Did I See A Ghost?!
I think it’s rather common knowledge than many Southerners love a good story. My grandfather was an expert at telling them- so much so that you never knew what was the truth and what was embellished. And who really cared anyway? Ghost stories are even better.
I think my house is haunted y’all. Seriously. I looked over at the bedside table the other night and my lipgloss went flying off the table. It didn’t just roll off, and the floors aren’t uneven right there. Just- sailing right on off. And there are times when I know I’ve left the house with the lights on but when I return they’re off- I even have a witness to that! AND the speed on my record player gets changed in between albums, without me doing it.
But that’s not the first time I’ve experienced this. The house I grew up in had a ghost. It didn’t play tricks, but I would see it circling above me even as a child, giving me a peaceful feeling, and sparkling above me. I was never scared.
I’m not the only one who has such experiences. Within just a few mile radius of my home there’s all kinds of ghost stories. I live in the College Hill Corridor in Macon, Georgia and there are a number of historic homes in my neighborhood and those around me.
One such home is the Cannonball House, so named for the cannonball that hit – without exploding – the house during Stoneman’s Raid. I had the chance to speak with Jessie Whitehead, Guest Services Coordinator for The Cannonball House, who said “who hasn’t had spooky experiences here?!”
“We were in the upstairs office one night, and we heard footsteps coming up the stairs. We think it was The Judge,” said Whitehead. The Judge being Asa Holt, original owner of the home.
Nicole Thurston, Executive Director at the house, said, “I usually hear The Judge doing a [knocking] sound on days that are significant to him.”
Wait. Significant to him?
“Well, his birthday is October 30th,” she said. “The day before Halloween.”
I’ve even had my own odd experiences at the Cannonball House. Mostly a feeling of panic in the back brick building, which some mistake for slave quarters but is actually the original kitchen. And this is when Joel, Jessie’s husband came in and told me that kitchen servant Cora appeared to him during their Beards, Bourbon, and Bacon fundraiser- none too happy during the event.
“She was not happy about the bourbon being in her kitchen,” he said.
Just up the road from me is the stately Hay House, referred to sometimes as The Palace of the South. There are whispers of ghosts in themansion, but no one will confirm them for me on record. But I’ve been told you can hear footsteps behind you and children crying in the nursery.
While there are many stories of ghosts in my antebellum hometown, probably the scariest place is about 45 minutes from here. Even as a child I can remember my older relatives saying if we didn’t act right they would “send us to Milledgeville”. Milledgeville was once the home of the state’s largest mental hospital: Central State Hospital. Originally known as Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum, the facility opened in 1842.
According to an article in Atlanta Magazine: “The hospital outgrew its resources; by the 1950s, the staff-to-patient ratio was a miserable one to 100. Doctors wielded the psychiatric tools of the times—lobotomies, insulin shock, and early electroshock therapy—along with far less sophisticated techniques: Children were confined to metal cages; adults were forced to take steam baths and cold showers, confined in straitjackets, and treated with douches or ‘nauseants’.”
One has to wonder how much of an impact the hospital had on famous Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor, whose family farm Andalusia was nearby. Jessie from the Cannonball House even told me Central State housed Macon’s most famous murderess: Anjette Lyles. Anjette owned a popular Macon restaurant when she was arrested for the murders of two husbands, a mother-in-law, and one of her daughters by arsenic poisoning.
So of course, in the “spirit” (get it?) of Halloween I thought I would go and check it out for myself. Finding one’s way around can be difficult if you aren’t familiar, as GPS takes you to a random building. Luckily, I had a friend with me to tag along. It’s no small wonder “The Originals”, a spin off series from The Vampire Diaries, was filmed here. Many of the buildings are empty, and the first one had vines around it. I would walk up to some of the broken windows to take a peek inside- a cold, stale air blowing from them. Surely they don’t keep the air conditioning on in an abandoned building?!
From here we drove around some more, finding the graves of former patients. No names on the small markers: only numbers. It was here that we also found a statue which had been erected in memory of the thousands reported to have died on the grounds.
Broken crystals laid at the base of the statue, and as I wondered aloud about them my friend said they were likely tied to some kind of ritual. A shattered mirror was not far away, and I swear to y’all one of my ears started to get hot and ring.
My friend made fun of me but as we found our way to another abandoned building the skies became dark and one lone dark cloud hovered above. Suddenly, a cool chill in the air when it had been humid before.
It was at that same time that a strange, hazy fog appeared as a cloud in front of the same building- just hampering my attempts to get a great shot in. Once we got back into my car the dark cloud was gone, nowhere to be seen in sight, and the cold air nowhere to be felt.
Did we experience ghosts at the hospital? I’m not sure, but something tells me this won’t be my last time with the spirits of the past. Just in case, I’m telling the ghost in my own home that I want to be friends!
Molly McWilliams Wilkins is the Digital Content Editor for The Southern Weekend. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for her website: Southern Bon Vivant.