With such a long and rich history, it’s no surprise that LaGrange has plenty of spooky legends and ghost activity!
Several downtown buildings have longstanding reports of creepy, unexplained activity, and a few well-known ghost legends continue to intrigue us.
If you’re interested in paranormal activity, look no further than LaGrange’s City Hall. Build in 1926, the building has always housed City Hall, and for a time also contained the police department and holding cells for the jail. People who work in city hall have been reporting strange occurrences for years.
City employees have heard footsteps and voices when they were alone in the building at night, and the elevator is known to spontaneously operate on its own.
Once, a terrible crash was heard from an unoccupied men’s restroom. When people rushed from their offices to investigate the sound, they discovered a huge mirror had inexplicably crashed to the ground in the empty bathroom.
Just a few months ago, an employee was descending the stairs near the city manager’s office. The city manager and her entire staff were gone at a conference, so he was shocked to see a figure in a long robe disappearing into her office. Understandably concerned, the man called for others to help him check out the office, which they found totally empty.
There are no real clues as to who these spirits might be, although some city employees have made guesses as to which former building inhabitants may have reasons to stick around…
In 1917, the LaGrange National Banking Co. built a downtown bank with office spaces on the upper floor. The building now houses the historical society, Troup County archives, and the Legacy Museum. The people who work in the building have shared experiences like those in City Hall: hearing footsteps when they are alone in the building and an elevator that operates on its own.
There is speculation that one potential spirit in the building may be Hatton Lovejoy, a beloved local lawyer who left a substantial amount of money in a scholarship upon his death. Lewis Powell, who guides the “Strange LaGrange” tours, takes tour participants through the building to discuss the possibility of Lovejoy’s hauntings. Twice, while giving the tour, Lewis and his tour participants were shocked when an elevator spontaneously opened behind Powell as he said the name “Hatton Lovejoy”. Both times, there was no one else around who could have operated the elevator.
When a visitor who is sensitive to the spiritual realm took the tour, he felt nothing on the first floor of the building, but immediately sensed a male spirit when the tour entered the archives on an upper floor. He felt the spirit was elusive and didn’t want to be seen. When he asked “What is your name?” he received only a high-pitched giggle in response.
When the group later left the building, the visitor turned back toward the building and reported there was a man standing in the window, dressed in an old-fashioned business suit.
LaGrange College was founded in 1931 as “LaGrange Female Academy”. Its oldest standing building, Smith Hall, was built in 1860.
Smith Hall allegedly houses LaGrange’s most infamous ghost, a man named John Griffen. As legend has it, John’s sister Indiana (Diana, for short) was a student at LaGrange Female Academy during the Civil War. John was a Confederate soldier and was wounded at the Battle of Brown’s Mill. Judging his injuries to be non-life threatening, John bypassed the overcrowded Confederate hospital and rode 35 miles on horseback in search of his sister. He arrived at Smith Hall and received limited medical attention before his blood loss proved fatal.
John’s hauntings of Smith Hall were well-documented by former college President and Chancellor Waights Gibbs Henry, Jr., who wrote “when darkness descends upon the spot where the building stands, certain inexplicable happenings occur that have made the persons involved wary about entering again after sundown”. He documented instances of students being shoved to one side or tripped, and others who suddenly found themselves standing in freezing cold temperatures on warm evenings.
Most recently, two women arrived after-hours to work alone in the building. When the first arrived, she tripped while walking down an empty hall. Turning, she saw no obstacles and realized in alarm that it felt like someone had stuck out a foot to trip her. She collected herself and continued to her office. A few minutes later, her co-worker arrived and exclaimed, “You’ll never guess what just happened to me! I tripped for no reason while I was walking down the hall, and it felt like I tripped over someone’s leg!”
In 2006, noted psychic and medium Chip Coffee was invited to campus to perform a ghost tour. He corroborated parts of the John Griffen legend, reporting that John was wounded by a gunshot to the leg, had to be assisted into the building due to weakness, and later died within Smith Hall.
We wonder why is John stuck in the place of his death and why does he shove and trip current visitors to Smith Hall?
On December mornings, people walking near the corner of Bull and LaFayette Streets sometimes see a figure in period clothing, who disappears down Vernon Street.
On Christmas Eve 1896, the town of LaGrange was rocked by a bizarre downtown murder. A farm worker walked into Cooper’s store and dealt with the owner’s son, Douglas Cooper. In the exchange, Cooper provided the customer with his change, which included a bent dime. Unsure if he would be able to spend the dime, the customer asked to exchange it. Taking the request as an insult, Cooper threw the man from the store.
The man left the store and found Claude Dunson, who he told of the incident. Familiar with Cooper’s temper, Dunson exchanged the man’s dime and told him to get out of town. Meanwhile, Cooper worked himself into a furious state and took a gun in search of the man who’d offended him.
He encountered Claude Dunson, who tried his best to convince Cooper to let the matter drop, which infuriated Cooper even more. Cooper slapped Dunson across the face, knocking his hat off. As Dunson stood from retrieving his hat, Cooper shot him. As onlookers (including Claude Dunson’s brother) rushed to aid Dunson, Cooper threatened them with his gun before fleeing the scene.
Claude Dunson’s family held an extravagant funeral for him, burying him at Hillside Cemetery under a headstone which reads “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.
When the visitor who is sensitive to the spirit realm walked the area where Claude Dunson was murdered, he felt a large orb of energy flitting above him near the second story windows.
Perhaps Claude Dunson is still here, and still trying to make peace?
Are you intrigued by these stories of LaGrange’s not-so-dead inhabitants? There are many more legends and ghosts to discover!
Join Troup County Historical Society Docent and Southern Spirit Guide, Lewis Powell, for a ghostly tour of downtown LaGrange to hear about the spirited history of Troup County! The Strange LaGrange Ghostly Tours depart from the Legacy Museum every Friday at 7:00 PM.
Get yourself in the Halloween spirit with a visit to Spooky LaGrange!