Thursday, December 13, 2012 Does Interview With Me about My Book Bigfoot in Georgia

Here is an interview that Jeffery Pritchett, who writes for, did with me concerning my book Bigfoot in Georgia.  It was published this morning on their website. I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

McDonough Haunted History Tours!

Don't forget that even though Bell, Book and Candle closed in downtown McDonough, there is a new used bookstore on the square. It is called Dawg-Eared Books, and they are doing the McDonough Haunted History Tour now.  There are a few more tours left for the season on the 20th, 27th, 31st, and November 3rd.  Call 770-957-1880 or go to for information.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Want to Ask a Favor

While I realize that this is not the typical article I would post on my blog of mysteries in Georgia, it does relate, and it was because of a book on Georgia mysteries that I even know anything about the situation.  Let me explain.
A few years ago, as I was shopping in a local bookstore in the Atlanta area, I happened upon a book entitled The Stately Ghosts of Augusta.  Author Scott A. Johnson did a swell job of discussing the many legends and lore about haunts in the Augusta, Georgia area. As many of you know, Augusta is Georgia's second oldest city, having been founded by the good General Oglethorpe himself in 1735 as a defense against the encroachments of the French and Spanish in to the Georgia interior, as well as a trading spot on the now famed Savannah River.  It is indeed, as alluded to in the title of Johnson's book, a stately place.  Most well-known as the home to the Masters golf tournament, academically, the city is also rich in educational history as the home of the largest medical college in the state (Georgia Health Sciences University which used to be the Medical College of Georgia). It is also home to Augusta State University, and one of the oldest HBCUs in the state, Paine College.  The city has a colorful history, and, as Johnson points out, is the source of a lot of stories of ghosts, haunts, and just plain out scary stuff!
It is about Johnson and his wife that I write this blog article today.  As much as I loved the book, I also loved finding out that Johnson is a prolific horror (fiction) writer as well.  He is also, like me, an educator. He teaches in the Masters of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at Seton Hill University.  That's Seton Hill, not Seton Hall.  Nevertheless, the program is a top-notch one for writers in the genres of horror and science fiction.  His blog is located at  I routinely click on his blogsite to see what he is working on as of late, and this month, I did the same thing and found that it was not a horror story that Scott has been working on, but a horror story that has been working on Scott and his wife, Tabby.  You see, Tabby is battling cancer, and it is really taking its toll on her and her family.  Scott, being the honorable gentleman that he is, stands by her side and suffers along with her.  Recently, he sought out a way to help his wife by using his talents as a writer.  Not long ago, Scott authored a short story collection called Droplets.  His publisher has graciously agreed to forgo any profits on this book and donate them all to Tabby's medical care. What a trooper!  His name is Owen at CLB Publications. I don't know him, and have never met him. However, I can tell you this; he is already one of my heroes. This is a prime example of how businessmen and women in our country can and do make a difference to their customers and clients.
So here is my request.  Please buy a copy of Johnson's book Droplets.  The profit will go to his wife's medical bills, and they are assuredly piling up, as is the case with most cancer patients and their healthcare. Scott writes that through all this, his wife Tabby has been an inspiration.  Well, I think she would agree that Scott and his publisher are as well.  So, even though I really don't know Scott that well, and am just a fan of his writings, I want to ask you to buy a copy of his book. Even if you do not read it, you could pass it along to someone who enjoys good horror and science fiction, donate it to a local library, or even donate it to a book sale for charity. But upon my recommendation, you really should look it over. It has some great stories in it!!!  Here is a link to the webpage where you can get your copy.  I believe the Kindle edition is also part of this, and the profits from those are being donated as well.
                                       Droplets, courtesy of

Here is a link to the webpage where you can get your copy.  I believe the Kindle edition is also part of this, and the profits from those are being donated as well.
In case you are interested, his book The Stately Ghosts of Augusta is a fine read as well. Pictured above is the cover of that book, and the photo is courtesy of Scott Johnson's blogsite I listed above.

This is a great way to help someone who needs help fighting a monster, as well as get a great book to read, and scare the heck out of you.  Please do what you can.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Camp Creek Train Crash Memorial Week; Books Signings, and A Play Based on My Book

This week marks the first ever celebration and memorial of the lives, heroes, and story of the 1900 Camp Creek Train Crash in McDonough, Georgia.  In 2009, The History Press offered me the opportunity to write about the train crash and published my book In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900.  This week, here in the city, the City of McDonough, the McDonough Main Street Program, and former city councilwoman Sandra Vincent are spearheading a week-long series of events to commemorate this part of our local history and to honor those heroes of the crash.  Here is the list of events, some of which have already taken place:
*Opening Reception and Book Signing at Bell, Book and Candle-Saturday, June 16th
*Performance of Old No.7-a play based on my book In Atlanta or in Hell...Tuesday, June 19th
*Quinlan's Run-A 2 mile walk/run that follows the same route J.J. Quinlan ran on that fateful night to get help and waive off oncoming trains-Saturday, June 23rd at 7:00 a.m.
*Model Train Museum -The Middle Georgia Model Train club will have their display in the Chafin Bldg. in downtown McDonough from 9-5 with a replica of the engine that crashed on display all day-Sat. June 23rd
*Book signing for In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900 at the Chafin Bldg. at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  Local Civil War Historian Mark Pollard and I will speak about the crash and local history
*Candlelight and Memorial Service at Alexander Park to honor those lost in the crash-Saturday, June 23rd at 8:00 p.m.

I am very proud of the City of McDonough for taking the initiative on these things.  The memorial service and events are long overdue.  As some of you know, the dead from this wreck were brought back to McDonough for burial preparation and transport.  Because there were so many of them, their bodies were laid out on the square until the two funeral homes here in town could get to them. Many say this is what has contributed to the many paranormal activities in the downtown square.

The Dutchtown High School Theater Department wrote and performed a musical based on my book, In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900. The presentation of the play was at the Henry County Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening. I was amazed at their talent and hard work. It was a humbling experience seeing a play based on my work.  I met many of the cast afterwards and was able to sign personalized copies of the book for them. Here are some photos from the event taken by Erica Barnham of Bell,Book and Candle, the independent bookstore in McDonough who sponsored the book signing.

Caprice Walker of Bell, Book and Candle and I at the book signing
                                                           A scene from Old No. 7 
Me with the young actresses who portrayed the Woman in Red and Miss Merritt from the crash

I am looking forward to the walk/run on Saturday. Yes, I will be out there huffing along with the rest of the crowd.  I have been walking two miles several times a week here lately, so I should be able to hold up okay.  I am also looking forward to the model train museum and memorial service later this week. If you have not read about the crash and its impact on the area, check out my book or go online and do a bit of research. This happened on June 23, 1900.  It was the worst train crash in Georgia history, and of the 39 victims, quite a few were railroad employees headed home to Atlanta to see their families.  You can also check out my blog post from a few years ago about how this event has inspired quite a few legends about hauntings and paranormal activity on the square.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Appearing at True Story this Friday at Kavarna in Decatur, Georgia Reading A Selection from The Atlanta Ripper!

Kate Sweeney, a producer with NPR's City Cafe with John Lemley, invited me to be a part of an ongoing project she has called True Story!  This program, held only a few times a year, includes non-fiction readings by local and regional authors.  Also appearing on Friday night are Jack Walsh, a local author and Nick Tecosky from the Write Club Atlanta.  The event is being held at Kavarna in the Oakhurst section of Decatur. The website is  We begin at 8:00 p.m., and each writer has about 15 minutes to present an interesting artifact from his past and read a selection from one of his works.  Although Kate asked me to come based on the interview I did with John Lemley on City Cafe about The Atlanta Ripper, I can read a snippet from any of my four books.  I think I will stick with The Atlanta Ripper, as it includes the most intriguing stories from Atlanta's past.  If you are in the area, come and join us. This should be a lot of fun.  Here is the web blog for the event:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Did Charles Salter (The Georgia Rambler) Stumble Upon the Formula for Coca-Cola in the 1970s?

For many years, Charles Salter wrote a column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called "The Georgia Rambler."  Traveling the state in his 1975 Chevy Station Wagon, he visited lots of interesting places and met a lot of interesting people.  Recently, having retired from his work, Salter penned a book chock full of his adventures, many of them a retelling of some of the stories that graced the pages of the state's largest newspaper.  The book, rightfully titled The Georgia Rambler, contains a hodgepodge of stories about war veterans, animal oddities, snakes, uniquely talented individuals, and, what is my favorite story, the account of his running in to a pharmacist who has what might be an early recipe for the "elixir of life"- Coca-Cola.

According to his book, Salter ran across this recipe while visiting a pharmacist, Everett Beal, in the late 1970s.  Beal, who received a recipe book from another pharmacist some time before this, inspected his gift to find that there was what looked like a recipe for "Coco-Cola Improved."  Written in brown ink on two pages, the recipe included things that Salter mentioned might be hard to find today.  Included among the ingredients were "...coca, or fluid extract coca, alcohol, nutmeg, prunes, cinnamon, caramel, sugar water, citric acid, vanilla extract, lime juice, lemons, oranges, and caffeine" (Salter 133-134). Intrigued by what he found, Salter took a photo of the book and formula and set up a meeting with a representative from the Coca-Cola Company.  Of course, the man with whom he met could not comment on whether or not this was an old recipe for Coca-Cola.  However, he kept the photograph.

                                         (Salter and a copy of the photo of the alleged recipe.)
                                              Photo courtesy of

What is more interesting than the original find of this possible formula was the uproar it created, albeit over 30 years later.  Appearing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1979 right after his visit with the officials at the Coca-Cola Company, not much came of the Salter discovery. However, Ira Glass, host of the popular show, This American Life, happened upon the column in 2010 and ran with it.  As a matter of fact, he tried out the recipe. Glass contacted Jones Soda and together with their flavor partner, Sovereign Flavors, the recipe came to life.  According to one chapter in the book written by Salter's son Chuck, "Along the way, This American Life also compared the formula to one in Coke's own archives.  It was in a notebook that belonged to John Pemberton, the pharmacist who invented Coke.  The two formulations are virtually identical, except that the one my dad wrote about included the ingredient amounts.  It was written in a pharmacy recipe book believed to belong to a friend of Pemberton's" (Salter 137)  What Glass surmised was that the recipe was indeed one of the original recipes, or a later improvement.  Interestingly enough, avid Coke drinkers could tell the difference, but some corporate flavor experts could not discern the recipe from the drink currently produced by the Coca-Cola Company.  The show aired in 2011, and it went viral.  The show's website crashed because of so many hits, and people from all over the world became interested in the story.  Coca-Cola even got in on the publicity, running ads giving the link to the story and the website address.  Afterall, free publicity is good!

So did Salter stumble upon the Coke formula? It sort of sounds as if he did. But, who knows?  What I do know is that the original formula is a closely-guarded secret. According to officials at Coca-Cola, only four or five people alive know the formula, and they do not tell who those people are. The formula stays tightly guarded in an Atlanta bank vault, according to officials at the company, but they do not say which bank.

I highly recommend Salter's book.  I was supposed to do a book signing with him back in October, but a trip to Toronto for a teaching conference called me away.  The book is full of amazing stories, but none are better, to me at least, than the story about one of the greatest mysteries in Georgia history-the secret formula for the most popular drink in the world.  Have a Coke and A Smile!!  (You know I had to do it!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Publisher Interested in My New Book on the Legend of the Georgia Werewolf Girl...

A while back, I blogged about the legend of Emily Burt, the young woman from Talbot County who was "supposedly" a werewolf.  The article was posted in October 2009.  The last few years, Dr. Leverett Butts and I have been doing some research in to the life of Emily Burt, a woman to whom he is actually related.  We have plans to continue our research during this summer. Dr. Butts, who is now a professor of English at Gainesville State College (soon to become the University of North Georgia), called not long ago to tell me that he has a potential publisher for the book.  Perhaps the book will appear on shelves before the end of the year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Historical Marker to Be Placed at the Site of the Camp Creek Train Crash in McDonough, Georgia

I am fairly sure all of my readers remember my second book, In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900. The book is a narrative history about the most tragic train crash in Georgia and one of the worst ones in American history.  The crash cost over 30 lives, and like any tragedy, heroes sprang from the midst of the wreck to take actions that would save the lives of those not already perishing in the murky waters of Camp Creek or in the flames engulfing the engine and other cars that were ablaze.  Researching this book and writing it were very eye-opening.  I was proud to be able to make this contribution to our community here in Henry County.

