Feature Russ House exterior

Published on October 18th, 2018 | by Sarah Kirsch

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Lores and Legends of the Wiregrass: Sarah explores some Marianna, Florida, haunts

Do you like a good ghost story with a little history? We do! Every year, Wiregrass Local staffers get excited for the October issue, because that means ghosts! Sarah Lea Kirsch explored some Marianna, Florida, haunts for our October issue. Some sound like tall tales, and others are more convincing, but they all have some rich Jackson County history!

Bellamy Bridge: 4057 Hwy. 162, Marianna, Florida

Bellamy Bridge was built in 1914, making it the oldest structure of its kind in Florida. Not that old=haunted, but this area has also been dubbed Florida’s “most haunted” spot. There are several stories of ghosts that appear here, but the reason people come to see this place is because of the legend of Elizabeth Jane Croom (Bellamy). The tale most people hear is one of a burning bride, …set ablaze by a candle while celebrating her union to a handsome young doctor, Samuel Bellamy. While this story is exciting, the truth of the woman who wanders the woods near the bridge isn’t quite as dramatic. Elizabeth and Samuel did marry and live at a nearby plantation…happy and successful. Until 1837 when she died of a fever (suspected Malaria) along with their young son. Samuel lived on, and was successful for a

time, but financial woes and alcoholism sent him into despair and he committed suicide in 1853 by slashing is own throat with a straight razor. Though this tale differs, the ghost of young Elizabeth is said to roam the woods near the bridge, looking for her love.

Bellamy Bridge Ghost Walk will take place this year on October 12thand 13th.  If you want to go and hear more about the tragic story and possibly see Elizabeth for yourself, you can call the Marianna Visitors Center at 850-482-8061 for more information.

You can also visit the bridge during daylight hours, which is what I did, since it is open to the public. I did not get to visit with a ghost, but I did meet several local apparitions who were equally creepy and camera shy. Just to note, the trail is about a ½ mile and easy to walk but can be wet…and take bug spray. The mosquitos are blood thirsty and aggressive. 

Russ House: 4318 Lafayette St., Marianna, Florida

This beautiful old house serves as the Chamber of Commerce for Jackson County, and is also the county’s visitors center. Tales of it having been built on land scattered with bodies of fallen Civil War soldiers who have never left are told throughout the history of this house (The Battle of Marianna took place in the area near Russ House, Ely-Crigler Mansion, and St. Luke’s).

The original owner and man who had it built, Joseph W. Russ Jr., committed suicide in 1930 during the Great Depression. He is said to roam the halls along with another well-dressed man with a mustache. Perfume of a woman who is never seen can sometimes be detected near the back, and the elevator occasionally works on its own, perhaps carrying ghosts who prefer not to take the stairs.

The ladies in the office of the Visitor’s Center are fantastic and are ready to answer questions and direct you on your Marianna ghost hunt.

I learned more about all the places I had on my list and added a few jewels to check out via their recommendation. As they say, Marianna “flaunts the crazy” and there are dozens of wild stories waiting to be explored. Once in town, start here! You can park and easily walk to several nearby locations.

Ely-Crigler Mansion: 242 W. Lafayette St., Marianna, Florida

Just across the street from the Russ House stands the beautiful Ely-Crigler Mansion. This is a private residence, so no snooping around is allowed, but there is the occasional tour, and you can stand on the sidewalk and admire the home anytime.

When you do, you just might catch a glimpse of the Lady in Blue through the window. No one knows who she is, some say she is the beautiful Creole woman who was brought to manage the household during that time …but she stands in a high-necked blouse and long blue skirt, watching over the home. This house is also in the path of the Battle of Marianna and was heavily damaged by gunfire during that time.

Though the house has been repaired and restored to perfection, perhaps the trauma of that event caused her ghost to stick around, but the family who owns the house now said their dog sees her before they do most of the time. She obviously feels the need to protect the house, even in death.

Luke’s Episcopal Church: 4362 Lafayette St., Marianna, Florida

I was drawn to St. Luke’s because of the tale of a priestly ghost, but there is more than just that story here…and they do offer tours of the cemetery. St. Luke’s took a hit during the Battle of Marianna, and soldiers lost their lives on both sides on the property. I am told many of them roam there, and footsteps have been heard when no one is around.

The story that brought me here was of a young man who was there fulfilling a lifelong dream to become a priest. Joseph, he has been called, heard the commotion as the armies approached the church, and went out to see what was going on. Shots were fired, and Joseph was killed on the steps that day, never having seen his dream through to the end.

People who attend the church have said to have had sightings of him in the church, sitting in the pews, wearing his long, priestly robes and badly disfigured. His spirit cannot seem to rest without completing the calling he felt in life.

There is also a grave located there that I was told only contains 2 parts of the man who invented the ice machine and the system that is used in refrigerators and AC units, Dr. John Gorrie. His FEET.
I won’t give away the whole story, because it is a favorite of the staff there to tell, and I refuse to take that pleasure from them. Go check it out!

You can check the church website for more historical information and for dates on cemetery tours.  http://www.stlukesmarianna.org/

Riverside Cemetery: Franklin St., Marianna, Florida

Riverside Cemetery was planned and laid out by Robert and Anna Beveridge in 1827. They saw the need for the town to have a central location for their dead to be buried and they chose this beautiful spot on the hillside.

Sadly, one of the very first graves to be dug here was Anna’s.  A lot of the graves have been damaged or deteriorated, so no one knows exactly where her grave is, but she is buried there alongside the early settlers of the area, 2 trenches full of Civil War soldiers, and poorly marked graves of former slaves. The ghost stories told in this cemetery are countless.

One of the more unbelievable things I heard was a story of a rogue circus elephant named Gipsy.

Gipsy (not to be confused with Gypsy, the man-killer…different elephant, similar fate) came through Marianna with the Harris Nickel Plate Show.  He had escaped, and caused quite the stir downtown, as several people narrowly escaped being trampled. He refused to return, and in the end, was killed. There was some back and forth on what to do with his massive body, but locals told me that horses drug him to the cemetery and he was buried in an unmarked grave.

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