Friday, October 31, 2008

Two-Toed Tom - The Alligator Monster of Florida and Alabama

Scotland has its Loch Ness Monster, but deep in the swamps along the border between Alabama and Florida can be heard stories of a water monster of a different sort.
Said to be a demon-possessed alligator that some estimate to be up to 24-feet long, Two-Toed Tom is the focus of numerous legends and tall tales. His name originates from the claim that he lost all but two toes on one foot to a bear trap.
The monster's story originates in Alabama, where University of Alabama professor Carl Carmer recorded tales about Two-Two in his book, Stars Fell on Alabama.
Following a dynamite attack that he avenged by killing a young girl, Tom supposedly made his way across the border into Northwest Florida. There, in the swamps of the Choctawhatchee River and Holmes Creek, he once again appeared. Some believe he lurks there to this day, particularly in the areas of Sand Hammock Lake in Holmes County and Boynton Island on the Choctawhatchee River.
If you would like to read the story of Two-Toed Tom, the infamous alligator monster of Alabama and Florida, please visit

A Murderer's Ghost in Macon, Georgia

Unlike their counterparts of today, 19th century American newspapers often carried reports or assigned reporters to investigate ghost sightings and similar hauntings. As a result, they provide an interesting insight to many stories of the time.

An example is the 1885 report of a haunted house in Macon, Georgia.

According to widespread reports that year, a house in the community was haunted by the ghost of a man that had killed his wife before taking his own life. Neighbors reported seeing and hearing unusual things in the house and one former friend of the man even went to investigate.

To read the story of the "Murderer's Ghost of Macon, Georgia," please visit:

The Shooting Star Ghost of Georgetown, South Carolina

One of the strangest Southern ghost stories is that of the "Shooting Star" ghost of Georgetown, South Carolina.

This spectre appeared repeatedly during the decades following the Civil War and was covered by newspapers around the South.

The ghost was believed to have been that of a slave that killed his "master" during the closing years of the war. He paid for this act with his life and, for years after, reappeared and disappeared rapidly in the area. These quick appearances gave him the name of the "shooting star ghost."

If you would like to read an early newspaper account of the "Shooting Star" ghost, please visit Please be aware that some of the language in the article does not fit with modern standards.

The Bell Witch appears in Alabama

The Bell Witch legend is one of the South's best known hauntings, but few people realize that there also have been reports that the witch was active in both Alabama and Mississippi as well as Tennessee.

The alleged Alabama sighting took place in Lauderdale County in 1912 and involved a strange dog-like animal similar to the one reported in the original Tennessee accounts of the Bell Witch haunting.

The incident was reported in Alabama newspapers that year and attracted considerable attention.

To read the original coverage of the Alabama "Bell Witch" sightings, please visit

The Plowing Ghost of Fernandina, Florida

One of the most unusual ghost stories to appear in 19th century newspapers around the country is that of the Plowing Ghost of Fernandina, Florida.

The ghost was first noticed by a farmer as he looked out the window of his home while sitting up with a sick child. To his surprise, the mysterious figure of a man could be seen plowing a nearby field in the gloom of the night. Although the night was dark, the figures of the man and his horse were strangely illuminated.

The man sent his son out to investigate, only to watch in shock as the boy walked directly through the strange apparition without seeing it.

The story soon became well known throughout the area and was covered by newspapers throughout the country.

If you would like to read more about Fernandina's Plowing Ghost, please visit

Watch for Ghost Stories throughout the day on Halloween!

Beginning in the morning, I will post a series of actual 19th century newspaper reports on ghost sightings from around the South. Watch for these throughout the day, as I will continue to post them into the evening Halloween night.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Twelve - The Bell Witch, Tennessee

The marker at right tells the story of what is probably America's best known haunting, the Bell Witch incident.
Strikingly similar to the much better documented Edgefield Ghost in South Carolina, the Bell Witch was the name given by residents in the Adams, Tennessee, area to a series of bizarre events that supposedly happened in the area beginning in 1817.
The manifestations targeted the family of John Bell, a farmer and prominent settler that moved to the area from North Carolina. The "witching" primarily focused on Bell and his daughter Elizabeth or "Betsy," then a teenager.
According to legend and the memories of a family member written down long after the fact, the haunting began with mysterious noises and sightings of a strange dog-like creature and grew over time to completely disrupt life in the Bell home. Numerous people claimed to have experienced the events and one legend even holds that Andrew Jackson went up from Nashville to investigate, although his personal papers mention nothing of it.
According to the legend, family members and neighbors finally concluded that the haunting came from the spells of an angry witch and much speculation revolved around another neighbor. There is no evidence, of course, that she was actually involved.
The haunting climaxed with the mysterious death of John Bell. It was determined that he had swallowed poison and family members were convinced that it was placed in the house by the witch. It has been claimed that this was the only incident of a spirit killing a human being in U.S. history, but there were other similar allegations in other locations during the same era.
In modern terms, the Bell Witch haunting could best be described as a "poltergeist event." These are usually associated with the presence of an adolescent in the house and many believe they are pyschic, not spiritual. Others, of course, don't believe in them at all.
Whether you believe in the legend or not, the Bell Witch story is an important part of Southern history and folklore. It is a particularly important part of the culture of Tennessee and, curiously, later carried over into other states. More on that in the next post.
If you are interested in reading more about the Bell Witch haunting from a historical perspective, please visit

