Catering service in its front rooms. Though no sightings of the young girl were reported, there was a green elephant sitting in the hall; a stuffed toy that one of the vendors left behind after the fire. Usually the green elephant stayed on the table, but sometimes—during the long nights when the old building was locked up and deserted—the green elephant would move. Diana became accustomed to seeing the green elephant in different places when she opened shop in the mornings: sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in one of the back rooms, and sometimes just looking out the window.
Thus was the inspiration for the name of the ghost tours in St. Marys now conducted by Diana: Green Elephant Ghost Tours.
The haunting experience begins at sunset each Friday night at the St. Marys Welcome Center at 406 Osborne Street. First stop: Orange Hall, said to be the most haunted structure in St. Marys and home to the city’s most beloved child ghost. She was little Jane Pratt who died when she was only eight years old. Sightings of the figure of little Jane, the daughter of the first pastor of First Presbyterian Church, have been reported in the three-story Greek Revival for years. People say they’ve seen her peeking out the window of her upstairs bedroom. Her footsteps have been heard pattering across the floor when the house was supposed to be empty. And she has been known to move toys and dolls around in her room during the night. Could this be the same spirit that haunts neighboring Phoenix Hall?
From Orange Hall, Diana takes her tour guests to The Goodbread House Inn, and tells the story of Captain Goodbread whose beloved spirit wanders the bed and breakfast throughout the wee hours of the evening. Proprietor Mardja Gray says her guests accept the spirit of the beloved paddlewheel captain, and many comment on how well they sleep through the night, feeling as if they have been embraced with an unexplainable “warm hug.”
Just down the street, the historic Riverview Hotel has its own mysteries. Diana relates the tale of “Old Hugh,” the eccentric Riverview Hotel regular who met his demise over the Christmas holiday one year. Old Hugh has been known to tug on a guest’s leg just as they drift off to sleep.
The Green Elephant Tour proceeds through a ninety-minute stroll around town with stories of unexplained apparitions and sightings such as the light that glows over the marshfront sometimes during the darkest nights. Legend has it that this is the headless pirate who roams the marshes looking for his head. The pirate appears on the site of the Old Ross Inn which was built around 1800, then destroyed by Hurricane Dora in 1964. Nearly every visitor of the inn was reported to have had one encounter or another with the pirate. Yet no one could explain where he came from or why his spirit lingered. That was until the inn was no more.
When excavators were clearing away the rubble after the inn was destroyed, they found what might have been the cause of the pirate’s persistent haunting: a group of human bones missing only the skull.
Of course, no ghost tour would be complete without a visit to a cemetery, and St. Marys’ historic Oak Grove Cemetery is bounty for many
mysteries that have plagued the town throughout the years.
St. Marys’ Resurrection Angel, much like the one made famous by the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is the source of many local legends. It is said the angel changes positions; that if photographed a ring of faces will be seen surrounding her; that she glows on dark nights off the new moon. She has even been sighted floating above the ancient oak trees that fill the beautiful cemetery.
Diana bewitches her audience with story after story about unexplained events that pervade the town of St. Marys. Is the city haunted? How can it not be? Death alone is not strong enough to tear some of the city’s residents away. As one of the nation’s oldest cities, St. Marys is steeped in historical importance. Surely it is plausible that the spirits of times past are drawn to the living, and wish to tell their stories, to relive their place in history through believers. Perhaps a spot on The Green Elephant Ghost Tour will make a believer out of you as well.
Reservations are required for The Green Elephant Tours. Call 912-576-9111 or 867-863-0342.