; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The King's Tavern: A Haunted History of Cruelty, Anguish and Sorrow

On Wednesday night, the SyFy Channel's Haunted Collector featured an investigation at the King's Tavern in Natchez, Mississippi. If this location seemed familiar to some of my longtime readers, I had previously received a first-hand account of paranormal activity at the tavern. The following email was forwarded by Robin in 2010 in which she details her experiences at the King's Tavern. I have also included some photos, history and insight...Lon

"The first time that I went there, I got a chill to the bone. Now I am drawn there. I want to be there. I get the same feeling now that I use to get when I lived out of state and would cross the State Line...I feel so at home there. I can't see anything when I take the pictures but once I upload them on my computer, I can see the images. I see images at my home, now in pictures and mirrors. Most people say its my imagination, but I know it is not. I can feel a warm tingling touch on my back throughout the day...this has happened since my first visit to Kings Tavern. I feel like something is wanting the truth to be known. I feel there is a baby that was not known about. I can see images in pictures of a young beautiful girl with long hair. I thought I saw a image of a baby in my mirror. I said GO TO THE LIGHT and the baby disappeared and the face of this beautiful girl appeared smiling at me. The lady at Kings Tavern told me that I get pictures that nobody else has captured. Why am I so drawn there? What are they trying to tell me?"

Thank you,

The following images were taken by Robin:

Comments from a 'sensitive' who looked at the photos only and was not given the identity or history of the location:

"After looking through the photos and analyzing the face in the window, I get the sense that there is the spirit of a big, nasty-tempered man, with a letter "H". I also get the feeling of being closed in, when I looked at the fireplace. It seems like faces and hands pushing through the walls. Several people were murdered there? I sensed violence, hatred.

I don't get that picture with the woman with the blacked out face. It's like a void.

I don't think I would want to go there. Is that place publicly active/open for business?"



The King's Tavern was built in the year of 1769 and is the oldest building standing in the town of Natchez. This tavern carries the look of most seventeenth century buildings; built with sun-dried bricks, beams that came from scrapped sailing ships originating from New Orleans and barge boards that came from flat river boats once they made their way down the Mississippi and were dismantled.

In 1789 a man named Richard King, bought the old house and moved his family into it. He named the building, The King's Tavern, and turned it into an inn and tavern.

There is a notorious side to the restaurant, though. In the 1930s, workers were expanding the fireplace and tore out the chimney wall. They found a space behind the wall that contained the skeletal remains of three bodies: two men and one woman. Laying on the floor was a jeweled dagger, which was assumed to have been used in their demise.

The woman is thought to have been Madeline, Richard King's mistress. As the story goes, when his wife found out about the affair, she had Madeline killed and bricked into the fireplace in the main dining room. Who the two male skeletons are is anyone's guess... much of the supernatural mischief today is blamed on Madeline, however.

Workers report hearing a baby crying in the restaurant - specifically, from rooms that were supposedly empty. The story behind the infant's cry goes back to the 1700s when the building was not only an inn, but also the post office and one of the centers of the city's commerce. A young mother was trying to comfort her fussy infant, when a man named Big Harpe - one of the notorious Harpe brothers - walked over from the bar. She thought that he was going to assist her, but instead, he grabbed the baby by its feet and slammed the infant against the wall. As the distraught mother crumpled to the floor to gather the child's lifeless body, Big Harpe strolled back to the bar and ordered another drink.

Upstairs are rooms that travelers along the Natchez Trace used to rent. The staff there at the restaurant told us a couple of stories about the upper floors. The first is about the mirror - we were told to always keep watching it, because sometimes out of the corner of your eye you will see the reflection of someone standing there. Not in the room... just in the mirror!

Many people have claimed to see shadowy apparitions pass through staircases. The sounds of a baby crying have been heard coming from the attic area. Doors here have been witnessed to open and close on their own. Water faucets and lights turn on and off without any help from living hands. Jars have fallen off of shelves for no apparent reason. Water has actually been seen pouring from the ceiling area to the floor below, leaving no sign of a leak in the roof or the floor above. The chairs that are hanging on the wall are said to rock and move of their own accord. And perhaps the most odd report of all; the fire places are said to emit quite a bit of heat when no fire is burning in them!

The another story concerns the bed. Even though no one's used it for many, many years, we were told to run our hand just a few inches above it. Many people report feeling warm spots on it, as if someone had just been lying there. Whether this is legit or just a tavern tale, the upstairs bedroom was a curious place to visit.

The apparition of a man dressed in period clothing has also been seen wandering about the building. This man has also showed up in photographs taken by visitors standing near the fire place where the bodies of the two men were found, therefore, it is believed that he may be the restless spirit of one of these unfortunate men.

Some of the other, more aggressive happenings at the inn include: a sudden tightness or pressure in the neck, shoulders or chests and dishes being thrown at guests and staff members.



The King's Tavern site is located at the end of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. A stretch of historic road that runs from Natchez all the way to Nashville, Tn. To venture along the Natchez Traceway was to journey into a wilderness of darkness and sometimes death. For 500 miles the passageway twisted through matted forests, boggy swamps and broken valleys where dangerous animals, wilderness and most frightening of all bandits and wild Indians were encountered.

