USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi’
Folk Beliefs
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Waverley Mansion

Title: Waverley Mansion

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:

After purchasing the mansion for renovation around the early 1960s, Mrs. Snow began noticing strange and abnormal occurrences around the house. Sometimes when passing by the grand hall and lower ballroom, Mrs. Snow noticed the faint sounds of music and conversation coming from the empty chamber. On a different occasion, Mr. Snow was working in the back fields of the home when he noticed the figure of a confederate solider on horseback riding across his property.

The most striking tale of ghosts on the property stems from a story from Mrs.Snow and other visitors who’ve come to experience the estate. When Mrs. Snow was working on the second floor in the upper dining room, she heard a young girl’s voice calling for her mother. Believing the voice to belong to one of her own children, Mrs.Snow walked over to the column staircase to look down for the child. When she looked over the balcony, she saw no child but continued to hear the voice coming from the same location. On several other occasions, Mrs. Snow could hear the voice of the girl calling for her mother and once saw her looking down from the balcony down to her.

As history recalls, Waverley mansion once served as a make-shift hospital during the course of the Civil War. Mrs. Snow believes that the ghost of the little girl belongs to a child who might have passed away from illness during the war and her soul is trapped haunting the mansion in search of her late mother. Mrs. Snow and women seem to be the only people who ever encounter the voice of the little girl ghost. The central location of the girls activity stems from the second story bedroom just off of the central staircase.

Mrs. Snow believes that this must have been the bedroom that the girl was kept in and has since kept the bedroom vacant and the bed made. Patrons to the estate and The Snows themselves have both seen the impression of the little girl’s body made on the comforter. Mrs. Snow has walked up to the comforter and smoothed it out only to have the impression of the body re-appear hours later.

Context/Significance:

Waverley mansion is a Southern plantation home located in Columbus/West Point Mississippi directly 10 miles outside of West Point. The plantation is settled around acres of cotton and includes such artifacts as an abandoned house, family graveyard, a collection of exotic peacocks, gardens, orchards and livestock. The mansion was constructed in the mid 1850s and later bought in 1962 by the Snow family and has since been renovated to its original glory. The house fell into disrepair upon reaching the end of the Young family line in 1912 before being purchased by the Snows.

The mansion is claimed to be haunted by a collection of ragged spirits. While almost all of them are declared harmless and welcoming by the Snow family, more than one person has claimed a supernatural experience on the property. The house is now open for tours most days of the week save for holidays and religious celebrations.

Personal Thoughts:

As many of these Southern ghost stories seem to go, I grew up immersed in the experience. Since a young age, my family has been making road-trips and visits to the heartland of “Dixie” for the sole purpose of familial exploration and reconnecting. My mother and grandfather (both hailing lineage to the location) have made a point of visiting these historic landmarks of the region.

The main take away I got from visiting Waverley was how sad and lonely the property feels despite the visits it receives from locals and tourists on a daily basis. I haven’t visited since I was around the age of seven, but I remember the peacocks and tapestry filed rooms almost perfectly. While I never saw the ghost myself, perhaps I was too young and distracted to pay attention to such things, I do not doubt the ghosts existence. I live for the ghost stories of the South that developed during the turn of the 20th century, and feel that they hold a special place in my heart due to their historic and ageless appeal.

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Columbus, MS; Pilgrimage Week

Title: Columbus, MS; Pilgrimage Week

Category: Town Celebration/Holiday

Informant: Lieanne Walker

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 60s

Occupation: Blue Collar— Homemaker, stockman, Home Depot Employee, etc.

Residence: Columbus, MS

Date of Collection: 4/21/18

Description:

The town of Columbus, Mississippi holds a pilgrimage week every year to commiserate the town’s history. Settled in the deep South, pilgrimage week revolves around the period just before the Civil War and reconstruction (mid. 19th Century). Pilgrimage week is generally held in the Spring, sometimes early April, and lasts approximately five days.

During the week, one of the main events is antebellum tours. Due to the nature of plantation style living during that era, a multitude of homes were built in that period and hold much of the town’s history and significance as a trade hub and economic cross-roads for cotton, molasses, and tobacco. Many of the homes were kept and maintained by families that have inherited the lands.

While not all of the homes have remained, the ones that are often house relics, clothing, and historic narratives. People living in these homes will open up their estates during the week and dress in clothing passed down from their ancestors. This clothing might include: Confederate uniforms, hoop skirts, antebellum dresses, coat and ties, etc. Women will often wear bonnets and carry fans. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to tour these houses and are sometimes invited to rent out rooms for bed and breakfast.