Recently, I received a call from a local citizen who feels as strongly about the wreck's place in our local history as I do.  The gentleman indicated that the City of McDonough was putting together a committee to have a historical marker placed at the site of the crash and that he would like for me to serve on the committee as well as be a guest speaker at the placement ceremony in June. I was totally humbled and honored by the invitation. We are meeting in the coming weeks, and I will keep everyone posted as to when the ceremony will take place.

It is magnificent news that the City of McDonough and State of Georgia are recognizing the tragic loss of life and the heroism that are all part of local and state history.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Winecoff Hotel-The Titanic of Buildings? Site of Hauntings or Popular Folklore?

In Atlanta, there are quite a few nice hotels. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. Visitors to the Gate City can see it in the skyline well before they reach its front entrance. It is the cylindrical, tall one that used to dominate the downtown skyline until the Bank of America, Georgia-Pacific and Suntrust Bank buildings were built.  I remember as a child in the early 1980s traveling to Atlanta with family and being awestruck by how beautiful this building was-still is, as a matter of fact.  At one point, this was the tallest hotel in the United States.

While this hotel has captivated the modern imagination with its recent architectural achievements with glass, steel and concrete, there is another hotel in Atlanta history that won fame, although for a very different reason-the Winecoff.  Built in 1913, the hotel is now the modern Ellis Hotel.  Reading about this hotel's history, I wonder if this place should not be called The Titanic of Hotels, or buildings for that matter.  Built just a year after the sinking of the ill-fated ship, the Winecoff was built without fire doors, fire sprinklers, or alarms, the designers thinking that the building was fireproof, much like the designers of the Titanic thought it was unsinkable. This does not surprise me, as 1913 is smack in the middle of the Industrial Age-a time where some American industrialists felt that they could overcome nature and many felt that man-made creations of the industrial and technological age could make us superior to our environment.  This delusion of grandeur was not limited to the United States. One need only reference the Crystal Palace in London's Hyde Park in the 1850s.  While it took virtually no time to disprove this theory in reference to the Titanic, as the ship sank on its maiden voyage, it was a few decades before man's faulty logic would become evident at the Winecoff. What is surprising to me is that after all the tragedies like the 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York, the buidlings designers would think that a building this tall could be immune from fires, and that over time the absence of fire prevention and escape was not corrected.
                                                 photo courtesy of
As if there was not enough historical irony at play here, the hotel actually caught fire on December 7, 1946, the fifth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  To add insult to injury, the hotel was filled to capacity-280 guests.  Among them were World War II soldiers who were home from the war ready to start over and rebuild their lives.  Also present were high school students who had come to Atlanta to attend a mock session of the legislature.  How tragic. 

Sometime around 3:00 a.m., an elevator operator smelled smoke and alarmed the hotel guests. Unfortunately, the hotel was so tall, and the firefighters had ladders that would only reach the eight floor.  Because the building was built in a square with the stairwell and elevator running up the middle, and the fact that many doors had been left open at each floor entrance, the smoke and fire were pulled up the middle as if the hotel itself were a huge chimney.  Not being able to go down this thoroughfare, many guests were forced to jump from their windows. Unfortunately, the nets available to the fire department would only catch someone who jumped from a height of 70 feet or below.  Before the night was over 119 people lay dead, with the bodies being taken to the alley behind the hotel and on the sidewalk nearby.  News of the fire and its tragic claim on 119 souls traveled quickly throughout the nation, and as a result, many states and cities enacted fire codes to prevent anything like this from happening again. 

As with any tragedy, horror stories abound.  From these, ghost stories sometimes stem.  The Winecoff tragedy is no exception. According to paranormalists, negative energy is left behind in a tragedy of this proportion, and as a result, some souls are left to wander the area.  Ghosts have been seen at battlefields like Gettysburg, sites of car wrecks, places where murders have taken place, and sites of shootings and executions. Prisons, hospitals, and mental wards are the subjects of hauntings.  The Winecoff certainly provides this kind of kindling for the fires of ghost tales. 

One of the most popular books that chronicles the said hauntings at the Ellis Hotel, modern site of the Winecoff, is Reese Christian's Ghosts of Atlanta.  I have met Reese Christian on a number of occasions; as a matter of fact, we did a joint book signing with Rhetta Akamatsu in Decatur at Eagle Eye Bookstore in October of 2009. I was signing copies of my book In Atlanta or in Hell: The Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900 and she with the above book.  Ghosts of Atlanta has already made it in to its second printing, so it must be pretty popular. I own a copy, and I found it very interesting reading.  In her book, she mentions the many strange occurences that many have reported to have seen while staying at either the Winecoff or Ellis.  Among them are the workmen who report their tools go missing or get moved when noone is around.  Others tell of stories about sounds of chaos and running in the hallways of the hotel, and strange smells of smoke.  Other stories recount images cast on windows of ghostly faces and shadows cast when noone is there.  Reese truly believes that the great loss of life at the Winecoff has inspired hauntings.

