10 Southern Ghost Stories Guaranteed to Make you Shudder
The most notorious legends of the South’s spookiest specters – believe them, or not.
There’s something about the chilly October air that makes the Halloween season a perfect time to share scary ghost stories. The South’s bizarre history, obscure happenings, and inexplicable circumstances provide the perfect setting for these scary stories. We’ve compiled some of the scariest Southern ghost stories that we could find in folklore and research. These may be real ghost stories, and they might just be scary legends of the South. While the legend of Huggin’ Molly in Abbeville, Alabama, is a kid-friendly ghost story, the Ghosts of the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, are some of the scariest souls in the South. There are plenty of famous Southern ghosts – the Bell Witch, whose legend in part inspired the Blair Witch Project, still haunts Northwestern Tennessee; Florida’s Ghost of Bellamy Bridge still roams the swamps, searching for unrequited love. Read about the ghosts that linger in famous Southern haunts, Southern folklore, scary folktales, and ghost stories. Just be warned: these ghosts may haunt near you.
The Bell Witch – Adams, TN
Perhaps one the most notorious ghosts in the world, Tennessee’s Bell Witch Legend has been around for over 200 years. In the early 1800s, John Bell moved his family to Northwestern Tennessee’s Red River Settlement. A few years later, Bell encountered strange animal sitting the middle of his cornfield. The animal had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit, and when Bell attempted to kill the creepy creature, it ran away. The family soon after began hearing mysterious knockings, rattling chains, faint whispering, and even dogfights in the dead of night. For years, the Bell family kept their troubles a secret. Finally, John Bell shared his family’s trouble with his neighbors, and soon, the entire region had heard of the “Bell’s Witch.” After years of torment, John Bell was mysteriously poisoned, and the spirit’s visits became far less frequent. A number of theories attempt to explain the Witch’s” presence, blaming a series of women, including Betsy Bell herself. But some local folk still insist that strange things still happen around the Red River Settlement, and blame the Bell Witch.
The Ghost of Lavinia Fisher – Charleston, TN
Many myths surround the legend of Lavinia Fisher, a 19th century Charleston woman convicted for highway robbery and hung just off Meeting Street. Some claim she was America’s first female serial killer, based on speculation that she and her husband would lure travelers to their inn, slip poison in their tea, steal their belongings, and carry their bodies out back. However, her and her husband actually belonged to a band of highway thieves, and was never accused of serial murder. Still, the details surrounding her death are chilling. Believing that she would be pardoned up until the moment she was hung, Lavinia, according to legend, used her last breath to scream, “If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me, and I’ll carry it!” Her ghost still haunts the Old Charleston Jail House, and tourists still claim sightings of her ghostly apparition.
Ghosts of the LaLaurie Mansion – New Orleans, Louisiana
To this day, Delphine LaLaurie’s extravagant Creole mansion in New Orleans’s French Quarter is the city’s most legendary haunted house due to the gruesome torture that occurred over 200 years ago. Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, were once known to be one of Creole society’s most influential high-society couple. However, Delphone soon gained a reputation for being brutally cruel to her servers, and neighbors began noticing the unexplained disappearance of parlor maids and stable boys. One night, after a fire broke out in the kitchen, firefighters discovered a chilling secret room full of tortured servants. Word spread throughout New Orleans, and angry citizens formed a mob dead set on avenging the tortured humans. The LaLaurie managed to escape to France, and haunted souls began seeking revenge on the building’s occupants immediately. The house fell to ruin – no one wants to live in a house haunted by tortured souls.
Huggin’ Molly – Abbeville, AL
While this story may not make you shudder, you should still be glad you didn’t grow up around this variety of ghost. If you’re famililar with Abbeville, Alabama, you’ve probably heard of Huggin’ Molly – after all, her name is written on the town’s welcome sign. The legend of Huggin’ Molly traces all the way back to Ireland, but today, she roams the streets of Abbeville. Wearing a long shroud, Huggin’ Molly appears only to young people out past their curfew. She runs up to these rule-breakers, gives them a giant hug, and screams in their ear. For over 100 years, parents have been relying on her legend to teach their kids not to stay out after dark.
The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge – Marianna, Florida
There are many different versions of this story; nonetheless, the Bellamy Bridge Ghost just might be Florida’s most infamous ghastly legend. Bellamy Bridge is an old steel frame bridge that spans the Chipola River, just North of Marianna. On dark and foggy nights, Elizabeth Jane Bellamy is said to roam the swamps surrounding the bridge, mourning the loss of love cut short. Elizabeth was only 18 when she died, days after marrying her husband, local politician and planter Samuel C. Bellamy. In one version, her extravagant wedding gown caught fire the night of her wedding; in another, she contracted malaria. After her death, her husband, so stricken with grief, eventually committed suicide. Visitors to the Bellamy Bridge claim to have seen fire extending from the bridge, mysterious white lights, and even the ghostly figure of a young woman walking through the fog.
The Red Lady of Huntington – Montgomery, AL
In the early 20th century, a young woman named Martha started college at the Woman’s College of Alabama, complying with her fathers’ will. Martha’s favorite color was red, and she decorated every surface of her dorm room in Pratt Hall in the crimson shade. Because she didn’t make friends easily, Martha lived alone on campus, and she was very unhappy. She retreated to her room, living in isolation, and only left her bed in the middle of the night. One evening, after failing to attend classes and dinner, Martha was found lying on the floor in her room, dead. To this day, generations of Huntingdon students have claimed to have witnessed Martha’s ghost – the Red Lady – roaming around the halls at night, emitting a strange, red glow.
The Myrtles’ Chloe – St. Francisville, Louisiana
One of the legendary many spirits haunting The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana, the ghost of Chloe may be the most notorious. According to legend, Clark Woodruff, owner of the estate, was having an affair with Chloe, a house servant. Eventually, Woodruff tired of Chloe, and Chloe, fearing she would be sent back to the fields to work, began eavesdropping on family conversations to see if they spoke of her. Woodruff caught her and cut off her ear as punishment; to hide the scar, she always wore a green scarf. Now, nobody knows if Chloe did what she did next to get back in the family’s good graces, or as revenge: she slowly poisoned a birthday cake, and Woodruff’s wife and two children died. The other servants, ashamed at Chloe’s evil acts, hung her in a nearby tree. While this legend may be pure folklore, a mysterious photograph of a woman’s figure lurking in a shaded corner taken in 1992 has perpetuated Chloe’s myth.
Dolley Madison, wife of the 4th president of the United States, James Madison, is one of our country’s most beloved first ladys. Known for turning the DC swamps into a social hub, Dolley endeared everyone with her wit and charm – but she didn’t like to be tested. During her time living at the White House, Dolley built a beautiful rose garden. Years later, when Mrs. Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House, she requested the rose garden be replaced. Legend has it that the moment workers turned their spades, Dolley’s ghost arrived and chased them all away. Now that sounds like a realistic story about a Southern woman.
The Ghost of Julia Legare – Edisto Island, SC
Legend has it that in the mid 1800s, young Julia Legare was visiting Edisto Island. She fell ill with diphtheria, and fell into a deep coma. After being pronounced dead, she was buried in her family’s crypt. When her brother passed away 15 years later, her family opened the crypt and found her body pressed against the door, trying to escape – thought for dead, she had been alive all along. Throughout the years, the crypt’s doors would randomly fall open; eventually, even the chained stone would not remain hinged, and the family members gave up and removed the door entirely. Some locals swear that the scratches on the inside of the crypt were made by Julia, desperately trying to escape being buried alive.
Ghost of Wright Square – Savannah, Georgia
Savannah has no shortage of ghost stories, and the tale of the Wright Square Ghost may be the creepiest we’ve heard. The spooky story begins in 1724, after a man was found lying strangled on his bed. Although the deceased man, William Wise, was known to be slightly shady, his death still caused quite a stir in the community. Investigators convicted two of his servants, Alice Riley and Richard White. Although the two attempted to flee, they were eventually caught and sentenced to death. Alice’s execution was delayed until after she gave birth to her son, James. Although Alice adamantly proclaimed innocence, 8 months later, she faced Wright Square’s gallows. A short while later, her son died. Legend has it that she haunts pregnant women and mothers with infants, searching for her lost baby. Next time you’re in Savannah, notice the shortage of Spanish Moss in Wright Square – according to folklore, Spanish Moss will not grow where innocent blood has been spilled.