The True Story of the Surrency Haunting

Ghostly hand silhouette
Lauri Heikkinen/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

"That place was possessed by something evil."

That was the opinion of Herschel Tillman when he recalled his many visits to the home of Allen Powel Surrency when he was a boy in the early 1870s. He was just one of the thousands of witnesses to the strange and sometimes violent paranormal activity that plagued the Surrency home, making it one of the most well-known and witnessed cases of this kind in American history.

Allen Powel Surrency, a sawmill operator, was the founder of the small town of Surrency in southeastern Georgia. When returning home from a trip to Hazelhurst in October 1872, he found his house beset with the haunting. In a letter he wrote to the Savannah Morning News he said:

A few minutes after my arrival I saw the glass tumblers begin to slide off the slab and the crockery to fall upon the floor and break. The books began to tumble from their shelves to the floor, while brickbats, billets of wood, smoothing irons, biscuits, potatoes, tin pans, water buckets, pitchers, etc., began to fall in different parts of my house. There have been many other strange occurrences about my house. These facts can be established by 75 or 100 witnesses.

On the face of it, it sounds as if Surrency's house might have suffered an earthquake. In fact, that theory has been offered to explain the phenomena at the house. But that explanation does not hold up to scrutiny: the strange activity lasted weeks, even years off and on; the Surrency house was the only one affected, and an earthquake could not explain all of the bizarre phenomena described below.

And although the Surrency phenomena are usually referred to as a haunting and were attributed by witnesses to ghosts, the case actually has the earmarks of poltergeist activity, which is a psychic phenomenon rather than one that is caused by a residual or intelligent haunting. In fact, there seem to have been no reports of an apparition at Surrency.

Most poltergeist cases center around an "agent," usually a female of the age of puberty. At the time, the Surrency family had eight children ranging in age from 3 to 21.

News of this "haunting" spread like wildfire, and soon Surrency was the center of a media frenzy. Reporters and curiosity seekers from all over the country (and even England and Canada) descended on the little town in hopes of seeing the activity first-hand. Few were disappointed.

Paranormal Activity

Like the famous Bell Witch case, the poltergeist activity at the Surrency house was extreme and diverse. Here are just some of the reported phenomena:

  • Unexplained screams were heard
  • Voices came from an empty bedroom
  • Plates, platters, and books flew from their shelves
  • Ink bottles leap off a table
  • Doors opened and closed by unseen hands
  • The hands of clocks spun fast and even moved backward; a chime clock struck 13
  • Hot bricks fell from nowhere and landed on the roof and in the yard
  • A pair of boots trod across the floor on their own
  • At mealtimes, objects on the dinner table would "dance" around
  • Logs rolled out of the fireplace
  • Several hogs and chickens appeared in the living room, seemingly from nowhere, frightening one reporter out of his wits
  • Bedcovers rolled up and down at night

In an effort to rid his house and family of the terrifying activity, Surrency sought the help of the clergy, scientists as well as spirit mediums and psychics, all to no avail. Even after the house burned down in 1925, the action followed the family to their new home on the other side of the county.

It wasn't until Allen Surrency's death in 1877, it is said, that the haunting finally stopped. Some, however, say it continues to this day around the town of Surrency. In fact, there is a famous ghost light there: a bright yellow ball of light that appears along the railroad tracks.