Photos by Derek Bell
Fall is upon us. The leaves are starting to turn bright shades of gold, red and orange, crunching beneath our feet as we walk to and from our varied destinations. The air is crisp with faint smells of winter; the sun sets too soon, burying our fair city in the glow of twilight. And with the darkness comes an uneasiness of what lies behind the sunlight, long passed on but ready to wander the realm of the living, in hopes of finding someone to listen to a tale of woe and misery. When all is still and quiet and the distractions are peeled away from our consciousness, is that someone or something trying to speak to you? There are those who claim to have walked with the dead and heard a calling from beyond the grave.
Berry College (2277 Martha Berry Hwy., Mount Berry) is a place where the lore is as deep as its vast 27,000- acre campus. With buildings erected more than 100 years ago, its hallowed halls have undoubtedly seen and heard many stories that are now locked away forever in the minds of the deceased. However, some say the rare occasion arises, when a soul is not able to rest and seeks to remind us of the pain that prevents their eternal peace.
Rachael McLucas, a curator at Oak Hill Museum and guide for Berry’s Haunted History Tours, provides some background and insight into some of the more famous spirit encounters. And because she is a 2012 graduate of Berry, she is well versed in the tall tales often tossed around among the student body.
“What we try to do here at Oak Hill is to debunk some of the ghost stories and give some history as to where they may have started. The stories we focus on – or one that is more notable – is the story of the Green Lady,” explains McLucas. “She is popular for having been seen at various parts of what we consider our mountain campus. She has been consistently described as this really gaunt figure, with a skeleton-type face and wearing tattered garments. She is always described as a young woman. Most students will say that in order to conjure her, you stop at the bridge, turn off your car, put the keys out of your window, turn off all of the lights and chant “Green Lady” three times. She has been said to appear in your rear view mirror.”
And after a chuckle McLucas gives a more interesting account, not in line with the typical horror movie cliché. “A more compelling story about the Green Lady is that she has actually been seen by a gentleman who worked for Berry. He was the cross country coach,” she says. “He was training with some students and one of them became lost on a trail during a run. It was cold and getting dark. They were not able to find him, and tensions were high, so everyone started to get nervous. While the coach was looking for him, he came across this gravesite and he saw a figure standing near who matched the description of the Green Lady. She was pointing and saying, ‘The dairy.’ There are two dairies on campus and where they found the student was actually an older one that was not in use anymore. There have been some thoughts that she must have been related to someone who was buried at the grave in the woods.”
The trails that wind around the mountainsides of Berry College can be desolate. There is one area, on the edge of campus, which is known by many Romans as “Devil Worshiper’s Road.” Uttering its formal name, CCC Road, is enough to open the door for stories of strange happenings, and stand the hairs on arms straight with fear. CCC Road is often traveled by those who are looking for a thrill, but some have left with a little more than they bargained for.
First, let’s examine the history of this ominous trial. The CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps, was ushered in by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. The program was started in 1933 and was meant to give unskilled young men jobs to earn money during The Great Depression. Workers were tasked with building infrastructure for government parks, developing rural areas and conservation efforts, i.e. planting trees and clearing property for roadways. In 1942, nearly 10 years later, the program was dissolved but our local road kept the name in its absence.
Berry College has since acquired some of the property surrounding CCC Road, but a portion is owned by citizens who decided to build a small Methodist church that sits alone in a clearing of the land deep in the woods. So, the urban legend states that the church has been the site of a little more than sermons and scripture, and the locale lends itself perfectly to the occultist ongoings reported in the area.
V3 decided to take a trip down the road to find out if some of the stories were true. As we sat around the table discussing what we had heard from friends and acquaintances, some of the things we would document became apparent.
There are rumored to be seven bridges on the trail to the church, but as you turn to leave you cross only six coming out of the woods. One bridge vanishes, as to say you have crossed into a world unfamiliar to most people who have not traveled the path.
Others report a chime or piano, playing softly in the church. When the noise is investigated there is no source for the sound. The church is empty, except for the tinkling music and the sound of a person crying faintly for help. And findings far more menacing are the reports of the remnants of animals, used in the ritual of an occultist group, scattered about on an alter inside the church. And when investigating the outside of the structure, symbols associated with Satan himself are found painted on the walls in red.
One Roman’s experience is not as glamorous, but is frightening all the same. Holly Chaffin, an art teacher at West End Elementary, is a 1989 graduate of Berry College and spent many days exploring the campus with friends while enrolled in classes there. Because she has educated children for 17 years now, it is difficult to discount her story as another wacko’s illusion of something that is not real.
“It was a beautiful day in early spring. It was a weekend and we just wanted to be outside, so my friend and I hopped on his motorcycle for a ride. We wanted to do something fun and explore, so we rode out to this creepy church,” Chaffin recalls. “We parked the bike at a gate and we had to walk down a long road to get to the church. As we were walking along, these little yellow butterflies were flying all around us. They were everywhere. When we rounded the curve and got our first glimpse of the church, we could see that someone had spray painted pentagrams on the front of the church. There was a lot of red paint and it was really weird looking.”
Her eerie tale becomes interesting when she says, “We seemed to cross this invisible line, the butterflies started to disappear. But taking their place were these bees or wasps that started bombarding us – almost chasing us. We walked a little further and I looked at Terry and told him I was turning around because this was just too weird. I could feel this malevolent presence there. It was a place that had a lot of heavy, bad energy.”
Chaffin believes the bees were a warning. She has never returned and emphatically responds with “never again” when asked if she would venture into the forest again to visit the church at the end of CCC Road.
Now it was our turn. We loaded up our gear, and set out to take the journey so many had taken before us, in hopes of debunking the mysteries surrounding the long dirt path into the woods. The sun was going down, and a warm glow hung just above the treetops. As we progressed, the trees on either side of the road became thick and the road narrowed. Soon we were beyond the halfway point, and to turn back on the closing darkness was not in the cards. And as we bent a corner and crossed an old iron gate, half yellow and half brown with rust, we saw what looked like a small, white structure through the trees. We counted four bridges out, but the absence of daylight caused us to abandon the mission of counting the bridges. (We didn’t need that story, because it had already been told.) But what we did find was far scarier than a disappearing bridge. Derek Bell was able to snap a picture just before we mounted the bikes we rode in, not looking back to see just what it was.
You see, urban legends, ghost stories and tall tales are meant to remind us that there are things in this world that we can’t explain. They can also be loads of fun, when coupled with the skills of a talented photographer and a trooper-of-a staff writer. The only thing screaming that day was my rear after riding the bumpy trail to the church.
Fear, however, is very real and oftentimes our imagination can turn the most harmless event into a nightmare for the record books. All you need is an unfamiliar setting and enough mental ammunition to create your own urban legend that gathers steam as it passes through the generations.
If you would like to share a haunted trail ride of your own, Berry College is happy to provide you with all the thrills you can handle. For the calmer demographic of ghost hunters, Oak Hill Museum will schedule a group for Berry’s Haunted History Tour. A guide will accompany you around the main and mountain campus, detailing all of the strange and paranormal sightings linked to the campus. And for the brave among you, The Scary Berry hayride takes a truck bed, full of travelers, through a haunted-house-style hay ride down one of the walking trails on campus. For information on both of these experiences visit
www.berry.edu, and keep your eyes open for signs near the entrance to the school and along Martha Berry Highway.
Can you be the starting point for an urban legend that scares the pants off your fellow Northwest Georgians? We would love to investigate your connection with the spirits who want to tell us a forgotten secret. Stay safe this Halloween, so that you live to tell your tale.