Friday, October 24, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Eleven - Petit Jean's Ghost, Arkansas

One of the most cherished and beloved legends in the South is the story of Petit Jean in Arkansas.
As the story goes Petit Jean was a young French girl. Because she was small in size or petite, she was called Petit Jean by those who knew her.
Her lover came to America on a voyage of exploration during the 1700s, when Arkansas was a French possession and, rather than be left behind, she disguised herself as a cabin boy so she could follow him across the Atlantic.
Her identity was discovered and she accompanied her love on an expedition up the Arkansas River, then an important route in the French fur trade. As the explorers were camped beneath what is now Petit Jean Mountain and visiting with the inhabitants of a local Native American village, Petit Jean mysteriously sickened and died. The saddened villagers carried her to the top of the mountain and buried her in a natural rock garden facing the rising sun.
Her traditional grave can still be seen today, high atop the mountain. Now surrounded by an iron fence, the low mound of earth is in the center of large rock formations near the overlook on the east side of the mountain.
Long-standing tradition in the area holds that the young girl's restless ghost still roams the area around her grave. People have reported seeing the strange figure of a sad young woman on the mountaintop and others claim to have seen mysterious lights in the area of the grave.
To learn more about the story of Petit Jean's ghost and to see photos of Petit Jean Mountain, please visit

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Ten - The Edgefield Ghost, South Carolina

One of the most fascinating ghost stories in American history developed in Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1829 and was widely reported in U.S. newspapers of that year.

The following is the initial report from the Edgefield Courier newspaper of July 11, 1829:

A public curiosity has been greatly excited, and many tales more or less true, have gone out, concerning the mysterious and invisible being, that has been heard at Mr. Isaac Burnett's, in this District, for some time, it seems proper that the Public should be in possession of the facts relative to this extraordinary circumstance. The voice was first heard in October last, imitating various noises, such as that of th espinning wheel, reel ducks, hens, & c. It was first heard by Mr. Burnett, about twenty yards from the house, which led him to suppose it was some of the neighbor's children, hiding in the weeds and trying to frighten his children. It was afterwards heard in the loft of the house and Mr. B. supposing it to be a bird, sent a boy up to drive it out, but nothing could be seen. It thus continued to perplex the minds of the family for some time, until, at length, one of the children said he believed that thing could talk, and commenced asking questions, which it answered by whistling, pretty much like a Parrot. This circumstance getting out, many persons came to hear it. Mr. John Shepherd, a...worthy citizen, who lives in the neighborhood, conversed with it in presence of a nuber of witnesses. To ascertain the extent of its knowledge, he asked it various questions about most persons in the neighborhood and their circumstances which it answered correctly. It told his name and the number of children he had; also, the names of most of the persons present. He asked what it came there for. It replied, "Because it had no other place to go." It was asked if it came to do the family harm, it said no - it loved the family. It was asked finally if it loved Jesus Christ, to which it made no reply, nor answered any more question, which Mr. Shepherd asked. The evening after, it answered others, but would not answer him. For the first three months it was heard only once a month....

The Edgefield ghost continued to draw considerable attention in newspapers through 1829 and 1830, but coverage of the strange spirit finally diminished. Accounts indicate, however, that numerous people heard and conversed with it in 1829 and that it was sometimes heard whistling "Yankee Doodle."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Nine - Fayetteville, Arkansas

This photograph was taken in the fall of 2006 at the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Notice the strange anomaly in the right hand side of the photograph.
The cemetery looks out over the scene of the Battle of Fayetteville, a Civil War engagement fought for control of the city on April 18, 1863.
The fighting surged through the valley visible at the top of the photograph and many of the Confederate dead were buried here on the slope of East Mountain. Around 20 Confederates were killed in the battle.
The Confederate Cemetery is noted locally for strange photographs like this one and some have claimed to see unusual lights along the ridge after dark. Of a number of pictures taken on this particular day, this was the only one to show anything unusual.
If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Fayetteville, please visit

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Eight - Bellamy Bridge, Florida

The sad story of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge is one of Florida's best known tales of the supernatural.
The legend revolves around an old iron bridge that spans the Chipola River a few miles north of Marianna. Nearby is the lonely grave of Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, a young woman that died during the antebellum era in Florida.
Although legend holds that she died in a tragic wedding night fire, the true facts are that Bellamy died of severe fever along with her 18 month old child Alexander. Both are buried in an overgrown cemetery near today's Bellamy Bridge.
Tradition holds that the ghostly image of the young woman can be seen moving along the banks of the river in the area around the bridge. The photograph above, taken at Bellamy Bridge during winter months, shows an unusual "mist" in the lower right hand corner. Of more than 100 images taken that day, it was the only one that showed anything unusual.
If you would like to learn more about this favorite Florida ghost story, please visit

Friday, October 17, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Seven - St. Simons Lighthouse, Georgia

One of the most beautiful lighthouses to be found anywhere, the St. Simons Lighthouse towers over the Atlantic Coast of Georgia.
Located on St. Simons Island, the old tower stands on the site of earlier British and Confederate forts and has served as an important landmark for ships sailing into the harbor for more than a century.
St. Simons Light is also haunted by stories of a restless spirit. Most story tellers agree that the ghost is that of Frederick Osborne, onetime keeper of the light.
The ghost legend has its origin in 1880, when Osborne and his assistant, John Stephens, became embroiled in an argument. The following brief account appeared in the Georgia Weekly Telegraph newspaper on March 12, 1880:
Mr. Osburn, keeper of the lighthouse on St. Simons' Island, was seriously shot by Mr. John Stephens, his assistant, for talking in a disrespectful manner to his wife.
Osborne died from his wounds and Stephens was arrested and charged with murder, but was acquitted following a trial.
Reports of a ghost at the lighthouse originated almost immediately. By 1907, the story of the haunted lighthouse and its ghostly keeper was being printed in newspapers across the country.
An eyewitness that year described one of the spirit's appearances. Apparently, prior to his death, Osborne had indicated that if he was ever needed to assist with the works of the lighthouse, all his assistants had to do was call. One of them jokingly asked, "What if you are dead?" to which he responded, "Well, call anyway!"
According to the newspaper accounts, the new keeper of the lighthouse had gone to shore and his wife began having difficulty with the mechanism and, remembering Osborne's words, said "Well, come and fix it now!" To the surprise of the woman, the spirit of the old keeper appeared:
There was a clink and rattle, and looking up Mrs. C---- saw the distinct figure of the French Canadian bending over the works. Overcome by the reaction, she fainted, and when she regained consciousness the steady "click, click," of the works assured her all was well with the light. The man had disappeared.... (From the Idaho Statesman, September 8, 1907)
In the years since, many people have reported seeing the ghostly figure of Osborne in and around the lighthouse. Strange sounds of footsteps going up and down the spiral staircase have also been reported.
The lighthouse today is beautiful restored and can be visited during regular hours. If you would like to read more, please visit

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Six - Poison Spring, Arkansas

This strange glowing light was photographed through the trees at Poison Spring Battlefield State Park near Camden, Arkansas, late in the afternoon of a stormy summer day.

The light could be seen from the parking lot at the battlefield and seemed to be coming from down in the ravine formed by Poison Spring Branch. Upon entering the woods along the nature trail, however, it could not be found.

The photograph also shows several small white "orbs" that I think are light effects caused by the weather conditions that day. What is interesting, though, is that one of these appears over the yellowish light itself, indicating that it had definite depth as opposed to being a camera effect.

Poison Spring was the site of a dramatic Confederate victory during the Civil War. Southern troops overwhelmed a Union wagon train here during the Red River Campaign of 1864. Eyewitnesses claimed that Southern soldiers shot and killed Union soldiers after the battle.

Over the years, stories have been told of unusual things such as strange lights or misty figures being seen in the battlefield area. As is often the case with battlefields, there are stories that the dead linger at Poison Spring.

If you would like to read more about the Battle of Poison Spring and see additional "ghost" pictures, please visit

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Five - Warden Castle in St. Augustine, Florida

This photograph shows several "orbs" photographed in Warden Castle (now Ripley's Believe It or Not!) in St. Augustine, Florida.

Personally, I think that most orbs are just light effects caused by camera flashes interacting with dust or other light sources, but some people believe they are indicative of supernatural activity.

The castle was built in 1887 by William G. Warden, a business partner of John D. Rockefeller and Florida's famed railroad builder, Henry Flagler. The Warden family used the unique structure as a winter home until the 1930s.

In 1941 it was remodeled as a hotel and a tragic fire there claimed lives. It is said that the spirits of the unfortunate victims still haunt the old structure. People report seeing strange figures in the old Moorish building late at night and tourists often photograph "orbs" and unusual streaks of light there.

Now fully renovated, Warden Castle is the home to Ripley's Believe It or Not! In fact, this was the nation's first Ripley's museum, a distinction that makes it something of a pop culture icon.

In true Ripley's style, those interested in Warden Castle's "ghostly" occupants can take part in nightly "Ghost Train" tours that give them a chance to learn some tales of St. Augustine ghosts and walk through the spooky old structure and museum after dark.

To learn more about Castle Warden, please visit:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Four - Rich Mountain, Arkansas

Ghost stories often provide a glimpse into real events from the distant past. This is the case with the legend of the Ghost of Rich Mountain in Arkansas.
Rich Mountain is located deep in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. Although the area is now part of the Ouachita National Forest, it was once a region of isolated settlements where early pioneers clung to existence on the rocky slopes of the mountains.
On the top of the mountain, just off the Talimena Scenic Drive, is the Rich Mountain Pioneer Cemetery. Established at around the time of the Civil War by early settlers, it remained in use well into the 20th century. It is a mysterious place, even on sunny summer days. Cracked and broken tombstones surrounded by a split rail fence set off the drive in the woods are the focus of numerous stories of the early mountain settlers. Perhaps the most moving is the tale of the Ghost of Rich Mountain.
According to the story, a teenage girl was home with her mother and several younger children on a freezing night during the Civil War. The mother was severely ill with a fever, so the daughter went out with a bucket to obtain water from a nearby spring. It was late at night and icy winds were blowing across the mountain. Before she could return, however, she was confronted by wolves and took refuge in a tree. She froze to death there and was not found until the next day.
Legend holds that mysterious lights can be seen at night in the area of the Rich Mountain cemetery. The explanation usually given is that the strange light is given off by the ghost of the young girl, still trapped in a tree on the mountain more than 140 years after the Civil War.
If you would like to read more about the Rich Mountain Pioneer Cemetery, please visit

Monday, October 13, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Three - Big Cedar, Missouri

On the outskirts of the modern tourist mecca of Branson, the Big Cedar Resort preserves several historic structures as part of the wilderness themed complex.
Among these is the Worman House (seen here).
Built by Harry Worman, an executive with the Frisco Railroad and one of two prominent businessmen that bought the Big Cedar Valley during the 1920s, the house is now a noteworthy restaurant.
It is difficult to imagine that the beautiful scenery could have been a miserable location for anyone, but according to legend the Big Cedar Valley felt more like a prison than a vacation spot for Worman's young wife, Dorothy. Fond of the society and parties, she feld out of place and lonely in the house at Big Cedar and, as the story goes, ran away and died at an early age.
Employees and guests, though, often see an unusual shadowy figure walking the grounds of the resort at night, prompting the growth of a legend that Dorothy Worman haunts the place that once caused such misery in her life.
To learn more about Big Cedar Resort and its history, please visit and follow the link for Big Cedar Resort.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part Two - The Crescent Hotel, Arkansas

It is said to the "America's Most Haunted Hotel."
Rising from a mountaintop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, this beautiful historic inn is well worth a visit just for its unique history and spectacular views. But if you enjoy a good ghost story, then it is definitely for you.
Construction on the Crescent Hotel began in 1886 and it operated as a hotel for its first 15 years, catering to visitors that came from across the nation to "take the waters" of the springs and spas of Eureka Springs. Many believed the natural mineral water held curative powers and the Crescent provided them a place to stay in style while they visited the resort community.
Hard times fell on the community, though, and the Crescent fell into disrepair. Then came the era from which most of the ghost stories originate. The Crescent was acquired by Norman Baker or, as he liked to term himself, "Dr. Norman Baker."
Baker was a former mind reader that also claimed to have developed a cancer cure. He set up shop in the Crescent Hotel, inviting patients across the country to come and partake of his "cure." Many died and the hotel became notorious for the strange goings on there. Baker was ultimately indicted for mail fraud and spend many years in Federal prison before retiring to Florida.
According to local legend, though, many of his patients still linger in the halls and rooms of the Crescent Hotel. The hotel is notorious for its ghost sightings and has been the focus of numerous investigations, some of which have produced video and photographs of strange figures and other unusual things.
To learn more about the Crescent Hotel and Eureka Springs in general, please visit

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Southern Ghosts Part One - St. Augustine Lighthouse, Florida

One of Florida's best known ghost stories swirls around the spectacular tower of the St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida.
For decades people have claimed to hear and see strange things in the tower. Most of the stories revolve around an unfortunate accident that happened while the tower was being built in 1873.
A cable car of sorts was rigged up to carry construction material from the beach up to the lighthouse site and the children of the construction superintendent and their friends liked to ride the cart back and forth. On July 10, 1873, however, something went very wrong and three of the children died in an unfortunate accident.
It is said that their voices, footsteps and forms can be seen inside the tower. The SciFi Channel television show "Ghost Hunters" visited the tower and recorded several unusual "figures" inside the lighthouse, making the St. Augustine Lighthouse one of the South's best known "haunted locations."
You can learn more about the lighthouse by visiting: