Elleck’s Song: Haunted Historic Jail, Lawrenceville, Georgia


Story of a haunted historic jail in Lawrenceville, Georgia, haunted by a slave named Elleck. Written and told by Cynthia Rintye of Lawrenceville Ghost Tours.

Elleck reached across the rough-hewn table and gave his wife’s hand a squeeze. His gentle touch softened the weariness around her beautiful eyes and Betsy returned his gaze with a shy smile. Suddenly, they heard a noise, a terrible noise, a sound that made their blood run cold. Elleck saw terror spring into Betsy’s eyes as their shared gaze turned into a silent prayer: “Please, please let the evil pass us by just this one night.”

The door to the kitchen house burst open and in stormed the man who owned them, Colonel James Austin—drunk, ranting, belligerent, swearing, accusing. Elleck’s attempts to calm him only enraged Master further. Master grabbed Betsy, proclaiming that it was time to take what belonged to him. Betsy screamed and before he could stop himself, Elleck tore Master off of her and threw him to the floor.

As Betsy fled, the full force of Master’s fury turned towards Elleck as the drunkard swore revenge. With Master lurching after him, Elleck raced out of the kitchen house. If he could just find some place to hide until Master fully succumbed to that demon liquor, Elleck would be safe, for Master usually remembered nothing the next day.

Master staggered to the main house, grabbed his cavalry sword and began his search. Finding the Kitchen House empty, Master went to Elleck’s quarters. As Master broke through the door, Elleck scrambled up the little ladder to his sleeping loft, pulling it up behind him. Unfortunately, Master able to grab the last rung, pull the ladder down and unsteadily work his way up, all the while screaming his murderous intent.

There was not enough room in the loft to stand but that did not keep Master from wildly swinging his sword. Elleck was trying to dodge the blows when the sword lodged in a roof timber and Elleck was able to grab Master’s hand. As Elleck struggled for control of the sword, Master lost his balance and fell backwards, crashing onto the floor below. There was a terrible silence. . .

Master was dead. But Elleck did not run. On that awful night of October 10, 1848, Elleck walked to the Gwinnett County courthouse and sat on the steps all night long so in the morning he could tell the sheriff what had happened: how his Master, Colonel James Austin, one of the richest men in the county, had been killed but it was in self-defense. Elleck is one of only two enslaved men ever to be put on trial in Gwinnett and the judges found him “guilty” and Elleck was sentenced to be hanged.

Old haunted jail Lawrenceville Georgia

The sheriff brought Elleck to the jail, threw him in a cell and locked the door. Knowing it was a terrible miscarriage of justice, Elleck broke off a metal slat from his bed and started to chip his way out of the solid concrete wall of his cell.

Unfortunately, people on the outside could hear a tapping noise and alerted the sheriff. When the sheriff saw what Elleck had done, he was enraged. He chained Elleck to the floor; chained him by his wrists, chained him by his ankles, and left him there for three days and three nights. Elleck begged to be allowed to sit in a more comfortable position but his pleas were ignored.

To pass the time, Elleck sang to his beloved:

Oh, Betsy, will you meet me
Betsy, will you meet me
Betsy, will you meet me
In heaven above

On November 10, 1848, exactly one month after James Austin was killed, Elleck was taken from the jail to the gallows and hanged. But people swear his spirit never left the cell where he was so tightly bound for so long and in that old jail you can still hear him singing:

Betsy will you meet me
In heaven above

Lawrenceville, the county seat of Gwinnett is now part of metro Atlanta’s sprawl. Just off the charming, historic courthouse square in Lawrenceville, stands a squat, non-descript, concrete building. On the Lawrenceville Ghost Tour, you get to go inside that building—the old jail built in 1832—and see the barred doors and the metal beds hanging from the walls. If you look at the back wall of one particular cell, you will see about half way up, an uneven indentation, about a foot and a half across, about two feet tall, and about two inches deep. That indentation is evidence of the progress a good man, a desperate man, made in a futile attempt to escape a horrible injustice.

I have had the privilege of standing within the confines of those concrete walls and telling Elleck’s story hundreds of times on the Lawrenceville, Georgia Ghost Tour.

One time, while telling Elleck’s story, I sang:

Betsy, will you meet me
Then I heard echoed back me
I sang: Betsy, will you meet me—again I heard me.

I heard an echoing of the last note of each phrase I sang. I thought I must have imagined it but after I swung the heavy metal door closed and we were safely outside, a person on my tour asked, “Did you hear something weird? Someone else singing?” Everyone on that tour said ‘yes’, they had each heard the repeated reply.

I could go on for at least 10 minutes with a list of ghostly occurrences—hot spots, cold spots, photos of orbs, tugging at clothing, untying shoelaces, missing audio recordings, the key that will only turn if you ask politely, how pressing my left palm flat to the concrete wall filled me with almost unbearable sorrow—all unexplained incidents, witnessed in the jail by me, other Ghost Tour guides, or people on the tour. If I told you every detail, would you believe all those things actually happened?

That would be up to you. But I am certain that when I am in that old jail, the veil of time is just a thin, shimmering gauze and I am standing in the presence of Elleck’s spirit.


How to get there:

Historic Lawrenceviille Jail

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Historic Lawrenceviille Jail 33.956670, -83.990377 Story: Elleck\'s SongJail in Lawrenceville, GA 1832-1940. Said to be haunted by condemned slave Elleck, singing to his beloved Betsy.

Further Reading:

Lawrenceville Ghost Tour

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Dixie: Georgia Witch Story


Careful what you ask the local witch for. Your debt must be paid. Creepy Georgia witch story by Kayla Bolton.

I’m from a little town in the South called Rosebud. It’s a small town, filled with tons of humidity in the long summer months and slow-talking people year-round. There’s a Confederate Monument standing in front of the old brick courthouse, a block away from a bed and breakfast that was built when I was a young lady. This is the town I grew up in, and it is the only home I’ve ever known.

The Leightons are the oldest family in town. They descend from Samuel Leighton, the founder of Rosebud. This influential and close-knit family consists of Randall Leighton, my husband, and his two brothers and one sister. We Leightons have a passel of children and grandchildren running amok in the world, as well. There’s so many of them that, for the life of me, I can’t remember all their names.

