East Georgia Paranormal Society members, from left, Nick Morris and Jimmy Chappell use devices to measure the electromagnetic field in a room at the home on Gaither's Plantation. Quick fluctuations in the electromagnetic field can indicate evidence of a paranormal activity.
COVINGTON -- Tommy Cook believes spirits do indeed reside at Gaither's Plantation in Newton County.
He has smelled a flowery scent of perfume in the house, when there was no source for the fragrance. He's had an odd feeling at the foot of a staircase telling him to get out of the house. He's heard two women conversing upstairs while he and another man, the only two known people in the house, played cards downstairs.
"There have been a lot of things that have happened, some pretty neat things," said Cook.
Cook and other members of the East Georgia Paranormal and Central Georgia Paranormal groups invite the public to experience the home for themselves during their annual Halloween at Gaither's Plantation Ghost Tours on Oct. 26 and 27 from 4 to 9 p.m. Cost for the tour is $5 for adults, $3 for children 10 and under.
The tour includes a walk through the house, a hayride up to a historic church (where paranormal activity is said to have also occurred) and children's activities in the pavilion.
Cook said the ghost tour serves several purposes. It helps raise money for Gaither's Plantation, an important part of Newton County history; it gives folks a chance to get into the Halloween spirit; and for those not interested in spooks, it offers a rare opportunity to tour the historic home and property.
William Hulbert Gaither built the home in the early 1840s and he and his wife, Cecelia, and their children lived there. The Gaithers grew cotton on their 875-acre plantation and owned more than 130 slaves.
The family enjoyed prosperity in Newton County for decades until their lives began to unravel in 1888 after son Henry killed a neighbor and ran away to escape authorities. The couple's eldest daughter, Clara, then died at age 9 and Mr. Gaither died in 1880.
At the turn of the 19th century, the boll weevil wiped out the cotton crops and in 1929 Cecelia Gaither lost the plantation because she couldn't pay $28 in back taxes.
Perhaps all that misfortune has resulted in unrest for the spirits of those who lived at the plantation. Several paranormal research teams who've investigated the property concur that there is supernatural activity in the home, said Cook.
Investigators have recorded voices in the home, most remarkably one that said "don't go up the stairs" captured at the foot of the steep stairs leading into the attic. Members have witnessed strange lights in the attic area and spinning room. People have seen a person watching out the windows from both the front parlor and attic.
Owned by Newton County, Gaither's Plantation is rented by the general public for various types of receptions and wedding party members have reported a door opening by itself in the bride's dressing room.
On one overnight ghost hunt, researchers witnessed the figure of a Civil War soldier (through a thermal imaging camera) running through an underground tunnel which connects the house to a barn.
Cook said though the activity level at the home is high, none of it appears threatening.
That's a bit contrary to what might inhabit the Harris Springs Primitive Baptist Church, located just up the trail from the house. Moved to the Gaither's Plantation property from a location at the intersection of Ga. Highway 11 and Interstate 20, the Baptist church is said to be haunted by a pastor and his wife involved in a murder-suicide in the church.
Visitors to the church have witnessed shadows moving through the church, and some have even had their hair pulled.
Cook said three sensitives, people highly aware of paranormal energy, visited the church -- one wouldn't go in, another said that what lives there is evil, and a third characterized the entity as not very friendly.
Cook said last year, despite bad weather, the Ghost Tour attracted some 130 people. He encourages the community to come out and at least take a look at the home.
"There's no way for the general public to visit and this gives them a chance," said Cook.