The Bizarre Case of George Slappey (Fort Valley/Marshallville

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Quietly tucked away on E. Main Street in Fort Valley sits a building so full of history that we could probably share two perhaps three posts about it.  Towering over its connecting structures, the Austin Theatre is not hard to find.  This topic of discussion, however, is about the man originally behind the historical venue. The is the case of the peach farmer, entrepreneur, and pharmacist George Slappey and his Sleepy Hollow Farm.

The Austin Theatre. Courtesy pf MGHH

In all of my time researching legends and spooky locations, there are only a handful that sent chills down my spine upon discovering them.  The “hauntings” behind Sleepy Hollow and its lore are one of those subjects. But first, it’s history.

Mr. Slappey’s story boasts the normal events that you usually find when looking up a local prominent figure.  Well liked and especially popular.  He would also hold charity events for Fort Valley.  Like many others of his type, he appeared to love his community.  All seemed normal, except for a couple of things.

The first was that he enjoyed having company at his Macon County farmhouse.  It’s reported that he would often have parties beginning on Thursday and going all the way until the end of the weekend.  It wouldn’t be difficult to host a party this size when your home is complete with nine acres and even a ballroom.  Sleepy Hollow Farm was his own piece of countryside paradise. 

The entrepreneur loved parties so much that he would go on the purchase R.S. Braswell & Sons in 1915.  He added a second floor auditorium in his new “party palace,” then named it “Slappey’s Opera House.”  He later changed the name to Austin Theatre after a friend of his.  In 1917, it opened and had its first act, “Peg O’ My Heart.”  He would often lend the structure over for community events as well.  It’s also worth noting that this building served as Peach County’s first courthouse in 1925.  As mentioned earlier, Slappey really loved Fort Valley.

The second abnormality about Mr. Slappey is that he was allegedly a “womanizer.”  This attribute of his would eventually lead to his unnatural, tragic death.  The following is what happened.

A man named Lynn Fagan and his wife, Emily, lived with George at his elaborate home.  Fagan would become the overseer of the farm;  Emily became the housekeeper.  Mr. Slappey began to “lust” after Emily and her husband, causing Lynn to become uncontrollably angry with his employer.  It didn’t take long before the situation boiled over and turned into bloodshed.

On July 20th, 1934, an argument between the two men led to Lynn Fagan fatally shooting George Slappey in the chest.  He died on the floor in his own bedroom.  He was 65 years old.

Fagan would go on to claim that he accidentally shot Slappey after striking him with his pistol.  He was later acquitted of any wrongdoing.  Some cited it because the jury was all male.  Either way, the Sleepy Hollow Farm was done, and its once loud and extraordinary walls fell silent

Courtesy of

In the coming decades, the farmhouse would become a “haunted” hotspot.  It was reported that “terrifying” screams and crying could be heard from the structure.   Windows and doors would open and shut on their own.

It’s also alleged that some workers died mysteriously in the nearby pond.  With one woman falling off of the bridge and two others drowning.  Some reports even said that “phantom hands’‘ came from the dark water and pulled down others to their ultimate end.

One thing is for certain:  We will never be able to verify these claims because the once vibrant Sleepy Hollow Farm was destroyed in the late 1960s.  Nothing but a chimney stood for years to come; I recently verified that even it no longer stands.

Even though the home is long gone, George Slappey’s legend continues to live on every time the doors of the Austin Theatre open.  I also can’t help but wonder what might be lurking in the dark fields that once housed his favorite home.  Sleepy Hollow Road is now an uneventful country highway.

I first discovered this story in the book “Echoes From the Valley.”  You can purchase “Echoes From the Valley” by Billy Powell to get his first hand account of the time he went to and ran from the long abandoned farm.


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