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Lauderdale County History

 

The Great Meridian Cyclone of 1906

A Lauderdale County Web Exclusive
by Bill White

Cyclone!
 

The Great Cyclone of 1906
A Companion Story

 A Haunting Tale
The Ghosts of Peavey’s Melody Music

 

N

ot too long ago, a Meridian landmark disappeared from the city’s downtown area.  On February 24, 2006, Peavey’s Melody Music Company, located at 813 22nd Avenue, finished its run of more than sixty years and closed its doors for the last time.  According to an article published in The Meridian Star on that date, the store was opened in 1945 by J. B. Peavey, who was the father of Peavey Electronics founder and Chief Executive Officer, Hartley Peavey.

     Although the landmark store was opened as recently as 1945, the building itself has been a fixture in the city much longer.  It was certainly in existence as early as 1901 when it was occupied by Wagner and Wagner, Undertakers and Embalmers.  A. B. Wagner had started the business in Meridian before 1888 and has initially opened up shop at 2514 2nd Street (which was the turn of the century name of Front Street).  In 1899 he moved the business to 2114 6th Street where it remained briefly before moving to its final location around the turn of the century.

     In his book, Haunted Places in the American South, author Alan Brown visited Meridian as he researched a rather unusual story.  Apparently when the Tornado of 1906 destroyed the wholesale district of the city, many of the bodies recovered were taken to the Smith Funeral Home located in what was known at the time as Wagner Annex Number Three.  This was the building that would later become the home of Peavey‘s Melody Music Company.

     According to Brown’s sources, the dead and at least some of the injured were carried up to the second floor of the building where the deceased were “stacked up on top of each other like cordwood.”  Apparently some of the injured lay next to the dead until help arrived or they died.  The story has it that so much blood was lost by the many victims that it had to be “swept out of the door with a push broom.”

     Further, the floor boards of the lower floor of the building were so badly stained by the blood that the owners were unable to completely remove it.  Before being put back into service, the floor had to be covered by tile.  It is suggested that the original tile that had been installed remained on the floor (perhaps under other layers of flooring) until the day the store finally closed in 2006.

     By the late 1970s the second floor of the building had been used for many purposes including music lessons and, at one time, an Arthur Murray dance studio.  The “haunting activity”, as Brown terms it, was first reported about this time by a store employee named Berry Gray.

     Gray said that on one particular day, he heard noises coming from the second floor on a Saturday afternoon when he was in the store alone.  The noises seemed to be the sounds of children at play.  Since the area would have been dangerous for unsupervised youngsters, and thinking that some of the children taking piano or guitar lessons had lingered longer than they should, he went to the second floor to escort them from the building.

     When he arrived near the source of the noises, he realized that the lights were off and there was apparently no one on the floor.  However, the farther he moved into the area, the colder it became.  When he began to hear the children again, it appeared that the sounds of running and laughter were coming from a darkened room that was completely empty.  At this point, Gray quickly left the area.  He suggested that he was inexplicably anxious and that his thought was, “Feet, don’t fail me now!”

     Researching the issue, he learned that other employees had heard the noises, as well as servicemen working on the building and repairmen working on the organs and other musical equipment in the store.  Robert Holcomb, also an employee, was present in the store with Gray on many occasions when the noises were heard.  Holcomb said that a number of years earlier, he had heard the sound of “little feet running back and forth…” and that Gray had shouted up the stairs, “Who’s up there?”

     Virginia Raymond, an employee of long standing with the company, usually opened the store early in the morning.  She was well acquainted with the noises and reportedly was in the habit of telling everyone who went to the second floor of the building to “be careful up there.”

     Over time the store employees came to accept the noises and some even reported that they had “made their peace” with the spirits of the long-dead children, victims of the Cyclone of 1906.

 

References:

Brown, Alan.  Haunted Places in the American South.  Oxford:  University of Mississippi Press, 2002.

Return to Cyclone Part One:  Meridian As It Was

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Page Last Updated:   Sunday, 30 April 2017

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