Haunted places open a doorway to a harrowing unknown — unexplained mysteries, terrifying ghostly encounters and paranormal entities clinging to their former lives. These apparitions lurk unseen, laying a dark, perturbing blanket over the atmosphere, heavy enough to keep you up all night. Some of us spend the month of October searching for this bone-chilling thrill, while others of us play it safe and just trick-or-treat. But, for those brave souls who celebrate Halloween seeking terror-filled, hair-raising scares, we bring you just a few of the most haunted spots in the South, searching for places outside of the typical ones thought of in New Orleans, Savannah and St. Augustine. These are not for the faint of heart. Read on, if you dare …
Wheatlands Plantation — Sevierville, TN
At Wheatlands Plantation, there is good reason for the hauntings — more than 70 people were murdered in the house, battles during the Revolutionary War and Civil War were fought there, it is estimated that 28 Cherokees were killed at the Battle of Boyd’s Creek (which runs adjacent to the property) during the Revolutionary War, and there are approximately 69 slaves and two Revolutionary War soldiers buried on the property. That is a lot of death associated with this one house.
As the story goes, you might spot blood stains in the home’s parlor. After the owner of the estate left Wheatlands Plantation to her grandson, his jealous father confronted him and in turn was murdered by his son with an iron poker. Although the floors have been cleaned numerous times, the bloodstains keep returning.
Tennessee State Prison — Nashville,TN
Located just minutes away from downtown Nashville, the Tennessee State Prison closed its doors in 1992. You might recognize it as the setting for movies such as The Green Mile, Ernest Goes to Jail and The Last Castle, but it is more widely known for its prison breaks, riots, fires and the inhumane conditions. Built in 1889, the prison has a rich history. The capital punishment facility housed the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Johnny Cash played for inmates in 1968; more than 100 prisoners were executed using “Old Sparky” (the state electric chair); and 800 cells were built and soon overcrowded.
There’s not just one ghost that haunts this old prison. Instead, the voices and footsteps of all those whose lives were taken by “Old Sparky” have been heard roaming the halls. While tours are no longer available of the prison due to its declining state, the Tennessee State Prison Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the building. You can follow the preservation efforts here, and you can take a peek inside by watching this drone film. It’s likely best to observe it from afar!
Bell Witch Cave — Adams, TN
All because of a land dispute, Kate Batts (a neighbor of John Bell and also known as the “Bell Witch”) promised to haunt John and his descendants — and that she did. Betsy Ball, John’s daughter, was tormented by the Bell Witch during her childhood, but the witch could be felt by all. Even Andrew Jackson was quoted as saying, “I had rather face the entire British Army than to spend another night with the Bell Witch.”
It is believed that after John Bell died of a strange illness and the Witch threatened Betsy against marrying Joshua Gardner, the neighbor boy she loved, the Witch retired to what has become known as the Bell Witch Cave — perhaps the very place that allowed her to enter the world.
Sloss Furnaces — Birmingham, AL
In the years following the Civil War, Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces became the mecca of pig iron needed for thousands of steel products around the country. This industrial boom coupled with the city’s seemingly overnight transformation into a metropolis unfortunately came at a cost. In the early 1900s, James “Slag” Wormwood, foreman of the graveyard shift between sunset and sunrise at Sloss Furnaces, led a group of over 100 workers who lived in cramped housing on the furnace site, forcing them to take dangerous risks in order to speed up production. During his reign, a total of 47 workers lost their lives and numerous others lost their ability to work due to horrific accidents, including an explosion that left six blind. The rumor is that workers, fed up with their daunting and dangerous nights, fed Slag into the furnace in October of 1906.
After his disappearance, workers continuously complained of an “unnatural presence” in the worksite, and some complained of being pushed from behind or being told by a mysterious voice to “get back to work.” Three supervisors were even found unconscious and locked in a small boiler room, only to emerge with stories of a seemingly burned man who shouted at them to “push more steel.” There have been more than 100 reports of suspected paranormal activity at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham Police records, and it has even been named one of Fox’s Paranormal Team’s Scariest Places.
Bill Sketoe’s Hole — Newton, AL
Bill Sketoe, a short story subject in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, is reported to haunt the bridge over the Choctawhatchee River in Newton, Alabama. During the Civil War, Bill was the victim of a lynching for reportedly hiring a substitute to fight for him through the war while he came home to take care of his sick wife. Although he denied the charge, he was hung from the bridge, but being that he was a tall man, a hole had to be dug beneath his feet. To this day, the hole has not and cannot be filled. Many have reported putting debris or trash in the hole to find it perfectly cleaned out the next day. You can visit Bill Sketoe’s hole and grave this Halloween in Newton.
