Sometimes, things do go Bump in the night. Dahlonega is known for two famous photographs of ghosts, so come on out and get your camera ready. Dahlonega is rich with ghost lore. Be prepared to hear all the local ghost stories that accompany this city’s history. The Dahlonega Haunts Self-Guided Tour is a group project of the 2012 Class of Leadership Lumpkin County
The oldest building on the Square, the Lumpkin County courthouse, was built in 1836 from local brick that contains traces of Dahlonega gold, which is known to be some of the purest in the world. Now the bottom floor houses a museum featuring gold technology and coins minted at the federal branch mint, which operated in Dahlonega from 1838 until it was taken over by the Confederacy in 1861, when Georgia seceded from the Union.*
The staff refers to the courthouse ghost as “Tommy”. People say a tall figure in a hooded robe has been seen in the windows and hanging out on the balcony, and there have been reports of a “knocking sound inside the walls.” The Museum Manager recalled that there was one time that the stamp mill came on by itself. “There is no way that stamp mill can come on without somebody pushing that button,” the manager said.* Things come up missing, too, and the staff will say, “Well Tommy got in again”.*
Built in 1897 by Dahlonega’s real colonel, W.P. Price, the Price building has housed Colonel Price’s law office, Dr. Head’s medical office and drugstore, a grocery store, a theater, and most recently a bakery and café.*
There have been reports of a ghost haunting the Price Building’s second floor, and Carol Edwards had mentioned that the landlord had a hard time keeping tenants up there. Some thought it may be “the Colonel” up to his old tricks.*
A psychic reported that the ghost was simply a “solitary figure” waiting for someone who’s never going to come. It was a strong time in her life, and she just stands there and waits. She doesn’t acknowledge anyone; she’s not even aware. She’s in her own world. That’s why Colonel doesn’t go up there.*
The Ghost of “the Colonel” is a legend among Dahlonega merchants. Some believe he’s the spirit of Colonel William Pierce Price, who founded the school now known as North Georgia College and State University and was instrumental in other aspects of Dahlonega and Georgia history throughout the latter half of the 1800s.*
In any case, somebody’s about, and he likes kitchens. He gets around all over the Square, but seems to prefer the east side, especially when Jack’s Café was in the old Bank of Dahlonega Building. Dr. Homer Head built the place in the early 1900s and for a while had his medical office on the second floor.*
“The Colonel doesn’t like it when tensions run high," said the owner of Jack’s Café, "and he doesn’t care at all for loud rap music”. Once when she was at the sink washing dishes, a car went by with a boom box blaring so loud the windows shook. All of the sudden the boiler lid sailed off the grill, went sliding across the floor, and almost hit Erin in the heels.*
The servers have seen things, too. One young woman was so badly frightened when the dishes lifted off a shelf and crashed to the floor that she turned in her notice and fled.*
One evening the owner of Jack’s Café, Erin Peck, had finished cleaning up and was leaving when she kept seeing what looked like the figure of a man out of the corner of her eye. As she came around the corner from the bathroom, the Colonel appeared again. He was standing on the opposite side of the swinging door to the kitchen, barely ten feet away. He was like a silhouette, but she could see no distinguishing features, and nothing about his clothing was clear, but he was six feet tall and most definitely there. Tired, hot, hungry and now really edgy, the apparition startled her so badly she got mad. “Don’t do that, Colonel!” she yelled. “Don’t be stupid!” She picked up her stuff and headed out fast. But six feet from the door she was stopped dead in her tracks.
“I was dripping sweat, hot – nervous, too - and all of a sudden from my right shoulder I suddenly felt – starting from the right side of my body and melting through – this cold sensation…. I was paralyzed until the last ounce of it was gone from my left shoulder”. Erin fled as soon as she was able to move again. The Colonel would not make his presence known again until Erin made a formal apology to him.*
A psychic reported that the “Colonel” at Crimson Moon, Massachusetts Bay Trading Company, and what was known as Jack’s Café is actually a simple man that worked at the bank on the corner. He owned some land on the other side of the Ridleys’ place, went to church. People have always called him the Colonel, even while he was alive because of how he carried himself.*
When Karen Kunzer and her sister opened The Grill in Dahlonega, it was just little things that happened at first: a plate where you didn’t remember leaving it, a door left open, a pot in the wrong cabinet.*
Then the pans started moving around. Nested inside each other, a whole stack of them would suddenly slide off the rack and crash onto the floor. Karen would hear the commotion and come running to find only the aftermath: pans everywhere.*
One evening, Karen was in the restaurant alone, shutting down for the night. She had locked the doors and was getting ready to leave when she heard sounds in her walk-in cooler. She tiptoed into the kitchen and peered around the corner. Slowly, the cooler door opened…paused…and then, very slowly, closed.
It was a heavy door with a vacuum seal. There was simply no way it could have open and closed on its own.*
This building, like several of the older structures on the square, has its ghost, and a number of people have experienced paranormal activity there, including those who don’t believe in “ghosts”. Three people observed a heavy plate fly off a shelf in the Ivy Cottage, moving out enough to miss the microwave and then drop unbroken onto the floor. Teapots have also moved mysteriously from shelves to the floor without breaking. At night the locked door with a bell on it has been heard to open and close, followed by footsteps moving around when there was no one there.**
A woman, who was once the proprietor of a shop on the first floor, told how she had often heard the bell on a shop door ringing, but no one ever appeared. Sometimes she heard footsteps coming down the hall and the sound of her door opening and closing, but when she went to greet her customer, no one was there.*
In an upstairs apartment there was a tenant who reported that they saw the plates falling out of the kitchen cabinet one by one. When she approached the cabinet to try and stop them, the light fixture in the ceiling came crashing to the floor!*
Fred Jones was a colorful character of mayor and state legislator, who had died under suspicious circumstances in his Chevrolet dealership on the Square. Had it been suicide or murder? That was the mystery. The “official” story was suicide.*
What was once Fred Jones’s Chevrolet dealership is now four stores and a café divided by a center hall and the rumor that Fred haunts his building has been circulating for years. A waitress at the café – Dante’s – told of a shadowy figure that had often been seen sitting at a table by the front window of the restaurant, where Fred’s office used to be. Others said they’d had “feelings” or seen someone walking down the hall at night. One woman who claimed to be “sensitive” stated that she couldn’t stand to go anywhere near the building and broke into tears while she was talking about it. “Something terrible has happened there”, she said, but she couldn’t be specific.*
Glenn Connor reported being told that the “murder was trouble about the gambling”.*
A number of shopkeepers have reported numerous instances of carefully locked doors found standing wide open, displays rearranged overnight when nobody was in the building, and unusual noises. Some claim seeing the ghosts of a woman, believed to have been a cook in the old hotel.**
Paranormal activity has been experienced by a number of different people in The Hall House which was built around 1881, and renamed the The Robert M. Moore Building when the Moore family purchased it. Footsteps have been heard upstairs when there was no other person in the building. A shop owner saw the reflection of a woman in the window, but when she turned, there was no one there. An elderly woman reported seeing men in uniforms and women in long dresses. An Elvis Bank mysteriously moved from its shelf to the floor overnight on a number of different occasions.**
Behind a wall that had been boarded up, an old trunk was found that belonged to a young woman who apparently boarded in the building while attending North Georgia College. It contained correspondence dated 1917-1920 as well as period photographs, railway passes, and Western Union telegrams.**
When Gabee’s Cajun Kitchen and the Art Cart were housed in this building they reported that invisible dishes shattered in the kitchen, footsteps echoed in the art studio, doors unlocked themselves, and chess pieces moved around in the middle of the night!*
Gabee’s, too, has had its unsolved mysteries. It wasn’t unusual for people to hear dishes crashing in the kitchen or heavy objects being dropped in the front room, only when someone rushes in to see what’s happening, nothing is there.*
The owner of the Art Cart had painted a chessboard on the surface of an old wooden coffee table. He fashioned the chess pieces from gourds and painted them to look like Muslims and Christians. One day while he was working at the counter, he glanced at the chessboard and found the chess pieces lined up down the middle of the board! A few weeks later, he found them lined up around the edge of the coffee table. Sometimes, if he leaves for the night with the pieces set as though a game is in progress, he finds them returned to their home positions the next morning.*
Glenn Connor built the Connor Storehouse in 1993 to accord architecturally with the old Jones home next door, which Glenn restored. The Connor Storehouse currently houses the Back Porch Oyster Bar and previously housed Wylie’s Restaurant. Waitresses from Wylie’s Restaurant have reported several odd occurrences. One waitress was helping close up and had gone downstairs to pick up some of her belongings when a black umbrella hanging on a coat peg near the steps started swinging out and back, out and back. She didn’t waste any time getting out of there.*
Erin Riley, a bartender, in the bar at Wylie’s Restaurant by herself one slow night, had rearranged the chairs at one of the tables and gone back into the back room. When she returned, the chairs were back in their original positions. This puzzled her, but Erin doesn’t ruffle easily. She rearranged the chairs a second time and went upstairs to get something. When she came back down after a few minutes, the chairs had moved again.*
There was a psychic that reported that this ghost is a mischievous woman who loves to play pranks. If people get scared she picks on them. She told the psychic that people don’t realize a lot of the things she does because they are so busy. She wore her hair down regularly, which was not in style during her time period.*
Built in 1948 and restored in the 1990s, the Holly Theater may be a modern building but it shares a reputation for haunts with old theaters all over the world. The Holly has ghosts in the balcony, ghosts in the basement, ghosts on the stage, and ghosts that turn the music on and the lights off and roam among the seats of the auditorium.*
Alone in the Holly early one morning, Don McElliott, had just swept the steep front stairs from top to bottom and emptied the dustpan. When he started back up to clean the second-floor bathrooms, he almost ran into a chair that had mysteriously appeared in the middle of the staircase. A few weeks later, the water in the unisex bathroom came on and filled up the sink. Others have seen shadowy figures in the basement while rehearsing lines, moving between the seats in the theater, seen the curtain mysteriously fall on its own, and heard the Phantom theme song start blaring from speakers with no one in the booth.*
A psychic reported that a contingent of Civil War veteran ghosts hang out on the verandas of the early-1900s-vintage house a few blocks south of the Square, where North Georgia College’s Cadet Recruitment Center previously had its offices. The old men lean against the banisters, sit on the steps, stand in the yard. They like seeing the young recruits coming and going, said the psychic.*
We were walking by the place on the way to the hill in Mount Hope Cemetery where town librarian and historian Madeleine Anthony had snapped her famous photograph during the Women’s Club cemetery clean-up in 1953. Madeleine’s camera was aimed at the headstones under a stand of evergreens in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery. The picture is prized for its apparent depiction of a ghost dressed in period clothing, a great swath of fog on an otherwise clear day, something like part of an early bicycle.*
*Blackmarr, A. (2005). Dahlonega Haunts: Ghostly Adventures in a Georgia Mountain Town. Tifton, GA: Willacoochee Publishing Company.
**Amerson, A. (2002). Dahlonega’s Historic Public Square: Then & Now Stories about the Buildings and the People. Dahlonega, GA: Chestatee Publications.
The Dahlonega Haunts page is a group project of the 2012 Class of Leadership Lumpkin County.