Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—District of Columbia

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, Southeast
Washington

haunted Folger Shakepseare Library Washington DC ghost
Exterior of the Folger Shakespeare Library, 2008, by AgnosticPreachersKid. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Containing the largest collection of Shakespeareana anywhere in the world, the Folger Shakespeare Library was built to house the collection of businessman Henry Clay Folger. An executive with Standard Oil, Folger had the considerable clout to purchase a row of houses across the street from the Library of Congress to construct the Neo-Classical structure. The interior, designed to reflect the Tudor style of Shakespeare’s England, features a reading room and a small theater. Unfortunately, Folger died two years before construction was complete, leaving his wife to oversee the opening. It is noted that staff has had problems with the lights in the reading room turning themselves on after being switched off for the night. Perhaps Mr. Folger wants to continue his study?

ghost Folger Shakespeare Library Reading Room Washington DC ghost
The reading room of the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1999, by Julie Ainsworth. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Washington, DC. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2016.

Library of Congress—Jefferson Building
10 First Street, Southeast
Washington

With the opening of the Jefferson Building in 1897, the Library of Congress was able to have enough room to expand. While it did leave the spirit of an old cataloguer near its old digs in the Capitol, it didn’t take long for the grand building to acquire some ghosts.

haunted Library of Congress
The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Photo by Mr. Gray, 2016. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Several apparitions have been reported amongst the miles of shelves in the building including a police officer. The friendly officer, donned in an old-fashioned uniform, has been known to help researchers who have been lost in the labyrinthine stacks. His identity is unknown.

Another shadowy figure haunts the basement where he may have worked. He was responsible for stamping books, marking them as library property. Even after his death, he has been encountered still stamping books.

Sources

  • Krepp, Tim. Capitol Hill Haunts. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Washington, DC. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2016. 

United States Capitol
Capitol Hill
Washington

The Library of Congress’ beginnings were certainly auspicious, though it was marred by tragedy. The first books were purchased for the library in 1800 under the administration of John Adams. Thomas Jefferson created the administration for the library appointing a Librarian of Congress and establishing a Joint Committee on the Library to oversee it. When the British invaded Washington in 1814, during the War of 1812, these books were torched along with the Capitol building where they had been stored.

US Capitol
West Front of the United States Capitol. The Library of Congress occupied this side of the building. Photo by Martin Falbisoner, 2013. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After this loss, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his massive personal library; which Congress purchased, despite some opposition. In 1851, disaster again struck the library when a fire broke out destroying two-thirds of the collection. Two years later, a fireproof room opened in the west facade of the Capitol to house the library. The collection remained somewhat stagnant until the passage of the Copyright Act in 1870, when Congress authorized that the library receive copies of all works published in the United States. With thousands of volumes pouring in, the library necessitated a separate building. The Jefferson Building, which continues to house the Library of Congress, opened in 1897.

While the library moved to its new location across the street, one specter from the old library did remain behind. Legend tells of a former cataloguer with a penchant of hiding his government savings bonds away in some of the lesser perused volumes. After the gentleman was stricken with a stroke, he attempted to communicate to his family that $6,000 in bonds was stashed among the library volumes, but to no avail. Though the library has moved, in death the gentleman has been seen wandering among the sub-basements of the Capitol still trying to locate his bonds.

The gentleman’s bonds were located by librarians when the books were moved to the Jefferson Building.

Sources

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Kentucky

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama and West Virginia.

The Carnegie
1028 Scott Boulevard
Covington

As one of the wealthiest men of his time, Andrew Carnegie provided grants to cities, towns, and educational institutions throughout the world to construct libraries for the edification of their citizens. The bulk of his grants were provided to Americans and 1,689 libraries were built across the country. Twenty-seven libraries were built in the state of Kentucky and twenty-three are still standing, among them the Beaux-Arts former Kenton County Public Library in Covington.

