Elleck’s Song: Haunted Historic Jail, Lawrenceville, Georgia

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Story of a haunted historic jail in Lawrenceville, Georgia, haunted by a slave named Elleck. Written and told by Cynthia Rintye of Lawrenceville Ghost Tours.

Elleck reached across the rough-hewn table and gave his wife’s hand a squeeze. His gentle touch softened the weariness around her beautiful eyes and Betsy returned his gaze with a shy smile. Suddenly, they heard a noise, a terrible noise, a sound that made their blood run cold. Elleck saw terror spring into Betsy’s eyes as their shared gaze turned into a silent prayer: “Please, please let the evil pass us by just this one night.”

The door to the kitchen house burst open and in stormed the man who owned them, Colonel James Austin—drunk, ranting, belligerent, swearing, accusing. Elleck’s attempts to calm him only enraged Master further. Master grabbed Betsy, proclaiming that it was time to take what belonged to him. Betsy screamed and before he could stop himself, Elleck tore Master off of her and threw him to the floor.

As Betsy fled, the full force of Master’s fury turned towards Elleck as the drunkard swore revenge. With Master lurching after him, Elleck raced out of the kitchen house. If he could just find some place to hide until Master fully succumbed to that demon liquor, Elleck would be safe, for Master usually remembered nothing the next day.

Master staggered to the main house, grabbed his cavalry sword and began his search. Finding the Kitchen House empty, Master went to Elleck’s quarters. As Master broke through the door, Elleck scrambled up the little ladder to his sleeping loft, pulling it up behind him. Unfortunately, Master able to grab the last rung, pull the ladder down and unsteadily work his way up, all the while screaming his murderous intent.

There was not enough room in the loft to stand but that did not keep Master from wildly swinging his sword. Elleck was trying to dodge the blows when the sword lodged in a roof timber and Elleck was able to grab Master’s hand. As Elleck struggled for control of the sword, Master lost his balance and fell backwards, crashing onto the floor below. There was a terrible silence. . .

Master was dead. But Elleck did not run. On that awful night of October 10, 1848, Elleck walked to the Gwinnett County courthouse and sat on the steps all night long so in the morning he could tell the sheriff what had happened: how his Master, Colonel James Austin, one of the richest men in the county, had been killed but it was in self-defense. Elleck is one of only two enslaved men ever to be put on trial in Gwinnett and the judges found him “guilty” and Elleck was sentenced to be hanged.

Old haunted jail Lawrenceville Georgia

The sheriff brought Elleck to the jail, threw him in a cell and locked the door. Knowing it was a terrible miscarriage of justice, Elleck broke off a metal slat from his bed and started to chip his way out of the solid concrete wall of his cell.

Unfortunately, people on the outside could hear a tapping noise and alerted the sheriff. When the sheriff saw what Elleck had done, he was enraged. He chained Elleck to the floor; chained him by his wrists, chained him by his ankles, and left him there for three days and three nights. Elleck begged to be allowed to sit in a more comfortable position but his pleas were ignored.

To pass the time, Elleck sang to his beloved:

Oh, Betsy, will you meet me
Betsy, will you meet me
Betsy, will you meet me
In heaven above

On November 10, 1848, exactly one month after James Austin was killed, Elleck was taken from the jail to the gallows and hanged. But people swear his spirit never left the cell where he was so tightly bound for so long and in that old jail you can still hear him singing:

Betsy will you meet me
In heaven above

Lawrenceville, the county seat of Gwinnett is now part of metro Atlanta’s sprawl. Just off the charming, historic courthouse square in Lawrenceville, stands a squat, non-descript, concrete building. On the Lawrenceville Ghost Tour, you get to go inside that building—the old jail built in 1832—and see the barred doors and the metal beds hanging from the walls. If you look at the back wall of one particular cell, you will see about half way up, an uneven indentation, about a foot and a half across, about two feet tall, and about two inches deep. That indentation is evidence of the progress a good man, a desperate man, made in a futile attempt to escape a horrible injustice.

I have had the privilege of standing within the confines of those concrete walls and telling Elleck’s story hundreds of times on the Lawrenceville, Georgia Ghost Tour.

One time, while telling Elleck’s story, I sang:

Betsy, will you meet me
Then I heard echoed back me
I sang: Betsy, will you meet me—again I heard me.

I heard an echoing of the last note of each phrase I sang. I thought I must have imagined it but after I swung the heavy metal door closed and we were safely outside, a person on my tour asked, “Did you hear something weird? Someone else singing?” Everyone on that tour said ‘yes’, they had each heard the repeated reply.

