Ghost Stories and Tall Tales of the American South

Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Georgia: History and Ghost Hunt


History of the pivotal Civil War Battle of Pickett’s Mill, Georgia, and a ghost hunt of the battlefield.



Like other formally rural areas in Metro Atlanta, the Pickett’s Mill-New Hope-Dallas region is hearing the loud footsteps of development. New highways, gas stations, video stores and pizza joints are sprouting up like mushrooms, plowing through what were once vast acres of farmland and dense forest. Fortunately, through the efforts of local historians, what is left of the historic Civil War battlefields has a good chance of being saved.

General Sherman and Commanders

It was a different landscape that General Sherman and his Union troops fought their way through in the spring of 1864. Accounts of their battles describe a rugged terrain where the soldiers fought not only exhaustion and a stubborn Confederate army, but also a seemingly impenetrable forest that, despite their advanced weaponry, forced them into brutal, hand to hand combat.

Sherman was moving through Georgia with alarming speed before entering the hills of Paulding County. Deep in enemy territory, Sherman engaged in flanking maneuvers to pound through Joe Johnston’s stubborn Rebel forces. But the rough terrain, poor communication, confusing maps and powerful thunderstorms constantly hindered him. At New Hope Church (site of the ravine that Union troops dubbed “Hell Hole”), Sherman would pay the price, as suprisingly strong Rebel forces drove them back in one of the most brutal battles of the war.

Sherman next ordered his troops to attack the Confederates’ left flank in the area around Benjamin and Malachi Pickett’s grist mill. Again, the thick forest was an ally to the Confederates, as it hindered support efforts for the Union troops, already under heavy fire. The Union troops retreated, then attacked again, only to be routed by Confederate troops under the command of Patrick Cleburne. Union losses were estimated at 3,000 men.

Picketts Mill Before War

This would be the last great victory for the Confederacy. Sherman made his way back north and east along the Dallas Line, only to regroup and march back toward Atlanta shortly thereafter. This time, he would be successful and end the Civil War.

After the war, the New Hope-Pickett’s Mill area remained quiet and undeveloped for many years. But like other old battlefields, the area was rumored to be haunted. Reports came in of strange moans and groans from deep within the woods around the “Hell Hole.” Shadowy figures could be seen running through the forest. In the 1960s, two noted Civil War collectors encountered a vicious thunderstorm, wounded moans of agony, and horrible smells while searching for relics around the “Hell Hole.” It was around the 100th anniversary of the battle.

Nearly ten years later, New Hope became the site of one of the worst plane crashes in state history. On April 4, 1977, a Southern Airways DC-9 en route to Atlanta from Huntsville, Alabama crashed in New Hope, killing 63 passengers and nine residents on the ground. The probable cause was listed as loss of thrust from both engines. But more superstitious people couldn’t help but notice that the plane went down in a severe thunderstorm – much like what Union troops encountered over 100 years prior in the same spot.

Hell Hole After Battle

In the 1980s-90s, Metro Atlanta’s rapid growth threatened the old battlefields. In response, a Civil War enthusiast bought the land around Pickett’s Mill and sold it to the state, which turned it into a historic park. But the “Hell Hole” at New Hope was left out, and soon became nothing more than a garbage dump for local residents.

But things have started to change, as the state has recently purchased the land around the “Hell Hole,” and has started clean-up efforts. And in 2000, the battlefields around New Hope and Pickett’s Mill were selected for a demonstration trail for a proposed statewide driving trail following Sherman’s march through Georgia.

For more information on the battles of New Hope and Pickett’s Mill, you may want to visit:

Battle of Pickett’s Mill
Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site

And to learn about the efforts to save the Georgia battlefields, visit:
The Georgia Civil War Commission

Photographs 1 and 3 taken by George N. Barnard. Mill drawing provided courtesy of the Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site.


Over the years, we at The Moonlit Road have received hundreds of e-mails asking our advice about hauntings and other paranormal encounters. Most of the time, we answer that this site is, first and foremost, a storytelling site that teaches the world about Southern history and culture. We choose ghost stories primarily because they are some of the most entertaining kinds of tales, and provide a window into the cultures they come from. There are plenty of other sites that study the paranormal in depth.

