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Gainesville ghosts: The legend of Agnes
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Brenau University's Pearce Auditorium is a 700-seat, 19th century opera house dedicated on May 21, 1897, as “the largest of its kind in the South.” - photo by Scott Rogers

If you’ve spent any considerable amount of time in Gainesville, you’ve probably heard of Agnes, a ghost who is believed to haunt Pearce Auditorium, located on Brenau University’s campus.

According to legend, Agnes was a Brenau University student who hanged herself on campus. Different stories tell different locations of her death — the oil lamp in her bedroom, the diving board in a pool or the balcony in Pearce Auditorium.

Kathy Amos, retired director of the Brenau University Center for Lifetime Study, said the story of Agnes is what inspired her to dive into ghost hunting. For the past 20 years, she has visited the auditorium and tried to uncover the girl behind the tales.

Amos said her friend, Debbie Thompson, former director of Brenau’s Center for Greek Life and Campus Traditions, narrowed down the ghost’s identity to Agnes Galloway, a student from North Carolina. However, the theory was thwarted when they found out Galloway died of tuberculosis in 1929, several years after she graduated from Brenau.

Amos said she doesn’t think Agnes is the true name of the entity who haunts Brenau. Instead of Agnes being an actual student, she suspects the girl’s name is tied to an old play performed years ago at the university, which included a fictional character by the name of Agnes. 

“My conjecture is because of this ghost girl in the play, the name Agnes came up over and over again on the Pearce stage, and that’s where it got adopted,” Amos said. 

She thinks the entity’s name might actually be “Rose.”

“We’ve got audio where she says her name is Rose,” Amos said. “She became a legend that was passed down by the students, and the students want to call her Agnes. Since we don’t know who it is, then Agnes is as good as any name.”

Back in the ‘90s, Amos visited Pearce Auditorium to conduct an investigation on Agnes with a couple of reporters from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Amos said around midnight, one of their team members started calling out to the entity. 

“All of a sudden out of the back corner of that auditorium came as clear as a bell a voice that said, “What?” Amos recounted, laughing. “Mark Davis, a reporter, fell off his folding chair when he heard it.”

Around four years ago, Amos and Denise Roffe — founder of the Southeastern Institute of Paranormal Research — stayed inside the building with a couple of other ghost hunters to collect more research on Agnes. 

“We had put digital voice recorders at the top so we could get sounds from all over the auditorium,” Amos said. “One the audio, you can hear somebody crying. It’s that snuffled quiet weeping, and it’s freaky.”