Mississippi ghost story: A rose for Beulah

Published 10:00 am Sunday, August 5, 2018

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) — Stacey Humphreys and her husband laughed when they heard that an antebellum house they were buying had been haunted by a ghost named Beulah.

They aren’t laughing anymore.

“I didn’t believe the stories,” she said, “but I know of no other way to explain what’s happening.”

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Late last year, Humphreys and her husband, Jimmy, were looking to move from Arizona to Missouri.

“They had a great little historic area (in Hannibal),” she said. “We were looking to a buy a Victorian (home).”

Because of her online searches, Facebook posted an ad for an 1800s home in Holly Springs. Humphreys did her best to ignore the ad, her mind going back to Missouri.

When Humphreys returned to Facebook, she saw the same ad again for the 1800s home in Holly Springs.

Humphreys looked again at Linden Hill, built in Greek revival style in 1841. “It’s $65,000 and it looks like a mansion,” she said. Then she found a home for her mother just down the street.

On the bottom of the ad for Linden Hill, there was a comment from a woman named Charlotte Nairmore: “Beautiful home but it does have a live-in-ghost, we all fondly call Bulah (sic).”

Beulah Cawthon and her family lived at Linden Hill in the early 1900s. By the time she was 25, she had begun to suffer mental problems.

In 1919, her family committed her to the Mississippi State Insane Asylum in Jackson (the same property where the University of Mississippi Medical Center is now located).

She was diagnosed as suffering from “circular” manic depression, now known as bipolar disorder, where people swing from the highs of euphoria to the lows of depression, sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts.

After showing improvement, she returned home several months later.

Nairmore, who grew up at Linden Hill, said she was told that Beulah’s parents “woke up at midnight, and she was standing over their bed, holding a hatchet. They immediately shipped her off (to the mental institution).”

She arrived back at the asylum Aug. 29, 1920, and never saw freedom again.

Beulah was eventually transferred to the East Mississippi State Hospital, where she died in 1968 — two years before the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug lithium to treat bipolar disorder.

Her brother had her body returned to Holly Springs, where she was buried with other family members in the cemetery known as “the Little Arlington of the South.”

After seeing the online comment about Linden Hill’s ghost, Humphreys reached out to Nairmore, now 67 and living in Horton, Alabama.

Nairmore told her the story of Beulah Cawthon and how the Cawthon family had sold Linden Hill to the Akins family.

“It was my grandmother’s house,” Nairmore said. “That’s what I call home.”

Nairmore talked of seeing doors open by themselves, chandeliers swaying without wind, and sounds that had no explanation.

One night, Nairmore heard what sounded like “boots with spurs on them,” she said. “I always thought it was a Confederate soldier, one of (Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl) Van Dorn’s men (who raided and destroyed Union supplies in the town in 1862).

When she was about 17, her uncle Billy conducted a séance. She and her two cousins sat on the floor with him.

“Afterward,” she said, “we heard all kinds of noises and doors slamming.”

Months later, in the summer of 1968, she was sleeping when she felt someone grab her arm, and she yelled out. When her family rushed in, they found “a handprint on my arm,” she said.

One relative reported having his covers lifted up by a ghost. Another talked of being touched by a ghost. Some were so spooked that they refused to spend the night.

Nairmore told Humphreys that when her grandmother sold the house in the early 1990s and moved out, “the wallpaper literally fell off the wall.”

Humphreys shared this conversation with her husband, who regarded talk of ghosts as “ridiculous.”

“We laughed our asses off,” she recalled.

Talk of ghosts did nothing to dissuade them. “I thought, for $65,000,” she said, “we can live with a ghost.”

Humphreys and her mother arrived at Linden Hill to paint and get the house ready. They slept the first night on a huge blow-up mattress.

In the middle of the night, her mother said she heard what sounded like “eight men banging (around) in the back of the house.”

The next night, at about 2:30 a.m., Humphreys heard what sounded like a moan or cry, she said. “I thought, ‘It’s got to be a raccoon or something.’ Now I’m scared.”

Later on, she said, she heard two wrought-iron chairs dragging on the tile floor and began to smell castor oil.

“Don’t ever Google that,” she said. “It says it’s the smell of evil.”

She talked to her daughter, who recommended she use sage and bless the home. She did that.

Before leaving three hours early for the airport, she decided to write a note to Beulah to explain that she was leaving but would be back with her husband, she said. “I was worried she would wreck the house.”

When Humphreys returned with her family, “all (my) wedding pictures with Jimmy were crooked,” she said.

The family continued to experience strange things. The TV came on by itself.

Humphreys tried to approach each event scientifically, she said. “I know it’s a remote control, and it’s never happened before, but maybe it’s something.”

After the family witnessed the lights turning on and off by themselves, she called an electrician to search for wire damage.

“Nothing,” she said. “Nothing was wrong with it.”

Jimmy said he finally yelled out to the ghost, “If you want the lights on, you can pay the damn electric bill.”

Since then, he said, the lights have remained off.

The couple’s daughter, Brittany, said she saw a ghost one night — a girl about 3 feet tall, dressed in white, running down the hall and knocking a hat onto the floor.

The sight terrified Brittany so much that she left the house.

Humphreys said one night while taking a shower, she heard other water running and thought maybe the washer had sprung a leak.

But when she pulled back the shower curtain, she said she saw both of the sink’s faucets on, full blast.

She saw her pit bull, King, who normally waits by the shower, 25 feet away in the kitchen.

The dog appeared to be staring at something or someone else, she said. “I was saying, ‘Come on, King. Come on, King.’”

The dog, however, refused to come.

“I know how crazy it sounds to talk about ghosts because not many people have experienced it, but here you cannot explain everything that happens.”

One day, she was talking with her husband when a dead-bolt lock opened by itself, she said. “You can shake this door 5,000 times, and it’s never going to open.”

At night, she has heard a woman’s moans, she said. “You freeze in your spot. Your body does not move.”

Her mind whirs, searching for rational explanations, she said. “You think raccoon. Maybe a squirrel. But two nights in a row at about the same time? No. There’s no way that raccoon knew to come back at 2:30.”

She laughs and says she has come to peace with these experiences. “If I can’t explain it,” she said, “it doesn’t freak me out anymore — I just let it go.”

Each month, Humphreys visits the Hillcrest Cemetery and puts a red rose on the grave of Beulah Cawthon.

“The story is she tried to kill her mother and father and injured one of them,” she said. “Did something happen to her? I’ve wondered if maybe she was abused.”

She shook her head at the thought that Beulah spent most of her life locked up. “It’s sad she was there the whole time,” she said.

She put the green stem into the ground behind the headstone, stepped back and stared at the rose. “I feel bad for her, and I want her to know it.”

She paused. “If this can bring her peace, so be it.”