Haunted House Stairs

But do we really believe in ghosts? Speaking for myself, I don’t know if I’m a “believer,” but I know I’m not a “disbeliever.” Nothing in life surprises me anymore. Think about how so much of what we see around us is colored by our perceptions – how we are the products of what we’ve been taught by outside forces, no matter how well meaning. Who really knows what “reality” is, and what exists out there beyond our everyday lives – if anything. Until someone comes along who can prove to me without a doubt that he/she knows the Absolute Truth, then as far as I’m concerned, your opinion or outlook on life is as good as mine.

Which, in a longwinded way, leads us to ghost hunting. Of all the paranormal entities, ghosts and spirits tend to cross the line into the mainstream more than any others do. Everyone seems to have a story about a personal experience with a ghost, a haunted house down the road, or the presence of a loved one recently deceased.

Yes, human beings are natural storytellers, and some people who tell such tales might be more haunted by themselves than any ghost. Still, there are just so many reports of ghosts that it made me wonder if perhaps there was something to the stories after all – that perhaps ghosts are real, and walk amongst us.

In October 2000, I set out on a ghost hunt with Cheri Mohr Drake of the Georgia Haunt Hunt Team. What you are about to read is a diary from my experiences. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to believe. After all, who am I to say you’re wrong?


AUGUST 23, 2000

Met for coffee with Cheri Mohr Drake, founder of the Georgia Haunt Hunt Team. We decided to go on a ghost hunt at Chickamauga Battlefield near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and set the date for October 1. Many strange occurrences are said to have taken place here. Chickamauga will be a long drive, and we may need to stay overnight. Cheri will mail materials to me on the battlefield next week.


Received package of materials from Cheri. After reading about Chickamauga, it seems that it will be too far to drive, and the park may be hard to gain access to at night. But within the package of materials was a copy of an article from a Civil War magazine called BLUE AND GRAY about New Hope, Georgia and the “Hell Hole.” The Hell Hole is a ravine in New Hope where an intense Civil War battle took place, and there’s said to be strange noises at night. There was also a horrible plane crash there in the 1970s.

Picketts Mill Battle

The story in BLUE AND GRAY was about two Civil War historians who encountered ghosts while hunting for artifacts at New Hope in the 1960s. I recognized this story as the same one I clipped out of the Atlanta paper a few years back around Halloween. New Hope is only a few miles west of Atlanta, so I figured this would probably work, especially since Cheri has to drive all the way from Athens that night. We both decided to give up on Chickamauga and drive to New Hope instead.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2000

Took the day off from work and scouted New Hope. The area where the Battle of New Hope took place is now an intersection with a tire store, two churches, a convenience store, a pizza delivery place and an old cemetery. From speaking with some park rangers at nearby Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site, I reason that the Hell Hole must be at the back of the cemetery, but I’m soon proved wrong. After fighting my way through the thick brush, all I find is drainage ditch.

I went back to Pickett’s Mill, and was told by the groundskeeper that I had looked in the wrong place. He drove me back to the real Hell Hole in his truck and left me there while he ran some errands.

I was left on the side of a busy two lane road. I spotted a small path going into the forest, followed it, and found myself above a large ravine that cut through the forest like a giant scar. I had heard there was a lot of trash in the ravine, but it looked like someone had been trying to clean it up (I was told later that the State of Georgia had purchased the land). But I could see houses through the trees, and the two lane road behind me was very loud. I couldn’t imagine this as the scary place I had read about in the article. There was much more development now than there was back then.

The groundskeeper returned and brought me back to Pickett’s Mill. As a backup, I decided to explore the battlefield, which is on state protected land. It wasn’t so much a battlefield with clearings as it was a deep forest with dirt trails. It was easy to understand why the soldiers who fought here became so disoriented during battle. In its own way, it was a creepy place.

New Hope Cemetery

I returned to the Visitor’s Center and asked the rangers about the possibility of a ghost hunt at night on the battlefield. They told me numerous stories about ghost sightings on the property, especially around the anniversary of the battle. One of the rangers agreed to meet Cheri and I on the evening of October 1st to guide us around the Pickett’s Mill area.

I informed Cheri about my findings. She was not very enthusiastic about the development around the Hell Hole, and felt that whatever was haunting the area might have been chased away. But we agreed to explore both the Hell Hole and Pickett’s Mill.


Cheri arrived at my house around 5:30PM. She brought along a camera with 800-speed film, a thermal temperature scanner and an electromagnetic field detector. We were scheduled to meet the ranger at the park gate at 8:15, which was about a 45 minute drive from Atlanta. After a brief dinner and a trip to the grocery store for extra batteries, we embarked on our journey.

Hell Hole Woods

What happened next was a string of disasters. On the way through Atlanta, we hit a massive traffic jam that kept us stuck downtown for over half an hour. The ranger did not have a cell phone, so he was impossible to reach. We finally got out of traffic and drove west at high speeds toward Pickett’s Mill. Despite my previous scouts to the area, I somehow got off on the wrong exit. Many of the streetlights were out that night, leaving us in darkness as I tried to backtrack.

Cheri remarked that perhaps whatever we were searching for didn’t want us to come, and was throwing obstacles in our path. This supposedly had happened to her group in the past.

Ghost Hunter Checks Readings

 Cheri looks for readings during the hunt.

We finally found our way to the Pickett’s Mill gate around 9:15PM – an hour late for our appointment. The ranger was long gone, and the gate was locked. Since we had driven all that way, we decided to start our hunt anyway. To get used to the equipment, we explored the field around the parking lot. As we got the equipment ready, we noticed that the batteries we had just bought at the store were inexplicably drained. Not only that, but the field detector was suddenly inoperative. I remembered what Cheri and I had talked about in our Q&A about ghosts “draining” batteries and sabotaging equipment. Nah, I thought – must be faulty equipment.

My camera and the thermal temperature scanner were still working, however. The goal was to scan the area with the temperature scanner, looking for spots where the ground temperature might drop several degrees for no apparent reason. Once we got that reading, we would snap a picture immediately. The average ground temperature throughout our hunt was around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cheri and I took turns scanning the field, but only found minor fluctuations in temperature. I decided to approach the woods and see if I could get any readings there. I stood at the edge and gazed out into the dark forest as Cheri walked away toward another area. It was then that I was hit with what I can only describe as a sense of dread. Something about the woods made me stop in my tracks, where I was very eager to enter only moments before.

Suddenly, deep in the forest, I saw what appeared to be sparks. They definitely weren’t fireflies, as fireflies are long gone this time of year. Plus, as a longtime Southerner, I know very well what a firefly looks like. It was more like what you see when you press your hands firmly against your eyeballs, then release them, leaving your eyes to adjust.

Haunted Woods Night

“I just saw sparks!” yelled Cheri on the other side of the field.

“You saw what?” I yelled back, partly in disbelief.

It was then that I heard a bizarre sound from deep in the forest. The only way I can describe it is that it sounded like a recording of the moan of a wounded animal, with reverb effects added in a recording studio. This was followed by a sudden “whooshing” sound of something flying through the trees. Truthfully, it sounded like a bullet, again with some bizarre reverb effect.

Cheri and I looked at one another and acknowledged that, yes, we had both heard the same thing. We agreed that we had seen and heard enough – time to move on to the Hell Hole.


Cheri and I found our way in the dark to the woods where the Hell Hole was. I parked my car several yards away to avoid suspicion, and then we walked down the road to the opening in the forest.

Shining our flashlights through the trees, we finally saw the ravine, yawning dark and ominous. We descended down into it and began snapping pictures, our flashes exploding in the dark woods. The temperature scanners again picked up no dramatic fluctuations. But our camera flashes quickly got the attention of local dogs, which began howling loudly. I was actually more concerned about a homeowner chasing us away with a gun than I was any ghost. Cheri stuck with her original hypothesis that whatever used to haunt this place may have been driven away by the development. So we left the Hell Hole.

Picketts Mill Woods Night

We then decided to visit the New Hope Cemetery, where the Confederate lines were spread out during the Battle of New Hope. Cheri assured me that there are nearly always ghost readings in cemeteries – for obvious reasons. I parked my car in the back part of the cemetery, again to avoid suspicion. We then walked through the old and new parts of the cemetery, the bright moon shining down upon us.

Cheri introduced me to a strange, yet understandable, ritual that some ghost hunters frequently go through when they enter a haunted place. We spoke out loud to the dead, telling them in a friendly way that we meant no harm and were only there to take pictures. I even went as far as inviting them to come out and pose! Yes, anyone watching us might have thought we were crazy, but what harm could it do?

