Take a Tour of the State’s Scariest Spots
By H.M. Cauley
The pleasant chill of an autumn breeze isn’t the only thing causinggoose bumps this time of year. As temperatures grow cooler, the thoughts of Georgia residents begin to turn to ghosts, ghouls, and other unearthly visitors.
While we can’t promise an otherworldly sighting or a blast of cold, spectral air, there are a few spots around the state that are steeped in haunted history, and even claim to host a spirit or two. For a fun afternoon or weekend of spooky sightseeing, hop in the car for a short drive to Atlanta’s suburbs, or take a road trip farther out to investigate some of these spine-tingling locales.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, located roughly half an hour north of Atlanta in Kennesaw, is the site of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, part of Gen. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign during the Civil War. It’s alleged that the spirits of soldiers still stalk the grounds, and that gunshots and cannon fire can sometimes be heard. Who knows? On a particularly eerie night, you might even smell a whiff of ghostly gunpowder on the breeze. 770-427-4686, www.nps.gov/kemo.
Another popular historic haunt is the Marietta Museum of History. Located in the historic Kennesaw House in downtown Marietta, it enjoys a reputation as the most haunted location in the city. During the Civil War, the building, a former cotton warehouse turned hotel, was pressed into service as a hospital and morgue. It’s said that the ghosts of soldiers and caregivers sometimes linger. 770-794-5710, www.mariettahistory.org.
In Roswell, the building that serves as home of the Public House restaurant is also known as a haunted haven. It’s said that disembodied voices, strange noises and shadowy figures have been seen in the upstairs area. The restaurant is currently closed for renovations. 770-640-5548, www.publichouseroswell.com.
Haunted Hotels and Resorts
At Barnsley Gardens, about an hour northwest of Atlanta, the ghost stories are linked to a classic tale of lost love and war. The grounds of this elegant resort include the ruins of a mansion believed to be visited with some regularity by its past residents. In the 1840s, Godfrey Barnsley began building a home for his bride, Julia, in the lush countryside. Though the main section was complete, work stopped on the rest of the project when Julia died in 1845. The Civil War took its toll on the property, and in 1906 a tornado tore the roof off of the main house.
Today, all that remains are crumbling brick walls surrounded by lushly restored gardens. The site is the centerpiece of the Barnsley Gardens resort, complete with guest cottages, a golf course, a spa and three restaurants. Catered events from lunch meetings to romantic, candle-lit dinners are often held among the ruins. 770-773-7480, www.barnsleyresort.com.
During its heyday, Jekyll Island was a playground for some of the country’s leading millionaires, who escaped the heat of their hometowns to enjoy cooler, more relaxing days by the sea. Those carefree and comfortable days may have left such an impression that some of those visitors are still returning from the beyond. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is a resort that incorporates many of the Victorian structures built for the wealthy visitors. And while most visitors go for the golf, the beaches, the fine dining and the luxurious surroundings, some show up just for the ghosts—a fact the hotel capitalizes on with its Ghost Hunt Weekend, Oct. 24-26. The two-night package includes elegant accommodations, breakfasts, tours, and investigations led by paranormal researcher and author Chad Morin. 855-535-9547, www.jekyllclub.com.
The 1842 Inn in Macon, about an hour and a half southeast of Atlanta, is a beautiful bed and breakfast with huge white columns and a spacious porch. This impressive Greek revival home was built by former mayor John Gresham, whom many claim to have seen still roaming the halls of his stately abode. Others have reported seeing a little girl and a tall blonde woman who appear to be out of the past. But most merely enjoy the luxurious surroundings and the relaxing environment without any surprises. 877-452-6599, www.1842inn.com.
In Savannah, however, the supernatural can keep a ghost-lover busy. This coastal city can be spooky at any time of the year, when the Spanish moss is unmoving in the humidity of summer, or a crisp winter wind is blowing in from the beaches.
Many of the city’s old old houses and buildings are said to be frequented by those no longer living. The Mercer Williams House, the site of a famous murder that figured prominently in the novel and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is alleged to be the center of several ghostly appearances. 912-236-6352, www.mercerhouse.com.
Bonaventure Cemetery, a former plantation site known for its gothic beauty and Victorian sculpture, is another popular spot. 912-651-6843.
Fort Jackson, a restored military fort manned during the War of 1812 and the Civil War, is reputed to host several ghostly visitors. 912-232-3945, www.chsgeorgia.org/old-fort-jackson.html. The Pirate’s House restaurant, tucked into one of the city’s oldest structures, claims to have a ghostly occupant who appears on moonless nights. 912-233-5757, www.thepirateshouse.com.
In addition, residents and visitors claim to have encountered spirits in the town’s historic squares and along its famed River Street. Little wonder, then, that USA Today recognized Georgia’s first capital as one of the 10 most haunted cities in the country, and the television series “Scariest Places on Earth” called it America’s most haunted city.