Not everyone thinks so. Famed skeptic Joe Nickells says that the occurences can be explained. At his website, he writes:
"Such reports may be unexplained, but they are hardly unexplainable. Workmen may mislay tools, or fellow workers may play pranks on them; guests can hear noises from other floors; and smoke may be imagined or simply come from someone's cigarette. Some ghostly experiences in hotels—including vivid apparitions—may stem from a guest's "waking dream," a state that occurs in the interface between wakefulness and sleep. (See my "Haunted Inns," Skeptical Inquirer , September/October 2000.)
At the Ellis, as at many other allegedly haunted buildings, people outside sometimes imagine they can see ghostly faces in the windows (William N. Bender, Haunted Atlanta and Beyond , 2008, 131-134). When these are not actual faces—of guests or housekeepers—they may be nothing more than simulacra: These are the result of one's ability to perceive images in random patterns (such as the play of light and shadow upon a window), like seeing pictures in clouds. I did some experimenting with my camera at the hotel and produced the "faces" shown in one window here.
The manager of the Ellis, Peter Minervini, very kindly took a few minutes to sit and talk with CFI Libraries director Timothy Binga and me when we lunched at the hotel on September 4, 2010. He said he had worked there about a year and had no ghost experiences. The only thing he mentioned was an odd odor, occasionally perceived in one room, that he did not attribute to anything otherworldly. He said he was himself a skeptic regarding ghosts. The year before, I was startled when a young woman with a tour company told me there were so few credible ghost accounts in Atlanta that they were changing the name of their "Ghosts and Legends Tour." Will wonders never cease!"

There is a book about the Winecoff fire. You can visit the companion website at  The book, The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire, published by Longstreet Press, is an excellent source on the history and happenings associated with this dark moment in Atlanta history. 

So is the hotel haunted?  Who knows?  One thing is for certain.  The Winecoff is certainly no exception to the "tragedy spawns ghost stories" rule.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In Memory of Jonathan Frid, A Bit About Atlanta Vampires

My apologies for not posting more in the last few weeks.  Trying to finish an article for America's Civil War magazine and another for Georgia Backroads has taken a good bit of my extra time, not to mention that we are in midterms, and that means tons of exams to grade and lots of college freshmen and sophomores with frayed nerves. 

I have always been a fan of Dark Shadows.  While I am just a little too young to have actually been privy to the original runs of the macabre soap opera on daytime television, I was a sprite young high school senior when NBC came out with their modern version starring Ben Cross and Joanna Going.  For an entire season, I tuned in each Sunday night to watch the exploits of Barnabas Collins, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and Willie Loomis. I was hooked, and not long afterwards, I began to stay tuned for the reruns of the original as they ran on what is now standard cable stations. Be reminded that back in those days, many of the channels we take for granted on basic cable and satellite were indeed hard to find on those large white monstrocities that sat in our backyards.  Catching all I could of these 1960s episodes, I developed a love for Barnabas Collins and the folks at Collinwood.  Honestly, I can say that Barnabas was the first vampire I admired. Now, as to which I prefer, Frid or Cross, I will not divulge. However, both actors portrayed the fiendish relic from the 18th century quite well.  Imagine my sadness last week when I heard that Jonathan Frid had passed away in Hamilton, Ontario.  He was not yet 80 years young. 

