Telling stories

Don’t Panic, But There’s a Ghost in Your Town

Posted by southwrite on June 20, 2014

Gaither Main House 01I’ve visited just about every city, town and tiny  community in Georgia. One thing they all have in common is a ghost, or two or three. Every place a haunted house, or building or theatre. Anywhere there have been people, you will find ghosts, or at least stories and people who deeply believe those stories.

I can’t say that I’ve seen a ghost, but I know many rational and sober people who have. They believe ghosts exist and are attached to a particular place. At times they make themselves know and even seen.

One of the most convincing examples of the otherworldy lies in rural northeast Georgia, near the town of Covington.  Gaither Plantation is a pastoral beauty of rolling open fields and verdant woods where generations have picked wild black muscadines. The main house, built in 1850 of sturdy heart of pine, is a rambling white two-story home with large green shutters.

While today, the house and surrounding buildings have been transformed into a location for weddings, events and movie sets, many contend its long history still walks the grounds and hallways of this historic plantation.

The residents of Gaither have made many appearances over the years. One visitor glimpsed a woman sitting in an upstairs bedroom gently rocking a baby. Another opened the door to the basement to see a figure dressed in a Confederate uniform standing at the bottom of the stairs. Both apparitions vanished.

To get an idea of just how much the past is part of the present, I talked to Judy Gaither Dial. A local school teacher and direct descendent of the plantation’s owners and member of the historical society that is working to preserve the plantation, she has experienced a continuing series of encounters with the spectral inhabitants of the house.

Gaither Sign 04Her father lived there in the early 1930s up until he was about three years old.  By then the family had lost ownership of the house for back taxes totaling $28.  Over the years he often told her stories of the grand old house such as the family hiding Confederate soldiers from Sherman’s advancing legions. The Union troops searched the house and took the livestock, but never discovered the Rebs who had scurried up a secret ladder to the attic. Her father died in 1985, but she believes that he is still there.

“When I’m there I feel like I’m at home and my family is around me,” says Dial. “The first experience I had at Gaither Plantation was on the front porch of the house sitting in the swing and there was nobody there.”

As she sat there relaxing, she felt someone sit down beside her and the swing begin to move back and forth. She didn’t open her eyes, but she knew she was swinging. At just under five feet tall her feet didn’t touch the floor.

Another time she was changing clothes in what was once the house’s bridal dress room. The door, which typically sticks when closed, suddenly opened by itself after the doorknob jiggled. Startled, she immediately looked out at the wall size mirror which provided a clear view of the hallway. Nobody was there.

She and a caretaker were waiting in the house for a busload of school children to arrive for a tour. Suddenly they both heard the sounds of laughing children and adults carrying on a conversation outside. Opening the door expecting to see a group of middle school kids, they were greeted by an empty yard with open pasture beyond. The voices still seemed to coming from nearby, but no one was to be seen. Startled, they began looking around the house trying to locate the owners of the voices and the laughing children. They saw no one and the voices eventually faded away.

Ghostly experiences haven’t been limited to locals. The plantation has been a set for several movies and TV shows. Filming of Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion was constantly interrupted by noises from upstairs – when there was no one there. The cast and crew of The Vampire Diaries experienced sudden blasts of music and lights that went on and off by themselves.

As stories of ghostly residents spread, teams of paranormal investigators were engaged in hopes their instruments and scientific approach might squelch the rumors.

The old church where three people met their deaths.

The old church where three people met their deaths.

Over a two year period nine different “ghost hunter” teams set up shop in the old house and plantation grounds. Each deployed sensitive listening devices, video cameras and other instruments. Each invited a “sensitive” or a psychically inclined and trained parapsychologist who could sense ghostly entities. The results were dramatic. A wide variety of ghosts were identified ranging from former slaves to confederate soldiers to Cecilia Gaither herself.

It was during one of these investigations that Judy Dial came face-to-face with the spirit of her dead father. East Georgia Paranormal was on its second investigation of Gaither when they invited her to accompany them. Convinced by her previous experiences that the house was haunted, she quickly agreed.

Late that night inside the old house, the term’s sensitive or psychic member said “someone’s, a man’s voice is telling me to ask you if you remember Little One.” Startled she replied yes, that was her nickname. The psychic conveyed other facts only her father could have known such as her love for playing “horsey” and how he stayed up with her all night when she was sick.

After settling down the entire investigation team heard what seemed to be an argument between a man and a woman coming from upstairs. Members rushed to investigate and found no one there, but now the argument was coming from the attic. Two team members climbed a ladder to the upper level but found nothing. Suddenly everyone heard the voices again, but this time they were downstairs. Once the first person descended the stairs, there was silence.

Not far from the main house, an old wood frame Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1916, is home to a host of memories and ghosts. The paranormal team found it alive with apparitions and strange phenomena. Chief among them is a photo and video that clearly reveals the misty figure of a woman in a white dress. Disembodied sounds could be heard echoing through the sanctuary. While taking readings with a non-contact infrared thermometer, an investigator witnessed the laser beam on the thermometer being broken three times, twice on demand.

Decades before, the pastor, a prominent member of the choir and her husband had been found slain just inside the back door of the church decades before. Police concluded that a jealous husband had discovered the two together and shot them before turning the gun on himself.

This ghostly activity has converted a number of skeptics. A few years ago, a reporter from the local newspaper who had planned to spend the night admits that she ran from the house in the wake of strange noises, continually unplugged coffee pots, and a well handle that suddenly began spinning on its own.

Whether the ghosts are real or a just a part of some over active imaginations, I don’t know for sure. When I walked through the old main house in the middle of a sunny day, I could feel a presence around me – watching. It was the kind of feeling that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck and caused me to look around thinking I had heard a footstep.

I felt relieved stepping back out into the broad front lawn. It was even better when my car was finally rolling down the long dirt road to the gate and home.

One Response to “Don’t Panic, But There’s a Ghost in Your Town”

  1. […] Source: Don’t Panic, But There’s a Ghost in Your Town […]

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