Road Revenants—Haunted Alabama Roads & Bridges

Along Alabama’s roadways and bridges, people sometimes experience strange activity. From lonely “Cry Baby Bridges” to apparitions, phantom coaches, and strange bridges, this article looks at a selection of hauntings throughout the state.

AL 169
Connecting US 80 to Opelika
Lee & Russell Counties

AL 169 runs north from its junction with US 431 in Seale in Russell County to Opelika in Lee County. It follows the route of a much older road, as evidenced by the spirits seen along it. In their 2011 book, Haunted Auburn and Opelika, authors Serafin, Smith, and Poe detail two different sightings that have occurred along this road. One apparition is that of a man on horseback who has been seen charging towards terrified drivers before disappearing. They note that the spirit, which may be that of a highwayman active in this area in the mid-19th century, has been seen with less and less frequency as the road has been changed over the years. The other apparition is that of a ghostly coach drawn by two horses that was seen here in 2000.

Sources

  • Serafin, Faith, Michelle Smith, and John Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Barganier Road
Montgomery & Macon Counties

Barganier Road stretches from AL 110 in the community of Cecil to Macon County Road 2 near Shorter. This lonely country road is, according to legend, the scene of all types of strangeness. The road is nicknamed “13 Bridges Road,” and drivers at night are supposed to cross 13 bridges headed north from Cecil, though only cross ten if they turn around and head back. This phenomenon is also supposed to exist on other roads throughout the country.

According to investigator and writer Shawn Sellers, travelers may encounter apparitions and hear unearthly sounds along this rural route. In fact, he experienced an “eerie feeling” during a visit here when he was in high school.

Author Jeff Lawhead explores this legend further in his 2016 Phantoms Fill the Southern Skies. He notes that some drivers have hit a dog, gotten out to examine the dog’s carcass, and seen the apparitions of a woman and child off in the distance. A teenage boy was taken out to the road some years ago and left standing alone on one of the bridges. After sensing a presence, the teen looked around for his friend’s car and discovered that he had mysteriously moved from one end of the bridge to the other.

Sources

  • Lawhead, Jeff. Phantoms Fill the Southern Skies. 23 House Publishing, 2016.
  • Sellers, Shawn. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History. Shawn Sellers 2013.

Chelsea Road Hitchhiker
Shelby County Road 47 near the intersection with CR 49
Columbiana

Wending its way from Chelsea to Columbiana, Chelsea Road is reportedly the home of a ghostly hitchhiker legend. Described by author Kim Johnston as a “hippie,” the apparition of a woman has been seen “staggering along the road in a flannel shirt and jeans.” She sometimes appears walking along the road while at other times she leaps in front of moving cars. When the frightened driver steps out of the car to investigate the person they think they have hit, there is no one there. Another haunted road, Pumpkin Swamp Road which is described later in this article, is a short distance from this intersection.

Sources

  • Johnston, Kim. Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Clinton and Washington Streets
Athens

A local tale tells of the spirits of the Union raiders, who sacked the city of Athens in 1862, reappearing on Clinton and Washington Streets. Author Shane Black states that these phantom soldiers sometimes appear on “foggy evenings in the wake of thunderstorms.”

Athens Alabama downtown
Buildings along Washington Street in downtown Athens. Photo 2010 by Carol A. Highsmith, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

These phantoms, appearing on horseback and bearing mournful expressions on their faces, are believed to be members of the Eighth Brigade, Third Division, Army of the Ohio under Colonel John Basil Turchin. Russian-born and trained Turchin allowed his soldiers to sack the city in May 1862, for which he later faced three charges in a court-martial.

Sources

  • Black, Shane. Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town. NYC: iUniverse. 2009.
  • Paysinger, Christopher B. “Sack of Athens.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 28 October 2008.

Henry Hill
Lawrence County Road 25
Mount Hope

Almost as common as Cry Baby Bridges throughout the South are “Gravity Hills;” roads or hills where a car put in neutral will seemingly be pushed up an incline. Along CR 25, just outside of the community of Mount Hope, is a dip in the road where legend has it a man named Henry was killed. Most legends have Henry’s car breaking down along this road and him trying to push it out of the way. As he pushed his car, another vehicle struck and killed him. When a car is stopped here, Henry still dutifully pushes the car to safety to prevent another driver from having to endure a similar end.

A 2007 article from the Florence, Alabama newspaper, the Times Daily, recounts this story a bit differently. Placing the accident in 1954, it notes that the man involved in the accident was named Henry Hill. He was a traveling salesman who got lost in this maze of country roads. When his car overheated and quit in the middle of the road, he got out to push it and was subsequently struck by another vehicle.

The article continues by stating that there was also military action in the vicinity during the Civil War and that may contribute to the current activity. Furthermore, it describes the location of the dip as being located on nearby CR 448. However, all other sources place the location on CR 25. Perhaps this article is a fanciful retelling of the legend?

