reynolds was used as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War. Under the watch of Captain Henry Clay Reynolds, the wounded and sick soldiers were abandoned when Reynolds and his men left to defend the nearby Briarfield Iron Works. When he returned, he discovered the sick and wounded had been massacred by Union troops.
Reynolds Hall, 1934. Photo by W.N. Manning for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Now home to the university’s Department of Theatre, Reynolds Hall is still plagued by spirits from that horrible, war-time event. Another student, Ashley, told me she had experiences while working alone in an office on the second floor of the building. The room suddenly grew cold and the blinds started shaking violently. She fled. A visiting artist was walking backstage when he encountered a man in a Confederate uniform. He was later informed that there was no period production going on or re-enactors in the building.

By no means are these the only or most active spirits on campus, many buildings are haunted. These include the mid-19th century King House which may be one of the most active buildings on campus, Hanson Hall with its ghostly housemother and Napier Hall with its marble rolling ghost.

Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Interview with JM, Cherokee, North Carolina, June 2012.
Interview with MS, Cherokee, North Carolina, June 2012.

Halcyon House
3400 Prospect Street
Georgetown, District of Columbia

Just as the recent real estate bubble touched properties throughout the country, this very large, imposing haunted house was also affected. The house was put up for sale for around $30 million in 2008, just as the bubble began to burst, and sold for less than half of that in 2011. Of course, such an eccentric house with the dramatic history that Halcyon House has, would probably have trouble selling in good times.

This 30,500 square foot manse comes complete with a “whimsical” library, a large studio space, a ballroom, a chapel, six apartments, a very large garage and a panoply of ghosts. A sealed tunnel in the basement of the house is supposed to have been used as part of the Underground Railroad. In the early 20th century, a carpenter was asked to seal the tunnel and as he did he heard cries and mournful sobs issuing from it. Over the years, various owners have reported apparitions in the house as well as phantom knocking. In one particular bedroom, several people have reported being levitated by an unknown force.
Halcyon House, 1999. Photo by Jack E. Boucher for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
The home’s history is just as dramatic as the hauntings. It was built in the late 18th century by Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy, and was later owned by the eccentric Albert Adsit Clemons, who claimed to be a nephew of Mark Twain. Clemons extensively remodeled the house and refused to install electricity. Since Clemons death, the house was owned briefly by Georgetown University and recently by a sculptor who, with his wife, lovingly restored the home. During their residence, they claimed to have had no odd experiences within the home’s most historic walls.

Alexander, John. Ghosts, Washington Revisited. Atglen, PA: Schiffer
     Publishing, 1998.
Cavanaugh, Stephanie. “Centuries of Drama at Halcyon House.” The
     Washington Post. 30 August 2008.
Krepp, Tim. Ghosts of Georgetown. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Powell, Lewis O. IV. “Haunted Washington, D.C.” Southern Spirit Guide.
     22 December 2010.
Taylor, Nancy C. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Halcyon House. 3 November 1970.

Island Hotel
373 2nd Street
Cedar Key, Florida

Most people head to Cedar Key to avoid the crowds, though visitors to the Island Hotel may encounter a crowd of spirits. According to a number of sources including the hotel’s website, thirteen—a very appropriate number—spirits walk the halls of this hotel.
Island Hotel, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The building was built as a general store in 1860, the eve of the Civil War. In 1862, Cedar Key, at that time a small railroad town, became the first town in Florida to fall under Federal occupation. Some buildings were burned, but the general store was spared and quite possibly used as a barracks and warehouse for the occupying troops. After the war, the building returned to its commercial use as a general store and operated successfully until the collapse of the cedar industry and business began to slow. In 1915, the store was purchased by Simon Feinberg who converted the building into a hotel. It has served as a hotel, under a variety of owners, for the last hundred years.

According to a recent article in the Ocala Star-Banner, the spirit of a Confederate soldier has been quite active recently. Guests have spotted him standing guard throughout the upstairs portion of the hotel. Joining the soldier is a small African-American boy, possibly the spirit of a slave who legend holds drowned in a cistern on the property. Former owners, including Simon Feinberg and Bessie Gibbs still patrol the hotel checking up on guests to see that they are being taken care of.

Allen, Rick. “Cedar Key offers island life, complete with ghosts and clams.”
     Ocala Star-Banner. 7 August 2014.
The History of the Island Hotel.” Island Hotel and Restaurant. Accessed 12
     December 2014.
Island Hotel Ghost Stories.” Island Hotel and Restaurant. Accessed 12
     December 2014.
Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Volume 3.
     Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2007.
Lewis, Chad and Terry Fisk. The Florida Road Guide to Haunted Locations.
     Eau Claire, WI: Unexplained Research Publishing, 2010.
Nolan, David and Micahel Zimny. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination form for the Island Hotel. 1 October 1984.

Magnolia Springs State Park
1053 Magnolia Springs Road
Millen, Georgia

Of the many transgressions committed by both sides during the American Civil War, the neglect and contempt visited upon the prisoners of war looms large. Large-scale prisons were constructed and packed with prisoners who were underfed and sometimes virtually unclothed often under the open sky. Pestilence and lawlessness prevailed among the tightly packed men with death swooping among them picking off victims like a hawk.
Contemporary illustration of Camp Lawton by Robert Sneden,
a Union soldier who was incarcerated here. Courtesy of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
In this sordid history, Andersonville Prison in West Central Georgia is the most tragic tale and the prison’s site has been spiritually scarred with many spirits still roaming the piney landscape. While it was possibly the worst of these horrendous prisons, Andersonville is not the only one to mar the Southern landscape. Camp Lawton, near the eastern Georgia town of Millen, was one of the largest prison camps erected by the Confederates. Encompassing some 42 acres, the camp was constructed in 1864 and used for only three months.

It was built to house 40,000 prisoners but in its short lifespan only held about 10,000 prisoners in conditions that were far better than Andersonville. However, there were about 500 deaths in the camp during its service. When Sherman found the camp during his march from Atlanta to Savannah in 1864, he burned it to the ground along with Millen. The site of the camp is now part of Magnolia Springs State Park.

Employees have reported spirits in the park, particularly around one of the cabins occupied by park staff. One manager reported being awakened by a uniformed apparition standing at the end of his bed. Another staff member approached the cabin and saw a face peering out one of the windows at him when he knew the house was empty. At night, staff members have reported that they get the feeling of being followed or watched.

Wilkinson, Chris. “Civil War Prisons.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 9
     September 2014.
Miles, Jim. Civil War Ghosts of Central Georgia and Savannah. Charleston,
     SC: History Press, 2013.

Hayswood Hospital
West Fourth Street at Market Street
Maysville, Kentucky

The large Neo-Classical building crowns a hill above West Fourth Street and turns its face towards the majestic Ohio River beyond the city’s downtown. It’s obvious that the building has been long abandoned. Windows stand open like empty eye sockets while other closed windows hold broken panes that stare jaggedly towards the river. Along the first floor, plywood covers the windows and doors, a thin barrier to intruders, both human and natural.

Hayswood Hospital has endured a long jag of bad luck since its closure in 1983. Just last year, the building was almost sold to collect on a nearly $6,000 unpaid tax bill, but at the last minute, the sale was withdrawn. Nearly a decade after its closure, the building was purchased with the intent of renovating it into apartments, though that has fallen through. In 1999, a condemnation order was placed on the structure requiring the owner to either demolish or renovate the building, but nothing has come of that. The order still stands like a death sentence over a weary prisoner.

Not only is the crumbling building a blight on the city’s face, but asbestos and lead paint within the building are a danger to the health of the community. The blight also attracts vandals and thieves including the two men who were arrested in the building as they tried to steal copper wiring. In addition to the health dangers, the building’s falling ceilings and weak floors are a physical danger to the curious who decide to investigate the building.

With the constant stream of legends flowing forth from abandoned (and even not so abandoned) medical facilities, it’s no surprise to hear that Hayswood has many of its own stories. Nothing about the reports of apparitions and voices provided in the article from the blog Most Haunted Places in America is particularly unusual. The blog reports apparitions throughout the building including that of a woman holding a baby in the old maternity ward.

A video posted on YouTube on Halloween 2006 purportedly shows a spirit in the building. The very grainy video taken of the exterior of the building at night shows a white figure appearing in one of the windows. The videographer focuses in on the figure and it appears to take on the features of a very large face then quickly vanishes. Personally, something doesn’t really look right about the video, but I cannot positively describe it as fake.

The grand hospital was constructed in 1915 and served the community well. The 87 bed hospital was bought by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) in 1981 and it was closed when a new facility was opened nearby. The building remains in its uneasy slumber awaiting its fate and comforted only by the occasional spirit from its past.

The Hayswood Hospital building is closed to visitors, trespassers will be prosecuted.

Barker, Danetta. “Out of the hospital and into custody: Police make arrests
     at Hayswood.” The Ledger Independent. 22 September 2005.
“The Haunted Hayswood Hospital.” Most Haunted Places in America. 18 June
Maynard, Misty. “Video of ‘ghost’ at Hayswood Hospital getting planty of
     attention.” The Ledger Independent. 22 October 2007.
Toncray, Marla. “For Sale: Hayswood Hospital.” The Ledger Independent. 22
     March 2013.
Toncray, Marla. “Hayswood sale plan halted.” The Ledger Independent. 26 April

Juju Road
Off of Swan Lake Road
Bossier City, Louisiana

Depending on the version of the legend, his crime ranged from simply looking at a white woman to the murder of two children who were simply fishing. Regardless, legend holds that he took his final breath somewhere along the road that still bears his name and possibly his lingering spirit. His name is said to be “Juju” or more properly “Juju Montgomery” in various versions of the legend, regardless, his name has been applied to this lonely country road outside Bossier City.

Like the countless cry baby bridges and haunted lovers lanes, the old dirt road is a popular hangout for local residents looking for a scare. Online accounts of the haunting describe people encountering the figure of an African-American man standing in the road or hanging from one of the trees with a rope around his neck.

Local paranormal enthusiasts, Marie Edgerly, her husband and son have formed a group called Louisiana Paranormal Addicts which explored Juju Road during the day. While they describe the location as “eerie,” they did not have any direct experiences with the spirit. Arriving home after their investigation, however, they were startled to discover a shadowy human form in one of their photographs from this location. Is it Juju? See their photograph page here.

Edgerly, Marie. “Juju Road.” Louisiana Paranormal Addicts. 31 October
Patton, Devon. “A Bossier Parish Ghost Story.” KTBS. 29 April 2014.

Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum
203 Amity Street
Baltimore, Maryland

Of course the home to Baltimore’s favorite son of creepiness is haunted! Why would anyone think otherwise? When Vincent Price, one of the modern masters of creepiness, visited this house he said, “This house gives me the creeps.”

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston and lived intermittently in a number of cities including Baltimore where he would ultimately die in 1849. There are a few buildings where he lived that remain, including this small, unassuming house in Baltimore where Poe lived for about two years. The house had been rented by Poe’s aunt, Maria Clemm, in the spring of 1832 and was occupied by her daughter, Virginia, and his grandmother. Poe probably moved in the following year and he used the garret room at the top of the house for his writing. He would remain in these cramped quarters until 1835.
Edgar Allan Poe House, 2007. Photo by
Midnightdreary, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Over the years that the house has operated as a museum, some visitors have had unusual experiences, among them the feeling of being tapped on the shoulder by an unseen entity. In the mid-1980s, an actress preparing for a performance in the house had a scary encounter. As she was dressing, she noticed that the window sash was moving in the frame, then was shocked when the sash flew out of the frame and landed at her feet. A 2012 investigation by the Pennsylvania-based Ghost Detectives did turn up some odd voices on the team’s voice recorders.

Hayes, Anthony C. “Ghost Detectives investigate ghostly voices inside the
     Edgar Allan Poe House.” Baltimore Post-Examiner. 16 July 2012.
Hayes, Anthony C. “Is the Edgar Allan Poe House haunted?” Baltimore
     Post-Examiner. 11 May 2012.
Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi,
Mendinghall, Joseph S. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for the Edgar Allan Poe House. 11 November 1971.
Okonowicz, Ed. Baltimore Ghosts: History, Mystery, Legends and Lore.
     Elkton, MD: Myst and Lace Publishers, 2006.

Kuhn Memorial Hospital
1422 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Vicksburg, Mississippi

In a recent series on haunted Mississippi for Jackson, Mississippi’s The Clarion-Ledger, reporter Therese Apel remarks that she heard “completely improbable stories from completely sane people.” While researching for the series, Apel explored the deteriorating carcass of Kuhn Memorial State Hospital and had an improbable experience of her own. On the dusty top of an autopsy table a finger—possibly spectral—had spelled out “pleh,” the word “help” backwards.

The oldest part of this hospital was built in 1832 following an epidemic of smallpox that swept the area. In 1871, the state took over operations of the hospital rendering it a charity hospital for all those in need. During an outbreak of yellow fever in 1878, the dreaded mosquito-borne virus claimed the lives of some sixteen doctors and six Sisters of Mercy working here.

A modern wing was added to the building in 1959. The hospital faithfully served the citizens of Vicksburg and the surrounding area until the state cut funding and the hospital closed in 1989. The building has deteriorated under absentee owners for the past twenty-five years, visited only by urban explorers, film makers and ghost hunters. It was during a film shoot here that film makers may have unwittingly caught a voice exclaiming “oh my God,” upon the appearance of an evil clown, the film’s protagonist.

Further paranormal investigations of the facility have uncovered a plethora of voices in this most haunted of hospitals.

Apel, Therese. “Creepy phenomena recorded at abandoned hospital.” The
     Clarion-Ledger. 30 October 2014.
Apel, Therese. “Haunted Mississippi: Where are the most spiritually active
     places in the state?” The Clarion-Ledger. 22 September 2014.
Associated Press. “Owner of former hospital given deadline.” Mississippi
     Business Journal. 29 September 2013.
Russell, Randy. The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South.
     Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2014.

Stagville State Historic Site
5828 Old Oxford Road
Durham, North Carolina

While psychic and author Kala Ambrose was visiting Stagville as research for her book, Ghosthunting North Carolina, she took a moment, sat quietly and opened herself up in hopes of communicating with a spirit or two. Instead, she found herself thronged by them. She described it in her book, “the crowd of people was so large that I couldn’t see all of their faces. Instead, I felt the pressure of all of their bodies coming closer to me wanting to talk.”
Bennehan House at Stagville, 2008. Photo by Cotinis, courtesy
of Wikipedia.
One of the largest plantations in the South at its height, ghost stories have been a mainstay of Stagville Plantation for many years. Neighbors have reported strange lights on the property as well as screams in the night. The apparitions of an African-American girl and a group of African-American men have been reported near the Great Barn. The fire department has been summoned several times by reports of the slave quarters being ablaze. Upon arrival, there is no evidence of fire. Staff working in the remaining buildings have found that doors open and close and lock and unlock on their own. The site has been investigated by a number of groups who have captured a number of EVPs there.

The property itself has been the scene of much history. There is evidence of inhabitation by Native Americans and their possible burial on the site. Ambrose states that the remains of settlers have been found bearing evidence of attack from Native Americans. In the mid-19th century, this land was part of the huge holdings of the Bennehan and Cameron families and consisted of some 30,000 acres that were worked by some 900 slaves. Stagville State Historic Site preserves about 71 acres of the original plantation along with a number of remaining buildings and ruins.

Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press,
Haunted North Carolina. “Historic Stagville.” Accessed 12 December
McDonald, Glenn. “Go ghost hunting with Haunted NC.” Indy Week. 22
     October 2014.
Stagville. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 December 2014.

Longstreet Theatre
Campus of the University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

The building housing the Longstreet Theatre at the University of South Carolina has seen a good deal of joy and a great deal of sorrow. According to the 1941 WPA guide to the state, the 1855 building has twice been pressed into service as a hospital: between 1862 and 1865 during the Civil War and then again in 1918 during the horrible influenza epidemic that swept the world. Legend holds that the room that is used as the theatre’s green room, where actors relax when they’re not onstage, was utilized as the hospital morgue during the Civil War.

To “ward off the Civil War ghosts,” according to a 2011 article from the student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, students now employ a “buddy system” in the building. This may very well be a good idea as it seems that many of the reports of activity seem to stem from people who find themselves alone in the building. A secretary had her glasses “slapped off” her face as she walked through the building late one afternoon. “There was no one in the building but me, but I felt an impact on my face and my glasses flew off,” she told a reporter later.

A student was quoted as having a feeling of being watched while she was in the green room and then having the sensation of having “a wall of cold air being pushed across and around her.” Other students tend to get a very creepy feeling or even feel vibrations within the ancient structure. However, most students and professors take the spirits in stride. Alan Brown quotes a theatre professor, “I love to tease students and tell them the ghosts are real friendly unless you’re a Yankee.”

Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole
     Books, 2010.
Carmichael, Sherman. Eerie South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History
     Press, 2013.
Ellis, Sarah. “Ghost tours highlight USC’s haunted history.” The Daily
     Gamecock. 28 October 2011.
Kearns, Taylor. “The phantom of Longstreet Theatre?” Carolina
     Reporter & News. No date.
Mitchell, Wes. “Ghosts and legends plentiful on USC campus.”
     Carolina Reporter & News. No date.
Steimle, Douglas. “The Ghosts of Longstreet Theatre.”
     31 October 2011.
Workers of the Writers’ Program of the WPA. South Carolina: A Guide to
     the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.

Baker-Peters Jazz Club
9000 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, Tennessee

The Baker-Peters Jazz Club is a study in incongruity. This large, brick antebellum home is boxed in by urban sprawl and the house has even surrendered its front yard on Kingston Pike to a gas station which is now being replaced by an oil change center. In the yard of the house a large neon sign depicts a martini complete with an olive and advertises the jazz club that was once housed in the Greek revival splendor behind it. Sadly, the club has now closed but it has not yet given up its ghosts.
The Baker-Peters Jazz Club, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
During the Civil War, East Tennessee was a rather dicey place to be no matter with whom your sympathies lay. While the area firmly lies in the bosom of the Confederacy, geography did not change the opinions of the local citizenry. While Knoxville was firmly secessionist, the hearts of the citizens in much of the rest of East Tennessee remained with the Federal Government. When Confederate troops swarmed the area they were harassed by locals who sabotaged rail lines into the city forcing Confederate General Zollicoffer to build a series of forts around the city. Knoxville fell to Union forces in late 1863.

West of the city of Knoxville, the farm of Dr. James H. Baker was a haven for Confederates looking for solace among company of like-minded individuals. Dr. Baker, a prominent physician took in wounded Confederates, turning his manse into a field hospital. After Union forces captured the city, Baker’s home remained a safe house for Confederates and the local postmaster, William Hall, is supposed to have reported Baker to the Union authorities. Soldiers soon appeared at Baker’s door demanding that he give up any Confederate soldiers in his care. Refusing to do so, Baker ascended the staircase and barricaded himself in a room at the top of the stairs. The soldiers followed and shot Dr. Baker through the door, killing him.

But that’s not the end of the killing. Dr. Baker’s son, Abner, returned from service in the Confederate Army to find his father dead. After hearing the tragic tale of his father’s demise, Abner hunted down Postmaster William Hall and avenged his father. Soon after, an angry mob killed Abner for the postmaster’s death.

In the 20th century, the house has served as a series of restaurants where employees and patrons have often felt spirits present. One guest told a reporter for the UT Daily Beacon that she gets “a creepy feeling, almost like you can tell that you’re invading someone else’s home.” After hours, passersby have reported lights in the darkened club, sometimes having the appearance of a lantern. Managers have reported having items moved and having glassware falling on a regular basis. The identity of the spirits are unknown, however, I hope Dr. James and Abner Baker enjoy the soothing jazz.

Burleson, Simpson. “Local jazz club haunted by Civil War era doctor.” UT
     Daily Beacon. 1 November 2005.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC:
     John F. Blair, 2011.
Flory, Josh. “Oil change business planned outside of Baker Peters House.”
     Property Scope. 22 August 2014.
Price, Charles Edwin. Mysterious Knoxville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain
     Press, 1999.
Wheeler, W. Bruce. Knoxville.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and
     Culture. 25 December 2009.

Graffiti House
19484 Brandy Road
Brandy Station

It’s not hard to imagine that soldiers throughout the Civil War began to quickly feel their own mortality. As they lay wounded in the homes and taverns, churches and barns that had been hastily converted into hospitals throughout the nation, many scratched their names into adjacent plaster walls and floorboards, perhaps in hopes of gaining some type of immortality. With so much of this graffiti obliterated by the buildings caretakers and time, these exercises into immortality have become increasingly rare, despite their importance to historians and the residents of the modern age.
Graffiti House, 2013. Photo by Cecouchman, courtesy of
Built near a small railroad stop on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, Graffiti House was built by James Barbour in 1858 as a residence and possible commercial building. As battles raged around Virginia, Mr. Barbour’s building was converted into a hospital and the patients began to scrawl on the walls of the structure. In June of 1863, the war that had been trickling into the community until then arrived as a deluge when it was the scene of the largest cavalry battle fought on American soil.

The graffiti was only rediscovered in the early 1990s and the building was later purchased by the Brandy Station Foundation, an organization devoted to preserving the local battlefield and associated sites. But it’s not just graffiti that remains in the building, spirits are still active as well. A handful of paranormal investigation organizations have investigated Graffiti House and captured evidence.

A reporter from The Free Lance-Star in nearby Fredericksburg in 2007 observed a paranormal investigation by the Virginia Paranormal Institute. About an hour into the investigation he was apparently touched by something while an investigator had something grab her hand. During a more recent investigation by Transcend Paranormal, video of an anomalous light in an empty room was captured. The video is available on YouTube.

Johnston, Donnie. “What was that touching my back?” The Free Lance-Star.
     23 November 2007.
Neville, Ashley and John S. Salmon. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination form for Graffiti House. June 2005.
     YouTube. 18 November 2011.

West Virginia Turnpike
Interstate 77
Between Princeton and Charleston, West Virginia

A state trooper encountered a pedestrian along this road. As pedestrians are forbidden from walking along the sides of interstates, the trooper arrested the young man. He was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the trooper’s patrol car. At some point during the drive, the state trooper glanced in the rear view mirror to find the back seat was empty. The pedestrian simply vanished leaving the handcuffs on the seat.
West Virginia Turnpike as it passes through Fayette County.
Photo 2006 by Seicer. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The West Virginia Turnpike has been known for its phantoms for years. Some of these are classic phantom hitchhikers who have even been encountered by law enforcement. In another similar story, a state trooper encountered a little girl wandering by the side of the road. He picked her up and put her in the back seat of his car, though without handcuffs. During the drive, the girl vanished.