I could go on for at least 10 minutes with a list of ghostly occurrences—hot spots, cold spots, photos of orbs, tugging at clothing, untying shoelaces, missing audio recordings, the key that will only turn if you ask politely, how pressing my left palm flat to the concrete wall filled me with almost unbearable sorrow—all unexplained incidents, witnessed in the jail by me, other Ghost Tour guides, or people on the tour. If I told you every detail, would you believe all those things actually happened?

That would be up to you. But I am certain that when I am in that old jail, the veil of time is just a thin, shimmering gauze and I am standing in the presence of Elleck’s spirit.

-THE END-

How to get there:

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Historic Lawrenceviille Jail

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Historic Lawrenceviille Jail 33.956670, -83.990377 Story: Elleck\'s SongJail in Lawrenceville, GA 1832-1940. Said to be haunted by condemned slave Elleck, singing to his beloved Betsy.

Further Reading:

Lawrenceville Ghost Tour


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Railroad Bill: Alabama Spooky Story

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An Alabama widow lives in fear of the terrifying murderer Railroad Bill. But is he really what the townsfolk say he is? Written and told by Christine Horn. As told by the Tour of Southern Ghosts, ART Station, Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Maco Light Ghost Train North Carolina

Photo by Jon Kownacki.

-THE END-


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The Spirit of Thomas Lester: Haunted House Story

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Poor, road-weary Thomas Lester decides to spend the night in a haunted house. Never a good idea! A Southern ghost story told by Yomi Goodall. Recorded for the Tour of Southern Ghosts. Story used with permission of ART Station, Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Log cabin fireplace, Asheville North Carolina

Public domain photo from Library of Congress.

-THE END-


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Irwin Tarheel and the Fair Folk: Louisiana Folktale

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Louisiana twist on the legend of the Fair Folk, written by Sam McDonald. Told by Otis Jiry.

You see it all started many years ago in Shreveport, Louisiana. These days Shreveport is the third largest city in the entire state of Louisiana, but in those days Shreveport was just a tiny little settlement on the banks of Red River. Captain Henry Miller Shreve, from whom the city gets its name, was still clearing off the great log jam. Before the good captain arrived you could drive a horse and buggy all the way across the river. Everyone was very excited about the new opportunities the new waterways would bring the little settlement, but that isn’t what this story is about.

MVI 2620 Red River Bridge in Shreveport

It was around this time there lived a fellow named Irwin Sherwin Tarheel. He was the son of an Indian maiden and a white settler. You see mixed race marriages faced a lot of prejudice back then, and poor Irwin had been dealt quite a few knocks in this life. One day Irwin was taking a walk out in the woods to go fishing at his favorite stream. When he got to the stream he came across a group of boys messing with a turtle that was flipped on its back. Irwin, never one to let a helpless creature be tormented, quickly shooed the boys away and gently put the turtle right-side up.

The turtle looked at Irwin and in a tiny voice it said. “Oh, thank you kind sir! I thought I’d never escape those tormentors.”

Irwin nearly jumped back four feet. He’d never heard a turtle utter so much as a single word before! When Irwin looked back the turtle was gone and in its place stood a beautiful young lady with raven-black hair, copper skin and a dress like a goddess of some ancient land. At this point Irwin was so terrified that he tried to back away, but he tripped over a log and fell flat on the ground.

“W-who are you? What are you?”

A strange girl giggled. “I have many names, but you can call me Red Ears. Now hurry and get up, everyone is waiting for us!”

Irwin looked and, sure enough, the girl’s ears were as bright and red as a ripe tomato. Irwin wanted nothing more than to run to his home, draw the curtains and huddle underneath a blanket. Still, there was no telling what else Red Ears could turn into, and he wasn’t so keen on finding out the hard way. After a while, and well after it had started to turn dark, Red Ears lead Irwin to a clearing of sorts. The bright lights, joyous music and wonderful smells told Irwin everything he needed to know. Red Ears had led him to a party!

Irwin didn’t get invited to many parties, but he soon found himself as the guest of honor. Red Ears made a point of introducing Irwin to everyone at the party and telling of how he saved her. Irwin had a grand time as he danced up a storm, sipped on sweet drinks, ate tasty foods and generally felt like he’d found some place he belonged. Soon, however, Irwin noticed that there was something a little off about the people throwing the party. Some of them had hooves like deer, others had eyes like cats and a few had scales like alligators!

Irwin nearly lost it all together when a man with an alligator head and deer antlers walked up to him. “You’re the Mr. Tarheel I’ve been hearing so much about?”

“I, uh, yes. May I ask who you are?” Irwin stammered.

“Oh, dear, where are my manners? My name is Chief Cernunnos, and you have earned my daughter’s hand in marriage. Now don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll make a fine husband for Red Ears.”

“But who are all these people? They don’t look right.”

Chief Cernunnos gave Irwin a big alligator smile. “Well now, that depends on who you ask. Some would say we are gods, while others would say that we are demons, and yet others would call us spirits. But if you want to call us something you may call us The Fair Folk. We really are quite reasonable.”

