Originally created 01/27/99

Local myth makes debut



Television viewers in Japan soon will judge whether the legend of a cursed Augusta pillar is Unbelievable.

In broad daylight, the 10-foot stone pillar on the corner of Broad and Fifth streets doesn't look scary. But the pillar is haunted, according to local folklore, and a Japanese film company is showcasing the legend in a top-ranked Japanese television series called Unbelievable.

Fuji Films, which has an office in New York, sent a camera crew to downtown Augusta on Tuesday with Randall Floyd, a best-selling Augusta author of eight books on the paranormal. They filmed the pillar and discussed its history and the legend, with Mr. Floyd starring in this particular segment.

The show airs in February and is similar to Unsolved Mysteries, but the series uses only the most famous Japanese actors.

Unbelievable focuses on strange, unexplained happenings around the world, including tales from Africa, Thailand and Europe. The film company learned of the pillar from one of Mr. Floyd's novels.

"The pillar serves as a grim reminder of the day when slavery was an ever-present aspect of American life," Mr. Floyd said into the cameras.

Augusta residents spin the tale of the haunted pillar like this: From 1830 to 1878, a farmers market stood on Broad and Center Street, now called Fifth Street. One day, a traveling preacher came to town, but the retailers refused to allow him to evangelize in the marketplace.

In revenge, the preacher stood in the middle of the square and cursed the bazaar. A terrible wind would come through the market and destroy everything except for one pillar, the preacher threatened. Whoever attempted to move the lone pillar would be struck dead.

On Feb. 7, 1878, a rare winter tornado blew through the town, destroying the market and leaving only the pillar.

"Weirdness sells," Mr. Floyd said. "The beauty of love affairs and unsolved mysteries -- if we ever solved them, life becomes duller."

Jessica Rinck can be reached at (706) 823-3225 or newsroom@augustachronicle.com