Ghost blogger Theresa Racer writes in her blog of her own experience on the turnpike. She was traveling with her mother and they passed “a scraggly looking young man wearing dark clothing and carrying an olive green army-like sack” in a particularly lonely area of the interstate. After passing him, the pair looked in their rear view mirror to see the figure had vanished. They turned their car around and did not see anyone along that same lonely stretch of interstate.

Folklorist Dennis Deitz posits in his The Greenbrier Ghost and other Strange Stories that the road cuts across two creeks where tragedies have occurred. Along both Paint and Cabin Creeks there were many mines where miners were killed in accidents. He also notes that both creeks have experienced flooding that has killed residents in the area. During the turnpike’s construction in the 1950s there were also a number of old cemeteries that were disturbed including a large cemetery that was moved for the building of a truck stop. The truck stop and other buildings along the road also have odd stories of ghosts.

Deitz, Dennis. The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories. South
     Charleston, WV: Mountain Memories Books, 1990.
Gavenda, Walter and Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted
     West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
Racer, Theresa. “WV Turnpike.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the
     Tri-State. 2 March 2011.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ramsdell House (Haunt Brief)

Z. D. Ramsdell House
1108 B Street
Ceredo, West Virginia

Zopher Deane Ramsdell moved to Ceredo, West Virginia at the invitation of Eli Thayer, the town’s founder. An abolitionist, Thayer invited his abolitionist associates from New England to join him in colonizing this area of—what was at that time—the slave state of Virginia. Thayer had founded this town on the southern side of the Ohio River to further his own abolitionist agenda.

A businessman from Abingdon, Massachusetts, Ramsdell arrived in Ceredo in the late 1850s and began building this brick house that still bears his name in 1857 or 1858. It was the first brick house in the area and was possibly constructed atop a Native American burial mound. Part of the home’s basement may have been constructed to hide slaves being guided to freedom on the Underground Railroad. With the outbreak of war not long after his home was complete, Ramsdell immediately joined the war effort on the side of the Union and rose to prominence within the army.
Ramsdell House, 2013, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Following the war’s end, Ramsdell was asked by President Ulysses S. Grant to help in the reconstruction of the postal infrastructure in the area. Serving as a state legislator, Ramsdell was active in the creation of free schools for educating local children. The house remained in the Ramsdell family until 1977. The house was restored in the early 1980s and is operated as a small museum.

Tradition holds that the house is paranormally active due to the home’s location atop a burial mound and its use as an Underground Railroad stop. Doors opening and closing and lights turning off and on, all on their own accord are among the types of reported activity. Apparitions and sounds associated with the enslaved people who possibly moved through the house have also apparently been reported. There’s also some belief that both slaves and veterans of the Civil War are also buried on the property.

The home has been investigated three times by Huntington Paranormal with evidence being captured on the first two investigations. Blogger Theresa Racer, the organization’s historic research manager, posits that the evidence the group has collected points to the Ramsdell family as the source of the hauntings rather than Native Americans or slaves.

Huntington Paranormal. “Ramsdell House Investigations and Research.”
     Accessed 2 November 2014.
National Register of Historic Places nomination form the Z. D. Ramsdell House.
     18 August 1983.
Racer, Theresa. “Legends surround the Z. D. Ramsdell House.” Theresa’s
     Haunted History of the Tri-State. 19 January 2011.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keep up with all the latest in Southern ghosts!

Please like us on Facebook!

Click here for our Facebook page!

We're also on Twitter!

I post links there to all new blog entries plus news and other interesting articles on Southern ghosts.

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope it's informative and entertaining.

Lewis Powell IV
Creator and Writer, Southern Spirit Guide

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Haunted Theatres of Maryland

Alumni Hall
Campus of McDaniel College

As can be expected, McDaniel College, a small four-year, private liberal arts college has a number of spirits. Founded in 1867—in the turbulent years following the Civil War—the school was founded as Western Maryland College. It was renamed after a benefactor in 2002 to avoid confusion over the school’s affiliations and geography. The name change, however, had no effect over the campus’ lingering spirits.

The massive Renaissance Revival-styled Alumni Hall has dominated the campus since its construction just before the turn of the 20th century. Originally it was constructed to hold commencement exercises, serve as a meeting hall and house religious services for this Methodist Church affiliated school (the school is no longer affiliated with the church). Since the creation of the school’s theatre department, the building has come to house classes, workshops and serves as the main performance space.
Alumni Hall, on the right, in 2006, by Alan Levine. Courtesy of
A McDaniel student began documenting the school’s spirits in a blog in 2010. While incomplete, the blog does provide a student’s view into the school’s myriad legends. The student recounts three spirits that have been identified in Alumni Hall: Harvey, Dorothy (or Dorthy) and Mr. Steve. It appears that two legends explain Harvey’s presence in the building. One explains that Harvey was a student torn between his love of theatre and his parents’ expectation that he become a Methodist minister. Unable to bear his life without theatre, Harvey killed himself by throwing himself from the auditorium’s balcony just before graduation. The second story involves Harvey becoming inebriated at a college party and falling out of one of the building’s windows. Apparently, it is considered a sign of luck when this former student’s shade is sometimes seen backstage before productions. It is Harvey who is also blamed when things in the building malfunction.

The other two ghosts encountered within this building are Dorothy and Mr. Steve. Dorothy, who is honored by having her portrait in the theatre’s Green Room, is believed to be the source of a woman’s footsteps heard in the hallway just outside that room. When a production is bad she is also said to cry blood, most certainly a ridiculous notion. Mr. Steve, said to be the spirit of a former costume shop foreman, still zealously watches over his former shop. He is said to occasionally steal scissors and measuring tapes while also expressing anger when students make a mess in “his” shop.

Alexa. “The 3rd Theatre Ghost.” Ghostblogger. 3 May 2010.
Alexa. “Dorthy.” Ghostblogger. 14 April 2010.
Alexa. “Harvey.” Ghostblogger. 12 April 2010.
McDaniel College. “History.” Accessed 18 March 2013.
Rivoire. J. Richard and James F. Ridenour. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Western Maryland College Historic District. 9 May 1975.

Avalon Theatre
40 East Dover Street

The ghost that haunts the Avalon Theatre demonstrates a fascination with technology. The theatre’s elevator may be operated by an unseen force while the stage’s fire curtain was once dropped without anyone touching it. The theatre opened in 1921 and wowed the public so that one critic described the theatre as the “Showplace of the Eastern Shore.” Acquired by the Schine Theatre Chain in 1934, the theatre was entirely renovated in the Art Deco style. It remained open as a cinema until 1985 when it closed. After extensive restoration, the theatre reopened in 1989 as a performing arts center for the Eastern Shore region.

Avalon Theatre. Avalon Theatre in History. Accessed 18 March 2013.
Burgoyne, Mindie. “The Avalon Theatre – Haunted History in Easton.” Who Cares
     What I Think. No date.

Baltimore Theatre Project
45 West Preston Street

A mysterious man likes to tickle the ivories in a practice room of the Baltimore Theatre Project. He’s known to enter a room, take a seat and play the most wonderful music. Startled listeners have often remarked on how well he plays. Then he’ll disappear.

The building now occupied by the Baltimore Theatre Project does have quite a history. It was originally constructed in 1887 for a male fraternal order, the Improved Order of Heptasophs, and served as Heptasoph Hall until the organization moved to a new structure in 1924. The building’s new owners transformed it into a dance hall, Farson’s Dance Academy and it later became a recreation building and school for the Greek Orthodox church across the street. Its first theatrical use came in 1963 when it served as a performance space for CENTERSTAGE. The founder of Baltimore Theatre Project acquired the building in 1971 and it has served as their home ever since.

Baltimore Theatre Project. “History of the IOH Building.” Accessed 5 April 2013.
Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Atglen, PA: Stackpole, 2010.

Old Opera House—Odd Fellows’ Hall
140 East Main Street

Ghost stories rarely appear in official government records, though the story from the old Westminster Opera House does. The ghost part of the story does not appear in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties but the story of the murder that produced the ghost does appear. So far, it doesn’t appear that anyone has looked for documentation to back up the story and even the person compiling the history of the structure for the inventory seems a bit wary of it, noting that the story only came from the owner of the building.

The ghost story takes us back to the ill-tempered days of Reconstruction (perhaps actually during the Civil War, according to some sources). Maryland, though a slave-owning state, never seceded from the Union and many of its citizens sympathized with their more Southern brothers. During this tumultuous period an Alabama comedian named Marshall Buell took the stage of the opera house to perform. Initially, his politically-charged humor entertained the audience, though they became quite restless as his feckless impersonations of Ulysses Grant and other Union officials crossed the line into insults.

As stones and other projectiles began to be hurled from the enraged audience, Buell hurried and finished his act. At the theatre manager’s suggestion he decided to leave town as quickly as possible, though he would wait in the stable until the opera house cleared to avoid unfriendly encounters in the street. This was Mr. Buell’s last decision. His body, bloodied and bruised, was found in the stable the following morning. Depending on the version of the story, his head is either missing or his throat is cut, ear to ear. In the legends where he was decapitated, his head sometimes appears—almost in the manner of the French Revolution—on a post outside of the theatre, a warning to other actors that beloved leaders should not be mocked.

In the days following the comedian’s untimely demise, he was seen on the streets near the opera house. In one description he was waving and gesticulating as if he was still performing his act. There don’t appear to be any modern witnesses to the unfortunate spirit.

The massive three-story brick structure was constructed in the mid-1850s for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization. Space on the second floor provided a performance venue and actors and theatre companies on the road utilized this space for many years. During the 20th century, the building served a number of other uses including use as a factory and a printing company.

Carroll County Office of Tourism. Ghost Walk in Carroll County. No date.
Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Atglen, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
Weeks, Christopher. Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties form for Opera House—
     Odd Fellows’ Hall. December 1976.

Tawes Fine Arts Building
Campus of the University of Maryland
College Park

Though no longer home to the Department of Theatre, the Tawes Fine Arts Building retains its theatre and recital hall. The current home to the university’s English department, the building may still also retain its resident spook. Not long after the building’s opening in 1965, students began noticing the sound of footsteps in the empty theatre and would occasionally have mischievous jokes played on them, seemingly from beyond.

With quite a population of resident ghosts on campus, the university archivists have started documenting the stories. According to one of the archivists quoted in Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola’s Ghosthunting Maryland, Mortimer, Tawes’ ghost, may actually be a dog rather than a human spirit. According to campus lore, Mortimer was brought into the theatre during its construction and would frolic on the stage. The theatre’s seats had yet to be completely installed and the house was filled with metal frames the seats would be attached to. The frolicsome canine jumped from the stage into the house and impaled himself on one of the frames. Supposedly, he was buried in the building’s basement.

Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA, Stackpole,
Tawes Theatre. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 5 April 2013.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy
     Press, 2009.

Weinberg Center for the Arts
formerly the Tivoli Theatre
20 West Patrick Street

Among the many haunted buildings in this nearly 300 year old town, the old Tivoli Theatre is relatively new. When it opened in 1926, it was one of the largest buildings in town and the most refined theatre in the area. Uniformed ushers, refined surroundings including crystal chandeliers and marble and a Wurlitzer organ to add music to the silent films added to the theatre’s opulence. That opulence drew crowds for many years, though as downtown Frederick declined, so did the crowds drawn to the Tivoli.