I have one ingrate child, whom I happen to love only slightly less than I love her beautiful children and grandchildren. I say ungrateful only half-seriously. I’m old, not dead, and I remember the busy days of my younger years, with all the schedules to adhere to and tasks to finish.

I just miss seeing her, visiting with her, being an active part of her life.

Perhaps it’s my old age or something more sinister, whispering to me that I don’t have much time left; warning me that if I’ve got anything left undone, I had better get to it.

I don’t expect to be absolved, but there’s something freeing in admitting secrets, secrets that have clawed at you for decades. This is a confession-my confession.

In 1932, I was a poor girl born into a sharecropping family. We didn’t live in the town back then, but rather on the outskirts, in the “country” part. I was ten and clever, but not nearly so clever as I thought. I lived with my baby sister, Abby Lou, my mama, Ruby, and my daddy, who went by Cricket. Mama got sick that year, and the doctor was clueless as to what was causing it. It was his belief that we should get on our knees and praise God for everyday our mama still lived because whatever the mystery illness was, it was killing her.

Instead, I cursed God. God was no friend of mine. If He was, my mama would never have become sick to begin with.

Day after day, she was put up in bed, growing progressively weaker. Daddy was unhappy because the love of his life’s fire was extinguishing, and he was helpless. Abby and I were unhappy because Mama was dying, and Daddy had gone from a mostly cheerful man (more cheerful than he ought to have been, as poor as we were) to a short-fused shell of a person.

I knew that Daddy would be telling me to quit school any day. Mama couldn’t work in her condition, and Abby was the baby, so he wouldn’t go to her first. It would be me so that I could take on Mama’s workload on top of my own. I ate from the rotten fruit of bitterness, angry that I’d have to quit. I loved school, and I had the foresight to know that I’d be locked in poverty forever if I didn’t finish.

Randall and I were classmates, and I loathed him. He was a hateful child, full of cruel jokes and jests. I despised him and his siblings, but one day, as I listened to him torment some of the younger kids, a thought peeked out of the shadows of my mind. It was just a fleeting thought, but I snatched at it, and that was the spark that ignited the fire.

‘Lord, I hate that boy, but it’d sure be nice to be his sister, then I wouldn’t have to quit school, and I’d have all the best dresses a girl could want. Too bad we ain-too bad we aren’t older, I could marry him, and Mama and Daddy and Abby and me’d all be rich, too.’

A childish plan hatched in me at the close of that thought, and when I kissed Mama goodnight that evening, I silently swore to her that I’d take care of us all, and she’d get better.

We kids all knew about Dixie Tanner, the rumored witch who lived in a shack in the woods outside of town. We also knew that spells and curses weren’t the only things Dixie sold; she took money for use of her female anatomy, too.

My plan was simple: I’d go to her and ask her if she could make my mama better. If she said no, I was going to ask her to make me a love potion to give to Randall. Without a love potion, the snobby brat would never look twice at the daughter of a sharecropper, a girl in ratty, dirty clothes.

My ten-year old mind rationalized that if he’d fall in love with me, his parents would end up loving me, too, and they’d want to help my family out. All our problems would be solved. I had no qualms about sacrificing myself on the altar of money, if it meant a better life for me and my family. My juvenile, naïve thought process didn’t yet understand words like charity, dignity, and pride, so I really believed this would work.

I’d been to Dixie’s once before, when my friends and I were dared by some older girls to go up to the door and knock. We didn’t have the gall to approach the place; instead, we saw it from a distance and ran for our dear lives when a rabbit disturbed the bushes a couple of feet from where we were crouched. I was certain I could find my way again.

The next night, I sneaked out of the house after everyone had fallen asleep and picked my way through the dark underbrush of the woods, moonbeams shining down on the imposing trees, lighting my way. The woods were creepy that night because they were so damn quiet. To this day, I’ve never been in woods so noiseless.

The trek to Dixie’s felt like it would never end. At one point, I thought I was lost, but then I heard a creek bubbling, and I knew I was almost there.

When I got to the front door, I almost lost my nerve. I felt incredibly vulnerable, numb with fear and doubt. What would happen if she chose to kidnap me and do black magic on me? Or she could simply refuse to help; either route was daunting.

I took a deep breath and raised a fist to knock. Before my balled up hand-made contact with the wooden door, it flew open, and there was Dixie. I’d seen her a couple of times in town, but she didn’t come much, and when she did, I steered as far from her as possible, just like other folks did, even as I was about dying of curiosity for a good gander.

This was the closest I had ever been to her. She was very pretty, in a wild way. Her hair was greasy, but it was long, dark, and wavy. A ribbon held it out of her face. Many necklaces were layered around her neck, some beaded and some woven. She stared boldly down at me, and I got the idea that she’d been expecting me.

“What do you want?” she asked, her thick lips stretching into a smirk.


“Can’t ya talk?”

“Yes…ma’am.” I wasn’t sure if she deserved a “ma’am,” being that she was a prostitute, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

She smiled.

“Damn, girl, just come inside.” She backed up, holding the door open for me.

Timidly, I entered the shack.

Candles were lit everywhere that met the eye. Strange statues of creatures I’d never seen before were placed in various places, dusty books were stacked on makeshift tables, and there was an odor of sage on the stagnant air. Her bed was pushed against a far wall, and my cheeks colored when I thought about the things that were done there.

“What you come here for, girl?” she asked as she shut the door.

I rubbed my hands together and summoned some courage.

“My mama. She’s real sick.”

“She dying?” She fluttered a hand over a chair and I sat. She took her seat in a rocking chair across from me.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Uhn. I can’t help her.”

I jumped up from my seat.

“But you don’t know that! You haven’t even tried!”

She cackled.

“Don’t need to. I ain’t God, girl. There are limits, yes.”

I smoothed my nightgown under my bottom and sat again.

“Alright. Can you make me a potion or cast a spell?”

“I already said, I can’t help your mama.”

“It’s not for…I need a boy to love me.”

“Ahh. That is in my reach. How much money you got?”

Of all the things, I’d forgotten money.

“None,” I answered meekly.

She touched her necklaces and scoffed.

“Get outta here, child. Ain’t nothing in this world free. Spend what time your mama got left with her.”

“No.” I heard myself utter the word and cringed at this newfound spirit.

Her thick brows raised, and she clucked her tongue. I swallowed.

