"All houses wherein men have lived and died Are haunted houses." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882
Some of the most haunted places in the world sit quietly in our own neighborhood, waiting, begging to be explored, debunked, whispered about. This can certainly be said about Chestnut Hill Manor in the town of Douglasville, GA.
The 150 year old manor house sits atop Chestnut Hill, the former site of a historical native American landmark, a Chestnut tree with no bark. Settlers named the area now known as Douglasville, “Skint Chestnut” after the remarkable tree. Building the manor on such hallowed grounds may have been ill fated, but in it’s former glory the house is said to have been a magnificent example of Gothic style architecture with its elaborate exterior sculptures, oval arches, and impressive looming tower.
Chestnut Hill manor was built for Walton Charles, a rice plantation owner, and completed in 1868 but there are no existing records of the architect, the blueprints, or anyone who worked on the building. Mr Charles died exactly one year after the completion of the manor and as far as I can work out, he was the first person to die inside the house. Walton Charles’ death was ruled to be of natural causes. As his will was found to be mysteriously missing following his death, the manor was put up for auction and sold.
Since 1869 many families have occupied the home but never for more than 3 years, except for the Stewart family. Over the years the residents of Chestnut Hill have either disappeared, including a handful of children who are said to have vanished into the woods surrounding the property, committed suicide, killed one or several family members, been gravely injured in unusual accidents, reported hearing voices and seeing strangers in the house, or fallen ill very suddenly and have passed away shortly after. Due to this it seems a 3 year curse formed whereby no family lasted in the house longer than 3 years. They either died in the home, or made their escape following a series of shocking and unfortunate events. Except for the Stewarts that is.
Henry Stewart, owner of ESC Shipping Company, purchased Chestnut Hill in the spring of 1982, blissfully unaware of its troubled past, and moved in with his wife and two children. The first two years were seemingly uneventful for the family who enjoyed the manor’s spacious rooms and maze of hallways littered with sculptures, ornate wall patterns, and lavish decor.
In the third year of the Stewart’s residency at the manor, Henry Stewart was stricken with a recurring illness which presented in the form of bouts of constant nausea, extreme sensitivity to heat and cold, migraines, and insomnia. As a result Henry began running his shipping company from home full time and rarely stepped outside the house. His wife, Alicia, had been a full time mother from the time the family moved in to the house as she done for many years prior. Around the same time that Henry became unwell, Alicia stopped tutoring her children, suddenly abandoned playing her piano, stopped tending to her vegetable and flower gardens, and spoke less and less, eventually not saying a word to anyone at all. Sometime in September of 1986, The Stewarts moved their children’s beds into the attic where they banished Samael and Emily Stewart for extended periods of time. During the periods when the children were kept on the uppermost floor of the home, staff were only permitted to unlock the door to this floor three times a day to provide Samael and Emily with meals.
In later years, the staff who were employed at the residence spoke of Mr Stewart’s regular and sudden outbursts of anger, Mrs Stewart whispering to herself and crying uncontrollably for hours at a time, sixteen year old Samael Stewart collecting dead animals, torturing his sister, and praying to what they referred to as “dark forces”, and twelve year old Emily Stewart gradually becoming more withdrawn, screaming in the night, and emerging from the attic with fresh scars and bruises whenever the two children were given a respite from their effective imprisonment.
Exactly what happened to the Stewart family inside Chestnut Hill Manor is not clear but in 1987 Emily Stewart was reported missing and an extensive search of the house, grounds, and surrounding woods yielded no evidence of her whereabouts. The police were called to the manor once again a year later after the house staff arrived for their daily shift and made the grisly discovery of the bodies of Henry and Alicia Stewart. Mrs Stewart was found in the garden with her head smashed through a greenhouse window, her neck cut open on the broken glass. Mr Stewart was found in the attic inside a large wardrobe, the inner walls of which were scrawled with an array of unusual symbols, his eyes were missing and his entire body had been tightly bound in barbed and razor wire. Mr Stewart’s death was ruled to have been caused by extensive bleeding from multiple severed arteries.
The fate of Samael Stewart remains unknown. No trace of Samael was found anywhere in the house, on the grounds, or in the surrounding area. Authorities searched for Samael for months following the incident and extensively investigated the Stewart’s suspicious deaths until resources were exhausted and the case became cold.
Since the manor was built it seems to have taken on a life of its own, an evil life. Records indicate that at least fifty people have died in the house or on its grounds, all of them in unusual, suspicious, or inexplicable circumstances, a cluster of others have simply disappeared from the property, and dozens of former residents have suffered life altering injuries and developed severe psychological disorders, a fact which over the years realtors have buried time and time again in order to sell the home.
Henry Stewart’s sister, his only living relative at the time of his death aside from his son who remains missing, inherited Chestnut Hill and, apparently aware of the darkness the property holds and spreads, vowed to keep it off the market to prevent any further tragedy. So far her children who now preside over the estate have continued to keep that promise and the house remains abandoned.
At the end of a long winding driveway through the woods at Chestnut Hill you are met by tall, black, iron gates laced with chains and barbed wire, sealed closed by a slew of heavy iron locks. From outside the fence line what little you can see of the manor itself, through overgrown weeds, twisted tree limbs, and vines, looks decrepit, the exterior dilapidated, windows boarded, and it appears that one tree has even grown through the walls and roof. There is a round window at the top of the house, which I imagine is the attic, that appears to have a red glow. It is eerily reminiscent of an eye with a piercing stare, as if the house is watching and waiting for one’s curiosity to take hold, compelling you to venture in…
Standing outside the gates was as far as I went, I trust my gut and everything about this place is unsettling, the negative energy in the surrounding hazy air palpable. The manor’s latest victim appears to be Fred Smith, a renowned paranormal investigator who was last heard from when he arrived at Chestnut Hill two weeks ago to spend a weekend exploring possible paranormal activity within the house. When Smith failed to check in with his family at the end of the weekend they reported him missing. Police found his car just outside the gates of the grounds but in their extensive search of the property no trace of Fred Smith or any of his belongings, which apparently including several heavy cases of ghost hunting equipment, was found.
As the saying goes, some things are best left alone. Chestnut Hill Manor holds 150 years worth of dark secrets and death, locals speak of it only in whispers if at all, and the folklore about this shadowy place grows ever darker and more disturbing with every new disappearance linked to the house. It is safe to say that nobody knows the entire truth about Chestnut Hill, nobody living that is, and most are perfectly happy to keep it that way. The house and grounds have been left to rot and decay which is probably for the best, but I doubt Fred Smith will be the last to vanish into its stormy abyss. The curious, the skeptics, the fanatics, and the naively innocent will continue to come to this strangely alluring place and the list of Chestnut Hill’s victims will only continue to grow.
I don’t hold much of a candle to ghost stories but you wont find me exploring this manor of death night or day. I strongly advise that you don’t find yourself venturing into the mouth of this beast, but for those who can’t resist its echoing calls on the wind, whatever you do, don’t go in alone.