Sources

  • Parker, Melissa. “Mount Hope residents discuss notorious haunted hill.” The Flor-Ala (University of North Alabama). 30 October 2014.
  • Shuttleworth, Bobby. “Paranormal Mysteries: Haunted Places in Bobby’s Bama.” WAFF. 31 October 2012.
  • Sockwell, Wade. “Legend of Henry Hill.” Times Daily. 28 August 2007.

Mary Daniel Road
Highland Home

This rural dirt road is home to a typical “cry baby bridge” legend, though the story here has some unique elements. Tradition holds that Mary Daniel, who lived along this road in the latter part of the 19th century, was a notorious witch. One day, while crossing the bridge with her daughter, the child fell into the water. Another version of the legend includes the child’s father diving into the water to rescue the girl but drowning as well. The child was laid to rest in a small cemetery nearby. To protect her child, Mary Daniel summoned watchers who haunt the nearby woods going after anyone who disturbs the cemetery after dark. However, this may be a case of the fiction being stranger than the truth.

Alongside the road is a small family cemetery for the Daniel family. Within its confines is the grave of a Mary Melissa Daniel who was born in 1846. According to information on Find-a-Grave, she was an “old maid” (spinster perhaps?) and the daughter of Abel and Harriett Daniel, who were also buried here. Being a spinster, she would not have been married, and have had children. This doesn’t preclude that she may have had a lover or a child out of wedlock, though that does seem unlikely. If she was a spinster, that may be the reason she entered legend as a witch. She died in 1911.

In his 2019 book, Haunted Highways USA, George Dudding examines this legend and describes some of the paranormal activity here. The apparition of a woman (presumed to be Mary Daniel) has been seen along the road, the bridge over Little Patsaliga Creek, and along the creek itself. Unexplained bright lights have been seen along the road. He continues by saying that there is supposedly a curse on Mary Daniel’s gravestone and anyone who tampers with it may be tormented by an evil spirit.

Sources

  • Dudding, George. Haunted Highways USA. Spencer, WV: GSD Publishing, 2018.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Pumpkin Swamp Road
Shelby County Road 32
Chelsea

This old road along the edge of Chelsea is purported to have quite a bit of paranormal activity. Kim Johnston notes that this area was the last refuge of Muscogee Creek natives in the area and was later inhabited by pioneer families. Labeling this road the “Devil’s Corridor,” she notes that residents living along the way have experienced the sound of children playing within their homes, as well as seeing shadowy dogs and cats. A phantom hitchhiker is known to walk on Chelsea Road (see the above entry in this article), a short distance from this road’s terminus on CR 49.

Sources

  • Johnston, Kim. Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Robinson Road
Elkmont

North of Elkmont in Limestone County, close to the Tennessee state line, Robinson Road stretches for a few miles through farm fields and old woodlands. According to the blog, Elkmont Alabama, this road is also home to a legend. During the Civil War, there was a tremendous amount of activity in the area, most centered on a Union fort at the Sulphur Creek Trestle (for more information see the Richard Martin Trail below. Legend holds that this road was the scene of the capture and decapitation of a Confederate officer in front of his family by Union troops. As a result, the officer’s widow and daughter have been seen riding a white horse through the area looking for his head.

The Robinson Road resident who reported this to the blog explained that they have seen the apparition while driving the road late at night. The spirit passed through their car and left it very cold inside. A report on GhostsofAmerica.com reveals that a woman driving AL 127 nearby, had a similar experience with the spirit dimming her headlights and turning off her radio as it passed through. It’s possible these reports may be related.

Sources

Richard Martin Trail
Trailhead on Piney Chapel Road (Limestone CR 81)
Athens

After Union forces captured much of Northern Alabama in 1862, forts were built to protect strategic points, particularly railroad bridges and trestles. In 1864, Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forrest attempted to sever rail lines through the area, and attacked the fort guarding the trestle at Sulphur Creek. However, this fort had a fatal flaw: it was constructed below the adjacent hills. This flaw allowed the attacking Confederates to pour fire onto the 1,000 Union troops within the rudimentary fort. General Forrest demanded and was granted, the unconditional surrender of the Union forces there. The fort and the trestle were promptly destroyed, and the battle entered the annals as the bloodiest battle fought in North Alabama. Union forces lost some 200 men while Confederates only lost 40 men.

Richard Martin Trail Limestone County Alabama
Richard Martin Trail, 2011, by Www78, courtesy of Wikipedia.

When the railroad abandoned this historic rail line through Limestone County, the county Department of Parks and Recreation acquired rights to this segment for use as a 10-mile “rails-to-trails” trail, marking it with plaques providing the story of the battle. Numerous visitors have had strange experiences here. One gentleman felt a searing pain in his buttocks, similar to the feeling of being shot, though the pain disappeared after he left the area. A couple passing through felt an odd tingling and saw flashes of light; while a group of children here felt a chill and heard a voice calling orders to spectral troops.

Sources

  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Ress, Thomas V. “Battle of Sulphur Trestle.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 25 August 2009.

