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Hunt for a haunt
Substantiating claims is the hardest part
Librarian Gail Hogan points out one of the areas of the Hall County Library System’s main branch in Gainesville where the Lady of the Library has been seen. - photo by Tom Reed

Halloween events

  • Trick or Treat on the Square Gainesville, 3-5 p.m. today
  • Holly Hallowe'en, Holly Theater, 69 W. Main St., Dahlonega, 9 tonight. Showing of "Rocky Horror Picture Show," followed by Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings in concert. Tickets $7, on sale at door or at
  • Dahlonega Trick or Treat, 5:30-7:30 p.m. today, ages 12 and under. Donate candy at the Visitors Center or Paul Thomas Chocolates. Roads will be re-routed during trick-or-treating downtown. 706-864-3513.
  • Trick or Treat on the Square, Clarkesville, 5-7 p.m. today
  • Clarkesville Spooktacular, 5-7 p.m. today, Sam Pitts Park
  • Gold Museum Halloween, 6-9 p.m. today, Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, Dahlonega. Trick-or-treating, costume contest with prizes, special treats on square from local merchants. 706-864-2257.
  • Halloween Walk, 4-6 p.m. today, downtown Jefferson. Ages 12 and under, trick-or-treating, face-painting, hayrides. Parking available at the Jefferson Civic Center and at the Jackson County Historic Courthouse. Sponsored by Main Street Jefferson and city of Jefferson. Beth Laughinghouse, 706-367-5714.


Gainesville and the surrounding area is filled with buildings, graveyards and objects rumored to be haunted. Unexplainable noises, vanishing apparitions of people long-dead, objects moving of their own accord and voices picked up on tape recorders when there's no one around are signs that something else could be lurking.

"Theoretically with ghosts, a lot of times when they are around, it's because they died suddenly and don't realize they're dead," said Kathy Amos, director of the Brenau University Center for Lifetime Study. "The tornado of '36 was a devastating thing to the city of Gainesville. Over 200 people lost their lives. And certainly if there is any validity to that, 200 deaths in a tornado that literally swept across the city, you would think there are probably a few spirits hanging around."

Amos, also the director of the Brenau University Learning and Leisure Institute, said there are plenty of such places.

"I know there has been talk about a ghost at Inman Perk. ... The old Friarson-McEver building, which is now Main Street Market, in their basement they have had strange things that have happened there — and certainly some people died in that particular building," Amos said. "I've heard of houses on Green Street that are haunted. There's a house on Oakland that two or three families have moved in and had very strange experiences there."

Science is typically used to explain the phenomena of our physical world. The same principles have been applied to understanding the spiritual world.

Denise Roffe, co-founder of the Southeastern Institute of Paranormal Research, began investigating the supernatural 13 years ago and has since written two books on the subject of haunting.

Through her research, she attempts to understand what those things that go bump in the night actually are.

Like Amos, she takes her work seriously and approaches each investigation scientifically.

"We don't go into it thinking that everything is paranormal," Roffe said. "We try to find a rational explanation."

An investigation begins when a client contacts Roffe. She then brings her team and a lot of high-tech equipment to the site.

The equipment is used to measure any changes in the electromagnetic field or temperature of the area.

They also bring cameras and digital voice recorders to capture any visual or auditory anomalies.

Most of the time the spooky culprits are easy to find, squirrels in the attic, old plumbing, a trick of the light. But there are some instances that can't be rationalized so easily.

Roffe recalled watching a teddy bear move from a child's bed to a wall eight feet away.

"No way to explain that one," she said.

Objects moving of their own accord is rare. The most common phenomenon people report to her is of an auditory nature.

"Just about every day someone calls that has heard something they can't explain," Roffe said.

Sometimes during an investigation those strange sounds are recorded. When that happens, they call it an electronic voice phenomenon.

"We've gathered some really interesting EVPs," Roffe said.

After last year's Ghost Walk at Brenau University, Roffe and her team captured the sounds of a woman crying into the microphone and a woman's voice.

Brenau started its Ghost Walk several years ago as a way to look at local legends and see whether there was any validity to them, Amos said.

"As time has gone on, it's been interesting for me to try to justify some of the things I've heard and I've experienced," Amos said. "I do know people who say they have had experiences in some of the sorority houses. There's the old legend that says Mrs. Pearce comes when the girls are sick and she puts her hands on their fevered brow and tells them they'll get well."

Substantiating these claims, which she said come pretty regularly, is the difficult part. Most of these stories come by way of one student saying they heard something happened to another or can be related back to pranks, such as the little boy named Red, who comes out of the closets in Josiah Crudup Hall to draw on the walls with a red crayon.

"Red is the fellow who was supposed to have been buried in the foundations of one of the buildings here on campus," Amos said. "The Red story is something that's probably kept alive by the (resident assistants). It's a fun thing to do, to talk about, ‘Oh, Red draws with a red crayon.'"

She said Red is possibly based on a real story — years ago, there was a wheelchair-bound little boy who was well-loved by the Brenau community. He was hit by a car and killed while crossing Riverside Drive.

"So was there a little boy that died and would have made news on campus because he was thought of affectionately by the students here? Absolutely, that's true. Does he haunt the particular building? I have my doubts," Amos said. "The same thing holds true with other legends."

But buildings aren't the only things that can be haunted.

"There are so many different types of haunting. Ghosts and spirits are attached to objects, too," Roffe said.

Items like an antique necklace, a stone or a doll can all be claimed by a spectre, she said.

Roffe has a few theories as to why strange things happen to people. She thinks people may be visited by their ancestors for guidance or protection. She does not discount the existence of demons either.

Sometimes, she said, an event in time can get stuck.

"We've had cases that we've followed for years where they see the same thing happen year after year," Roffe said. "When conditions are just right they play themselves out time and time again."

Amos said this is called a residual ghost.

"Have you ever heard people talk about a haunted place, and they say they see the ghost of a man coming down the stairs, and many people say they've seen that? That's a residual ghost. It's in the walls," Amos said. "It's sort of like having film on a loop. Residual ghosts are different from the ones that will interact with you. They can't interact because it's kind of stuck in time and it doesn't know you're there."

Though Amos approaches every report of a ghost with skepticism at first, she doesn't discount the claims.

"What is a ghost? If — as some of the ghost people who hunt explain, and even some of the churches explain — if there is only a thin veil between this world and the next, why couldn't something come through? People talk about the holy ghost or the holy spirit, so even back that far there is a mention of ghosts," Amos said. "Are they here? I don't know. But I'm going to keep hunting and find out."


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