Local author seeks local ghosts and legends

Published 6:16 am Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Special to The Post-Searchlight

Local author, Dr. Cheryl Carvajal, is looking for a few good ghosts. Carvajal is set to write Spirits and Legends of the Chattahoochee Trace, a book examining local hauntings and history found in the 18-county “Chattahoochee Trace” region of southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia.

In cooperation with the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, Carvajal hopes to uncover both the haunted places along the Chattahoochee Trace and the history that is behind each ghostly legend. She will use the stories to explain the region’s history and events, especially examining the origins of the ghost stories themselves, from the time span of their haunting to the possible reasons why their legends linger.

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“The ghost stories themselves are fascinating,” said Carvajal, “but the history adds flesh to what would otherwise be just another ghost story. The truth is, this area of the country is filled with history, and much of it isn’t found in established history books. My research will be a way for people to enjoy a good tale, while also learning more about the history of our own area.”

Mike Bunn, Executive Director of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, notes that “examining these type of stories is an exciting new project for the HCC,” and observed that Carvajal’s effort “marks the first time we have sought to investigate some of this area’s most enduring folklore in this way. We think it will be a fun book with broad appeal.”

From Civil War battles to the Creek Trail of Tears, the counties of the Chattahoochee Trace promoted by the HCC have been the setting for numerous dramatic historical events important in both regional and national history.

“Often these events leave behind traces of people involved, especially when people have died in the midst of battle or in some other dramatic fashion,” Carvajal said. “I first have to locate the stories, then investigate the circumstances behind the local legends.”

First, Carvajal needs the ghost stories. Unlike so many other kinds of events in local culture, very few hauntings are catalogued in newspapers or public records.

“Many people know the stories, but they are spread by word-of-mouth, often from generation to generation,” said Carvajal. “As more people live or work around the haunting, the firsthand experiences multiply, but they are still rarely recorded. I depend on the willingness of witnesses to tell me what they saw, what they experienced.”

The book will cover seven counties in Alabama: Chambers, Lee, Russell, Barbour, Dale, Henry and Houston, creating a “driving tour” south, along the Chattahoochee. Then the book will trace the stories back north through eleven Georgia counties: Decatur, Seminole, Early, Clay, Randolph, Quitman, Stewart, Chattahoochee, Muscogee, Harris and Troup.

The Historic Chattahoochee Commission, will be assisting with the research and publicity for the book. The HCC is a non-profit organization “charged with the responsibility of promoting tourism and historic preservation throughout” the Chattahoochee river corridor.

Carvajal researched similar kinds of stories when she lived in Independence, Kan. Her book Ghosts of Southeast Kansas details 55 local ghost stories, from the Dalton Gang, which still haunts a cemetery in Coffeeville, to a Native American curse on a local river. She has also taught writing for more than 18 years.

If you have a ghost story or legend to tell, whether involving a public building or private residence, contact Carvajal by phone at (229) 246-3225, e-mail her at shakespeare824@hotmail.com, or write to her at 142 Douglas Pointe Drive, Bainbridge, GA 39819.

You can also contact Bunn at the Historic Chattahoochee Commission at (334) 687-9755, e-mail him at trace@eufaularr.com, or write to P.O. Box 33, Eufaula, AL 36072-0033.