Dan and Alyce Weinberg, who had bought the theatre in the late 1950s owned the theatre during its lowest period. After declining sales, and with a theatre on the verge of closure, the Weinbergs witnessed as nearby Carroll Creek flooded downtown Frederick filling the theatre with water and mud. As the flood waters receded, demolition was proposed for the theatre, but the Weinbergs saw that the noble structure deserved more than just that. The theatre was presented to the City of Frederick and it was restored as a performing arts center bearing the Weinberg’s name.

Does the theatre’s restored opulence still attract a few spirits? Perhaps.

One spirit is the rather testy spirit of a former projectionist who supposedly died of a heart attack. His lingering spirit, named Jimmy, is not happy with new employees and he is known to mess up the restrooms when employees are hired. Though, he has been appeased when the final employee to leave wishes him a goodnight. Goodnight, Jimmy!

Ricksecker, Mike. Ghosts of Maryland. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
Rigaux, Pamela. “Walking with the dead.” Frederick News Post. 23 October 2005.
Weinberg Center for the Arts. “History of the Weinberg.” Accessed 5 April 2013.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Something in the halls of science—Ruston, Louisiana

Center for Rehabilitation Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST)
Louisiana Tech University
711 South Vienna Street
Ruston, Louisiana

If a building can resemble a person, then the CREST Building—also called the Biomedical Engineering Building—resembles the old fashioned, white-clad nurses of old. The building, with its white brick and severe lines recalls the nurses of the Nurse Ratched variety: stiff, prim and starched. Author Jeanne Frois ascribes a more sinister appearance to the building’s windows, “its windows looks like hollow eye sockets holding an empty presence within.”

Perhaps it may be these are the nurses that are still patrolling the halls of this former hospital. The building dates to 1928 when it was built as the Ruston-Lincoln Sanitarium. At that time, the morgue was located on the first floor with the hospital’s surgical suite located on the fourth floor. In 1963, the facility was transformed into a nursing home and served that purpose until the 1970s when the building was turned over for use by Louisiana Tech. Under its lease from the Ruston Hospital Corporation, the building has been used to help improve the lives of the disabled.

While the academic faculty and students are working to improve the lives of the disabled now, it seems that the old nursing staff may continue to check up on their patients as well. In a 2007 article from the university’s newspaper The Tech Talk, one staff member in the building believes the spirit may be the former director of nurses when the building served as a nursing home. According to the article, this woman had an apartment on the fourth floor so that she could respond quickly if there was a problem. This particular staff member worked under this nursing director. She describes her as “never mean,” though she was “strict and firm; she was a stickler for every detail.” The staff member continues, “She had a good heart, though, the patients all loved her, and the doctors loved her because she kept the patients happy.”

Perhaps this devoted nursing director has maintained her devotion in the afterlife, though none of the reports of paranormal activity point to a specific spirit that may be haunting the building. The activity is varied and most commonly includes the sound of doors opening and closing. One staff member working in the building after hours heard the sounds of doors opening and closing all up and the down the hall on the fourth floor. Annoyed and curious, he checked all the doors on the hall to find them all closed and securely locked.
Electronic equipment also sometimes has odd issues within the old building. One student watched as a printing calculator began to print random numbers. A staff member put fresh batteries in a number of toys in preparation for young patients only to find the batteries drained the next day.

There are also issues with the elevator which regularly makes the journey from the first floor to the fourth floor without being called. In his recently published book, The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South, Randy Russell states that the ghost will often open the doors to anyone carrying doughnuts. It’s an absurd notion, but in the world of the paranormal, anything can happen.

Frois, Jeanne. Around Louisiana: Northern Louisiana.” Louisiana Life.
     September-October 2009.
History: Building.” Louisiana Tech University. Accessed 10 November 2014.
Jones, Davey. “Frightening encounters flourish in old Biomedical Engineering
     Building. The Tech Talk. 25 October 2007.
Russell, Randy. The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South.
     Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2014.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sunrise to sunrise in Fort Pierce, Florida

The sun was rising on what had been a small backwater town in the early twentieth century. The population was growing rapidly and one of the most prominent of local businessmen, Rupert Koblegard, wanted to invest some of his fortune into something that would benefit the citizens of what was being called, “The Sunrise City.” When he approached the city council, the response was, “build a theatre.” After getting a design from architect John N. Sherwood, Koblegard presented the plans to the city council again. He was told that the theatre was too big, to which he replied, “better too large than too small.”

Described as the largest theatre between Jacksonville and Miami, the Sunrise Theatre (117 South 2nd Street) opened on 1 August 1923 with a grand parade through downtown. Onstage, the Fort Pierce Band gave a concert. On screen, the newsreel was followed by a pair of films including a Charlie Chaplin comedy, The Vagabond. The opening of this grand, vaudeville theatre was heralded by the local paper as, “one of the most important events in the development of the town into a wide-awake city.”
Sunrise Theatre, 2009, by SebasTorrente. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The stage attracted some of the top vaudeville acts including cowboy entertainer Tom Mix and his wonder horse, fan-dancer Sally Rand and actor Edward G. Robinson. Management passed from Rupert Koblegard, Sr. to his son, Rupert Jr. in 1928 just as the first talking picture equipment was installed in the theatre. Even as other businesses generally limped through the Depression and through World War II, the theatre remained quite vital. The theatre closed in 1983 when its business was sapped by strip malls and development away from downtown.

After sitting derelict for many years, the theatre was purchased by the St. Lucie Preservation Association and was restored in 2006 as a centerpiece for a renovated downtown. The theatre features top-rung entertainment and, quite possibly, some resident spirits. In 2009, three years after its grand reopening, paranormal investigators from the Florida Ghost Team explored the theatre.

In two investigations, the team found evidence to support the assertion that the theatre had paranormal activity. While a group of investigators were investigating the third floor apartment of the theatre’s founder and owner, Rupert Koblegard, Sr., several members of the group had the batteries in the cameras drain. Shortly after, knocking was heard in possible response to an investigator’s questions. Another team member watched as an exit door opened and closed on its own volition. While the evidence is scant, it may very well prove the existence of some spiritual activity within the theatre.

