By Kimberly Brigance
We all know Sandy Springs is a great place – so great, in fact, that some choose to stay forever. If you believe the stories, our community is home to many restless ghosts and spirits of the long since departed.
Here, in keeping with the Halloween season, are a few ghost stories that live on.
The Black Cat of Long Island Creek
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of our community, and the story of the Black Cat of Long Island Creek may have begun with them. According to legend, Native Americans revered panthers as the ablest and most successful hunter. Like panthers, the best hunters in the tribe were honored for their ability to provide food for the group.
It was said that when the hunters died, their spirit returned in the form of a panther. Anyone who saw or heard the black cat was lucky; they would succeed in their hunt. After Native Americans left the area, the spirits of the hunters stayed to roam their ancestral land. The legend was passed to early settlers, and panthers or black cats were so revered that nearly a century later the panther became the mascot of the first local high school (Sandy Springs High School).
For the last few decades, the big black cat seems to have restricted his hunting and haunting to Long Island Creek. A lucky few still catch a glimpse of him, and on moonlit nights his ghostly cries can sometimes be heard echoing along the banks of the creek. If you see or hear him, you, too, will be successful in what you are seeking, but if you harm the cat, you will never get your heart’s desire.
Civil War Ghosts
The Civil War years were likely the harshest and most heartbreaking the people of Sandy Springs have ever had to endure. Perhaps it is because so much suffering took place that most of our ghost stories are from that time.
I think the saddest story is that of a young mother whose husband was away fighting the war. When the Federal Army invaded in July 1864, the woman begged the army not to take away her milk cow. She had long since become too malnourished to feed her baby, and the cow’s milk was the only thing keeping it alive. But they took the cow and, sadly, the infant died. Soon after, the mother died of grief.
Not long after their deaths, strange lights began to appear in the woods near what is now Huntcliff. Locals believed it was the ghosts of the mother and child haunting the campground of the soldiers who condemned them to an early grave.
Heritage Sandy Springs Museum
I have worked at the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum for six years. The Museum is located in the Williams-Payne House. I’m often asked if it is haunted. I have been there at all hours and have never experienced anything to make me believe it is haunted until recently.
In February of this year, we opened the Wit in Wood exhibit. It showcases the carvings of Moses Robinson (1845-1942) who lived and worked in Sandy Springs. Almost as soon as the exhibit opened, I noticed that some objects would move inside the locked cases. I attributed the movement to vibrations from foot traffic or settling. However, only particular pieces in the cabinets moved no matter how many times I set them to right.
In September of this year, one of Moses Robinson’s descendants was visiting from Virginia. His family donated many items to the museum’s collection. Half-jokingly I told him about our ghost. He was not surprised at all. He said his house was haunted his entire life right up until the moment the items were transferred to the museum. Sure enough, our ghost was only moving the artifacts from his family’s collection. Perhaps now the museum is haunted. If it is, it is a friendly and playful spirit. I hope it stays.
In the early morning hours, a young man was driving down Northside Drive toward Powers Ferry Road. Suddenly he swerved into the opposite lane, stopping just short of the ditch. He jumped out of his car to confront the cause of his near-fatal wreck.
In the moonlight, a long line of men swinging pick axes continued to work as if they did not see or hear him. The chain that bound them together clanked against the rock they were breaking. As he got closer, the men melted into the moonlight, but the steady pounding of the rock reverberated through the woods.
Frightened, he leapt back in his car and drove off. This report is from the 1940s. Since then, several have reported seeing the ghostly apparition of men working on the cut of Northside Drive.
Sandy Springs was home to at least three convict camps in the early 1900s. These men labored under the harshest conditions to build the roads. One ill-fated group was charged with changing the steep route of the road that led from Powers Ferry Road to Mount Vernon Highway. For months, the men dug through the high ridge with only picks and shovels. The deep cut along what is now Northside Drive still blocks the sun and briefly entombs drivers between two vertical walls of earth and rock. Many drivers will tell you the spirits of these condemned men are still toiling at their endless task of leveling the road.
Kimberly Brigance is director, Programs & Historic Resources, for the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum.