Where the past meets the present in Georgia’s Lake Country
Story & Photos by KRISTI HALL
s the leaves begin to fall and the cold air creeps upon us, is it easy to tell that autumn is approaching, and with it Halloween. Soon trick-or-treaters will be out and about and haunted houses, complete with fog machines, fake blood, and disturbing reenactments, will be open for another season. While these shows are indeed amusing, the interest in true hauntings, the stories of forces that some argue to be nonfiction, have a more terrifying edge to them. There is just something about a ghost tale that makes it more spine-chilling when there is a chance the story is not a tale, but rather a perspective that the past is here in the present. Although there is certainly speculation as to whether or not spirits and ghosts exist, those who don’t believe sometimes can’t help but show slight curiosity. Lake Oconee’s surrounding cities are no stranger to these paranormal occurrences; each town is full of their own history and with that, comes their own hauntings. Madison is known across the nation as one of the best small towns in America, but what some residents and visitors might not know is that Madison is considered a paranormal magnet here in Georgia.
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Heritage Hall, an imposing mansion on South Main Street, is a tourists’ playground. Now maintained by the Morgan County Historical Society, it is also the place where some believe the ghost of Virginia Nisbet resides. The home was built in 1811 and purchased in 1830 by Dr. Elijah Evans Jones, Virginia’s father. Virginia and her newborn baby died in 1851, probably due to complications of child birth. The room where her presence has been reported is now called “The Ghost Room” of the house. “Part of the reason we call it The Ghost Room is because numerous people have walked in the room and described a strange feeling. Some visitors say they have actually seen Virginia’s ghost lying in the bed,” said Ruth Feliks, director of Heritage Hall. “However, the most important reason the name was developed is because there is an etching of a woman on the bottom of the fireplace. The figure is believed to be Virginia holding her baby. In the past there have been many efforts to sand the image away but each time it returns just as clear as it was before.” There have also been instances in Heritage Hall where people have said other strange things have happened. One lady experienced a mirror randomly flying off the wall. Former
Heritage Hall, home to the Morgan County Historical Society, is said to still bear the presence of former resident Virginia Nisbet, right, who died during childbirth there in 1851.
employees have also seen a woman who resembles Virginia standing at the top of the staircase. Marguerite Copelan, President of the Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, witnessed one man’s encounter with Virginia. “I was in Heritage Hall one afternoon when a married couple arrived to tour the home. The pair walked into separate rooms while I stood in the middle hallway,” said Marguerite. “I could hear the man mumbling to himself but I didn’t think much about it. A few moments later the man exited the room and looked rather frightened. He asked me where his wife was I told him that she was in the room across CONTINUED ON PAGE 10
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the hall.” The man turned pale and explained to Marguerite there had been a woman in the room with him that he thought was his wife. “She was rubbing my shoulders and having a conversation with me,” he said. However, the room, which happened to be The Ghost Room, had been completely empty other than him. “Needless to say, he and his wife left the house in quite a hurry,” said Marguerite. Lucy Monahan and her husband Tim purchased a home, also on Madison’s South Main Street, in 1984. The two, along with their children lived in the home. “Strange things started happening as soon as we moved in,” said Lucy. “Several times I was alone in the house and would hear children laughing in the other room.” The family had been living in the home for about a week when their daughter, who was 6 at the time, had her first encounter with a ghost. Nisbet’s room is now the ‘Ghost Room’ at Heritage Hall and is visited frequently by visitors who want to see the ‘etching’ on the fireplace, below. No matter how many times the fireplace has been sanded away, an image of a woman cradling her baby always returns.
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“She was upstairs playing in her room one afternoon. She came running down the stairs and said ‘Mommy! An old lady walked in my room, smiled at me and walked right out of the window,’” said Lucy The Monahan’s house had been built around 1890 by Susan and Peter Walton. The Walton’s had six children and Susan, who some called “Aunt Susie,” was known in town for loving children and being a very generous woman. The Monahan’s believe Aunt Susie is one of the ghosts who lived in their home. “The ghosts were always very friendly. I think this is because Susie was so happy we had children around. It was as though she helped watch over them,” said Lucy. “When I would lie down at night to go to sleep I could hear footsteps of someone walking down the hall… It was like she was checking on the children before they went to sleep.” The ghosts also saved the Monahan’s home and possibly their lives. “My husband was a pilot so sometimes he would work at night. One evening the kids and I were in
a room watching television, all of the sudden we heard this huge, loud bang coming from the hallway. Our dog, a black lab started growling. All the hairs on his body stood straight up. When I leaned down to touch him a spark of electricity, which was visible to the eye, shot from my finger tip to his nose. It was bizarre. When the children and I would touch each other we could feel the electricity. It was in the air.” Lucy and her children were understandably hesitant to go into the hallway so they sent the dog. When they followed behind him they saw something lying on the floor, in the middle of the hallway. As they walked closer, the wooden object became clearer. The random object turned out to be the top part of an antique bedpost. At this point the Monahan’s had been living in the home for years. They had never once seen the bedpost before nor did they have any clue where it came from. “The dog went over to it and started barking. When he got close, another spark
shot from the bedpost to his nose. We went to bed and didn’t move the wood piece. When my husband came home later that night I told him about what had happened. He went downstairs to check things out. When he reached for the bedpost piece he noticed a strange smell in the air.” Mr. Monahan went into the basement and checked the furnace. “It was in flames and about to catch the house on fire,” said Lucy. “Thank goodness Tim went to check on the bedpost, if he hadn’t we would have never known about the fire.” The Monahan’s lived in the house for about 12 years before moving. Over the years the family experienced countless occasions when the presence of a different force was at hand. One instance was when Lucy had placed a table cloth in the drier. Later, she went upstairs to get the cloth out. When she did, the table cloth was laying in the drier, neatly folded from corner to corner. Lake Oconee’s neighboring college CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
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Long-rumored to be haunted, former residents of this Madison home experienced numerous paranormal activities during their 12-year stay.
town, Milledgeville has its own haunted history. Dr. Bob Wilson, a professor of History at Georgia College & State University is also the University’s Historian. He is known as the town’s “go to guy,” when it comes to ghost stories. According to him, there are three buildings in Milledgeville that he said, “Could really have something going on.” Wilson, who is a self proclaimed skeptic, said he has experienced some events that could cause him to sway his disbelief. The episodes he was referring to, took place in the University’s Harrison House. The Harrison house is used to for institutional research by GCSU but at one time, was home to Mary Virginia Harrison. Harrison is described by those who knew her, as an “exotic beauty.” She had a very distinct look and was known for being quite popular with the men she encountered. Harrison graduated from Georgia State
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College in 1946 and moved away from the Milledgeville area. It wasn’t until later, after the death of her second husband, that Harrison came back to the area and lived with her mother. After a few years, when Harrison was 54, she committed suicide in the backyard of her home. It was at the Harrison house that Wilson first noticed suspicious activities. He was moving his office into the house when it all began. “It was about 11 o’clock at night. I was alone in the house and putting books onto the bookshelves in one of the rooms. There were three doors in the room, which was originally a bedroom. All of the sudden, the three doors slammed shut — boom, boom, boom, they went,” said Wilson. “There was also a time when the strong smell of perfume took over the room, it left and the returned again.”
