Drive down Old Highway 61 in Rolling Fork and you can’t help but see the majestic Mont Helena. This stunning 1896 revived colonial home sits on an Indian mound in the middle of Delta corn fields.
The old saying “if these walls could talk” certainly applies to this beautiful home that has seen love, loss, and tragedy, and burned to the ground on multiple occasions. Not to mention the number of bodies directly under it, it’s no wonder Mont Helena is said to be a hot spot for paranormal activity.
Helen Scrymgeour Johnstone Harris was born in 1839 to John T. Johnstone and his wife, Margaret Thompson Johnstone. Pursuing the reports of rich, fertile soils in Mississippi, John T. Johnstone left North Carolina and established residence in Livingston, which is now present-day Madison.
His agricultural journey to Mississippi took him north to Rolling Fork, where he purchased land for another plantation he called “The Helen Place.”
Helen’s father, John, died suddenly at the age of 47. Fulfilling the dream of her parents, Helen grew up in her family home. “Annandale” was privately tutored, while “The Helen Place” was untouched.
Through a carriage accident in 1855, Helen met and fell in love with Henry Vick. Helen’s mother urged them not to marry before Helen turned 20, so the couple agreed to be married on Helen’s 20th birthday.
During Henry’s bachelor party, Henry and his alleged best friend, James Stith, found themselves in an argument. This argument would eventually lead to Henry’s death. Just one week before the wedding, for reasons unknown, James challenged Henry to a duel. Henry had promised Helen he would never kill an opponent in a duel, so he shot into the air, and James did not.
Helen’s beloved fiancé, Henry, was buried at midnight on their wedding day, and Helen wore her wedding gown and a black veil, swearing her eternal love to her fallen Henry. Helen quickly became known as the “Bride of Annandale.”
In 1861, as the Civil War began, Helen began helping the Confederacy by providing necessities to the troops. “The Helen Johnstone Guard” was formed as Helen had the soldiers fitted for uniforms. The soldiers wore hats with brass lettering “HJG” in honor of Helen.
During this time, Helen met Reverend George Carrol Harris, an Episcopal clergyman, at the Chapel of the Cross in Madison. George served as a chaplain in the Confederate army, and he and Helen fell in love and later married. The couple also had three children, the oldest of whom passed away within days of his birth.
Helen Johnstone Harris and her husband, George Harris, built their “retirement” house on the land her father had purchased as “The Helen Place.” A fire completely destroyed the new house before the family even had the chance to move in. Undaunted, Helen and George began rebuilding and lived the rest of their days in this home.
Over the years, the house was left dilapidated, and more than a century later, it was restored and is now used as a venue and can be toured by visitors. In 2009, the Friends of Mont Helena was established, and the play Mont Helena: A Dream Revisited was created.
Given its history of being built on top of an ancient Indian mound and the home of the Bride of Annandale, it is also an ideal location for paranormal activity and has earned its long-time reputation for being haunted.
Stories of visitors seeing a woman in a white gown have been told. Perhaps it was the Bride of Annandale? Former inhabitants of Mont Helena also have their own stories of unexplained phenomena, such as accounts of orbs in their photographs, unexplained footsteps on the stairs, and voices in the walls. Mont Helena has been featured on The Travel Channel, as well as Ghost Hunters and other paranormal programs for the alleged activity in the majestic yet haunted home.
The beauty, history, and intrigue of Mont Helena puts it on the Mississippi Delta Top 40 list, and for good reason.