By Jason A. Smith
The Halloween celebration continues in Henry and Clayton counties with some businesses in the Southern Crescent enjoying the spookiness on a constant basis.
Bell, Book & Candle in McDonough hosts a Haunted History Tour every Saturday, from 5-6:30 p.m. The tour takes participants through a number of the city's oldest structures, with tales of ghost sightings along the way.
Shannon Cannon is the owner of the bookstore. She says she began learning about paranormal activity in the city while gathering information on the history of McDonough.
The results were "very interesting," says Cannon. "As we talked to merchants in the area, they immediately began telling us standing legends of hauntings going on in the city, for years and years."
Those hauntings, notes Cannon, may have originated long before any of the land in McDonough was developed, thanks to a group of people with a grudge.
"When McDonough was founded with land ceded from the Creek Indians, they [the Creeks] were to retain their hunting and water rights, but that didn't happen," she says. "The story goes that, one night, the Indians came to the Square and cursed the city."
One of the most pivotal topics discussed along the tour is the Camp Creek train wreck of June 23, 1900. Victims from the crash, says Cannon, were reportedly strewn across the Square in McDonough, resulting in ghost accounts which extend to the present.
"One of the stories we tell on the tour is about the restroom at Season's Bistro," she says. "After the train wreck, that was the viewing area for the victims. Customers have reported seeing a tall man dressed in a white shirt and dark suit in the restroom. They believe he is the mortician who worked on the bodies, and say he always has a very grim expression on his face. Then he walks out of the area, and he's gone."
Other apparitions include the Wailing Woman on the porch of the former Globe Hotel, and a young girl seen looking out of a window of a house on Jonesboro Street. Additional sightings have been reported at locations including Redz Restaurant, and the building which now houses Harry Norman Realty.
Cannon says the Clay Plaza in McDonough has also been the site of strange occurrences over the years. "We talked to one of the attorneys who used to work there, and he told us he heard footsteps in the theater."
According to Cannon, the lawyer believed Paris Clay, who ran the facility during its earlier days, was haunting the former movie theater. "He would wear work boots that were never laced up," she says. "People would hear the footsteps and smell his cigar, and get really spooked."
Cannon says the attorney is not the only one who believes the plaza may be haunted. She says she and her co-worker, historian Dan Brooks, once heard footsteps at the theater, which were accompanied by something even more chilling. "Whatever it was touched Dan across the back, and we heard footsteps go up the stairs."
Brooks, who conducts paranormal investigations in Henry County, says several places in the area are "very haunted." One is the old Planter's Warehouse in McDonough. Another, he adds, is the Bell, Book & Candle store itself.
"There were two women in the store for a discussion on the tour, which was being recorded on video," says Brooks, who conducts the tour with Cannon's sister, Caprice Walker. "One of them said she felt something touching her, and heard a voice saying, 'They think we're ghosts. Should we go hide?"
According to the historian, those words could be heard on a recording of the event when he later investigated the women's claims.
Brooks acknowledges some of the people who take the history tour are "skeptical" about paranormal activity in McDonough. Still, he says that does not keep them from attempting to find out the truth for themselves.
"They bring a camera with them, and get excited to think they might see something," he says. "We can't guarantee they will, but there's a chance they might."
Henry County is not alone when it comes to reports of strange phenomena. In Clayton County, a legend has been brewing for years regarding a ghost, a war and a love of the newspaper business.
Donna Goodson has worked in the circulation department of the Clayton News Daily for more than 20 years. It was years ago, she says, when she and some of her co-workers first encountered someone whose name is well known at the paper - a ghost, a teenager named Jonathan Marcus McBain.
"This building was here prior to the Civil War," Goodson explains. "Soldiers were kept here, and died as prisoners. Jonathan was one of those prisoners, and actually died here."
Staff members at the newspaper first learned about Jonathan by way of a medium, who came to the offices years ago and relayed his story. According to the legend, Jonathan was killed while walking on railroad tracks. He was hit by a train. An aspiring journalist in life, he reportedly chose to make his presence known at the News Daily after his death.
Goodson says that some of her fellow employees at the newspaper do not believe Jonathan is haunting the offices in which they work. However, she remains a "true believer," regarding his constant presence at the paper. "I've actually heard him, years ago when I was the only person in the building," says Goodson. "In the mailroom next to my office, there's a conveyor belt that sends the paper down. I heard what sounded like someone's hand going down the conveyor. I went to look, and there was nobody there."
The circulation manager adds that she typically knows when she can expect her mysterious visitor to make an appearance at the paper. She says in addition to being a ghost, Jonathan is also a creature of habit.
"Jonathan doesn't like change," says Goodson. "We've done renovations through the years, and whenever something is done, he lets us know he's not happy with it."
Goodson says despite having a ghost in the office, she has "never been scared" by him. Instead, she takes comfort in knowing Jonathan would be there to "protect" her, on those nights when she is alone at work.