Jefferson Haunts #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the Something Wicked tour last week. I had a blast hosting my fellow SE authors. But now, it’s back to normal here. (Or as normal as it can get. LOL) Time for another Mystery Monday.

The small East Texas town of Jefferson lies near the Louisiana border. At just an hour away from my home, it’s a nice place for a weekend getaway.

With its quaint, brick streets, and historic church buildings, you’d never guess Jefferson is a hotspot for ghost sightings and paranormal occurrences.

But it is. Today I’ll tell you about a few of the “haunts.”

The Jefferson Hotel

First on the list is the Jefferson Hot. Built in 1851, the building once housed a cotton warehouse. Today, the staff of the hotel say encounters with the paranormal happen weekly and sometimes daily. Dishes move, televisions turn on and off, and items fall when no one is around.

Elizabeth Montgomery was a young bride-to-be and a guest of the hotel in the 1870s. When her fiancé stood her up on their wedding day, Elizabeth hung herself from a bedpost in room 19. Some guests say her ghost still occupies that area.

There are also reports of the ghosts of playful children who are bent on playing pranks. Staff turn off lights only to have them turned on again once they walk away.

Another reported spirit is an unknown man. He’s tall and wears a long duster with his pants tucked into his boots. He roams the downstairs hallway, then turns to go into a room. But when the room is checked, no one is inside.

Guests report hearing children’s laughter, the smell of cigar smoke (it’s a non-smoking building), faucets turning on of their own accord, and doors opening.

The Excelsior House is one of the oldest hotels in operation in Texas. Dating back to the 1850s, famous guests include Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant, former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, and playwright Oscar Wilde.

The Excelsior House

Unlike the staff of the Jefferson, the garden club that manages Excelsior House downplay the existence of ghosts. Yet some people believe spirits inhabit the hotel. Among them, a headless man, a woman in black with a baby, and Diamond Bessie, a prostitute who was murdered in the woods just outside of town in 1877.

According to rumor, Director Steven Spielberg stayed in what is known as the Jay Gould room. Upon arriving, he tossed his briefcase in a chair only to have it flung back at him. The story goes on to say the spirit of a young boy awakened him during the night to ask if he was ready for breakfast. Spielberg immediately gathered his crew and checked out of the hotel. He then wrote and produced the film Poltergeist shortly after that. (Of note, this is only a rumor and unconfirmed.)

McGarity’s Saloon was a stop on the Jefferson Ghost walk. Some people report seeing an apparition in the left upstairs window. I snapped several photos but didn’t see anything. However, I have no idea what caused the black shadow in this picture. It was not present in all the images, and I took several of this building.

My husband and I have stayed in both hotels and did not have any paranormal occurrences. However, we did do a ghost walk one cold November night. Again, no encounters, but we did hear some fascinating tales. Our guide showed us a photo of a house (now bed and breakfast) where there was clearly the ghostly image of a man standing near a window. I’m no expert, but it did not appear to be photoshopped.

The Grove is a private residence and tour home. It’s said to be one of the most haunted locations in Texas, with ghost stories dating back over 100 years. Several spirits inhabit the house, including a lady wearing white, a man who strides through the lily beds of the garden, and a mischievous entity that is particularly fond of ladies.

Stories of ghosts and paranormal sightings abound in this little town. And I’m sure hubs and I will visit there again someday. Who knows? We might have our own encounter with an unknown entity.

Haunted Vicksburg #MysteryMonday

As the battle of Gettysburg raged, a thousand miles to the south the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi was nearing the end. For forty-seven days between May 18 – July 4, 1983, Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant surrounded the city. Confederate troops led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton held firm. Finally, with their supplies nearly gone, they surrendered on July 4—one day after Meade defeated Lee at Gettysburg.

Although the number of casualties wasn’t as high as those in Gettysburg, there was still loss of lives. The Union army suffered 766 deaths with another 3,793 wounded. Over three-thousand confederates were listed as killed, wounded, or missing. Another 29,495 surrendered.

