The Golden Isles is steeped in history. With the countless lives that have unfolded here, it seems to follow that these deep connections leave traces. And it’s said, those often manifest in spectral form.
From the stories of J.P. Morgan making appearances at the club he loved on Jekyll Island to Mary the Wanderer forever walking the darkened beaches of St. Simons Island, there’s plenty of lore for supernatural enthusiasts. Of course, Brunswick has plenty ghosts of its own. And historical Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation is certainly one of the spookiest spots in town.
The site contains an intact main house and an expansive, live oak covered property first occupied in the 1800s by William Brailsford.
The Charleston native used slave labor to carve out a rice plantation on the Altamaha River there.
Following the Civil War, the Dents continued to grow rice until they converted the site into a dairy farm.
The last resident, Ophelia Dent, deeded it to the state in 1973. Since then, it’s been managed as a state park by the Georgia Department of National Resources.
Bill Giles has served as a park ranger there since 2007 and is certainly well-acquainted with the property. To take it one step further, he also lives onsite.
That puts Giles in a unique position to experience the property, especially during the “witching” hours. His own brushes with the “previous residents” include having to walk to the main house to turn off lights or alarms that inexplicably spark in the middle of the night. He’s also heard a number of stories from volunteers and guests who report seeing ghosts of a small child or a woman in white.
“She’s been seen outside the plantation house and in the field,” he said.
There are many other stories though. So many, in fact, that Hofwyl started hosting a successful tour a few years back — the Ghosts and Legends Tour. Giles says that many who have taken the after-hours excursion have experienced odd things.
“Pretty much any time that we have these things, visitors say they have experiences. We’ve had someone who took a photograph last year in the plantation house, and it looked like you could see a (ghostly) hand on one of the door seals,” he said.
Even more than seeking phantoms, Giles says the tours are truly about sharing history.
“We’ve done this on and off for about five years. And really it’s mostly about history ... after all, ghost stories are really about history,” he said.
“It’s really about the plantation and the people who lived here — throughout slavery, the Civil War and the Depression. We kind of weave it all together with a few spooky stories that have happened to us or to visitors.”
With the arrival or October — the spookiest month of the year — the tours have geared up once again.
They will continue from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 15, 22 and 29.
Giles says that attendees will be treated to a rare look at this local landmark.
“It’s at dusk and in the evening so it’s a completely different atmosphere with the oak trees and the spanish moss. People really enjoy it,” he said.
Reservations for the tour are required, and good walking shoes are recommended, as is insect repellent.