Happy Halloween! Here are a few local tales to keep things interesting around town...
Article by Heather Beauchamp
One of the most compelling things about the city of Griffin is its history. Though they're not always pretty, there are many tales about the places that surround us, and it seems that most everyone has a story of strange happenings. In this season when we look to the spooky to entertain and excite us, it’s time to share those stories and to appreciate the rich history of our town. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, they are there for the pondering, the giggles, and the gasps. Now, Kitchen Drawer looks into some of Griffin’s most notorious haunted hangouts. Read on…if you dare…
One location with a history of unusual events is the old Griffin Hotel (the building in which Slices is currently located). Built in 1910 and operated as a hotel until 1945, the Griffin Hotel was an incredibly important place for our town. Most major events and official ceremonies took place in the ballroom on the main floor. In 1974, the building became a nursing home. There are many eerie stories about the building, which has aged into the perfect setting for a good scare. Winding hallways, peeling walls, and multiple dark staircases add to the history, beauty, and absolute creepiness of the old hotel. Haunted house expert Liz Smallwood can tell you some of these stories, as she’s been researching the Griffin Hotel for an upcoming project with Tracy Wallace, owner of Bank Street Café.
There is the tale of two construction workers who had been warned to be out of the building before dark, as it becomes nearly impossible not to get lost in it after dark. Ignoring the warning, the workers stayed late and did indeed become stuck inside—that is, until a dimly lit figure holding a lantern showed up to lead them outside. When they reached the exit, no one was there. At least in this case, the ghosts at the Griffin Hotel appeared to be friendly.
The strangest story of the Griffin Hotel is about the basement, which includes a lowered area, much like an old-fashioned arena. It is rumored that in the early days of the hotel, the lower basement served as a man versus bear fighting pit. That's right...man versus BEAR. Men would reportedly gather round and place bets on the fights. (Could this have anything to do with Griffin High's longtime mascot? Who knows?)
When Kitchen Drawer asked our readers to share strange occurrences, we were excited (and a little terrified) to receive this story of an encounter with what appeared to be two curious neighbors. Jesse Lee and his girlfriend recently relocated to Griffin and rented an old Victorian house on Hill Street. One day when Jesse was mowing the back yard, he was startled to find a man and a woman suddenly standing at the back fence. Jesse wrote, “The first question they asked me was, 'Is this house haunted?'” The question unnerved Jesse a bit, but he explained that he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary. The man spoke about work, gave Jesse a home address, and invited him to come by for a visit anytime. Several days later, Jesse and his girlfriend were running errands in the neighborhood and decided to take their visitors up on the invitation to stop in. When they arrived at the address they had been given, Jesse and his girlfriend found a house that had apparently been vacant for some time, with windows boarded up and shutters falling off. Jesse recalls: “My girlfriend turned to me and asked, 'Do you think they were ghosts?'” Jesse reports that there have been a number of strange happenings in their home since that day: “Things moved in the house, strange noises in the attic, and the light coming on in the basement in the middle of the night...you could see the light coming through the old floorboards.” The fact that these odd events began after the conversation with the curious neighbors makes this story one of the eeriest we have heard.
Liberty Technology/Kitchen Drawer
The next one hits close to home, as it takes place in the Liberty Technology/Kitchen Drawer building. Liberty employee Ben Gibson (Gibs) recalls his second day at work in November 2010. He was the first to arrive in the building. As he sat in his cubicle starting his workday, he suddenly heard footsteps running behind him. Turning around, he saw no one there. After checking a few other cubicles, he returned to his seat, only to hear the running again, this time coming from the opposite direction. Baffled, Gibs searched the lower level of the building. As he searched a hallway, he clearly heard a voice whisper “Ben.” Fast forward to this past summer. On a day off, Gibs and his wife, Deborah, stopped by Liberty Technology to pick something up. As he was getting on the elevator, in the same hallway as before, Gibs distinctly heard that same voice from two years ago, now whispering his name. His wife didn’t hear anything. (Because of this story, most of us are reluctant to work late around here these days!)
Perhaps the most well known haunted house (or “haunted house” for you naysayers) is the historical Bailey-Tebault house on Meriwether Street. Members of the local historical society and other people who had spent time in the house reported unexplained sounds and items moved from their places. It was said that a curtain in an upstairs bedroom frequently shifted positions. A young boy visiting the home insisted his parents help him find the “man in red” that he had met on the servant stairs, but there was no such person present.
In June of 2011, agents from the Georgia Society of the Paranormal Sciences conducted an investigation of the Bailey-Tebault house and gave a full report, which included a number of peculiar episodes. Of all the photos taken, only one came back with a significant image, and it is hard to make out. However, the EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recordings taken by the crew are nothing less than chilling. In one instance, an investigator prompts a spirit to finish the old “Shave and a Haircut” routine. After several seconds, faint knocks can be heard. In another recording, you can hear a woman’s voice faintly warn, “It isn’t safe.” In one room, the word “no” is heard over the voices of the investigators.
Investigators reported seeing two apparitions, one wearing long white sleeves, entering the archive storage room. At 1 a.m., while the crew was in the sitting parlor, an agent observed what appeared to be a human figure obstructing the light from the lobby entrance. All agents were accounted for at the time; the gray shadow figure could not be explained.
Though many current and former historical society staff agree that strange things occur at Bailey-Tebault, there is seemingly nothing dangerous. Future brides and grooms who visit while planning their weddings often get a kick out of the home’s history and somewhat spooky reputation. No matter what you believe about the house in terms of the paranormal, it is certainly a local treasure, one that is beautifully preserved by the hard work of our historical society. You can get more information about the Bailey-Tebault house by calling 770-229-2432.
Most of us who grew up locally have heard stories from “the trestle.” Located a bit off the roadside of Trestle Road (off Teamon Road), the trestle has been a popular spot for “playing hooky” for generations. One legend says that in the early 1900s, a train derailed there and many people perished. Later visitors to the trestle claimed to feel the tracks vibrating, see lights in the distance, and even hear the train whistle and the screams of the victims. Although one of the last owners of the trestle eventually posted that this derailment did not occur near Griffin, some still claim to have seen and heard strange things during their time at the trestle.
About that project that Liz Smallwood and Tracy Wallace have been working on—they have teamed up to transform the old Griffin Hotel into Sinister Suites, a Halloween attraction that is a must-do for local residents and visitors. Liz and her crew are working day and night to transform the space. Beginning October 3 through the Halloween season, it will be open Thursdays 7-11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m.-midnight, and Sundays 7-10 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door. Keep up with the fun by following Sinister Suites on Facebook.
Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, it’s hard to deny the thrill that this time of year brings. We at Kitchen Drawer hope you get out there and have some local fall fun!