We spent a night inside the most haunted house in Mississippi. Here’s what we saw.
VICKSBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - McRaven House in Vicksburg is considered by many to be the most haunted building in Mississippi. WLBT digital team members Josh Carter and Jacob Gallant toured the home after dark and hunted for ghosts. Our gracious hosts Jessica, Grace and Michael showed us around the home, told us the history and delved into the reasons why the home continues to frighten the locals. This is what we learned and found inside the historic home:
JC: The most haunted house in Mississippi does, in fact, look haunted.
It stands at the end of a Vicksburg street miles away from the state’s largest cemetery and mere feet away from train tracks.
The first section of McRaven House was built before Vicksburg officially existed on a street once called McRaven.
And, like any good haunted house, the history of McRaven is marred in death.
The home was used as a field hospital during the Civil War and past owners have also died within its walls, some of old age and some during child birth.
Others were dragged from the home’s property and shot in the head - this being the fate of John Bobb, whose murder was the first recorded act of violence by Union soldiers after the Siege of Vicksburg.
In the year 1882, the home was purchased by William Murray. Most of his family would live and die there, and the home was eventually left to his hermit daughters, Annie and Ella.
Upon their departure, the daughters would leave the home in such squalid conditions that neighbors wouldn’t even know it still existed. It would also be learned that some of the home’s antique furniture had been used by the sisters as firewood.
In recent years, McRaven has undergone an extensive facelift and was sold to its current owners for over a million dollars. It is now used for tours, both haunted and historical.
And once a month, the home is opened for a ghost hunt.
JG: You’d think when the walls begin shaking and a shrieking sound screams out while you’re inside the walls of a haunted house at midnight, there would be reason to panic.
This is simply a reality of McRaven House. And no, it’s not because of the ghosts.
As I walked up to the front of the home, I was greeted with a loud shriek and constant chugging in my ear. Because there was no significant source of light, my first assumption was the housekeepers were playing sound effects to add to the ambiance of the house.
As I got closer, I realized it was a nearby train.
Actually, to say the home is “nearby” train tracks is probably underselling it. The tracks practically cut through the front lawn.
“This train has been going by for 10 minutes,” Josh told me as we walked up.
As we finally moved into silence, we were greeted by crickets and not much else. In a way, this was even more unsettling. Besides, how can we hear the Confederate soldiers whistling if there’s a loud train passing by?
Another five or so trains passed by in the preceding hours we spent at the historic Vicksburg home. One particularly obtrusive train sped by, rattling the home, as we were upstairs calling toward the Bobb family to speak to us.
During a particularly tense moment, the walls shook. But it wasn’t Mr. Bobb, we were assured.
Grace, Jessica and Michael are used to this. Their reaction to a passing train ranges from exasperated to annoyed.
JC: The event began a little after 8:30 p.m. on the last Saturday in September.
The group of ghost hunters first gathered around the back of the home, behind them being the small courtyard where, we were later told, under the soil lies a mass grave filled with Confederate soldiers.
After everyone showed their tickets, the group was given a brief overview of what was about to occur: First a tour of the home and then, later, the hunt.
The tour was composed of our guide, Michael, leading us to various rooms in the house and disposing of its history.
JG: The first, and in my opinion most interesting, room we entered during both halves of our McRaven experience was dubbed the Parlor Room.
My first observation upon entering the Parlor Room was the smell, and I was not alone.
“It smells like ghosts in here,” a fellow guest foreshadowed.
It was a prevailing theme to the room, which is the largest in the entire home.
JC: Others, Michael said, have sworn that the room smelt of fresh cut flowers or rotting meat.
Michael then told the story of how, while the sisters Annie and Ella owned McRaven, the parlor was once used as the staging area for the funeral of state senator Harry Murray with his body laying in the center of the room.
The sisters had become such recluses at this point that they either did not care or did not know that Murray’s body was never taken from their home and sat rotting in the parlor for days after the funeral.
The corpse of the senator would eventually bloat and decompose in the room, the scent still lingering to this day - or so the story goes.
So went the rest of the tour, with Michael revealing who died on or near the property and in what way. In one bedroom upstairs, the tale of John Bobb’s murder. In another bedroom, the death of the teen bride Mary Elizabeth Howard during childbirth.
The specters of both John and the Mary are now said to be tethered to McRaven for the rest of eternity.
After the tour concluded, the group was taken back to the courtyard for a small break before the ghost hunt began.
It was beside the courtyard that Michael revealed the ghost hunting tools for the night. This included electromagnetic field detectors, motion sensors, a pendulum necklace and an infrared camera, which, we were told, was expensive.
The hunters were then split into two groups to explore different sides of the home.
Our group followed two tour guides/ghost whisperers, Jessica and Grace, where we congregated in the parlor and turned off the lights. Here we stayed for the next half hour, everyone attempting to communicate with the spirits dwelling inside.
JG: In the Parlor Room, several oil paintings lay their eyes upon you: former owners of the home, and a pair of sisters who have a tendency to laugh at guests.
The Parlor Room is also one of two rooms where we experienced a bit of action during the hunt.
JC: We were first instructed to introduce ourselves to the ghosts, so one by one we spoke our names. One man in the group, Mike, introduced himself by telling the ghosts that he was a “huge sceptic” and to “come on out.”
JG: I was given a K-II EMF emitter for the latter portion of the night. It’s a device that measures electromagnetic fields. If you wave it in front of your phone, or a light, you’ll see a spike in its frequency.
Most of the time when it’s in your hand, you get a single green light.
The logic behind the device is that paranormal investigators believe an unexplained spike in electromagnetic energy could hint at the presence of a ghost in the area.
I experienced one such spike with this device, in the middle of the Parlor Room.
The spike coincided with another exercise we used to check the presence of a ghost in the room.
You’re probably familiar with the use of a pendulum in ghost hunts. You hold it in your hands, and keep still to see if the pendulum moves.
JC: While the pendulum dangled from someone’s hand, questions would be asked of the ghosts: “If there is somebody near me, can you make it go forwards and backwards away from me?”
And, occasionally, the pendulum would actually begin to sway. Was this the result of the person holding the pendulum making slight movements or of a specter trying to make themselves known? It was too dark to tell.
JG: As Jessica called upon spirits in the room to move the pendulum, I scanned the area with the K-II. It was right above her head that the meter spiked. An unexplained, sudden spike in one specific location above her as she called for a spirit.
The rest of our time in the Parlor Room and the Bobb bedroom (we’ll get to that), the K-II remained with one single green light, unless I waved it over my phone or a camera to make sure it was working correctly.
I don’t have an explanation for why there would be an electromagnetic field over her head at this moment that seemingly disappeared for the rest of the night. Was it a spirit? Your guess is as good as mine.
JC: “Who is Colin?” one woman sitting in the room randomly asked. She had downloaded an app that claimed to help the living communicate with the dead.
After seconds of discussion, it was hypothesized that it could be the soul of a soldier who died when McRaven was a field hospital.
JG: The next room we ventured to was the bedroom that once belonged to John and Selina Bobb.
We trekked up the creaky stairs, past another oil painting and other artifacts on the hallway walls and made it to the highest point of the home, with the glow of moonlight painting the portion of the room we were seated.
The stories of cigar smoke and tapping on glass would not come to fruition on this night: It appears the Bobbs just wanted some sleep.
We went back to the pendulum with less effect: some movement, but not much in the way of big swings.
The K-II meter in my hand hardly budged.
As the clock reached midnight, we went back down the stairs to meet back up with the other half of our group. The problem? They were seeing so much action they didn’t want to leave their portion of the house.
We set up a makeshift hunt in the hallway. Maybe we’d catch a glimpse of one of the young boys said to roam the house.
No such luck. We called out for them without a hint of a spirit’s presence in the hallway.
We met up with the rest of the group who’d had much more luck on the other half of the home.
We were assured there was a chance we’d be greeted by the bubbly, fist-bumping teen Mary, who’d died from complications of childbirth. Or maybe we’d witness the devious Andrew Glass, a thief who’d been murdered by his estranged wife and spooks the women of the house with his wandering hands.
JC: In the parlor, I noticed a man beside me holding what looked to be some sort of fancy camera. When the group began packing up to move the hunt upstairs, I leaned over and asked him what the contraption was.
It was a night-vision camera, he said. I then asked, somewhat jokingly, if he had ever seen anything with it. Yes, he said. In fact, he had seen things that would make anyone believe.
This, obviously, peaked my interest so during a brief break in the hunt I walked over to him to hear more.
The man’s name, I learned, was Jamie. He was from Louisiana and he told me about his recent visit to a place in Kentucky called The Waverly Hills Sanitarium. According to its website, The Waverly Hills Sanitarium is considered “one of the most haunted locations in the world!” and has a four-and-a-half star rating on Google.
As Jamie put it, “If you don’t believe, go there.” While inside the sanitarium his camera captured a strange mist that “looked like a big puff of cigarette smoke” creeping down a hallway. But as mysteriously as it appeared, the mist dissipated to the floor. Poof.
