3 Stories Of Stranger Things From Atlanta Real Estate Vets
Atlanta real estate is not always just about square footage and desk layout and where best to fit that café amenity. Sometimes, it's also about ghosts.
The city is home to many creepy stories of spooks, specters and supernatural pranksters at many of its famous landmarks, from The Fox Theatre and the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse to the castle-like Rhodes Hall and even Six Flags Over Georgia.
But, among the skyscrapers, apartment buildings and shopping centers that dot Atlanta's everyday landscape, Bisnow consulted with a host of CRE pros and found three creepy stories to get you in the Halloween spirit.
Love Letters Lost
It was an especially hot summer in 1997 when Patrick Braswell spent days with a friend at his family home off Lake Nottely, a man-made reservoir in Union County, some 100 miles north of Atlanta.
One the way there, Braswell, who founded Atlanta commercial real estate firm Transcend, said he and his friend noticed an abandoned house off the side of the road. Curiosity got the best of the duo, and they decided to explore. As Braswell tells it, the home was decrepit, with cracked wooden walls, a staircase missing floorboards and a sagging tin roof. The downstairs was empty, save for dirt and dust. Upstairs was a different story.
As the two ascended the staircase, they were met with a downright bizarre sight.
“The entire floor was filled with cut-off doll heads,” Braswell said.
They were lined up along the floor, their plastic, haunted eyes peering at Braswell and his friend. And near the walls on the floor also stood glass jars, filled with a ghastly pickling juice and what looked like pigs' feet in them. At the end of the room stood an antique wooden chest of drawers, "but not well-built. Almost like something someone built themselves."
Braswell said he and his friend walked around the doll heads and opened the drawers. In one, they found a box filled with letters, a romantic correspondence between a former Georgia Tech student in the 1930s and a young girl who lived along Lake Nottely.
The letters fascinated them, so they decided to take the letters back to the vacation home to read them at their leisure, Braswell said.
Braswell said he stored the letters in a chest of drawers in a guest room and soon forgot about them. Two weeks passed, Braswell — who at the time was a junior in high school — and his friend decided to return to the house.
The downstairs was as empty as before, but the upstairs changed. This time there were even more doll heads scattered around, along with even more — and fresher — jars of unidentifiable pickled specimens.
“It just freaked us out,” he said. "Holy crap, someone was coming up there regularly."
Considerably chilled at this prospect, Braswell and his friend retreated out of the house and returned home, deciding to return those stack of letters to their rightful owner.
"We went to go read the letters again to try and figure out what was the history of the house. There was a million of things going on in our heads because there was nothing else in these drawers except for the letters," Braswell said.
When they entered the guest room and opened the drawer, they were in for an even deeper shock: The letters were gone.
No one in the house, not his friend, not his friend's family, not Braswell knew where they went, nor were they ever found again. Then again, Braswell never returned to that house.
"We always dared each other to spend the night there. And we drove by it a lot, but we never, ever went back in it," he said.
Arthur In The Attic
Back in 2005, Gene Kansas was getting into the intown reuse movement with a house in Grant Park. It was a mid-century, Victorian single-family home that he intended to turn into a boutique office. Once he purchased it, Kansas — the founder of his namesake real estate firm — drove to the home to tour the property and see what needed to be done. He had a very unwelcome homecoming.
An older lady with wiry white hair and wearing an apron burst from the front door.
“I went over to go check out the house and this lady, who was not supposed to be there, slammed me into the door. And she was like, 'Get out of my house!'” Kansas said.
It turned out the lady was its former renter who refused to leave. With the help of the seller, Kansas was finally able to remove the woman. A month later, Kansas went to the home to inspect it again, this time without the unwanted inhabitant.
The former owner had a bizarre design sensibility: The dingy house had tomato vines growing out of the oven, he said. Beyond the décor, Kansas said the home just gave him a creepy feeling, which led him to hire a group of women who described themselves as spiritualists to exorcise the structure.
“I don't believe in ghosts, but at the same time, I wasn't taking any chances,” he said.
As the psychics wandered the house, Kansas listened in on their conversation, hearing the group agreeing that someone was still in the house.
“I was like, 'Who's there?' And they're like, 'Arthur.' And I'm like, 'Who is Arthur?' And they say, 'The person who lives in the attic,'” Kansas said.
The ladies then began a ritual, sprinkling salt around the house and burning herb sage on the porch. He was told the ritual worked and Arthur was gone.
Kansas went ahead and converted the house to a small office and resold the Grant Park location to a new owner a year later, he said.
“I realized that if one real estate agent [saw] this then my property value is plummeting,” he said. “Again, I don't believe in ghosts, but at the same time, I did feel better after Arthur left.”
The Busy Warehouse Worker
Kathy Rice's family has a history in Atlanta real estate, beginning with a former multistory warehouse in South Downtown Atlanta, near the Gulch. Today, the building at 505 Whitehall St. is a loft condominium development, converted in 2003, called Century Lofts.
Her family moved to Atlanta in the 1960s and opened a flooring supply store in the warehouse that years prior was home to a Chevrolet dealership. Rice — whose son is Vantage Realty Partners founder Gene Rice and who is herself a real estate agent with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's International Realty — worked at the business along with her siblings and the rest of the family.
And everyone who worked at 505 Whitehall knew one thing about the third floor without any doubt.
“There was a ghost on it,” Rice said.
The story she was told went like this: a worker there, when it was used by a different company, fell down the elevator shaft from the third floor and was killed. From the office on the second floor, Rice said she regularly heard strange sounds emanating from the floor above her.
"You'd be on the second floor and you could hear the dollies moving up and down, and no one was up there,” Rice said. “You knew that there was something weird going on up there.”
Rice said co-workers would find items unexpectedly rearranged, or even boxes mysteriously pushed off shelves and onto the floor while on the third floor. But the most direct experience happened with her brother, who was tasked to stay through the night to take inventory on the third floor.
As the night wore on toward the first glimpses of dawn, Rice said a hand truck began to move on its own toward him.
“All of the sudden, this dolly just came straight at me and right when it got to me it went around me and just kept going,” Rice said her brother told her and the rest of the family.
There also was the mysterious shadowy figure who, in one instance, appeared to run from the elevator shaft and down a corridor toward a bathroom. At that moment, Rice said her brother was unsure if he was just seeing things, but the next morning, when the other employees arrived, they asked him a very pointed question.
“The employees asked if he ever saw the ghost that ran from the elevator to the bathroom,” she said.
The Rice family has long since sold the building. It is unclear if the doomed warehouse worker remains a fixture at Century Lofts. Reviews on websites cite many features and complaints, but running apparitions is not among them.