Thursday, January 21, 2010

Time-Worn Georgia Plantation Home Investigated

chronicle.augusta - In the fourth-floor attic of an old, empty home, Rachelle Moran whispered a series of simple questions.

"Can you tell us your name?" she asked, pausing to await an answer. "Did you live here? Can you make a noise?"

Nearby, on a chair by a dusty window, a doll dressed in Victorian clothes was surrounded by cameras and microphones poised to record the slightest sound or movement.

The toy, Mrs. Moran said, was brought along as an enticement -- just the sort of thing that might lure the shy ghost of a little girl into view.

"We thought we'd try the doll since we'd heard reports of a little girl in the window," said Mrs. Moran, the founder of the South Coast Paranormal Society, whose members spend their weekends chasing things supernatural.

They undertook their most recent investigation Friday night at the Goodale House on Sandbar Ferry Road at the request of its new owner, Wes Sims -- one of the people who said they observed the shadowy apparition of a little girl.

The house, built in 1799, definitely has a supernatural presence to it, Mr. Sims said. "You can just feel it when you come in here. It's wonderful."

The long-vacant, Federal-style landmark's history makes it a prime hunting ground for ghosts, said Josh Wilmoth, a member of the society's team.

"We've been doing research and even tried to pull some deeds and ownership records," he said. "That was just part of our field work."

The home's builder -- Thomas Goodale -- managed a large plantation and owned the ferry at the nearby river crossing. Subsequent owners included Charleston, S.C., merchant Christopher Fitzsimmons, who later gave the home to his daughter's new husband, Wade Hampton Jr. His son, Wade Hampton III, would become governor of South Carolina.

The team, which also included Mrs. Moran's husband, Tim, and helpers Rina White and Thomas Swindol, has conducted similar investigations at places as diverse as the downtown Miller Theatre, Magnolia Cemetery and an antebellum mansion in Taliaferro County.

Those inquiries have yielded some interesting images and sounds that defy explanation, they say.

"When I started out doing this it was just a hobby," Mr. Wilmoth said. "Then when you start experiencing some of the things you cannot explain, it really gets a grip on you."

Mrs. Moran, like most people involved in paranormal detection, was inspired by personal experience from her childhood.

"Growing up, at my parents' house in upstate New York my sister and I saw things -- and heard things -- that no one could explain. A lot of what we do today is try to make sense of things people see or hear."

It's much easier to disprove a haunting report than to prove one, she said, noting that some investigations have led to simple explanations for noises, sounds or sights reported by people who believe they might have experienced something supernatural.

Then there are the occasional things that were not so easily written off -- including a shadow recorded behind a team member at Magnolia Cemetery.

At the Goodale House, a night of hunting failed to find any hard evidence of the paranormal, but the team still plans to spend a week or more reviewing recorded images and sounds -- just to be sure.

Hunting for ghosts, Mrs. Moran said, is also something beneficial to a community, regardless of whether it proves -- or disproves -- the presence of something supernatural.

"One of our goals is to bring more awareness to history and old places that need preservation," she said. "When you think about it, why do people, even people here in Augusta, flock to old cities like Savannah or Charleston? It's because of the history and the ghosts. Lots of places there are reportedly haunted and the owners make no bones about out. People love it."
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THE GOODALE INN

Still standing, but almost forgotten on the lower end of Sand Bar Ferry is one of the oldest homes in the Augusta area. Thomas Goodale, who operated the ferry for which SandBar Ferry got its name was granted the land in 1740. The Goodale Inn was built in 1799 as the plantation house for Goodale Plantation by Christopher Fitzsimmons, a wealthy Charleston merchant and later father-in-law of James Hammond, owner of Redcliffe Plantation. That makes it one of the oldest buildings in Augusta and it's on the National Register of Historic Places. Goodale Inn has long rumored to be haunted, which is understandable considering it's long history.

Dr. Paul Fitzsimmons Eve, an early Dean of the Medical College of GA, occupied the house while he lived in Augusta, from the early 1830's to 1850. Eve was a participant in the Paris Revolution of 1830, served as a soldier and surgeon in the Polish Rebellion, and was a doctor for the Confederacy.

The "Hampton" of Hampton House refers to Wade Hampton III, a Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army and later Governor of South Carolina. When Fitzsimmon's daughter, Ann married Wade Hampton, II on March 6, 1817, the house was given in dowry. Hampton was 42 when the Civil War began and took over the Confederate Calvary Corps at the behest of Robert E. Lee when JEB Stuart was killed in 1864. After the war he told Ulysses S. Grant, "If we had known that you were going to back with bayonets the carpetbagger, the scalawag, and the negro in their infamous acts, we would never have given up our arms!" He was called the "Saviour of South Carolina" for railing against the policies of Reconstruction. Later, upon his death bed, in 1902, his last words were reportedly, "God bless all my people, black and white." Such is the conflicted history of the South.

Another resident of the house, Jonathan Miller, was Surgeon General of the Army of Tennessee. In the 1970's the house became a dinner club, sometimes featuring musical acts, run by a Mr. and Mrs. Harris. After that, it appears that some private owners occupied the place. Judging from the various debris lying around it was inhabited into the 1990's.

Sources:
www.researchonline.net
chronicle.augusta.com
cityofdust.blogspot.com
www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com

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