Monday, October 20, 2014

Feeling Umbrage for the Upstate—South Carolina

I’m feeling a bit of umbrage for the spirits of the Upstate region of South Carolina. A recent Halloween related article appeared on the website of a Charlotte, NC news station (I’d rather not just call them out) about haunted places in the region. Included with the article is a slideshow of some 43 locations in the region that are purported to be haunted. But that’s all that’s included: a slideshow. The slides show pictures of some of these haunted hotspots with a name and town but no further information. While it’s all fine and good to say a place is haunted, it is a serious disservice to pronounce a place haunted but provide no further information regarding it.

There is a link within the article to a list of haunted places on the website of a local paranormal investigation organization. While it’s obvious that this list is the only source for the locations included in the slideshow what I find so annoying is the fact that the source of the list is the notorious Shadowlands Index of Haunted Places. After briefly comparing the list it became very clear that the paranormal organization’s list was simply cut and pasted from the Shadowlands list.

My problems with the Shadowlands list stems from the fact that it is made of user submitted entries. Someone, anyone can go to the website and submit information on a haunted place. The information submitted is not checked or vetted, it is added to the list and readers often take this information as fact. It is just such shoddy information gathering and publishing that I’m working hard to combat with this blog.

To post information about hauntings in such a willy-nilly manner is not just disrespectful for the spirits which may haunt these locations, but shows a lack of respect for the locations and their history. Reputable sources on this region are not lacking and most are still in print. In fact, the article quotes the author of one of those primary sources. So, a much better list can be provided with a modicum of research.

While my list here is not as lengthy as the news station’s list (they includes over 40 locations), hopefully this list will help to provide a far better alternative. For your consideration, I’m presenting a few of the more interesting—and documented—stories from the region.

Abbeville County

Abbeville, the county seat and namesake for the county, is a fascinating town with a number of hauntings including its historic opera house which I covered a few years back.

Burt-Stark Mansion
400 North Main Street
Abbeville

Sometimes called the “Grave of the Confederacy,” the Burt-Stark Mansion was the scene of the Confederacy’s final council of war; where Jefferson Davis met with some of his cabinet officials and generals following the fall of Richmond and General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The Confederate government was in disarray and its officials on the run through the war-weary South.

Varina, the Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ wife, had arrived at Major Armistead Burt’s elegant Abbeville home in mid-April with her family in tow. She stayed with the Burts for a little more than a week before continuing their journey into Georgia. On May 2nd, Jefferson Davis arrived in Abbeville, stopping by a small cabin on the edge of town, Davis asked for a drink of water from the lady of the house. As he drank, a small child wandered across the porch towards him. The lady pointed at the child, “Ain’t you President Davis.” After he answered in the affirmative the lady nodded at the child, “he’s named for you.”

Producing a small gold coin from his pocket, Davis handed it to the woman saying, “Please keep this for him and tell him about it when he’s old enough.” Davis whispered to Postmaster General John H. Reagan and told him that that was the last coin he had to his name.

Undated postcard image of the Burt-Stark Mansion. Published
by the Echo Novelty Store, Albertype Company.
Soon after, Davis took up residence at the Burt home where his wife had stayed previously. Later that afternoon, the remaining cabinet met in the parlor. It was there that Davis responded, “all is indeed lost,” conceding to the fact that the Confederacy was lost.

The mansion, has been preserved as a museum and due to the nature of the final meeting of the Confederate cabinet is now listed as a National Historic Landmark. Though very little spiritual had been witnessed in the mansion, due to the numerous other hauntings in Abbeville, it was decided to allow a paranormal investigation team to investigate the home in 2007. According to John Boyanoski’s description of the investigation in his More Ghosts of Upstate South Carolina, the team came away with a great deal of evidence.

Members of the Heritage Paranormal team felt the presence of a man in the bedroom where Davis had slept. Moments later, one of the lead investigators witnessed the clear outline of a woman in period dress descending the staircase. Lending credence to his experience, the team’s equipment near the staircase registered some disturbances at the time the investigator saw the woman. In the separate kitchen building, the team detected two spirits, possibly those of slaves.

Sources
Bearss, Edwin C. National Historic Landmark nomination form for Burt-Stark Mansion.
     28 April 1992.
Boyanoski, John. Ghosts of Upstate of South Carolina. Mountville, PA: Shelor & Son
     Publishing, 2006.
Burt-Stark Mansion. “About Us.” Accessed 13 October 2014.

Anderson County

Anderson Municipal Business Center
601 South Main Street
Anderson

Unlike the Burt-Stark Mansion with its flood of history, the Anderson Municipal Business Center is a rather utilitarian government building with little history. The building opened in August 2008 and odd events began to occur less than a year after it opened. The security person in charge of the building—a 15 year veteran of the local police department—began to notice odd things on the security monitor installed in the Anderson credit union office. A white blur appeared on the video and would flit around the room. It returned night after night.



The room was checked for bugs and the camera was cleaned, but the white blurs continued to return. Workers in the office reported hearing odd sounds after hours including knocking and the sounds of furniture being moved. A customer, who supposedly knew nothing of the activity, reported the feeling of being grasped by the shoulder. The activity lasted for a few months, but then petered out by late 2009.

The property has a fairly quiet history, certainly nothing that would explain the odd white blurs that appeared for a period.

Sources
“Ghostly images leave people wondering.” WYFF. 30 October 2011.
Smith-Miles, Charmaine. “Anderson employee to appear on TV’s ‘My
     Ghost Story.’” Anderson Independent Mail. 13 April 2011.

Cherokee County

Ford Road Bridge
Ford Road at Peoples Creek
Gaffney

It was obvious that the killer wanted to play when he called reporter Bill Gibbons of The Gaffney Ledger on a day in early February 1968. He instructed the reporter to pull out three pieces of paper and then gave the reporter directions to find the bodies of two of his victims. The killer even provided the victims’ names. The reporter summoned the sheriff and traveled to the two sites provided by the caller and found bodies at each location. The body of the third victim had been previously found and the woman’s husband had been convicted of the murder. Gaffney had a serial killer on its hands.
 
The Gaffney Ledger headlines, 9 February 1968.
The killer would kill once more before he was arrested. Lee Roy Martin, the killer, was found guilty and sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment. He was killed by another inmate in 1972.

Just below the lonely Ford Road Bridge over Peoples Creek, one of Martin’s victims was found. Her nude body lay on the creek bank with her face in the water. She had been raped and strangled with a belt. Over the years, locals have reported hearing a woman screaming and moaning below the bridge where the body was found. An investigation conducted as part of the filming of Haunted Echoes: The Gaffney Strangler, a documentary that was posted on YouTube, did not hear any screams, just the trilling of bullfrogs in the creek.

Sources
Dalton, Robert W. “Gaffney Strangler terrorized town 40 years ago, murdering
     4 women.” Spartanburg Herald-Journal. 5 July 2009.
Gibbons, Bill. “Search underway here for slayer of 2 women; Tip to newsman
     leads officers to scene.” The Gaffney Ledger. 9 February 1968.
     Carolina. Written and directed by Daljit Kalsi. Posted on YouTube 26 October
     2013.
Johson, Tally. Ghosts of the South Carolina Upcountry. Charleston, SC: History
     Press, 2005.

Greenville County

Herdklotz Park
126 Beverly Road
Greenville

Jason Profit, owner and operator of Greenville Ghost Tours, describes Herdklotz Park in his book, Haunted Greenville, South Carolina, as having “all the ingredients for an active paranormal soup.” The tranquil city park was once home to the Greenville Tuberculosis Hospital which closed in the 1950s after operating for some 20 years. For some time, the building sat abandoned but was then reopened in the 1990s for a brief period of time as part of a prison work-release program.



As with many abandoned buildings of this nature, the building served as a playground for teens and the occasional vandal who would leave with stories of the supernatural there. Of course, the building also attracted the local homeless. It is believed that they may have accidently caused the fire that destroyed the building in November of 2002. The remains of the building were demolished.