Albright Hall at Queens University of Charlotte — Charlotte, NC
As legend has it, a young woman headed off to college at Queens and discovered that she felt … something she’d never experienced before: An attraction to other women. She soon found herself involved in a romance with a fellow co-ed. Bearing mind this was at a very different time quiet a long time ago, when her parents learned of her illicit affair, the girl slit her wrists out of shame. As she lay dying on her bed, she reached up and with the last of her strength smeared “JULIE,” the name of her lover, on the wall in her own blood. Ever since then, strange bumping and banging sounds have been reported in the dorm, some residents even claiming the dead girl’s spirit still wanders the halls, blood dripping from her cut wrists. A few students have also claimed to see “JULIE” smeared in blood over their beds.
St. James Hotel — Selma, AL
Located just an hour away from the Gaines Ridge Dinner Club and built in 1837, the St. James Hotel is one of the oldest operational facilities in Alabama. During the Civil War, soldiers used the hotel as a place to discuss battle strategies, and when the Battle of Selma took place, the entire town of Selma pretty much burned to the ground, but the St. James Hotel remained standing. After the Civil War ended, a man named Benjamin Sterling Tower became the new owner and allowed a group of outlaws, led by the famous gang leader, bank robber, train robber and murderer Jesse James, to stay at the hotel one night. Several guests have reported seeing the spirits of Jesse James and his girlfriend, Lucinda, as well as a man fully dressed in clothing from the 1800s in rooms 214, 314 and 315. Lucinda, a lover of the scent of lavender, allegedly leaves the lovely scent in her path, alerting guests to her presence. James’ black dog also haunts the halls of the hotel, as evidenced by guests accounts of incessant barking with no dog in sight. You can book a room at the St. James Hotel today, and if you’re brave enough, request room 214, 314 or 315.
Windsor Hotel — Americus, GA
Welcome to Americus, Georgia — home to approximately 17,500 residents and located about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Now known as Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel, the business was originally built in 1892 to attract winter visitors from the north. The Victorian hotel has become somewhat of a local celebrity, hosting former President Jimmy Carter and being featured on a slew of local and national television programs, magazines, newspapers and websites.
Perhaps what beckons the attention is the many strange sightings that have been reported at the Windsor. Legend says there’s a ghost of a little girl, the daughter of a former housekeeper, who runs laughing at night. She and her mother, who lived at the hotel at the time, were pushed down the elevator shaft in the early 1900s. The hallway, and other areas of the hotel, have been examined by ghost hunters, and the readings of the area were off the charts, as well as the overall feeling of ickiness the ghost trackers felt while analyzing the establishment.
The Drish House — Tuscaloosa, AL
According to The Lineup, Tuscaloosa’s Drish House has officially been named the most haunted place in Alabama. It was built in 1937 by John R. Drish over a 450-acre plantation. Apparently Dr. Drish, who loved gambling and drinking, died in 1867 from falling down a stairway while drunk. His wife, Sarah became obsessed with planning her husband’s funeral so much so that it became an overly elaborate event. She even kept the candles from his funeral with the intense hope that they be used at her own funeral. When she passed in 1884, her family searched the house endlessly to find the candles, but could not. This is said to have angered Sarah so much that she has come back to haunt the house even allegedly causing a fire in the third-story tower by lighting the candles. The Drish House has been featured in the short story “Death Lights in the Tower” in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s popular book of ghost stories, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. The Drish House is now a venue for receptions and events.
The Train Trestle at The Parklands of Floyds Fork — Louisville, KY
For generations, the legend of the Pope Lick Monster — a creepy half-man, half-goat that lures unsuspecting adrenaline junkies onto a dangerously high railroad train trestle — has been haunting Louisvillians. But who is this Goatman? The tall-tale rumors spun to explain his existence are almost as good as the prospect of spotting him: he’s a ghost who used to be a circus sideshow act; he’s the unnatural creation of a demented farmer and his livestock (ewww); or he’s the ghost of a Satanic farmer who used to sacrifice goats. No matter which folktale you believe, the legend of the Goatman continues to lure people across the nearly 100-foot-high bridge in the hopes of a chance encounter with this freakish demon. Sadly, in April, a true tragedy occurred when a ghost hunter from Ohio was struck by a train and thrown from the bridge to her death. Clearly, the mystery of the Pope Lick Monster still haunts the tracks near Fisherville in the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork. Technically the bridge and railroad tracks are private property, so it’s best (and safest) to try to view the Goatman from the safety of the ground below.
Hay House — Macon, GA
Georgia has such a rich history of distinguished homes, it’s hard to make a dent in the pack. But Hay House, located in Macon and declared a national historic landmark in 1974, has done just that. The 18,000-square-foot mansion has been home to just two families in its entire existence, but its existence isn’t so rosy. Staff, workmen and visitors have reported hearing odd sounds, problems with lights and doors and seeing odd figures. In fact, Architectural Digest included Hay House as one of the “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations Around the World.” Whether you love Italian Renaissance Revival architecture or spotting a ghost or two, make sure to visit this gorgeously chilling estate.
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