Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
–William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1
Standing in the dark, listening to the multitude of odd, disconnected syllables pouring forth from the voice box at the Comer Museum last Saturday evening, this quote popped into my head. While most of the noise from the voice box was unintelligible “squeaking and gibbering” the occasional word would miraculously pop out. Occasionally these odd words would begin to make sense. A question may be asked only to receive an intelligent answer. Someone asked a question of Harriet, the Comer Museum’s own haunted doll, inquiring how old she was only for the assembled group to be treated to a cheeky reply: “nine” said a little girl’s voice a moment later. After one of the group members reminded the doll that she was much older, a spooky girl’s giggle issued from the ghost box. Those present were aghast.
It’s very appropriate that the Comer Museum–which could be called Sylacauga’s attic—is within a marble clad building. Sylacauga sits atop a huge vein of marble, often considered comparable to Italian marble, and the city if often referred to as “The Marble City.” Originally constructed as the city’s first public library building by the WPA in 1939, the museum’s exquisite marble façade beckoned members of the community for decades before the library moved to a new building in 1979. The old library building was rededicated in 1982 as a local history and art museum. The rooms that were once filled with books are now filled with the detritus of local history. Old signs, photographs, works of art, Native American artifacts, antique clothing, glorious marble sculptures and one creepy-ass (pardon my French) haunted doll, fill the museum from top to bottom.
When I arrived for I was greeted warmly by the members of Spirit Communications and Research of Alabama (S.C.A.Re) who were leading this public investigation. Kat Hobson, who recently interviewed me as a guest on her radio show whisked me off for a tour of the building. The museum is not large, though it seems that every room is packed with historic bits and pieces. Along the way Kat pointed out various things that oddly gave off high EMF readings including an Edwardian gown and a typewriter. On the first floor I was introduced to Harriet, the haunted doll. The doll gave off a weird energy that gave the air around it a tingly sensation. My first reaction was to say, “I don’t like it.” Kat responded, “I don’t really like it either.”
We headed down to the basement where we peeked into a recreation of a pioneer log cabin. Again, the air seemed to tingle with the same odd energy that Harriet had given off. It was uncomfortable, but rather intriguing. I noted that I’m not sensitive, so the energy must be strong if I’m feeling it. Kat is a bit sensitive and pointed out that the group had had some activity in the cabin, particularly some shadow play around the cradle in the center of the room. Much of the rest of the basement is used for art classes and the spirits continue their antics including a little boy who is known to kick people in the shins.
Upstairs, the investigation began with the group observing three haunted dolls from the haunted collection of Kevin Cain. With these three far less creepy dolls set up on a glass case, Cain provided the tragic histories behind each doll. With a temperature gauge sitting in front of her, the doll named Tammy may have affected the temperature as Cain related her sad tale. Throughout his story the gauge whined almost with sympathy for Tammy’s calamitous plight.
The team and guests for the investigation then headed to basement for a voice box session. Here we were treated to our first taste of the dead’s squeaking and gibbering. During the session, proper names popped through and a few questions were answered directly. Some of the guests had some uneasy sensations there.
Perhaps the most interesting moment of the evening came as the group communed with Harriet. One of the guests holding a thermal imaging camera spotted at odd ball of light in the upstairs balcony. The light was not visible to the naked eye but was present on the thermal camera. Two investigators headed upstairs and looked for a source. After a good deal of waving from the investigators, the light remained on the camera, though no source or reason could be found. The pair of investigators remained upstairs where they began to get the sensation of being touched. Even the admitted skeptic of the group, Shane Busby felt the caress of a hand on his cheek and shoulder. Tristen Cox, the other investigator felt a hand on her upper arm. After she reported being touched Busby pointed his thermal imaging camera at her to reveal a handprint on her arm.
According to Kat Hobson, the haunting of the Comer Museum seems more connected with the various personal artifacts owned by the museum and less with the building itself. I would suggest that the makeup of the building itself and the tremendous marble deposits below may provide a platform for the psychic energy here. Marble is a type of limestone, which some paranormal investigators and researchers consider to be an excellent conductor for psychic energy. Consulting Timothy Yohe’s 2015 work, Limestone and its Paranormal Properties, the author asserts that buildings constructed of limestone can cause powerful EMFs to be emitted which may lend energy to spirits and other entities. The Comer Museum’s large marble façade, the use of marble throughout the building, marble sculptures and architectural elements in the collection may perhaps spur the activity that has been experienced here for years.
After the investigation S.C.A.Re’s founder and author Kim Johnston graciously autographed my copies of her books, even inscribing “To Lewis—My favorite blogger” in my copy of Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. She then requested that the investigators take a group photo with me. It seems like many of us were touched physically and emotionally by the people of Sylacauga, both living and dead, I know I was also touched by S.C.A.Re’s graciousness and generosity. Thank you, guys!
- Ford, Gene A., Linda Ford, and Christy Anderson. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for B.B. Comer Memorial Library. August 2001.
- C.A.R.E. of AL. Comer Museum Investigation. 1 October 2016.
- Yohe, Timothy. Limestone and its Paranormal Properties: A Comprehensive Approach to the Possibilities. Timothy Yohe. 2015.