It wasn’t long before I finally saw the dramatic temperature drops that Cheri had mentioned. As I waved the scanner around the cemetery, the temperature would inexplicably drop around twenty degrees or more. And the strange part was, this cold spot moved – and moved fast! Once I got a read on a cold spot, I could follow it as it circled around us. I fired away with my camera, hoping to pick up something.

Craig Takes Temperature Reading

Craig takes a temperature reading.

Cheri suddenly yelled out to me, and as I walked back to her, I could see her breath in the flashlight beam – almost, we joked, like the kid in “The Sixth Sense.” At times, it looked like Cheri was standing in a freezer. The temperature was still in the 60s, and it was hard to imagine it being cold enough for her breath to be seen as much as it was.

Shortly thereafter, as we continued walking around the graves, we saw random sparks. Again, we saw them at the same time, and they were not fireflies. Our hunt ended around 11pm, and we headed back to Atlanta.

OCTOBER 2, 2000

The next day, I had the photos processed. Unfortunately, most did not turn up anything, but a few did have strange lights on them. I asked the photo lab people what they might be, and other than possible defects in the film, they weren’t really sure. I present them here for your opinion.

So, what did this all mean? The truth is, I don’t know. The hunt didn’t turn me into a firm believer, or a disbeliever. Perhaps with more hunts, I will experience some of the more dramatic paranormal encounters that our readers have written us about. But I saw and experienced enough that it wouldn’t surprise me if ghosts are real, and are walking amongst us – whether we know it or not.

Ghost Orbs Over Cemetery


Notice the white light in the upper left corner. This was taken after a sudden temperature drop.  There was no light source in the area from this angle.

Ghost Orbs Over Cemetery


These tiny white lights appear in numerous photos. There were streetlights in the area, but not from  this angle. Photo defect, or something else?


An Interview with Cheri Mohr Drake of the Georgia Haunt Hunt Team conducted in September 2000.

For some people, ghost stories are tall tales that are not meant to be taken seriously. For others, ghosts and other unexplained phenomena are serious subjects that warrant respectful, scientific research. The Georgia Haunt Hunt Team, a non-profit scientific organization out of Athens, Georgia, is one of many groups of “ghost hunters” throughout the country.

The Moonlit Road recently spoke with GHHT founder Cheri Mohr Drake about ghost hunting – how it’s done, the misperceptions about groups like hers, and how you, too, can spot a ghost:

Q: How did you first become interested in ghost hunting?

A: Well, I’ve always been interested in ghosts and ghost stories, and when we (got Internet access), which was about four years ago, the first thing I did was look up ghost stories. And when I typed in “ghost stories” (in a search engine), what came up was the Ghost Web. And I started looking at it, and I was, like, what in the world is this? Because there were tons and tons of pictures of blobs – that’s what they looked like. And I read (founder of Ghost Web) Dave Oester’s theories on what he thought those blobs were and all this, and I wanted to see if I could go do that myself.

So I went to the cemetery just a little past dusk and started snapping a whole roll of pictures, got them back, and sure enough, there were blobs all over them! So I thought, okay, maybe this is just a nighttime phenomenon. I went to my backyard – actually it was my parents’ backyard – and took a whole roll of pictures. Nothing. So, that’s what really got me interested in ghost hunting. I waited forever for a group to start up in Georgia. All the surrounding states had groups already. I got tired of waiting, so I started my own, and that was in 1997.

Georgia Haunt Hunt Team

GHHT members search for ghosts in an Atlanta restaurant, accompanied by a local TV cameraman

Q: Tell us your definition of what a ghost is?

A: A ghost is a person who has passed away – they don’t have their physical body anymore – and for what could be various reasons, they either choose to stay or they are disoriented, so to speak, and they stay behind because they don’t understand that they’re without a physical body. And they don’t cross over into whatever it is we’re supposed to cross over to after death, whereas a spirit, on the other hand, has crossed over, and can come and go as they please.

Like, say your grandmother, and she’s crossed over properly and she comes back, and you smell her perfume that she always wore. Spirits, we think, do that. But ghosts are usually not happy beings. They usually are here for reasons that are not happy reasons. We don’t think it does you any good to be a ghost. You definitely need to go on in whatever way it comes to you when you die.