Covington Kentucky Carnegie Library ghost haunted
The Carnegie, formerly the Covington Carnegie Library, 2010, by Greg Hume. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Two years after the library’s construction in 1904, an auditorium was added for community events. The auditorium fell in serious disrepair and was boarded up in 1958, but the library continued to thrive. Outgrowing the original structure, the library moved to a larger facility in 1974 and the building was threatened with demolition. Concerned citizens formed the Northern Kentucky Arts Council to utilize the structure as an arts center. The auditorium was fully restored in 2006 and the center was renamed “The Carnegie” to honor the building’s original use.

Over the years, the building has garnered several legends of ghosts and was investigated by the team from Paranormal Investigations of  Kentucky (PINK) in 2010. The team heard stories from several staff members including one who’s pants leg had curiously been tugged on as they climbed a ladder to the attic. Another staff member who had often worked in the theatre late into the night had a number of experiences with items he was using disappearing only to reappear in a different location. The investigators were able to capture several EVPs during the investigation.

Sources

Carnegie Community Arts Center
107 North Main Street
Somerset

Carnegie Community Arts Center Somerset Kentucky haunted ghost
Carnegie Community Arts Center, formerly the Pulaski County Carnegie Library, 2014, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This graceful, Neo-Classical structure near the heart of Somerset has served several different functions throughout its history. Constructed originally as a post office in 1912, the building was transformed into the Pulaski County Public Library after the post office’s move to a new facility in 1972. Following construction of a new library facility, the building now serves as an arts center for the community and hosts several spirits and a paranormal museum.

The International Paranormal Museum and Research Center opened in the basement of the arts center in 2017 and houses paranormal memorabilia from around the world as well as several haunted objects. In fact, the old building itself has several ghost stories associated with it including tales involving a little boy who died on the adjacent property and a woman who died while working in the building. One of the museum’s operators has had a few haunting encounters like hearing the sound of a woman clearing her throat in a restroom while he was working in the building alone.

Sources

  • Harris, Chris. “Carnegie Community Arts Center Paranormal Museum can be spine-tingling.” Kentucky Commonwealth. 4 October 2017.
  • Torma, Carolyn and Camille Wells. National Register of Historic Places Pulaski County Multiple Resource Area (North Main Street Historic District Nomination). 14 August 1984.

Carnegie Hall
401 Monmouth Street
Newport

The Newport Public Library was organized in 1898 and set up on the second floor of a nearby bank. The group solicited a grant from Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a permanent home. With the $25,000 grant, the Beaux-Arts style Newport Carnegie Library was constructed in 1902 on Monmouth Street. The library moved to a new location in 2004 and the building was used as storage by the city until a local businessman purchased it in 2007. Under the businessman’s purview, the building was exquisitely restored and opened as an events space.

A 2014 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer mentions the possibility that the building may be haunted. During a wedding, a sensitive guest noted the presence of a woman and child in the building’s basement.

Sources

  • “112-year-old gem nestled in Newport.” Cincinnati Enquirer. 17 June 2014.
  • Our History.” Carnegie Hall at Newport. Accessed 17 April 2019.
  • Warminski, Margo. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Monmouth Street Historic District. 28 March 1996.

Helm-Cravens Library
Western Kentucky University Campus
Bowling Green

On this campus known for its ghostlore (see my coverage of the haunting of Van Meter Hall), there is very little written about the spirit at the Helm-Cravens Library. George Eberhart provides only a single sentence on this haunting: “Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University, Helm Library. A student who fell to his death while trying to open a window on the ninth floor is said to haunt the library.” The Helm Library only has a few floors while the Cravens Library, which is physically connected, is nine stories. So, obviously the incorrect building is listed. There is no further information on this haunting.

Sources

Jeffersontown Branch—Louisville Free Public Library
10635 Watterson Trail

Louisville

Scholar William Lynwood Montell’s monumental works on Kentucky ghostlore, including his Ghosts Along the Cumberland: Deathlore in the Kentucky Foothills and Ghosts Across Kentucky comprise the base for a great deal of the works that have come in recent years. In his Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, Montell includes stories from three libraries, all of which are included in this guide. This book includes firsthand accounts of supernatural encounters collected as part of interviews with people across the state.

The original building that housed the Jeffersontown Branch Library was built on property that was once occupied by the county poor farm. A former director noted that the atmosphere in that building was often dreary and a woman wearing a frilly pink or white dress was seen peering from the front window. The director often heard disembodied footsteps and once saw an entire shelf of books tumble to the floor without reason. The activity ceased when the library moved to a new building next door.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Louisville Free Public Library
301 York Street
Louisville

It is more than appropriate that the architects of the Louisville Free Public Library would employ Louis XVI-style architecture for the building in a city named for the same French king. This building, designed by the firm of Pilcher and Tachau of New York and opened in 1908, is considered the finest example of Louis XVI-style Beaux-Arts architecture in the state. The library, which has been a cultural touchstone in the city and region, continues to occupy this grand building.

Of course, it also seems that one of the librarians has remained on duty here. Some years ago, a library staff member encountered the woman while closing up the library around 9 PM. The staff member told author David Domine, “It was like she was two feet off the ground, and she was just going about her business of putting the books back in place. She had on round spectacles and her hair was up in a bun, and she wore a high-waisted, long skirt and long-sleeved blouse.”

Louisville Kentucky Free Public Library ghost haunted
Louisville Free Public Library, 2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The staff member watched the strange figure going about her duties for about 30 seconds before the figure looked up and vanished before his eyes. He left the building quickly after this strange vision. It turns out that many others have seen the spectral librarian as well, though her identity is lost.

Sources

  • Domine, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.
  • Hedgepeth, Marty Poynter. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Louisville Free Public Library. 29 June 1979.
  • LFPL: A History of Pride and Resourcefulness.” Louisville Free Public Library. Accessed 17 April 2019.

Shively-Newman Branch—Louisville Free Public Library
3920 Dixie Highway
Shively

According to Montell’s Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, this branch library has been known to be haunted since 1990. Attached to the Shively City Hall, the building has seen much community activity over the years. Perhaps this energy has contributed to the paranormal activity. In the auditorium, library staff has heard the sound of a man’s voice, apparently in pain, over the speakers. Lights have flickered off and on, while books and other things have disappeared only to turn up elsewhere.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Woodford County Library
115 North Main Street
Versailles

Some years ago, a high school student working as a page at the library was helping staff close up for the night. Going upstairs, the young man felt the presence of someone behind him. Turning around, he saw an older man with grey hair and dressed in a grey suit with a maroon tie looking at him. As the page attempted to leave that floor, the figure would glide in front of him. He eventually made his way downstairs where he told the staff that he would no longer go upstairs at night.

The Woodford County Library was constructed in 1906, but was lost to a fire after only a year in the new building. The imposing and grand building that still stands on North Main Street was constructed thereafter. The recollections of a librarian interviewed by William Lynwood Montell provides several ghost stories for this building. Besides the young page, a custodian frequently had experiences with objects moving on their own volition.

Sources

  • Jeffrey, Jonathan. “Keeping the Faith: A History of the Library Services in Versailles, Kentucky.” Kentucky Libraries. 1 December 2003.
  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—West Virginia

Libraries are as the shrine where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.

–Sir Francis Bacon

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama and Kentucky.

Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library
404 West Pike Street
Clarksburg

A bronze plaque in the vestibule of Waldomore Mansion paraphrases the above quote from the English philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon: “Books are the Shrine Where the Saint is.” Perhaps there is a saint remaining in spirit within this former residence.

Waldomore Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library haunted ghosts Parkersburg West Virginia
Waldomore, 2015, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the West Virginia Collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Standing in stark contrast to the modern Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library next door, Waldomore Mansion preserves an old-world elegance and many fond memories for the citizens of Clarksburg. Built around 1839 for Waldo Goff and his wife, Harriett Moore, the home was dubbed using a combination of the state senator’s and his wife’s names. The Greek Revival home was occupied by the Goff family until heirs deeded the property to the city with the express condition that the house be used as either a museum or library.

In 1931, the home was opened as a permanent home for the local public library and served as such until growing pains required the library to build a modern facility next door in 1976. The building now houses meeting space for the library as well as its local and state history collection, among them the papers of paranormal researcher Gray Barker. Waldomore underwent restoration and renovation in 2016 and 2017 which installed a new wiring system and helped to preserve the home to allow it to continue to make memories for local citizens for many years to come.

As for the spirit that may continue to occupy the home, some locals have reported the figure of a woman in white peering from the upstairs windows and the tinkling of piano music heard coming from a lone piano in one of the parlors.

Sources

  • Collins, Rodney S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Waldomore. 14 February 1978.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.
  • Murray, Brittany. “Waldomore upgrades, renovation near completion.” The Exponent Telegram. 8 February 2017.
  • Racer, Theresa. “Waldomore Mansion in Clarksburg.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.

Downtown Campus Library
West Virginia University Campus
Morgantown

N.B. This was originally published as part of my “Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia.”

Studious spirits inhabit this 1931 library. One staff member was studying here when he heard the elevator doors open and someone walk to the desk on the other side of the partition and pull the chair out. When he looked shortly after that, no one was there. Legend blames this activity on a staff member who died after falling down an open elevator shaft.

Sources

  • Kinney, Hilary. “Spooky stories surface throughout campus.” The Daily Athenaeum. 31 October 2013.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WVU haunts around campus.”Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 20 May 2012.

Kingwood Public Library
205 West Main Street
Kingwood

The small town of Kingwood, in Preston County, is home to the West Virginia Zoo and a haunted library. Sandwiched between a gas station and a McDonald’s, the Kingwood Public Library occupies a 1966 building that stands on land that has a dark history. A brick jail was built on this plot of land in 1871 and housed inmates until a new jail was opened nearby in 1925. The old jail was then acquired by the American Legion and housed a post until 1966 when that building was razed for the library.

Theresa Racer reported that a librarian posted of activity on the WVGhosts website which collects accounts of ghosts from throughout the state. The librarian noted that odd sounds were heard throughout the building including footsteps on the concrete basement stairs. “Objects move around on their own accord, and doors open and close without any living hands assisting. Most interesting are the stories of books actually jumping off the library shelves!”

Unfortunately, the link to the story on WVGhosts no longer works and the story may have been taken down, leading to the question of if the activity remains.

Sources

Martinsburg Public Library
101 West King Street
Martinsburg

Like the Kingwood Library, the Martinsburg Public Library occupies the site of a former building, but one with a less dark history. On this respectable location in the heart of Martinsburg, across from the courthouse the Flick Building, later called the Wiltshire Building, was constructed in 1815. Ten years after the building’s construction, a group of locals met here to establish the Martinsburg Library Society.

During the Civil War, the building was the headquarters of General William Henry Seward Jr., son of the Secretary of State William H. Seward Sr., who commanded a brigade in the area. This building was torn down in 1966 (the same year as the demolition of the jail in Kingwood for construction of their library) and replaced with the current library building.

Martinsburg Public Library West Virginia haunted ghosts
Martinsburg Public Library, 2015, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the West Virginia Collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

According to Justin Stevens in his book, Haunted Martinsburg, the library has been the scene of odd doings since the 1970s. At that time, staff members would regularly hear people on the third floor after closing and at times when the library was otherwise empty of patrons. The odor of coffee was also detected. Most strange were the puddles of water that mysteriously appeared throughout the building. Some people actually witnessed water running down the stairs from the third floor, though no source was ever discovered. In the childrens’ section, a librarian had several experiences with child-like spirits.

In the 1990s, a library director brought in a psychic medium to try to contact the resident spirits. The medium eventually contacted a spirit named Jeff who had served in the Civil War. Staff members performed a ritual to free Jeff and the other spirits within the building. There has been little to no paranormal activity since.

Sources

  • Stevens, Justin. Haunted Martinsburg. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2016.

Morgantown Public Library
373 Spruce Street
Morgantown 

Staff and patrons of Morgantown’s 1923 Public Library have often heard the sound of falling books only to discover that none have fallen. The spirit has been dubbed, “Isabelle Jane,” though the apparition seen is that of a man in 19th century clothing. The library was constructed on the site of two homes, but it is unknown if the haunting is related.

