This is the first in a four part Haunted Georgia series of guest blogs by guest blogger Lewis Powell IV.
The city of Savannah has, in recent years, become a Mecca for anyone with an interest in the paranormal as well as becoming a model for cities wishing to take advantage of paranormal tourism. There are so many hauntings within this city it’s easier to just list the whole city. Among the important and very active locations are the Moon River Brewing Company (21 West Bay Street), Bonaventure Cemetery (Bonaventure Road) and the Hampton Lillibridge House (507 East St. Julian Street, private). Originally built as the City Hotel, the Moon River Brewing Company has been the scene of large amounts of activity and investigations by private groups as well as investigators from television shows such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Bonaventure Cemetery, one of the most striking and beautiful burial grounds in the region, is the home to spectral dogs, a ghostly dinner party and many apparitions. Among the oldest homes in the city, the private Hampton Lillibridge House has been known in paranormal circles for the large of amounts of activity that have occurred since its restoration. Singing and dancing slaves, a man in a cape and even some malevolent activity have been experienced here.
2. Spirits of the Camp Creek Disaster
Rain had been falling for most of June 1900 and it was beginning to affect the railroads. On the evening of June 23rd, Old Number 7 carrying 48 souls, was bound for Atlanta, but waited at the station in McDonough for another train to arrive from Columbus. When word reached the station that that train was stalled by a washed out bridge, the Old Number 7 was told to book it towards Atlanta. Before pulling out, the train’s engine remarked, “We’ll either be having breakfast in Atlanta or in Hell.”
The Red Ball Freight sped ahead of the Old Number 7 and cleared the trestle over Camp Creek, a creek that’s usually mild-mannered, though it was swollen this night. The engineer of the No. 7 never could have seen the portion of the trestle that was now missing, having just been washed away and the train plunged into the raging waters of the creek. While some of those aboard died in the initial impact, some drowned and others died in the ensuing fire. Of the 48 souls aboard, only 9 survived. Rescuers pulled the bodies from the wreckage and were laid out in the McDonough town square until they could be taken to one of the two funeral homes, B. B. Carmichael’s or A. F. Bunn & Company. The nine survivors were put up in The Globe Hotel on the square.
As the citizens of McDonough recovered, the spirits from this horrendous disaster have remained. Spirit activity has been reported on the McDonough Square, possibly related to the bodies laid out there. The Dunn House/Globe Hotel (20 Jonesboro Street) now moved just off the square now houses businesses where the survivors recovered. A weeping woman has been seen and heard in the building, someone possibly related to this accident. The building that once housed B. B. Carmichael’s Funeral Home, which handled many of the bodies, is now The Seasons Bistro (41 Griffin Street). While it is regularly home to diners, there are also spirits in this building. These locations and others are described on the McDonough Haunted History Tour sponsored by the haunted Bell, Book and Candle Book Store (45 John Frank Ward Boulevard).
3. Springer Opera House (103 10th Street, Columbus)
Named the “Historic State Theatre of Georgia” in 1976, this 1871 theatre is still home to marvelous theatre and a few spirits. As a former employee, I’m familiar with the odd cold spots, disembodied footsteps, moving objects and the occasional door closing by itself. One employee saw shadow people on a regular basis just outside her office door while an actor friend of mine encountered a playful little girl in one of the hallways who disappeared moments later. The Springer (or “Spranger” as some citizens call it with their Columbus drawls) is most definitely a spirited place.
4. Barnsley Gardens (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville)
The quiet and haunting ruins of the Barnsley Mansion attest to the intense spell of bad luck encountered by this family when they built on a parcel of land that had been cursed by the Cherokee. Godfrey Barnsley started building this Gothic mansion in 1844 and his family was tormented by tragedy after tragedy. The house was damaged by Union troops and then by a tornado in 1906. The estate was abandoned in 1942 until it was recently transformed into the luxurious Barnsley Gardens Resort. The curse has been lifted, though spirits still wander among the beautifully planted ruins.
5. Georgia’s Native American Sites
Georgia contains some marvelous Native American sites and among them are three sets of ceremonial and burial mounds. The Etowah Mounds (813 Indian Mounds Road SW) near Cartersville and the mounds at Ocmulgee National Monument (1207 Emery Highway) in Macon have also had paranormal activity reported with reports from Ocmulgee going back to the early 19th century. Native Americans there reported hearing voices singing and chanting while shadow people were seen flitting around. Similar activity has been reported at the Rock Oven along the Altamaha River near Jesup. There is another mound complex preserved in Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park (205 Indian Mounds Road) near Blakely in Early County, which is fascinating though I’ve not heard reports of paranormal activity there.
The Rock Eagle Effigy Mound (350 Rock Eagle Road) near Eatonton in Central Georgia is a large, bird-shaped effigy constructed of loose stone. While the origins and uses for this mound have been lost to history, all that can be said is that this site is at least a few thousand years old. While not technically haunted per se (I haven’t seen reports of spirits), people do report an odd energy at this sacred site.
The ghosts of Georgia are marvelous and varied. As well, they have been documented in numerous books. I hope that for your next Haunt Jaunt you’ll keep Georgia on your mind.
Lewis Powell IV is the author of the blogs Southern Spirit Guide, which explores Southern ghosts and hauntings, and The Southern Taphophile, which explores Southern cemeteries. A graduate of Columbus, Georgia’s Columbus State University, Lewis resides in LaGrange, Georgia.