Places that go bump in the night
By Sheila Paz
While the Deep South exudes its charm and Southern hospitality, it harbors spine-chilling stories and enigmatic entities that lurk in the shadows. Brace yourself, as we delve into the macabre, but take heed of the cautionary tales that accompany these haunted destinations.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Unearth the eerie history of New Orleans by visiting St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, one of the city’s oldest graveyards. Renowned as a hotbed of paranormal activity, this haunting location has been gripping souls since 1789. If you dare to venture forth, you might catch a glimpse of the infamous Voodoo Queen, Madame Laveau. Pay a visit to her grave, mark an X upon it, turn thrice, knock on the tomb, and vocalize your wish. Rumor has it that Madame Laveau possesses the power to grant desires, albeit at a chilling cost.
Embark on a spine-tingling journey to the LaLaurie Mansion, a notorious haunt and a popular stop on New Orleans’ ghost tours. Filled with tormented spirits of those who were purportedly subjected to unspeakable torment within its walls, this ominous dwelling is off limits to entry. However, even a stroll past the eerie edifice will send a shiver down your spine. Listen attentively, and you might just catch whispers emanating from the trapped souls.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to New Orleans (10 hours, 17 minutes)
Nonstop flight: SAV to MSY (1 hour, 57 minutes)
Gather ’round and listen closely as we recount the legend of Stucky’s Bridge in Meridian, Mississippi. According to the lore, the infamous Dalton Gang abandoned one of its own, Old Man Stucky, who set up an inn by the riverbank. He would beckon travelers, inviting them in for warmth and rest, only to murder them in their slumber. It is said that Stucky claimed the lives of 25 people before being caught and hanged from the very bridge that bears his name. Stucky’s ghost still haunts the area, swinging his lantern or swaying in the wind, patiently awaiting his next victim.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Meridian, Mississippi (8 hours, 39 minutes)
Venture to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and uncover the most haunted place in the state — the McRaven Mansion. Built in 1797, this venerable structure stands as the oldest building in Vicksburg. Over the years numerous owners have come and gone, with some meeting their demise within the mansion or its grounds. Witnesses claim to have encountered the apparition of an old Confederate soldier wandering the halls, while others report witnessing objects moving inexplicably. As if that weren’t enough to send chills down your spine, the mansion’s grounds once served as a Confederate field hospital, with echoes of the past still rising from the soil. Exercise caution as you explore this time-capsule home, filled with original artifacts untouched by the passage of time.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Vicksburg, Mississippi (10 hours, 35 minutes)
Docked at USS Alabama Memorial Park, the USS Alabama BB-60 battleship launched in 1940. Dedicated to the public in 1965, this vessel is home to lingering spirits who convey their tales through uncanny encounters. Courageous visitors have reported hearing footsteps without a visible source. Apparitions have materialized in the officers’ quarters and the cook’s galley. Beware, ladies, as female visitors have experienced an eerie tugging sensation at their ears. The restless spirits aboard the USS Alabama eagerly await intrepid souls brave enough to explore their phantom-laden ship.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Mobile, Alabama (8 hours, 11 minutes)
Nestled in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Fort Morgan stands as a haunting testament to those who perished in the wars fought on its grounds. Eerie cries of men and inexplicable footsteps echo through the halls, seemingly emanating from unseen entities. Shadows of men lurking in the darkness have been spotted by some, while others claim to have witnessed a distraught woman, victim of a brutal attack, tirelessly searching for her assailant. The vengeful ghosts of Fort Morgan are not to be trifled with, as their thirst for retribution remains ever-present.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Gulf Shores, Alabama (8 hours, 30 minutes)
The Ellis Hotel
The Ellis Hotel, an esteemed and award-winning establishment in Atlanta, harbors a reputation for spectral apparitions. Constructed as a fireproof hotel in 1913, it took a sinister turn when it caught fire in 1946, claiming the lives of 119 people. Hotel guests have reported hearing the sounds of people dashing through the hallways, encountering peculiar odors of smoke and hearing fire alarms blaring between 2 and 3 a.m., mirroring the time when the calamity began.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Atlanta (4 hours, 34 minutes)
Nonstop flights: SAV to ATL (1 hour, 5 minutes), HHH to ATL (1 hour, 21 minutes)
Immerse yourself in Southern charm and spine-chilling tales at the Hamilton-Turner Inn, one of Savannah’s haunted historic boutique hotels. You may hear the faint sound of children rolling billiard balls down the stairs. Guests have reported glimpsing a figure atop the roof, indulging in a cigar. Some believe that the inn was constructed atop the grave of a Confederate soldier, whose restless spirit haunts the corridors, occasionally knocking on guests’ doors.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Savannah (47 minutes)
Battery Carriage Inn
Prepare to experience Southern spookiness at Battery Carriage Inn, also known as 20 South Battery. This inn is imbued with the restless spirits believed to have once inhabited the premises. Guests and staff have reported sightings of a headless torso, a gentleman in search of a warm bed and an ethereal orb of light within its rooms. If you’re feeling daring, request rooms 3, 8 or 10.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Charleston (2 hours, 7 minutes)
Pelican Inn rests as a storied refuge, rumored to host apparitions from the Civil War epoch. Veiled in the dimness, the ethereal form of Plowden Charles Jeannerette Weston, the inn’s inaugural proprietor, materializes, draped in his Confederate attire. The Grey Man, an omen of impending hurricanes, materializes along the shoreline. The scent of Emily Weston, Plowden’s spouse, lingers, leaving ephemeral trails of her perfume.
Road trip: Hilton Head Island to Pawleys Island (3 hours, 27 minutes)