From hidden tunnels that traverse one of the state’s most well-known cities to a popular pirate hangout of the past, here are 9 of the most unusual spots in Mississippi.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Mississippi’s “Great Wall”
In November of 1900, an unusual discovery in Mississippi made its way onto the pages of the New York Times. It all began when Hazlehurst native, Thomas Watson, came across an extremely large stone structure in the southeastern portion of Claiborne County, near Copiah County. After word of Watson’s discovery got out, the well-known paper ran a story on “the Great Wall of Mississippi,” and concluded that the structure must’ve been built by a prehistoric civilization, even referring to it as “one of the wonders of the world.”
Mr. Watson continued to study the wall himself and was not only convinced it was man-made but also believed it could be the remnants of an ancient city that was now buried underground. Within a year of Watson’s discovery, a man named David Ives Bushnell made the trek to the Great Wall, inspected the stone structure, and concluded it was a natural formation, putting an end to Watson’s theory. Interestingly enough, the Great Wall made its way into the news again when, in 2012, two brothers discovered part of the wall on their newly acquired property.
2. Friars Point
In October of 1877, a young fisherman named John Glenn anchored his boat at a landing near Friars Point. Before long, Glenn informed his fellow residents that he was tortured by a ghost on a nightly basis, claiming the ghost would torment him by throwing mud balls at his boat during all hours of the night. Needless to say, the curious townspeople needed to see this for themselves, so one evening, a large group of residents, including the judge and editor of the newspaper, gathered around Glenn’s boat and waited. Before long, the crowd grew restless, began making a mockery of the whole thing, and dispersed…for the most part. Several citizens stayed behind and, according to their accounts, the mud-slinging ghost did show up and pelted Glenn’s boat with mud balls until one o’clock in the morning. Word spread about the strange occurrence, and the citizens’ investigation into the mystery behind Friars Point remained ongoing.
3. Hidden Tunnels of Oxford
James Meredith made history when, in 1962, he was the first African American student admitted to the University of Mississippi. Meredith’s acceptance to the school caused so much unrest that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered hundreds of U.S. Marshals to accompany the student on his first day in order to insure his safety. And apparently efforts to protect Meredith didn’t end there. The school’s administration along with the Federal government actually constructed a series of hidden tunnels that allowed Meredith to travel safely around Oxford.
4. Devil’s Punch Bowl
Just north of the Natchez City Cemetery the bluff along the Mississippi River swings inward, forming a deep ravine – an area that has come to be known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl. According to local legend, pirates used to hideout in the Punch Bowl as well as use the secluded location to bury their treasure. And the mystery of the Devil’s Punch Bowl doesn’t end there as a mass grave, believed to date back to the 1860s, was found in the area. It is theorized that the thousands of bodies discovered belonged to slaves who were freed but then imprisoned in concentration camps located in the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
5. Multiple Graves of Robert Johnson
Someone’s grave isn’t normally a mysterious place, but when that someone has three gravesites, well, that’s a bit unusual. And this is exactly the case of blues legend, Robert Johnson, who is believed to be buried at Payne Chapel Memorial Baptist Church, Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, or Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Aside from his music, Johnson gained notoriety for supposedly selling his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical talent. Even the singer’s death was compelling as he was allegedly poisoned by the husband of a woman with which he was having an affair. All three of Johnson’s supposed graves are located in Leflore County, but due to poor record-keeping and grave markers that were made of less-than-permanent materials, no one is sure which one actually holds the musician’s body.
6. The Nanih Waiya Mound
According to Indian legend, brothers Chata and Chickash, along with their tribe, embarked on a search for a better life. The entire journey was directed by a pole which was believed to be magic. Each night the pole was put into the ground and whichever way it pointed in the morning, the group traveled. Eventually, they awoke to find the pole standing completely upright - a sign they had found their new home. Soon after arriving, it was concluded that the land couldn’t support the entire tribe, and in order to remedy this, the brothers decided to split up.
Chickash took half the people, headed north, and formed the Chickasaw tribe; while Chata and the rest of the people stayed near the burial mound and became the Choctaw tribe. The period of construction of the Nanih Waiya mound remains a mystery to this day; however, one thing is for certain, the site plays a central role in the Choctaw tribe’s origin legends. One story in particular tells of the mound giving birth to the tribe as they emerged from the underworld.
7. Margaret's Grocery and Market
Prior to the 1980s Vicksburg's Margaret’s Grocery and Market was just that, a grocery store. But all that changed when owner Margaret Rogers met her future husband, Reverend H.D. Dennis. The Reverend promised to turn his new wife’s business into a site that would attract people from all over the world, and that’s exactly what he did. Through the use of signs, gates, towers, and a variety of other items, Dennis has created a “unique vernacular art environment” that has been described as a “theological park” by vernacular art scholar Stephen Young. And the inside of the building is just as ornately decorated, filled with beads, Christmas lights, and flowers among other items. In addition to taking in the one-of-a-kind site, visitors are often treated to lengthy sermons, which are delivered by the Reverend himself.
8. The Grave of Elizabeth “Betsy” Bell
The story of Betsy Bell, her father John, and the Bell Witch has inspired numerous movies but many are unaware of Mississippi’s connection to the familiar tale. Supernatural happenings began plaguing the Bell Family, specifically Betsy and John, in 1817 at their home in Tennessee. The evil entity, which identified itself as Kate, was specifically opposed to Betsy’s engagement to a local resident named Joshua Gardner. After years of turmoil, Kate finally left the family alone; however, the family didn’t escape unscathed as Betsy called off her engagement and John passed away. Eventually, Betsy married Richard Powell, but she, unfortunately, didn’t get her happily ever after – four of her children passed away and her husband suffered a stroke. By the late 1800s, Betsy was a widow and decided to move in with her daughter in Mississippi. In 1888, Betsy passed away and was buried in a cemetery near Water Valley, where she remains to this day.
9. The Pascagoula River (a.k.a. the Singing River)
According to legend, the Pascagoula River comes to life between late summer and early autumn as the waters produce somewhat of a humming sound. The musical mystery is allegedly a lasting effect of a Pascagoula Indian tribe who chose to die by way of drowning rather than face possible enslavement by another tribe. It has been said that the tribe marched into the Pascagoula River while singing a death song, which is believed to be the music heard to this day.
What are some other mysterious and unusual spots in Mississippi? Share your suggestions below!