Southern Gothic Ghost Stories – The Paranormal Podcast 811

We talk southern gothic ghost stories with the host of the Southern Gothic podcast, Brandon Schexnayder, on this edition of The Paranormal Podcast!

You can find Southern Gothic on your favorite podcast app or at https://www.southerngothicmedia.com/

Thanks Brandon!

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TRANSCRIPT

Jim:

Yes, it’s Christmas time, but we still talk about ghost stories around these parts. And today we’re going to talk about Southern Gothic ghost stories with Brandon Schexnayder on the Paranormal podcast.

Announcer:

This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.

Jim:

Welcome to the Paranormal Podcast. I am Jim Harold and so glad to be with you again. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas. And although it is the holiday season, we do keep our eye on the ball here today. We actually have a show about ghost stories, southern gothic ghost stories. That’ll be with Brandon Schexnayder in just a moment. 

So we keep our eye on the ball with the ghosts, with the spooky stuff, but it is the holiday season. Next week we’ll be having a special Christmas show, so stay tuned for that on December 19th. And stay tuned for this, this Friday. We have a very special holiday video party from 8:00 to 10:00 PM Eastern Time, Friday, December 15th, and that’s 8:00 to 10:00 PM Eastern Time. We do that on our YouTube channel, youtube.com/jimharold and I hope you’ll join us. We’ll have giveaways, we’ll have trivia. Dar will be there, I will be there, Maddy will be there, Cassandra and Natalie will be there, and we’ll just have a grand time. I look forward to it every holiday season and I hope to see you there. 

And also, if you want to get 10% off in our Etsy mausoleum of merch, go to jimharold.com/merch and use code HAPPYHOLIDAYS10, pretty simple. Again, jim harold.com/merch. Click on the Etsy line there, this is for the Etsy shop only, and you can use that code, HAPPYHOLIDAYS10, and get your merch. And time is growing very, very short in terms of getting things for the holidays. So if you order, check the timelines and things, we wouldn’t want anybody to be disappointed. But if you order, you’ll still, we’ll get it eventually, jimharold.com/merch. Even if you ended up getting something and it was going to be later than Christmas, for example, you could just print it out and put it in an envelope and see this neat thing that you’re going to get within a few days.

So just a thought. If you’re last minute present shopping, there is hope to the very last minute. Just go ahead and order it. Print out a nice printout of what you’re giving them, a hoodie or a T-shirt or a book or whatever it might be and say, Hey, I got a little behind this year, but it’s on its way. Jimharold.com/merch and use that coupon code “happyholidays10” to get those savings. 

And one last thing, we have our holiday card contest. It kind of takes the place of our old holiday ornament contest this year, and we haven’t gotten that many submissions. So submit your holiday card, handmade homemade holiday card, and for all the details, go to jimharold.com/holiday2023. That’s jimharold.com/holiday2023. And we’re really looking forward to getting some of those. The deadline is December 22nd, so time is growing short.

Holiday 2023. We’re giving away some Amazon gift cards. We’re giving away some Etsy gift cards for our mausoleum of merch. So get in on the holiday fun. jimharold.com/holiday2023. And with no further ado, let’s get back to the spooky stuff. And here is the Paranormal Podcast. 

Our guest today is Brandon Schexnayder, and he is the chief cook, bottle washer, executive producer, host, editor of Southern Gothic, the podcast, and we’re so glad to have him with us. And not only is he an executive producer and host of that podcast, but he’s editor for a number of other podcasts. He’s also executive producer for other podcasts, so he’s kind of thrown his lot, kind of like I have all into podcasts, and I think that’s so cool. And he’s a passionate storyteller and podcast producer, New Orleansnative and campfire story enthusiast. As am I. And Brandon, welcome to the show today.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Thank you for having me, Jim. I really appreciate it.

Jim:

You can tell from that sound. He’s an audio guy. You can just hear that great sound. So he’s just popping through.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Exactly.

Jim:

So I guess, how long does this, I know you’ve been a long time audio guy. I know you worked for a number of years in music and really have gone over to the podcast area, but in terms of spookiness, how far back does that interest go for you?

Brandon Schexnayder:

Well, Jim, I grew up down in New Orleans, as you said a little while ago, and my parents were avid genealogists growing up, and this was pre-internet. I grew up in the eighties, so that meant we were at cemeteries all the time. It was just a monthly weekend trip to a cemetery in New Orleans. So I think this kind of spooky vibe got set in early on, marinated pretty early. So later in life, as I was looking at diving into podcasting and telling my own stories, it was a no-brainer. This is where I wanted to be.

Jim:

No, it makes a lot of sense now. I think the south, when you talk about southern gothic, I think the American South is particularly an area that seems very rich for ghost stories. As I know I shared with you before, my family was originally from West Virginia. Now again, technically not the South, but pretty much the south. So there was a lot of sharing of oral tradition and getting together on the porch, not the deck. There weren’t decks, there were porches, getting together on the front porch and storytelling and tall tale telling. And as a kid, I loved that. I love to hear everybody’s adventures and things that happened to them, but my ears perked up even more when it turned to the supernatural, and it almost always did. Did you experience anything like that?

Brandon Schexnayder:

Absolutely. I mean, that’s what it was all about. I joke when I started the show, even part of what we were trying to do was we were going to take all these little stories that your mama told you when you were growing up, right, exactly. Like you’re talking about all the stuff that spooky building down the road or that crazy thing back there. We had a down behind the levee, we thought people lived back there. We were scared of things of that nature. And so what my goal was when I started Southern Gothic was to take those stories and to actually look a little deeper, see what’s underneath, see what mama was really talking about and what she was kind of hyping up or as I like to say, trading lies really is what some of those storytelling is, right?

Jim:

But I mean, what I will say is, yeah, there’s some of that that goes on. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But then there seemed to be some stories where the person says, look, I am not joking, this happened. And in those cases, I would really buy into it a hundred percent. My family has a couple of those stories. My dad, who’s still with us, he’s 87, but he’s still with us. He has two of those stories. I absolutely believe, I don’t even think for a minute, he’s making up. And we had collaboration from, other collaboration from other people in the family who have now passed, but they told exactly the same stories. I believe him 110%, and I still believe them 110%. So I guess to me, there were stories and then there were stories. Did you find that as well?

Brandon Schexnayder:

Right. Oh yeah. And that’s part of doing this is when you go deeper, sometimes you find stuff that maybe some people are making it up, but other times  man, the truth is even crazier than what people realize, as you use something like The Bell Witch, for instance. My kids grew up here in Tennessee, so they heard the Bell Witch early on. Sure. When you go deep into a story like that and you realize how far back that goes and how, I mean, it is more than just that spooky little cave up there in Adams, Tennessee, like folks around here today, there are arms and legs everywhere in this story, and there’s little turns here or there, and it is a massive just conglomeration of whether there lies history all mixed together and who knows what it is. But I do know that that place is awful spooky when you visit, you know?

Jim:

And how do you marry up your interest in spooky stuff with your audio production skills? I would think that would really be helpful in amping things up,

Brandon Schexnayder:

Right, yeah. Well, the show itself, it’s a narrative show. So I basically research everything and everything’s scripted. So it’s scripted out kind of like what you would consider a TV show documentary where I just kind of do the script and in the process I’m able to do a lot of sound design to kind of take you there. Being from New Orleans, I wanted you to feel like you were sitting on the front porch in a swamp cabin. So when you put your headphones on and you listen to Southern Gothic, I want you to feel like you’re out there with us and you’re kind of in that spooky vibe in that place and inside the story, rather than just hearing myaccent kind of telling you an old ghost story.

Jim:

Well, we can’t do the full sound design today, but I certainly want to get to some stories. What is the breadth of what you cover? On this show, the Paranormal Podcast? When I first started this show back in many years ago, to me the paranormal always meant all of it. I meantt UFOs, I meant ghosts, I meant cryptic creatures. And over the years, it seems like the idea of the paranormal has been very narrowed down to just ghosts, and that’s it. And I love ghost stories, but to me it’s so much more, what’s the breadth of what you guys cover on Southern Gothic?

Brandon Schexnayder:

Sure. I stick more to the storytelling side of the ghosts and some of the cryptids and things of that nature. I almost look at it less as a paranormal show to discover the existence or to view it in that paranormal evidence lens and more in how do these stories kind of develop throughout history. So maybe I consider it more of like a paranormal history show rather than a discovery type lens. When it comes to specifics though, I joke on that tale of between going down the UAP rabbit hole versus telling the Bell Witch story, I typically stop somewhere around typically going to stop in there with the old kind of cryptids’ less searching for evidence again and more talking about how over time and how specific cultures in the south. So I haven’t really gone down any of the extraterrestrial rabbit holes. I haven’t really gone down any of the bigfoot rabbit holes or anything like that yet. Too many guys do such a good job at that, I certainly don’t need to.

Jim:

So now when you talk about Southern Gothic, I mean a lot of people think about the American South and it’s just like, boom, the American South, and it’s all the same, but do you find differences in different areas of the South?

Brandon Schexnayder:

I think that’s why it’s so spooky is because there are so many differences here. And also not at the same time, right? Because when you have here in the American South, you have about 400 to 500 years of history where everybody came over to colonize from these different cultures. So we had those European cultures with the British colonizing the coast. We had Scott Irish pushing away into Appalachia and going there with Spanish down in Florida and Texas, the French and Louisiana and all these cultures all kind of crammed into this area fighting for land and a place where there were already indigenous people who already had their own stories. And then you factor in the transatlantic slave trade as well, and you bring in the African influence on stories. And what we have is really, for lack of a better term, a gumbo of just all this old folklore and all this violence between cultures fighting for more land.

And that really is what kind of simmers and puts this together to where we have stories we might recognize going as far back in Ireland and Scotland, but in Appalachia with a new blend or something. Or we have stories about things like the boo hag in Charleston, that’s old African traditions that kind of was evolved into this and things of that nature. So that’s what I find fascinating about the South, is it gives this little microcosm. At the same time, I’ve certainly found that there are trends. Every small town you go to in the South, they’ve got a story about a dead bride. I don’t know why, but there’s always a woman who is mourning forever, for eternity, mourning, lost love, the poor woman is having to run around with a broken heart forever. So I do see stories like that as well, but it’s certainly, everything has its own kind of background that goes back to a few hundred years for sure.

Jim:

Do you find that there are certain kind of, I don’t want to say portals, but kind of places where spooky stories congregate or there are more spooky stories, certain I guess kind of creepy areas where boy, they have a lot of activity, or at least a lot of stories,

Brandon Schexnayder:

Right? Well, it seems like these old towns like the Charleston and Savannah, new Orleans are obvious answers here. These ones that are 400, 500 years old, St. Augustine, the oldest surviving city in North America. So these stories, obviously those places are just, I mean, knee deep in it. I don’t know about portals per se, but I frequently talk about down in New Orleans how you can stand on a corner in the French Quarter and you can look one direction and you can see Madame Lalaurie’s House, which was the infamous killer who tortured her slaves. And then you look down the next street, just a block away at this corner, and you can see the older Ursuline convent that was purportedly the place where vampires came to North America the first time. And then you look a block the other direction. And there’s a spot where Jacques St. Germaine supposedly lived and he was a vampire in New Orleans. And then you look down the other direction and there’s Marie Laveau’s old house about two blocks down, and it is just so chock full and the same’s true in a place like Charleston, and in a place like Savannah. These places just are filled to the brim with hundreds of years of people trying to make sense of the world.

Jim:

Now, we’ve gone pretty far here without asking for a story, so that’s going to end right now. So give us one of your favorites that you’d like to retell.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, I guess since we were talking about Charleston, I just recently was out in Charleston. I went there this summer. I was looking for stories. I was going to visit the legendary Mike Brown, if you’ve ever heard of the Pleasing Terrors podcast. Mike does this incredible show and has a tour out there, been a tour guide in Charleston for like 30 years, and I wanted to go visit, but while I was out there, I have been obsessed with this one story for years, and it’s the Tale of Julia Legare. And just about 45 miles south or so from Charleston is Edisto island, and it is this sea island where they used to raise sea island cotton. It was just a very expensive form of cotton that they were shipping over to Europe. And as a result, they were rich for doing this, right?

We had all these sea islands churning out cotton, and this family lived out there by the name of the Seabrook family, William Captains, William Seabrook. He had a daughter named Julia. They lived out in Charleston, and they’d go down to Edisto island. And today, if you visit, there’s a beautiful church there. It’s Presbyterian church on Edisto island. It has the beautiful moss covered trees. Everything you think about when you think about the low country, just that gorgeous vibe when you walk up. And then of course has this beautiful cemetery, a beautiful church graveyard. And in the back of the graveyard, there’s this very unique mausoleum. It’s the Legare family mausoleum. It’s a rust colored mausoleum. And if you go and you visit this mausoleum, there’s no door on it, so you can actually go inside. And according to legend, the reason there’s no door there is, well, that door wouldn’t stay open, or excuse me, wouldn’t just stay closed.

It didn’t matter how many times they tried to shut the door, lock the door. Eventually the family just gave up. They’re like, just take it off. And we think that has something to do with the story surrounding it, of course, because back in 1852, Julia Lagere, which was Captain William Seabrook’s daughter, she had married a gentleman by the name of John Legare, and she’s about 22 years old, and she was out on Edisto Island just visiting family out there. She was a young mother at this point in time, and she fell ill, and she started to get sick, and it likely started with something like a sore throat, maybe a little bit of a fever or something like that. And it started getting a little worse, got a cough. And of course, the doctor was called in to check her out. And what he found was that on her throat, there were these whitish grey patches on there, and she’s definitely ill.

And he got a little nervous because he knew exactly what that was. That was diphtheria. It was a bacterial disease that was lethal, absolutely lethal. And so she kept getting worse and he cleared the family out. And unfortunately, after several days, her breathing had just gotten so bad, she slipped away into a coma. And several days later when the doctor came to visit, he declared Julia dead. Well, this is out in the Charleston heat. This is the humidity of the Sea Islands out here in the summer. And of course, this is a very, very contagious disease. So the doctor says, Hey, we’ve got to bury her as quickly as possible. We don’t want her body to decompose, and we don’t want to spread this through the rest of the family. So of course, Julia’s family, the Legare and the Seabrook family, they come and they prepare her for burial, and they bring her out to the Presbyterian church on a Edisto island to that now infamous tomb, this beautiful rust colored mausoleum.

