A Berrien County Ghost Story

Haints of Berrien County

Just in time for Halloween, another Berrien County ghost story. This one comes from Dr. James Rountree Folsom, father of Montgomery M. Folsom. James R. Folsom, who was a teacher in Berrien County, and later, Postmaster at Cecil, GA, wrote occasionally of Berrien County oddities.  Folsom was a member of Salem Methodist Church; The Church cemetery holds the marked graves of many of the Folsom family connection, among them the grave of Dr. James Rountree Folsom.

Tifton Gazette
December 1, 1893

Berrien County Ghost Story

       Dr. J. R. Folsom, of Cecil, in a letter to the Atlanta Journal under a date of November 26, [1893] recalls a strange story the scene of which is partly laid in Tifton. The facts were true as stated; the editor did not visit the house, but an attachee of the Gazette did and said it was absolutely true, and he was entirely unable to account for it. We do not know whether the disturbing element followed Mr. Bradler away from Tifton, but the same dwelling is now occupied and the ghost has not been heard there since the present occupant moved into it: ” A ghost story of chronic type is and has been going on for some time a short notice of which appeared in the Tifton Gazette some months ago is fresh “on the tap” this morning.
       As related by a gentleman who spent some time trying to unravel the mystery, the story is as follows:
During the first part of the year – in February or March – various noises began to be heard at the house of Mr. Rufus Bradler an engineer working for the Needham Lumber company, near Lenox, a small station on the Georgia Southern and Florida railroad in Berrien county.
      The sounds made at intervals, were like knocks on the floor and wall, rattling chains, and other sounds. Search was diligently made by the Bradler family and later on for the cause, without however, learning anything in regard to it. On one occasion, when the knocking seemed to be done by some one under the floor. Mr. Gillis attempted to shoot where the blows falling against the floor, but his efforts seemed at first to be of no avail. After having snapped several times with his revolver, it fired, but the ball scarcely penetrated the floor, and the knocking continued.
     These noises seem to be always near Mr. Bradler’s little twelve-year old daughter, and her health beginning to decline from the constant annoyance, strong effort were made to solve the mystery. Fires were built in a circle around the house at night the premises repeatedly searched but all to no avail, when Mr. Bradler gave up his job and moved to Tifton, where the annoying sounds followed him.
     After living there some time and the child’s health seeming to be still failing, he again moved to Valdosta.
    “Has the trouble stopped? We would like to know. Mr. Bradler, as said, is a locomotive engineer, and of a class not easily frightened. What can the matter be?

♦♦♦

Tifton Gazette
December 22, 1893
The burning of Prof. Hendricks’ residence, corner of Eight street and Central avenue, recalls the Bradley ghost story. It was the house where that ghost made such wonderful displays of power, and had become known as the “haunted house.” As the house has gone the way of “smoke and ashes” it may not be amiss to enquire what became of the ghost?

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The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado

This blog has commented before on Ray City ghosts and other Haints of Berrien County. One  story from Alapaha, GA concerns the ghost of Ben W. Furlong.

In February of 1887 the Atlanta Constitution reported on a ghost appearing at a Berrien County sawmill.

 A few months ago Berrien county was startled and shocked by the murder of a negro by Ben W. Furlong. The finding of the body of the negro, the suicide of Furlong, and the flight of his accomplices, Lofton and Sharon, made a remarkable story. The strangest part of the story is this; Workmen and laborers, persons living around and employed at the mill, where the tragedy occurred, assert positively that Furlong’s spirit or ghost stalks forth nearly every night, prowls around the mill building and seems sometimes to be examining the machinery. Quite a number of negroes claim to have met the ghost on the railroad track and around the mill at odd times.[6

A recently encountered article from the Valdosta Times, October 2, 1886  provides some of the back story on the guilty wanderings of Furlong’s spirit.

B. W. Furlong
Valdosta Times
Saturday, October 2, 1886

B.W. Furlong Commits Suicide

B.W. Furlong has for several years enjoyed the reputation along the B. & W. road of being a desperado. He has  had more personal difficulties, killed and wounded more people than anybody this side of Texas. The true bills against him in Berrien County alone runs up among the dozens.  Some how he has managed to dodge the officers or to evade the judgment of the law in some way, or else he would have swung, or have been put in the penitentiary long ago.  Such being the character of the man not many tears were shed when then news was made known some days ago that he had committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. Following this information a few days come this special from Alapaha which throws light upon the deed.

“One of the most terrible crimes ever committed in this community has been brought to light to-day. It has been rumored for some days past that B.W. Furlong and others had murdered a negro man near this place and to-day a coroner’s jury was summoned and the investigation led to the discovery of the body buried in the horse lot of Furlong.  The jury will continue the investigation.

“As stated in the News a day or two ago, Furlong was murderously desperate when in his cups. The story of the encounter which resulted in the killing of the negro remains to be learned. There is little doubt but that Furlong’s suicide by taking laudanum was the result of the knowledge that he was suspected of killing the negro, and preferred death to arrest for murder.  A few weeks ago he shot an engineer named Brock, who ran on the Brunswick & Western road.  On another occasion he is said to have almost killed his wife.  No prominent man living in Southwest Georgia in years has borne so wide a reputation of desperation.”

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More Haints of Berrien County

Is Berrien County haunted?

The Columbus Daily Enquirer reported on a “mysterious apparition” that appeared in Berrien County, GA in March of 1879:

 

The Berrien county News has information of a ghost of some other mysterious apparition. It says: “On last Sunday night, as Captain Austin and Mr. J.A. Slater were returning from church, they beheld a strange phenomenon, in the shape of a ball of fire, about the size of a half bushel measure. When first seen, it was near the earth, and about five or six hundred yards distant from them. It rose rapidly until it attained a height of fifty feet when it took a northerly course and traveled at the rate of about twenty miles an hour. After going in that direction for perhaps a quarter of a mile, it turned suddenly and came back to where it started. When it arrived over the place where it was first seen it began a vibratory motion and continued it a few moments, when it fell to the earth and became extinct. The light from this strange body was of a pale, whitish color. Our informant assures us that, at a distance of six or eight hundred yards, the light from it plainly revealed the rough bark on the pine trees it passed.

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The Haints of Berrien County

Georgia ghost stories are told far and wide.   Even the New York times reported on Georgia ‘haunts’, or ‘haints’ as they called the spirits in the old days.  Haints of Berrien County include ghostly sawmill men and the Lantern Man of Ray City.  From the 1850’s to the 1890’s, Georgia’s ghosts were found in the press and literature of America.

“Haunted!”said I; “Do people here [in Georgia] really believe in ghosts?”

“Yes,” said the landlord, “There are thousands, both in this state and South Carolina, who believe in them as firmly as they believe in anything. The old time people all believe  in them.”

                                                                           – in The Roving Editor, James Redpath, 1859

One Berrien County, GA ghost story concerns the ghost of murderer Ben W. Furlong. The Furlong story may not be specific to Ray City History, but more information on the subject would still be interesting.

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