Crude taverns were erected sporadically along the Traceway, where one might find a greasy meal, a soggy cot or a lukewarm bath. Many preferred to rest in the open for fear of being robbed while they slept. Burying their money and belongings in the dirt, sleeping with their guns under their arms and lighting fires to ward off wild animals, hundreds of people died on the Traceway from exposure.

Bad weather and frequent flooding of small creeks and rivers turned into torrents and flooded the trails, turning open passages into soggy bog land. Frequently stalling horses and wagons in the muck.

But the greatest danger on the Traceway walked on two feet. The lonely roadway was a favorite for bandits and thieves. Bands of renegade Indians and Whites alike set up ambush along the Traceway looking to loot and plunder possessions, valuables and horses. Month after month, people disappeared on the Traceway, never to be seen or heard from again. It was not uncommon when a well known individual disappeared, that it was assumed or taken for granted that they had become a victim on the Traceway.

Merriweather Lewis, a well known explorer was only one of thousands who met death by treachery on their travels of the passage. Throughout the years skeletons have washed to the surface from shallow graves or hunting parties have come across nameless corpses rotting on the edges of the bogs.

At the King's Tavern, travelers told tales of ambush and horror on their journeys of the Trace. With drink in hand, new arrivals to the Tavern told stories of outrage and savagery, like stories of The Harpe Brothers, Mason and Murrell. (read Killers of the Natchez Trace)

At the head of the tales was Little Wiley Harpe and his brother Big Macijah Harpe. Notorious murderers and theives, who had little regard for human life and frequently killed for pleasure. Their deeds were so outrageous that even their allies in crime detested them. Originally from North Carolina, the Harpe Brothers were sons of a Tory. Their father was rumored to have sided with the British during the Revolution and was a frequent victim of barn burning and retaliation.

The name Harpe acquired fame all along the Trace from the Tennessee Valley to the Natchez Bluffs. In the 1790's the Harpes also had a reputation as far north as Kentucky and were rumored to have used the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky as a hide out. They traveled with their women in tow, frequently interchanged partners with each other when the mood struck. They joined with bands of Indian outlaws from time to time to burn farms, loot, murder and steal horses. The Harpes took lives for the sheer fun of it, sometimes killing their victims, gutting them and loading the abdomens with rocks in order to sink them in rivers and bogs. They moved from one state to the other, killing and robbing as they went. They not only killed for fun , but took great delight in torture and mutilation of their victims by cutting off fingers, poking out eyes with sticks and gutting their victims. They once tied a naked man to a horse and sent him reeling off a cliff to his death, for the fun of it.

The Harpes also were no strangers to child killings. In my research I read accounts of the Harpes having killed a small child by cutting them into one inch pieces, On one occasion Little W. Harpe, exasperated at the crying of his own child, grabbed the child by the ankles and proceeded to bash the child's head into a tree until it shattered. Little Harpe claimed it was the only murder he ever committed that he actually regretted.

On one occasion The Harpes were staying with friends. They were given a cot next to a mild mannered surveyor who snored to loudly while they slept, so they crushed in his head with a hatchet. Going down to breakfast, they offered to watch a woman's child so that she could get their breakfast made quicker. They quieted the child by slitting its throat in it's crib. When breakfast was served, the poor woman met her fate in the same way, with a butcher knife. After breakfast the Harpes burned the house down. Authorities offered a heavy reward for the pair. A vigilante group overtook Big Harpe, while Little Harpe managed an escape. Wounded and paralyzed Big Harpe was confronted by the husband of the woman and child they had savagely murdered. Big Harpe dieing too slowly for his taste was met with a butcherknife by the husband who slowly and methodically, cut and hacked at Big Harpes neck until he was decapitated. His head then stuck in the fork of a tree as a warning. It is said that the white skull of Big Harpe remained in the tree for many years.

Little Harpe eventually returned to Natchez and joined forces with another criminal by the name of Sam Mason. A Virginian of higher breeding and class, but also a notorious thief and murderer. He was organized and planned his crimes, unlike the spontaneous, hot headed Harpes. He had served in the Continental Army and some claimed he was a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Sam Mason was also a frequent patron of the King's Tavern, frequently meeting with his accomplices and discussing his plans over a drink at the Tavern. Cutthroats and criminals of all kinds were patrons of the The King's Tavern, from horse thieves and pick pockets, to slave runners, to murderers and rapist, and con artists. The King's Tavern was known for it's wild and rowdy patrons.

It has been reported that Little Harpe was eventually captured and hung for his crimes on the Traceway.

Ghosts!: Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings by Sylvia Booth Hubbard; Copyright, 1992, by Sylvia and Robert Hubbard

Haunted Natchez (MS)

Dinner and Spirits: A Guide to America's Most Haunted Restaurants, Taverns, and Inns

Devil's Backbone, The: The Story of the Natchez Trace (Pelican Pouch Series)

Outlaw Years, The: The History of the Land Pirates of the Natchez Trace