And they lay her to rest, and they close that door and they lock the door. Well, over the next few weeks, folks around a church start to mention that they’re kind of hearing the sound of what they think is a woman crying and screaming, somewhere around the cemetery kind of hearing echoes of this, but it eventually dissipates, and everybody just goes about with their life over the next few years. When the Civil War breaks out, about 10 years later, Julia’s brother actually is killed in battle and his body’s shipped home and he’s prepared for burial as well. And the family goes on down to the Lagare family mausoleum, and they open that door. They’re going to bury their beloved son. But as soon as they open the door, they hear the crash of what sounds like skeleton bones, and they look down and realize that Julia, all those years ago was not dead after all, and she had spent weeks just scratching at that door trying to get out and be heard right there.

You can imagine the horror of the family. You can, here they were at this point grieving their son who had died at war. And now they found out that they had done this awful thing, that they had buried their daughter without any idea whatsoever, that she wasn’t passed away yet. So of course, they rein the family excuse, they reinterred Julia, and they reinterred the brother in the tomb. They shut the door, and that’s when the door started opening again. So years later, the door would open up the family, they came and they came to visit, pay their respects. They’d find the doors open, so they’d relock the door over and over again. This happened over and over again until finally they decided, well, we’re going to give in. So as I said before, if you go and you were to visit the tomb today, you will still see that door where Julia was buried.

It is wide open. It is not, they don’t even have the door there anymore. You can walk right in and you can see she was buried in the ground there. It’s kind of an abnormal mausoleum because the crypt’s not in the wall. It’s actually in the ground, and you can pay respects. So I actually went out to see it. As I said, when I was out in Charleston, we went out, we actually brought some dowsing rods. Okay, I’m not much of a ghost hunter. I like telling stories, but my girlfriend is fascinated by dowsing rods. We had gone on a couple things in the past and we decided we were going to talk to Julia and see if she would respond with the dowsing rods. And you know how they work, those copper Ls, if they cross, it means it’s yes. So as we’re there, I’ve loved this story forever, but we can’t really tell if it’s true or not.

We know that the door’s no longer there. We can go, we can look around the tomb, we can see when she passed away. We can corroborate all of these things, but we don’t actually know the truth behind did this happen? Did this happen this way? So we decided to ask with the dowsing rods and had a conversation with her as best we could. And we asked her, Julia, are you here? And of course, the dowsing rods, they crossed yes, we asked her where she was, and they just kind of turned and they turned in the direction of course. And so then I asked the big question, Julia, is this story true? And unfortunately, the dowsing rods told me, no, they weren’t. So I just followed up. Should I keep telling the story? And man, they went fast. Yes. So Julia still wants to be known after all these years, whether or not it’s true or not, we’ll never totally know, depending on if you believe my dowsing rods, of course. But it is a beautiful mausoleum to visit, and I absolutely recommend if you’re in that neck of the woods to go visit Julia.

Jim:

That was kind of a meme before there were memes, this idea of people being buried alive. That’s right. The whole idea behind saved by the bell, the idea that they would put a bell into a coffin somehow before embalming and modern funereal techniques. That way if you buried someone alive, they could pull the string and ring the bell. And in fact, I think there’s apocryphal stories about very similar kind of idea. People who would open a casket 20, 30, 40, 50, 80 years after it was buried, and you would see where the cloth at the top had been clawed out from somebody trying to get out who had been buried alive. That’s about the worst fate that I could possibly think of.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Legend says, George Washington was afraid of this as well. When he was on his deathbed, he actually asked to not be buried for a week. He was afraid that they would prematurely bury him. So it was certainly a fear back then, prior to modern medicine today.

Jim:

Yeah, that would be something to be afraid of. We’re talking with Brandon Schexnayder, all about Southern Gothic ghost stories, and we’ll be back after this. 

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Announcer:

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Spooky Studio. Now, back to the Paranormal Podcast.

Jim:

Has there been a story where you kind of looked at it and you said, I don’t think there’s much into it. And then you really got into it and started looking at it. It’s like, whoa, there’s a lot to this and there’s a lot more than I expected. Kind of what you talked about with the Bell Witch. Any other stories that surprised you for their depth and compellingness.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Yeah. Well, actually, I had brought up the story about the voodoo priestess, Julia Brown to you before on the Campfire episode that I did with you discussing where this story of a young woman who was, or excuse me, an older woman who was believed to be a voodoo priestess. And she destroyed this town of Frenier, purportedly destroyed the town of Frenier. And I’ll tell you a little bit about it. This is one that I had heard growing up down in New Orleans. I had heard this story out in the swamp. This town was there. It was a town of German immigrants who, they were harvesting timber out in the Manchac Swamp about halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. So if you were to drive out there, there’s a wonderful seafood restaurant out there if you want to go check it out. But this town was a thriving community of German immigrants, and they had blonde hair, blue eyes, I joke, they look like me.