Irwin considered what the chief had told him. The Fair Folk had certainly been more kind and welcoming than anyone he’d ever met, but he had his suspicions that all was not as it seemed. Both of his parents had told stories of tricksters who lured unsuspecting traveler’s to all sorts of horrible fates. If he could only slip away to see if anyone else had heard of these strange people.

Red Ear and Chief Cernunnos tried their best, but Irwin insisted that he needed to go attend some matters in Shreveport, though he promised he’d be back as soon as possible. Reluctantly, they sent Irwin on his way, but not before Red Ear gave Irwin a tiny pouch. She instructed Irwin to absolutely never open the pouch under any circumstances. It didn’t take Irwin long to find the path he’d taken to get to the Fair Folk’s part, but when he made it out of the woods he did not find the Shreveport he remembered.

Shreveport had grown from a tiny little settlement into a city of glass towers and strange metal carriages that drove without horses. Irwin searched and asked around, but everyone he’d ever known was gone. The more he searched the more Irwin realized the horrible truth. Everyone he’d known was dead because he’d been away for over 160 years! There wasn’t any point in staying in Shreveport so Irwin decided to make his way back to the Fair Folk.

Unfortunately, Irwin soon found himself completely disoriented. There had to be something that would remind him of the way back. Irwin decided to ignore Red Ear’s warning and see if the pouch held a clue. What Red Ear hadn’t told Irwin was that the pouch contained all of the years he would have aged if he hadn’t stayed at the Fair Folk’s party. As soon as the pouch was opened Irwin aged until he was a feeble old man.

As if carried on a gentle breeze Irwin could hear Red Ear’s voice say to him, “I told you not to open the pouch.”

With that Irwin crumbled into dust and was carried away on the wind. The white man brought many things with him when he colonized this land. Perhaps a few Fair Folks decided to come along for the ride.

-THE END-

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The Boo Hag Woman: Song Inspired by Georgia Witch Story The Boo Hag

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Song based on Georgia witch story “The Boo Hag” about a man who suspects his beautiful new bride might be a witch. Song written and performed by Frank Whitaker. Original story written by Veronica Byrd with Craig Dominey.

FIRST VERSE:
Way out past the salt marsh, by a creek that leads to sea;
There is a spooky four-room shack beneath a twisted live oak tree.
A strange young lady lived there with a man she’d met in town.
Her perfect skin, it lured him in, but after ‘while he found;
That she was creepin’ out at night;
And she was slippin’ out of sight;
And she hardly ever acted right at all.

boohag_tempted001

SECOND VERSE:
He thought she might be cheatin’ on him, but his friend said, “Son;
You done married yo’self a Boo Hag, and she’s slippin’ out for fun.”
“Boo Hags shed their skins at night, like evil spirit crones.
They suck the air from young men’s lungs;
And try to crush their bones.
She may look good by the light of day;
But at night, she’ll never stay;
And if a man can’t slip away, she’ll ride his back until he falls;”
And I said . . .

CHORUS:
Boo Hag Woman, get on back – I don’t believe the things you say!
You can’t spook me with your sweet-talk, Girl —
I’ve got to live to see another day.
It is a sin to shed your skin.
You gon’ get got, I guarantee –
Boo Hag Woman, get on back from me.

boohag_salt001

THIRD VERSE:
Now, to get rid of a Boo Hag, there is just one thing to do –
If she can’t get back in her skin, then her Boo Hag days are through.
So late one night, when she went away, he searched around the shack.
Her slimy skin was hangin’ in a closet in the back.
He took the salt and the pepper down;
And he shook it all around;
Inside that skin that he had found, ’till he was done.

FOURTH VERSE:
She came back ‘fore the morning, when the sun was ’bout to crest; And she said, “I am a Boo Hag, and Lord knows, I needs my rest.”
But when she slipped back in her skin, and gathered it around;
That skin, it started smokin’, and it made a bubblin’ sound.
And then that lyin’ witch;
She started jumpin’ from the itch.
He saw her body start to twitch and melt there, in the risin’ sun;
And I said . . .

[CHORUS]

FIFTH VERSE:
He boiled her Boo Hag body in a barrel full of tar;
And poured himself a brand new roof, that hasn’t leaked so far.
And now, he lives there all alone, beside that crooked stream.
That Boo Hag taught a lesson, ’cause she was not what she seemed.
If there’s a pretty girl you know;
Then you’d better take it slow;
‘Cause there’s no tellin’ where she’ll go;
When she slips-out at night;
And I said . . .

boohag_skinless001

[CHORUS]
TAIL-OUT:
. . . I don’t want no old Boo Hag attack, I said;
Boo Hag Woman, get on back from me.

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