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Augusta still haunted by tale of cursed pillar

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Augusta's spookiest landmark is its famous "haunted pillar."

The "haunted pillar" at Fifth and Broad streets is all that remains of a market destroyed in February 1878.   File/Staff
File/Staff
The "haunted pillar" at Fifth and Broad streets is all that remains of a market destroyed in February 1878.

It's all that's left of the old city market that straddled Broad Street at Centre (now Fifth) Street from 1830 until February 1878, when it was destroyed by a rare winter tornado.

The "haunted'' part is a local legend: Move the pillar, try to destroy it or even touch it and you die.

The source for the curse is varied.

According to one story, a traveling preacher was denied permission to evangelize at the market and put it under a curse.

The preacher stood in the middle of the square and "threatened that a great wind would destroy the place except for one pillar and that whoever tried to remove this remaining pillar would be struck dead,'' according to the Year Book of the City Council of Augusta, Georgia, of 1977 .

The storm is said to be the result of the preacher's curse.

"Clear tones of the market bell were heard for the last time as it struck 1 a.m.,'' say accounts of the time. "The cyclone narrowly missed Richmond Academy, uprooting a large china tree in the rear and knocking down a brick wall.''

Judging from stories in The Augusta Chronicle the next week, people were glad to see the building destroyed.

"Now that the Market House is in ruins, we think it may be opportune to suggest that it never be rebuilt upon the same spot," an article opined. "It was, at best, an unsightly edifice and marred the grand boulevard upon which it was mistakenly located."

The stories of the haunted pillar have been passed down through generations, but its ominous reputation might be greatly exaggerated.

In 1935, an automobile struck the pillar and "reduced it to a pile of brick and cement,'' according to The Chronicle . The driver was unhurt, and the pillar was rebuilt by a market owner.

The column was moved a year later to the southeast corner of Broad and Fifth streets. On a Friday the 13th in 1958, the column was toppled by an oversized bale of cotton on a passing truck. The driver was not injured.

Afterward, it was moved eight feet back from the curb.

Read more of augusta's strange stories online

FIND OUT ABOUT the Savannah River sea serpent reported in 1822 and the 11-year-old boy miraculously cured after a fireworks accident.

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