Through the lens of a ghost hunter, Gainesville is more than a city filled with thousands of residents, but an area buzzing with paranormal activity.
“When you’ve had tragedies where over 200 people had been killed in tornadoes in 1903 and 1936, you’ve got some ghosts laying around Gainesville,” Kathy Amos, who has been ghost hunting for over 20 years, said.
To dust off the cobwebs of five prominent Gainesville legends, The Times spoke with three local ghost hunters of different levels of experience. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, we invite you to get in the spooky spirit and have a little fun this Halloween season.
The Adams House
Toward the back of the Northeast Georgia History Center on Brenau Ave. NE, lies a two-story white house that has been in Gainesville for over 100 years.
Amos, retired director of the Brenau University Center for Lifetime Study, said the home was built in 1909 and first owned by a resident named John Adams. He lived there with his wife, Pearl, and two daughters, Lucy and Sarah.
Amos, who lives in Gainesville, said her interest for investigating the home first peaked when her friend Rosemary Dodd mentioned that it was haunted. Dodd previously used the home for her business.
“She was convinced there was a ghost there, but she thought it was a little boy,” Amos said. “Rosemary told me that she had put a ball on the top floor and the ball rolled by itself down the hallway.”
Through investigating with a few other ghost hunters, she said they uncovered history about the Adams family and discovered that the entity they believed to haunt the house wasn’t a boy and instead a young girl. When finding sources for her research, Amos said she typically sifts through obituaries, old newspaper articles, census records and ancestry.com.
One night, Amos and a few others visited the house and turned on a digital voice recorder to pick up any unnoticed audio in the house. When they played it back, she said they heard the voice of a little girl call out, “Mama.”
After digging around historical records about the Adams family, Amos said she concluded that the ghost was John Adam’s daughter, Lucy.
“We found out that Lucy died of appendicitis in October 1913,” Amos said. “Her mother and father had come out for the evening, and Lucy went to bed with a tummy ache. They came back home and rushed her to the hospital, and she died.”
Amos said John Adams was so distressed by the death of his daughter that he later committed suicide.
Around 10 years ago, both Amos and Denise Roffe, founder of the Southeastern Institute of Paranormal Research, prayed over the Adams House to help Lucy “go to the light.”
“You could sense a presence in the house and as we talked, that presence disappeared,” Amos said. “We haven’t felt anything in that house since.”
Hall County Library
Roffe said she has been investigating ghosts for over 22 years and has visited the library with her research team — which is mostly made of Hall residents — since 2009.
“She has made herself known every single time,” Roffe said. “She would always gravitate toward the window that faced the little tiny parking lot in the front.”
Roffe, who lives in Cumming, said she hasn’t looked for the Lady of the Library since the facility was rebuilt and is unsure if the ghost remains.
She suspects the ghost is Teriza Elizabeth Brown, who used to reside on the library’s property in the 1800s. Roffe said Brown died in 1855 and was buried in the Alta Vista Cemetery.
“At one point there was some kind of fire in Gainesville,” Roffe said. “The theory was she was very worried because her husband was battling fires. She goes to the window to look for him.”
Roffe classifies the Lady of the Library as a “residual haunting” because the image of the ghost follows a set path like a video tape playing on an endless loop and doesn’t interact with people.
“I know a lot of people inside the library have seen her,” Roffe said. “She’s wearing a long skirt and blouse with slightly puffy long sleeves. She looks like she popped out of the 1800s.”
Don’t let the Lady of the Library’s fame detract from the other speculated hauntings at the Hall County Library.
Roffe said her investigative team has determined the presence of a male ghost who can be heard whistling from time to time; a grumpy old entity who likes to hang out in the genealogy section; and a little girl who spends time near the children’s books.
“You can tell he’s a grump in death, not just life,” Roffe said when referring to the older entity she. “He’s very hostile and in your face. He’ll say, ‘Get out of here’ or ‘I don’t want you here.’”
In February 2016, Roffe said she had an experience at the library she will never forget. During an investigation, she excused herself to find the nearest restroom. Roffe said she walked through a door to go down a staircase, and when she came back up, the door was locked.
“I had to bang on the door and get the attention of a staff member who was with us,” she recounted. “They tried to open it, and it wouldn’t open. They said, ‘Denise, it’s not locked.’ I was trapped there for a minute, and then the door just opened.”
Gainesville Cotton Mill
The Gainesville Cotton Mill, one of the city’s most iconic historic buildings, is also one its most haunted structures, according to Amos.
The mill, located off Georgia Avenue, began operating in 1902. Over time and under various ownerships, the residential properties were sold off. The mill ultimately ceased operations in 1985.
According to The Times’ archives, the tornado of 1903 struck the mill and killed an unconfirmed amount of child workers.
Through her research, Amos said she found that out of nearly 500 mill workers in the early 1900s, a majority were children, ages 8 to 16 years old.
“The Gainesville Mill is most surely haunted,” Amos said. “That was a devastating tornado.”
Amos said workers in the mill have reported hearing something heavy sliding across the fifth floor —which collapsed from the tornado — and the echo of running feet.
She said one gentleman, who worked at the building for 33 years, went to fetch a chair and heard an elevator rising and rapid footsteps walking down an aisle.
“The footsteps stopped, and the older gentleman began to wonder who had come up on the floor,” Amos recounted in her research notes. “He stepped into the aisle that was in front of the elevator, only to see a man, who he had never seen before, walk down the aisle toward him. When the man reached a spot in the aisle where sunlight streamed in from a distant window, he suddenly vanished.”
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.
Agnes was a Brenau University student, who according to legend, 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.
Amos said the story of Agnes is what inspired her to dive into ghost hunting. For the past 20 years, she has visiting 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 Roffe 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.”
Alta Vista Cemetery
Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville may seem like a peaceful spot to remember the dead, but Melanie Baez finds it alight with activity.
Baez, who lives in Flowery Branch, said she started the Paranormal Society of Northeast Georgia nearly two years ago in hopes of gathering like-minded people to share in her passion for the paranormal. She regularly comes out to the cemetery to listen and look for ghosts.
The property has been in operation for over 140 years and includes graves and memorials for many notable people, including veterans of the Revolutionary and Civil wars such as Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, as well as former governors, mayors, sheriffs and police chiefs.
When walking over the grave-stone covered grounds, Baez keeps an eye out for the activity of two ghosts she claims to observe — the bride and groom.
Baez said she has seen the figures — one dressed in a black suit and the other in a white dress with a veil — with both her eyes and through photos she’s taken in their preferred “hang out spot” next to the cemetery’s mausoleum.
“They come up from somewhere up there,” she said pointing to the hill overlooking the mausoleum. “They’re always together. I think they just keep to themselves.”
Since she first spotted the couple two years ago, Baez has conducted research to figure out their identities. She said her mother believes the groom figure is Longstreet. However, Baez said she can’t be sure.
A week ago, she took her 3-month old German shepherd puppy, Laveau — who is named after the famous Voodoo priestess of New Orleans, Marie Laveau — out for a walk in the cemetery. She said he strayed away from her on his leash and begun performing basic commands while looking into the open air.
Baez suspects that he might have encountered a military veteran ghost familiar with dog training.
“He sat, he laid, he jumped on two feet, and nobody was there,” Baez recounted. “He could see somebody that I couldn’t see.”