AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – October is spooky season, so what better subject for this month’s Hometown History than ghost stories?
The Arsenal Cemetery on the Augusta University Summerville Campus is the site where many people have reported seeing the ghost of a Confederate soldier. He is just one of a few ghost that reportedly haunt this very old and historic campus.
“We have heard of sightings of a young soldier dressed in the grey of the civil war moving toward the cemetery,” said Angela Young, Coordinator Campus Visitor Experience at AU.
The confederate soldier ghost story is one of the most famous at Augusta University. He has been seen walking campus at night and in the cemetery.
The ghost is also thought to be the “Apple Pie Ghost,” who can be heard opening a nonexistent oven in the Benet House at night.
“And another commandant in command in the home had a nephew who, courtesy of nepotism, received a job with higher pay than many of the enlisted soldiers who worked here at the Augusta Arsenal,” explained Young. “And did not endear himself to his colleagues at the arsenal with his tales of privileges of sneaking away to the commandant’s house for apple pie at lunch.”
The Benet House is home to another ghost too. A lesser known story involving a commandant’s wife, a fashionista of her time, who died under suspicious circumstances.
“He would rise very early every morning and go out to hunt, but always return in time to bring his wife her morning tea. The tale is, that after a particular morning after he had left for his duty at the arsenal, the maid arrived to find the bride, the young bride in bed and deceased with her cup of tea beside her bed,” Young said.
Employees working in the Benet House have reported hearing footsteps at night and hangers being moved in closets that don’t contain hangers.
Another well known ghost story is the story of Emily Galt. She lived at the Arsenal during the Civil War Era at the site where Bellevue Hall stands now. The legend goes that she was engaged to a Civil War soldier who was sent to war. She supposedly carved her name into a window in the house and when she got the news her fiancée was killed, she threw herself out of the top floor window in despair.
“And that she and her sister mourned his loss. There are tales that we can occasionally hear their weeping, or of happier times of she and her sister playing in the home itself,” smiled Young.
That story isn’t quite accurate. Historians have found that Emily died alone in a mental health institution in Virginia much later in life. No one knows what happened to her fiancée.
Boykin Wright was a prominent lawyer whose home was donated to the University when it was Augusta College. His spirit is said to visit people during the day.
“Uniquely among the ghost stories that live with us at Augusta University, He is the only one that is seen during the day. And inevitably when sightings occur, in his wake, the feelings are overwhelmingly peaceful and positive,” said Young.
Aiken County has its share of hauntings. The Aiken County Historical Museum was once a winter cottage for John Howe. Howe’s funeral was held in his home and his spirit is said to still be wandering the building.
During an interview at the museum for Hometown History: The Hampton Terrace Hotel, I heard a man’s voice clearly on the staircase Lauren Virgo, the museum’s Executive Director, and I were passing.
Aside from a female co-worker, Virgo and I were the only ones in the building. She tells me it was probably Mr. Howe.
“Our volunteers tells us they have seen a shadow person walking around the front area. In fact he was recently seen as soon as a month ago. And of course we tend to associate with Mr. Howe,” said Virgo.
There have also been reports of strange sightings by visitors to the museum, that are seemingly unrelated to Howe.
“And so sometimes we get people telling us they’ve seen soldiers downstairs in our military exhibit, so maybe something’s attached to one of the uniforms or the dog tags that we have on display,” she explained.
Virgo said a ghost cat was once sighted by a museum volunteer.
There is a cabin built in the early 1800’s on the property that once belonged to the Ellis Family. Virgo told me a paranormal investigator spent the night in the cabin and got results.
“And he had some experiences with seeing figures out of the corner of his eye, movement, and they even believe that they captured one on camera.”
And in Washington, Georgia– The Fitzpatrick Hotel. Built in 1898 by the Fitzpatrick brothers, John and Thomas, it is well known for being the residence of the paranormal.
The most active of the hotel’s ghost’s? Two young sisters who died in the same room– one from illness and the other from a fall down a staircase.
“People who sleep inside 200 report waking up with a sore throat from the young lady dying from scarlet fever. They report hearing children playing outside of the room, they report hearing children run up and down the main staircase,” said Brittany Buttrey, General Manager at the Fitzpatrick Hotel.
The sisters were the daughters of Thomas Fitzpatrick, who lived with his wife and eleven children on the second floor of the hotel. Both were under the age of four when they died. Buttrey said the girls love to play and are sometimes mischievous.
“We have books at the front desk that share history of the hotel and of the community and not just like falling over, they are knocked across the room. So I’ve seen that personally and I am what you would call a super skeptic.”
Another member of the Fitzpatrick family is said to haunt the hotel too. An heiress to the hotel who caught her husband in bed with his mistress. She pushed the mistress out of the third story window.
“She did not die as reports say, but they do say that Mrs. Fitzpatrick checks that room when there’s a couple inside the room to make sure there’s no hanky panky going on inside there,” Buttrey said.
This was another place I had a strange experience. Walking down the grand staircase at the end of my visit I heard what sounded like a couple sets of footsteps behind me.
When I stopped, they stopped. I walked down a few steps with no sound, then it started again. This happened several times, and I can’t explain what may have caused it.
Buttrey said the ghost stories can be a huge draw for guests.
“We do get a lot of people calling to request the haunted rooms. Or just in general that want to come poke around. They want to poke around the ballroom. They want to take readings on the stairs,” she said.
Whether you believe in ghost stories or not these are all really interesting historical locations in the CSRA that can tell us a lot about the people who lived here.
Hey CSRA, that’s just part of your haunted Hometown History!