Q: So if ghosts do exist, then we really don’t know what they’re doing here or what they want?

A: Well, sometimes they do seem to let it be known what they want. I’ll give you an example. There’s a case where a woman was constantly having things thrown out of her desk in her home – her kitchen desk. She was upset about this, and why it was targeting that desk she did not know. And finally we put it together that it was only throwing out bank statements, and what this ghost was upset about was the money that was left behind in the account that no one knew about. This would be the family that lived there before this woman had taken possession of the house – this was a built-in desk.

So this ghost was trying to tell her that she had some existing business, and that’s a big reason why people stay behind, apparently – unfinished business. She did contact the family that lived there before her, and they did, indeed, find a bank account that should have gone to them, but nobody knew about. Even though (the ghost) was an elderly lady, she did not tell anybody about it.

Q: What is the mission of the Georgia Haunt Hunt Team? Are you trying to get rid of ghosts, communicate with them, or something else?

A: We’re not trying to get rid of them. If a homeowner wants to get rid of them, there are other people who do that type of thing – Feng Shui experts, for example, and various psychics around, although I’d certainly get a reference before I hired anybody. No, what we’re doing is documenting and compiling a database of everything we get. We’d like to see after five years time if what we get correlates – so far it does seem to be correlating – with reported hauntings and the symptoms, I’ll call them, of a haunting that the people report, and what we find when we go there. And then follow up later on with what’s going on in the house. And if they do choose to hire someone to send their ghost on – it could also be someone like a priest or a minister – then we want to know if it’s the same phenomenon happening in the house.

This is of course after we’ve ruled out natural causes, and by that I mean bad wiring or earth tremors, which we do get here in North Georgia. Squirrels in the attic chewing on wires, that kind of thing. Once all that’s ruled out, and if they have someone come in to clear the ghost out, we want to know, does it seem to have gone or not?

Georgia Haunt Hunt Team in Cemetery

GHHT member Carol Bishop (arm raised) shows a reporter a drastic temperature change in the Old Athens Cemetery. When this picture was developed, a huge orb appeared where the cold spot was. 

Q: What is the biggest misconception about groups like yours?

A: (Laughs) That we’re somehow doing something to invoke ghosts, and we don’t go there at all. All we do is come in and document and leave. We sometimes give people tips on how to deal with a ghost. All you have to do to deal with a ghost is talk to it. We have a lot of success with people telling an alleged ghost in the house that it’s dead, or stop bothering me, you need to go on – that kind of thing. And then they don’t have trouble anymore. Whether or not that’s a placebo effect in the homeowner’s mind, I don’t know, but whatever is going on in the home will stop for a while, if not permanently.

Q: How do you choose a haunted location? Do you find them on your own, or do people come to you saying their property is haunted?

A: Usually people come to us. When that kind of dries up – there are times of year like the summertime when we have harder times. I don’t know why – maybe people are busy and don’t think to report hauntings as much as they do during the winter and fall. Then, if we’re really itching to go ghost hunting and need a laboratory, so to speak, we’ll either go to a cemetery or a well-known haunted location.

Q: Are there certain kinds of locations that are more haunted than others?

A: There are theories that it has to do, believe it or not, with the ground. That certain parts of the earth hold different charges and are either conducive to a ghost being there or not. A ghost, we think, is some form of energy. There are naturally occurring geomagnetic fields all over the earth – they’re everywhere.

When a ghost is moving through an area, it seems to disturb whatever geomagnetic field is there and change it. We measure that on instruments that we use, which are electromagnetic field detectors. Usually, a paranormal event will happen in the 2-10 Milligauss (mG) range. And if that happens at the same time we have a 20 degree temperature drop, and somebody sees something like a shadow, and a dog or cat runs away – you know, there’s a whole bunch of symptoms at the same time – then we’ll take it pretty seriously. If it’s in a house, we’ll have to turn off the electricity to make sure it’s not just something under the floorboards that the meter is picking up. But if we’re out on a battlefield and suddenly we get something like that, we’ll take it pretty seriously and start taking pictures.

Ghost Orb in Duluth, GA

This picture was taken in a Duluth, Georgia driveway – at the home where the murder of a woman had taken place years before. See the orb hovering in the tree? 

Q: What other pieces of equipment do you use to hunt for ghosts?

A: We also use a thermal scanner that measures heat in the infrared range. We have a theory that most paranormal events as far as energy goes take place in the infrared spectrum, which is just below what we can see. Humans usually can’t see in infrared. There are cameras that can pick up infrared, there are night scopes that dear hunters use, and you really can see these balls of light flying around with these types of equipment. So the thermal scanner also measures in infrared, and it will measure pretty far away from us. So when we have an abnormal temperature drop and start taking pictures, nine times out of ten there’s something in the picture.

Q: How can a layman identify a ghost? What are the signs of ghostly activity?

A: Usually cold spots, which we were just talking about. We think cold spots exist because an entity is actually drawing energy out of the air to be able to manifest and do things physically. They also can draw energy from a person, so if you’re fatigued and you go to the doctor and they can’t diagnose anything, you may want to consider a haunting. We call this “Human Duracell Theory.” You’re used as a battery, or your dog, or your plant even. We think that’s why we find so many of these balls of light around trees.

Other symptoms are walking through what feels like a prickly electric field where one should not be or is not normally. It really does feel like little needles.

There are also the typical symptoms – light bulbs popping at an abnormal rate, or violently where the whole light bulb is black – and this usually happens a few times in a row, every time you replace it, even if it’s in different lamps. And of course, you have to call your electric company to find out if it was a power surge, but ruling that out, you may have something there, especially if several things are going on at the same time.

Things being knocked off shelves. Also, there have been incidents of ghosts getting into bed with people, or jumping on the bed. Pulling the covers off the bed is a big one. For some reason, if ghosts want to get your attention, they like pulling the covers off the bed. Those are the things that really scare people.

Tapping on the shoulders. It’s really, really rare for an entity to hurt anybody. I know there are groups out there that have gotten reports of this, but I haven’t. So I think we have friendlier ghosts than most states. They do sometimes try to get your attention by physically giving you a shove or a poke. And if they give you a shove, it’s just enough to move your shoulder, but that’s all. And we think ghosts are doing all these things because they want some answers. They don’t understand what’s going on with them. Why are you in my house, or, what’s wrong with me, I don’t seem to be able to snap out of it, or whatever. They’ll do what it takes to get your attention, and a lot of people will interpret that as a malevolent being, or as something evil. But all they’re saying is, hey, I want some answers.

Q: Have you ever investigated a supposedly haunted location, only to find that there’s another explanation for the haunting? If so, what do people commonly mistake for ghosts?

A: Most people, believe it or not, seem kind of disappointed. Most people don’t want to hear that they don’t have a ghost. That’s a big reason we don’t charge – cause we don’t want anybody to expect results just because they paid money. We think wiring is a problem – there was one house where there was a tiny gas leak, something they needed to know about anyway, and that’s why they felt strange in a certain area. Sometimes nausea is another symptom of a haunting, because an entity seems to pass right through a person. And when it does that, it makes people sick. If that’s happening in one area only, check to see if you have a gas leak, and if you don’t, then you might have an entity.

There are other cases where people thought ghosts were driving them insane in the house, and what it really was was limestone – which we have a lot of in Georgia – rubbing together because we’re not in an area where we get seismic activity. And it was producing a high pitched tone that was driving people crazy, and especially the dogs – one had jumped over a fence and had accidentally hung himself. So sometimes there are explanations, but whether it’s gas or limestone rubbing underneath the house, you need to know about those things.

Ghost Orb in Lawrenceville, GA

This photo was taken near a haunted farm in Lawrenceville, Georgia. GHHT members reported “prickly” and “electric” sensations near the barn. See the orb? 

Q: Tell us about the scariest place you’ve ever investigated?

A: The scariest place I ever investigated was a house in Norcross, Georgia, where a bunch of us had to sit on a bed in the dark. And we were trying to recreate a scene in which these little girls had seen a woman walk into the room. And we did simultaneously see a gray shadow walk from the hallway through the bedroom – I mean, every hair on the back of my neck was standing straight up – and into this bathroom. We called the family and we looked in the bathroom, and we would see a silhouette of a woman with almost 1960s flipped up hair. And in our pictures, we get balls of light there. That was scary – because it looked like a human, it was a shadow, it was in the dark, we could see her outline and her hair, and there were over ten people there seeing the same thing. It was incredible to see something that everyone else was seeing.

Q: How can someone take a picture of a ghost? Are there certain conditions that must be met?

A: Not really. It seems easier to get them at night. We get more of them in cemeteries than in homes. The higher speed film you’re using, the better your chances of catching something that’s going fast, which they do seem to move at a pretty quick clip. You can get them in the day in haunted places, just not as frequently as at night. It’s a big misconception that you can only get mist or globules or balls of light at night – you can certainly get them during the day.

And something you need to look for – you need to make sure it’s really recorded on the negative. If it’s a mist, you have to make sure that it isn’t something that goes over the negative and into the border of the negative. If it goes over into the border, it’s probably a film flaw. And you need to make sure it’s not a lens flare, and that you weren’t shooting toward the light. So if you’re careful about ruling those sorts of things out, and once you have what’s actually recorded onto the negative, then you may have an anomaly there that could be a ghost.

Q: There are numerous fake photos of ghosts out there, especially on the Internet. Are there other ways to fake a ghost photograph other than what you just mentioned?

A: It’s hard to fake a negative, which is why I only use 35mm film. It’s easy to fake (with digital cameras). Poloroids don’t have a negative, but they are little bit harder to fake. Anything loaded onto the Web – this is why I prefer to have a look at the negative first, because it’s just so easy to change.

Ghost Light in Cumming, GA Cemetery

Stream of light over a grave in a Cumming, Georgia cemetery.

Q: How can you convince people that the photos on your Web site aren’t fake?

A: Well, we have public meetings about every other month. We keep all our negatives on file, and if anybody wants to see them, they’re welcome to them. We do have photo experts that come, and they want to see. One of our members has a light box, which she brings (to the meetings), and they can look at (photos) on the light box. They’re usually stumped, and we like that.

Q: Many people still equate an interest or belief in ghosts with witchcraft or Satanism. Why do you think some people refuse to believe in ghosts, and are scared of people who do?

A: Because they don’t understand what a ghost is, and they also don’t understand what witchcraft is and Wicca is. If they understood what that stuff was, they would know it was in no way related to ghost hunting. Lots of people are fearful of ghost hunters and ghost hunting out of ignorance. I don’t know how else to put it – they’re just not educated in these areas. Or they’ve been taught ignorance all their life – you know, fire-and-brimstone kind of stuff. They’re afraid to look beyond what they can see immediately. It’s too bad. I think it’s terrible to be raised that way, but I see it time and time again.

Ghost smoke in Monroe, GA cemetery

“Smoke” spotted over a grave in Harris Cemetery, Monroe, Georgia. 

Q: Do we all have the ability to “sense” ghosts, or does it take a special kind of person?

A: Nope, I think everybody can do it. I think everybody has intuition. I don’t know a single person who can’t tell when the back of their head is being stared at. That’s intuition, because I know that I don’t have an eye on the back of my head. You can sense ghosts because ghosts seem to effect the immediate area. You just have to know the symptoms. Anybody can sense those kind of things.

Q: The American South is well known for its numerous ghost stories. Why do think so many ghost stories come from here?

A: Part of it is probably romanticism with the Civil War. That war took out so many people and it’s still romanticized to this day. People still want to connect with the Civil War, so I think we’re holding on to our ghosts.

Also, this part of the country is where Native Americans were driven off of their land. They had such a connection to the land and to their burial sites and their ancestors. This being the Trail of Tears through the north part of Georgia, it’s not hard to imagine them leaving behind spirits and ghosts to protect whatever it was that they were leaving behind. Some of them wouldn’t go, and they were killed.

But a lot of it, I think, is because of what happened here, not so much that more people die here. I think it’s just we’re attached to the history of what has happened here.

Ghost orb in Athens, GA cemetery

Ball of light on the move in an Athens, Georgia cemetery. A sudden temperature drop into the negatives was recorded at this time. 

Q: You and I will be hunting for ghosts in the area of New Hope Church in Georgia. This place is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Georgia. What happened there?

A: There was a particularly nasty, bloody battle that occurred there. Also, anywhere where we have a little creek or a water source – I’ve had people tell me that they can’t stand to be around the creek that’s up there – that’s another source of energy that we think entities draw from. So if you’ve had something terrible happen there where a ghost might have been left behind, not getting it, or in denial that they are dead, and you have an energy source to draw from, you might feel the effect of that more readily.

Also, there was a plane crash there, and talk about a death where you aren’t expecting it, where you might be in denial that you’re dead! It’s all in the same area. The Indians cursed the land when they were driven off of it. So you’ve got a multitude of elements contributing to why there might be more ghosts in this little area than in other areas.

There’s also a phenomenon known as “residual haunting” where the spirit or soul has not stayed behind – it’s not a ghost. Rather, it’s a recording. Just like we put down a voice on magnetic tape, and we put down our image on magnetic videotape so, I think, do we put some kind – especially if it’s a highly charged moment – of recording of ourselves on these naturally occurring geomagnetic fields that are everywhere. And what the trip is, I don’t know. There’s got to be some kind of trip mechanism. It could be that geomagnetic fields are stronger on this particular day when people might see a bunch of soldiers, for example. It’s not a yearly thing, it just happens to be this day.

Ghost smoke in Monroe, GA cemetery

“Smoke” spotted over a grave in Harris Cemetery, Monroe, Georgia. 

Also, there are things that effect our environment outside of our atmosphere like solar flares, the moon. So some people will only go ghost hunting when there’s a full moon, or a new moon – we have stronger geomagnetic fields then. I’ve gotten symptoms of ghosts at all times, but it might more likely that people see a residual haunting at those times when the geomagnetic fields are strongest.

Q: People have seen what you’re describing in New Hope?

A: Yes, at that location. You know, almost any battlefield location in the state, actually. Usually what happens is that people will mistake these ghosts for re-enactors until they fade away!

Q: What do you think the odds are we’ll find something?

A: Pretty good at New Hope. I would say 80-90 percent. We’ll have to check the phase of the moon (laughs).

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7 Responses to “Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Georgia: History and Ghost Hunt”

Robbie Scifres:

That last picture is not smoke. I can clearly see a head with a hat on it, two eyes and a mouth, a neck and shoulders and one arm is very distinct. That my dear is a ghost, or I will eat my hat!




My spouse and I have experienced all of the phenomena you describe while walking the Pickett’s Mill Battlefield at night: the sudden, almost palpable sense of dread, the sparks of light seen in the woods, the ungodly noise that sounds like a mortally wounded animal, and the “rushing” sound. In one instance, we actually felt a sudden and inexplicable rush of air against our faces and torsos and a definite feeling of pressure, as if something very large moving at a very high speed had sailed through the air just inches away from us. It was a rather unnerving experience.
Having lived next to Pickett’s Mill for decades, even long before it was opened to the public as a state historic site, we’ve always enjoyed walking there and enjoying its extraordinary natural beauty. That is, until the Department of Natural Resources decided to pulp out all its pines this year, leaving what was once acres and acres of beautiful forest looking like Sherman had decided to come back: scarred, broken and denuded. I can’t help but wonder how all the poor souls who lost their lives there during the battle would feel about this thoughtless destruction taking place on what should be regarded as hallowed ground. I have a feeling they wouldn’t be at all happy about it. And we the living shouldn’t be, either.


Pat, thanks for sharing your experience!


Pat, maybe the pine was pulped to return the land to a beautiful hardwood forest, hmmmm?

Hell Hole - Battle of New Hope Church:

[…] Story Credits | Where Did This Story Come From? […]


I went with a ranger’s wife when the trees were thinned out of Pickett’s Mill near the cabin. They were hardwood stumps, not pine. I was there during the re-enactment. The men spent the night. There were children and a family in the cabin. There was a camp fire and cannon firing for the 150 year marking of the battle. A horse did not want to walk to the canon’s until I turned around and walked toward’s the cannon’s. I dressed like a blacksmith even though I didn’t have tools for being a blacksmith. I also did not have fancy clothing women wore. There is a library anyone can check books out. There is a chess game. I have donated some books. One was a book on Civil War orphans in Pennsylvania. I am glad there is a Buddy System movement by the National Park Service. Please read Murder on the Silver Comet Trail on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. It is a comedy. I wrote Murder on the Silver Comet Trail 2 years before Jennifer Ewing was murdered.

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