Route of the “Floating Islands”
From 655 St. Emanuel Street to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 2 S. Claiborne Street, to the Mobile Docks

An old Mobile legend speaks of Mary Eoline Eilands (1854-1937), dubbed “Floating Islands,” who daily walked the route between her crumbling house at 655 St. Emanuel Street to the cathedral and then to the docks. From the late 19th century until her death in 1937, she traveled this path attired in 19th century dresses. The long skirts gave her the effect as she traveled to the cathedral for morning mass and then to the docks in search of her lover.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Mobile Alabama
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in 1936, as Ms. Eilands would have seen it in the last few years of her life. Photo by E. W. Russell for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Along with her nickname, legends sprang up to explain her odd appearance, many saying that Ms. Eilands had a lover who had sailed from the docks and never returned, or that she had been engaged to a man who later spurned her affections, or a lover possibly left her standing at the cathedral’s altar. While these seem to be spurious, it is known that the floating apparition has been said to haunt the streets on her daily route for decades after her death, though she is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

Sources

  • Ericson, Sally Pearsall. “Hauntings and history: Ghost stories abound in Mobile.” com. 29 October 2013.
  • Ghost-berfest, Day 13: Floating Eilands.” Mobile Ghosts Blog <www.MobileGhosts.net>. 13 October 2010.
  • Thomason, Michael. “What’s in a nickname?” Mobile Bay Magazine. 4 January 2012.

Other Roads and Bridges Covered in This Blog

A Welcome to the Other Side—Review of Handbook for the Dead

Handbook for the Dead
Jacob and Jenny Floyd, et al.
Anubis Press, 2019

I have never been a fan of anthologies, especially those of paranormal stories. It brings up bad memories of when I’ve gotten excited and purchased an anthology, only to find that the stories are fiction. Not that I have anything against fiction, but the problem is that I can’t really add these stories to my own research and library. The books usually end up in a dusty corner of rejected books. Indeed, the stories included in these anthologies are usually milquetoast retellings of old or common legends. Thus, when Jacob Floyd from Anubis Press sent an email requesting that I review this title, I was a bit reluctant.

cover for Handbook for the Dead

My fears were quickly relieved when I began to look through this marvelous book.

Jacob and Jenny Floyd, known as “The Frightening Floyds,” have carved a niche for themselves by publishing a series of books on the paranormal as well as fictional horror. In fact, I have one of their books, Kentucky’s Haunted Mansions, on my Kentucky shelf.

In this recent offering, the Floyds collected a series of true paranormal encounters from several established authors including Pamela K. Kinney, whose books I have reviewed frequently, as well as paranormal investigators, and others. What stands out about this collection is that the Floyds have included further information about the locations where these encounters took place, plus it probes “what these experiences have taught their witnesses.”

Starting with Pamela K. Kinney’s look at her experiences with the ghosts of Virginia Beach’s Cavalier Hotel the book wends its way through a series of fascinating and sometimes terrifying encounters mostly in the South. More than a few of these locations are specifically identified, which makes for more interesting reading especially when I can pursue the subject beyond the pages of this book. Even the experiences in private homes are enhanced by the inclusion of the factoids at the end of each chapter.

Cavalier Hotel Virginia Beach VA
The Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach, VA in 2018. Photo by Anthony-22, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The writing is crisp, clean, and vivid, absorbing to both the casual reader and serious researcher. Of these tales, the one that engaged me most was oddly the story that took place far from the South, a story from Hong Kong. A horse racing track there, the Happy Valley Racecourse, was the scene of a terrible fire in 1918 that took some 600 lives. Ever since, locals have become wary of the area at night fearing the spirits of those who died in the conflagration.

This piece is written from the perspective of a tram driver who worked the night shift on the anniversary of the fire in 1987. Tram drivers were warned to hang a bucket of water on their trams to provide a drink to the thirsty ghosts. This tram driver, however, did not want to give in to superstition and did not hang a bucket. As a result, the tram driver was treated to a dreadful scene that he did not expect.

Overall, this anthology breaks from the usual trite format to provide a creepy volume that is an interesting and insightful read.

Handbook for the Dead is available in both paperback and eBook editions.

Troup Tales from West Point Lake–Georgia

While I tried to create some videos during the lockdown, my time was taken up with my day job, so in the end I produced a grand total of one video (the Talbot County Werewolf). A friend of mine recently suggested we record some stories to test some of his video equipment, and this is the result.

Told from the shores of West Point Lake in Troup County, Georgia, these three stories take place near this lake. One is a personal story, I also include a story from my Strange LaGrange tour, and finally, the story of the mysterious Hearn Tablet.

Hearn Tablet ancient Sumerian tablet found in Troup County Georgia
The Hearn Tablet, an ancient Sumerian tablet found in Troup County, Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

Please enjoy my Troup Tales from West Point Lake.

Video production by Mark Ryan Patterson. Thank you, Ryan!