12 of The South’s Most Haunted Places
The South overflows with history and character. We have buildings that hundreds of years old, family businesses built upon decades of tradition, and, of course, lots of stories. From haunted houses to haunted hotels to haunted cemeteries, there are more than a few urban legends of ghosts and ghouls all across the region. Whether you’ve dreamt of making your way through an old, dilapidated sanatorium at night, you're bold enough to stay in a hotel where a man fell through a window, or you're brave enough to venture into a 1796 Louisiana plantation-turned-hotel, the South has all of the spooky spots and haunted places you’ll need this Halloween. We invite you to take a trip to a few of our favorite haunted places in the South to hear their spooky stories and catch a glimpse of the apparitions. Our advice: best to bring a buddy.
1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is known for its historical charm, so one would naturally be drawn to this gorgeous hotel in the heart of the Ozarks. Be forewarned, though, that there is more than meets the eye. The hotel opened in 1886, yes – but the first death occurred in 1885 when a man fell through the hotel’s window. And, that was before Norman Baker showed up.
Norman Baker was known for founding the Baker Institute in Muscatine, Iowa. He also had a popular radio show, in which he claimed that there were discrepancies with the American Medical Association, and the cure for cancer was within his reach. Flash forward to the Crescent Hotel, where Baker was brought in to help a woman named Lula Tunis, who was dying of cancer. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that Baker wasn’t actually a doctor… he was a magician. Hundreds, including Lula Tunis, died at his hands.
The Grove Park Inn
Asheville, North Carolina
This woodsy hotel is a favorite of tourists, especially for its extravagant Christmas decorating and Gingerbread House Competition. The history, however, isn’t so cookie-cutter. In the early 1920s, a young woman – dressed in all pink – fell to her death at the Grove Park Inn. Fast-forward thirty years. Workers at the hotel began to feel queasy, but, strangely enough, it was always around room 545. There were also reports of a strange apparition: a woman dressed in pink. Others saw billowing smoke.
The strange part? No one knew about the Pink Lady, or had heard the others’ stories. That, dear friends, is an unlikely coincidence. Rumors flew about the hotel’s hauntings until Grove Park decided to look into the claims in 1996. Turns out, the Pink Lady was likely the grandmother of local author Bruce Johnson, and her spirit is trapped in the hotel.
Savannah, “the most paranormal city in America,” is a hub of haunted happenings. If you take a walk down Broughton Street, you’ll come across the elegant and opulent Marshall House, built in 1851 by French cabinetmaker Gabriel Leaver. The four-story home served as a hospital for Union Army soldiers toward the end of the Civil War, as well as hosting patients through two epidemics of yellow fever. Many deaths, as you can imagine, fell upon the home. From 1899-1957, the home was operated on and off as a hotel.
Over 40 years later, in 1999, the property was finally restored to its former glory. Not without some unnatural sensations, however. Late at night, you may see children (of the wispy type) running down the hallway and ghosts in the foyer. Guests have also reported that some faucets will turn off and on by themselves. Spooky stuff.
St. Francisville, LA
If you’re brave enough to venture into this 1796 Louisiana plantation-turned-hotel, you may come across some strange happenings around nightfall. Chloe’s story – just one of the hotel’s hauntings – begins in 1992. At the time, the insurance company requested photos of the plantation that could indicate the distance between buildings for the creation of a fire insurance policy. In a photograph taken by the plantation’s proprietress, an apparition – resembling a young slave girl – appeared between the General’s Store and the Butler’s Pantry.
The image was released, titled “Chloe’s Postcard.” A researchist visited the plantation in 1995 to explore the rumor and examine the postcard, and confirmed that the proportions and lighting of the figure were indeed consistent with the human dimensions of a young girl.
A few years later, a visitor took a snapshot of two girls in front of Myrtles. In the background, a young girl stands in the window. She’s dressed in antebellum clothing, and looking directly at you. Meet “The Ghost Girl.” No one knows who she is or where she came from – all we know is that she watches, wistfully, through the large panes of Myrtles Plantation.
The Driskill Hotel
If you happen to smell cigar smoke when you visit this 1886 hotel, there’s a slight chance it’s not all in your imagination. Colonel Jesse Driskill was a cattle baron who spent a huge fortune – $400,000, which was unheard of at the time – building and opening the Driskill Hotel.
