We venture no explanation of the affair ...
- The Augusta Chronicle, March 14, 1885
Augusta has never been much of a ghost town.
But we have had our moments, and for two centuries this newspaper has been here to try to explain the unexplainable.
Because it's Halloween, you might be in the spirit to set out tonight on a local ghost hunt. Let me help your itinerary.
You could start at the Ezekiel Harris House on Broad Street near the mill.
During the American Revolution, a bitter British commander hung 13 patriots nearby. Naturally, there are those who report that strange lights are sometimes seen in the vicinity. Odd sounds are heard, too.
On the other end of Broad at the corner of Fifth Street is the famous "Haunted Pillar." This lonely column is what's left of an old market building destroyed by an 1878 tornado.
The "haunted" part is a local legend - move the pillar or touch it, and you're supposed to die.
The truth is the pillar has been moved a lot, and if you want to get picky, it's not even the original.
In 1935, The Chronicle reported, an automobile struck it and "reduced it to a pile of brick and cement." The driver was unhurt; the pillar was rebuilt. On a Friday the 13th in 1958, this newspaper said, the column was toppled when an oversized bale of cotton fell from a passing truck. The driver was not injured.
Not much of a curse, if you ask me.
Now walk down the street a few blocks into Olde Towne, and you might see something spooky.
On both July 11 and July 13, 1871, The Chronicle reported a ghost frightening residents. I think this one turned out to be a mentally unbalanced girl wandering around in her nightclothes.
Let's head back across town. On tiny Talcott Street near the civic center, The Chronicle reported in 1885, a ghost was plaguing the residents of a boarding house. While the report is straightforward (see quote at top), there seems to be some hint that distilled spirits provoked the ghostly one.
Now on to Walton Way. In June 1903, The Chronicle reported that ghosts were seen at Meadow Garden, former home of George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Maybe it was George and political rival William Few renewing their argument over where the courthouse should sit.
Keep going up Walton Way, and you arrive at the campus of Augusta State University, scene of one of our town's most repeated ghost stories.
According to both Chronicle reports and a state ghost anthology, a professor strolling across campus one spring night reported seeing a man dressed as a Confederate officer walking about the old Walker family cemetery before vanishing among the markers.
The professor said he didn't believe in ghosts, but he could offer no other explanation.
We'll have to take his word for it.
As you can take my word for this. If you do see something spooky out tonight, I guarantee you it's probably not me.
Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 107.
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