Cecilia Gaither, along with her husband W.H. Gaither, ran a cotton plantation in Newton County in the 1800s, and, although she died over half a century ago, Cecilia could still be a presence in the home where she once lived.
Cecilia had several children, one of whom, the eldest daughter Clara, died at the age of 9. W.H and Clara are buried in a family cemetery on the grounds of Gaither's Plantation, but Cecilia is not beside them. She was forced to sell the plantation, which included the resting place of her husband and daughter, in 1921 because the family could not pay the $28 owed in taxes.
There is a female apparition, according to some, that haunts the Gaither home. Reports of her presence range from a strong smell of flowery perfume in the upstairs bedroom, Cecilia's bedroom, to eyewitness accounts of a woman rocking a baby in the same bedroom window.
Friends of Gaither's Plantation Chairman Jerry Love said the group decided to bring in "ghost hunters" several years ago to dispel the rumors once and for all that the house was haunted. Instead, the effort ended up confirming the paranormal experiences and even generating new ones.
"That sort of backfired on me," said Love. "I was totally a disbeliever when all this started but I'm not a disbeliever anymore."
Gaither's Plantation, once a several thousand-acre cotton plantation, now consists of a few hundred acres, the original home, several outbuildings and a relocated historic church - all owned by Newton County. Aid in maintenance and preservation of the site is also provided by the Friends of Gaither's Plantation.
Gaither's Plantation, which serves as a host to festivals, weddings, family reunions, will this weekend host the first annual Ghosts of Gaithers Tour and Investigation. The Friends of Gaither's group, along with East Georgia Paranormal, will offer ghost tours Nov. 1 and 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Nov. 3 from noon to 7 p.m. Cost is $2.50. The tour includes the Gaither home and church and will be led by members of EGP, a Monroe-based group that investigates paranormal activity. There will also be opportunities available on a first-come, first-serve basis to join in a paranormal investigation at the Gaither Plantation on Nov. 3 from 8 p.m. until dawn. The cost for the investigation participation is $50. All proceeds from the tours benefit the Friends of Gaither's Plantation.
Love said that over the past few years, several paranormal groups have investigated the supposed spirits in the Gaither home, as well as paranormal activity taking place elsewhere on the grounds. Each time a new group comes in, he said, they experience the same level of activity as past groups and discover additional odd occurrences.
Particularly compelling, said Love, is the findings by two "sensitives," or people who are intuitively connected to the spirit world. The two sensitives, not knowing each other or the history of the house, toured the home on two separate occasions and both honed in on a female presence named "Ceely." At first, the friends group didn't see a connection until they discovered through Cecilia Gaither's great-great-granddaughter that Ceely is the name she was called by her grandchildren.
Along with Cecilia's spirit, investigators have discovered other apparitions on the plantation. These spirits are believed to be connected with Confederate soldiers, a murder that was committed in the back of the house and a murder-suicide that occurred in the church on the grounds.
Bobbie Bishop of EGP, which has investigated Gaither's six times over the last year, said the property is extremely active. In fact, it has the most paranormal activity of the 17 locations the group has visited in the Southeast.
"We have named three that we would call haunted and Gaither's is No. 1," said Bishop.
Bishop said that his group was told about the apparition in the window, of objects inexplicably moving in the house (including the parlor table shaking or rotating) and of strange lights and fog appearing in photos, as well as the sound of footsteps and voices heard in empty rooms.
For their part, EGP investigators experienced the smell of perfume in Cecilia's room (which traveled around the room for 15 minutes), accompanied by increased activity on an electromagnetic field meter; heard an argument between two women in the attic of the Gaither house; captured a voice saying "don't go up the stairs" on a digital voice recorder when the group ascended stairs to the attic in the Gaither house; and had mist shaped like a woman appear in one of the photos they took in the church.
Bishop, a Madison resident and information technology specialist for a power company, said he originally got involved with EGP as a technical consultant and he started off a skeptic. But, as a result of his experiences with EGP, he's changed his views.
"Everybody has that question, is there an afterlife and if so, what is it like. As technologically advanced as we are, there is still stuff out there that we don't know about and basically we're just trying to find as answer," said Bishop.
Contact Karen Rohr at email@example.com.
SideBar: If You Go
What: Ghosts of Gaither Tour and Investigation
When: Nov. 1 and 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Nov. 3 from noon to 7 p.m.; a special paranormal investigation experience on Nov. 3 from 8 p.m. until dawn will be available on a first-come first-serve basis.
Where: Gaither's Plantation, 270 Davis Ford Road in Covington
Cost: Tours are $2.50 per person; investigation experience is $50. For more information, call the Friends of Gaither's Plantation at 770-385-1298. or visit www.gaitherplantation.com or www.bobbysuniverse.net.