When Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson first began work at the old house-turned Chamber location, she was unaware of any hints of hauntings there. Apparently, no such info was included in the job description.
But as time went on, she heard tell from previous staff members of strange happenings.
“Lights on phones indicating another station’s phone in use when the building wasn’t occupied by anyone else,” Thompson explained. “Creaking on steps. And a shadow in a chair.”
Though renovated in 1991, the Chamber of Commerce building, 102 S. Main Street, is housed in a building that was constructed sometime in the decade of the 1890s.
According to information from a Historical Society publication, Ed L. Smith moved to Statesboro near the end of the 19th century and purchased the property with the existing wood frame farmhouse.
The Smith family raised four children in the home, and after his mother’s death in 1945, the youngest child, Harry, moved back into the family home and opened Harry W. Smith Jewelers just down the street from the home, almost in the center of town.
A couple of family members shared that they’re not aware of any unusual incidents when the home belonged to their family.
“Were I a ghost,” pondered Thompson of previous staff members’ hearsay, “I think a historic home in the downtown district would be a delightful place of residence. The attic would be a great spot for a ghost to hide out during the day. If there is a ghost, he is a gentleman indeed, having never pestered staff or upset operations.”
Just down the street at the Averitt Center for the Arts and the Emma Kelly Theater, however, some of the ghosts have been known to act out.
“We have four ghosts here,” said Tony Phillips, program director for the Averitt Center for the Arts. “In the Averitt Center, a gallery ghost and a third floor ghost. And in the Emma Kelly Theater, there’s one on the stage and one in the house.”
Phillips’ personal encounter took place last fall.
“My wife Diane and I were giving an engagement party for our daughter, Madison, and her fiancé Garrett ,” said Phillips. “I’d rented the third floor and came in early to get things ready. I was here sprucing up the room as you do before a party.”
Phillips said he was listening to music on his cell phone and the music stopped when his playlist ended.
“I just kept on working. After a few minutes of working in that quietness, I started hearing someone calling my name. And there was no one else in the building except me.”
The beckoning, Phillips said, was coming from another room down the hall. “Like they were calling out for me to come down there: ‘Toonnnyyy.’ And I was like, OK…. could anybody else have heard that, or was that just me?”
Phillips went back to work, but soon heard his name called again.
“At that point, I realized that I did not want to be here with them by myself. So I left the building,” he said.
The two theater ghosts date back farther than Phillips’ more recent experience.
“A former theater housekeeper, who often cleaned in the theater alone at night, was working on the stage,” explained Phillips. “Jennifer Mingas got tired and sat down on the edge of the stage to take a break. She felt like someone sat down beside her, very close to her. And she felt like they were aggravated.”
Phillips said Mingas described the feeling of someone leaning against her, then pushing really hard.
“When she felt like she was being moved, she took her vacuum cleaner and left,” Phillips said.
The housekeeper’s next experience involved ghost No.2 in the theater.
“The one we call the house ghost. Jennifer said she was vacuuming and could see a ghost standing by a column. She felt no danger this time, no hostility. He was simply there observing, almost like it was his house. She didn’t feel the need to flee,” Phillips said.
When Mingas described the ghost to Phillips, she said he was tall and thin and wearing blue Dickey work pants, a black belt and a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Fast-forward almost 10 years, and the same ghost was spotted during a children’s summer camp, called No Joe’s Circus Camp.
“On the second day of camp, No Joe’s wife came to find me. She said, ‘I don’t know if you know this, but you have a ghost in the theater,’” he said.
Phillips said she described the ghost: tall and thin, wearing blue Dickey work pants, a black belt and a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Jackie Gordon, former Operations Manager and theater instructor at the Emma Kelly Theater, described her experience with the second Averitt Center ghost.
