Ghosts For Guests?

Mississippi Home Said To Host Spirits

Legally, Leyland French owns the historic McRaven House in Vicksburg, Miss. But he is convinced he's sharing it. French firmly believes that ghosts haunt his house. He thinks they've been haunting this historic estate and museum for hundreds of years.

48 Hours Correspondent Susan Spencer reports from French's home.


"I thought I heard something on the landing right there, and that drawer slammed on my thumbs!" French says. "And that's when I called people in New Orleans and had the place exorcised. Everybody since has been friendly."

He's not the only one who thinks there are ghosts in the house. One woman saw a Confederate soldier sitting in a chair. Another felt a ghost touching her. Another was knocked out of his chair by a "force."

Built in 1797, McRaven House has had a long, eventful history. A vicious Civil War battle took place in the back yard. And many of the dead are buried on the grounds.

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While other houses might report an occasional ghost or two, at McRaven, ghosts, poltergeists and apparitions seem to be tripping all over each other. French says that he even has pictures. To attract the ghosts, French sometimes plays "Dixie."

Photographer Janis Raley has documented what she calls "hauntings" for two decades. She says she has never seen any place as lively as McRaven House.

Parapsychologists William Roll and Andrew Nichols came to McRaven to investigate the alleged hauntings. In 1999, they came during a particularly ghostly time: on Memorial Day weekend, under a full moon, and during a reenactment of the Civil War battle fought in Vicksburg 138 years ago.

They came armed with sensitive field instruments that supposedly detect ghostly energy. They believe that electromagnetic fields can cause what people think of as ghostly experiences.

Such energy fields are sometimes found in normal household wiring and can emanate from the Earth itself. With a big enough field, strange things start to happen, say the two men, professors at the State University of West Georgia.

"[The fields] break down filtering mechanisms in the brain nd allow us to perceive a level of reality that's there all the time," says Nichols.

"The longer you live in these areas the more hypersensitized you become. So even though you might have had very few psychic experiences in the past, suddenly you start to have more in this particular location," he says.

The pair found that McRaven seems to have powerful energy fields.

"There's a natural Earth source underneath the house that's creating a powerful magnetic field," Nichols says.

"McRaven House might be described as kind of a storage battery for these energies, and people who go into this house are exposing themselves to those energies. And I think that that is what's triggering these experiences," he says.

"So in that sense, I would say that yes, McRaven House is certainly a genuinely haunted house," Nichols says.

Not surprisingly, this finding suits French just fine. He says he's comfortable living with ghosts. Not that he wants to be a McRaven ghost himself, though. "I think there's a much nicer place to go to than just hanging around here," he says with a laugh.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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