Jamie, who labeled himself a part-time paranormal investigator, had also been to some private residences around Louisiana, even claiming to have once felt a disembodied hand touch the back of his head.
“So is the ghost hunting stuff just, like, a hobby?” I asked him.
No, it’s not a hobby, he said. “It’s a passion.”
Jamie wants to be able to prove the paranormal, “because everything that you see them doing here is really based on theories, because there’s no science.”
He would go on to explain that the tools we were using inside the house weren’t meant to legitimately prove the existence of ghosts or spirits or whatever may be residing inside the walls of McRaven. Anything could be causing the motion sensors to go off or the pendulum to swing back and forth.
Jamie said he’s investigated houses where the sound of ghostly footsteps walking down the hallway at night were nothing more than raccoons walking on pipes.
“You’d be surprised how many people have things happen in their house that they won’t talk about,” he told me. But out of all the 60 or so paranormal investigations he’s conducted, maybe only 10 could be put in the unexplainable category.
And that’s where our conversation ended before we were led back inside to finish the hunt.
JG: Mary is considered one of the most active spirits in the home. She’s been known to move around cabinets, swipe furniture from underneath her bed, and put her hands on the bellies of pregnant women.
As we entered with a few new tools, we waited for any sign of Mary. One of those tools was a flashlight placed on Mary’s bed, turned off.
After about 20 minutes of waiting, there was a light.
The flashlight, ever so slightly, shined a bit of light.
“Was that you Mary?”
We called for another sign, and this time the flashlight kicked back on, shining brightly in the darkness.
The light again disappeared, and each person in the room perked up.
Another question, another quick flash.
This is what everyone in the room had been waiting for. Something, anything to hint at the presence of a spirit.
The questions persisted, but the flashlight did not. We wouldn’t see another unexplained beam of light for the rest of the evening.
If Mary was in the room with us, she made no other indication. No fist bumps, no belly rubs, no childish laughter.
JC: As the night progressed, it seemed as if the ghosts were like animals or small children in that the more you wanted them to do something, the more inclined they were not to do it.
But every so often, something would happen. An abrupt noise or the spontaneous swinging of the pendulum that would make you go, hmm.
While in the room of Mary Elizabeth Howard, a door on a piece of furniture closed by itself multiple times. Later in the night, one of the motion sensing lights went off even though no one was around it.
JG: Andrew Glass was almost assured to us to be the main event of the evening.
Each woman who takes care of the home had stories about Mr. Glass. He was described as evil, vicious, a murderer and a creep.
We lost a portion of our group to the night (it was nearly 2 a.m. and nearly everyone in the group had made mention of how tired they’d felt at this point) and set off into Andrew’s room.
He was taunted. He was insulted. He was spoken to in several languages.
Yet despite all of the stories and warnings about Andrew’s presence, there was no sign of him. The night was winding down and we wouldn’t get any indications that he was with us on this evening.
Such is the business of ghost hunting. If you discovered a spirit every time you made an attempt, there wouldn’t be such an intrigue around the adventure. If nothing else, it speaks to the genuine nature of McRaven Home.
At no point during the hunt did I feel our hosts were blowing smoke to get us to believe there were ghosts (you can make your own conclusions about the stories should you decide to tour the home). That’s because the folks at McRaven home genuinely believe everything they tell you. The stories are fact to them. You’d never convince them their experiences, or the experiences of guests, with these spirits were fabricated.
They explain away the things that are easily explainable (i.e. the train), and try to make conclusions before assuming a spirit is in the room. For instance, a blinking light with no one around it was explained away as a failing battery inside the device.
JC: Could these things be explained with science? Perhaps. But what’s the fun of that?
Tales of ghost sightings at McRaven are numerous and one past owner purchased a nearby house to sleep in because McRaven creeped him out so much.
So, maybe the excitement of ghost hunting at McRaven House is because it isn’t based in science. Maybe some things are simply more fun when they are unexplained.
JG: Herein lies the charm of the historic home. Everything is true if you believe it. The tales aren’t forced upon you, and a skeptical guest could easily walk away no more a believer.
But when you dig into the mysteries, and question the reality around you, you see the beauty of this haunted home. And maybe...just maybe it’s all just as it’s been told.
For those of you looking for a more historical take, the home is offering candlelight tours during the month of October. Each room in McRaven will host a different character from McRaven’s past, dressed in period attire, and will tell their story in the first person. Click here to book your spot.
Copyright 2021 WLBT. All rights reserved.