The city itself lay in near ruin with many of its residents near starvation. With such tragedy is it any wonder Vicksburg is a place known for paranormal activity?

My husband and I visited the city a few years ago. We toured the battlefield and national cemetery, spent a night in an antebellum mansion turned bed and breakfast, and went on a ghost tour. Below are a few of the stories about Haunted Vicksburg.

Cedar Grove Mansion

John Alexander Klein was a wealthy Vicksburg businessman who built Cedar Grove Mansion as a gift for his bride, Elizabeth. Completed in 1852, it offered a view of the Mississippi River. The Kleins furnished the home with Bohemian glass, paintings by renowned artists, Italian marble fireplaces, and French Empire Gasoliers.

In 1862, John joined the Confederacy, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Elizabeth. She was a relative of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. He moved her behind Union lines to have the baby, which she named Willie. Sherman also converted Cedar Grove into a Union Hospital to save it from destruction.

However, it did not escape damage. The front door has a patch where a cannonball entered.

A cannonball fired during the siege of Vicksburg

One is still lodged in a wall of the front parlor, and another made a hole in the floor. After the war, Klein and his family returned to the mansion, thanks to the money he kept hidden to pay his taxes.

Cedar Grove was not without tragedy. John and Elizabeth Klein had ten children, but only six of them lived to adulthood. Two died in infancy, and a two-year-old succumbed to yellow fever. Their sixteen-year-old son, Willie had just returned from a hunting trip with a friend. The two of them were sitting on the back step when the friend accidentally knocked over his rifle. It fired, hitting Willie in the chest.

Supposedly, he was able to climb up the stairs to the second floor where he collapsed and died on the spot. Today, visitors to the mansion claim to see shadowy figures on the stairs. Others have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a woman in the ballroom, heard children’s feet in the upstairs hallway, and had strange encounters in the basement which served as a morgue for the soldiers who died there.

My husband and I stayed in Cedar Grove. We didn’t have any paranormal experiences. Perhaps it was due to the complimentary glass of sherry we consumed before going to bed, which put us in a deep, dreamless sleep.

The site of Pemberton’s Headquarters

During the siege of Vicksburg, General Pemberton occupied an 1835 Greek Revival house on Crawford Street. At that time, the neighborhood had some of the most beautiful homes in Vicksburg. In the years following the war, the house was a private residence until a family sold it to the Sisters of Mercy. They used for a dormitory, a nursing school, and a kindergarten. In 1973, the Sisters of Mercy sold the house, it reverted to a private residence and was later made into a bed and breakfast.

In 2003, the National Park Service acquired the home. Several years ago, employees at the Baldwin House next door reported seeing a group of Confederate soldiers in the front yard and assumed the were Civil War re-enactors. Imagine their surprise when the soldiers walked behind the house, then vanished.

Some believe these were the spirits of Confederate soldiers who camped near the home during Pemberton’s time there.

Baldwin House

Spirits are also reported to reside in the Baldwin House, including a woman who wears long, flowing black skirts trimmed in white. The owners named her “Aunt Gertrude.” There is also a ghost who wears black, old-fashioned clothes and is known as the funeral lady.

Of note, you may recall I posted a photo of this house a few weeks back. At the time I took the picture, I didn’t know the story of the funeral lady. However, the house is one I pictured for my upcoming short story, “Woman in Black.”

The Illinois Monument at Vicksburg National Military Park

It’s no surprise there are many reported sightings in Vicksburg National Military Park and Cemetery. Many have purported to see the ghost of General Grant riding across the battlefield at midnight. Others say they hear the screams of wounded and dying men or the sounds of gunfire and cannons. One young man was jogging near the cemetery one night when he saw fog over the graves. The mist was not visible anywhere else. Both the Illinois and Pennsylvania Monuments are said to be haunted.