photo courtesy of Wikimages

In honor of Frid, and the upcoming Dark Shadows remake, I decided to post a spot about the vamp community here in Atlanta.  As many of you know, I am a student of folklore and legend, particularly the historic roots of these legends.  Perhaps the greatest of all legends is that of the vampire.  It is not necessary to rehash the stories of Vlad the Impaler, the famous Romanian Prince of Wallachia, and the lore he inspired. The story is quite well-known, and for our purposes here, we need not retread that tire.  However, what should be noted is that the vampire legend in America was imported from Europe, although there were many other stories to add to the compendium besides the one about our famous Romanian aristocrat.  The regions of the United States where vampire lore has been most common are New England, particularly Connecticut and Rhode Island, and in the Mississippi Delta, more specifically in the area around New Orleans. The latter stems from the French-Caribbean influence and the introduction of Voodoo and Hoodoo practices in the culture. However, New England's preoccupation with vampire lore is not as easy to pinpoint, although some theories include the influence of the Puritans and their constant raging against the wilds of Satan and his minions. (Reference the famous Salem Witch Trails, particularly the works of scholars such as Ronald Hutton, Carol Karlsen, and Jane Kamensky) Apparently, the Puritans felt that there was evil around every corner, and that Satan, his army of demons, and their cohorts among humans, were eager and willing to do harm to the good, god-fearing people of the New England settlements. With this paranoia in place, much credence was given to the idea of witches, ghouls, and even the undead.  Vampires were seen as apostles of hell come back from their fiery graves to bring torment and torture to the living. 

Given this long history of their tangle with evil, it is no wonder that there were multitudes of Vampire legends to be found there. What could be surprising is that there is a Vampire Alliance in Atlanta. Apparently, there is a community of people in Atlanta who claim to be vampires.  Checking out their website leads me to believe that this group is serious when it comes to their lifestyle.  However, one should not fret. These people do not stalk warm creatures in the night.  They drink donated blood from donors who willingly give of their "nectar of life."  Here is a quote from their website located at
When asked what a vampire is, they respond:
A vampire is essentially an energy feeder or blood drinker that may display various levels of psychic ability. While the causality, interpretation, and sometimes even the “proper” spelling of vampirism are debated, vampires are generally individuals who cannot adequately sustain their own physical, mental, or spiritual well-being without the taking of blood or vital life force energy from other sources; often human. Without feeding the vampire will become lethargic, sickly, depressed, and often go through physical suffering or discomfort. Vampires often display signs of empathy, sense emotions, perceive auras, and are generally psychically aware of the world around them. To a degree, the specifics of vampirism manifest differently on an individual basis and these nuances sometimes insulate the confusion in defining the vampiric range of ability and experience. The alternate spelling of “Vampyre” is sometimes used depending on the path from which one approaches vampirism. There are numerous vampiric Paths, Houses, Orders, Associations, and Groups within the vampire community that exist both online and offline; often each having their own unique philosophies, teachings, ethical tenets, and protocols.

While this group is very similar to other groups in the United States, there is a bit of lore associated with Vampires in the Atlanta area. Rumors abound that The Masquerade in Atlanta on North Avenue is a popular hangout for Atlanta vampires.  Legend says that a real vampire even calls the nightclub home. Not too long ago, a friend of mine went to a concert there. She said the place was full of concert goers, some dressed in attire that looked, well, vampirish. She said that as they were enjoying the concert, she looked up in to the ceiling to see some of those peculiar concert patrons standing on the rafters.  Seconds later, she said she looked up again, and they were gone.  Because there were no ladders or lifts to the rafter area, she wondered how they could have gotten down in such a hurry.  While this does not prove that they were vampires, or that vampires exist and are at The Masquerade, it is a bit odd. 

So who knew that there were vampire legends in the Gate City?  Perhaps The Masquerade is, well, a masquerade for a community of night walkers that have haunted our psyche since the days of the Puritans...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Archibald Butt and the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic

Photo courtesy of New Georgia Encyclopedia located at
There were five people on board the Titanic who had connections to Georgia.  Those were: Major Archibald Willingham Butt, Isidor Straus, his wife Ida Straus, Jacques Futrelle, and his wife Lilly May Peel Futrelle.  While the Strauss' are fairly well-known, especially for Isidor's contribution to American commerce, the Futrelles and Major Butt do not enjoy the same noteriety.  Jacques Futrelle might be the most interesting Georgian on board; however, Major Butt had a distinquished career in the United States Military and as a military aide to both Presidents Roosevelt and Taft.  I wrote an article on Major Butt for The New Georgia Encyclopedia back in 2007.  Here is the link to that article so that you can have some background on him.
What is more interesting about Major Butt being on the Titanic is how he got there.  Before boarding the ill-fated luxury liner, Butt was in Europe, supposedly on a diplomatic mission to Vatican City where he met with leaders of the Catholic Church on behalf of the President, William Howard Taft.  However, there is much rumor mill surrounding this mission.  For years, relatives of the Butt family, one of which is a personal friend of mine and fellow academian, were almost certain that Butt had been sent to Europe by President Taft to discuss rising tensions in Europe. While there was much tension there, especially given the past decades of colonial expansion by the Germans, British, French, Portuguese, and Italians, what role Butt played in conveying any messages on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States is unknown.  It should be noted, nevertheless, that not more than two years later, Europe was in full-scale war after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Sarajevans who detested the Austrians hold on their homeland and saw Franz Ferdinand's visit and parade through the city as nothing more than colonial gloating and a thinly veiled attempt to reinforce the colonial hold that the Austrians had on the small Balkan colony.
Some in his family have said that Taft sent Butt to Europe to meet with various European leaders to alert them that if there was any war in Europe, that the United States would invariably support the side that had been attacked. 
So what do we make of this rumor?  Was Major Butt there to convey secret messages?  Or was it true that he indeed was just sent to meet with the Pope as a good will ambassador of Taft?  In light of good, solid primary source evidence, we may never know. For now, we can speculate, but not solidify.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Discussing The Atlanta Ripper at Author Event at Bound To Be Read Books February 17th!

I have been asked by Bound to Be Read Books, a popular independent bookstore in the East Atlanta Village, to do a book discussion and signing for The Atlanta Ripper on February 17th at 7:30 p.m. If you are in the area and can join us, please drop by.  Here is their website with all their information.

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UFOs Spotted in Dublin, Georgia - Sightings in GA on the Rise - January ...

Apparently, there have been some UFO sightings as of late in Middle Georgia. Dublin is in Laurens County and is just south of Macon by about 55 miles down Interstate 16.  This was a news report from a Middle Georgia news outlet in Macon.  Of course, as the report points out, it must be remembered that Robins Air Force Base is in nearby Warner Robins, a distance of about 50 miles-not that far by road and even closer by air. Perhaps that can explain these sightings? The gentleman in this report does not seem to think so.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Check Out The Atlanta Ripper on Facebook

Check out the Facebook page for The Atlanta Ripper.  Go to

Since this book chronicles a part of the history of black Atlanta, check it out in honor of Black History Month.  This February, I will be presenting a paper on how the Atlanta Ripper murders offered another opportunity for the leadership in both the black and white communities in Atlanta to come together to resolve problems and work on community relations in the early 20th century. I will be on a panel at the annual Georgia Association of Historians meeting in Macon, Georgia for this.  In addition, I will be presenting a program on The Atlanta Ripper murders to our student body at Georgia Military College's Atlanta (Fairburn) campus in late February.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Haunting in Georgia Update: Movie in Post-Production

As most of my readers know, in March 2010, I posted an email interview with Joyce Cathey, the aunt of Heidi Wyrick, the little girl who is at the epicenter of the phenomenon that came to be a Discovery Channel episode called "A Haunting in Georgia."  According to Mrs. Cathey, Gold Circle Films had purchased Heidi's life rights with the intention of producing the film, The Haunting in Georgia.  This would be the second installment in the series of films that began with The Haunting in Connecticut released in 2009.
Recently, I was doing a little research on the topic again and I found out over at Internet Movie Database that the film is in post-production and will be released soon.  According to the site, the film will star Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill  and House of Wax) as Andy Wyrick, Heidi's father; Katee Sackhoff  (Battlestar Galactica and White Noise 2: The Light) as Joyce Cathey, Heidi's aunt; Emily Alyn Lind as Heidi; and Cicely Tyson in an unnamed role. I am not sure of her involvement in the project.  According to the site, the budget for the film is $9,000,000 (nine million dollars).  Oddly enough, it is going to be released on 21 June, 2012, in the Netherlands, but there is no mention of a specific date for release in the United States.  The film is listed as being in post-production.  For those wondering if this film was shot in Georgia, unfortunately, it was not. The filming locations are Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada).  It is about Georgia, but not shot in Georgia. Of course, it is not unusual for a film not to be shot on location near the place where the events depicted in the film happened.
Speaking of filming in Georgia, it is amazing how many horror-related films and television series are shot in Georgia. While The Haunting in Georgia is not shot here, it is about Georgia, but other very popular horror series are shot here.  Included in that list is Teen Wolf starring Tyler Posey; The Walking Dead, which most folks know about by now; and The Vampire Diaries, which is shot in and around Covington, including near the old Gaither Plantation.  Last year, I blogged about the cast and crew of The Vampire Diaries being spooked by odd things happening at that old plantation house.  Georgia seems to be a magnet for odd occurrences, and it now seems that it is a magnet for movies and television series about them.  Is this the Southern Hollywood now?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Some of the More Notable Georgia Bigfoot Sightings Took Place in the Augusta Area

