A&E » Cover Story

The hauntings of Atlanta

The tales behind some of the city's most ghostly places



Page 3 of 6


The Place: Ellis Hotel, 176 Peachtree St., Downtown Atlanta. A boutique hotel on the corner of Peachtree and Ellis that shares the site of the Winecoff Hotel fire, a disaster nicknamed "The Titanic on Peachtree."

The Source: Liz Devaney, Darkside Ghost Tours

The Story: On Dec. 7, 1946, the Winecoff Hotel welcomed 280 guests, including holiday shoppers, moviegoers eager to see Disney's Song of the South, and teenagers attending a Tri-Y Youth Conference. At around 3 a.m., an elevator operator smelled smoke near the fifth floor and notified the other employees. The third, fourth and fifth floors were already ablaze, and the self-proclaimed "fireproof" hotel had no fire escapes, fire doors, sprinklers or alarm system.

Firefighters' ladders could only reach the eighth floor of the 15-story building, so many guests attempted to escape through their windows by making ropes out of bed sheets or risking a jump. A Georgia Tech student won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo of a woman leaping from the 11th floor — she survived, despite breaking her back, pelvis and both legs. Not so lucky were the 119 people who died of smoke inhalation, being burned alive or fatally falling to the sidewalks and alleys. The disaster led to extensive rewriting of national fire safety codes.

Speculation holds that arson caused the devastating blaze and that a local criminal Ray McCullough, nicknamed "Candy" or "Candy Man," was the perpetrator. An ex-con with a violent temper, McCullough is believed to have seen an informant at a hotel poker game and set the stairwell on fire in an attempt at retribution.

Reopened in 1951 as the Peachtree Hotel on Peachtree, the property passed through multiple hands over the years, finally taking the name "Ellis Hotel" in 2007. During its various renovations, workers have reported episodes of tools being moved, and apparitions in places inaccessible to the public. Sometimes disembodied sounds, such as running children or screaming women, resound through the halls. And once, for two weeks in a row, the fire alarm went off at 2:48 a.m., which perfectly fits the timetable of the deadly blaze's first spark.

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Add a comment