“I was alone in the building — I was often the last one to leave. I came across the gallery to go to the elevator. I felt something grab my shirt and pull me back. Now, I’m very much a skeptic. I’m practical, so I thought to myself, ‘What did I just snag my shirt on?’ I looked around, but there wasn’t a damn thing around there. I’m a klutz, so it wouldn’t have surprised me if I’d run into something. But there was nothing there.”
Gordon said aloud, “That is enough of that. Don’t touch me again.”
Like Phillips, Gordon decided to leave the building at that point.
One other time, Gordon said she was working in the ticket area and no one else was in the building.
“My dog suddenly sat down, gave a low growl and stared out the window,” she recalled.
Gordon said she’d also heard lore of a dancing ghost on the stage and someone moving things from seat I-9 randomly.
She remembered hearing the story that a bank robber attempted a robbery when the Averitt Center building housed a bank. “When the police arrived, he killed himself. We think that’s the angry ghost that reached out and grabbed me.”
Four ghosts dancing and acting and grabbing and lurking.
The Beaver House Restaurant, on South Main Street just next to Pizza Hut, boasts seven ghosts.
The prominent restaurant that sprawls on a bit of property across from the library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The two-story building with a wrap-around porch and large Corinthian columns was built in 1911 by successful businessman, John Alexander McDougald.
McDougald was elected mayor of Statesboro about this time and also owned a great deal of property on Highway 67 that he planted pine trees, many of which can still be seen today.
Clay Beaver, owner of The Beaver House Restaurant, noted the family tree. “John Alexander McDougald married Mella and they had seven children. One of those kids, Ruth, married Roy Beaver from North Carolina. Ruth and Roy had three kids: Johnny, Ann and Jane.”
Beaver went on to say that Johnny married Sue, and the couple had three boys: West, Clay and Hank.
That genealogy is important to understand the family members that continue to roam the building, according to Beaver.
“My great-grandfather, John Alexander McDouglad, is always in a pair of denim pants. I see him cross the top of the stairs and go into the master bedroom,” he said.
Mella is ghost No. 2 in Beaver’s explanation. “She wears a high-collar dress and hat.” He describes his grandfather Roy as a very large man while alive: 6’6” and 480 pounds.
“Ruth wears a white linen dress,” said Beaver. She walks through the back door at 8:15 in the morning. That’s why we don’t come to work until 9. If I need to get here early, I don’t come until 8:20.”
Apparently, two other uncles appear occasionally, but Beaver said he doesn’t remember their names and both men died of tuberculosis.
And then there’s Annie.
“Annie is seen by the most people. She was one of the original seven children, but died when she was about 6 or 7,” Beaver said, pointing to an area behind the Pizza Hut. “She fell out of a tree back there, broke her neck and died of pneumonia.”
The first time Beaver encountered Annie was late one evening, when he and a friend were in the house alone.
“It was about 10:30 and we started down the stairs. Annie was kneeling down by the courting bench in the foyer. She ran across the foyer to the living room. My friend and I took off running out the back door and to the duplex where I lived,” he said.
The problem was, Beaver then remembered he hadn’t locked the back door and had to return.
“Annie always has on a brown crushed-velvet dress and bobbed-off brunette hair. Daytime. Nightime. She’s been seen all times of day. Customers have been known to ask us who the little girl is who keeps looking at them in the window,” he said.
Once when a group from Georgia Southern’s Psychology Department was dining in the restaurant, the guest speaker approached Beaver’s dad and asked, “Who is the big man that walks the house?”
Misunderstanding her, he answered John Alexander McDougald built the house. He said that she responded, “No, that’s a small man. This is a big man and he’s sitting in a red chair with a green ottoman, next to the radio.”
“My dad’s face went pale, because his dad, Roy, always sat in a red chair with a green ottoman and listened to the radio,” he said.
Beaver has no idea why the extra, non-paying customers but former residents of the home are there. “I think they’re here to protect the home.”
Downtown Statesboro legend and lore? Uncanny coincidences? Freaky facts? Or haunted happenings? October’s the perfect month for you to decide and perhaps even encounter some history of your own.