This intimate theater, located at 38 Commerce Street, was the brainchild of Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1924. She formed an experimental theater group of local artists in the former brewery and box factory building, which dates back to 1836. Although there have never been any cherry trees along Commerce Street, the theater’s name fosters that notion. The reality is that Millay had named her group “The Cheery Lane Theater” to play on “Dreary Lane,” the nickname of the Drury Lane Theater in London. But a reporter misstated the name as “Cherry Lane,” and that’s what stuck.
Over the years there have been reports of ghosts “performing” at the theater. Sightings include a white mist that forms on the top step of the lobby staircase and a shadowy manifestation that hovers around the hallway outside the dressing rooms. Three former residents of the neighborhood—Aaron Burr, Washington Irving, and Thomas Paine have been suspected as the identity of these phantoms.
Possible ghostly addition to Cherry Lane Theater
Of course, a possible recent addition to the ghostly cast may be the spirit of Kim Hunter, the Oscar-winning actress best known for playing Stella in the stage and screen versions of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954, Hunter moved into an apartment above the Cherry Lane Theater with her husband, Robert Emmett. Kim’s career was derailed for a short time in the 1950s when she was blacklisted by McCarthy as a communist sympathizer. Hunter was no such thing. She was, however, according to her obituary in the New York Times, “feisty” and “occasionally profane,” with “no use for the trappings of Hollywood stardom that had always eluded her.” Hunter was quoted as saying: “The work itself has been my life. I was never in this for jazzy stardom, and as far as that’s concerned, I’ve never had it. Doesn’t matter to me.” Hunter’s husband died in 2000, and Kim Hunter died September 12, 2002. Maybe she was just too feisty for a final bow and stays active near the other love of her life, the stage at the Cherry Lane.
I spoke with Alex, the theater manager at the Cherry Lane, who has worked there for three and a half years. He said he has not experienced anything paranormal there even though he has been in the theater very late at night. He did say, though: “We like to think that the spirit of Edna (Millay) keeps an eye on the place. I always say, ‘God morning, Edna,’ or ‘Good night, Edna.’ when coming or going.
Why not visit the Cherry Lane Theater? You can make a ghostly night out of it and have dinner and a show; the One If By Land, Two If By Sea restaurant (subject of another ghostly tale by L’Aura Hladik) is within walking distance.
Princess Angeline symbol linking the past with the present
This blue-eyed Native American princess was born in 1820 to Chief Seattle, his oldest daughter. She lived out her live in a ten-by-ten shack on the waterfront on Western Avenue just across the street from the Pike Place Market. There Princess Angeline would do carvings and weave baskets for the Ye Old Curiosity Shop on the pier.
Princess Angeline born Kikisoblu Seattle
She was name Princess due to her father’s status, and Angeline was given to her by Catherine Broshears Maynard, the second wife of Seattle pioneer Doc Maynard. Her birth name was Kikisoblu Seattle or Sealth. Princess Angeline married Dokub Cud, who died before the arrival of Euro-American settlers. Princess Angeline gained fame all over the world, for if you ventured to Seattle, you’d be sure to see her frail figure on the streets of Seattle selling her goods.
One of the most popular tourist souvenirs was that of a Native American doll resembling Princess Angeline. She became the symbol that linked the past with the present. Although she died May 31, 1896 at the age of seventy-six, some say she has refused to leave even after he physical death. Yet, as with the forced removal of her people to reservations, she was spiritually bound to her homeland and the she would stay. Treaty or not treaty!
The story of Princess Angeline and many more are found in Ross Allison’s book Spooked in Seattle. Also read our blog on Dutch Nedby the same author.
About the author
Ross Allison is the president and founder of AGHOST (Advanced Ghost Gunters of Seattle-Tacoma) with over twenty years of experience investigating the paranormal. Ross is also owner of Spooked in Seattle Tours. The tours are given by bys, horse-drawn carriage, or on foot. Very popular with tourists, the tours also are attracting locals who want to find out more about the hauntings in the Emerald City.
Born Nils Jacob Ohm in 1828, this Dutchman arrived in Seattle in 1854. Nicknamed “Dutch Ned” by the locals, he was a funny old man who was a bit slow due to a childhood injury. He made his living in the potholes throughout Pioneer Square’s streets with sawdust from Yesler’s sawmill.
Dutch Ned didn’t make much money and lived in a small shack on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Republican Street. His biggest fear was to be forgotten and left to die in his pitiful shack. So he spent most of his hard-earned money on a beautiful stone-and-marble mausoleum at Lake View Cemetery.
Being so proud of his lavish landmark, Dutch Ned would spend most of his spare time reading and hosting picnics from what he called his “little house.” In his later years many of the locals would tease him by stating that when his time had come, they’d just toss his old bones in Potters Fields. Fearing this to be true, the poor old man would spend every spare moment in the parlor of the Bonney-Watson Funeral home, sitting and waiting for God’s angels to carry him away.
The ghost of Dutch Ned roams Lake View Cemetery
In death, he was indeed laid to rest in his mausoleum. But his life-long dream would come to a sad end. In the 1970s his “Little House” had to be torn down as it was falling apart. All that remains is a portion of the marble door where his body lays at rest. Or is he at rest?
Some say that Dutch Ned’s spirit roams the streets of Pioneer Square. Dutch Ned can be seen standing on the corner in his overalls with his shovel in hand. But most of all, he is seen wandering the grounds of Lake View Cemetery as well. It is believed that his spirit won’t rest until he finds his favorite little spot in the world, his “little house.”
Ross Allison is the president and founder of AGHOST (Advanced Ghost Gunters of Seattle-Tacoma) with over twenty years of experience investigating the paranormal. Ross is also owner of Spooked in Seattle Tours. The tours are given by bys, horse-drawn carriage, or on foot. Very popular with tourists, the tours also are attracting locals who want to find out more about the hauntings in the Emerald City.
The village of Azalia, platted in 1931 and believed to be named for the flower, is a short distance south of Columbus on US31. According to local lore the founders had hoped the community would be pure and undefiled, a model of temperance in all aspects.
Unfortunately a young unmarried girl in the community did not live up to the dreams of the founders. She became pregnant, but was able to conceal her sin until spring when the baby was born. Shunned by both her family and the community, she and the baby left the village.
No one knows where she and the baby stayed. Some farmers said they saw them around decaying, abandoned barns. Afraid to enter the town or seek aid from her family, she would scavenge and even steal food to survive.
She must have gone insane. What else could explain what she did with her tiny baby? Not too far from town is the Azalia bridge spanning Sand Creek. Normally, the water should be little more than ankle deep. However, with the melting snow and spring freshets, the creek was running fast and deep with icy cold water. The crazed young mother, holding her baby wrapped in a thin white blanket, stood on the bridge watching the wild currents rushing past. Leaning over the edge, she opened her arms and let the baby fall; she watched as the current carried the bundle away until it was out of sight.
Sometime later a fisherman found the remains of the baby still wrapped securely in its blanket. The haggard mother, wild-eyed, ranting, moaning and crying, was left alone, as was the custom of early-nineteenth-century villages, to wander the countryside and repent. She continue to forage and steal food and found shelter wherever she could, This was a far worse sentence than any court of law could have given.
For many years she lurked around the creek bed and sat at the foot of the Azalia bridge, rocking and wailing. Those who saw her, though frightened, believed she was truly sorry and mourned for the child she had killed.
One day she was seen sitting on the bank, but unlike other times she was not rocking and was silent. She was dead. No one knows who buried her or where. There are those who say if you go to the Azalia Bridge and dare to look over you might see the baby, wrapped tightly in a white blanket, lying at the edge of the water crying for its mother. Wait long enough and you’ll get a glimpse of the desperate, insane mother and her her mournful crying.
Also in Southern Indiana is Story (on State Road 135), read all about the Haunting of Story by Wanda Lou Willis, author of Haunted Hoosier Trails.
Employees and several guests at the Story Inn on State Road 135 know the room at the top of the stairs as the “Blue Lady” room, so named for a spectral visitor who evidently has made it her permanent residence. She’s been seen standing at the edge of the bed, reflected in the window or in the mirror.
One worker who has been employed by the inn for more than ten years saw a metal coffeepot fall off of a cabinet with no one near. She has also seen another ghost in the inn. On her way downstairs to take a call she saw a cream-colored skirt swoosh around a corner. When she reached the bottom of the stairs no one was in sight. There was no other way out.
A picture of an old lady dressed in dark, nineteenth-century clothing hangs on the wall behind the service desk. It seems to have a “life” of it’s own. One of the owners commented to an employee, “She sure wasn’t very pretty.” Suddenly the picture crashed to the floor. The nail was firmly in the wall and the wire was intact!
Encounters of the Blue Lady continue to be reported
The aroma of cherry tobacco often accompanies sightings of the Blue Lady dressed in a floor length gown. Though no one know who the Blue Lady is, the employees have decided she must be one of Dr. Story’s wives, though there is no reason to believe this.
The inn isn’t the only haunted building in Story. Dr. George Story, the town’s founder, built his home on the highest point in the town. Visitors and employees believe his house is haunted. On more than one occasion the housekeeper has been pinched as she cleans the house. She’s also reported lights in the rooms after she’s turned them off and doors opening and closing without anyone being bear them.
This is one of the many stories Wanda Lou Willis shares in her book Haunted Hoosier Trails. If you enjoyed this story visit us again next week as Wanda tells us about the haunting going on at The Azalia Bridge in Southern Indiana.
Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx was founded in 1863. Its 400 acres are easily accessible from Manhattan via trains from Grand Central Station, as well as by car using the Major Deegan (I-87) or I-95. The intention behind the location was to have a peaceful place away from the downtown noise, but not too far away. The original design of the cemetery was based on the “rural cemetery movement” that originated in 1831 with Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston. However, five years after the cemetery opened, its design was changed to a “landscape lawn plan,” which prohibited fences and encouraged central monuments with footstones. The cleaner, more spacious grounds made cemetery maintenance much easier. A few of the 300,000 people interred at Woodlawn are mentioned in this book—people such as the Van Cortlandts, Herman Melville, and Olive Thomas Pickford. Other famous people buried there include George M. Cohan, Fiorello Henry LaGuardia, Nellie Bly, Joseph Pulitzer, and Thomas Nast. For those of you who appreciate retail shopping, F.W. Woolworth, Roland H. Macy, and James Cash Penney are buried there, too.
Woodlawn offers many free events, such as concerts, walking and bus tours, theater performances, and a tree lighting during the holidays. It’s more than a cemetery; it’s a cultural resource for the Bronx. Photography is allowed in the cemetery as long as you stop by the office upon arrival, present a photo ID, and complete a simple form. I recommend you follow the formal steps in case you capture some amazing paranormal evidence and want to share it on your Web site or in a newspaper article. The cemetery grounds are open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the office, where photography permission is secured, is closed on Sundays.
When I first visited Woodlawn, the ground was snow-covered and it was difficult to walk around; some of the drifts were more than three feet high. So I went back in early March of 2010 with Dina Chirico, my team leader at the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society. Dina is a great navigator, which helped tremendously; she read the map and directed me while I drove. The first grave I was determined to find was that of Herman Melville. What writer could refuse the chance to pay respects to one of the greats? I certainly couldn’t. According to the map, Melville’s grave was located in the Catalpa section of the cemetery. We drove over to it and parked.
Dina and I employed a “divide and conquer” strategy to find the grave: she started at one end of the section, and I went to the other. I had my digital audio recorder running the whole time I was searching. I noted on the recording the date, time, and weather; I also took some photos while searching. As I started up a small incline, I saw what appeared to be a baby’s grave. I said into my recorder, “a little . . . it looks like a little baby grave. Born January 2, 1871, died . . . I can’t make out the month . . . seventeenth of 1872.” When I reviewed the recording, right after I said, “looks like a little baby grave,” I heard the voice of a woman whisper, “Yeah.” I know it’s not my voice because I was speaking at a normal conversational volume, and the EVP interjects so closely after my previous word, it’s impossible that I could have said it. I know it’s not Dina’s voice, either; she was so far away from me at the time that she had to yell to ask if I had found Melville’s grave yet. I shut the recorder off so I could yell back to her that I hadn’t. I didn’t know I had captured an EVP until I got home and reviewed the recording.
Dina and I reconvened at my car and reviewed the map once more. She knew we were close to Melville’s grave, and she became even more determined to find it. We started out again, and Dina found it. Honestly, I was expecting a huge monument for someone like him, but it was a simple, modest headstone. Little rocks and trinkets left by previous visitors sat atop the headstone. There was also a handwritten note that said, “Thanks. You changed my life.” Dina and I waited quietly around Melville’s grave for a bit, recording for EVPs. Then we left to find LaGuardia’s grave.
Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. He was a short, rotund man with a high-pitched voice, but full of fire and conviction. He did not like the shame and negative stereotypes the mob had brought to Italian culture. LaGuardia put it best when he said, “Let’s drive the bums out of town.” He had Lucky Luciano arrested, and he went after Frank Costello’s slot machines with a sledgehammer. It was a media event when the slot machines were dumped onto a barge to be taken away from New York City. Dina and I found LaGuardia’s grave much more easily than Melville’s. By then it was getting late, and we couldn’t hang around to conduct an EVP session. Dina took some pictures of the grave before we left the cemetery. Judging by how effortlessly I captured an EVP while walking around Woodlawn Cemetery, I am sure there are more to be found on a return trip. I wonder what Joseph Pulitzer, “father of journalism,” has to say these days.
Haunted Hotels in Kentucky anyone?
A list of haunted hotels in Kentucky as described in Patti Starr’s Ghosthunting Kentucky
Boone Tavern (859) 985-3700
100 Main Street North, Berea, KY 40403
During the past century Boone Tavern has provided cozy lodging and fine dining to many travelers. These features have contributed to the hotel’s heritage of hospitality. Boone Tavern has been visited by many notable guests, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Duncan Hines, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Alex Haley, Dalai Lama, Jesse Stuart, Robert Frost, and Geena Davis. Now you can be a distinguished guest by staying at the Boone Tavern. Reserve your room today by going to the Boone Tavern Web site.
Hall Place Bed-and-Breakfast (270) 651-3176
313 South Green Street, Glasgow, KY 42141
You will find this antebellum house in the historic downtown district of Glasgow. The dwelling offers four spacious guest rooms with private baths. There is a wonderful parlor and library filled with relics and old books. There’s a wonderful Victrola in the corner of the parlor that just might play a song on its own, if the ghosts are active enough. Check out the Web site for weekend specials.
Jailers Inn Bed-and-Breakfast (502) 348-5551
111 West Stephen Foster Avenue, Bardstown, KY 40004-1415
The Jailers Inn Bed-and-Breakfast is a place to enjoy a bit of history and to “do time” in the old jail. Of course your time will be a short stay as you enjoy their Southern hospitality. They offer a full breakfast, private baths, and a complimentary tour through the historic jail. Please check the Web site for weekend specials.
Maple Hill Manor Bed-and-Breakfast (859) 336-3075
2941 Perryville Road, US 150 East, Springfield, KY 40069
Voted “Most Historic Charm in the US” and “Best B&B in Kentucky” and “Best Breakfast in the Southeast.” You will find lots of amenities, which include a full country gourmet breakfast, homemade desserts and refreshments during the day with hot and cold beverages available. Check out the Web site for a variety of weekend specials.
Mullins Log Cabin (859) 322-3082
305 Scaffold Lick Creek Road, Berry, KY 41003
You get closer to nature at the Mullins Log Cabin. Judy Mullins offers workshops in basket weaving and herb picking if you want more to do. There’s so much to enjoy while staying at the cabin, and telling ghost stories by the fireplace at night might conjure up a ghost or two. Call Judy for reservations.
The Old Talbott Tavern (502) 348-3494
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue, Bardstown, KY 40004
The Old Talbott Tavern has provided shelter and nourishment to Kentucky travelers since the late 1700s. It is said that the Tavern is the oldest western stagecoach stop in America. It continues to serve good home-cooked meals and furnish comfort and rest for the weary traveler.
Serving times: Monday–Friday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. (lunch) and 4–8 p.m. (dinner);
Saturday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. (lunch) and 4–9 p.m. (dinner); Sunday brunch, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Springhill Winery and Plantation Bed-and-Breakfast (502) 252-9463
3205 Springfield Road, Bloomfield KY 40008
Springhill, the stately and historic 1857 plantation, is a destination to discover both the historic past and ghostly activity. After a delightful day, what better way to end it than to have a glass of wine from the vineyard. Check out the Web site for weekend packages and special events.
Explore the scariest spots in the Bluegrass State with author Patti Starr in Ghoshunting Kentucky. Join Patti as she visits thirty legendary haunted places, all of which are open to the public – so you can test your own ghost hunting skills, if you dare.
In addition to the above mentioned haunted hotels in Kentucky you go to Bobby Mackey’s Music World, the State Historic Theater and Natural Bridge Resort Park. Enjoy Ghosthunting Kentucky from the safety of your armchair or hit the road using the maps and the ghost hunting travel guide. Book a night in a haunted hotel in Kentucky and get ready for a frightful night.
In the late 1700s covered bridges were being built in small towns all over Kentucky. At one point there were over four hundred of these magnificent wooden, covered passages that provided protection for travelers, wagons, cargo, and cattle as they crossed a river or creek. Of all these bridges, there are only thirteen left, and of the thirteen, only four are still open to vehicular traffic. Most of these covered bridges were lost to fire, burned by troops on both sides during the Civil War. Today, all the remaining covered bridges are listed with the National Registry of Historic Places. Stories are told about the bridges as stages for hanging a slave, or hacking off someone’s head, or losing control of a car and crashing into the water below. There are bridge stories about Civil War ambushes and unwanted babies tossed into the water. Such incidents are the source for many ghost stories.
Facts about the Haunted Colville Covered Bridge
It was built in 1877 by Jacob Bower, and it traverses over Hinkston Creek in Bourbon County. The bridge featured truss construction and a multiple king post style with a single 124-foot span. During this era the Kentucky wilderness was covered with an abundance of poplar trees, so the truss structure was built with poplar timbers. After many years, the bridge was in dire need of repairs and was restored by Louis Bower in 1913. His son, Stock, restored and raised the bridge to its present height in 1937. Sadly, the rough-hewn structure that served its community so well was dismantled in 1997 and had to be totally rebuilt. It didn’t open to traffic again until 2001.
Investigating the Haunted Colville Bridge
Once I had collected my information about this haunted location, Chuck and I drove to the Colville Bridge by the way of Paris Pike, one of the most scenic roadways in the Kentucky Bluegrass Region. This quiet route affords spectacular views of horse farms amidst the historic rock fences that line the road for twelve miles.
A blanket of shadows formed around us as we entered the blackness of night along the country road. We turned off onto a more primitive road, and shortly the headlights revealed a bright white-and-green covered bridge directly before us. We pulled off the road and stopped before entering the bridge. I grabbed my flash light and left the car to go stand in the middle of the bridge. It was a cool October evening with a slight breeze that carried the scent of the water below. There was no moon that night so the only light that brightened my path was the torch in my hand. Chuck called out from the car, “Hey, Patti, don’t go too far, I don’t want to lose sight of you.” I yelled back, “I’m okay, don’t worry about me!” and at that moment I felt a slight touch on my shoulder. I jerked around and flashed the light towards where I was standing. Nothing was there. Just about that time, a set of headlights came up behind me, and as I turned I could see that it was the rest of my investigation team. I had decided to invite Pete Eclov and Mary Beth to join us at the bridge. They were two of my newer ghosthunters and needed to get more experience in the field. I knew their expectations would run high, which, to me, seems to render better results on a ghost investigation. It sure did pay off because we started to get results as soon as we began gathering our data.
After we had discussed some of the bridge legends, which included the teenage couple who drowned under the bridge and Ms. Mitchell, we decided to turn on our EMF meters, recorders, and the Ovilus. While walking down the center of the bridge, our EMF meters started beeping, alerting us to a disturbance in the electromagnetic field. Even though the disruption only lasted for a couple of minutes, we were able to get responses to a few of our yes and no questions. The Ovilus, which indicates energy through reciting words, started to talk shortly after the meters registered. As I lifted the Ovilus up, it spouted out, “Car lights,” and we looked at each other in amazement, since one of the stories involved car lights coming up behind a parked car on the bridge. Then I asked if Ms. Mitchell could come through, and shortly after that question the Ovilus said, “Sarah Mitchell.” This name is not programmed into the vocabulary of the Ovilus, so you can understand our astonishment. Mary Beth said, “Are you here with us, Ms. Mitchell?” Pete decided to rewind his audio recorder to see if we got a response to the question. Sure enough, we heard a woman’s voice clearly answer “yes” to Mary Beth’s question.
I always tell people that I do not have proof that ghosts exist, but I’ve been known to get some pretty convincing evidence. I feel the evidence we collected that night at the bridge was a good indication that the Covered Colville Bridge is definitely haunted and worth the trip to investigate.
After a delicious lunch of pizza at the Monticello Pizza Kitchen, which, by the way, is also haunted, Betty, Lisa, and I headed for Tallahassee and the Knott House Museum just down from Florida’s Old Capitol in the Park Avenue Historic District. The area around what is now Tallahassee has been occupied by various indigenous and European cultures for twelve thousand years. Soon after the United States took possession of Florida from the Spanish in 1821, the Territorial Governor, William P. Duval, laid out the city, and in 1824 it became the territorial and later state capital of Florida. It is a beautiful city. Its rolling hills, wide boulevards, stately buildings, various college campuses, and numerous parks give Tallahassee a genteel ambiance.
And the Knott House with its handsome Greek Revival facade only adds to that atmosphere. The house was built in 1843 by free-black builder George Proctor as a wedding gift for Thomas Hagner and his wife, Catherine. Thomas died in 1848, but Catherine remained in the house and added major additions to the rear. She turned it into a boarding house, presumably to supplement her income. At the end of the Civil War, Union General Edward McCook commandeered the home for his headquarters. He read President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation from the front steps on May 20, 1865. Today a ceremony on May 20 every year commemorates the event.
The Hagner family owned the house until 1883 when they sold it to a Dr. Betton, who maintained his office in the building. Following a succession of owners, William and Luella Knott finally bought the house in 1928. The Knotts were an influential family in Tallahassee. William was variously the state treasurer and comptroller and ran unsuccessfully for governor. Luella, a poet and community volunteer, was a staunch supporter of women’s rights. She homeschooled her three children, Mary Franklin, James Robert, and John Charles (“Charlie”), wrote and published countless poems, and filled her house with the antiques she loved. She also filled her home with poetry, which even today is scattered around the rooms, tied to various items with silk ribbons. Because of that, the house is known as the “The House That Rhymes.”
William died in April 1965 at 101 years of age; Luella fell and died a few days after that. Charlie then moved into his family home, determined to preserve it as his parents had left it. And when he died in 1985, he left it to the State of Florida, stipulating that it be maintained as a museum house. The Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board took charge of the property, and after spending more than one million dollars and several years of preservation and restoration efforts—the restoration team found evidence of earlier fires, which had to be addressed—the museum finally opened to the public in 1992.
Walking through Knott House Museum
Walking through the house is eerie. It is so complete and looks so lived in, I expected to see the lady of the house, Mrs. Knott, around every corner and in every room. There are four thousand books, three hundred pieces of furniture, and fifteen hundred personal items and art work. Books lie open on tables. Personal effects are strewn about. I would not have been surprised to see a steaming cup of coffee sitting on the counter in the kitchen, waiting for Charlie to come in and pick it up. I felt as if I were invading the Knotts’ privacy, as if I shouldn’t be there. But it is a beautiful house and extremely well maintained. Tours in the past used to be self-guided, but are now led by knowledgeable docents. That’s probably a good idea. Betty and her BBGT crew have been through the house many times. In past years, the curator hosted a “Fear Knott” event around Halloween as a fund-raiser. Betty, Lisa, and their team gave presentations and “haunted” tours through the house in the evenings. They also have conducted paranormal investigations in the building and have spent many nights there after the museum was closed. The most frequent experiences reported by BBGT investigators, visitors, and staff are footsteps. They are heard throughout the house. Sometimes they are very heavy like a man’s, and at other times lighter, as if a woman were walking around. They could very well be Charlie’s father, his mother, or Charlie himself. All three had a special passion for the house.
Once in the days when the tours were self-guided, a visitor rushed down the stairs breathless. A staff member was standing at the bottom. The visitor, quite excited, said, “I believe I’ve just seen a ghost!” The staff member, who’d had her own experiences, asked the lady what had happened. “Well, I just went into the first room on the right at the top of the stairs, and there was an older woman dressed in old-fashioned clothes standing there. At first, I thought she was a docent or something, but she just stood there and looked at me. And then she evaporated into thin air!” On several other occasions, visitors have reported seeing people throughout the house who appeared to be visitors as well, only to vanish before their eyes. Perhaps Charlie, his parents, and maybe even his friends are walking the halls. In the past, various staff members have reported items being moved around. Perhaps a book has been taken from a shelf in the library and left on a table somewhere else, pictures rearranged, fireplace tools misplaced, pages of music on the piano turned.
The Knott House Museum is a “must-see”
At the end of each day, the outside doors to the Knott House are closed and locked, of course, but inside doors are always left open to provide air circulation. Often when staff members arrive in the morning to unlock the house, those inside doors are all closed. And passersby late at night have reported seeing lights switching on and off inside the locked and empty house, as if someone was going from room to room.
In the Knott House Museum, Betty and her BBGT investigators have experienced just about every activity others have reported. They’ve also had another experience. During one investigation, Betty and Lisa were sitting downstairs, quietly listening, when they heard humming coming from upstairs. It sounded like a woman softly humming a lullaby to a baby. When they went through every room in the house to try to find the source of the sound, they could hear it everywhere but were never able to identify its location. The Knott House Museum is a “must-see” stop for anyone visiting Tallahassee. The visitor will find the most completely restored nineteenth-century house in Florida, and who knows? You might get to meet Mr. and Mrs. Knott or their son, Charlie.
Enjoy Ghosthunting Florida from the safety of your armchair or hit the road using the maps, the haunted sites travel guide, and the “Ghostly Resources.”
Berry Hill Road – Sleepy Hollow Southern Style A story by Michael Varhola
Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power … The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country. – Washington Irving, ”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Berry Hill Road and the area through which it wends are creepy under the best of circumstances, and it is easy to see how someone visiting them in darkness might conclude they are haunted. In addition, the stretch of country road and the rural thoroughfares branching off it are also home to a number of other reputed paranormal phenomena.
This road does, in fact, have a widespread reputation for weirdness in the Danville area, as my wife, Diane, and I discovered while ghosthunting there the week between Christmas and New Year in 2007. We had gone in search of ghosts associated with the wreck of the Old 97, a train that had derailed in 1903, but nearly everyone we talked to dismissed it and directed us instead to Berry Hill Road.
It was an unseasonably bright, sunny, and warm afternoon as my wife and I headed east on Riverside Drive out of Danville, following the directions we had been given by various people. We had, in fact, spent part of the previous evening drinking martinis with Colie Walker, night manager for the restaurant at the hotel where we had stayed the night, and he had given us an earful about the place. His stories included accounts of ghostly little girls jumping rope near the willow tree under which their bodies were buried; a span dubbed “Satan’s Bridge” where the spectral form of a young man who supposedly hanged himself there has reportedly been seen; a stretch of highway in front of a witch’s house on which cars will roll uphill rather than down; and the slaughtered carcasses of animals hung from trees. It is also reputedly an active stomping ground for the Ku Klux Klan. In short, Sleepy Hollow, Southern style.
Just a few miles past the line for Pittsylvania County, we came to the intersection with Berry Hill Road and turned left. From where it begins at Riverside Drive, Berry Hill Road twists about seven-and-a-half-miles, generally heading southwest, until reaching the North Carolina state line, where its name changes to T. Clarence Stone Highway. In its relatively short stretch through Virginia, however, the road has a markedly distinct character, which became obvious to us almost immediately.
Near its start, a number of other roads lead off in either direction from Berry Hill Road: those to the north generally past older, modest, relatively small houses, and those to the south past larger, more affluent homes and farms. Soon after passing these, however, the road begins to run through dense woodland punctuated by miles-long stretches of devastated-looking blight, mostly on the south side of the road. Periodically, tucked back in the wood line, we could see abandoned, vegetation-choked farmsteads and rutted dirt roads (that probably don’t appear on any maps) twist away into the forest. Many were blocked by makeshift gates emblazoned with signs warning visitors away. To say that the area felt ominous and unwelcoming would be an understatement.
At the intersection with Oak Hill Road, we went north for awhile, and eventually came to a small country church, the first thing we had seen in several miles. We decided not to go any further at that point, and turned around. Approaching the intersection with Berry Hill Road again, we noticed at the side of the road the mangled carcass of a large animal, possibly a deer, with its exposed and bloody ribcage turned skyward.
We continued on Berry Hill Road, and soon after saw, at the left side of the road, a large rock painted with a white cross. Overhead, both in the air and perched on nearby utility poles and trees, an uncannily large number of vultures watched over the place and regarded us as we passed.
At the intersection with Stateline Bridge Road, just past a set of railroad tracks, we went south. We turned past a pickup truck stopped at the three-way stop that was turning onto Berry Hill Road, and I noticed the driver, a white guy with a mustache and baseball cap. As we moved down the road, I saw him make a U-turn and begin to follow us.
