June 6, 2010 3:31:00 AM
My house is filled with noises. "Things ... go bump in the night" ... and the day. Most of the time, we know it is only squirrels in the attic. They clatter through the walls and rattle around the spaces next to fireplaces.
However, sometimes, those noises are inexplicable. My wild-child, Charlotte, tilts her head and lifts her huge ears toward the ceiling. She stares at the corners of the room in fascination. We, of course, see nothing. This usually occurs deep into those hours past midnight. Yes, I know, squirrels are not nocturnal.
I have no indication that our current home is haunted. However, Chris and I shared our first Columbus residence with two sweet spirits. That was in a drafty old house which we rented when we moved out of the Mississippi University for Women dorm. It was just a few weeks after Katrina, and we were still in shock. One ghost watched over us, and the other was a prankster who turned the lights, and the TV, on and off.
I have often wanted to contact the woman who purchased that house. I wonder if she has met those friendly souls.
Sometimes, when one of the staff at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center needs a day off, I get to fill in there. The spirit of Tennessee is everywhere in that old house. He shuffles through the shadows and looks over my shoulders as I straighten stock or water plants. "Just checking in," he seems to say. He is friendly and kind to those caring for his first earthly home.
This summer, the "real" Welcome Center is under renovation. The photo-books of old homes, mugs, magnets and maps have joined thousands of brochures across the street at 309 Main, the Welcome Center''s temporary quarters. You may know that building as the former J. Broussard''s Restaurant. Originally, it was an Elks'' Lodge.
On a recent Sunday, I worked there, greeting visitors and serving them coffee on a very rainy afternoon. It was an uneasy day, perhaps the dark sky and strong gusts of wind unnerved me. Branches scratched against the windows, as if something unseen wanted to come in. I tried to entice travelers to stay a bit longer. That day stretched into eternity.
I couldn''t wait to ask Mary Broussard if she had any "strange" feelings there. "I refused to be alone in that building," she told me. "I never really saw anything. However, the rooms always held a spooky feeling."
She knew of one death there. A man, with the incredible name of Marmaduke Loving, slipped on the stairway and died.
Mary does not know if he is still there, but someone is. Often, the staff would leave at the end of the evening, with everything tidy and neat. When they returned the next day, the bar and surrounding floor was strewn with pennies, toothpicks and matches. The work of Marmaduke Loving, perhaps?
Have you been haunted? Inquiring minds want to know. The Columbus-Lowndes County Convention and Visitors Bureau is gathering tales for this year''s Ghosts and Legends Tour. They are looking for stories of those spooky characters who just refuse to leave Columbus, even in death.
Send accounts of your eerie encounters to P.O. Box 789, Columbus, MS, 39703, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story may be included in this year''s Ghost and Legends Tour. If it is, you will win two tickets to ride the spirit bus (seats are for the living, only).
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
4. A Stone's Throw: Beware COLUMNS