The Golden Triangle is an institutional hub, but restless spirits of Native Americans, Civil War soldiers and slaves also wander this region. Tales of a mysterious watchman who patrols the railroad tracks between Artesia and Mayhew haunt curious locals. Ed Kuykendall Sr. is rumored to manage Columbus's Princess Theater from beyond the grave. A young girl who died while attempting to free her head from a stair banister is said to still wander the halls of Waverly. Author Alan Brown uncovers the eerie thrills and chills within Mississippi's Golden Triangle.
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About the Author
Dr. Alan Brown has been a professor of English at the University of West Alabama since 1986. For the past few years, Dr. Brown's interest in Southern folklore has manifested itself in over seventeen publications of Southern ghost stories. He has served as president of the Alabama Folklife Association, a member of the American Ghost Society, Ghost Chasers of Mississippi and of the Mississippi Writers' Guild.
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The Gregg -Hamilton House
The Gregg-Hamilton House was built on Commerce Street in 1950. The history of the Gregg-Hamilton House is inextricably connected to the Civil War. In 1864, Confederate general John Gregg was killed in the defense of Richmond, Virginia. His widow, Mary Frances "Molly" Garth Gregg, traveled to Virginia to retrieve her husband's corpse. She buried General Gregg's remains in the Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery in Aberdeen, where her father owned large tracts of land. Molly was so attached to her husband that she purchased the Gregg-Hamilton House so she could make frequent visits to his grave.
Over one hundred years later, the house was bought and restored by author Dr. Charles Hamilton. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1905 and raised in Kentucky. At the age of twenty-three, Dr. Hamilton moved to Mississippi. He was a professor of Christian education at Okolona College in Okolona, Mississippi. Dr. Hamilton served as rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Aberdeen until 1942. His life-long interest in politics led him to serve in the state legislature from 1940 to 1944. Dr. Hamilton achieved literary fame as a regional writer who penned poetry — including the poems "Mississippi I Love You," "You Can't Steal First Base" and "The Flag Was Flame" — and books about the Civil War while living at the Gregg-Hamilton House in the 1940s.
In later years, the Gregg-Hamilton House became rental property and was divided into three units. Before long, people who lived there began sharing stories about strange activities inside the old house. One of these renters was Rayburn Reeves, who had not been told that the house was haunted before moving in. One night, Reeves and his wife heard a man and a woman arguing in the house. Fearing that the domestic disturbance might escalate into violence, Reeves went downstairs to investigate. He was puzzled when he discovered that he and his wife were the only ones living in the house at the time. Over time, the Reeveses began hearing strange sounds inside the house. Sometimes, after hearing the noises in a specific room, they smelled the scent of lavender in the room. Reeves and his wife eventually became used to living with a ghost in their house. However, not everyone who stayed in the house felt the same way. Reeves's mother was so frightened by the sound of the ghostly footsteps that she refused to return to the house for a long time. The strangest part of the house was an upstairs room where Reeves occasionally walked into cold spots.
Harold and Madies Conner rented an apartment in the Gregg-Hamilton House as well. Although they had a number of strange experiences while living there, one particular event stands out. At the time, no one lived upstairs; Cary and Patsy Claxton lived downstairs. One night, Madies was all alone in the apartment. Standing in a particular spot under the ceiling, she could hear a person walk eight feet in one direction and eight feet in the opposite direction above her. Madies called her mother but was told she was imagining things. She thought about calling the police but changed her mind when she considered the possibility that the officers would find nothing out of the ordinary when they arrived. Overcome with fear, she turned on the radio to drown out the noise, but she could still hear the footsteps walking back and forth. After what seemed an eternity, she heard Cary Claxton return home. She ran to the next-door apartment and begged him to go upstairs with her. Armed with nothing more than a flashlight, Cary walked through all of the upstairs rooms but neither saw nor heard anybody. The pacing ceased while Cary was upstairs, but after he went home, it started up again. Madies felt as if an invisible force were drawing her to that same spot under the ceiling. This turned out to be one of the longest nights of her life.
