Springwood Cemetery Hunt 9-5-09
It can be rather amazing at times how often we can see a thing every day and not really give any further thought to what we've seen. It might be a common object or a person or even, in this particular instance, a place. Seldom do we think of the history that comes attached to those things. I don't pick up a cell phone and automatically recall Alexander Graham Bell and the technology that makes it work or wonder about the technicians whose efforts in manufacturing and sales eventually caused that phone to be in my hand. It's just there, and I know what it's meant for.
The same absence of thought usually holds true for cemeteries. Unless we happen to know one of the departed within their bounds, we recognize them, but rarely pause to consider the stories of the many lying hushed in an reverent oasis of quiet. In the heart of downtown Greenville, South Carolina is Springwood Cemetery, eighteen-and-a-half acres that serve as the final resting place for more than 10,000 souls, though no one is quite sure of the exact number. Among these are an estimated 2,600 unmarked places, many belonging to African-Americans freed from the bondage of enslavement. Others belong to the nameless infants of paupers and transients not able to afford the simplest of markers; others for victims of 1918's Spanish influenza epidemic.
Along the winding paths that divide the grounds into twenty-one sections, one can see a two hundred-year-old progression from a small family burial site to a vast necropolis that memorializes not only the honored unknown dead from the fields of civil war, but many influential early citizens that helped shape the city we bustle about today. Simple fieldstone markers, graceful Grecian columns, elegant Victorian tombs, elaborate statuary and modern engraved headstones reflect personalities as colorful as once possessed in life.
One such is Mrs. Phillips, who requested that her cat be buried atop her since, in life, the kitty had always napped on her stomach. Another is Mrs. Stevenson who had her dogs, Blackie and Brownie, embalmed and placed in infant vaults along side her. Each pet is remembered with a marker..."Son of Mrs. Mary P. Stevenson...gone but not forgotten."
Tragic Fannie Heldman is commemorated with an angelic statue atop the highest point in the grounds. In 1889 she took her own life in nearby Reedy River rather than be forced into an arranged marriage to her wealthy father's business partner. Former county Sheriff P.D. Gilreath is interred here. His courage and integrity was so widely respected that he never found the need to carry a gun.
For a number of years, while employed downtown, I was guilty of passing by without thought of those within, nor of the valuable history lesson I was missing each time. Not until a fellow friend in the paranormal research field shared her photographs and experience of visiting Springwood Cemetery as part of a local ghost hunting tour did I and the other members of Ghost PRO realize what we might be overlooking.
Inviting two friends to join us, our team charged our batteries, checked our gear, and headed out in search of what we might encounter, be it history, or restless spirits, or both. Though careful to maintain respect for those we were among, we couldn't help but be reminded of how eerie our surroundings were despite the unceasing sounds of traffic and the reassuring glow of street lamps and business lights all about us. Nothing can quite raise chills like the otherworldly glow of a marble tomb reflecting a pale moonlight or placing your palm upon the unrelenting coldness of bronze vault doors verdigris-ed with the patina of age.
The photographs and video taken that night captured many instances of orb phenomena, yet considering the outdoor venue, the evening's humidity, and the steady flash and flicker of oncoming headlights from every side, neither can we positively state these anomalies are proof of any paranormal activity. We didn't encounter anything which proved to be hard-core evidence of uneasy souls, but several times sensitive team members picked up fleeting hints which may have indicated a noticeable thinness of the boundaries between this world and the next.
One psychic experience which made the night memorable had an undeniably startling validation confirmed in the sunlit hours the next day. Beneath a massive tree we had felt compelled to stop. Catherine described picking up a breathy man's voice whispering what sounded like "John...John" repeatedly to her. Quietly fanning out, looking to adjacent graves, hoping to locate a name that might be a possible connection, we found "James", "Gerald", "Jane" and "Jim", but no "John". A short EVP session yielded nothing more helpful, so we moved on to another area of interest.
Unbeknownst at the time, a battery pack, set down during the search, was left behind, but that oversight wasn't realized until after the hunt concluded. The next morning, upon returning to retrieve the lost item, two team members searching in the area around the tree discovered not only the mislaid pack, but a simple marker belonging to " John F. Johnson 1879 - 1960" ! Coincidence? Possibly, but seven people had managed to completely overlook the one grave site within a thirty foot circle that would have given an immediate confirmation for a strong psychic hit. Had our failure to find Mr. Johnson's resting place cost us an opportunity to communicate further with "John...John"? Perhaps we shall never know, but a very basic lesson of paranormal research was reinforced. Always, always be thorough, and then when you think you're sure, check, look and listen again.
Springwood Cemetery is so large that the team only covered about half during our time there, so we look forward to returning in the future. We definitely recommend a visit for our readers. We don't guarantee any hair-raising encounters, but we can assure you of a fascinating brush with local history. Oh, yes, and if "John...John" wants to introduce himself again, we'll know exactly where he is! ~~Janet McDonald, Lady JEM
Orb Research The GhostPRO team examines orb activity and tracks orb movement frame-by-frame at Springwood Cemetery. See the short clip here.
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