Last weekend, I experienced my most unusual interview location ever–a haunted house, Magnolia Manor Bed and Breakfast in Bolivar, Tennessee. One of the spirits that haunts place is Priscilla McNeal who died at the age of 18. When I entered the room where her portrait hangs, the air grew very chilled–much colder than the rest of the house. I was immediately taken by her eyes that follow you with a cold glare as you walk around the room. It is said that her ghost rips off the sheets of people who sleep in her room. Viewing her visage hanging upon the fireplace was a spooky experience.
For the past 25 years, paranormal investigators have been scrutinizing this classic, two-story Georgian Colonial built in 1849. Guests and owner Elaine Cox have reported footsteps in empty hallways, strange lights, antique dolls moving, and doors opening and closing when no one is there. The house has been featured on more than a few television shows including “If Walls Could Talk” on HGTV.
Do I believe in Ghosts? I’m not sure but I certainly did feel very uneasy in Priscilla’s room. Shelaney, a member of the production team, spent one night in the house but was so unsettled by the experience, she had no desire to stay there again.
Magnolia Manor was dripping with gothic southern charm, including period antique furnishings, stained glass, and portraits of Confederate generals. Ironically, the house was occupied by the Union army during the war, hosting a number of Yankee generals including Grant and Sherman, as they planned the Battle of Shiloh. In this house, dripping with history, I sank into that Gone with the Wind ambiance, in no time.
I was there for a new Investigation Discovery program tentatively titled “Southern Fried Homicide.” The crime I discussed was the Mary Winkler case, subject of my book, The Pastor’s Wife. Mary shot Matthew, her preacher husband, in the back while he was sleeping in nearby Selmer, Tennessee.
|Book on the Mary Winkler case|
Visiting this haunted bed and breakfast was a lot of fun but the highlight of the trip was meeting the production crew from Sirens Media who gathered together in Tennessee from far-flung locations . Shelaney was from Maryland, my birth state. Linda hailed from Chattanooga, but her mother lives near my mother’s neighbor in Florida. Martin, the cameraman, lives just outside of Houston but is a German citizen, and, in the oddest coincidence, Parker, the sound guy, resides just a couple of blocks away from my daughter in Austin–and I’ve actually been in the building where he lives.
It was a wonderful and exhausting weekend with a great bunch of people. And now I can add to my list of accomplishments an interview in a Haunted House–kind of appropriate for a crime writer, isn’t it?