USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘carvings’
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Bateman House

Title: Bateman House

Category: Legend, Ghost-Story

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

In the mid 19th century just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Nellie Weaver (the daughter of the original homeowner) was betrothed to a Mr. Charles Tucker and both resided on the estate. The two had a daughter and Mrs. Weaver was overcome with joy. In her happiness, Mrs. Weaver carved her first name “Nellie” into the window pane of the south parlor at the front of the house.

Sometime after the outbreak of the war, her husband left and was never heard from again. In desperation of funds, Mrs. Weaver opened up the house as a nursery and school before the once great mansion slowly fell into disrepair. Mrs. Weaver continued living in the house until her later eighties and died as a result do to burns she received when her dress caught fire from sparks coming from the fireplace in the rear parlor.

At some point in the 1950s, after several decades of disrepair, a couple purchased the home and renovated it to its past historical being. During its renovation, a construction worker propped up a ladder against the salon window and accidentally broke the pane with Nellie’s name in it. The pane was cleared away and replaced with a new one.

Sometime after this, Mrs. Bateman (who purchased the mansion along with her husband) went to close the blinds in the south parlor after noticing how warm and sunny the room became. As she closed the blinds, she looked to the pane glass surrounding the front window and saw that the name “Nellie” had been re-carved into the glass in the same handwriting and font size as the earlier message. It had been carved from the inside of the home.

Context/Significance:

The Bateman House is located in Columbus Mississippi on the outskirts of town. Built around 153 years ago by a rich merchant, William B. Weaver, this top drawer 1848 Italianate mansion has “six soaring fluted columns, and delicate arches across the roof of the front verandah.” The inside is just as glorious. There are twin parlors that showcase dazzling chandeliers that reflect in room mirrors. The ceiling is decorated with lovely plaster medallions of acanthus leaves. Servant’s houses were also built on the property. When finished, it was considered one of the finest mansions in town.

Many think that the spirit of Nellie is letting the Batemans know how happy she is that they restored her beloved home. The Bateman house is now open for tours and the carving can be seen in the glass by all tourists/visitors to the site.

Personal Thoughts:

My mother grew up in Columbus Mississippi and knows of the homes origins from personal experience. When visiting family, my mother has taken me to the house and I’ve been granted the opportunity to see the etching for myself. It’s much smaller than I had perviously thought, and could conceivably have been done by the Batemans as a way of creating a tourist industry based on the collection of Southern ghost stories populating the region.

As a fan of ghost stories myself, I can’t help but believe and cherish the story. My grandfather taught this story to my mother who then taught this story to me.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Phallic Symbolism on Homes in Pompeii

The informant, a 66-year-old American woman (my grandmother), has frequently traveled to Italy for the past several decades. During a celebration for my mother’s birthday, I pulled my grandmother aside and asked her if any particular Italian traditions or beliefs have stood out to her over the course of her travels, and she laughed.

“Oh my, you’re in for a treat. In Pompeii, the buildings were preserved in ash. After they had been dug out, many of the doors had carvings over them that were perfectly preserved. On more than one house, large penises are carved on the door. This would signify that it was a fertile home and would help whoever lived there to continue to have children and ensure success for a family. I’ve also heard that it was a way of bragging. Hey, if I had a large penis to brag about I’d probably do the same thing.”

Since these carvings would have been made in a pre-Christian era, they preceded the more familiar carving of a fish over one’s door, which Christians would use as a symbol to signify that their home was a safe place of worship. It is interesting to consider that in the cultural context of Pompeii thousands of years ago, representations of basic human anatomy were appropriate for placement in the extremely intimate barrier to one’s home–at the liminal divide between public and private. In America today, it goes without saying that a homeowner’s association would be less than pleased at the sight of a penis carved on someone’s porch. Perhaps this change has arisen because in the contemporary United States we no longer view having a fertile home and being able to sustain a family as an extraordinary accomplishment worth bragging about, instead we see it as something rather ordinary, but thousands of years ago during the Roman period it may have been looked upon as much more of an accomplishment worth bragging about to be able to provide for one’s family and maintain a fertile home.

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