“No, I got no money, but isn’t there something else? Anything!”

Her expression became stony as she reflected on my desperation.

“Yeah, there’s somethin’. I’ll do it, but you got to agree to somethin’. And there ain’t no going back after you agree, ya hear? It’s sealed when you accept.”

“I’ll agree to anything, ma’am, anything you want!”

“I’ll be comin’. I’ll visit you every night for four nights, each time taking something valuable to you. Ain’t nothing you can do will stop me. You sure you want to pay that price?”

“I’ll pay it,” I agreed.

Her hair whipped around like a gust had hit it, but the air in that shack was still. She threw her head back and gleefully laughed. It reminded me of tinkling bells, that laugh.

“All too eager.” She got up and took a scarf off a nail in the wall, draping it over her head.

Without warning, she latched onto my hands with an icy grip and asked, “What’s the boy’s name?”

“Randall,” I whispered.

She closed her eyes tightly and began mumbling words that I’ve never been able to recall, words that sounded both delightful and deadly and made my stomach do flips. I caught Randall’s name a couple of times as she chanted her enigmatic spell, her fingers constricting my hands until I almost couldn’t feel them anymore. Just when I thought I was on the edge of madness, listening to her incantation, she stopped and released me.

“Done.” She grinned. “Remember, four nights. Now, go on-get out of here! And don’t come back!”

I leaped out of the chair and took off running, wanting to escape her big, malevolent eyes.

At school the next day, it felt like my visit with Dixie had been nothing more than a nightmare. When Randall came up from behind and yanked on a strand of my hair, I was sure that Dixie had tricked me. When he relentlessly started calling me ugly and plain, I knew I’d been ripped off. After school, he followed me as I walked home, kicking rocks and whistling a few feet back. I knew he had no reason to go this way; his family lived in a big house in town.

Aggravated and emotionally drained from the night before and the sting of his insults today, I turned and marched up to him.

“What do you think you’re doing? Why are you following me after you’ve been nothin’ but hateful all day?”

He crinkled his freckled nose.

“I-I’m sorry, Augusta. I didn’t mean it, I swear. Let me walk you home?”

I could’ve been no more stunned if he’d socked me in the eye.

When we neared my house, off a dirt road in the middle of a cotton field, he gently took my hand in his.

Dixie had done right by me.

At bedtime, as Abby said her prayers, I pretended to give thanks to God and pray for my loved ones, but all the while I gave thanks to Dixie, and whatever was the source of her power. I expected she’d be visiting that night, so I kissed my only doll-baby goodbye, sure she’d take her first, since she was the item I held most dearly to me.

I don’t know what time it was when I opened my eyes. The wind screeched angrily outside mine and Abby’s window and thunder rumbled deeply in the tumultuous sky. Purple lightning flashed, exposing a figure running away from our house and into the cotton fields. The violent lightning flashed again, briefly illuminating long hair blowing in the wind.

As promised, Dixie had come.

I got out of bed before the sun was up, same as every morning. Abby and I dressed as rain pattered down on the roof. When I picked up my worn down leather shoe off the hardwood floor, I saw her-my most prized possession, the doll, was sitting where I’d left her. I briefly wondered why Dixie hadn’t taken her.

Daddy walked into the room, his eyes bloodshot and glazed, just like they were when he drank whiskey.

“Girls, your mama…” He released a sob. “She passed away about an hour ago.”

We stayed home from school and went in to see her after my aunt and uncle showed up. I loved my mama, but seeing her pale corpse lying there…it wasn’t that she looked like a rotting body, but…I was spooked nonetheless. Daddy had the sense to shut her eyes, at least.

While the doctor went in to take a look at her, I fell silent as I wrestled with the idea that Dixie had taken Mama’s life. That couldn’t be it, though, right? Dixie didn’t say she’d kill someone…right?

dixie-witch-georgia-wooden-coffin-cross-grave small

Daddy and our uncle were to bury Mama in the family plot the next day. Daddy didn’t want to have a viewing. He thought such a practice was obscene and wanted to spare Mama the indignity of having a house full of people stare at her lifeless body.

Daddy went to town to request a coffin be built, and my aunt and uncle were sitting in his and Mama’s room with her shrouded body. My cousins played in the rain like wild children, slipping and sliding in the mud.

In our bed, I held Abby as she cried. My conscience continued to trouble me. This couldn’t be because of the love spell, it just couldn’t. Besides, Mama had been sick. Even the doctor expected her to pass sooner or later.

“Sissy?” Abby mumbled, hiccupping as soon as the word was out of her.


“I don’t feel very good.”

“I s’pose not. None of us do.” I felt her forehead with the back of my hand, the way Mama used to do. “You do feel a little warm.”

“Am I getting a sickness like Mama?”

“What? No. That is just plain crazy. Mama didn’t have a fever, anyway.”

Abby plopped a thumb in her mouth, an old habit of hers that had long ago died, but was now resurrected. Her eyelids drooped until her eyes shut out the world around her, and she was sound asleep.

That night, my cousins slept in mine and Abby’s room, my aunt cooked and sang softly as my uncle dozed, and Daddy sat with Mama. I tossed and turned, not able to turn my mind off. For the first time in my life, I knew what grief and guilt felt like.

As I attempted to sleep, Dixie came again. I noticed a shift in the shadows outside that had to be her, creeping by our window. I was seized by the sudden feeling of needing to make a trip to the privy. I squeezed my eyes closed.

Rays of sunshine poured into my room the next morning. My cousins’ loud banter landed on my ears as I stirred awake. I poked Abby’s back as I yawned.

“Get up, Abby. We slept late today.”

She didn’t move.

“Abby Lou, I mean it. We gotta see if there’s anything Daddy wants us to do.”

She pretended not to hear me. Agitated, I rolled her over. Glassy, lifeless brown eyes stared past me, into the void.

I screamed.

The doctor came a couple of hours later.

“I don’t know what it is, Cricket, but there’s a sickness in this house. You’d best be getting you and Augusta out of here,” he said.

Daddy didn’t seem to hear him. He looked blank. This time, it was my uncle who went to town to request another coffin.

