Meet the ghost of Granny Febuary
Published 9:00 am Friday, October 31, 2014
Halloween is not a good time to visit Highland Cemetery, one of Elizabethton’s oldest and most historic cemeteries. A Halloween visit to the cemetery might leave you shaking in your boots and scared out of your wits.
Local legend has it that an old woman by the name of Granny Febuary haunts the cemetery and that if you go to her grave at midnight on Halloween, you will hear her rocking chair moving inside the mausoleum, where her remains are. Some say that she can be seen walking around the cemetery among the graves at night.
Granny Febuary stories have been told for years and she has been mentioned in paranormal sites across the Internet. One story circulating says if you leave food at Granny Febuary’s mausoleum, she is likely to talk to you, and if the offering is particularly yummy, she will grant you a wish.
However, there are a few discrepancies in the tales.
First of all, Granny Febuary is not buried in the mausoleum containing the rocking chair, and her real name supposedly was Nannie Crowe Brister — a homemaker with a love for music.
But, some old-timers say Granny Febuary was a witch and had the gift of healing.
Legend has it that when Granny Febuary was elderly, she suffered a seizure, or perhaps a stroke. The illness left her in a state doctors believed was death. She was given a funeral and her casket was placed beside her husband’s in a mausoleum in the Highland Cemetery on Arney Hill.
One version of the story is that cemetery caretaker heard Granny Febuary call for help from inside the mausoleum a few days after her burial. Discovering she was alive, the caretaker unchained the mausoleum doors and contacted her family.
She returned to her home and was apparently unaffected by her near-death and burial experience.
In time, Granny Febuary had another “lifeless” experience and she was laid in a coffin and placed in the mausoleum a second time. But this time, a table was placed inside the mausoleum near her coffin with food and drink. Indeed, Granny Febuary returned from “the dead” a second time.
She lived a few more years before finally dying for real. Her remains were returned to the coffin inside the mausoleum for the third time, and once again the table was set with food and drink.
But, this time Granny Febuary remained in the coffin, among the dead. The food on the table grew moldy, and the drink eventually evaporated from the glass.
The story goes on to say for many years after her death, people replaced the old food and drink with fresh offerings, thinking that she might once again return from the dead. Some of those individuals — who put the food and water inside the mausoleum — claimed to hear her say “thank you” before they left. Others say she actually conversed with them.
According to lore, Granny Febuary was born in 1888 and married Isaac T. Febuary. Apparently, he died, leaving her a young widow. She later married Alvin Bert Crowe, who died in 1923. Many described her as being generous and some of the stories told by old-timers say her fingers were often stained from breaking open walnuts and digging in her flower bed. She is also said to have possessed a fondness for Cadillacs, even though it’s not known if ever had or drove one.
Granny Febuary often took shortcuts though Highland Cemetery, past the old African-American cemetery on Southside Road to retrieve milk from a local dairy. From time to time, she would stop at her husband’s grave for a chat, leading the neighborhood children to believe she was a witch and could converse with the dead.
Nannie Febuary died during the Depression and her coffin was placed next to her husband’s in the mausoleum, a small cinderblock and concrete house at the back of the cemetery. The building is now old and the doors chained and locked.
Legend has it she loved rocking so much that her family placed a rocking chair in the mausoleum, and it is that chair many claim to hear and see rocking, especially at night. However, both the table and rocking chair have been removed from the mausoleum because of vandals trying to break in.
The late Bill Austin, a former Elizabethton Star reporter who grew up near the Highland Cemetery, often told stories from his childhood, when he and his friends would visit the cemetery at night to see if the stories about Granny Febuary were true. However, he said he could never be sure because they never stayed long enough to find out; once darkness descended upon the cemetery, there were all kinds of eerie and frightful sounds. Frightful enough to send them home in a hurry.
Although there is nothing to actually validate there was a real Granny Febuary, old-timers were sure of her ghostly presence.
However, if you are thinking of paying a visit to Granny Febuary this Halloween, beware. In Tennessee, it is illegal to be in a cemetery after sunset unless you have family buried there. Some cemeteries do not allow anyone to be there after sunset — not even those seeking to learn the truth behind a local ghostly legend.