As the stories go, Driskill went bankrupt due to a drought in the area. Being a gambling man, he ended up losing the hotel in a high-stakes poker game. The Colonel died penniless only three years after the hotel’s completion. Rumor has it, his spirit is trapped in the building, enjoying his namesake creation as an apparition.
But that’s not all, folks. In April of 1887, a four-year-old girl by the name of Samantha Houston lost her life in the Driskill Hotel. She, her mother Laura Cross Houston, and her father, Senator Temple Lea Houston, had checked into the hotel while the 20th legislature meeting was in session at the hotel. Samantha slipped out of the room one night while her mother was sleeping and her father was working late. She fell to her death down the grand staircase while chasing a leather ball. Her father commissioned a painting of his daughter shortly before her burial, and present-day staff swear that if you gaze into the portrait’s eyes for a few minutes, she’ll grin at you.
One of Alabama’s most famous antebellum mansions, Sturdivant Hall is a stunning landmark in Selma. It was built in 1853 by Colonel Edward Watts, who sold it shortly after to a young man named John Parkman. John got into banking at 17 years old, and, by 29, had worked his way up to becoming the bank’s president. Unfortunately, John was bad at investing money. After the Civil War, he lost a significant amount of the bank’s sums, having invested heavily in the future of cotton. The citizens of Selma believed it to be an honest mistake, as many other bankers in the town had also lost significantly following the war. The government, however, was not in agreeance. They arrested John for embezzling, and took him to Old Cahaba to await trial.
When he was on his way to the jail, John Parkman swore that he would never leave his property until his name was cleared.
Feeling badly for the banker, the townspeople devised a plot to break Parkman out of jail. They threw a huge Mardi Gras party in front of the jail – it’s also been said that they bribed the jailers – and John escaped. As he was about to set foot onto a barge that would take him away down the river, however, one of the jailers shot at him. Some stories say that he was shot and drowned in the river, but there are also some that say he jumped in the river to avoid the gunfire.
Since his name was never cleared, John’s apparition still resides at Sturdivant Hall. Some have seen a man dressed in a top hat and tails wandering around. Others have heard heavy footsteps, seen things move around without reason, and had doors shut and open mysteriously.
Cedar Grove Mansion Inn
At this gorgeous, 3-story mansion, you’ll find an award-winning restaurant and stunning facilities. The home’s story begins with John Klein, a wealthy architect and investor, gifting Cedar Grove to his bride Elizabeth as a wedding present in the mid-1800s. Together they had 10 children in the home, three of whom died.
After being unable to carry the tax burden of the property, Cedar Grove was sold. In 1983, Ted and Estelle Macky purchased the mansion. The couple began restoring the property to its original glory. Surely pleasing the Klein family, manifestations began appearing soon after.
It’s not uncommon to smell a pipe in the Gentleman’s Parlor, which was a favorite spot of John’s to sit and smoke. Some have claimed to see Elizabeth walking down the front stairs, just going about her business in a home she so adamantly loved. Others have reported seeing the ghost of a young girl, perhaps the Klein’s daughter that died in the second floor bedroom. As the home was used as a Union hospital during the war, there are also rumors of seeing apparitions of Civil War soldiers wandering around the mansion.
Battery Carriage House Inn
The spirits in Charleston are perhaps just as memorable and prominent to the city’s history as the living. Called “Charleston’s Most Haunted Inn,” Battery Carriage House has had tales of strange, supernatural happenings multiple times – all in different rooms. Take Paul’s story in 1993, for instance.
In August, inn owner Drayton Hastie heard from a man, an engineer, who had stayed at the inn a year earlier. And, Paul made sure to reiterate, he was not a superstitious guy. In the middle of the night, Paul had the sensation of being watched. He made a note that he wasn’t sure if he was asleep or awake – but Paul saw a faceless torso in front of him. It was the body of a strong man, dressed in layers of clothing. Paul reached out and touched the man’s overcoat, feeling the coat’s coarse cloth. At his touch, the ghost made a threatening noise toward him. Afraid that the apparition might harm him, Paul screamed and woke. There was no one else in the room. On a separate occasion, another man reporting seeing a similar torso, of a man without a face, floating through Room 8. This guest was awoken early morning by the earsplitting sound of a wooden chair being smashed against a wall. But, as he looked around the room, nothing was there.
There have also been reports of a wispy “gentleman” apparition in Room 10 – seen on various occasions – who is apparently a bit friendlier.
