American Folklore

Georgia: American Folklore #10

Georgia has a long history going back millennia with Native Americans, and centuries with European colonists. During that time, it has accumulated quite a bit of its own, uniquely Georgian folklore. Here are some of the highlights of it.

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As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia has been part of the union since the beginning, and even before. It has a long history going back centuries with Europeans, and millennia with Native Americans. It also attracted a large number of Scottish and Irish immigrants just before and just after the American Revolution. During that time, it has accumulated plenty of its own unique folklore. Here are some of the highlights.

The Georgia Sea Monster

It’s not just Scotland that has a sea monster. Georgia has its own version of the famous creature of Loch Ness. It is known as the Altamaha-ha sea monster, or “Altie,” for short, and it lives in the waters of McIntosh County (including in the waters of some abandoned rice fields). Tales of the sightings of Altie go way back, to before European settlement in Georgia. The Muscogee tribe of Native Americans, who were the original inhabitants of the McIntosh County area, reported seeing the beast centuries before Europeans arrived. Sightings increased with the influx of Scottish settlers who were already familiar with the Nessie legend.

Altie is sometimes still seen today, usually swimming in the Altamaha River, close to the town of Darien. If you can’t manage to get a glimpse of the real thing yourself, there is an Altie replica at the Darien-McIntosh Regional Visitor Information Center.

The Fairy Crosses of Fannin County

In Blue Ridge, Georgia, fairy crosses are common. They even have a scientific name… staurolites. These are stones that have formed into the shape of perfect or close to perfect crosses, and they are said to bring good luck, protection, good health, and fortune to those who find and keep them. Because fairy crosses are only found in a very few natural locations around the world, Fannin County in Georgia became famous for having one of the largest concentrations of them.

There are a couple of local legends about how they formed into their miraculous shape. One legend is that fairies cried when they heard about Jesus dying on the cross, and their tears became cross-shaped stones. Another legend states that these stones are the tears of Cherokee Natives as they left their homes to follow the Trail of Tears.

Tree Spirits on St. Simons Island

If you visit St. Simons Island, don’t let the faces on the trees in the woods bother you. While the uninitiated may mistake them for spirits, they are actually carvings by artist Keith Jennings. About two dozen of them exist on trees across the island and are said to be immortalizations of sailors who were lost at sea who sailed on ships built at St. Simons Island.

Carving is still going on, with new faces on new trees appearing each year. This has made searching for the faces a popular pastime on the island. You can find out more about the carvings, as well as where they are located, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center. Searching for the faces makes for a great family fun day in the woods while learning about an important bit of Georgia folklore.

Ghost Towns of Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier, located in northern Georgia, is not as innocent as it seems. It is a manmade lake. In order to get the lake to the depth they wanted, the US government bought more than 250 family homes, 15 businesses, and 20 cemeteries to fill more than 50,000 acres of farmland with water to make the lake. Those who wouldn’t sell to the government were forced out of their homes and businesses. Today, several intact ghost towns sit at the bottom of Lake Lanier, looking exactly (or almost exactly) as they did when the government flooded the land.

The land and the people who were forced to leave it did not seem to take kindly to this treatment. Lake Lanier has since become infamous for the unusually high number of boating accidents, drownings, and cars sliding off the road and into the lake (usually for no obvious reason). Some years have had 15, 20, and more mysterious deaths associated with the lake. The survivors of some of those lake accidents have said that they felt like they were being dragged down to the bottom by invisible hands, and only barely escaped with their lives. There are plenty of others who were not as lucky.

No Renovations Permitted at the Roswell Mill Home

There is an old mill house in Roswell, Georgia that simply does not want to be renovated. A woman bought it in the 1990s and attempted to set up a business there. This involved several attempted renovations to make it suitable for her intended purpose. Each time she tried to renovate, the house became soaked in water, and each change she made became mysteriously undone.

The woman brought in a psychic, who discovered the spirits of five women in the house, all wives of men who went to fight in the Civil War. One of the women complained to the medium about the “fire” in the walls of the house. This explained one of the floodings the new owner experienced there….the ghost of that woman did not understand what electrical wiring was, and used the flood to put out the fire she thought was going on when the new owner installed electricity in the house (it had never had it before).

Don’t Join This Masquerade

The Masquerade nightclub in Atlanta is the sight of a famous haunting that still goes on occasionally. Visitors report seeing the ghost of a tall man walking around inside the nightclub. His identity is unknown. The staff at the club has said the amplifiers, which are very heavy, are sometimes turned upside down when they arrive for work when the club was empty before they arrived.

Other workers and guests have reported hearing footsteps from unknown sources, feeling cold spots in the club, and hearing screams that come from behind the stairs. The club is also said to be a popular spot for vampires to visit, and some guests believe one actually lives there.

The club used to be a mill house, which had a troubled history of fires, accidents, structural collapses, and even an outbreak of tuberculosis among mill workers at one point. Such a history, with workers sometimes being killed in these incidents, is usually what brings a place to be the site of various hauntings like this.


Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has helped genealogy researchers for over 25 years. He is also a freelance photographer, husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild.