Central Georgia Paranormal Society members, from left, Debbie Bird of Walton County, with her son Aidan, 7, and Larissa McGiboney of Newton County, will help with ghost tours at Gaither Plantation on Oct. 25 and 26. The event is sponsored by the Central Georgia Paranormal Society and the East Georgia Paranormal Society. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
COVINGTON — Central Georgia Paranormal Society member Debbie Bird scrolls down her laptop computer and clicks on various audio sound bytes that play messages picked up while recording in the basement of the historic house at Gaither Plantation. The plantation served as home to the Gaither family and their slaves in the 19th century.
In the recording, the paranormal group asks if there is a presence in the home, and the answer is a loud and audible “hey,” a response heard not only in the basement but also at the top of the basement steps by group members, said Bird.
In another recording, as the group is setting up their equipment in the foyer of the house, the machine captures a child’s voice saying, “hello” in a matter-of-fact way.
They’ve also heard the sound of footsteps heavily pacing back and forth in the attic, and a heated discussion between two women in the attic.
For the ghost hunter, it’s all in a day’s work.
“’Intrigue’ is a good word. Had it been the first investigation (hearing the voices), I would have been a little scared but being in investigations, that’s what we look for, so we get excited,” said Bird.
The Central Georgia Paranormal Society is pairing up with the East Georgia Paranormal Society for the second year in a row to present Halloween at Gaither’s Plantation Ghost Tours on Oct. 25 and 26 from 4 to 9 p.m. Cost for the tours is $5 for adults and $3 for children 10 and under.
The tour takes groups through the home, a two-story farm-house type structure with an attic and a basement, built in the early 1800s.
Dr. Henry Gaither, a wealthy Newton County physician, owned the land and his son William Hubert Gaither and his wife Cecelia, who had two children, operated a 875-acre plantation there, with assistance from 130 slaves.
It is said that various members of the Gaither family, as well as Civil War soldiers, haunt the home, which remained in the Gaither family until 1929.
Larissa McGiboney, a member of the Central Georgia Paranormal Society, said the closest she’s come to hearing a ghost at the house is when the front screen door mysteriously opened and slammed shut, even though all group members were accounted for and not near the door.
“I couldn’t explain that one,” said McGiboney.
After touring the home, ghost tour participants take a hay ride up to the Harris Springs Primitive Baptist Church, which was relocated to its present site at the plantation from its original home in Social Circle. The historic church is heavy with supernatural activities, said the paranormal society members.
Tales of a murder-suicide involving a pastor and his wife, owing to infidelity, are connected to the church. Recordings of gunshots in the church, yelling and screaming have been picked up in the sanctuary, a bare bones space with only pews and a pulpit. A choir singing has also been recorded in the church.
A female spirit seems to be strong in the space, said the ghost hunters. Bird recently picked up a woman’s voice whispering “Willa” on her recording equipment, though when she made the recording she heard nothing. It was only after she played it back that the loud whisper of the name appeared.
Bird said it’s not unusual to not hear the voices and noises until reviewing the recordings.
Those going on the ghost tours will have an opportunity to hear ghost recordings at a station set up in a pavilion on the grounds of Gaither, a popular attraction at last year’s event.
“That was the first year it was done and that was a big hit because it’s great to hear the stories (surrounding the recordings),” said Bird.
The ghost tours are fundraisers organized by the paranormal groups to benefit Gaither Plantation. Last year, the tours, coupled with money raised from overnight ghost hunting expeditions, raised over $2,800 for the historic property.
East Georgia Paranormal Society member Tommy Cook said that the tours are designed for families and that tour leaders share the historic background of the house and church, as well as stories about their personal experiences with supernatural activity.
“The thing for us is we don’t intentionally try to make it scary. We try to give them the history of the place and then talk about our encounters,” said Cook.
For more information about the ghost tours or to reserve a spot on an overnight investigation (which runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.), contact firstname.lastname@example.org.