Ghost story of the haunted historic jail in Lawrenceville, Georgia, haunted by a doomed 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
Historic Lawrenceville jail photo by Kate Awtrey

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.


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Trisha Huffman

    Wow!I could fill the chills of a ghost near by while reading this story . Love it !!!

  2. From ‘Thomas Lester’ onwards the podcasts have been a disappointment. The reader spoils the text or they aren’t regular enough. Just get Kodac Harrison to read them all please! Sausage Ghost, White Dress, Chancy Fox, Stranger in the Church, Skull Lake (where is that on the podcast? It’s disappeared) are excellent. Need the same quality please. Waiting months then the most recent story is read by someone hysterical, spoiling the experience. 🙁

    1. Hi Chantal, thanks for listening. We agree Kodac is a great storyteller but we can’t have the same voice on each story (and he’s a busy man). We’d love to produce more, but that’s really up to you and our audience. We have Paypal donation links with every story, and rely on our friends to donate funds to help pay for the talent involved. Even what you spend on a cup of coffee each week would be helpful! As for Skull Lake, I’ll see where it is.