By Kristi Reed
WINDER – The Barrow County annex still looks and smells as it did when it was a hospital.
Some even say that a long deceased orderly is still on the job.
The annex’s newly renovated lobby was empty the day fellow “ghost hunter” Deb Grossett and I arrived. We had come to investigate rumors regarding a spirit residing somewhere in the old building.
My extensive research (two pages of reading in “Georgia Ghosts” by Nancy Roberts) revealed that the spirit of an orderly known as “Old Snake” still haunts the former hospital.
According to the story, Old Snake, despite his sinister name, was a good orderly who enjoyed his work. Apparently, Old Snake enjoyed his job so much that, although deceased, he has yet to retire.
The most often told tale about Old Snake involves his favorite chair. After Snake died, the old, uncomfortable metal chair was tossed on the trash heap. Legend has it that every time the chair is thrown out it reappears back in the hospital basement where Old Snake spent his working days while he still walked among the living.
Determined to get to the bottom of the story – literally – Deb and I boarded the elevator and headed down to the basement.
Even before the doors had closed, we began having second thoughts. The creaky, musty, dimly lit elevator slowly transported us downward to Snake’s haunting grounds. As it lurched to a halt, the doors slid open to reveal a dank, dark, seemingly abandoned, creepy corridor.
Not so convinced that this was such a great story idea after all, Deb and I cautiously poked our heads out. As the doors began to close, Deb suggested that I hold them open “just in case.”
Not wanting to ask in case of what, I agreed it was a good idea. The thought of waiting there for an elevator in the midst of a paranormal emergency was at the very least unsettling.
Spotting a stairway to the right, Deb ordered me to hold the elevator while she investigated. Slowly she crept up the half flight of stairs and peeked around the corner.
“What do you see?” I asked quietly.
“More stairs,” she whispered.
Satisfied that we had an alternate exit, I released the elevator doors.
“Not yet!” Deb said. “I’m going to see where these stairs lead.”
Leaving me to hold the doors, Deb disappeared up the stairs to my right. No sooner had she vanished from sight I heard footsteps and jingling keys to my left.
Expecting to finally meet Old Snake, I threw caution to the wind. I stepped out of the elevator and found myself face to face with – Evelyn.
Obviously startled to see corporeal beings in the basement, Evelyn eyed us warily until we told her the purpose of our visit. Visibly relieved that we were not otherworldly creatures, Evelyn (last name withheld per her request), a Buildings and Grounds department employee, graciously proceeded to tell what she knew of Old Snake’s hijinks.
“I don’t think there really is a ghost,” Evelyn confided. “I’ve heard lots of stories and rumors though. Have you heard about Snake’s chair? I can show it to you.”
Eager to see the infamous chair, we followed her down the corridor, through a cluttered work area to a dark closet. There, inside a cramped storage area, was Snake’s straight-backed metal chair. It looked harmless enough – not at all comfortable though raising the question why anyone, living or dead, would be so attached to it.
At that point, Evelyn told of a strange personal encounter.
“Sometimes flowers come in for the people who work upstairs,” she said. “Usually they get thrown out when they start to die, but one day I saw a real pretty live rose so I put it in a Coca-Cola bottle. I was going to take it home ‘cause it was so pretty, but I forgot it. When I got to work next morning, it was in the middle of the floor.”
One of Evelyn’s co-workers told her Snake was probably smelling it and dropped it when she walked in the room.
Evelyn is still skeptical and thinks her co-worker was teasing her. However, other employees don’t seem to be the least bit skeptical.
The building is staffed around the clock with emergency services personnel – and although most ghostly activity is alleged to take place at night – almost every day shift employee we interviewed confessed to either seeing a shadowy figure, feeling an unearthly presence, or hearing strange noises.
Old Snake is blamed for numerous acts of random elevator operations, simulated dish breaking episodes, and multiple noisy assaults on the Coke machine. The Coke machine noises oddly enough were the most often reported manifestation of the reputed supernatural presence.
Barrow County 911 Central Communications operators reluctantly disclosed their encounters with the ghost. None wanted their real names used, but most had a first or secondhand Snake story to share.
Cindy admits every time she walks to the break room alone she says: “Snake don’t show yourself.” Patsy tells the story of a lady who came to visit her husband at work. While standing outside, the lady pointed to a deserted part of the building and asked her husband: “Who’s that waving at me from that window?”
When her husband looked up at the window, there was no one to be seen. The lady swore that a man in a red shirt had waved at her. Several other county annex employees reported having seen or heard of a friendly apparition in a red shirt they believe to be Old Snake.
According to a woman at the dispatch center, “Old Snake never scares anybody. He just does mischievous stuff.”
A few employees refuse to believe there is a restless spirit haunting the annex. “I’ve never seen anything,” said one of the skeptics.
“You’re just not in tune to it,” chimed in a co-worker.
Not being in tune with it either, Deb and I departed the annex leaving Old Snake and his chair behind. From a safe distance, far away from any potential ghostly interference, we reviewed the data. The results of our totally unscientific investigation are inconclusive: We can neither confirm nor deny the haunting of the Barrow County annex.
For those inclined to believe in things supernatural, this story is a happy one in that this alleged ghost does not appear to be a tortured soul, just a man who really enjoyed his work.
Of course, another explanation could be that the noisy Coke machine took Old Snake’s money and now he’s bent on spending eternity trying to get even. Maybe someone should leave a Coke by Old Snake’s chair to see if that appeases the supernatural mystery man.