In searching through some old Alabama newspapers I stumbled across this fascinating article from Albany, Georgia. Located in southwest Georgia, Albany ranks as the 8th largest city in the state, though its distance from major interstates has limited its growth. It should also be noted that a non-Georgian can easily be identified by how they pronounce the name Albany. Most Georgian’s know that the town’s name is pronounced as AWL-benny rather than ALL-bany.
In addition to being a damn good ghost story, this article provides fascinating historical details. The article begins by calling on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the great Scottish writer and physician who created the great Sherlock Holmes. Sir Conan Doyle had a fascination with spiritualism and was active in the British spiritualism movement. This article does comment somewhat on the spiritual movement that was sweeping America at this time, particularly with its description of locals gathering to hear these spirit voices.
Even more interesting is the inherent racism and disregard for African-Americans that permeates the tone of this article. Wikipedia provides a summary of how the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois had described the city in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk:
He described it as a typical African-American majority-populated rural town in the Deep South. Du Bois discussed the culture, agribusiness, and economy of the region. Du Bois described Albany as a small town where local sharecroppers lived. Much of the soil had been depleted of nutrients because of intensive cotton cultivation, and people found it hard to make a living. Once a bustling small city with an economy dependent on cotton, it had numerous cotton gins. The planters were dependent on slave labor and Albany had declined steadily in the late 19th century. After the disruption of the Civil War and poor economy of the late nineteenth century, the local agricultural economy suffered. Du Bois wrote that Dougherty County had many decaying one-room slave cabins and unfenced fields. Despite the problems, local folklore, customs, and culture made Albany a notable small city in the South. [from Albany, Georgia]
The Anniston Star
9 June 1922
Page Sir Conan, Georgia City is Haunt of Ghost
Spirit of a Hanged Negro is Making Folk Uncomfortable in Albany, Ga.
ALBANY, Ga., June 9.—(United Press)—Call for Sir Conan Doyle! Call for Mr. Doyle!
Albany has a “spirit” he may commune with to his heart’s content, if he isn’t too high toned a spiritualist to attend the same séance with the ghost of a hanged negro.
Z.T. Pate and his family live in what used to be the Warden’s quarters of an old abandoned jail here. The rear of the building, where years ago, prisoners waited their fate, is now but a shell, bit the ancient warden’s quarter’s [sic] make a comfortable home for the Pates.
Recently while in the rear of his house, Pate said he heard a voice—a negro’s voice—speak clear and distinctly out of nowhere—“Boss, dis rope aroun’ mah neck shore do hurt.”
Pate was startled, but interested. He told others about it but got the usual answer—a skeptical laugh.
Then he invited in a few of his neighbors. They sat in the back room and listened. Nothing happened until they became quiet, the [sic] again the voice from nowhere saluted them.
Now it’s one of Albany’s chief places of interest.
Each night as the Georgia moon sends ghastly shafts throughout the broken windows of the old jail a party of Albanites gather in the Pate’s home and listen. They have not been disappointed yet, Pate says.
The voices will not answer a question. It will ask them and comment upon things said in the room. A person, in a whisper, will say something as a test to one sitting by him. Although no other person in the room can hear what has been said, the strange voice comments intelligently upon what the whisperer has told or asked his neighbor.
The building has been examined throughout for wires and none have been found. Nothing that could be used for a radio receiving set is in the building. Tests have been made to see if a ventriloquist is responsible and the theory abandoned.
Recently two gentlemen of color were taken in the ghost chamber.
“Who is them niggers, Mr. Pate?” the voice demanded.
With terror gripping the negroes, [sic] Pate answered giving their names. The building seemed about to collapse according to those present. Sounds of breaking woodwork of falling furniture and breaking glass were heard. The negro visitors lost only a few seconds in decamping.
There are many here who laugh at Pate’s ghost as it is called but none have solved the mystery of the strange voice yet, and they still come nightly to “listen in.”