Take a Halloween road trip to these 5 haunted destinations in the South
It's the spookiest time of the year, and we're getting in the spirit with these stories of real haunted locations throughout the South, courtesy of sister publication, The American South. At the bottom, find some spooky-sweet treats for your Halloween bash.
—Southern Kitchen editor Mackensy Lunsford
True tales of the haunted South
Some of the most enduring ghost stories come from the South, a region steeped in history and a rich mixture of cultures.
But even if you don't live in notoriously haunted cities like Savannah or New Orleans, you won't have to travel far to find a place harboring its own ghost stories or legends. From tales of witches to violent poltergeists, tour guides from across the South share stories of some of the best-known haunted sites in their communities.
Due to COVID-19, several locations have mask mandates or others may require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. It is recommended to call ahead and verify before planning your visit.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween!
Myrtles Plantation: St. Francisville, Louisiana
The Myrtles Plantation in historic St. Francisville, Louisiana has gained a national reputation for being one of the most haunted locations in the country. The nearly 230-year-old plantation, which now operates as a restaurant and a bed and breakfast, is often booked a year or more in advance around Halloween.
Like other plantations across the South, many of the reported hauntings are tied to the site's sordid history with slavery. Throughout the years, visitors and staff have reported multiple sightings of what they believe to be members of one of the families that lived on the plantation in the early 1800s as well as some of the enslaved people who worked there.
The most famous haunting is that of an enslaved girl named Chloe who worked as a nanny in the early 1800s and was killed on the property, according to tour guide Shauna Fahard.
The ghost of the young girl has allegedly appeared in several photographs taken on the property. A photo still taken by a National Geographic Explorer film crew in the 1990s appears to have captured the apparition of a girl about Chloe's size and age hidden along a breezeway on the property, according to one story told at the property.
The image of a young girl dressed in antebellum clothing looking out from a front window was also captured in another photo that has been widely shared.
Daytime and evening tours focused on the haunted history of the Myrtles Plantation are open to the public.
Address: 7747 US-61, St Francisville, LA
The Witch of Yazoo, Glenwood Cemetery, Yazoo City, Mississippi
Dawn Davis grew up hearing the legend of the Witch of Yazoo City and recites it by heart:
"There was once a woman who lived on the banks of the Yazoo River. She was rumored to be a witch, nobody knew much about her. People said she’d lure fishermen off the river and torture them. One day someone peeked in her window and saw her doing that. But when the sheriff came to get her, she escaped through the backdoor. By the time they caught up, she was drowning in quicksand."
At this point in the story, Davis’ voice gets louder, "The witch raised her hand and said, 'I will return and burn the city down to the ground!'"
The witch was buried in Glenwood Cemetery and her grave was wrapped in thick chains to keep her spirit from returning, according to the legend.
Many still blame her for the devastating fire that occurred 20 years after her death on May 25, 1904, which consumed over 200 residences, businesses, and all but one church in Yazoo City, Davis said.
“People who were there at the time saw the flames leap through the air and burn buildings three blocks away. There were no reports of high winds that day,” said Davis. “That part of the story still gives me chills.”
The day after the fire some people reported seeing the chains broken around the witch’s grave.
Davis, who works as Communications Coordinator for the Yazoo County Convention & Visitors Bureau said that more than 100 years later the witch’s grave and the grave of Willie Morris, the local author who made the legend famous, are popular with visitors.
Coins, flowers, and buttons are among the many tokens left by visitors on the witch's grave.
Tours of Glenwood Cemetery are self-guided but guests can also call ahead to the Yazoo City visitor’s bureau to book a tour.
Directions to the Witch's Grave: Yazoo City is located about an hour north of Jackson along U.S. 49. As you drive into Yazoo City's Glenwood Cemetery through the main entrance off Lintonia Avenue, look ahead for a water fountain. A few yards behind the water fountain you can find the witch's grave. Thirteen paces to the south of the witch's grave, you can find the grave of author Willie Morris.
Moon River Brewing Co. Savannah, Georgia
A long-time tour guide and storyteller, who asked to be addressed as Spooky Steve, is adamant: Savannah is one of the five most haunted cities in the world.
