Georgia Travel Articles
Hotel Warm Springs
Article and photos by Kathleen Walls
For fall, what better than a haunted hotel. One of the most interesting haunted hotels can be found in the small Georgia town of Warm Springs. Before the white man settled in this part of Georgia, Native Americans visited the warm mineral springs located there. They thought of them as a sacred place, a place of healing. Later these healing waters drew settlers. In 1832 David Rose began the first ?resort area? in Warm Springs. It became a popular summer resort. Later, in 1893, Charles Davis built a 300 room Victorian called Meriwether Inn. The inn had all the latest amenities and, of course, the main draw, the eighty-eight-degree springs flowing from the hillside of Pine Mountain.
Incorporated in 1893, the town was first named Bullochville. As the automobile became the preferred means of travel, the town fell into a decline and was almost abandoned. In 1907, Hotel Warm Springs was built on the site of the oldest building in the town.
The hotel changed hands and at one time was named Tuscawilla Hotel after a Creek princess. The owner at that time, Mr. Butts, was so enthralled with the name he also named his oldest daughter, Tuscawilla. The name is still part of the hotel history and lore and lives on in the ice cream parlor, known as the Tuscawilla Soda Shop, once frequented by President Roosevelt.
It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who again brought the visitors thronging back when, in 1924, he visited the town's naturally heated mineral springs as treatment for his polio related paralysis. He advocated the name change to Warm Springs to promote the healing mineral springs
When he became president , the hotel hosted such guests as the King and Queen of Spain, the Queen of Mexico, President Sergio Osmena of the Philippines, Bette Davis, FDR's secret service men, the press, and a host of other important VIPs. Today, his Little White House is one of the reasons visitors come to Warm Springs. Varied attractions such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Butts Mill Farm, Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari, Callaway Gardens and Bulloch House Restaurant are some other reasons the hotel stays busy.
The hotel has been the scene of a gruesome double murder and is known to have its own resident specters. The murders occurred when the hotel was owned by the Thompson family. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and their five children lived in the hotel. To bolster the family income during these lean times, Mr. Thompson did deliveries from one train to another and sometimes delivered parcels arriving by train to families living outside town. For this reason, he always carried a gun.
At the same time, he leased a pharmacy in the hotel to a pharmacist, Mr. Bulloch. Bulloch was a somewhat rowdy character. He liked to indulge in loud late night poker games in a room he kept at the hotel. He also had a ?fancy? lady he kept there. He often got violent with the woman; slapped her and locked her in the room when the mood struck him.
Thompson had repeatedly warned Bulloch that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated in his inn. Things came to a head one day in 1915. Thompson had just returned from delivering some packages. He was tired, hot and wanted to eat lunch and relax. His wife, very pregnant with their sixth child, met him as he came in and told him that Bulloch was up to his old ways again. Bulloch had slapped his woman and locked her in the room. When Mrs. Thompson had told him that he could not do that, Bulloch had turned on her with threatening words.
This was more than Thompson was going to tolorate. He approached Bulloch and told him that he could keep his pharmacy in the hotel but the woman had to go and he would no longer be allowed to maintain a room in the hotel. That settled, Thompson went into the lunchroom to eat.
Bulloch went to his drawer in the pharmacy and took out his gun. He followed Thompson into the dining room and shot him. Thompson's niece tried to prop her wounded uncle up. Thompson then drew his own gun and shot and killed Bulloch on the spot. Thomson died a few days later.
You would think after such a dramatic double murder either Bulloch or Thompson would still be haunting the hotel. Strangely enough, the ghosts at Hotel Warm Springs seem to have nothing to do with either victim.
Gerri Thompson, the current owner and no relation to the ill fated former owner, told me even though she had never seen anything, there seems to be several presences in the hotel.
Once she was leading a woman up the stairs to her room when the woman began to shake her shoulders rapidly. Fearing that the woman was having an attack or something, she asked, ?what's wrong??
The woman grabbed her and said, ?don't you feel it??
Gerri replied that the only thing she felt was the woman's hand grabbing her. The woman proceeded to tell her, ?I'm psychic. There are ghosts in the hotel.?
The next day, the woman was telling other guests about the ghost. ?I felt him in the hall.?
When they asked how she knew it was a man, the woman replied, ?I could smell his cologne.?
When two different guests at different times told her of seeing children's ghosts, she began to think there must be something here. One family saw the children standing at the end of the bathtub in their room. The other saw them playing in the hall.
One night when Gerri had gone to a wedding and returned to the hotel to meet another wedding party who was going to be staying at the hotel. She saw a guest sitting on the porch waiting for her return. The wedding group pulled up right about the same time so the man just waited until she finished checking them in. Then he approached her and told her he wanted to ask her something but didn't want to ask in front of the guests she was checking in. She assumed he was going to complain but that was not what he had on his mind.
He told her while he was sitting on the porch; he saw an apparition moving across the yard wearing a long white gown. He wanted to know if she could think of any event that might have triggered such a spirit.
At first she could not but then she remembered. When she had first bought the hotel, the family who owned it had brought the wife's mother to stay with them after her father had died. The mother was grief-stricken and would not be comforted. She refused to eat and just stayed in her room in her nightgown. Finally one night, the distraught woman decided she did not want to live now that her husband was gone. She had taken her own life by jumping from a third story window.
Gerri also says people are always saying they hear things. She has heard lots of thing too. She tried to dismiss them as the natural noises an old building makes. Funny thing is when she hears odd noises and goes to investigate, she never finds the source of the noise but often finds things that need to be done. ?It's almost like they are looking after the hotel and me,? she said. ?Like one time I kept hearing a ?thump thump' and I started to look for something rubbing against something else that had worked loose. I never found anything like that but I did find a lit candle burning in a small holder in one of the rooms that was supposed to be cleaned and closed up. After I put out that candle, I never heard that noise again.?
Yes, the wonderful old building has its resident spirits who want it to be cared for so they will always have a home.
It took Gerri a while to realize that however. She has owned the hotel for nineteen years. Naturally in a historic building you are always fixing things. The first time anyone approached her about ?ghosts? she was doing some stenciling on the front door. Three couples came in and one of the men asked, ?Ya got any haints here??
Not in the best of moods she replied, "If I saw a 'haint' here, I'd slap a paint brush in his hand and put him to work."
This is an excerpt from my book Hosts With Ghosts which can be ordered from http://americanroads.net/books.htm.
Hotel Warm Springs
Merewether County Chamber of Commerce
Pine Mountain Chamber of Commerce
Warm Springs Village Mall
Wild Animal Safari
Warm Springs Area Tourism Association
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