It was even called Schlosseville at one point. And this woman by the name of Julia Brown, she lived out there in the swamp with them, and she was born enslaved. And she received this land because her husband, Celestin Brown, had actually been given a land grant because he fought in the US colored troops during the Civil War. And so they became the largest landowners out there in this community. And while she’s out there, since she supposedly practiced voodoo, she became, she’s a bit of a root worker, and she became the local healer for the community because the community was so isolated out there in the swamps that there was no train, excuse me, only a train or a boat could get in. No cars could get in, no other way to get into the swamp except for this one rail line or a boat. So if you needed help, you needed assistance with something, you would come and you would visit Julia Brown and she would help you.

And she, of course, was also the midwife for the community. So she’d deliver the babies and things of that nature. So the story goes that eventually after her husband passed away, she’s getting up there in years and in the early 1900s that her standing in the community started to sour a little bit. Her relationships started to get bad, and folks said that they would go out to visit her out at her place on the edge of town, and she would be in her rocking chair and she’d be rocking back and forth, and she’d be singing this song, when I die, I’ll take the whole town with me. When I die, I’ll take the whole town with me. That’s not very insuring, and you’re having this dark swamp community, and here’s all of these, probably Catholic German immigrants here, don’t really understand what Julia was doing in her healing or anything.

So just really add this extra element of fear to what they probably felt, right? Well, eventually at this point in time, Julia was up there in age and eventually she passed away. And you can imagine after hearing that those years in her final years when I die, I’ll take the whole town with me. They were obviously scared of what was next. So on September 29th, 1915, they had a funeral for Julia right there in Frenier. And whether or not folks were trying to appease her soul because of this supposed curse or this possible thing, or whether or not this was the woman who she was the midwife who delivered them, or she was the one who helped their families heal, we don’t know. But that funeral was packed. Everyone came to the funeral. Everybody was there in this house to say their final goodbye to Julia, unfortunately, what the community did not realize on that day because they were so isolated, they didn’t have access to the news.

There was a vicious, a giant hurricane making landfall in southeast Louisiana. That was headed straight toward them. So as they’re in that building right there, the walls, of course, they start shaking with the bands of the hurricane that are kind of going around. The rain starts falling. And you can imagine they’re hearing that song in the back of their head, when I die, I’ll take the whole town with me. So they’re scared to death and they start making their way out and realize that the waters are rising around them in the swamp from the storm surge, and they’re trying to get out of town. Some people, they got out to the railroad, got on a train, they tried to make it down. The railroad engineer only got about a mile down the road. There were folks who were climbing trees to try and escape the water.

But if you can imagine how horrific that was, because the pain of having to hear their families drowning below them in the process. So this was a horrific day at this point in time. And of course, that hurricane, it absolutely demolished Frenier, just like the supposed voodoo curse between 200, 400 people died on that day in southeast Louisiana, passed right through New Orleans, over Frenier and went north after that. So this story has been passed around down there for a while. I’ve heard it. You can go take Swamp Tours, the Cajun Bride Swamp Tour Company and actually go on a land that Julia once owned, and they’ve told this story. It’s been on TV shows. It’s just been this thing of how this voodoo priest has cursed this small swamp town, right? Well, there is so much more to it. We found out, and it is right up that alley of really truly understanding that these stories have this element of humanity behind them that just goes so much deeper because it turns out that all of these things have actually been documented in newspapers over the years.

So her funeral, this story about the day of the hurricane was actually in the newspaper two days later. There was an obituary talking about everyone being there and the hurricane hitting. And so we’ve found her on census records, we’ve found Celestin’s Civil War records when he was in the war, and we found all these things. And a lot like Bell Witch, the story that it tells kind of makes you ask the question, is the ghost story that she was a vengeful voodoo priestess even real? Or was this just a woman in the community that coincidentally passed away when this hurricane was about to happen? Or if you do believe the supernatural and the paranormal element was she warning the town of what was going to happen? And that’s what going deeper really exposed here. And it’s a fascinating story. I love telling that one. And absolutely, if you’re ever in New Orleans, tell people, go out to Manchac Swamp and visit Julia.

Jim:

Well, I mean, I’ve got to think about New Orleans that is just, and that’s unfortunately a place I’ve not had an opportunity to be and hope to rectify that one of these days before I shuffle off this mortal coil. But I mean, it seems like the perfect headquarters for this kind of thing in the sense that, again, with that kind of mashup of cultures and just all of the lore and the architecture and the history, and I would say that New Orleans in many ways is singular, I think, among American cities. I mean, you can draw a lot of parallels between a lot of American cities. For example, Chicago. Chicago is what it is. It’s the quote, second City, Cleveland. A lot of people where I live consider it the second Chicago or the little Chicago some people call it. And then you’ve got, of course, New York, which there’s only one New York. But really, I think New Orleans stands alone, maybe not only in the United States, but in the world and being a very unique city and maybe the world’s most supernatural city.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Well, there’s a lot of people who will fight for that designation. I had a lot of people tell me, Savannah and Charleston and all are, but it certainly has the most stories. And what I find with a lot of them is that these stories have the depth of a Bell Witch story. There’s a lot of these stories are almost built on top of each other over the years. There’s stories that might’ve started back in the 1720s, and then new buildings went up, new cultures came in, and they evolved a lot the way that Julia’s story evolved or the Bell witch stories evolved. So it’s definitely a place, it’s a melting pot, it’s a gumbo, it’s whatever kind of cliche you would talk about. It’s definitely there. So I think had I not grown up in New Orleans, I definitely don’t think I would be doing this kind of work. I’ll tell you that though.

Jim:

Yeah, I got to believe that some of the people you meet are some of the coolest people you get to talk to, even if it’s not in person over the internet or whatever, different people that you talk to and about these stories and so forth. That’s going to be some of the most interesting part of this. And again, going back to my little bit of experience in terms of my family growing up and then through my Campfire show, when you talk to somebody who’s very kind of feet on the ground, salt of the earth, but they say, I know this happened, and those kind of things, and you really take them at their word and they seem very, very sincere. Can you talk about maybe the people you get to talk to about these stories, whether they’re firsthand experiencers or if you’re talking about older stories, historians and those kinds of things. I’ve got to think that that’s some of the neatest part of what you do.

Brandon Schexnayder:

It definitely challenges your own thoughts, right? I’m sure yours has evolved over the years as well. Your kind of beliefs in this. When I came to this originally, I was mostly interested in just the stories and the history behind them. But when you do this kind of work, obviously as you know, you know everyone’s weirdest day, it doesn’t matter. That’s a good point. How much of a businessman they are. It doesn’t matter. And even where I’m at now, I live right outside of Nashville in this small town of Franklin, Franklin, Tennessee, and it looks like a Disney main street. It’s this cute little southern town, and I walk around with the long hair and always the black t-shirts and everything. And I joke that people want to run over and tell me how weird things have happened. And over the years, of course, what that has given me is it’s made me realize that I’m more skeptical on 99% of the things than I was when I started.

But there’s this 1% that has just absolutely just flummoxed me beyond all belief, and I can’t even begin to even understand in any way, shape or form. And as I tell these stories and we peel back layers of stories, we find ones that aren’t historically accurate, but we have people who have seen things that still somehow will stick to the tail. And so we have a local story here in Franklin. It’s called the Klauston Bride, and it’s a tale about this one building where a gentleman by the name of Edward Klaus, he built this little property, a beautiful little federal style home right on the edge of town, and it was meant to kind of be like a after church brunch place. He was going to entertain here. He had a big old mansion outside of town. And according to local lore, he wanted to build this little place and he wanted to build it just in time for his oldest daughter’s wedding. He’s going to have all the rich folk, all the governors, all the political powers, everybody’s going to come in town, a big old southern wedding, right? Well, as the story goes the night, or excuse me, the day before the wedding, everybody comes in town, they’ve got the church done up, everything’s ready to go. The Klaus and family goes to bed on this property in the middle of the night, they wake up and they walk out and realize that their daughter, the bride-to-be had hung herself in the stairwell of this property here.

Jim:

Oh my gosh.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Gosh. And so the story is told for years. Everyone said maybe she was in love with the gentleman down the street, and this was an arranged marriage. And then later the story evolved. Well, we found out now with the records that she was 17 years old and the groom to be was 48. And the story’s been told over and over again, and we’ve had people who come and say that they’ve seen the apparition of this woman over the years kind of hanging there. And an owner has talked about some of the things he’s experienced there, but the story is entirely false. There’s nothing historically to back it up. So there’s no way that, he didn’t even have children when he built the property, much less somebody, a daughter old enough to get married at that point. In fact, when he himself got married, he sold the property a couple years later.

But yet, this story has just lived here in town. And as I mentioned earlier, we like our dead brides, and this is our local example here. But the thing that I say about it is that this place is just a beacon for paranormal activity at the same time. So just because the story doesn’t line up with what folks are saying, that’s when it just gets into this zone that is just a crazy exercise and trying to understand what we’re doing and what the paranormal really is and how it integrates with the stories. And you can go into the realm of all the theories of whether or not there’s a trickster in the paranormal who’s living into the stories we’ve told, whether or not maybe just this story’s wrong and really we don’t understand, or we have no idea what trauma actually did happen in the building to cause it. I don’t know. But that’s what’s been fascinating as I’ve gone through it, is just these points in time where the story doesn’t line up, but people still say it.

Jim:

Here’s a question on that, and I’ve talked about this on the shows numerous times, so people will be listening saying, not that again, Jim, but I’ll bring it up anyway. I’m always been, and I got this from David Weatherly, who introduced me to this idea of a great researcher and author, this idea of tulpas, the idea of thought forms. For example, I always trott out the example, I think it was in Toronto in the seventies, the Philip Experiment, and the idea that these people almost created a ghost. So could it be, let’s say, I’m not saying necessarily in this case, but in a case where people report seeing this bride, this sad dead bride, that they’re not making it up in the sense that they’re just saying, Hey, Brandon, I saw this neat thing and just making it up out of whole cloth. But actually the legend has grown so powerful among people that people are creating a thought form unbeknownst to them that they’re actually seeing. Have you put any thought into that theory in these kind of cases?

Brandon Schexnayder:

Absolutely. I go back and forth between the trickster and the tulpa. I believe it’s one of those, and I guess that kind of parallels in some ways, right? Of this is either we are creating our own interpretation of a spirit, or this is someone who is taking our stories or some entity taking our stories and trying to appear that way. As someone once told me, as they were saying, they said, look, if you were a spirit and you just wanted to be seen, wouldn’t you take the form of what folks are looking for in order to have that interaction? And that stuck with me that thought. But the tulpa and the trickster are the two that I think about all the time, and more than anything else, it’s the one that really, when it comes down to my understanding of the paranormal, it’s probably where I lean the most when it comes to the spiritual world, is those two entities that way. But that’s an ever evolving thing and understanding, because who knows what’s really going on there.

Jim:

Yeah, I definitely think there’s a trickster element to some of this. I’m not saying at all, but I definitely think something sometimes is messing with us. And I would even, although it’s beyond the scope of your show, I would even say some of that gets into UAPs and UFOs and all that stuff. I’m not saying all, but I’m saying some. I think sometimes something is, for lack of a better phrase, messing with us. We’re talking with Brandon Schexnayder all about Southern gothic ghost stories, and we’ll be back after this. 

The Paranormal Podcast is brought to you by Parabox, and Parabox is made for people like us who love the paranormal. And once again, we are joined by the Mastermind behind Parabox, Jim Hamilton. So glad to have you again. Jim, could you explain to us the concept behind

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Jim:

Well, as we close out here, I got to ask for one more story, one of your favorites. One more, one more story. And again, it’s been great to talk about Southern Gothic, the podcast. One more story, and then we’ll tell everybody where they can find the show and everything you do.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you, let’s go to Atlanta for this one. Have you heard of Lake Lanier yet down there, Jim? Lake Lanier. It’s becoming kind of the hot place for new stories coming out. It’s becoming one of these stories that’s starting to leak out into TV shows and movies lately. So it’s supposedly Lake Lanier is cursed. Okay, this particular lake, it’s a manmade lake. It was built back, I believe, 1946. They started planning to make this lake, the Army Corps of Engineers. They built the Buford Dam, dammed it off in 1956 and started having the floodwaters of the Chattahoochee River just fill up and all these mountains outside out of Atlanta down there. And it was a place for recreation in Aqueduct, of course, for Atlanta and all. But they say that this lake is cursed, and it’s so cursed that over 700 people purportedly have died there since the lake.

It’s the deadliest lake in the country. Every summer, unfortunately, we see news reports come out of somebody new, whether it’s boating accidents, whether it’s this past summer, someone was electrocuted there on the lake, just all sorts of different things. It’s just been absolutely tragic. And of course, because of that, it’s just gotten a reputation as being cursed. And there’s a couple of reasons why they say it’s cursed. Folks say that when they were building this lake, of course they had to purchase land from farmers in the bottom lands there, and they purchased this land and they moved out so they could fill it. But in the process, the Army Corps of Engineers failed to move the cemeteries, all these little family cemeteries. And so when they flooded the waters there, all this sacred ground was left underneath. And as a result, people who swim in the lake might talk about whether they feel like they’re being tugged under the water, feel like there’s hands or arms or things pulling them underwater.

Another reason is this was sacred ground for the Cherokee, New Echota, which was the Cherokees’, their capital as a nation was right around the corner from there, the lake. And this was sacred ground. So possibly that’s a reason as well. So you joke about that kind of cliche of native burial grounds. Well, Lake Lanier is literally over a native burial ground. So folks talk about that, could be a possibility. The third and final one as well is some of the history of the lake. There’s a town called Oscarville that was there, and Oscarville was a predominantly black town. And back in 1912, there was a young woman was raped outside of town, and it caused this chain of effects that was very similar to Black Wall Street where the folks there down in Forsyth County actually came in. Violence ensued, and they ran out everyone from this town off the property.

So one of the theories is that the lake is cursed because of what happened there, of course, as well. So a lot of different things about why it’s cursed. But I’ll tell you the ghost story about the lake, and I bring up all the curse. That’s what everybody knows about. But for years and years before, people talked about it being this cursed. People talked about this one apparition out there. It was on the old Dawsonville Highway, which kind of snakes around the lake. There was this bridge out there by Gainesville and this bridge. They said that there was the apparition of a lady in blue who would walk the bridge. Now, not a lady in white. This wasn’t one you’d want to come across and invite into your car, right? This is a lady in blue who when you’d get closer, you’d realize her dress was just tattered and she just looked like she was a mess.

And she’s looking around. And as you got closer, you realized this woman didn’t have any hands either. And for decades, people talked about her. They called her the Lady of the Lake, and people said that they would see her over the years. Well, what they believed was back in 1858, back in April, excuse me not 1858. 1958, back in April of 1958, a woman by the name of Delis Mae Parker Young and her friend Susie Roberts, they were driving back there around the edge of the lake, and they were driving. They were going out in the middle of the night. It was dark. And these are long winding roads. These are mountaintops that were filled in. And they come over that bridge right there on the Dawsonville Highway, and they went right off the bridge that night. Their 1954 Ford just plunged right into the lake, disappeared.

They had scuba divers come out, searched for weeks for these two women, for the car and everything. And the only trace left of the women was just skid marks across the bridge. So those women disappeared, didn’t know what to do. And about a year later, after the search party had, they’d stopped searching the lake and everything. About a year later, a gentleman who was a fisherman was out there one morning, and he kind of came across something disturbing because he found this woman floating in the lake there. And they pulled her out and realized she had been in the water for a very long time, but they couldn’t identify her. And they believed it was one of the two women that had happened, but there was no way to identify her. She had been out there. So much decomposition had happened. So over the years, people continued to see this apparition, and they thought, well, this must be one of the women.

And then 30 years went by, 31 years to be exact went by, in 1990 as they were expanding this bridge, expanding this old Gainesville Bridge. They’re down there and they’re just digging in the muck, I guess dredging it, I believe is the word you call it. And they find that 1954 Ford coupe, and they find it down there at the bottom of the lake, and they pull it up and dredge it up. And sure enough, they find that was the woman inside. That was the car. They were able to identify it by some of the personal belongings. There was so much decomposition, obviously they couldn’t tell, right? So they were able to pull it up, and now they were able to identify these two women and actually lay them to rest after all those years. And folks believe that at that point, that’s when the lady in blue finally received what she was looking for, that that was actually Delia Parker, excuse me.

That was actually Susie Roberts looking for Delia Mae Parker Young, all those years searching for her friend. And so after that event, they of course were buried and everything. And that lady in the lake is no longer there. Her soul obviously has been appeased. But I love telling this story. Again. I’ve told you, obviously, I like going to cemeteries because I went down and visited the P. They’re both buried down in the Alta Vista Cemetery. And when I went out there to see the tombstone, and we went looking for it, Delia Mae Parker Young, she’s buried there and right next to her tombstone, there was a small trinket there that said, I love you, mom, after all these years as someone, one of the kids who’s older, obviously at this point, he would’ve been up in years. I believe he was one when his mother disappeared, grew up hearing this story, and it just brought that extra humanity to this one. So folks ask, will you ever, do you believe Lake Lanier is cursed? I don’t know, but I’m not swimming there.

Jim:

I understand that. And you bring up a good point with that, and I think this is important when we talk about ghost stories, whether we’re talking about something two or 300 years ago, or we’re talking about something in the late to mid 20th century or something in the 21st century that sometimes they turn out to be made of total whole cloth. But most of the time we’re talking about real people. And I think we have to maintain that sensitivity. And that sounds like something you absolutely do.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Absolutely. It’s something I’ve learned this from our friends over in the true crime world, the guys who really pay a lot of attention to viewing this not just as entertainment. This is also some type of advocacy that there are families who are still listening. And the deeper you get into telling these stories, the more you realize the humanity behind the people. And it doesn’t matter how well a story is. I get emails, sometimes, I’ll tell a story about somebody, and their great grandkid will email us and say, this is what we heard as a family growing up even.

Jim:

Wow. How neat is that? 

Brandon Schexnayder:

It’s incredibly, incredibly important to see that as these kind of micro history as a real people’s lives, yeah.

Jim:

Well, you’re doing some gratifying and great work. So the question now is, so we can really hit this home for people. Where can they find Southern Gothic, the podcast, and anywhere else you’d like to direct them?

Brandon Schexnayder:

Sure. Yeah. Well, Southern Gothic it is wherever you’re listening to this podcast, I promise. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I guess no longer Stitcher, but Castbox. We’re also on YouTube, Amazon music. You can get us everywhere, or you can come visit our website, SouthernGothicMedia.com

Jim:

Brandon, thank you so much for joining us today. I hope that everyone will check out Southern Gothic the podcast.

Brandon Schexnayder:

Thanks for having me, Jim. Really appreciate it.

Jim:

Thanks for tuning in. We appreciate it. We thank Brandon and we hope you’re all having a fantastic holiday season. We’ll be back next week with our Christmas special for 2023, so stay tuned for that and we’ll talk to you next time. Have a great week, everybody. Bye-Bye.


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