This article isn’t for people who don’t believe in ghosts. Just putting that out there.
I saw my very first spirit when I was just 7 years old. I was too young at the time to really know what was happening, but I pieced it together later. That story is for another day.
Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with the paranormal. I’ve always been sensitive to it. My grandmother calls it “a gift” and has always encouraged me to pursue it. I would consider myself pretty experienced in the field of communicating with ghosts. I’ve had many a seance, and many a session with a ouija board, (yes, they can be done safely), but I’ve learned that you don’t have to actively be seeking out spirits to get activity. Sometimes they just come to you.
No two experiences are alike, and I’m not going to say that this is the only experience that has really touched me. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do have a favorite experience, but this isn’t it. Again, that’s a story for another day.
But I’m writing this story because it’s one that I somehow convinced my boyfriend to get in on as well. Always the logical one, Brett took the feelings I was having and put them against stone cold evidence, and here we are. He's written an article on all of the facts. Be sure to check it out here!
So. Let’s start at the beginning.
I go to school in Columbus Georgia, and I live just down the street from the State Theatre of Georgia, The Springer Opera House. It’s a beautiful building that dates all the way back to 1874. It’s survived threats of demolition, abandonment, and restoration, and today it’s a fully functioning theatre on the National Historic Registry. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you see a show there- the productions are phenomenal.
I’m an education major, and as part of one of my classes, I had to lead a class field trip to a historic location in downtown Columbus. I chose The Springer because I had performed there before, and I love old theatres. It was supposed to just be a research project, but I got so much more than I bargained for.
It was about this time last year, so October of 2015. I went to the Springer Opera House to get an interview and talk to someone about my field trip. (I didn’t ask permission to use this woman’s name, so just to be safe, I’m going to keep her anonymous.)
She told me all kinds of amazing history about the Springer, and I told her that in my preliminary research, I had found some ghost stories. I couldn’t help but ask, because as soon as I had walked in the front door, I knew that this building had resident spirits.
She told me all kinds of ghost stories, all of which were fascinating. But one of them stuck out to me- the story that took my on the crazy journey that I’m writing about today.
In 1871, when Francis Joseph Springer opened the building, it was a grocery store. He sold hay, tools, feed, and anything a Columbus farmer might need. One wall of the market, (this wall has been restored and still stands today as part of the theatre lobby) was reserved for men to tie up their horses while they did their shopping.
On one particular day, a man rode in a tied up his horse. Around the same time, another man came with his daughter. While the two men did their shopping, the little girl wandered over to the horse and began to play with it. She pulled it’s tail, and poked at it. Unknowingly, she spooked it, and the horse kicked her in the face. The little girl bled out and died on the grocery floor, and they shot the horse right on the spot.
The blood stain is there to this day, on the original 1871 tile floor that is now the lobby. It’s very faded, and hard to see if you’re not looking for it, but it’s there. And it will bring chills up your spine.
Something about this story stuck with me, but I continue don with my tour. We ended on the third floor balcony, and while we were talking about the chandelier that was imported from London, something came over me that I will never fully be able to explain.
It’s that feeling you get when someone is standing behind you. You don’t have to see them to know that they’re there, because you just feel their presence, right? I was looking ahead, listening to my tour guide speak. We were the only two in the building. But someone was standing right behind me. And I don’t know how to explain how I knew it, but I was certain that it was her.
She lingered behind me, and it was if I could almost see her in my head. She was right there. I felt shivers all over my body. She stayed there until my tour guide and I left the balcony, and went back into an office to finish the interview. She didn’t follow us, and I immediate felt the air return to normal. I tried to shake it off, but I couldn’t.
“Do you have any other questions?” My tour guide asked me.
“Just one,” I said, “Could you tell me again what that little girl’s name is?”
She just shrugged. “Nobody knows her name. Never could find it anywhere.”
I nodded and thanked her for her time. I said I would see her in two weeks for the presentation, and I left. I stopped on my way home and got a coffee. I sat in the coffee shop window and thought about that girl for God knows how long. Finally I shook her from my head, and went on with my everyday life.
Two weeks went by, and I studied and went to my classes and prepared my presentation. The story of the girl popped into my head several times, but I figured it was just my fascination with the mystery. I tend to fixate on mysteries, or tragedies and think about them endlessly. Weird, I know, but at least I’m an endless treasure trove of Titanic trivia because of it. Anyway, I thought about the girl a lot but I let life go on.
Presentation day came and I was PUMPED. Growing up a theatre brat, I don’t really have a problem talking in front of people, especially when it’s about something that interests me. I flew through the presentation, and wrapped the whole thing up with my favorite story- the story of the girl who was kicked by a horse and died here. I had my entire class gasping at the bloodstain on the tile, and I have to say I felt pretty damn good. My presentation was the last of the day, so my professor had us all sit down in the theatre to talk and give each other constructive criticism.
I sat in a chair on the aisle, and listened as he critiqued the three people who had gone before me that day. Suddenly, like flipping a switch, she was there again. I could feel her right next to me, standing in the aisle. Again, it was like I could almost see her. Almost. I tried to hone in on the energy, but my professor called on my to stand in the front and be critiqued. I got up from my chair, and listened to my classmates, all the while still feeling an extra pair of eyes that no one else could see.
We wrapped up class for the day, and since I lived a block from the theatre, I just walked home. My mind was racing with the feeling I had experienced again, only this time, I was much more emotional. In fact, by the time I got back to my dorm, I was in tears.
I curled up in bed and cried. I was so overwhelmed with sadness. I didn’t even really know why. I just couldn’t stop. Finally, my boyfriend came in and saw that I was distraught and asked me what was wrong.
He’s always been a skeptic. But this wasn’t the first time that I had experienced something and told him about it. Even though he was wary, he still listened to me tell the whole story, before asking what it was about her that was making me so upset. Something clicked in me and suddenly I knew why I was so upset. I knew what she was telling me.
She wanted me to know her name.
I told Brett this. I told him that there was a ghost in an old theatre who wanted me to learn her name and I was so upset about it that I was in tears. And for some Godforsaken reason, he agreed to help me. (Because he’s a sweetheart. Thanks again, babe.)
So we started our research. I won’t go into the details, because that’s kind of his thing, (again, check out his article!) but we combed through thousands of burial records, using dates, ages, and death certificates, and after 8 months, we had a list of 7 potential girls. 7 girls, 1 of which could be the one that had attached herself to me.
In March I found myself back at the Springer when Brett surprised me with tickets to go see Sweeney Todd. We sat in the second floor balcony and enjoyed the first act. Nothing paranormal happened. After intermission, we settled in for act two, and I started to have that funny feeling again. She was there. Not only that, she was standing behind me, and very gently pulling on my hair. Little pieces at a time, I could feel my hair being pulled and played with. She stayed there for most of the second act, and while it was unsettling, I wasn’t scared. When the lights came up for curtain call, she was gone. I told Brett about it when we got home, and he admitted that he had been feeling funny as well. This is the last experience I’ve had with the little girl to date, because I haven’t had the opportunity to get back in the Springer since. I’m hoping to change that in the near future.
The project kind of died down, because by now it was spring semester and Brett and I had finals, and we were getting ready to move out of our dorms and into our first grown-up apartment together. We took over the lease of one of our friends who was moving soon, and so we lived with her for the summer before she left. One morning in late May, just after we had moved in and gotten settled, our roommate asked if we wanted to go grab some coffee with her, and I never turn down coffee.
We settled down on a comfortable couch in the window of the coffee shop. It was just the four of us- me, Brett, our roommate, and her boyfriend. Somehow, the topic came to ghosts, (which it usually does when I’m involved) and I started talking about the Springer. Our roommate said that she had an experience with a little girl. She saw her in a dressing room when she was performing in a dance recital, and when she asked if anyone had a little sister or something, a woman who works at the Springer told her that the girl haunted the theatre. She and I quickly synced up our stories and found that they were identical- this little girl had been kicked by a horse and died in the grocery store.
I told her about my connection with the girl and how Brett and I had been searching for months to figure out this girl’s name.
“Oh, I know her name.” My roommate said. “Her name is Louisa.”
Every single hair on my body stood up straight. Brett and I looked at each other wide-eyed.
Louisa was one of the seven names on our list.
I felt the puzzle pieces falling into place, but I didn’t really know where to go next.
Again, things went by the wayside. Louisa was on my mind a lot, but there wasn’t much I could do. Something in my gut told me that it was her, but I wanted to go back to the Springer to confirm it. That being said, Louisa had me doing a lot of thinking about myself, and about life and death and fate and destiny. I had a lot of questions that I’m still trying to figure out.
There was something else that I wanted to do. Last weekend, I went to Linwood Cemetery to visit the grave of Louisa Stockwell. I took Brett with me, along with our new roommate and my grandma. When we finally found her, (Linwood is HUGE) we all sat down and talked about her family. She’s buried in her family’s plot, so we talked about her siblings, and her parents. All of her siblings either died in infancy, or they lived long lives. She’s the only one who died at the age of 8, just a couple of weeks shy of her ninth birthday. I’m still not 100% sure that this is the girl I’ve been looking for all along, but whether she is or not, I’ve grown a special connection to Louisa. I’ve spent so long running her name around in my head.
We held a Ouija board session at the grave, but nothing came of it, which leads me to suspect that her spirit isn’t there. It’s in the Springer.
We won’t really know for sure if it’s her until I can get back into the theatre. I’ll use the name “Louisa” and see if that provokes anything. But regardless, I’ve been so deeply touched by this sweet little girl. Also, a huge shout-out to my wonderful boyfriend for taking so much time to research and help me. Again, check out his article about Louisa here!
I also want to thank everyone who’s talked to me about Louisa, and everyone who tromped around the cemetery with me that day. Thanks to everyone who’s ever followed me around a cemetery in pursuit of a spirit. You’re encouraging my passion, and I appreciate it.
Lastly, I want to thank Louisa. Thanks for picking me. Thanks for attaching yourself to me and leading me to find you. I hope that I’ve done you justice so far, and I hope that I learn who you are once and for all.
This article is written in honor of Louisa Carrigan Stockwell. September 10, 1865 - August 24, 1874