The Mississippi Archaeology Association held its annual meeting on February 17-19, 2017. A couple of months ago, I discovered that history lovers like me could pay a small membership fee and be a part of excavations around the state. It was an exciting idea since my formal education in English and Art History did not include Archaeology. So I decided to join the association because I absolutely love history and secretly wish that I was Indiana Jones.
As the event neared, I became increasingly excited about hanging out with the friends of Indiana Jones. A roomful of archaeologists. People who study ancient cultures and dig up bones. It all seemed so cool, but I began to wonder about the ancient cultures and what might have been their superstitions or religious beliefs. Had they placed a curse upon any person who disturbs their grave? Would death certainly come to those guilty of the desecration of a dead man’s bed?
I enjoyed my time in the Archaeology museum on the campus of Mississippi State University, but I learned so much more at the lecture series the following day. Several professors, archaeologists, and graduate students participated in presentations that included intriguing finds all across the state. The people of ancient Mississippi were an indigenous culture of hunters. Nowadays, we never see a black bear or a cougar, but hundreds of years ago, these animals were common and plentiful in the region. The Native Americans treasured the black bear’s paws and often used the claw in jewelry making. Over the years, burial sites have been unearthed to find the skeletal remains of an Indian who once lived in a hut that stood over the site of their grave. Artifacts such as pottery, jewelry, and weaponry have been found beneath the soil surrounding former Native American villages, but as I listened to the speakers discussing these historic archaeological digs, images of a supernatural and superstitious culture filled my mind.
During a ten-minute break, I walked over to the snack table and began pouring myself a cup of coffee when I was joined by an archaeologist who claimed to have experienced the supernatural during some of his digs. He mentioned that the weather always seemed to turn volatile when a gravesite was disturbed. Often times, the rain would delay the excavation for days after unearthing human remains. One such event occurred after “rainmakers” were found by a group of kids who began to play and dance with the ancient rattles. Little did they know, they were literally “drumming” up a storm.
Remember the curse of King Tutankhamun? The opening of the Egyptian king’s tomb was reportedly the cause of several deaths. Although the alleged curse was considered nothing more than superstition to scientists, there are numerous accounts of disaster, bad luck, and even death that has struck after an ancient burial ground has been disturbed. Superstitions abound and warnings all demand the same adherence. “Never, ever build on land that is an ancient burial ground or suffer the consequences of the curse!” The same seems to go for digging up the past. Better leave it alone. And if you dig it up, you better put it back the way you found it!
Before the final presentation of the day, I wandered through the room searching for the Director of the Chickasaw Archaeology. (The Chickasaw Nation once inhabited the hills of North Mississippi) I was eager to speak with him because I wanted to tell him about the land that I currently live on. I’ve lived here for more than five years and recently discovered that the site was once a Native American village. Upon learning this, I concluded that the land’s history was the explanation that I had been seeking for a long time. It’s not unusual for me to live in haunted locations. I seem to find them no matter where I move. But this house was not old. And no one had died here. At least, not that I knew of.
I found Dr. Lieb and quickly introduced myself. We talked for a few minutes about the area in North Mississippi and the ghostly sightings that had been reported. As I continued to tell him about my experiences and the sighting of the white wolf, the director’s eyes grew large and he replied, “That’s not the first time that someone has reported these things.”
I gasped and stepped back. Unbelievable. And what about the apparition of the woman walking across the highway near the airport? For years, I had heard that Indian artifacts had been unearthed during a construction project there until the director informed me that something much more sacred had been found in the area. I listened intently, holding my breath with anticipation as I heard him say, “The body of an Indian woman was unearthed in the location you are speaking about.”
A chill crawled from the bottom of my heels to the top of my head like fingernails raking across my body as I began to realize exactly where I was living. And why did my kids keep finding mounds of mussel shells near our yard? According to the friends of Indiana Jones, the natives had many feasts here, and my house was situated close to the “trash mound”. Could my house be situated over a native’s final resting place? Could that be the reason that I continue to experience paranormal phenomena here? Maybe so, but I will probably NEVER have the courage to disturb an ancient grave and risk suffering the consequences of its supernatural curse. Although I admire archaeologists and their work, I will admit that living with a ghost is one thing. Getting rid of an ancient curse? Better call your local shaman.