There are countless other reports of ghost sightings and hauntings in Vicksburg. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, a visit to the battlefield is a sobering reminder of what happens when a nation stands divided.

Gettysburg Ghosts #MysteryMonday

This month’s Mystery Monday posts will be stories of haunted America. There are hundreds of places I could write about. However, I chose towns places I have visited and taken part in a ghost walk or tour. The first is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The picturesque town of Gettysburg lies in South Central Pennsylvania. In many ways, it’s like other small towns in America—a spot on a map most people would never visit.

On July 1 – 3 of that year, tens of thousands descended upon the town as the Army of Northern Virginia engaged in battle with the Army of the Potomac. Casualties on both sides were high. An estimated 27,000 Confederate and 23,000 Union soldiers were either wounded or killed—the highest number for any single battle of the war. The war also claimed the life of one civilian when a stray bullet passed through a kitchen door, hitting twenty-year-old Jennie Wade.

After the fighting ended, the town’s residents had to care for the wounded and bury approximately 8,000 dead soldiers.

Many homes became field hospitals for the thousands of wounded during the three-day battle.

During the battle, farmhouses and public buildings were used as makeshift hospitals. Surgeons performed countless amputations in less than optimal conditions. Limbs were thrown out windows into piles. These were later gathered and buried in makeshift graves. Citizens heard the cries of wounded soldiers throughout the town.

Mass graves were dug for both Union and Confederate soldiers. Is it any wonder Gettysburg has become a prime location for paranormal activity? This area has more reporting incidents of paranormal activity than any other Civil War Battlefield.

The valley of death is an area between Little Round Top and Devil’s den. One woman reported

Looking down from Little Round Top to Devil’s Den

being in this area one night when she heard someone playing Taps from deep in the woods. A white fog appeared, then she saw a soldier walk out of the mist. He walked by slowly, then disappeared.

More than one visitor has reported seeing a man with bare feet and shoulder-length hair, wearing a floppy hat and ragged clothing. Many believe he is a ghost of a Texas soldier who died in that area.

Others have had trouble with their cameras while at Devil’s Den. When they leave the area, the cameras work perfectly.

After the war, the Homestead Orphanage was established to care for and educate the children of fallen soldiers. Headmistress Rosa Carmichael was a mean, vindictive woman who often locked children in the outside or tied them to fences and left them in the hot sun.

Dungeon at Children’s Home where children were locked in for days.

She hired an assistant, a teenager known as Stick Boy, to carry out much of the punishment. He would trip kids with his stick, beat them, and chain them to a wall of the basement. Some children were locked in a small room in the cellar and left there for days.

The torment continued for almost nine years until someone found a child locked in the outside. In 1877, Carmichael was charged with child abuse, but her punishment was a measly $20.00 fine. She left Gettysburg never to be seen alive there again.

Strange occurrences have been reported including the presence of children in the basement and toys moving of their own accord. The remnants of a wire once used to shackle the children is said to stand straight out from the wall. Many believe the ghost of Rosa, Stick Boy, and the children now haunt the building.

Jennie Wade was the only civilian to die during the Battle of Gettysburg. She was a guest in her sister’s home when they became trapped in the middle of the war. Instead of being idle, Jennie spent her time baking bread for Union Soldiers. A stray bullet when through the door, into her shoulder, and lodged in her heart, killing her instantly.

The nearby Farnsworth house was a Confederate stronghold. The basement was used for triage, the attic for a sniper’s nest. Many believe the bullet that hit Jennie came from this house.

Both places have reported incidents of paranormal activity. Ghostly images of a woman have been seen in a mirror in the upstairs bedroom of the Wade house. In the Farnsworth house, people claim to hear people crying out in pain in the basemen. Many believe Jennie’s spirit still inhabits the home where she died.

We didn’t witness any paranormal activity while in Gettysburg. But more importantly, a visit to this town and the battlefields served as a reminder of a dark time in our nation’s history. It’s my hope we never repeat something that that again.