WE GO PLACES OTHERS CAN’T. PORTABLE FLOATING DREDGE Move silt up to 800’ from dredge site! Sanford Hall is the second building Wilson mentioned. This residential hall was built in 1938 and is where people say the building’s ghost bled to death on the top, unused floor. In 1952 a girl who everyone called Cookie was found severely bleeding on the day of the school’s spring dance. She was covered with gashes on her body. Cookie’s death, although there is debate, is generally considered suicide by those who tell the story. Since her death, there have been continuous stories of doors opening and closing, and strange noises coming from the top floor. One student came forward and said she actually saw the ghost of Cookie and was able to pick out Cookie’s picture in an old yearbook. The Walker House in Milledgeville is also known for unusual commotion. In the 1800’s Sam Walker moved from Putnam County and remodeled the house. Sam, who later became the mayor of Milledgeville, had two children, Joel and
Alice. Joel was in school at Mercer University and had returned for summer break. “There was an outbreak of meningitis at school and it is possible that Joel had contracted the disease and brought it home,” said Wilson. “However, Sam had plans for Joel that break; he wanted Joel to work.” When Joel explained that he wasn’t feeling well, Sam thought he was attempting to relieve himself of the chores. He didn’t take the complaints too seriously. Joel became more ill and very dehydrated. It is said that Joel was standing at the top of the steps in the house when he collapsed and died. Sadly it was not just Joel who became victim to meningitis. According to “The Life and Times of Mayor Samuel R. Walker” by James C. Turner, both Alice and Sam’s wife, Molley, also lost their lives to the disease that same week. Since then,
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Mary Virginia Harrison, above and right with her parents, committed suicide in the backyard of her Milledgeville home. Today, strange occurrences keep people guessing as to whether or not Harrison still visits her childhood home.
the house has been reconstructed and turned into a duplex where mostly college students live. “Several people who have lived in the old Walker house believe it is haunted. They say doors open and close randomly and that footsteps can be heard throughout the house,” said Wilson. “One night a woman who lived on the second floor, in the room across from Joel’s, heard what sounded like cannon balls being dropped on the floor. The house had just recently turned into a duplex at this time so she was the only resident. The lady said there had been several instances when she believed there to be a ghost in the house, but that this was the first time she was truly scared.” While it is still uncertain who the Walker House ghost is, most assume it is either Joel or Sam. However, there was an instance with another former resident that makes it
seem as though Sam’s daughter, Alice, haunts the house as well. A teacher at GCSU lived in one of the rooms with her young daughter. One day the daughter told her mother, “I don’t want to play with her anymore,” referring to the girl’s new invisible friend she had met in the duplex. It could be presumed her daughter had developed an imaginary friend. On the other hand, it is coincidence that Alice Walker was only 10 years old when she died. Greensboro’s town historian Joel McRay knows of several homes in Greensboro that are said to be haunted. As a matter a fact, he actually lives in one of these houses. McRay lives in “Hopewell Haven,” which he named after the ship that brought his ancestors to America. “My house has its own ghost pet,” said McRay. “I am not sure if the animal is a cat or dog, but it has been seen on many
Behind the circular window on the unused top floor of Sanford Hall on the GCSU campus, a student allegedly committed suicide in 1952. Today, students living in the dormitory continue to hear strange noises coming from the top floor.
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The Walker House in downtown Milledgeville is home to one of the town’s oldest reported ghosts. Former mayor Sam Walker, ‘the meanest man in town,’ allegedly still walks the halls mourning the loss of his wife and two children, victims of an outbreak of meningitis in the late 1800s.
occasions and people sometimes trip over it.” It is not just ghost animals that wander in Hopewell Haven. “One night I was sitting at my kitchen table talking to a friend. I turned around there was a man in a black, turn-ofthe-century suit. He was propped against the door way,” said McRay. He believes the ghost is the man who built the home, Peter Printep. This is not the only time Mr. Printep’s ghost had been seen either. McRay said his mother, who lived
with him, saw the ghost several times in the back hall. Peter Printep is not the only ghost who has been seen at Hopewell Haven. One afternoon, McRay was entertaining and had guests over. One of his friends approached him and said there was a young, pretty girl in the front hall who was wearing an antebellum dress. CONTINUED ON PAGE 16
Did You Know?... Madison is listed on numerous websites as one of Georgia’s haunted locations and is also featured on two episodes of Ghostvillage Radio’s Ghost Chronicles. The episodes, which take a closer look at Heritage Hall, Rose Cottage, and the Restaurant Town 220, can be heard on the Ghost Village website (www.ghostvillage.com episodes 57 and 50).