As most of you know, the first book I wrote, although it was the third published, was Bigfoot in Georgia.  In the book, I highlight a number of Bigfoot sightings in the state, including some of the more famous ones.  Perhaps two of the most notable ones were in the Augusta area.  They both happened on or near Fort Gordon, a military installation near Augusta.

The first took place in 1965, and the witness reported the incident to the BFRO in 2002 after reading of other encounters in the same area.  Realizing that others had experienced what he did all those years ago made the witness feel that he was not out of his mind, imagining this, or just crazy.  According to the witness, he was 14 years old at the time and there was construction going on on base.  The witness reported that a young girl who lived in the apartment below them on base mentioned that her little brother talked about a tall man who would come and stare at him through the window at night, not a small feet given that the window ledge at their apartment was about 7 to 8 feet above the ground.  One day, wanting to explore, the young man walked in to a wooded area that was being cleared for more base housing.  The red clay was being pushed around by bulldozers and there in that clay, the witness saw large footprints, some as large as 18 inches long and 5 inches wide with five toes.  Curious about them, and not yet afraid, he sat upon a rock in the woods near the tracks.  He started feeling as if something was watching him, and he became nervous.  Shortly, he heard a bi-pedal walking in the woods nearby.  As he fled out of the woods on foot, he could hear whatever this was pursuing him.  Later, after telling a friend about what he had heard, the two of them decided to return to the area, and both felt and heard the same thing.  Like the witness had done alone before, the two left the area in a rush.
The link to the story is here:

The second sighting of interest in the Augusta area also took place near Fort Gordon.  Apparently, a member of the army at the Fort Gordon Signal School was walking in an wooded area near a creek and ravine when a creature over 10 feet tall having a gorilla-like face approached him from about 20 feet away.  The witness actually described the animal he witnessed to an artist, and a drawing is located on the page where the report is archived at the BFRO.  The link is here:

These are two of the area's most well-known sightings.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Radio Interview for Georgia Focus About The Atlanta Ripper

I will be doing another radio interview about The Atlanta Ripper for The Georgia Focus, a news network covering Georgia politics, culture, and events.  The interview will be done in McDonough and I will post when it will run on the air. Glad to see that the book is still making some noise.  In addition, I will be presenting a paper I wrote about the murders at The Georgia Association of Historians meeting in late February in Macon.  My presentation will be in one of the earlier sessions and will last about 15-20 minutes. Some of the other topics in my session sound interesting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Michael Wolff Begins Haunted Pillar Tours This Month in Augusta!!

Michael Wolff of Augusta has recently taken on a new venture. In October of 2011, he began the Augusta Ghost Trolley Tours in Augusta. Most don't recognize that Augusta is the home to a great deal of legend and folklore. Mr. Wolff has also launched a new series of tours for 2012.  They are called the Haunted Pillar Tours, taking the name from the famed Haunted Pillar at the corner of Fifth and Broad in downtown.  Check out his tours.  The websites are:

These sound like a lot of fun.  I will be driving over in the near future to take these tours.  

New Series of Posts for 2012

Starting this month, I am going to be focusing on the legends from Georgia's major cities in 2012. Of course, I will post other topics as they arise, but what I want to do is focus on the legends and folklore from the larger areas of Georgia, as well as highlight any tours or literature that would help acquaint my readers with those areas more.  Right now, I am focusing on the city of Augusta.  Savannah seems to be the most popular source of ghost stories and legends in Georgia, but what a lot of people do not realize is that there are gobs of legends and stories from places like Augusta, Macon, Athens, Columbus, and Atlanta.  In January, I will be focusing more on Augusta before moving on to Atlanta in February.  Hope you enjoy!!!

Happy New Year and Thank You for Your Support in 2011.

Thank you to all my readers for your support in 2011. Let's make 2012 even  better.