Chapel Hill, Tennessee
If you’re from Middle Tennessee, chances are that the story of the headless brakeman has traveled through whispers at your family reunions or around the campfire. Legend has it that one night, a train brakeman had the night shift on a train bound for Chapel Hill. His job – a dangerous and risky endeavor – entailed climbing on top of the train and putting on the brakes of each car before the train reached the station.
On this particular night, however, the man was thrown from the perch of a boxcar and, unfortunately, was decapitated. After the accident occurred, locals began to report a strange light moving up and down the tracks. The only plausible explanation? It’s the brakeman looking for his lost head.
Sloss Furnaces stand hauntingly in Birmingham, a reminder of years past when the city transformed coal and ore into steel. Now, the web of pipes and smokestacks are only open for tours. No men are suffering in the summer heat; no metal is sparking or clanging in the flames.
Going back in time to 1882, however, the furnaces of Sloss were roaring with fire and metal. Foreman James “Slag” Wormwood ran the factory’s graveyard shift, and he managed nearly 150 workers who kept the furnace running overnight. Only the poorest of the poor took the shift with Slag; low visibility, stifling heat, and lack of adequate sleep made the furnace quite literally hell for the workers. In addition, Slag forced his workers to take dangerous risks to impress his superiors – resulting in 47 deaths under his management.
In 1906, Slag lost his footing atop a furnace and fell into a pool of melted iron ore, dying instantly. Although it was reported that he became dizzy and lost his balance, many thought that Slag’s workers had finally fed him to the fire. Now, he haunts Sloss, tinkering with the machinery that led to his downfall.
If you take a look at this old bar in Mississippi, it’s exactly what you’d expect a haunted house to look like. The dark, wooden building is over 230 years old, making it the oldest building in the river port city of Natchez. Over the years, the place, opened by New Yorker Richard King in 1789, hosted a wide variety of guests – from boatmen to townspeople to outlaws and notorious criminals.
King’s Tavern has a reputation for its hauntings. The most famous of the stories, however, is of Madeline’s spirit. The King family became very wealthy and prominent in Natchez over the years, through the success of their business, and decided to hire on a beautiful, engaging 16-year-old server named Madeline. She caught Richard’s attention, and became his mistress.
When Mrs. King found out about the affair, she hired some criminals to stab Madeline (it’s also been rumored that she did it herself). The men who killed Madeline took her body and hid it in the chimney of the tavern. Years later, the tavern sold to the Postlewaite family, who decided to do some renovations. While repairing the chimney, they found three mummified bodies – two men and a girl. Although the men’s identities were never discovered, the girl was believed to be Madeline. A dagger, presumably the murder weapon, was found in the fireplace of another room.
The Historic Partridge Inn
The Partridge Inn has been a part of the Augusta's history for 106 years. One of the hotel’s oldest guests, Emily, has a long-standing presence in the hotel.
On a crisp fall day in the mid 1800s, Emily, the town beauty, was to be married. She waited in her bridal suite at The Partridge Inn, dressing for her wedding in a custom-made Atlanta gown. Just as she donned her veil, there was a knock on the door. An unnamed man told her the tragic news: her young fiancé had been mistaken for a soldier wanted for treason, and was shot as he rode his horse through town. Overwhelmed with grief, Emily refused to take off her wedding dress for weeks. Though courted by many, she never married and eventually died, broken-hearted.
To this day, guests and employees of The Partridge Inn say they have seen a beautiful girl with long dark brown hair wandering the halls and staircases of the hotel in her white flowing wedding gown, still waiting for her groom’s arrival. Herman Duncan, Director of Housekeeping, has worked at the inn for 25 years. He's seen plenty of proof that Emily exists, including words inexplicably appearing on window panes, doors slamming on empty floors, and eery changes in temperature.
While such a tale might be a detriment to another establishment’s reputation, it only serves to underscore the true grace and history of The Partridge Inn. Emily is a part of the fabric of what makes this place unique and special.
The Partridge Inn was the first hotel in Georgia selected for inclusion in Historic Hotels of America, known for its distinctly Southern details, including beautiful verandahs, classic columns, stately magnolia trees and unparalleled personal service. In the 1980s, The Partridge Inn was an eyesore and scheduled to be demolished, but was saved and rebuilt from the ground-up to reopen in 1987. Despite its hardships, The Partridge Inn re-emerged after a multi-million-dollar renovation in March of 2015.