From the book True Ghost stories of Georgia: In The Eatonton Messenger in 1960, Louise Hunt is quoted as telling the postmistress, “I first saw Sylvia when I was sitting here in the library. I looked up and saw this beautiful girl leaning over the banister of the stairs and laughing at me. I jumped up and said, “Who are you and how dare you laugh at me in my own house?” She laughed at me again and then came gliding through the room, still laughing, and disappeared into thin air.” READINGS: True Ghost Stories of Georgia by Barbara Duffey Ghost Reflections by The Ghost Lady White Columns In Georgia by Medora Field Perkerson Is your house haunted? Learn more about “Signs that your house is haunted” at http://paranormal.about.com/od/ghosthuntinggeninfo/a/aa060704.htm
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“He asked me who she was, but I didn’t have an answer,” said McRay. “There was no one at the gathering dressed like that. My friend said he had spoken to the girl and she just smiled and turned away.” A different night, McRay was upstairs in his room reading. He heard the sound of glass shattering downstairs. “It sounded like someone had smashed though the window, I called the police immediately,” said McRay. When the police arrived, no broken glass could be found anywhere. “It is weird instances like this, which make me believe my house is haunted. There is no other explanation for these events.” McRay also believes there are additional homes in Greensboro that could be haunted; Early Hill is one of these. The former plantation was built in the1700`s and is said to be haunted by the young daughter of past owners. The girl died unexpectedly when the
branch she was swinging from in the backyard, broke. People who lived in the house said they could clearly hear a young girl singing from upstairs even though no one was there. Some say there have been occasions when the young girl has been seen swinging from the tree at night. “It has also been mentioned that you can see strange reflections in the mirrors; like the girl getting her hair brushed by her mother,” said McRay. “There have also been times when the vision of an elderly woman has been seen rocking on the front porch. As soon as you approach the steps, she disappears and the chair continues to rock.” Eatonton also has its share of famous forces as well. Sylvia, the ghost of a young woman is said to reside in a home outside of the town’s square. Some say Sylvia was first noticed by Mr. and Mrs. Hunt. The two bought the mansion in 1891 and named it Panola Hall. Mrs. Hunt wrote a poem about Sylvia which was later published with other
The spot in the backyard of her home in downtown Milledgeville where Mary Virginia Harrison took her life in the late ‘70s.
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poems, after her death. According to True Ghost Stories of Georgia, by Barbara Duffey, Mr. Hunt would even read the poem to visitors of the house. In the book, Duffey explains that Mrs. Hunt at first didn’t tell her husband about the ghost. It wasn’t until an out of town guest visited the Hunts that Sylvia’s presence seemed undeniable. The man who was visiting met Sylvia, not knowing she was a ghost, on the staircase of the house. He described her as a striking woman with a rose placed in her long dark hair. The man later joined the Hunts for dinner and asked why the young lady wasn’t accompanying them. It then became clear that he had met Panola Hall’s ghost, Sylvia. The man was so infatuated with Sylvia that it is said that his last wish was “to be buried with a copy of Sylvia’s poem in his hand and placed just above his heart.” Because Mrs. Hunt was unsure what the name of the ghost was, she chose to call her Sylvia, after a popular song at that time. Because it is still uncertain where exactly the ghost came from, the name Sylvia has stuck. It has been speculated that she is the spirit of one of the Trippe daughters. The Trippes, who built the house in May of 1836, had two daughters, Mary and Louisa. Perhaps the ghost is one of them. It is also rumored that another young lady, a friend of the Trippe daughters committed suicide by throwing herself off the second floor balcony because her lover, a confederate After seeing an solider was killed. This would explain why Sylvia is usually apparition in Sanford Hall, a student seen near the stairwell. at GCSU in Milledgeville was able to identify ‘Cookie,’ standing center, from this old yearbook photo. ‘Cookie’ bled to death on the top floor of the dormitory on the day of the spring dance in 1952.
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Published on Sep 3, 2008