Unknown to Madies, Patsy Claxton had her own paranormal experiences in the house. She, too, had heard someone — or something — walking up the stairs. Even her Siamese cat sensed that there was something not quite "right" about the house. He refused to walk into one of the rooms. He would go up to the doorway and stop, raise his back and bristle. After a few seconds, the feline would run away and look back at something that no one else could see.
One of the owners of the house, Mary Elizabeth Hamilton, had heard the ghost stories before she and her husband moved in, but they never experienced anything out of the ordinary while they lived there. However, she began to place more credence in the tales one evening when a neighbor who had too many people staying in her house asked Mrs. Hamilton if a young married couple could spend a few days in the Gregg-Hamilton House. The next morning, the couple packed up and left because they had heard somebody walking around their room all night.
Another mysterious room in the Gregg-Hamilton House is the basement, which is called "the prison cell" because of the bars. Legend has it that Union soldiers were held prisoner there during the Civil War. Could it be that the unquiet spirts of these men are still unable to leave the place where they were held against their will?CHAPTER 2
The Artesia Light
The history of Artesia is inextricably linked to the railroad. Artesia Junction, as it was originally known because of the large number of artesian wells in the area, came into being in the 1850s, when Columbus and Aberdeen refused to allow the Mobile & Ohio (M&O) Railroad to route through town because of all the smoke and noise. However, the M&O did extend a spur line to serve Columbus. The spur line joined the main line at what is now Artesia because the local planters gave the right of way to any railroad interested in passing through this part of Lowndes County.
The main line was completed around 1858–59, and Artesia Junction became a true railroad town. Travelers from all over the South spent the night at the Childsey House, a railroad-owned hotel. The hotel was renowned for its splendid meals. Guests dined on produce from St. Louis and fish from Mobile, all of which was brought to the town by the M&O Railroad. Twenty-five years after the Childsey House opened, it burned down and was never rebuilt. Artesia's boomtown days are long gone now. Today, the quaint little town of 440 people (as of the 2010 United States census) is a remnant of those long-ago days when people living in the rural South were dependent on the railroad.
Like many old railroad towns, Artesia has a railroad ghost. Legend has it that around the turn of the century, an elderly African American railroad watchman was walking the tracks between Artesia and Mayhew at about midnight when he was struck by a speeding train. Many people living in the region believe that if they stand by the tracks at midnight and are quiet, they can see the ghostly watchman swinging his glowing lantern as he makes his nightly rounds. For years, adventurous students from Mississippi State University parked on one of the bridges near the tracks and waited for the Artesia Light. The story goes that one night, a football player was so frightened by the appearance of the light that he shot at it with his pistol to make it go away. It did. Hundreds of less volatile students have refrained from talking or making any other kind of noise at midnight as they patiently await the ghostly watchman's arrival.
Hundreds of people claim to have seen the Artesia Light over the years. Indeed, this particular ghost light has become one of northeast Mississippi's greatest mysteries. The fact that the tale has been passed down for generations suggests that the mystery will never be solved.CHAPTER 3
Hickory Sticks is one of oldest — and most private — antebellum homes in Columbus. It was originally built as a dogtrot-style log cabin in 1820 on the top of a heavily wooded hill, making it barely visible from the street. The first owner of the house was Andrew Weir. In the 1840s, Robert Hayden, the first mayor of Columbus, bought the house. He dug the basement and planted vineyards on the estate. Other changes were made during this decade as well, including the addition of a Greek Revival façade, a veranda and tall, square columns. One of the later owners of the house was General Stephen D. Lee. Blewett Lee, Stephen Lee's heir, donated part of the property to the City of Columbus for use as Lee Park. In the twentieth century, plaster was removed from the walls of one of the original rooms, revealing the hewn timbers of the log cabin underneath. According to local legend, one of the early owners of Hickory Sticks is still keeping watch on his former home.
