March 21, 2012

Trippy Tales #63..."Spooky Surrency"...Part One

Hello & thanks for visiting the playhouse!
Today's tale is about a town that is very close to my own hometown of Brunswick GA. It's a little place on the map called "Surrency", in Appling county, Georgia.  Some crazzzy things went down in this town, and are still going on today. For example, the Surrency "spook light" that's been sighted along the railroad tracks. It's kind of a long story, so sit back...get comfy...and enjoy!

"Way down south in Georgia, in a railroad settlement on the edge of the Altamaha River Swamp, people talked about the Surrency ghost as if its reign were only yesterday. But it was more than a century ago, in the late 1870s, that the hotel of the Allen Surrency family – the family for whom the town was named- became center stage for one of the most spectacular hauntings in American history. In less than a decade, news of the strange happenings at the Surrency home had spread all across the country with thousands of journalists, scientists and curiosity-seekers pouring in to investigate.
Diaries, books, newspaper and magazine reports and hundreds of personal accounts vividly describe the unearthly activities that occurred in that house:
tables and chairs flying through the air, mirrors exploding in hallways, clocks running wild, hot bricks raining from the sky, mysterious noises ranging from sorrowful weeping to sadistic bursts of unexplained laughter.
Only a handful of oldtimers are still around who actually saw the house; fewer are alive today who witnessed the spooky manifestations before the structure went up in flames early one Sunday morning in 1912. Those who remember speak nostalgically of their town’s infamous ghost, pleased at the attention their community once received.
Phillip Dukes, who ran a local grocery store until his death in 1985, did not believe in ghosts. But in an interview with an Atlanta newspaper right before he died, the elderly Surrency native said he didn’t “doubt for a moment” the veracity of accounts handed down to him from his grandmother. “She used to spend the night at the house often, because she was Mrs.Surrency’s sister. A lot of times when she put her shoes under her bed at night, she’d wake up next morning and find them out in the hallway. That happened so many times she came to expect it every night. She never figured out what caused it, so she thought it must have been the ghost.”
The late Hershel Tillman, a longtime postal carrier for the Surrency district, was also convinced that ghosts were responsible for the haunting. As a boy, he visited the Surrency house many times, but it was stories related to him by his father, uncle and other relatives that convinced him there was more to the Surrency ghost than just talk. “No doubt about it, a ghost was involved,” Tillman said. “I wasn’t old enough to understand, but the poor people who lived in that house always had trouble going to sleep once the ghost invaded the place.”

And from

In the early 1870s, a Georgia family was at the center of a whirlwind of bizarre and sometimes violent poltergeist activity

"That place was possessed by something evil."
That was the opinion of Herschel Tillman when he recalled his many visits to the home of Allen Powel Surrency when he was a boy in the early 1870s. He was just one of the thousands of witnesses to the strange and sometimes violent paranormal activity that plagued the Surrency home, making it one of the most well-known and witnessed cases of this kind in American history.
Allen Powel Surrency, a saw mill operator, was the founder of the small town of Surrency in southeastern Georgia. When returning home from a trip to Hazelhurst in October, 1872, he found his house beset with the haunting. In a letter he wrote to the Savannah Morning News he said:
"A few minutes after my arrival, I saw the glass tumblers begin to slide off the slab and the crockery to fall upon the floor and break. The books began to tumble from their shelves to the floor, while brickbats, billets of wood, smoothing irons, biscuits, potatoes, tin pans, water buckets, pitchers, etc., began to fall in different parts of my house. There have been many other strange occurrences about my house. These facts can be established by 75 or 100 witnesses."

On the face of it, it sounds as if Surrency's house might have suffered an earthquake. In fact, that theory has been offered to explain the phenomena at the house. But that explanation does not hold up to scrutiny: the strange activity lasted weeks, even years off and on; the Surrency house was the only one affected; and an earthquake could not explain all of the bizarre phenomena described below.
And although the Surrency phenomena is usually referred to as a haunting and was attributed by witnesses to ghosts, the case actually has the earmarks of poltergeist activity, which is a psychic phenomenon rather than one that is caused by a residual or intelligent haunting. In fact, there seem to have been no reports of an apparition at Surrency.
Most poltergeist cases center around an "agent," usually a female of the age of puberty. At the time, the Surrency family had eight children ranging in age from 3 to 21.
News of this "haunting" spread like wildfire, and soon Surrency was the center of a media frenzy. Reporters and curiosity seekers from all over the country (and even England and Canada) descended on the little town in hopes of seeing the activity first-hand. Few were disappointed.
Like the famous Bell Witch case, the poltergeist activity at the Surrency house was extreme and diverse. Here are just some of the reported phenomena:
  • Unexplained screams were heard
  • Voices came from an empty bedroom
  • Plates, platters and books flew from their shelves
  • Ink bottles leap off a table
  • Doors opened and closed by unseen hands
  • The hands of clocks spun fast and even moved backward; a chime clock struck 13
  • Hot bricks fell from nowhere and landed on the roof and in the yard
  • A pair of boots trod across the floor on their own
  • At mealtimes, objects on the dinner table would "dance" around
  • Logs rolled out of the fireplace
  • Several hogs and chickens appeared in the living room, seemingly from nowhere, frightening one reporter out of his wits
  • Bedcovers rolled up and down at night
In an effort to rid his house and family of the terrifying activity, Surrency sought the help of the clergy, scientists as well as spirit mediums and psychics - all to no avail. Even after the house burned down in 1925, the activity followed the family to their new home on the other side of the county.
It wasn't until Allen Surrency's death in 1877, it is said, that the haunting finally stopped. Some, however, say it continues to this day around the town of Surrency. In fact, there is a famous ghost light there - a bright yellow ball of light that appears along the railroad tracks.
Stay Tuned For Part Two, Coming Soon!