Columbus, Mississippi is an old town on the Tombigbee River in the eastern part of the state. As with most of the old southern river towns, it got its start, and prospered, shipping cotton from the numerous area plantations down the river to Mobile. The state capital was moved from Jackson to Columbus during the Civil War, making it a location filled with both history and southern lore. The city is one that hangs onto its past and because of this, is well-known for its colorful resident ghosts.
Robert and Donna Snow of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would have no idea that their simple curiosity about the mansion called Waverly would one day lead them to owning the place. On their first look, they were simply curious. They had heard stories about the once magnificent house, now in ruins, and wanted to take a look at it first hand. They literally hacked their way through the woods and brush to the property and were stunned by what they saw.... they had to own the house.
To say that the house had been in poor shape would have been too kind. The massive, four-story house, built in 1852, had been abandoned for more than 50 years. The while paint was peeling off, the shutters hung askew and had fallen, vines climbed the stairs and entered the house through broken windows, birds and bats had nested in the high cupola on top of the house, the floors were covered with leaves,branches, cobwebs and the debris of hundreds of vandals and curiosity-seekers. To make matters worse, bright graffiti covered nearly every inch of the place.
In spite of all this, the Snows bought the house and moved their family into it, beginning a long and costly restoration of the mansion. The house was in terrible disrepair but its structure was sound. While they worked, they sometimes lived all six of them in one room. The whole thing was a nightmare, but it paid off. Waverly is now restored and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
During the restoration, ghosts never crossed the mind of the Snows.... even though they were sometimes awakened at night by loud noises and strange sounds. They never found an explanation for them, but the sounds were eventually forgotten.
Then one day, Donna Snow was startled to hear the voice of a little girl, calling her "Mama", appear out of thin air. The next afternoon, it happened again and then continued to happen day after day. She finally realized that Waverly held not only the four Snow children, but one more as well.... a little girl who was looking for her mother.
Mrs. Snow heard the little girl for about two more years before she discovered, one afternoon, an imprint on one of the large canopied beds that would be about the size of a three year-old child. A definite impression, about the size of the child, would appear on that same bed each afternoon. It would remain there until late in the day and then vanish.
Then one afternoon in the mid-1970's, Mrs. Snow heard the voice for the last time. Instead of sweetly calling as it normally did, the voice became loud and shrill and yelled "Mama" five times. The voice never called out again and stopped sleeping in the bed each afternoon.
Over the course of the next 10 years, Mrs. Snow would always wonder who the little girl had been. On one occasion, a couple who was touring the house remarked to Mrs. Snow that she had a spirit in the house. Soon after, for no apparent reason, the indention of the little girl started appearing in the bed again.
Even though she is never heard, the ghost girl has been seen by Mrs. Snow and her daughter, Cindy. She is described as being a toddler with dark blond hair and who is wearing a long, high-necked nightgown. She has been seen and then dissolves into a white mist.
They have never been able to discover who the girl might be. The builder of the house, George Hamilton Young, had ten children but none died in the house. She believes that perhaps the little girl is a granddaughter, but no one knows for sure.
Other than the impressions on the bed and an occasional appearance, the little girl remains quiet. She is sometimes still seen, although tourists often notice the impression that she leaves on the bed.
One has to wonder if she still searches for her mother.... or if the companionship of the Snow family, and the visitors to Waverly, have finally given her the peace that she sought for so many years?
Waverly is a private residence in Columbus, which is located in the east central part of the state.The house is located on Mullen's Bluff overlooking the river. Tours are offered of the house and you should check with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce for more information.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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