In the 1960s and '70s, the house was occupied by the family of Robert Ivy Sr. His wife, Mrs. Francis Ivy, wrote a column for the Commercial Dispatch. In 1968, she told Pat Brooks, a newspaper reporter, about her resident ghost. She said that during the week of Valentine's Day, the ghost always walks through the old part of the house, climbs the stairs and then reenters the same log cabin bedroom each night. Mrs. Ivy distinctly recalled the first time she heard the "Valentine Ghost":
Robert was out of town, and believe me, my sister and I were quite upset. Then when my husband returned the following week, I hesitated to tell him of the incident for fear he would just shrug it off as being a case of two imaginative women alone in a big house. The following year, during the week of Valentine's Day, again, my husband was home, and we both heard him! That made a believer out of Robert for sure!
For several nights, the Ivys were undisturbed during the night:
Things were quiet until along toward the middle of Valentine's week. Then, late one night, my husband and I both sat bolt upright in the bed at almost the exact instance! Our Valentine Ghost was slowly, very slowly, mounting the stairway, and then he entered the log cabin bedroom directly over our room and the door closed.
For a minute or two, Mr. and Mrs. Ivy sat very still, wondering if their ears had deceived them. "Then my husband jumped out of bed," Mrs. Ivy recalled, "and rushed up the stairs and into the bedroom — but nothing was found. A thorough search of the house also revealed nothing."
Over the years, Mrs. Ivy became accustomed to sharing her home with a ghost, and she began to think of him as part of the family. Her initial fear of the spirit eventually morphed into curiosity. In fact, she was even willing to join the ghost on one of his annual treks through the house if she could find out his name. Mrs. Ivy became so fond of the Valentine Ghost that her greatest fear was that one day he would cease his Valentine's Day visits.
A number of different newspapers served Columbus before the Commercial Dispatch came on the scene. The city's first two newspapers came to the city in 1833. The Southern Argus represented Henry Clay's National Republican Party, and the Democratic Press represented Andrew Jackson's Democratic Party. Three years later, the Democratic Press became the Columbus Democrat. After the Whig Party took over the Southern Argus in 1840, it became the Columbus Whig. In 1850, the Columbus Whig changed its name to the Primitive Republican, which merged with the Columbus Democrat a few years later. The Columbus Democrat ceased publication during the Civil War but began printing again in 1868. It was bought by the Columbus Daily Dispatch in 1879. The editors at this time were W.H. and W.C Worthington. Another newspaper, the Columbus Index, which started up in 1865, went through several owners before J.T. Senter acquired the newspaper in 1894 and changed its name to the Columbus Commercial. The newspaper was printed in the basement of the old Opera House. The future of the newspaper was threatened by a devastating fire in 1900. Senter not only managed to continue publication of the Columbus Democrat, but he even began publishing another newspaper, the Vicksburg American. Senter's wife took over the newspaper following her husband's death at age forty-eight. After she died seven years later, her son George changed the name of the newspaper to the Commercial.
J.T. Senter's primary competitor was Samuel Thomas Maer, who had prospected for gold in California in 1849 and Australia before settling in Columbus. He bought the Columbus Dispatch from Newton Berryhill in 1881. The main office of Maer's newspaper was a small wooden building on Fifth Street. His wife, Susan Maer, began running the newspaper after her husband died. She lived in an apartment inside the newspaper office. Her son, Percy W. Maer, became owner and publisher of the Columbus Dispatch after she retired. Following Percy W. Maer's death, his wife sold the Commercial Dispatch to Birney Imes Sr. After Imes purchased the Columbus Commercial, he merged the two newspapers in 1922 under the name the Commercial Dispatch, the city's first daily newspaper.
The building that now houses the Commercial Dispatch has been used for a variety of purposes over the years. At one time, it was used as a farm and equipment shop and at another, as a car dealership. The Commercial Dispatch originally occupied the basement and the first floor. Several offices and radio station WCBI were on the second floor. The pressmen working in the basement were the first to report the paranormal activity in the building. They heard strange noises, like clanging sounds and bumps, when no one else was around. Objects that were placed in one spot were moved out of reach when the men were distracted.
A press operator named Jerry Hayes also felt uncomfortable down in the basement. He said that on some nights while working upstairs, he heard the press running when it was supposed to be shut down. He also observed other machines turning themselves on and off. One of Hayes's fellow workers told him that one evening he saw the lower legs of someone walking on the catwalk. The rest of the man's body was obscured by the machinery. The worker walked over to the catwalk, but no one was there.
Another employee, Raymond Blain, reported being unnerved by the sound of the disembodied footsteps of someone wearing hard-soled shoes. He also said that, several times, he caught a glimpse of a white shape in his peripheral vision. However, when he turned his head to look at the figure, it was gone.
Carolyn Burns, one of the founders of Columbus's Ghosts and Legends Tour, had her own paranormal experience inside the Commercial Dispatch building. "In 1965, '66, I worked in the advertising department," Carolyn said, "and on Sunday afternoons, on occasion, I would have to come in and do tear sheets. I was always by myself, but I was not by myself 'cause I could hear sounds. I just attributed it to being in an old building and nothing paranormal. But now that I've heard all the stories, maybe that's what it was, and I didn't want to think about it in that way."
One of the strangest incidents occurred in the 1980s. A teenage boy who worked in circulation after school and on weekends was in the building one Saturday night to make sure the newspapers carriers had picked up their papers before six o'clock on Sunday morning. He was alone in the building when, suddenly, he heard voices and what he described as "clacking sounds" coming from the basement. He walked down the stairs to investigate. Convinced that nothing was out of the ordinary in the basement, he walked backed toward the stairs when, in his peripheral vision, he caught a brief glimpse of pool tables, players, lights and spectators. He also heard the clicking of billiard balls. The boy turned his head to get a better look, and the vision disappeared. He knew his mother might be able to help him make sense of what he had just witnessed because of her interest in local history. After he returned home and described the spectral scene to his mother, she recalled seeing an old photograph of a pool hall in a small building west of the Commercial Dispatch. A few days later, while she was conducting research in the archives of the public library, the boy's mother, Carolyn Neault, found an old photograph of the building with a sign that read, "Billiards." In that instant, she realized her son had not been imagining things.
Not everyone takes the rumors of the hauntings at the Commercial Dispatch seriously. Jerry Hayes's brother, Stan, who also works the presses, was skeptical about the alleged ghosts in the old building. "I've never seen nothing," he told a reporter. Even though Stan thought the ghost stories were nonsense, he was still able to see the potential for humor in his brother's encounters. For a while, he entertained the notion of hiding under a draped plastic sheet or a table and jumping out at people when they entered the room to prove his point: ghosts aren't real.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Ghosts of Mississippi's Golden Triangle"
Copyright © 2016 Alan Brown.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Gregg-Hamilton House 13
The Artesia Light 17
Hickory Sticks 19
Commercial Dispatch 21
Friendship Cemetery 24
Arbor House 28
The Princess Theater 30
Aldan Hall 35
Ole Magnolia 39
Dowsing-Banks-Foote-Mahon-Hudson Home 42
White Arches 43
The Lincoln Home 46
Liberty Hall 49
Highland House 51
Wisteria Place 53
Calloway Hall 55
"Three-Legged Lady Road" 60
Armstrong Road 62
The Legend of Black Creek 64
The Ghostly Dragoons of Military Road 65
The Amzi Love House 66
The Stephen D. Lee Home 74
Temple Heights 85
The Barker-Bunch House 92
Joe Eubanks Plantation 95
The Gulf Ordnance Munitions Plant 97
George Hall 103
Montgomery Hall 105
About the Author 128