Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Weekend - Looking for good, historically-based, Ghost Stories??

Crescent Hotel - America's Most Haunted?
Halloween weekend is here!  And while many people enjoy trick or treating, costumes  and fake but scary haunted houses, others like to read or share "real" ghost stories.

At we focus exclusively on stories that have a verifiable historical background. Not only that, we dig into stories to find out as best we can what the truth behind them might be!

You can check out the full list at, but here are some of our favorites:

Just use your back button to come back to this list!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Claude Neal Lynching: FBI investigating 77 year old Florida crime

Edited Photo of Claude Neal Lynching
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a new investigation into the notorious 1934 lynching of Claude Neal near Marianna, Florida.

FBI agents have been looking at archival records and interviewing family members of Neal as well as public officials in Jackson County, where the lynching took place. The Justice Department neither confirms nor denies such investigations, but has said that it is looking into nearly 100 such cases as part of a new focus on unsolved crimes of the Civil Rights era. Officials in Marianna, speaking off the record, confirmed that they have talked with the FBI about the case.

Claude Neal was a 23 year old black farm laborer in Jackson County at the time of the lynching. The series of events leading to his death began on October 18, 1934, when a 19 year old woman named Lola Cannady left her home in a rural area and walked a few hundred yards across an open field to water her family's hogs. She never came back.

Location of Lola Cannady Murder, 1980s
As concern over her disappearance grew, family members and neighbors started to search the surrounding fields and woods. Near the hand pump at the hog pen they found indications of a large fight. Footprints went around and around in circles and there were blood splatters on the ground. They also found a man's footprints leading from the scene across a field to a nearby home.

When they followed the prints to the house, they found two women - Sallie and Annie Smith - trying to wash blood from a man's clothes. Annie's son, Claude Neal, was not home and would not return home that night. A bloody hammer was also found at the house.  The women would soon admit that the clothes belonged to Neal and Annie Smith would tell Sheriff W.F. "Flake" Chambliss that she had seen Neal and Cannady near the hog pen and had heard her screams.

Lola's mother looking at her daughter's body, 1934.
Lola's body was found in a wooded area the next morning. She had been raped and beaten to death. A blood-stained piece of cloth was found near her body. It matched a piece that had been torn from the sleeve of Claude Neal's shirt. Searchers also found the stem and loop of a pocket watch at the scene. When he was arrested that day, Neal was carrying a pocket watch but deputies quickly noted that it was missing its stem and loop. The watch parts found near Lola's body fit perfectly onto the broken part of Claude's watch.

The Jackson County sheriff tried to protect Neal from a growing mob that was determined to exact revenge on him by taking him from authorities and turning him over to Lola's father. The suspect was moved to jails in Chipley, Panama City and Pensacola, Florida, before finally being moved to a double-locked cell at the jail in Brewton, Alabama.  He was taken from the latter place by mob members armed with shotguns, pistols and sticks of dynamite.

National Guard troops from company sent to Marianna.
Claude Neal was carried back to Jackson County where he was tortured and then killed by a small group of six men who held him in the woods near a riverboat landing on the Chattahoochee River. His body was then carried to the Cannady farm and from there it was taken to Marianna and hanged from a tree on courthouse square.

Marianna was the scene of rioting on the day the body was found at the courthouse and Florida Governor Dave Sholtz had to send in two companies of the Florida National Guard to calm the situation.

The Claude Neal lynching became a focal part of an effort by the NAACP and other groups to secure the passage of a national anti-lynching law. The men that killed Neal were never tried and all are now dead. The shadow of the lynching, however, lingers even today as an important part of both the history and present of Florida.

To learn more and see a new online video on the case, please visit

Friday, October 7, 2011

Best Autumn Drives #5 - Highway 190 in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia

Overlook at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
Highway 190, which passes along the crest of Pine Mountain through the full length of Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Georgia, is one of the most beautiful fall drives in the South.
The park takes its name from the President that led the United States through the dark days of the Great Depression and World War II. In fact, President Roosevelt died at his Little White House near Warm Springs on the northern slopes of Pine Mountain. He frequented the beautiful scenery now included in the more than 9,000 acres of the state park.

Highway 190 enters the park at the Callaway Store and Overlook just north of Hamilton, Georgia. From there it winds its way along the top of the mountain, past overlooks, the park office, cabins, picnic areas, trail heads and other points of interest until it exits the park just outside Warm Springs. The total length is just under 12 miles.