Randall showed up at our front door after the doctor had gone. Judging by the red dust covering his church shoes, he’d walked all the way to my house in his Sunday best. He passed me flowers and softly told me that he was sorry for my loss. Even with his soothing presence, I was suffocating indoors. Daddy was so stricken with grief, that he was openly weeping in front of us, so I led Randall out back, and we climbed a tree. He held my hand after we’d situated ourselves on a sturdy limb, and I let my tears flow freely.

It was starting to sink in. I’d murdered my mama and baby sister.

We buried Mama that day, but had to wait for Abby’s coffin to bury her. We went to spend the night at my aunt and uncle’s house after the funeral.

Too emotionally wrecked to sleep, I crept through the house and sat down on the front porch. I prayed to God, begging Him to give me a sign, to reassure me that the deaths of my mama and sister weren’t related to my contract with the witch.

From my spot on the porch, I hadn’t noticed Dixie slinking around, but that morning, when I heard shrill crying, I knew she’d come. This time it was Daddy who was found dead. The doctor again blamed it on the mysterious sickness.

The fourth night, as I started out the front door of my aunt and uncle’s, a voice called to me from the darkness.

“Augusta-where are you going?”

For a second, I thought it was the witch. A lump rose in my throat before I realized it was Randall, hiding in the cover of night.

“I have something to do. You can come with me, if you promise not to tattle.”

He promised, and we set off to Dixie’s shack.

She waited at her door, as if expecting us.

“I told you, girl, ain’t no takin’ it back.”

“You never said you’d take my family!” I shouted.

Randall glared at her.

“We should leave, Augusta. I don’t know what’s going on, but I know this woman is bad.”

“Scared, Randall?” Dixie taunted.

He balled his fists up and puffed his chest out.

Using the element of surprise, I shoved the witch backward with all my emotional might. Stunned as she was, I managed to knock her down to the floor. She landed on her back right inside the shack.

I had spotted it as Randall and I approached the witch, and presently I pulled it out of the tree stump it was lodged in, walking back to her sprawled out body.

“You going to kill me?” she asked quietly, her eyes trained on the weapon I wielded.

I lifted the heavy ax over my head and swung as Randall belted out loud, terror-filled protests. My arms shook with the effort as the blade plunged into the soft flesh of her belly. Blood sprayed and gushed out of the deep wound, and Dixie howled and wailed, writhing on the ground.

“Bitch! I curse you, you little bitch! Hear me? I curse you!” As she lobbed her threats my way, blood bubbled out of her mouth and drizzled down her chin. In the darkness, it could’ve been chocolate or gravy.

Randall pushed me away from her and wriggled the ax free. He lifted it and planted it in her face. She ceased moving and grew silent.

“Your secret’s safe with me, Augusta,” he reassured me as he straightened back up to his full height.

We left Dixie dead on the floor and went to the creek. Randall told me to get rid of my gown as he ditched his own clothes. He instructed me to bathe in the water, then he told me he’d be right back.

“Don’t worry, I just have to get something,” he said with a smile.

I washed the blood from my body and waited for his return. He came back with a shovel that he said he got from Dixie’s and dug a deep hole. He flung our clothes into it and buried them. After we dropped the shovel back off at Dixie’s, we walked back to my aunt and uncle’s, naked and changed forever.

I relive that night a lot, but to write it down, in detail…it’s as if strangers swung that ax, a long time ago-not me, not me, and not my Randall, either.

In the light of the new day, only the witch had perished, but I think a part of Randall and me died with her.

Randall had only to ask his parents to allow me to live with them; they granted his wish almost immediately. My aunt and uncle were relieved to have the burden of another mouth to feed off their backs, so in the end, everyone was pleased with the arrangement.

The Leightons took real good care of me, even if they couldn’t understand how or why Randall was so smitten. I had my own bedroom and the best dresses. I took piano lessons, learned French, traveled, finished school, and completed an English degree. When we were 22 years old, Randall and I were married in the little white Baptist church my mama had occasionally managed to drag Daddy, Abby, and me to for the Sunday morning service.

Randall and I still live at home, with an around the clock aide. We also have a nurse who pops in daily to check our vitals and whatnot, though the Lord knows why. I think my daughter believes we’re going to live forever.

I am not as spry as I was even a couple of years ago, but I am not in near as bad health as my Randall. Alzheimer’s claimed his mind some years back, and my husband has not been himself for a while now. Every morning, I expect whatever aide is working the day shift to rush in and tell me he isn’t with us anymore.

Earlier I mentioned maybe it’s something more sinister pushing me to spill my guts about Dixie. Well, the something more sinister is Randall.

His behavior gets queerer all the time. Every night for the past week, I wake up to see him leaning over me, his face mere inches from mine, watching me like a cat watches a mouse. He’s even taken to whispering inaudible words to me, and I may not know what it is he’s saying, but I know it makes my hairs stand on end. The wonder of it all is that he has to have assistance dressing and ambulating and taking a shit, for Christ’s sake, but he can go for a midnight stroll into my room all on his own.

Today I heard him crying in his room. When I went in to console him, he bellowed, “Get away from me, you conniving whore!”

Then he added, in hushed tones, “Remember Dixie, Augusta? I see her, honey, see her all the time. She talks to me sometimes, says she’s coming to collect.”

It could be the Alzheimer’s, but I’m certain it’s not. He gazes upon me with knowing, condemning eyes. I think his illness has annihilated the love spell, even if he doesn’t talk about it. I took his free will from him. He’s been my puppet since we were children, so I’ll put up with any abuse he dishes out.

I have something coming to me, and I can live with that. I’m the reason my family was put six feet under. But my child and grandkids? They don’t deserve the punishment that I’ve evaded all these years.

I worry so for them.

Dixie never got her fourth night. There’s no taking it back, she said. She has a debt to settle, a long overdue one. I don’t think she’ll stop at my daughter-I believe she’ll run through all my descendants, picking them off one by one. Somehow, I’m sure of that.

I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mess of things. Please, God, don’t let my daughter and grandkids pay for my sins.


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The Velvet Hat: Athens Georgia Ghost Story


Ghost story from Athens, Georgia of a mysterious cemetery and (of course) a Georgia bulldog. Written by K.E. Schmidt.

“Why…” I groan with a futile pound on the dashboard. My fickle Honda has refused to start again, and on Halloween of all nights. It is my first year in Athens and all I’ve heard about is this awesome “Wild Rumpus” event, and I can’t even make it down town. I don’t feel like I know anyone well enough to call for a ride, and I live just decently on the outskirts to make it a nuisance to come fetch me. With a disappointed sigh, I step from the car and stare out at the misty autumn night.

Might as well take a walk. Maybe there will be some cute trick or treaters I can admire. I trudge up the walk and back into my house for a quick shoe change. A soft canine whine greets me. “Sorry, pal, not this time” I mutter as I pass UGLA, nestled in his crate. Acquired recently after the move from New Orleans, I’d named my bulldog with the convergence of old and new towns in mind. He’s a good dog, but tonight I opt to avoid the chance he might try to break away and chase after a princess-clad toddler. I head out to ramble and my thoughts do the same. I feel a twinge of detachment as I compare the atmosphere of Athens with the rich culture and folklore of Louisiana. I miss the odd stories, voodoo rumors, and mysterious sightings. All this college town has is a “haunted” sorority, and even that is said to bring marital fortune. Some story.

Suddenly, I see an impossible figure: UGLA. How could the dog have managed to get out of the house, or even out of his crate? And where is he going? I look ahead to his large shadow and catch an eerie gleam of his eyes through the darkness. I take off after the dog, who ignores my shouts and trots ahead. I break into a jog as I approach the woods behind our neighborhood, and the bulldog glances back with an uncharacteristic howl as he bounds into the trees. I can’t help but think, as I trudge over the uneven dirt, how very much like a graveyard this back lot seems. But I focus on UGLA.

Aerial view, Athens, Georgia at night (8342840567)

The trees rustle to my left and I veer swiftly, shocked when I see not the dog but a man, ornately dressed in antebellum garb, his head topped with a velvet hat trimmed smartly in scarlet. I marvel at the detail of his costume as I gaze back at the African-American gentleman, wondering if he is fresh from a party or maybe a product of my imagination.

“Best be careful in these parts, unless you aim to help the cause,” drawls the man. Something seems strange. The hairs at the back of my scalp begin to prickle. I manage to stutter, “the….cause?” It seems the man hardly blinks as he answers: “Those that lie here struggle to properly rest. Ain’t no coincidence all them raised dirt patches. Full of souls forgotten, deprived of respectable burial. Too long they’ve been silent.” He almost chuckles with a wry grin. “Someone’s gotta speak up. Spread the word out there. Get some right titles here. Otherwise, well…anything might happen.” My mouth has suddenly turned to cotton, but I nod as agreeably as possible, hoping I can convince the stranger that I will heed his warning. I glance at the ground, half-expecting a skeletal hand to emerge. What should I say now? Could it truly be an old forgotten burial site in need of discovery? Is this guy crazy? I force my head back up to ask more.

He is gone. I take several steps in each direction, straining my eyes for a glimpse of the red hat. Not a sign. With a dismaying shudder I realize that I have also lost track of UGLA. I know that I will only get disoriented if I attempt to traipse deeper into the trees. Biting back tears, I head back toward the dimly glowing street lights, trying to console myself with hope of a morning search or some neighborhood posters.

It hasn’t been my ideal Halloween, and it’s with a heavy heart that I creak open the door and shuffle through my kitchen, prepared to face the empty crate. But the crate isn’t empty. There, snoozing as pleasantly as you please, is my dog. And perched above is a scarlet-trimmed, debonair velvet hat.


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The Grey House: Georgia Haunted House Story


Young boys make the mistake of chasing an errant football into he depths of a Georgia haunted house. Written by Kenneth Gary.


“I know that the old woman in that huge, crumbling, grey house is hiding a secret, a dead body, something. I just know it!”
– words of an anonymous woman in the neighborhood.

One cannot, with the unburdened mind of youth, gaze upon stars, or the imaginative clouds of the sky, without being set upon by waves of wonder…
– sentiments of an anonymous child, same neighborhood.

Once upon a time…

When I was a young boy we played any number of sports and games outside in all areas of our Georgia neighborhood. The entire area was our domain: With one unacknowledged exception.

It was not something that we talked about openly, unless it was Halloween, but, there was one very large, decayed, grey house at the end of our ‘territory’ that, collectively, we instinctively avoided.

We had in the past, experienced the terror of attempting to retrieve an errant baseball from the front yard. There was no particular event associated with this perception: just a feeling. This alone was enough to make us realize that the air within that yard was forbidding. In fact, there are a number of prize balls of all sorts in that yard that were simply never recovered. It could even be the ninth inning, sun setting, mothers calling; but whenever the ball fell into that yard, it was the unspoken termination of whatever series was underway. Silently, no boasting, no arguments; the game just dissolved.

It was the kind of house that you just did not turn and walk away from; you tended to look over your shoulder for an extended portion of your departure. There was a subterranean concern with having ‘disturbed’ whatever lay within…there was a ‘please do not follow me home’ thought in the mind of anyone who in any way encroached.

That year, the hometown team made it to the Super Bowl. In those days, we were so adept at sneaking into any stadium that our only concern was getting enough cash for hot dogs and pop. This we accomplished also. With the game being local, we basically had fortune not merely smile upon us but bursting with a cornucopia of joy.

When our team won, underneath the bleachers, and everywhere else, people celebrated without restraint. One particularly exuberant (drunk) man pulled me aside and pushed a real NFL labeled football into my stomach, just like a hand off. “Here’s a souvenir, kid” he mumbled.

Well, to me at that age, I thought it was the game ball!. I ran before he could change his clouded mind. Showing my friends, they immediately wanted to go out to our street, and play a game with this wonderful ball that found its way into our lives.

With the seemingly limitless energy of youth, when legs just wanted to run of their own accord, we played and played up and down the avenue that night. The ball seemed to bring some magic to the game because there were more extraordinary plays performed than ever before. Finally, there was one long sideline pass that ended up too close to the fence, and even though I tipped it with my left hand, it did not bounce into receiving range, and it went over (it was ‘sucked’ over) the fence.

It went over the fence into the yard of the big grey house.

Typically, we would all simply subdue our impulses and quietly go home for the evening. But this was a special ball; and the Super Bowl had filled us with emotions that made us feel it was the game of our lives. This ball had to be retrieved.

I immediately drafted Bruce and Ronnie as my co-agents in what I had already determined to be a rescue mission. We lost a lot of balls before; we are not losing this one. Neither of them objected, as they were both intoxicated by the day, the Super Bowl and the ball: we approached the fence to figure a plan of retrieval. Behind us, out of view, everyone else slowly backed up, with that same mesmerized expression, and finally simply turned away and went home.

What came to mind with the force of thunder was the recollection that only two people had ever entered this yard before. One, a high school football star, who instantly broke his leg after climbing the fence, his arm upon breaking his fall. The other incident involved a very popular boy who must have incurred an even more horrific fate as no one would even tell us what had taken place. We were ‘too young’. All we could gather was that the grief-stricken, morose expressions on the faces of his friends that day, spelled certain doom. We never saw him again.

No matter. The ball is outside in the yard. It cannot have gone too close to the house. Besides conquering the prodigious undergrowth, what really, in this world of sunshine and blue sky, could stop us?

We were terrified.

RustyFence amk

The fence was chest high, for all three of us. But the vines and bushes that were never cut, caused one to forcibly dig through them in order to get a clear view of the yard even on top of the old wooden fence. And these vines and other undergrowth were tenacious; at points it seemed they grew straight through uncracked areas in the wood itself.

Assessing the landscape we decided to try to first make visual contact with the ball. Then we could decide a plan of action that would most likely secure our lives in this mission and return us safely to this side of the fence. We could not see the ball. However, we remained undaunted.

Unnoticed, we transformed into a band of predators that surveyed the African Savannah. With unspoken stealth, we found an area that permitted the easiest access thru the brush , vines, and over the fence.

There was a movement in one of the upstairs windows…not now; did it notice me? don’t look! Let us just get the ball; that’s all. In that strange way that people will expect that if they do not look directly at the car as they cross in front of, it will, by some unwritten law, not hit them. Just don’t look!

We had no real idea how large this cul-de-sac property really was. The house, easily observed from a distance down the street, was in reality thirty yards from the fence, and much taller, wider and far more decrepit than anyone ever suspected. And the grey color was not so much a color as it was the complete absence of any color at all. It was the color left when absolutely all other color is washed away. And it was unsettling. The house just looked dead.

Ronnie had received several cuts in the effort. One, on the back of his right hand, which probably deserved some attention, but before we knew it Ronnie licked it several times, applying saliva and clearing the blood. He looked up at us and whispered “ It’s okay”.

Crouching to a height just above the never tended sea of weeds covering the yard; we spread out to better locate our target in minimum time. We were far enough apart to expand the swath of the search, and close enough to not leave unexplored areas in between us.

Spread out, as we were, me in the middle, Bruce on my far left and Ronnie on my far right, we hesitantly began to search through, what seemed to be all the wheat in Kansas, for the ball.

Unbelievably, I heard Ronnie talking. The plan was to be utterly quiet once inside, which we now were, in order to not attract attention. Besides, who could he be talking too??!!

I stood up straight to see what could be going on over there just in time to see Ronnie running towards the house, halfway there he began to wave a greeting as though he saw someone he knew in the house. When he bounded upon the porch, clearly with glee, the front door opened allowing entrance. Without pause, Ronnie ran right into the house and the door closed sounding the finality of a prison gate: a life lost. The house had swallowed him.

I looked to the left, and Bruce too had observed this astounding behavior, and was clearly as astonished as I was. What could possibly possess someone, knowing what we all know about this place, to behave in this manner?

My bones told me there was no chance of going into that house. I looked at Bruce, blankly; implying that the decision was his and all the while hoping that he too would decline to follow Ronnie.

His bones told him the opposite. We could not leave without Ronnie.


Reluctantly, we approached each other at full height; the secret shroud of our arrival had evaporated. We were already announced, by Ronnie’s unbelievable behavior. It never occurred to us that we were in fact being invited in: that is why the mesmerizing effect that had sent everyone else home, did not impact us. Without speaking, we agreed to rescue our friend. Shoulder to shoulder, we turned to look at the Grey House where we would face whatever fate awaits.

But wait! Not the front door. Let’s take a walk around the house, there is probably some broken screen door to the kitchen, or rotted out gateway to the basement, or something. Here is where our skills at sneaking into all those football stadiums and carnivals would come in handy; we will find a way in; but it will be our way in: not the front door.

The very back of the house did have what used to be a screen-enclosed porch off the kitchen. Carefully, cause we could ill afford to have ourselves injured by rotten porch timber, we approached the kitchen door. The screen on the door had completely rotted away also. All I had to do was push my hand through the remaining screen, which instantly turned to dust, and unhook the simple lock.

We were in the kitchen.

To our utter amazement, the kitchen had towering cabinets scaling two of the walls. There was a table in the middle that was tall enough for us to walk under without bending our heads at all.

On the table there were apples the size of basketballs. Closer inspection, however, revealed that they were actually grapes. It finally dawned on us that whoever inhabited this place had to in fact be of monstrous proportions. With considerable effort, we returned our attention to the urgent task of finding Ronnie and getting out.

Since he came in the front door, let’s start there.

Silently, we found our way towards the front of the house. We passed what appeared to be a reading room, equipped just like the kitchen, with a table taller than us, and bookcases populated with strangely labeled, old, hard covered texts, that would have been too large for us to even retrieve from the shelves. We continued towards what had to be the front of the house where Ronnie, stupid Ronnie, just had to come inside!

Impossibly, the inside of this ‘house’ was of colossal proportions totally belied by the outward appearance.

The inside was just like the outside; never attended to. We were able to see Ronnie’s footprints as they came in the front door in the thick dust that covered the floor. They went to the (his) left upon entering, the opposite direction from which we had just come.

As we proceeded in this direction, to the right was a lofty, curved staircase, with enormity more than human, that went up to a second floor which surrounded the entire house it seemed with a walkway with many doors and several halls that wound off into utter and hollow darkness. Cautiously, we followed the footprints; thankful they did not lead upstairs. We need to find him fast before fear overtakes us and changes our minds completely.

Very faintly, I could hear a strangely familiar muffled sound coming from the direction we were going. We moved over to the wall, so that we could inch our way forward and defeat the chances of being discovered by…anything that may be in this place.

Fortunately, very shortly the familiar sounds were recognized as those made by a considerably large number of people dining together.

We squeezed ourselves along the wall until we came upon a large room before us, where, there was in fact a large table with what appeared to be about 20 people sitting around it eating.

Crouching behind a small table that was holding a dim lamp, we could make out the entire group across the hallway without being noticed. It took a few moments, but; I did recognize Billy Mitchell sitting at the table.

Billy was a classmate of mine, two years earlier. More than a classmate, we were actually quite good friends. Billy and his family had moved to Detroit; yet, those were his parents on either side of him, eating in relative silence.

There was also Trudy Jones. I would never forget her because, even though she was several years older, I had a boyhood crush on her for as long as I could remember. But, she was no longer older than me. In fact, she was exactly the same age as the last summer before her, and her slow running brother, were at the time that they left this town.

There were several other people recognizable at the table. But in every case, it was someone, or some family, who had ‘moved away’, or otherwise relocated, to some other distant place. But they were in fact all right here! They had not gone anywhere! And they looked exactly as they had when they ‘left’. Trudy was no longer older than me. Not this Trudy.

Then we saw Billy’s dog Apache. The dog had died a year before Billy and his family moved to Detroit. It was sitting by Billy’s leg at the table. A position I clearly recall that his parents would not allow at dinner time because I often visited them in those days.

We made no noise at all. Suddenly, as if by clairvoyance; the dog immediately swung his head around to look directly at us; he looked as though my very recognition of him had made a suspicious sound that he could hear. His ears twitched, and he instantly sprang to his feet, and began to snarl like Cerberus, guarding the gates of Hades. This was effectively an alarm to everyone at the table who also immediately ceased all activity and, without searching, turned their laser like attention upon us.

I could feel the heat from their glare; eyes rimmed with deep bloody red. Inhuman forked tongues darted out of several mouths in serpent like fashion. They rose from the table in unison; never taking their eyes off us…

Without a word, we turned and ran. We ran back across the large foyer that comprised the entryway. Looking over my shoulder to see the ‘missing people’ storming out of the dining room after us, only, they were running on all fours; backs arching like true quadrupeds in pursuit. Now their tongues wagged out of their open mouths like wolves. And they howled like a pack of wild animals.

Their form of locomotion, along with the changes in their bodies, made it clear they were soon going to overtake us. In utter desperation we decided to run, jump, up the staircase; because we all know, canines are not so graceful on stairs as they are on open ground.

To our surprise, they did not even pursue us up the stairs. They came to a screeching halt, some tumbling in the dust under their own momentum. Reverting to human, upright posture, they walked back and forth at the bottom of the stairs staring with those empty red rimmed eyes, long tongues rolling out of their mouths like a dog on a hot day. Some of them had long snake-like tails trailing behind them.

We stumbled up the stairs backwards. Looking at them, in case they changed their minds…

We reached the second story of the house. From here, looking upwards, the very top of the building hosted a huge glass dome. Through it I could see the most magnificent display of brilliant stars against a palpably thick, blue-black sky. I knew I was somehow closer to the entire universe than I had ever been before: This was not a scene one could commonly see from the surface of the earth. Besides, it was full daylight still when we entered the house.

I looked back down the stairs and they were all gone: Nowhere to be seen. Since Ronnie was not among them, we decided to see if he was upstairs also. Maybe he was fortunate enough to have escaped them in the same way we just did. Either way, without discussion: getting out of here is already far more important than finding Ronnie (stupid Ronnie).

With all the noise echoing throughout the mansion from the chase just escaped, there is no need to try to be quiet. Anything that can hear already knows we are here by now.

There was a huge, ominous door at the end of the hallway before us.

When the door opened, the wind of death floated out onto the balcony. Standing in the doorway was a very tall (far more than human height), large, muscular figure, of a man. He did not move, but his very presence exuded sheer gravity. This was an entity that encompassed more than mortals have ever witnessed before.

It was as if some two-story tall, granite statue in the main lobby of a bustling New York skyscraper had awakened: infuriated by the way that mankind had exploited his true immortal grandeur to adorn their meager buildings. This was the infernal rage before us now.

With the sound of thunder, heard on the inside; in the space of an instant, eons were revealed to us, as if flying through the galaxy. His intent was not instruction, or sharing; we could see these phenomena simply as a by-product of having been brought into his mind. His intent was examination of us.

One could feel that what he was doing with the missing people was consuming their future, extracting all the promise from their lives; their hopes and dreams; this is what he lived on. Simple manipulation, crushing several dreams, diminishing just a little celestial light, is how he victimized them: exactly as a spiders poison incapacitates the victim. It was a combination of this and the wind from his home world blowing in this place that transformed them into the creatures they were becoming; Man is never far from Monster – human aspiration is a feeble barrier.

I grabbed Bruce’s arm, to set him into motion as I turned to flee. The grab meant I was not going to wait – better come now! With my acceleration being so desperate, the ancient carpet beneath my feet rolled, fighting my intention to escape and catapulting my mind into complete terror. But I kept running. Bruce was energized into action by my grasp of his arm, and he too managed to turn and flee.

The creature in the doorway, actually filling the huge doorway, did not bother to pursue us. Pursuit never entered his vast mind. You do not chase mosquitoes; you kill them when they light on your arm again.

We ran back past the stairs. Looking down, those people were once again, all gathered around the bottom of the staircase. That path was blocked. We kept running until we came upon a very narrow stairway at the opposite side of the second level. At a glance, the stairs were more normal size, and this stairway did not even open up on the level where the ‘people’ were because we did not see it when we were downstairs. It actually was a servants egress. Apparently for human sized servants.

The stairway was interminably long as it had no exit on the first floor but continued uninterrupted into the cellar. This did not feel good at all. With what we have seen already, is not the cellar in this place bound to be far worse?

No stopping now. At this point we have to concentrate on saving ourselves.

Upon arriving at the bottom, one entire wall, of what appeared to be a recently excavated basement; the length of a football field was lined with embedded cages lit with mildly different colored lights from the top of each cell. Some were filled with a writhing mist that did not escape what appeared to be a set of horizontal and vertical bars encasing each cage. This was a menagerie that provided the many beasts within, a recreation of the environment from whatever world he was taken from.

