Avilla Missouri: A Ghost Town

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Horror Mystery and Lore

With a mere population of one hundred residents, Avilla Missouri sits right off the road of Route 66. Avilla is known as one of the longest living ghost towns on the historic Route 66. Founded in 1856, it is the fourth oldest village or town in Jasper County. This once vibrant farming community is filled with a long enchanting history and a dark past. People who still live there say the darkness looms over the town to this date. So what happened in Avilla to make it the ghost town it is today?

Abandoned House of Avilla
Abandoned House of Avilla

To know that we have to go back to the A Civil-War. Missouri was a highly contested border state with both Union and Confederate soldiers. This is where the first legend begins. It involves the spirit of The Avilla Phantom Bushwhacker or, as some call it, Rotten Johnny Reb. Civil war bushwhackers were some of the original guerrilla warfare fighters. They had one purpose and that was to destroy the enemies’ spirit in any way possible.

Rotten Johnny Reb’s spirit is said to haunt not only the town but also the infamous “Death Tree.” As the legend goes, during the war the body of a dead Confederate Bushwacker was found. To ward off future fighters the skull was taken hung from a tree. This eerie symbol of warning did not go as planned though. As a result of removing the skull from the rest of the body, the ghost of Rotten Johnny Reb was created. His ghost torso searches the town and surrounding woods for his head and for Yankees to kill. Many deaths have been blamed on him over the years. This legend began driving off many of the remaining townspeople after the war ended.

Scary tree that might look like the Avilla Missouri death tree
I imagine the Avilla Death Tree looks about like this.

There are conflicting stories as to how this story might come to an end. One way to end the curse and put Rotten Johnny Reb’s spirit to rest is to find his skull, cut it down from the tree and bury it. Another says to set the skull ablaze on holy ground. Or much like the story of the headless horseman the skull simply needs to be returned to the torso. However, it is now basically impossible to do this task because the location of the Death Tree died off along with the last survivors of the war. There was a belief that black crows would flock to it during the day as a perch, and that it was an apple tree that no longer would bear fruit. However, time and the changing landscapes have made finding the tree impossible, if it would even be standing at all today.

What also lurks the ghost town of Avilla, are reports of Shadow Folk. These ghostly figures have been seen through the windows of the abandoned buildings, wandering through the halls of abandoned homes, walking down the empty roads in town, most notably on the side of Route 66, strolling through the park in the center of town and even passing through the locked doors of the post office. One of the shadow folk appears to be that of the town drunk, as the shadow staggers out of the abandoned building that was once the life of the town’s tavern and collapses as if passing out. Although the Shadow Folk may be creepy, they are harmless. In fact, they don’t seem to take notice of the living at all. Paranormal researchers believe that they are the psychic impressions left by people who inhabited the town in the past. They are most likely to be seen at the old abandoned part of the village along Route 66 and can be seen mostly at night.

If you are ever traveling through Route 66 be sure to stop by the ghost town of Avilla. Who knows if you might be one of the lucky few who gaze upon the shadow folk of this eerie little town. This site has been visited by several ghost hunters over the years and certainly has a creepy old civil war graveyard if you are into those sorts of things.. we are! Want to see more, check out this quick video from “The Ghost Watch” channel on Youtube.

Urban Legend: Ghost Town of Lake Lanier

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Lake Lanier is the largest lake in the state of Georgia, boasting more than six hundred miles of shoreline that borders five different counties. It is itself a man-made lake, created to establish flood control as well as hydroelectric power and drinking water to much of the surrounding area. It provides many practical services, but it also provides a place for nautical excursions and summertime pleasures. Every summer millions of people flock to this massive body of water in North Georgia to enjoy boating, fishing, and time spent on the beach. But would so many carefree cavorters come if they knew of the deadly lore of the ghost town that (quite literally) lies beneath the surface?

Lanier County and Lanier Lake map in Georgia

The Ghost Town of Lake Lanier is a sprawling urban legend that concerns unmarked graves, displaced souls, hundreds of deaths, and vengeful spirits. Back before the lake was built, the area was home to a variety of businesses, churches, and homesteads. When the government decided to dam up the Chattahoochee River in the 1950s, thus creating the lake, they had to pay off and remove around 700 families.

Though the US Army Corps of Engineers removed many of the buildings in the area (though some built of stone and concrete still remain on the lakebed), they had a harder time when it came to the cemeteries scattered throughout the land. Try as they could when relocating the bodies, there was no way to account for every single soul buried in the soon-to-be-flooded region. By 1956 the lake was finally filled in.

And that’s when the deaths began.

Unnatural Encounters

Imagine a vast body of murky water, in the depths of which resides an abandoned ghost town of concrete skeletons, rusting ferries, countless debris from personal belongings, and even the grandstands of an auto-racing track known as Looper Speedway. Now imagine you’re going for a swim and you feel unknown hands grabbing at you from beneath the waves. Or, conversely, imagine you’re going for a dive and you feel body parts frozen in rigor mortis. As local longtime diver Buck Buchannon tells it, “You reach out into the dark and you feel an arm or a leg and it doesn’t move”. 

Dark water with hand coming out

In addition to these grave encounters, other apparitions have been sighted by lake goers throughout the decades. For some it’s giant catfish as big as station wagons. For others it’s a raft piloted at night by a cloaked figure who vanishes when you go for a better look. But the most detailed and famous story involves two women who drowned there in the fifties. 

The Lady of the Lake

Back in 1958, friends Delia Mae Parker Young and Susie Roberts were driving their Ford across Lanier Bridge over the lake when they suddenly veered off the edge into the water. Divers searched the area but could find no evidence of the women or their car. Then a year later a body was discovered, missing both hands and several toes, but it could not be properly identified. Finally, thirty-one years later in 1990, the Ford is discovered with the body of Susie Roberts still inside, leading most to assume the body discovered decades earlier belonged to Delia. 

Where the story really gets creepy is that for years people have claimed to see a lady walking the length of Lanier Bridge, dressed in blue and missing both hands. Not only would that sight be enough to scare the bravest away, but some have reported that the spector will accost them, using her maimed arms to try and drag them into the lake. Chilling stuff. 

Creepy bridge at night

Lake Lanier Now

Many who visit Lake Lanier would never suspect that such nefarious legends surround it. In fact, its popularity has only increased over the years, and it has become a number one destination in the state during the summer months. However, it is also a place with a checkered past. In addition to the alleged supernatural occurrences, there have been over six hundred people who have died in the lake since it was created. That high body count, much higher than any similar lake in the area, has only buoyed confidence from those who believe the area to be haunted. The truth of the matter is, there is an actual ghost town beneath Lake Lanier, and it’s a sobering fact that hundreds of bodies, both living and dead, were displaced in its creation. Sounds ripe for a haunting to us!

Sources

https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/31/us/lake-lanier-urban-legends-trnd/index.html

https://www.southerngothicmedia.com/lake-lanier

https://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/issue-113-summer-2021/the-haunting-of-lake-lanier