Eatonton, GA – Putnam County – Halloween is just around the corner, and wanted to share the story of Panola Hall, home to Sylvia, a well known ghost.  And a secret tunnel?  The more I read up on it, I knew I had to go see Panola Hall!

panola hall
Panola Hall, October 2018 – Old Georgia Homes Photo

Built for Henry Trippe in 1854, this is a big house – 13 rooms and 6,000 square feet.  The main rooms are 20 X 20.  The house is better known for its second residents, Benjamin and Louise Hunt – and of course, Sylvia.

Dr. Benjamin Hunt(from New Ga Encyclopedia)
Louise Prudden Hunt (from New Ga Encyclopedia)

Dr. Benjamin Hunt purchased Panola Hall in 1891, after marrying Louise Prudden. Originally a banker from New York, Dr Hunt is credited with introducing Jersey cows to Georgia. Additionally, he did quite a bit of horticultural research.  He’s also credited with the first silo in Georgia.  He received an honorary degree from UGA in 1922.

Mrs. Hunt was an accomplished musician and published poet.

Center Hall, Panola Hall (from prior real estate listings)

The Hunts set about updating the house, adding some Victorian elements inside the house.  Sylvia made her first appearances while the Hunts lived in this home.

There are several stories about the ghost here – the most popular:  A daughter of the first owners, who was unhappy about an arranged marriage fell into a large trunk the day of her wedding.  Her parents entered the room, and finding a window open figured she had run away and immediately had the room sealed up and never opened again.

Another story is that a friend of one of the Trippe daughters (original owners of the house) jumped off the front balcony to her death upon hearing her fiancé had been killed in the Civil War.

Sylvia, the ghost of Panola Hall

Center Hall (from prior real estate listing)

Mrs. Hunt named the ghost “Sylvia”, most likely after a popular song of the period.  She usually appears on the stairwell, in a white hoopskirt dress, with a rose in her hair.  People who have seen her mention the intense small of roses.

A guest of the Hunts encountered Sylvia on the stairs, and moved out of the way to let her pass.  Looking forward to meeting her, he was disappointed to see there was not an additional place setting at dinner.  When he mentioned encountering Sylvia, the Hunts had to tell him that he had seen a ghost.

Panola Hall, NRHP Photo

She’s a shy ghost and doesn’t appear for everyone.  Mrs. Hunt once wrote “Sylvia is a kind apparition and is most likely to only show herself to the finest of people, so it is considered a compliment when she is seen”.  Miss Bessie Butler, who inherited Panola Hall in 1934 did not believe in ghosts…until she was at Panola Hall in 1929 and Sylvia spoke to her.  After that, she was a firm believer!

Panola Hall
Old Georgia Homes Photo – October 2018

Ghost or not – this is one beautiful home!  Dr Hunt did a lot of horticultural research here, and some of his plants are still on the grounds.

Panola Hall Grounds, Old Georgia Homes, October 2018

And – there’s a secret tunnel here too!  Well, not so secret, but there’s a tunnel that leads to a room.  Many stories of what it could be – some have called it a storm shelter, others say that soldiers hid here during the Civil War.  Regardless – how cool is an antebellum mansion, with a ghost – and a tunnel!

The Secret Tunnel (from prior real estate photo)

Thanks so much for reading the blog, I appreciate it!


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