Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ghost Hunter's Guide: Dead in the Deep South

As both long-time fans of this blog know, I do a little ghost hunting on the side.

Since my private jet is A) in the shop and B) doesn't exist, I do all my ghost hunting locally. Which means I stalk a particular brand of restless spirit -- that of the wily Southern ghost.

I'm a Southerner myself. I was born right here, not in this chair but in Mississippi nonetheless. This grants me a unique insight into the ectoplasmic minds of the local spectres, haunts, haints, will-o-the-wisps, goblins, revenants, poltergeists, apparitions, and of course the Class II free-floating non-repeating vapors that haunt these gently rolling hills.

From what I've seen on television, your northern, eastern, and western ghosts seem to have standardized their behaviors, at least when the cameras are rolling. Here's every ghost hunting show I've ever seen, condensed:

GHOST HUNTER #1: I'm getting a hit on my K2.

GHOST HUNTER #2: I'm being touched!

GHOST HUNTER #3: I saw a shadow!

Play obscure EVP segment during reveal, in which ghostly voice says short phrase:

"I smell the eggs, Bartholomew."

Which is a lot more dramatic when shot in patented Green Night-O-Vision(tm) and accompanied by a sepulchral voice-over and sinister background music.

Southern ghosts, though, often march to a different tune (usually the phantom strains of an old Lynyrd Skynyrd album).  As such, I've decided to offer my own brief primer on the nature of Southern haunts.

Pull your Alabama ball-caps down firmly, and enjoy the ride.

Ghosts of the Haunted South: A Bestiary

1) The Residual Bubba.

A residual Bubba haunting is non-responsive and wholly un-communicative, unless provoked by the playing of NPR anywhere on the property. Residual Bubba situations are rarely dangerous, and in fact often go unnoticed if they peak during football season. 

A residual Bubba haunting is characterized by the following physical phenomena:
  • Repeated auditory phenomena, i.e., the sound of a pickup horn playing 'Dixie,' the reluctant cranking of an un-mufflered diesel engine, source-less WWF wrestling played at high volume, etc.
  • Periodic visual phenomena. Apparitions of bodiless Big Yank overalls, translucent Pabst Blue Ribbon six-packs floating through the double-wide, etc. 
An EVP indicative of a residual Bubba in progress:

2) The Intelligent Dwayne.

An intelligent Dwayne haunting occurs when the spirit of a deceased person remains attached to a property. Often, these spirits don't realize they are dead, and sometimes grow agitated when they mistakenly assume their new state of being is simply some newfangled Yankee holiday that has made their disability checks late.

These intelligent hauntings are characterized by:
  • Menacing physical phenomena, most often in the form of slaps, punches, and repeated butt-kickings.
  • Movement of physical objects, usually of TV remotes and bottle openers.
  • Poorly-spelled Ouija Board warnings, usually of the 'Git out er I will KICK YOR ASS' variety, although some sessions might reveal a decided slant toward debating various NASCAR drivers or the inability of Ole Miss to consistently score in the fourth quarter. 
An EVP indicative of an Intelligent Dwayne haunting:

3) The Saturday Night Phantom.

When a person is taken by death too soon, they often remain Earthbound, tethered by a wistful sense of leaving behind unfinished business.

When a Saturday Night Phantom is taken by death, the process usually includes (but is not limited to) propane, firearms, crude incendiary devices of a homemade nature, copious amounts of easily-affordable alcohol, motorcycles, livestock, heights, wet roads, lack of headlights, amateur rocketry, and ill-timed use of the phrase 'Watch this, y'all.'

A Saturday Night Phantom, known as a poltergeist in other locales, is a mischievous (and possibly still drunk) spirit which reveals its presence through pranks and trickery, such as:

  • Sudden foul odors, usually accompanied by loud raspberry sounds and faint giggling.
  • Crude knock-knock jokes delivered during Ouija Board sessions.
  • Repeated inexplicable toilet flushings.
  • Nocturnal wails and screams, followed by slurred renditions of the Arkansas State football fight song.
An EVP typical of a Saturday Night Phantom:

4) The Old Man Burtrell Ghost.

Every community in the South, no many how tiny or remote, features an Old Man Burtrell by one name or another. In life, these reclusive, hostile souls demand absolute privacy and demonstrate an eager willingness to maintain it by casual discharges of shotguns and cursing. In death, their spirits continue on as they always have, not knowing or caring that their Earthly lives are over.

An Old Man Burtrell haunting is indicated by any of the following:
  • Sounds of a phantom shotgun being chambered.
  • Motion on the part of empty rocking chairs, followed by a spit of phantom chewing tobacco.
  • Spectral gunfire, followed by confused, enraged cursing.
Sample of a typical Old Man Burtrell EVP:

5) The Wilted Rose.

Saddest perhaps of all the Southern haunts, the Wilted Rose is the wandering spirit of the truck-stop diner waitress who, even in death, can find neither rest, peace, nor affordable astral housing on her lousy tips alone. 

The presence of a Wilted Rose is most often indicated by:
  • Coffee cups which fill themselves. Small plastic containers of spoiled creamer often appear beside the cup, alongside a syrup-smeared paper packet of pure cane sugar.
  • Clouds of cigarette smoke which form from nothing.
  • Phantom diner checks decorated with smiley faces drawn on steamed mirrors.
Sample of Wilted Rose EVP:

Wilted Rose EVP

Next Week: On the Trail of the Southern Bigfoot, or, Sasquatch Can't Drive Worth Crap.


  1. So different to our own, dear, British ghosts, which are almost indistinguishable from any other thin, pale Tarquin; shivering a lot and moaning (usually about the weather). I now fear I may be an earthbound Wilted Rose, mid-wilt.

  2. We should institute a Post-mortem Exchange Program, so that your British ghosts can get a taste of cheap beer and loud pickups, and our ghosts can learn to appreciate a proper cup of tea and a lorry.