The story of the Stowell Family’s renovation at 992 Ridge Ave. in Stone Mountain might seem familiar: big family moves into a big house and hears bumps in the night, creaking doors, and voices. Unwelcome homebuyers get terrorized by ghosts in residence.
The spooky details of the Stowell’s "haunted" bed and breakfast are reminiscent of that old cinematic formula.
Except this isn’t that story.
The owners of the soon-to-open Stillwell House in Stone Mountain actually embrace the alleged apparitions with the kind of hospitality one would reserve for flesh-and-blood customers.
Case in point: The Stowells have named the place in honor of the family who lived there in the late 1800s (the Stillwells) and currently haunt the 3,000-square-foot project, according to business co-owner Mary Stowell.
Stowell — whose name is eerily similar to former, deceased resident Mary Stillwell — insists that the aforementioned Stillwell’s dearly departed husband, the Rev. Jacob Stillwell, remains a resident on Ridge Avenue … and always will.
"Reverend Stillwell lives in that room across the hall there, and he’ll never leave," said Mary during a recent interview. "And, you know what? There’s probably 20 other people standing here in the room with us, and right now they’re deciding if they like you or not and determining whether they’re going to help you with this story."
So why's the place so full of spirits?
Built in 1820, it’s reportedly the oldest building in Stone Mountain. Constructed originally as an inn, the structure was spared Sherman’s fiery ravages because, according to Insider's Guide to Civil War Sites in the South, it was a Confederate hospital.
Unearthing artifacts from a place with that kind of history was half the fun of renovation, according to Ralph Stowell, Mary's husband and co-owner of Stillwell house.
A stray wooden board he found in the attic one afternoon turned out to have the signatures of several Civil War soldiers etched into its surface. They mounted the plank above the front door, where it remains "in a place of honor," Mary said.
Another discovery came one day in late 2014, not long after they purchased the home, when the Stillwells were doing some backyard cleanup.
"Our daughter found a big stone leaning up against the house ... we found out it was the headstone of Jacob Stillwell," Mary said, adding that she later learned it had been replaced, removed, and brought home many years earlier from a nearby cemetery — Rev. Stillwell's final resting place.
The Stowells placed the headstone against a fence in the backyard, where it remains.
The Stillwells were the first homeowners to "live here in the residential sense," Mary said. Jacob, a Baptist minister, and Mary Stillwell had nine children and occupied the home from sometime in he 1870s until the early 1940s when it was sold. Oh, and Jacob and Mary Stillwell apparently share the same calendar date wedding anniversary as Mary and Ralph Stowell (cue theremin).
Coincidences like these are a common occurrence, Mary said. There's also the creepy stuff that allegedly happens quite often: household items that frequently disappear; phantom text messages sent from Ralph's phone when he doesn't have it on him; the sound of a ball bouncing down the stairs; doors swinging open and slamming shut; and disembodied, guttural voices interrupting conversations between the Stowells and their friends.
The Stowells describe themselves as being "total nonbelievers" before moving to and renovating 992 Ridge Ave. in 2014. And now?
"Spirituality is real, and these spirits are all around us. Some of them need help, and some of them are just here to hang out," Mary said, adding that they don't mind the public knowing "the truth" about the soon-to-open Stillwell House.
"If you Google it, you're going to find out," she said. "We're not going to hide it."
For those who dare, an open house is scheduled for June 25 at Stillwell House.
- Insider's Guide to Civil War Sites in the South [Rowman and Littlefield]
- Ultimate Guide to Atlanta's Most Haunted Locations [Curbed]