Just then, a beast resembling a huge grizzly bear covered with alligator skin crashed into the bars of his cage with such ferocity that it physically shook many of the adjacent cages and elicited a huge cacophony of growls and shrieks from the nearby inhabitants.

My extreme terror was revealed with an audible shriek of my own.

Then, I felt myself gripped from behind on the shoulder. My entire life dissolved inside me as I turned around to find that it was Ronnie, standing behind us.

Ronnie was trying to explain to us what had occurred. He spoke slowly, actually he mumbled. I could see his cheek quickly jutting out, as though his tongue were poking it. It fell upon me in a flash; Ronnie too has the serpent tongue, and he was trying to hide it from us!

Just like the dog before him, ‘Ronnie’ knew instantly he had been discovered. He pounced upon me, with more power than he had ever possessed, forcing me backwards against one of the cages of the enclosed beasts. Behind me I could actually feel the delight (the hunger) of the creature within as it began to slither towards the bars of the cage and receive this human offering which was myself.

In spite of our history of my superior athletic prowess, I could not even begin to contest Ronnie’s strength at this point. Bruce too, attempted in vain to force Ronnie to relinquish his grasp upon me. With utter ease, he ignored Bruce, and he pinned me against the bars as the creature within increased his speedy approach, beckoning my certain doom.

It is said that man’s extremity is Gods opportunity. There was certainly only one single moment left for me; and looking deep within Ronnie’s eyes I was surprised to see recognition. In that instant, our entire shared childhood passed between us, both good and bad, and with the same complete power that he had pinned me against the bars, he now jerked me away. Behind me, I could hear the creature within crashing, disappointed, against the cage: Furious at the lost opportunity.

Speechless; and with an inhuman, mechanical like precision, Ronnie pointed towards a sizable nook within the cavernous walls of this dungeon. As we peered within the nook, we could see a stairway with light squeezing through the edges at the top. We turned to thank him only to see him turn and run with supernatural speed down the length of the walkway between the cages, uttering guttural, primordial grunts along the way, until something from within one of the cages reached out and pulled him in. His sounds ended abruptly, signaling certain extermination.

We chose to ascend the stairs.

There was the outside, old fashion cellar door at the top, which was not even locked. We opened it with ease to emerge into the same un-kept yard we had just left. As we shut the cellar doors we could still hear the cries from the unholy collection of wildlife below. The only difference being that it had to be about midnight judging from the position of the moon, the darkness, and the quiet that seemed to surround the neighborhood as far as we could tell.

Why did Ronnie not secure my death? Perhaps he was in the initial stages of being ‘absorbed’ by this place. More likely, the colossal creature within – who clearly spanned eons and galaxies – perhaps he had no concept of simple human friendship: A situation he had not incurred as yet. For whatever reason, at whatever stage of being ‘taken over’ he was at, the ‘Ronnie’ on the inside was being made from the Ronnie we knew. I do not think the being upstairs could just invent heroism, or even recognize it. Even if he could, he would not employ it to act for our sake. No, this incubus, this voodoo doll that was to become Ronnie, somehow was being made from the real thing – our friend.

Amazingly, when we finally got back outside, there was Ronnie, excited, asking us why we just suddenly ran into the house – for no reason! This inquiry was so honestly set forth as to disarm us of any anger or other misgivings at all. This was our Ronnie. I could see the tinge of guilt in his eye for not coming after us – he had no hint that we had encountered ‘him’ on the inside of this place. I could also appreciate his dilemma; and at least he did not leave the yard. He was just unable to get into the house. He did not realize that the ‘Ronnie’ that was on the inside, was a part of him, and this meant too that a part of him was a true hero, in a way that this, our Ronnie, would perhaps never know.

And, it was the right decision in the end…the creature within had easily fooled us all.

And there was no old woman at all, contrary to a popular rumor.

And, most importantly, Ronnie had recovered the ball.


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The Boo Hag Woman: Song Inspired by Georgia Witch Story The Boo Hag


Song based on Georgia witch story “The Boo Hag” about a man who suspects his beautiful new bride might be a witch. Song written and performed by Frank Whitaker. Original story written by Veronica Byrd with Craig Dominey.

Way out past the salt marsh, by a creek that leads to sea;
There is a spooky four-room shack beneath a twisted live oak tree.
A strange young lady lived there with a man she’d met in town.
Her perfect skin, it lured him in, but after ‘while he found;
That she was creepin’ out at night;
And she was slippin’ out of sight;
And she hardly ever acted right at all.


He thought she might be cheatin’ on him, but his friend said, “Son;
You done married yo’self a Boo Hag, and she’s slippin’ out for fun.”
“Boo Hags shed their skins at night, like evil spirit crones.
They suck the air from young men’s lungs;
And try to crush their bones.
She may look good by the light of day;
But at night, she’ll never stay;
And if a man can’t slip away, she’ll ride his back until he falls;”
And I said . . .

Boo Hag Woman, get on back – I don’t believe the things you say!
You can’t spook me with your sweet-talk, Girl —
I’ve got to live to see another day.
It is a sin to shed your skin.
You gon’ get got, I guarantee –
Boo Hag Woman, get on back from me.


Now, to get rid of a Boo Hag, there is just one thing to do –
If she can’t get back in her skin, then her Boo Hag days are through.
So late one night, when she went away, he searched around the shack.
Her slimy skin was hangin’ in a closet in the back.
He took the salt and the pepper down;
And he shook it all around;
Inside that skin that he had found, ’till he was done.

She came back ‘fore the morning, when the sun was ’bout to crest; And she said, “I am a Boo Hag, and Lord knows, I needs my rest.”
But when she slipped back in her skin, and gathered it around;
That skin, it started smokin’, and it made a bubblin’ sound.
And then that lyin’ witch;
She started jumpin’ from the itch.
He saw her body start to twitch and melt there, in the risin’ sun;
And I said . . .


He boiled her Boo Hag body in a barrel full of tar;
And poured himself a brand new roof, that hasn’t leaked so far.
And now, he lives there all alone, beside that crooked stream.
That Boo Hag taught a lesson, ’cause she was not what she seemed.
If there’s a pretty girl you know;
Then you’d better take it slow;
‘Cause there’s no tellin’ where she’ll go;
When she slips-out at night;
And I said . . .


. . . I don’t want no old Boo Hag attack, I said;
Boo Hag Woman, get on back from me.