As we sped down the road, the creep in the pickup stayed behind us, and after about a mile we broke out of the wood line onto a low concrete span over a river. As we reached the other side of it, we passed a sign welcoming us to North Carolina, and the name of the road changed to Berry Hill Bridge Road. We went about another mile, until we reached an intersection near a farm where we could turn around, and as we did the pickup truck passed us and continued on its way.
Returning to the bridge from the other direction, I was stunned to see that it was completely covered with graffiti, something that while driving into the sun and keeping an eye on my rear-view mirror I had not noticed previously. Colie Walker had described “Satan’s Bridge” as being tagged (an urbanized term for “painted” that, when I explained it to my wife, both baffled and annoyed her). Its location corresponded exactly with the directions Walker had given us, and so it seemed we had found the cursed bridge.
Driving back across to the Virginia side, we went a few hundred yards to a spot where the road widened adequately for me to safely turn off and start to get my equipment ready for a walk back to the bridge. “I’m just going to wait in the car,” my wife said as I started to get out of the vehicle, repeating a mantra that for her was as automatic and unanalyzed as “bless you” would have been in response to a sneeze. The creep with the pickup was on the other side of the river and I would see if he was coming back, so I didn’t argue with her.
Heading toward the bridge along the left side of the road, I could see that the nearby woods were choked and tangled with heavy vine growth and had an almost quintessentially haunted look. I also had a growing sense of unease, and as I came nearer to the bridge I became increasingly aware of a sound like a howling wind, somewhere in the distance, that became more and more audible as I neared the span.
Walking out onto the sunlit bridge, I could hear a low, shrieking noise somewhere in the distance, like a wind ripping through the woods around me. Glancing at the wood line on either side of the river, I could see that it was perfectly still and could not feel so much as a light breeze. It sent a chill up my spine. It would have scared the hell out of me and made me feel like I was standing on the threshold to the netherworld if I’d been there at night, possibly alone, or under the influence.
I quickly walked to the far end of the bridge and, with the light at my back, got some photos. Most of the graffiti I passed seemed to be of the “X loves Y” and “Class of Z” variety, but there were a few pentagrams and devilish epithets mixed in with it. I also saw burnt-down candle stubs lying among the detritus of broken beer bottles on either side of the bridge. No one passed by during my time there, and I was completely alone as I looked down into the swirling ochre water of the Dan River and contemplated where the young man would have hanged himself if such an incident really had occurred here. The low, concrete bridge didn’t look like it would be very convenient for that purpose—and his dangling specter would not have been visible by anyone on or at either end of it—and I wondered if he might not have used one of the trees in the surrounding vine-choked forest. It would have been, in any event, a morose and dismal place to die.
My need and desire to stay at the bridge sated, I trotted back toward the car and we resumed our exploration of the area. Turning back onto Berry Hill Road and continuing southwest on it, we soon reached the point where it crossed the North Carolina state line. Almost immediately afterward, we heard a shrieking exactly like that of a jet engine, pulled over to the side of the road, and looked up, expecting to see an aircraft passing overhead and the noise to fade. There was nothing above us, however, and the noise remained steady for awhile longer before fading away.
We could see that the land across the road was fenced off and make out a small cluster of pipes and utility infrastructure. While we could not see anything that could have been making the great noise we heard, and while no signs offered an explanation for them or the fenced-off area from which they emanated, it seemed pretty obvious that we had stumbled onto some sort of industrial test facility—and that it had accounted for the distant noises I had heard at Satan’s Bridge (a later perusal of maps and satellite imagery, however, did not reveal anything of that nature in that particular area). This new mystery being far beyond our purview, and with the sinister aspect of the neighborhood starting to weigh on us, we decided to leave it unexamined.
Heading back up Berry Hill Road toward where we had started, we made a few more exploratory stops before reaching the highway. We never did see the willow tree Walker had told us about, and we weren’t sure of the exact location to try putting our car in neutral to see whether it would roll uphill. We saw so many dilapidated antebellum houses that we could not be certain which one was reputed to be the lair of the witch. But a couple of hours on Berry Hill Road were enough to convince us that there is probably a good reason for its reputation in the local area – and that we did not want to be lingering on it after dark.