Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
“Island Hotel Ghost Stories.” Island Hotel and Restaurant. Accessed 12
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
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.
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
Miles, Jim. Civil War Ghosts of Central Georgia and Savannah. Charleston,
SC: History Press, 2013.
West Fourth Street at Market Street
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
Toncray, Marla. “Hayswood sale plan halted.” The Ledger Independent. 26 April
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
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.
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
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.”
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
Stagville. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 December 2014.
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
Carmichael, Sherman. Eerie South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History
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.” Examiner.com
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
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.
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
Wheeler, W. Bruce. “Knoxville.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and
Culture. 25 December 2009.
19484 Brandy Road
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.
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.
Transcend Paranormal. “Transcend Paranormal: Graffiti House Light Anomaly.”
YouTube. 18 November 2011.
West Virginia Turnpike
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.
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
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.
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.