The Ghosts of Chattanooga’s Historic Read House Hotel
Chattanooga, Tennessee could probably be sited as one of the most haunted locations in the United States. The mid-size city’s Civil War past harbors one of the bloodiest battles in the War Between the States with approximately 34,000 dead and wounded soldiers, second only to Gettysburg. It’s a city of enormous beauty and quintessential history that is sure to please those like myself who love to hunt haunted locations. Perhaps that is the real reason that I am intrigued by ghosts. I’ve been a lifelong paranormal researcher studying the unexplained since I was able to obtain a library card and check out books. It’s a fascination that began after I experienced my first encounter with the living dead, and the rest is history.
During a weekend getaway to Chattanooga this past July, 2016, my daughter and I visited the famous Sheraton Read House Hotel at 827 Broad Street. The hotel was originally built in 1847 and was conveniently located across from the railroad, the main source of business and imports. Known then as the Crutchfield House (named after the Crutchfield family who owned the property), the hotel burned to the ground in 1867 and the Crutchfield’s decided not to rebuild. This decision paved the way for Dr. John T. Read to purchase the property years later and build a ten-story building in the Georgian architectural style. But prior to the new construction in 1926, the hotel had served as a Civil War hospital (1863) housing hundreds of sick and mortally wounded Union soldiers, many who arrived by the railway tracks adjacent to the hotel.
The site of the hotel had a gruesome past. Many suicides, murders, and natural deaths were said to have occurred in both buildings located at this site. Ghost hunters know that the spirits of the dead may sometimes remain attached to a location, not necessarily a building. And it’s this belief that still keeps the legend of Annalisa Netherly alive in ROOM 311 at the historic hotel.
There are different accounts of Annalisa’s story. Some accounts claim that she was a prostitute who was brought into the hotel by a Confederate soldier who murdered her and left her in the room. Other accounts claim that she arrived at the hotel with her lover or husband sometime during the 1920’s and had an extended stay there. This story concludes that her lover left her heartbroken and she committed suicide. But the most compelling and believable story to me was the claim that Annalisa arrived at the hotel during the 1920’s and was murdered by a jealous husband or boyfriend. According to the legend, Annalisa was caught with another man and her throat was slashed from ear to ear almost decapitating her. Her body was found soaking in the bathtub hours later.
Reports of ghostly activity have been reported at the hotel for many years. Ghost sightings are plentiful and evident in numerous online pictures that guests have shared. Over the years, guests have rented ROOM 311 and left during the middle of the night vowing not to return. There have been reports of shadow images in mirrors and glimpses of spirits moving about the room and even resting on the bed. Smokers occupying the room have been met with the unfriendly ghost who is said to hate men and cigarettes.
While ROOM 311 was made available to guests who requested it or if all other rooms at the hotel were booked, it is NO longer available to rent. According to a local citizen, a man reportedly rented the room and was attacked by an unseen force leaving him covered in bruises. The man claimed that the malevolent spirit also moved the objects in the room and hurled a bedside lamp at him. Since there had been other reports similar to this visitor’s claim, the hotel placed a lock on the outside of the door and sealed it shut.
As an empath, I was very interested in discovering what energy that I could pick up at this hotel. My take-away was that the hotel had many more entities than Annalisa. I visited the locked ROOM 311 and immediately felt anger and despair upon entering the hallway. A horrible sense of murder and doom enveloped me as I stood in front of the door and I sensed her anger. I also sensed her grief.
The ghost of Annalisa has been seen countless times at the hotel. She is said to be wearing white and often manifests to children. Tragically, her ghost sometimes appears to be pregnant. The impressions that I received of Annalisa were of a young brunette in her 20’s when she died, and although she often wore her hair in a bun, her hair was a tousled mess at the time she was murdered.
To add to the final intrigue~ Al Capone, notorious Prohibition Era gangster was said to have stayed in ROOM 311 during his federal trial. Security bars were placed on the window and were not removed until 2004 during a renovation. Like Annalisa’s knife wounds that killed her, Capone, aka, Scarface, received his nickname from the scars inflicted on him during a bar room brawl after Capone refused to apologize for ‘un-gentleman like’ remarks that he made to a man’s sister. Although Capone often told inflated lies about how he received the scars on his face, it was actually the blade of a man’s knife that left him scarred for life. Capone reportedly stayed in the haunted room without incident.
Knowing Capone’s love of cigars and his raunchy temperament, I find it surprising that Annalisa let him off the hook during his stay. On the other hand, if Annalisa did in fact stay at the Read House Hotel during the 1920’s as some believe, that would put her in that room after its construction in 1926. Capone stayed in the room in 1931. Perhaps Capone’s scarred face served as a trophy of misfortune and a symbol that Annalisa could find sympathy for. Who was the real Annalisa Netherly and who killed her? Unfortunately, the mystery has never been solved, but her legend and her restless spirit lives on.
NOTE: During the new re-construction of the hotel in 1926, the exact location of Room 311 became known today as ROOM 313. ROOM 313 is believed to be the original site of the former Room 311. Notice the deadbolt locks on Room 313’s door.
L. Sydney Fisher and her father, Landon C. Fisher about a year before he passed away.
This time of year is difficult for so many people who have lost loved ones. As the holiday approaches, I’m wishing you happy memories that fill your heart with joy rather than sadness. It is my sincere belief that our loved ones who have passed on want us to be living happy and prosperous lives, and I truly believe that they are nearer than you think!
I hope you enjoy the following memoir written some years ago. It was a 2nd place winner in a local writing contest. Merry Christmas from my house to yours!
I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve at K-Mart in Memphis, Tennessee. The stores were open late for last-minute shopping, and my dad and stepmom had rushed out to pick up some last-minute items on a Christmas list that had already surpassed even Santa. My eyes were wide with excitement and hope as I eyed the toys on the shelves still waiting to be bought. My daddy hobbled along beside me, one of his legs being shorter than the other as we walked up and down the aisles.
Suddenly, something caught my eye. I stopped and stared at the polished white boots and shiny silver wheels.
“Daddy, look!” I exclaimed. “Roller skates! Will you buy me these for Christmas, please? And they are even on sale.” I begged.
Daddy never said a word. He picked up the skate and inspected the price. “Gee, I’m sorry, Honey. I don’t have enough money with me. Maybe Santa will bring you some next year.”
My heart sank as I wandered off to a different aisle. Unknowing to me, my daddy would somehow manage to get those skates to the check-out stand without being seen.
The following morning at 6:30 a.m., I jumped out of bed and rushed to the den. As I stood staring at the mounds of presents beneath the tree, I noticed a brown paper sack sitting off to itself. I tore the bag open and buried my face inside. The sound of crinkling paper filled my ears as I stared at the shiny wheels and white polished boots that I had longed for just a few hours before. I squealed with delight as I pulled the roller skates out of the sack. And my dad stood watching me, a beaming smile of satisfaction on his face.
It’s true that I was spoiled, pampered, and treasured as a little girl loved by her daddy. Through the years, he patiently watched as I wore more make-up than Tammy Faye Baker and dressed in clothes much too tight for little girls to wear. He tolerated my strong will with a soft disapproval and a determination to teach me Christian morals. There was rarely a need for spankings from him since disappointing him would have been more punishment than he could have possibly administered.
A few years later as a budding young woman, I proudly watched my daddy tell the nurses about Jesus as he lay in his hospital bed hooked to feeding tubes and IV’s laced with morphine. When not in a drug-induced sleep, he spoke with conviction about the strength Christ had showered on him during his battle with cancer. As “Daddy’s Little Girl”, I bathed his face with a cool cloth and fed him cold, wet ice chips to soothe his dry mouth. I stood in awe and basked in his spirit each time this 85 pounds of flesh and bones mustered the strength to tell me I was his “sweetie pie”.
As a grown woman, I envision hugging my daddy each Christmas, and I never fail to recall the words he instilled in my soul so many times during my childhood when he said, “You know, someday you’re going to make something of yourself and be known as somebody really special.”
He fed me with encouragement, nourished me with love, and bathed me in righteous teachings that have continued to inspire me. If “Children Live What They Live”, as the saying goes, then the daddies who teach us about life and living such as mine must have the halos of angels about their heads. For today when I reminisce, I must say, Dear Daddy, I was somebody special the day God chose me to be your girl.”