Haunted West Point and Clay County

Waverly Mansion before its restoration by Robert and Donna Snow, looks like the perfect home for a ghost or the inspiration for a ghost story.
Staff Writer

The Halloween season is the perfect time for a ghost story. West Point and Clay County have their share of spooky legends and ghost stories that are best told on a chilly night around a fire, in the dark, of course.

Local historian Jack Elliott shared some spooky tales and urban legends from Clay County with the Daily Times Leader.

"When I was a teenager we used to hear of the late Luke Stepp, a deceased black man who was a taxidermist, and resided near Waverley," Elliott said. "His house still stood at the time. It was abandoned and grown up around it. The story was that Stepp had murdered his wife and stuffed her and that her body could still be seen inside his taxidermy shop. We used to take young ladies out there at night and tell them the story of the crazed murderer. Once at night I went alone into the workshop, but I didn't see a stuffed woman."

The story of Luke Stepp has been told to include that when the old man died, the wife’s body was discovered and the two of them were buried in the same grave. Stepp thought the grave was too crowded and his ghost went back to live in the cabin. The legend goes he could be seen walking along the Tombigbee River, and there would be lights moving in the old cabin.

The structure burned down in 1972.

"Then in about the '90s I heard stories about satanists conducting rituals in the Watkins Cemetery in the Kilgore Hills," Elliott said. "The cemetery is in a very lonely spot at the end of a dead end road and it is dominated by the vault of

Dr. and Mrs. William Andrew Watkins. It's a rather spooky place where kids are drawn to on Halloween." Elliott said he was told that the sheriff's department had identified "satanic symbols" carved into the marble of the vault.

"Of course I was interested, so I called then sheriff Laddie Huffman and asked him about it," Elliott said. "He said that someone had indeed found some scratchings on the tomb and tried to build a case that it was the work of satanists. I drove up to the cemetery and examined the vault. Yes, there were some scratchings on it but they didn't look like too much to me. Ambiguous at best."

The original office of the Daily Times Leader had its own ghost as well. Several people who worked in the building on Court Street heard mysterious, heavy footsteps on the stairs in the back. They would go to see who was on the stairs and no one was there.

The Gulf Ordnance Munitions Plant in Prairie has been the subject of paranormal investigators from the Mystic Mississippi Paranormal Society (MMPS) and has its own chapter in "Ghosts of Mississippi's Golden Triangle" by Dr. Alan Brown.

The MMPS claim to have made contact with a spirit named Phillip and another voice who said his name was Dale.

The Gulf Ordnance Munitions Plant was the largest facility for the manufacturing of munitions in the country during World War II. There were only two deaths connected with the plant itself. The ghosts, according to the MMPS, are from the Civil War era and claim to have been part of the Battle of Ellis Bridge.

The most famous ghost in Clay County is the little girl who haunts Waverly Mansion.

Donna Snow heard the voice of a little girl, calling her “Mama.” The next afternoon, it happened again and then continued to happen day after day. She finally realized that Waverly held not only the four Snow children, but one more, a little girl with no name who was looking for her mother.

Snow heard the little girl for about two more years before she discovered an imprint on one of the large canopied beds that would be about the size of a three-year-old child. A definite impression, about the size of the child, would appear on that same bed each afternoon.

It would remain there until late in the day and then vanish.Then one afternoon in the mid-1970's, Snow heard the voice for the last time. Instead of sweetly calling as it normally did, the voice became loud and shrill and yelled "Mama" five times. The voice never called out again and stopped sleeping on the bed in the afternoon.

Over the course of the next 10 years, Snow would always wonder who the little girl had been. On one occasion, a couple who were touring the house said to Snow that she had a spirit in the house. Soon after, the indention of the little girl began appearing in the bed again.

Even though she is never heard, the ghost girl has been seen by Snow and her daughter, Cindy. She is described as being a small girl with dark blond hair and who is wearing a long, high-necked nightgown. She has been seen and then dissolves into a white mist.