Part 1 of 3
It would be safe to say that Beulah Cawthon is alive and well. Except that Beulah Cawthon died in 1968.
So, to be accurate, it is more correct to say Beulah Cawthon’s spirit is alive and well and living in the home where she found little peace, little comfort, and a lot of pain in her human life. Believers will say she’s been here a long time, and former owners talk about strange sounds, knocking, drawers opening and closing, and brush it all away with a calm, “oh, that’s just Beulah.”
Beulah is up to her pranks and apparently a very happy spirit these days, it seems. That’s because her home, Linden Hill, where she lived with her parents in the mid-20the century, was purchased last year by a couple of north easterners who are generous in the space they give her, understanding of her mischievous ways, and eager to share her friendship with 21st century skeptics and believers.
PHOTO: Linden Hill
A prankster. That’s what owners Jim and Stacey call Beulah. They hear a knock on their front door, the dogs begin to bark, they open the door. There’s no one there. They go to the back door. No one there either. “That’s Beulah!” they say.
The lights dim. They go out. In this historic little city in northeast Mississippi, most people chalk it up to the utility company. Everybody’s lights dim once in a while. But at Linden Hill, it’s more than light dimming….the wall switch is actually turned off. Jim turns it back on and Stacy says, “that’s Beulah.”
So why is Beulah back in a house where she was terribly unhappy? Where she was accused of trying to kill her parents? Why is she back after spending the last 40 years of her life in what we generously call a mental hospital, but is more accurately an insane hospital? Why is she ‘pranking’ and making people feel comfortable around her and good about themselves?
Who knows. Perhaps she isn’t ready to cross over; perhaps she wants to bring happiness where she saw little. Perhaps she is looking for people to pray for her and let her pass to eternal happiness. Perhaps…..
It could be anything. But make no mistake about it, the presence of Beulah is very much active in Linden Hill in Holly Springs, Ms.
Beulahs’s story, as researched by Jim and Stacy as well as by Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting Jerry Mitchell, a reporter for the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, is thorough and ties a lot of loose ends together. But not completely. That’s probably the way Beulah wants it. But it’s a compelling story and has tied generations and families together.
Hearing Stacy and Jim talk about the slamming doors, seeing they’ve nailed shut all their windows because they’re tired of them opening and closing by themselves, listening to stories of how the wallpaper peeled off a wall the day the Aikins, who owned the home after the Cawthons, moved, demanded some firsthand investigation on my own.
That, and I wanted to visit my son, Jim of the Jim and Stacy couple who own Linden Hill.
It’s a magnificent house. Set on a hill 600 feet above sea level…the highest point in Mississippi is 800 feet, the top of a hill in Luka, about 80 miles from Holly Springs.. the house was built in 1841 and is Greek Revival in style. Like many antebellum homes in the area, it is one-story, features magnificent columns in front, and is surrounded by beautiful trees of several varieties. The two Linden trees in front, one of them now gone, gave the home its name.
Inside, a center foyer opens to the formal living room on one side, the everyday parlor on the left, and both have doors leading towards the length of the house behind, a formal dining room, Jim’s office on the left, and a massive kitchen, laundry room and bath on the right. At the back is a foyer that stretches the width of the house, and beyond, the master bedroom and bath. It’s comfortable, lived in, and easy to see how Beulah can feel at home.
PHOTO: Sheet Music Dress
Stacey is a way-out-of-the-box thinker, and her home décor shows it. She believes in living happily and comfortably, so surrounds the two of them with the things that make them feel that way. It isn’t unusual to see a full-sized mannequin wearing an exquisite wedding gown in the living room; Jim’s grandparent’s engagement photo in a large display of letters spelling out LOVE on one wall, a huge white-robed angel over one of the six fireplaces in the house, that in front of yet another ornament, a Shoppe sign advertising an herbalist. Nor is it out of the ordinary for Stacy to have another full- size mannequin alongside the formal, fully set dining room table, wearing a long gown Stacy fashioned from old-fashioned sheet music. Jim’s office is filled with everything from a mounted deer head, which Stacy decorated with costume jewelry, to books on history, the Marines, family, school yearbooks and other items over the years. It’s all neat, arranged artfully and spotlessly clean.
All of which is to say that a tour through this museum-like residence is a thrill in itself, with or without Beulah.
There are many tours through Linden Hill, both as a museum and home to Beulah. There is the 90-minute explanation and description of everything on the walk-through and the story of Beulah, and, like last month, when it was the showstopper on a tour of six or eight historic spots in the city. Because other buildings are involved in the two and a half hour Murderers and Marauders tour, it’s an abbreviated version of all that is magical about Linden Hill.
Jim and Stacy tend to spend their time in the back rooms, his office, the spacious and comfortable kitchen with its massive dining area and round table that invites conversation and laughter over endless cups of coffee, their bedroom, and the laundry and bath areas. The front of the house…the two parlors, entry foyer and dining room, are more Beulah’s, they say, and they like to let her have her peace and solitude. Reluctantly, but when convinced it was really what I wanted, they let me sleep on the large, comfortable couch in the formal parlor, the room once used for wakes and weddings, the one where Beulah seems to be most active.
I couldn’t wait to go to bed that first night.
NEXT: Beulah’s story and what she did on the tour