SISSY: The Spirit of the Willis House

The Willis House is a beautiful home nestled among towering magnolia trees on the southside of Milledgeville. The property has all the southern charm and elegance you can imagine…plus a lively spirit. Saralyn Latham, the current owner of the house, says her great aunt Sissy is alive and well. In spirit form, at least. Today, the home is being used as an event venue and catering service, following in Sissy’s tradition of always having a house full of guests. It just so happens that Sissy is still around to oversee everything…

willis house

The Willis House was built by Moses Forte, a professor at Midway Seminary, between the years of 1828 and 1832. In 1898, the home was purchased by Dawson Willis, who gave it to his second wife Estelle as a wedding present in 1911. Estelle, also known as Sissy, lived in the house until her death at age 92. Mrs. Latham bought the 14-room house and redecorated it as an event venue for parties and weddings. It was soon after that strange things started occurring…

In the first year after opening the business, Latham’s staff started finding large antique hairpins dropped in various locations. The most common area was the dining room. Latham noticed that these pins were the same kind Sissy would wear in her hair. While the findings of these pins have decreased in frequency, staff members will still find one lying on the carpet from time to time. Hairpins aren’t the only strange occurrence, though. One thing Sissy Willis truly hated was over-cooked vegetables. While she gained a reputation for cooking delicious meals for her guests, she claimed that over-cooked vegetables were one way to completely ruin a meal. Saralyn Latham says that when the Willis House is entertaining a large crowd and pots are cooking on the burners, the electricity will cut off under the vegetable pots. This is a regular happening and the oven will even turn off by itself. Sissy simply cannot risk anything being burnt. These occurrences are harmless and fun, but if you still don’t believe, there is one truly compelling piece of evidence that Sissy is still roaming the corridors of the home.

The wedding reception of a senator’s daughter was held at the Willis House in 1988. It was a happy day and many photos were taken of the newlyweds in the dining room in front of a beautiful gilt-framed mirror. A few days after the wedding, Mrs. Latham got a call from the mother of the bride saying that she had captured the image of a ghost in the dining room mirror. The spirit was wearing a long flowing gown that resembled Sissy Willis’s wedding dress. Even when the lights are turned off in the room and the photographer moves around, the figure still appears in every photo taken of the mirror. The ghostly form only changes in size and shape.

In addition to all of these happenings, you get regular ghostly activities such as doors opening and closing. These events certainly prove that Sissy is still alive and well in the halls of the Willis House and won’t be leaving anytime soon. If you would like to see the property for itself, the upcoming Southside Holiday Tour will make a stop at this beautiful home.

Stories adapted from True Ghost Stories of Georgia (Barbara Duffey), Weird Georgia (Jim Miles, Mark Sceurman) and Haunted Central Georgia (Jim Miles).

Author: Gracie Childers

Gracie is a junior at GCSU studying Mass Comm and French. She loves traveling (especially to Disney Parks), reading, watching movies, and singing along to Broadway musical soundtracks. When she’s not at Walt Disney World, she can usually be found driving around town in her red Mini Cooper. You can find her on Instagram @gracefullydisney.

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