GHOSTS OF NATCHEZ
Natchez, Mississippi is located in the far southwestern part of the state and is perhaps one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the south. Time seems to stand still here, a fact that is evident in the many stories of ghosts and hauntings in the area. On this page, we will take a closer look at some of the ghost stories and haunted places of the Natchez region.
The Natchez Trace The Natchez Trace is a mysterious pathway that crosses much of the middle, southern states. The path takes its name from the city of Natchez, although it has actually been there for centuries. There are many strange tales and legends related to the trail. Just south of Tupelo is a sign that was placed by the National Park Service which reads WITCH DANCE.. the old folks say the witches once gathered here to dance and that whenever their feet touched the ground the grass withered and died, never to grow again. And the sign appears to be right. If you search around the area, you can actually find scorched spots on the earth where the grass will not grow. These spots have been there for years, catching the interest of even Andrew Jackson, who noted the spots in his journal after a trip along the Trace on the way home to Tennessee.
The Trace is very old. It was traveled along by the explorer De Soto in 1541 and for more than 500 years before that, used by the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians as the best way to travel.... but even they avoided the scorched places in the earth.
Later the pathway was used by settlers making their way to the west, and while they had their own legends and ghost stories to tell, they were more afraid of being robbed and murdered on the Trace, two very real possibilities. Into the 1800's, all travelers along the Natchez Trace faced the same fears as it had become known as a favorite hideout for outlaws. They attacked and killed travelers here and many who dared to travel along the Trace were never seen again.
Some of the most dangerous outlaws to ply their trade here were the Harpe Brothers. They committed bloody atrocities on the trail for years, torturing, mutilating and robbing their victims. One of the brothers was later captured and beheaded and his skull was hung along the road as a warning to other killers.
Another well-known outlaw was Joseph Thompson Hare. He also robbed and sometimes killed along the Natchez Trace. He did not practice the senseless crimes of the Harpe Brothers, but he still kept travelers in fear of their lives and pocket books.
Hare often spoke of seeing strange things along the Natchez Trace, including a phantom white horse, before he was hanged in 1818. Hare's laughing ghost has been reported in an area of the city known as Natchez-Under-the-Hill, along with the ghost of his unfaithful mistress, whom he buried alive wearing the jewels that he had given her.
Natchez-Under-the-Hill Besides the ghost of Hare, this area of the city is haunted by a number of other ghosts. It is an old area of the city, located along the riverbank and it is home to several ghosts from the 1700's and the 1800's.
One apparition is that of a man in a military uniform. He is thought to be an American spy who gave secrets to the Spanish when they ruled the territory. The ghosts of several Spanish soldiers are also seen nearby.
Another outlaw who haunts the area is that of John Murrel, who stole and re-sold slaves in the early 1800's. Sometimes he would sell the same slave over and over again until the slave was recognized. Then, because he could do him no more good, Murrel would kill them. In 1835, rumors spread that Murrel was organizing a slave rebellion in New Orleans and he was lynched by an angry mob.
King's Tavern Over the years, literally hundreds of employees and guests have encountered a ghost named Madeline here. The building was constructed in the 1760's and became a tavern in 1789, when it was purchased by Richard King. Madeline was his mistress and a serving girl in the tavern. She was said to be a happy and mischievous girl and apparently the ghost follows suit.
No one knows whatever became of her but in the 1930's, three mummified bodies were found beneath the floor of the tavern's cellar. Two of them were men and the third was a young girl, thought to be Madeline. A jeweled dagger was found next to her body.
Linden This mansion has been in the Conner family since 1790 and even has a family ghost haunting it. The sounds of a horse-drawn buggy pulling into the front driveway and the tapping of an invisible cane in the west gallery are still heard today. The ghost of a man wearing a top hat has appeared in one of the children's bedrooms many times and there has been an apparition of a woman reported on the roof of the east wing. She has been seen jumping off of the edge of the roof, but she always vanishes before she hits the ground.
Longwood The history of this great Natchez house is filled with sadness and tragedy and represents the unfinished dream of a broken man whose future was destroyed by the government that he cherished and supported. The house was started in 1859 by Dr. Haller Nutt and it is said to be his ghost, and the ghost of his wife, who haunts the place.
The design of the house was created by a Philadelphia architect named Samuel Sloan and it resembled an eight-sided castle. It also has a sixteen-sided cupola on the top with an onion-shaped dome. It was designed to be six stories tall and made of brick, marble and plaster with eight rooms on each floor, surrounding a rotunda. Orders were placed which would allow the house to be furnished with expensive European designs... most of these costly goods would be seized be seized by Federal blockades at the start of the Civil War.
It would be the war that would signal an end to Nutt's dream of his grand and unusual home. The construction on the house continued through 1860 but came to a halt the following Spring when war broke out. The Pennsylvania architect and his workers returned home to fight for the Union, leaving Nutt's home far from complete.... which is exactly how it still stands today.
The war not only took away Nutt's home, but his wealth as well. Nutt settled his family onto the first floor of the house, the only floor completed, and watched as the South burned around him. Although he was a Union loyalist, he saw over $1 million of his rich cotton land either burned or confiscated by the Union soldiers. Completely broken and without the will to live, Nutt slowly wasted away from pneumonia and died in 1864.
Locals dubbed the house "Nutt's Folly" and his descendants lived in the basement for many years before donating it to the Pilgrimage Garden Club, who maintains it today.
Dr. Nutt and his wife, Julia, seem to love the attention that is now paid to the house and frequently appear to guests and tour guides. Mrs. Nutt is usually seen inside on the staircase while Dr. Nutt seems to prefer the garden area.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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