Roosevelt Statue at Dowdell's Knob
Along the way, be sure to take Dowdell Knob Road out to Dowdell's Knob, a favorite picnic spot of President Roosevelt. The knob is a hilltop that projects from the side of the mountain and provides a spectacular, panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.  During the fall it overlooks an amazing natural canvas of color, especially reds and golds.

Highway 190 itself is simply a spectacular drive in years when the leaves are good.  Along much of the route, the trees form natural arches over the roadway. When these take on their full color, the scene as you pass through the trees is simply amazing.

The drive is also just minutes away from Pine Mountain's famed Callaway Gardens, which also offers spectacular fall scenery.  The grounds of the Little White House near the northern end of the highway are also beautiful in the fall.

If you want to enjoy a great lunch while visiting Pine Mountain, consider the Callaway Country Store located at the southern entrance to the state park. The dining room there has what may be the best fried chicken in Georgia and features spectacular views from your table.  You can also take a picnic and enjoy the mountain scenery itself as there are plenty of great picnic spots along the road and the weather is usually mild, but cool (be sure to take a sweater or jacket).

To learn more about Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, please visit

You can also check out the views from Dowdell's Knob at

You can read about the Little White House and President Roosevelt at

And, last but not least, read about Callaway Gardens at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Best Autumn Drives #4 - Cheaha State Park Loop, Alabama

View from Cheaha State Park Restaurant
Alabama's highest point is a spectacular destination year round, but the top of Cheaha Mountain (or Mt. Cheaha as it is commonly known) turns into a stunning wonderland of color during the annual fall leaf change.
Bunker Loop is a paved drive that takes visitors around the top of the mountain. Beginning at the park entrance on Highway 281 (Talladega Scenic Drive), it winds its way around the main plateau atop the mountain and offers beautiful scenery and numerous points of interest.

Bald Rock Overlook
Among the stops of note along the loop is Bunker Tower, a beautiful stone structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back in the 1930s that rises high into the clear mountain air from the peak of Alabama's tallest point. From the top visitors can take in a remarkable 360 degree view of Cheaha and the surrounding Talladega National Forest.

Just up the loop from the tower is the parking area for the Doug Ghee Accessible Trail to Bald Rock. A very nice boardwalk is accessible for visitors of all abilities, the trail leads to an overlook atop Bald Rock on the edge of the mountain. The view is stunning and in the fall an array of color stretches for as far as the eye can see.

Also accessible off the loop is the trail to Pulpit Rock. A rugged walk through rock fields and down a steep slope, the trail ends at a stunning rock that juts out from the side of the mountain.

Cheaha State Park also offers a wide array of amenities, ranging from a hotel to cabins and campgrounds to a mountaintop restaurant with perhaps the best view of any place to eat in Alabama.

To learn more about the park, please visit

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Best Autumn Drives #3 - Pig Trail Scenic Byway, Arkansas

Ozark Mountains of Arkansas
Continuing our look (not in any particular order) of some of the best autumn drives in the South, this post focuses on the famed Pig Trail Scenic Byway in Arkansas.
So named because it is used as a short cut by many fans on their way to University of Arkansas Razorbacks football games on weekends in the fall, the Pig Trail passes through some of the prettiest scenery in the Ozarks.

The Pig Trail actually originated as a winding trail that provided foot access for ancient Indian hunters as they made their way into the mountains of the Ozarks from the Arkansas River Valley. When French hunters and trappers arrived in Arkansas during the 1600s, they discovered this path and used it as well. In fact, they gave the name Aux Arcs (which has been corrupted in English to "Ozarks") to the wide bend of the river at the point it is intersected by the trail. This is now the site of the town of Ozark.

Pig Trail Scenic Byway
In later years, the trail was used by early settlers of the mountains and later by Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as the riders of the vicious guerrilla bands that infested the region, during the Civil War.

The mountains surrounding the Pig Trail became part of the Ozark National Forest when it was established in the early 1900s and over the years the road became a favorite way to access the mountains and the beautiful Mulberry River area. The National Forest Service designated it as a scenic byway and today it provides a way for visitors to explore a stunning area of mountains, valleys, wild rivers and waterfalls.

To learn more about the Pig Trail Scenic Byway, please follow this link: