Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part III

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga-Cherokee Counties) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Crenshaw County

Patsburg Bridge
AL-59 over Patsaliga Creek
Patsburg

An article from the Greenville Advocate notes that some possible paranormal activity has been experienced at this bridge. A few people have captured odd images, including orbs, in photographs taken here. One witness interviewed for the paper reported that a couple of people had died here as well as a body being discovered by a fisherman in the water below the bridge.

Sources

  • “Ghosts in Patsburg.” Greenville Advocate. 9 July 2009.

Cullman County

Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park
516 CR 1127
Vinemont

When he purchased this land, Fred Wise, the creator of the Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park, didn’t know its significance. Over time, Mr. Wise, who has a massive collection of Civil War relics and memorabilia, has uncovered the site’s story as the scene of the Battle of Crooked Creek.

Union Colonel Abel Streight conducted a campaign in Northern Alabama to cut o the Western & Atlantic Railroad in late April and May of 1863. As he and his men moved steadily towards Rome, Georgia via Gadsden, Streight and his men were dogged by Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. On April 30, after an engagement at Day’s Gap, forces skirmished here at Crooked Creek. The Union forces would push through, and on May 3 near Cedar Bluff in Cherokee County, they surrendered to Forrest’s Confederate forces. Afterward, Streight and many of his men faced imprisonment at Richmond, Virginia’s notorious Libby Prison.

Fred Wise has preserved much of the battlefield, making it accessible with walking trails and informational signage. Visitors trooping through the area have encountered several apparitions from both sides including a bleeding Confederate who begs for help. On the front lawn in front of the museum, a Union soldier has been spotted strolling with his rifle. Paranormal investigators took an infrared photograph of the ridge where part of the battle occurred which seems to show a line of soldiers near where Union soldiers held their ground.

Sources

  • Herbert, Keith S. “Streight’s Raid.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 30 October 2007.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Dale County

Claybank Log Church
East Andrews Avenue
Ozark

The log Claybank Church was once like many other churches throughout the state of Alabama, though today, it is a rarity. So many log churches have been destroyed by fire or by neglect, that the Claybank Church is now unique, having been restored and maintained, despite not being regularly used. Here the early settlers at Claybank Creek built their church around 1830 and buried their dead in the field surrounding the building. The original structure was replaced in 1852 and that building has survived the turmoil of the Civil War, as well as the neglect that followed the church’s move to more populous Ozark. The church was acquired by the Claybank Memorial Association in the 1960s and was thoroughly restored in 1980.

A baby crawls on the floor of the old Claybank Church, 2016. Photo by Katie Pollack, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 2005, Carol Gilmer, owner and operator of the International Institute of Clinical Research (IIRC), a company that conducts research trials for drug manufacturers, began leasing space in Claybank Plaza, a property that backs up to the Claybank Church cemetery. Gilmer and her employees began to have strange experiences in the building. Voices and tinkling bells were heard when the building was empty; a heavy lab manual casually threw itself off a shelf in an empty room; and staff members saw shadow-like figures moving through the office. Gilmer’s interest in these odd incidents led her to write a book, The Ghosts of Claybank, where she connects the activity squarely to this historic church and cemetery.

Sources

  • “Claybank Log Church at Ozark added to the prestigious register.” Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 16 December 1976. In Dale County–Claybank Church file, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
  • Gilmer, Carol. The Ghosts of Claybank. Createspace, 2013.

Dallas County

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum
109 Union Street
Selma

The Vaughan-Smitherman Museum has witnessed the panoply of Selma history with much of that history occurring within its halls. Built in 1847 as a school by the local Masonic lodge, this building served as a hospital during the Civil War and later as a public hospital between 1911 and 1960. Just after the Civil War, the building became the Dallas County Courthouse and then served as a military academy around the turn of the 20th century. After the building sat vacant for a few years, it was converted into a local history museum.

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum, 2008. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

As a new museum employee was being given a guided tour some years ago, she made a somewhat disparaging remark near a portrait of William Rufus King, a Vice President of the United States from Selma. A moment later, a glass globe on a lamp nearby slammed down in its setting. After that, whenever the new employee entered, she made sure to greet the former vice president. Throughout the historic structure, footsteps are heard, toilets flush by themselves, the elevator seems to run when it’s not called, and the lights flicker mysteriously.

Sources

  • Alabama Ghost Trail. “Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.” YouTube. 20 July 2009.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places for the Dallas County Courthouse. 13 May 1975.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • “Paranormal weekend at landmark.” Selma Times-Journal. 24 June 2009.

DeKalb County

Hitching Post
6081 AL-117
Mentone

The Hitching Post, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George S, Landreggar Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

One of the centerpieces of the scenic, mountain town of Mentone is the Hitching Post. Now housing a collection of businesses including a realty company and Crow’s Nest Antiques, this building was originally constructed in 1898 as a general store. Over the years the building has housed many businesses, including a popular dance hall on the second floor. Perhaps the female wraith spotted on the second floor here dates from that period.

Sources

  • Collard, Deborah. Haunted Southern Nights, Vol. 3: History and Hauntings of the Mentone Area. Deborah Collard, 2008.
  • Jones, Brian S. “Mentone: A Mountaintop Treasure.” The Official Travel Site of Alabama. Accessed 29 May 2015. 

Elmore County

Robinson Springs United Methodist Church
5980 Main Street
Millbrook

This community of Robinson Springs has mostly been swallowed by the bustling town of Millbrook. The community’s Methodist church gracefully faces the bare wall of a CVS Pharmacy, but the church still greets members. In fact, some of the church’s members may have never left the building.

Robinson Springs United Methodist Church, 2010, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Methodists from the local area first organized around 1828, within the first decade of the state’s existence, and constructed a rude log church for services near here. With the growth of the area and a donation of land, the current church was constructed in the latter half of the 1840s. Amazingly, the church has seen few alterations from its original form. Perhaps the few changes may be a contributing factor in the church being haunted.

While churches often have paranormal activity, it is rare for pastors to call in paranormal investigators seeking answers. After hearing reports from a number of church members of the many strange goings on here, the pastor invited Southern Paranormal Researchers to investigate. According to a 2007 article in the Montgomery Advertiser, the group began experiencing odd activity within five minutes if their arrival.

Activity at the historic church runs the gamut from distracting things like the sanctuary’s sound system turning off and on during services to doors opening and closing on their own. Often, sounds will be heard from empty rooms including what sounded like a television during an investigation. When investigators searched for the source of the sounds, no television was found.

Sources

  • Mertins, Ellen and Barry Loveland. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Robinson Springs United Methodist Church. September 1981.
  • Mullinax, Kenneth. “Spooked: Area’s scary sites have chilling tales.” Montgomery Advertiser. 31 October 2007.
  • Pritchard, Griffin. “Southern Paranormal Researchers chase ghosts and bust stereotypes.” Montgomery Advertiser. 14 July 2007.

Escambia County

Fort Crawford Cemetery
Snowden Street
East Brewton

In 2009 while searching for the exact location of Fort Crawford, archaeologists found nothing near East Brewton Baptist Church, where the fort was thought to have stood. A trench dug near the church produced nothing that indicated the presence of the log fort that once commanded the area a few years before the creation of the state in 1819. Finding information regarding the resident specters of the Fort Crawford Cemetery, and even just information on the fort itself, has been just as fruitless.

Surprisingly, the Escambia County heritage book provides nothing on Fort Crawford, though an article on Dale Cox’s excellent website, Exploring Southern History, provides a sketch of the fort’s history. A fort was constructed on a bluff over Murder Creek after the Creek War of 1813-1814 to monitor the activities of local Muscogee/Creek people and the Spanish in Florida to the south. Fort Crawford Cemetery, located near the believed site of the fort, may date to that period.

Reports of paranormal activity from the cemetery include the shade of a Confederate soldier who may prowl the grounds. Another encounter involved a pedestrian passing through the cemetery who was seized by a shadow figure. A 2011 video posted on YouTube from Paranormal Productions notes that the soldier is known to approach people asking, “Where is my bayonet?” The video also mentions the apparition of a young girl in a white dress seen here as well.

Sources

Etowah County

CSX Railroad—Coosa River Bridge
CSX Railroad over the Coosa River
Between the Memorial and the Meighan Bridges
Gadsden

This current bridge was constructed in 1909 to replace the original railroad trestle that was built here in the 1880s. Initially, both bridges provided passage for trains as well as pedestrians and private vehicles. With the construction of the nearby Memorial Bridge in 1927, the trestle has been used solely for railroad traffic. CSX owns the bridge; please do not risk a trespassing charge.

Mike Goodson notes that in 1909 after the bridge’s construction, it was the scene of paranormal activity. An “unusual ghostly light” was observed near the middle of the bridge while passersby on the bridge at night heard disembodied sobbing. Apparently, one death occurred during the bridge’s construction, but Goodson fails to mention an even more tragic event that took place on the original trestle in 1906.

Coosa River and the CSX Bridge at Gadsden, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George S, Landreggar Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

After the rape and murder of a white woman outraged locals gathered outside the city jail. The mob eventually demanded that the African-American suspects be handed over to them so that “justice” could be enacted. The mob seized Bunk Richardson, one of the suspects. He was dragged to the railroad trestle where the mob’s perverted justice was achieved at the end of a rope. Photographers captured two images of Richardson after the lynching that remain as reminders of this tragic event. Perhaps it is Richardson’s innocent spirit that returns as the light and disembodied sobbing.

Sources

  • Goodson, Mike. “Bridge on the river Coosa helped ease traffic flow.” Gadsden Times. 7 March 2006.
  • Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Thornton, William. “Lynching a dark chapter in city his- tory.” Gadsden Times. 10 February 2000.
  • Thornton, William. “Lynching only a vague memory.” Gadsden Times. 14 February 2000.

Fayette County

Musgrove Chapel Methodist Church
CR 21, North
Winfield

Within this rural church cemetery, the grave of Robert Lee Musgrove, a descendant of the family that founded this church, is said to bear the image of Musgrove’s wife-to-be. Musgrove, a train engineer for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad running the line between Memphis, Tennessee, and Amory, Mississippi, was killed in an accident between Holly Springs and Potts Camp, Mississippi in 1904. There two trains collided killing five railroad employees after an operator in Holly Springs made a mistake and sent a second train onto the occupied line. Tradition says that at the time of his death, Musgrove was engaged to be married, and his funeral took the place of his wedding. Sometime after that, parishioners noticed that the image of a kneeling woman appeared on his stone, perhaps bearing the countenance of his fiancée.

Sources

  • Robert Lee Musgrove, Musgrove Cemetery, Fayette County, Alabama.” Find-A-Grave. Accessed 12 July 2015.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2001.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Franklin County

Dismals Canyon
901 CR 8
Phil Campbell

Legends abound throughout the beguilingly beautiful and remote Dismals Canyon. Despite its name—which is believed to have been granted by Scots-Irish settlers after a ruggedly beautiful spot in Scotland called “Dismals”—this sandstone gorge is a paradise with rock formations, waterfalls, champion trees, an amazing array of biological diversity, and gnat larvae that give off a luminescence at night called “dismalites.” Historically, this place was known to local Native Americans who may have hunted and conducted ceremonies in this mystical place.

Rainbow Falls in Dismals Canyon, 2007, by RBharris. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1838, as the Native Americans of the southeast were being rounded up to be marched westward on what would become known as the Trail of Tears, Chickasaw and Cherokee may have been herded into the canyon here under guard from Federal troops. It is possible that one of the legends may relate to this time. After the death of her lover, an Indian maiden threw herself from the top of a bluff known as Weeping Bluff. Supposedly her image was etched upon the bluff following her death and it continues to weep for her and the Chickasaw who were removed from their homeland.

Attracted by the remoteness of this spot, outlaws may have hidden here. Local legends insist that the gorge may have hidden Vice President Aaron Burr on the lam after his infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton as well as bank robber Jesse James. Among the dusky paths and rocks of Dismals Canyon the spirits of these outlaws and Native Americans may still roam.

Sources

  • Franklin County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Franklin County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “The best-known ghost tale from each Alabama county.” AL.com. 25 October 2017.
  • Morris, M. Scott. “’Fairytale Land’: Alabama’s Dismals Canyon a place out of time.” Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS). 30 July 2017.
  • Ress, Thomas V. “Dismals Canyon.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 7 November 2011.

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