But, the spirits have remained. Jason Profit recounts an EVP session that he held on the steps of the old hospital (the building’s foundation remains intact) in 2008. He was able to capture the sounds of what he described as “a busy lunchroom. It sounded like the echoing of voices in a hallway or large room.” He reports that many residents of the neighborhood around the park have witnessed shadow people in their homes and in the area that may be related to the old hospital. In a 2009 report for the local CBS affiliate, WSPA, Profit states, “I would have to say that beyond a shadow of a doubt that Herdklotz Park is one of the most haunted parks you’re going to find in Upstate South Carolina.”

Sources
Cato, Chris. “Greenville County Park Haunted by Hospital’s Ghosts?” WSPA.
     31 October 2009.
Profit, Jason. Haunted Greenville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2011.

Greenwood County

Ninety Six National Historic Site
1103 Highway 248
Ninety Six

Scholars still argue as to how Ninety Six got its odd name, some say it’s that the town was 96 miles from the Cherokee village Keowee (which is incorrect) and some say that it’s a reference to the creeks in the area. Nevertheless, this oddly named village was the scene of a siege during the American Revolution. General Nathanael Greene led his Patriot troops against loyalists entrenched in the village. Despite having far more troops, Greene’s 28-day siege failed to capture the village and Greene withdrew his troops. Perhaps, though, he did leave some spirits behind. Residents living near the battlefield and re-enactors camping on the battlefield have heard voices throughout the site.

Sources
Ninety Six National Historic Site. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 24 February 2011.
Siege of Ninety Six. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 24 February 2011.
Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge
     Publishing, 1997.

Pickens County

Colony Theatre
315 West Main Street
Easley

Ghost stories often grow out of odd bits of natural phenomena. That may just well be the story behind this small town movie theatre in the Upstate. A member of the family who built this theatre in 1948 and owned it until it closed claimed the “ghost” was simply the curtains in the projection room being blown by air from the projector. Though, locals have a different theory: it’s the ghost of a woman who hanged herself on this site before the building of the theatre.



In his marvelous collection of ghost stories from the Upstate region, Ghosts of Upstate South Carolina, John Boyanoski documents the story of a passerby who saw the spirit peering from a window of the empty theatre one night. While driving home to Greenville from a football game in Clemson one night in 1989, the passerby slowed to admire the old, art moderne-style theatre. Looking up, he saw a woman staring out of one of the building’s second floor windows. She didn’t move and she appeared to have a faint glow about her. He continued driving and then turned around to catch a second glimpse. The theatre was quiet and dark. Nothing appeared in the windows. Even after parking and walking around the front of the building, nothing stirred.

At the time of this writing the theatre serves as a church and remains as a landmark along South Carolina 93, through Easley. The theatre is owned by Robinson’s Funeral Home and it plans to maintain the theatre as a local landmark.

Sources
Boyanoski, John. Ghosts of Upstate of South Carolina. Mountville, PA: Shelor & Son
     Publishing, 2006.
Robinson, Ben. “Colony Theater not in danger from Robinson’s expansion.” Easley
     Progress. 16 December 2011.

Spartanburg County

Old Main Building
Campus of Wofford College
Spartanburg

Wofford College, a private, independent school associated with the Methodist Church has about 130 faculty and staff members, 1,500 students and more than a handful of ghosts. The old campus features some noted historic structures including the campus’ centerpiece, the Old Main Building which may have a few spirits flitting about its halls. South Carolina folklorist, Tally Johnson, an alumnus of the school, witnessed Old Main’s legendary “Old Green Eyes” when he was a student. He and another student crept into the auditorium one night and witnessed the odd pair of lights that appear above the drapes over one of the auditorium’s windows. The “eyes” appeared and Johnson and his companion were unable to find a source for the lights.
 
Old Main Building, 2010, by PegasusRacer28, courtesy of
Wikipedia.
The odd, green orbs have not been identified and there’s no apparent explanation. Whatever the explanation, they’re not the only odd activity. The blog of the college’s archives recounts that the spirit of Dr. James Carlisle—one of the first faculty members and president of the school for the latter half of the 19th century—has been seen and heard prowling the halls.

Sources
Brabham, William C. National Register of Historic Places nomination form
     for the Wofford College Historic District. 29 August 1974.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the South Carolina Upcountry. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2005.
Stone, Phillip. “Are there ghosts at Wofford?” From the Archives. 31
     October 2011.

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