From the stage of the Sunrise Theatre, one must only make a short jaunt to see real sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean from the steps of the majestic Boston House (239 Indian River Drive) which has wistfully been staring out to sea since 1909. Now sidled up next to a starkly modern neighbor, the house seems to retain its peaceful, old-fashioned aura as well as some of its tales. Like the Sunrise Theatre, these tales originate in the sunrise of the city of Fort Pierce.

Along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, many tales begin with Henry Morrison Flagler. Originally a partner of John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, two visits to Florida in the late 1870s provided him with the impetus to develop this rural state into a vacationer’s paradise. Flagler’s project built a railroad line, the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC), from Jacksonville all the way to Key West. Along the way, the trains stopped in towns and cities graced with Flagler’s grand hotels. This little Florida project for Flagler developed into a lifelong obsession for him and a coup for a backwater state that has turned it into one of America’s greatest “Vacationlands.”
The Boston House, 2009, by SebasTorrente. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
It was the FEC that brought William Turpin Jones to Florida, initially as a mechanic but he rose to be an engineer and was relocated to Fort Pierce. Around this time, Jones was an engineer on a train that struck dynamite that was left on the tracks by careless workers. Jones was seriously injured but after his recovery he returned to work. He was awarded a settlement of $6000 for his injuries. With this princely settlement Jones constructed a magnificent home in Fort Pierce which he named Cresthaven. The house was completed in 1909 and William Jones moved in with his wife and five children.

Jones retired from the FEC and worked on maintaining his groves of oranges and pineapples and selling real estate until he was unexpectedly appointed as sheriff of St. Lucie County in 1915. This unexpected turn of events took place after the previous sheriff, D.S. Carlton, was shot to death downtown by Marshall D.J. Disney in what was described as a “wild west shootout.” Known for his honesty, the governor appointed Jones to the position and he held it until he resigned in 1920. Though he had commanded much respect as sheriff, Jones’ business interests were taking a financial loss and he resigned to turn his attention back to those interests. Eventually, he returned to work for the FEC.

During his time as sheriff, a shade of tragedy was drawn over this home. In 1918, Jones’ 10-year-old son, Clifford, was involved in an incident with one of his playmates. The boys were playing in the home’s living room. Clifford reached for his father’s gun and it fired striking his young friend, William Fee. The young friend was mortally wounded and died later that evening in the hospital.

After the Depression hit, Jones struggled just as many did throughout the country. From a friend he accepted a loan using his home as collateral. The friend passed away and the note on Cresthaven passed to Rose Whitney, a sister of the friend. Unable to meet the terms of the loan, Jones was forced to sell the house to Ms. Whitney who moved in with her sister. Since the sale of the house to the sisters, the house has passed through a series of owners. Subsequent owners have used the large house for offices and most recently it housed law offices. The grand edifice is currently for sale.

Some of the earliest stories of paranormal activity in the house date back to the early 1970s. These reports include the sightings of Native Americans on the home’s front lawn, a red-haired maiden and “hanging victims.” There is also mention made of possible séances being held in the house, though there is no record to support that assertion.

The activity that seems more believable (to me, at least) is the activity reported while the house was occupied by law offices for almost 30 years. During that time employees would sometimes open the building in the morning to be greeted by the odor of coffee brewing. The smell of flowery perfume has also been associated with activity.

The second and third floors seem to have hosted much of the activity. One office employee was shocked as her keyboard levitated and a plant bent over. The daughter of one of the partners watched as random letters appeared on the screen of a word processor monitor, though it was turned off. Lights would turn off and on and on one occasion a passerby called one of the lawyers to report that every light in the building was on late one night. When the lawyer opened the building the next morning, not one light was on.

Even more curious is the apparition of a woman. One poor copy machine repairman was surprised to see a woman in Victorian clothing on the third floor. The figure disappeared into a wall. One of the lawyers watched as the silhouette of a woman appeared in a third floor window. He was standing with a group of eight people and all but one saw the shadow.

At some point in the past few decades a story has sprung up to explain this feminine shade. The story states that the elderly spinsters who took over the house after William Jones lost it utilized the house as a bed and breakfast. Among the vacationers staying there was a family named Perkins. The father and his young son went fishing and did not return. The spirit of the wife, Mrs. Aleacon Perkins, is still waiting for her family to return.

Research conducted by members of the GRIM (Ghostly Research into the Metaphysical) Society has found no historical record to support this tragic story. However, the group has compiled an impressive history of house, some of which was used in compiling this profile. So for now, the lady staring into the sunset from the upper windows of the Boston House remains lost in the twilight of history.

Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Grigas, Catherine Enns. “Living History: Boston House Home to Haunting
     Tales.” Indian River Magazine. 21 January 2011.
GRIM Society. “The Historic Boston House.” GRIM Society Blog. 14
     October 2007.
Harrington, Tim; W. Carl Shiver and Brent A. Tozzer. National Register
     of Historic Places Nomination form for the Sunrise Theatre. September 2001.
“Koblegard Theatre Interests Sold.” The News Tribune (Fort Pierce, FL). 3 April
Mattise, Jonathan. “At Sunrise Theatre, things did go ‘bump’ in the night,
     Paranormal investigators said.” Fort Pierce Tribune. 28 September 2009.
Mattise, Jonathan. “Unsettling experiences noted when Florida Ghost
     Team returns to Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce.” Fort Pierce Tribune. 5
     October 2009.
Pincus, J.h. and Michael F. Zimny. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Boston House. 20 February 1985.
“The Restoration of the Sunrise Theatre.” Palm Beach Post. 19 February 2006.
Sunrise Theatre. “History.” Accessed 5 April 2013.