And in this haven for the paranormal, the Moon River Brewing Company tops his list for most haunted sites.
“The building turned 200 years old this year and it is beyond belief haunted,” he said.
The building opened in 1821 as the City Hotel drawing famous guests including naturalist James Audubon. The hotel closed during the Civil War. But in its lifetime it also operated in part as a yellow fever hospital, a post office, a bank, and a warehouse.
“There were many deaths in this building,” said Steve, who leads tours through the brew pub and other notoriously haunted locations in historic Savannah with Spooky Savannah Ghost Tours.
As far as hauntings, he said “it’s all over the building but the second floor is very active. The basement is extremely active.”
Employees and visitors alike have shared stories of supposed poltergeist activity, feeling like they were being pushed or touched by an unseen presence.
“During my tour, I warn people not to taunt the spirits,” he said. "One guy kept going on and on, making jokes on the second floor, and a piece of wood fell off the ceiling and hit him on the head."
Moon River Brewing Co. opened as a brewpub in 1999.
Address: 21 W Bay St, Savannah, GA
Carolina Theater, Greensboro, N.C.
Theaters are notoriously superstitious places. Many have a ghost light: a single bulb left lit at the end of the night for safety reasons.
Some say the ghost light also helps appease any ghosts residing in the theater.
“And every theater has a ghost,” says Dan Riedel, who along with his wife Bridgitte, owns Carolina History and Haunts.
The spirit of a woman named Melvelina Ferguson is said to haunt the Carolina Theater in Greensboro, one of the cities where the couple leads tours. On July 1, 1981, a fire broke out in a stairwell in the theater after a performance. Fortunately, the theater had cleared out by then. But officials soon discovered the remains of a woman believed to have been hiding in the back of the theater who died in the fire. It's believed the woman, who was homeless and living with mental illness, likely started the fire, Riedel said.
Since then, staff, customers and performers claim to have seen some version of the woman walking through the theater.
“They’ve seen her up in the balcony area or in the lobby,” Riedel said. "They truly believe she is the theater ghost. The ghost light is kept on every night for Melvelina."
The Carolina Theater, which opened on Halloween in 1927, may also be home to other spirits as well including the spirit of a worker who died during the building's construction, Riedel said.
Address: 310 S Greene St, Greensboro, NC
Clouston Hall/Gallery 202, Franklin, Tennessee
Joe Bamford, the owner of Franklin on Foot, a local walking tour, didn’t believe in ghosts until he moved to Franklin 10 years ago.
“I talk to people every week on Main Street who have seen something strange happen. From purses flying off of shelves to actual ghosts. This place is very haunted,” he said.
Located south of Nashville, the city of Franklin was a key site during the Civil War. Thousands of men lost their lives during the Battle of Franklin in 1864 and as many as 40 field hospitals were set up in the area to tend to the wounded.
“The battle lasted only about five hours and in that time just under 10,000 men died. It’s a significant amount of tragedy in a small community,” Bamford said.
But some sites rise above others as far as the number of reported occurrences.
Clouston Hall, also known as Gallery 202, is one of his favorite stops on the tour. The 200-year-old building was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Franklin.
Kelly Harwood has owned the building, which is now a gallery, since 2010.
One year Harwood invited several friends from Nashville to the gallery. One of his guests immediately felt uncomfortable entering the building and asked permission from the spirits to walk inside. In one room, she told Harwood, she saw several soldiers lined up and sitting against a wall.
Harwood explained that the building was a hospital after the Battle of Franklin. "They mean you no harm," the woman told him. "They're almost protective of the house. You won't have to worry about them."
One winter after it had snowed Harwood wanted to take a photo of the building surrounded by fresh snowfall. He was working inside when he heard the sound of children playing outside. He opened the door, assuming it was children playing in the snow but saw nothing.
His tenant who was living in the building at the time said he had also heard many unexplainable things: whistling, conversations, and names being called out.
“You hear a lot about Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans being very haunted. But Franklin is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Bamford said.
Address: 202 2nd Ave S, Franklin, TN