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The mysterious case of Mary Virginia Harrison

Mary Virginia Harrison

Milledgeville has had a very unique and colorful history throughout the years. As the former capital of Georgia during the American Civil War, the city has a vast array of historic homes and buildings. One of those buildings on the campus of Georgia College has a special history: one that you would only expect to hear around Halloween.

The Harrison House, located on Hancock Street, is the current home to the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness. Its history however goes back to the late 1920's according to Campus Historian Bob Wilson.

During that time, Benjamin and Gussie Harrison gave birth to a girl and named her Mary Virginia Harrison. The family built the house and settled down. 

"She was very beautiful," says Wilson, "but very precocious and something of a handful."

After graduating from then Georgia State College for Women in 1946, Mary Virginia worked in the Post Office in downtown Milledgeville before moving to Washington D.C. to work as a civilian employee for the Department of the Navy. She married John Allison Mills in 1949, but their marriage would shortly be dissolved just five years later in 1954. It would be another five years before she met Roy Russell Sr. In 1959, she resigned from her position as an intelligence clerk in the Navy Department and married Russell an automobile dealer in Vidalia, Georgia. She lived with her husband there for several years and was an active member of the Vidalia chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. When her husband passed away in 1974, she decided to return to Milledgeville to live with her mother.

Mary Virginia Harrison receiving her degree
from Georgia State College for Women

One day in 1979, friends stopped by the Harrison House to visit Mary Virginia's mother, Gussie, who offered them a small pistol she used when she was younger. After the couple declined the offer, the pistol was placed on a table in the living room. As the couple was leaving, Mary Virginia took the pistol off the table and ran out the side entrance by the kitchen and to the back of the house near a magnolia tree. Moments later a student, living in a nearby apartment that the family rented out, heard the fateful shot. Mary Virginia passed away at the local hospital. 

There had been rumors of the Harrison House being haunted with several people claiming to smell her perfume at given times. One person claims that lights went out inside the house. That was after that person had tried to convince his friends ghosts were not real.

Years later Wilson, who neither confirms nor denies the presence of paranormal activity, was doing some research for an unrelated project at the time when he decided to stay in the Harrison House to focus on the project.

"The guys that work there told me they thought it was haunted, which struck me as odd because computer people aren't usually very fanciful," Wilson recalls.

As he was unpacking his books and other items that night, he recalled hearing three different doors to the room he was staying in close loudly in succession, which he thought was strange seeing as there weren't any open doors or windows blowing air in. After introducing himself, he never recalled seeing anything unusual until a year later. 

The steps Mary Virginia went down
on that fateful afternoon

As he was packing his items up to return to his normal office to resume work, he remembered smelling a pleasant perfume throughout the room. Curious as to where it could be coming from, he stepped into the hallway only to find the smell went away but was still present in the room he had been staying in. He later learned that Mary Virginia Harrison loved fine perfumes.

Today, Mary Virginia is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery a couple of blocks away from campus. While we may never know the exact circumstances of her tragic death, we do know that her memory will live on, and if you ever step into the Harrison House, things just may not be as they seem. 


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