Built between 1855 and 1859, this gorgeous mansion in the heart of the south has seen history and hauntings in its tenure as one of the most haunted places in Georgia. Built in the Italian renaissance style of architecture, the Hay House in Macon, Georgia has cemented its reputation as a haunted location many times over and has been a museum since the 1960s. Every time renovations start, more spirits make themselves known. Let’s take a look at this mansion and the history that made it the first stop on every ghost tour.
Also known as the Johnston-Felton-Hay House or the “The Palace of the South,” the continuity of the home is well documented, with only two families living in and owning the home before its designation as a National Historic Landmark. This 18,000 square foot mansion began life as one of the most modern buildings in Georgia, complete with running water, electricity, an in-house kitchen, speaking tubes throughout the building and even a ventilation system and heater to keep it warm in the winter months.
Originally built and owned by the Johnston family, the estate underwent internal renovations to keep up with the luxury it began with, including importing Italian marble statues to grace the mansion and add to its splendor. The second family to live in the Hay house was, appropriately, the Hay family from the 1920s to the 1960s. The Hay family revamped the grounds and added a driveway, greeting beautiful landscaping and an elegant look to the outside of the home. In 1962, the mansion would be sold to a historic preservation society that would later turn it into a museum. It was sold to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977, and has been run by the society since.
The museum takes the history of the home very seriously, with original items and furniture from the periods of occupation, including many pieces from the Hay family and the occasional rare items from the Johnston family’s time in the uniquely designed home. Giant trees on the property owe their planting to the Johnston Family and have grown to great heights since the 19th century. Today, you can visit the museum and enjoy the history of the location, but don’t let your guard down too much as the home is reported to be haunted by half a dozen spirits that enjoy making themselves known to museum patrons.
Many visitors to the museum have reported cold spots, voices, and even full-bodied apparitions inside the restored home, some of the spirits harkening back to the days of the Civil War and other tragedies that befell those who lived in the Hay House in its heyday. The most visible spirit is that of an elegant elderly woman in an 1800s dress who it’s reported to wander the hallways, all 18000 square feet of the property. Some objects in the museum occasionally move themselves or disappear when no one is looking. In 2010, ghost hunters reported to have caught evidence of paranormal activity during their investigation, and some say they even caught a full-bodied apparition on film when shooting photos of the Hay House.
In 2016, the Hay House became the first stop on the Macon ghost tour, telling more tales of its haunted history to interested locals and tourists. Once, a member of a tour reported to have seen a woman in period clothing rifling through an antique chest of drawers, as if looking for something. Employees say the drawers will occasionally be found in disarray when opening the museum for the day. Contractors working on renovations have had tools go missing or, more terrifyingly, slid across the floor away from their grasp. A ghostly prank, maybe, or something more sinister as the ghosts don’t seem to like it when anything in the home is changed or moved.
If you’re in the area, you can catch ghost tours often, or even visit the museum for their other events, like Christmas tours of the decorated mansion. The Hay House in Macon still stands tall and proud as a piece of living history, but also as a place of things that can only be explained by those who are not living still wandering the mansion they once called home.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.