The Wail of the Banshee Foretold Death in Milledgeville

banshee
The banshee at The Homestead in Milledgeville warned the family of impending death.

By Jim Miles

The Ferguson House, now known as The Homestead, was constructed in 1818 in Milledgeville on the corner of West Washington and South Liberty.  The builder was Peter Jones Williams who presented it to his bride Lucinda Parke of Greensboro.  The house remained in the possession of a direct descendent of the family for generations.

Banshee at the Homestead

One occasional resident of the house was a banshee, a creature who may have been a member of the family in Wales, the ancestral homeland of the Williams, which followed its kin across the Atlantic Ocean when the family immigrated.  These loyal spirits attach themselves to one family.

Throughout the history of the house the banshee has made unsettling and certainly unwelcome periodic visits to the family, often during happy occasions, to either herald the immediate death of someone or to vocally mourn one who has just died.  On the latter occasions it wailed or keened in mourning.

The Homestead, called a transitional style between Georgian and Greek revival by Medora Field Perkerson in her classic examination of Georgia’s great historic homes, White Columns in Georgia, served as the center of Milledgeville’s social life for a century, particularly in the early years, hosting governors, state legislators, and other officials.

In early decades of its existence, the banshee would appear to do what they do, foretell a death in the family.  The banshee, which took the form of a little old lady dressed in gray from head to toe, would appear in the treasured boxwood gardens or upon the grand staircase as the sun began to set, an appropriate time to accomplish its macabre mission.

Unfortunately, the banshee was a regular visitor during the 1860s when she made three appearances to announce the death of three sons of Susannah “Miss Sue” Williams and her husband Jack Jones, according to Barbara Duffey in Banshees, Bugles, and Belles, True Ghost Stories of Georgia.  At each occasion her appearance was quite public, in front of many guests at dinner parties.

A more recent visit occurred in the 1930s when the banshee was witnessed by Frances Ferguson.  Upon seeing the creature, Frances knew that her sister had died.

Since that time the female spirit has been witnessed in The Homestead, although not in its usual role as a harbinger.

The Banshee Takes a Break

In 1969 a resident fell asleep in the house and dreamed of an early party, dated to the 1840s based on the clothing of the attendees.  At the end of the party everyone had left except one small, elderly woman wearing a long gray dress, who sat in a corner of the library.  The man greeted the lady politely, and at length the lady said to him, “You’ll never have to worry.”  The resident then awoke on a couch in the library.  Perhaps the banshee was reassuring him that there would be no family deaths during his tenure there.

Also in the 1960s a male guest observed a gray clad woman emerge from an upstairs bedroom.  She checked each room, then descended the great staircase.  At the front of the house she stopped and looked back, then passed through the closed front door, passed the boxwood gardens to Washington Street and walked rapidly to Memory Hill Cemetery, where she vanished at the gate and since has never returned to The Homestead.

The house, still a residence, survives today, as do the boxwood gardens, which some residents have refused to frequent around sunset.

Jim Milesufossavannah is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at milesbooks@cox.net

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