During the week there are festivities that happen such as recipe contests, history reports, and parades.

Presiding over the festival is a Pilgrimage court. The pilgrimage court includes a king, queen, ladies, and gentleman. The Pilgrimage king and queen are chosen for being prominent young member of the community that uphold the town’s traditions. The pilgrimage queen is usually a first year college student studying at the local University where the pilgrimage king is typically a senior in high school. The court is comprised of high school males and females from the upperclassman level. The king and queen of pilgrimage week are responsible for attending specific antebellum tours, hosting events at their respective homes, and participating in the pilgrimage week parade. The two are crowned at the end of the celebration during the pilgrimage ball (the concluding ceremony of the event). The king and queen will usually also have a large banner or sign outside of their homes indicating their role in the celebration.

In the evening, candle-lit tours of some of these homes will be offered as well as cemetery tours. Younger members of the community (high school underclassman and below) will volunteer to research and dress up as some of the prominent past leaders of the past community and stand by their graves to give information and tell stories to passerby. These tours are held after sun down and lead by candlelight.

Context/Significance:

The Columbus Spring Pilgrimage is an award-winning event that has been widely recognized as one of the best and most authentic home tours in the South. The antebellum mansions of Columbus are impeccably maintained and as resplendent as ever. Many home tours feature recreated activities of the 1800s, complete with period costumes, which add excitement and even more authenticity to this historic event.

Personal Thoughts:

Columbus pilgrimage week is a way for both residents and visitors to celebrate the history of the town’s past while appreciating the aspects of Southern culture that bring fame to the area. Tourism is a main function of this event as well. When I was younger, my mother brought me to pilgrimage week once when visiting relatives in the area. Similar to the way people will make pilgrimages for religious purposes or self exploration, I felt then and still feel now a connection to the area and a bond with their history. While I’m not sure whether or not I’d call myself personally a “Southerner,” my roots bring me back to the area time and time again. Getting to visit and take part in these pilgrimage activities help give new meaning to the life my ancestors once lived and helps me get a better picture of who I am on an individual level as well.

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MS College for Women: Old Maid’s Gate

Title: MS College for Women: Old Maid’s Gate

Category: Curse/ Conversion Magic

Informant: Lieanne Walker

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 60s

Occupation: Blue Collar— Homemaker, stockman, Home Depot Employee, etc.

Residence: Columbus, MS

Date of Collection: 4/21/18

Description:

The Old Maid’s Gate on The Mississippi College for Women’s campus has a curse associated with it. Women entering campus on foot from a certain drop off location will sometimes purposefully avoid the gate in order to not have to go through a charm of reversal in order to undo to curse. The gate is on the corner of campus in a  central location (making it a nuisance to avoid or have to follow through with), and appears to look like any other marble statue. However, if a woman is entering campus through the gate (and there are only a limited number of gates that one can enter the camps through), then she has to walk backwards under the gate all the way down that sidewalk of campus until she reaches the statue at the end of the park, turns around, and kisses it— This statue is known as the “kissing rock.” If the woman passing under the gate fails to do this, then she will grow up to become an old maid.

Context/Significance:

The “W” as the college is known, is famous for a few ghost stories and superstitions. This one in particular is special since there is a way of reversing the outcome of the curse. Since the “W” is a women’s college, its not surprising that this story would revolve around something bad that could happen to women in particular. Becoming an “old maid” is an irrelevant but somewhat universal fear shared by a majority of women, and the “W” being a location that houses a large number of women at a young age, it’s not surprising that a common fear at that location would be ending up alone.

Also, during the time that this tradition was probably established, in earlier years it was more common for women to have to rely on men for a sustainable lifestyle. Marriage held more importance and it was something you’d never want to be cursed from if possible.

Personal Thoughts:

My Aunt attended the “W” when she went to college and I remember her telling us the story of the old maid’s gate. When my mother tells the story she say s what happened was that her family was taking Aunt Chris back to school one semester and everyone was piled in the car to drop her off. When they arrived at the College my Grandfather prompted her to get out of the car. Aunt Chris refused and asked to be dropped off at another open gate to the school. My grandfather was refusing until she told him the story of the Old Maid’s gate and how she didn’t want to have to go through the ritual in order to carry her things back to her dorm. While they sat in the car, they actually watched another girl go through the conversion as they watched— They then agreed to drop her off at another gate.

Annotation:

For additional history behind MS College for Women’s Old Maid’s Gate, read an exert from:

Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women

MLA Citation:

Pieschel, Bridget Smith. Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2009.

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