Sources

  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.

Morrow Library
Marshall University Campus
Huntington

N.B. This was originally published as part of my “Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia.”

Library patrons are sometimes interrupted in this 1930 library by the sounds of arguing, though the source is never found. Originally the main university library building, this building now houses special collections.

Sources

  • Donohue, Kelly. Unnamed article. The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.

Trans Allegheny Books
(formerly the Parkersburg Carnegie Library)
725 Green Street
Parkersburg

Parkersburg Carnegie Library, formerly Trans Allegheny Books, 2010. Photo by Richie Diesterheft, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Once occupying the old Parkersburg Carnegie Library, Trans Allegheny Books, a popular bookstore closed on the death of its owner. Several spirits, both human and feline may still reside in the old library. See my entry, “Book Heaven—Trans Allegheny Books,” for further information.

Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Update–Alabama

Armstrong-Osborne Public Library
202 South Street East
Talladega, Alabama

Just three days after posting my “Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Alabama,” I was surprised to see an article posted by Birmingham’s ABC affiliate, WBMA ABC 33/40, concerning the ghosts of Talladega’s Armstrong-Osborne Public Library.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
Main entrance of Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

In October of 2016, I participated in an investigation of this library and its older, original building, now Heritage Hall, next door with S.C.A.Re of Alabama (a group founded by Kim Johnston, who wrote Haunted Shelby County, Alabama and Haunted Talladega County with Shane Busby). In my “Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn,” I recorded my impressions of the two buildings and the modest results of the investigation, as well as the history. Speaking to staff members in both locations, it seems that there was, oddly, far more activity in the new library than the old one. With this recent article, that seems to be the case.

According to the article, the activity has been experienced in two ways: as things moving on their own accord, and in visual phenomena.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
Adult reading room of the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Doors open and close on their own, sometimes surprising employees. One librarian had a door “almost hit her in the face and no one was on the other side.” Books also regularly move about, sometimes flying off the shelf in front of multiple witnesses. Another librarian had a box of labels disturbed while she worked with them. “It was like somebody hit the box from the bottom and they came flying out of the box.”

Others have witnessed orbs floating in mid-air, but the most perplexing of the visual phenomena is the shadow-like apparition that has been seen. A staff member was leaving for the day when she saw the specter. “It could have been the light shining through…it looked like it was just standing there, waving.” Librarians have named the spirit Fred.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
Hall of Heroes entrance, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
The Hall of Heroes is lined with the photos of men and women who served in the armed forces from Talladega County. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, 2016, all rights reserved.

The article speculates that the cause of the activity may be the Civil War memorabilia that the library has in its collections; noting that the orbs are seen in the room where this memorabilia is kept. The library does have a genealogy room that we spent time in during our investigation. If I remember correctly, this room was noted as having some activity, which could easily be the same room the article refers to.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
The sign of the genealogy room at the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, on the night of the investigation, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The library’s genealogy room is off of its Hall of Heroes. Lined with photographs and other mementoes, the exhibit pays homage to the county’s veterans. Perhaps, this concentration of artifacts has attracted spirits to the library for a last farewell?

Sources

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Alabama

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Kentucky and West Virginia.

Albertville Public Library
200 Main Street
Albertville

For years, rumors have circulated of this library being haunted, but according to the library’s director, the stories are just rumors. Is this library haunted? See my entry for further information.

Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library
University of Alabama Campus
Tuscaloosa

Amelia Gorgas was beloved in life as the university’s postmistress and librarian and, those who have encountered her spirit contend that even in death she continues to provide a comforting presence. The wife of Confederate General Josiah Gorgas, the eighth president of the university and later its librarian, Amelia took over her husband’s position as librarian after his death, a position she held for 23 years. When this massive library was constructed in 1939, it became the first building on campus named for a woman.

Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library University of Alabama Tuscaloosa haunted library ghost
Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landregger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Much of the supernatural activity within the library occurs on the fourth floor, home to the library’s special collections. According to Daniel Barefoot, the library’s elevators will only travel to the fourth floor if the rider has a special key, though the elevators will often arrive on that floor with the doors opening to reveal no one. Some members of the library’s staff have claimed to have encountered the apparition of Mrs. Gorgas within the stacks on this floor.

Higdon and Talley note another specter seen within the library: a man dressed entirely in black who approaches shocked students with his arms reaching out for them.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Armstrong-Osborne Public Library
202 South Street East
Talladega

Talladega possesses not only one, but two haunted libraries. The Armstrong-Osborne Library is the town’s current library and sits next to the town’s first library, now the Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall Museum. Both buildings have a number of spirits which I have explored in my “Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn.” Just days after publishing this article, an article on the paranormal activity was published, the details of which have been described in this update.

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

Does the spirit of the first Bay Minette Public Library director continue to watch over the library? See my post, “Alabama Hauntings–County by County Part I,” for futher information.

Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
Sylacauga

This small marble building on a hill was originally used as the town’s library when it was constructed in 1939. It is now a museum of local history and art. In recent years it has become known for its paranormal activity and I have investigated here with S.C.A.Re. of Alabama twice. The first investigation was written up in “The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama.”

Demopolis Public Library
211 East Washington Street
Demopolis

In 2014, the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group was called in by the library’s director to find out if the “creaks and quirks” of the old building are simply that, or possibly something paranormal. The director states that staff have discovered books repeatedly falling off shelves, as well as hearing footsteps in the building’s mezzanine. The building that now houses the library was constructed in 1926 and long occupied by the Ulmer Furniture Store. It has housed the library since 1990. There’s been no word as to what, if any, evidence of paranormal activity was found.

Sources

  • Averette, Justin. “Haunted Collection: Paranormal group Investigates Demopolis Public Library.” The Demopolis Times.26 August 2014.
  • Marengo County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Marengo County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library
119 Cemetery Avenue
Evergreen

On the grounds of this modern public library, the apparition of a girl in riding attire accompanied by a phantom horse has been spotted. Within the library, staff have reported many odd happenings including cold spots, books being turned “topsy-turvy” on the shelves, and inexplicable noises.

Sources

Gadsden Public Library
254 South College Street
Gadsden

A library staff member closing up the library some years ago stepped off the elevator on the third floor and came face to face with a strange lady in 19th century clothing. The specter faded before his eyes. After that initial encounter, the staff member met the woman several more times. Throughout the years other staff members have experienced cold spots and odd smells, such as burning coal, on the third and fourth floors of the 1960s-era library. Author Mike Goodson contends that these unusual occurrences have ceased after the library’s recent renovation.

Sources

  • Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

Homewood Public Library
1721 Oxmoor Road
Birmingham

interior Homewood Public Library haunted ghost
Adult reading room of the Homewood Public Library. The space was originally the sanctuary of a church. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Occupying a building that was initially constructed as a Church of Christ, it has been suggested that this library is haunted by some of the former church members. Library staff members have heard the sound of a group of ladies talking in the basement rooms that once served as Sunday school classrooms. Doors have been seen opening and closing on their own, and lights have been known to turn off and on by themselves. This activity mostly occurs after hours.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Singleton, William C. III. “Homewood Public Library – Researcher hopes for chance to study ghostly activity.” Birmingham News. 31 March 2010.

Houghton Memorial Library
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

Houghton Memorial Library at Huntingdon College haunted ghost
Houghton Memorial Library at Huntingdon College, 2008. Photo by Chris Pruitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Campus tradition tells of a scholarly spirit residing in this private, Methodist, liberal arts college’s 1929 Houghton Memorial Library. Faith Serafin reports that the spirit remained unnamed until 1990 when he was dubbed Frank. Library staff and students have been putting up with Frank’s antics for many years. Frank is such a well-known fixture in the library that he has been granted his own study room and given a chair which rolls around the library on its own volition on a regular basis. The mischievous spirit enjoys pulling books from the shelves, slamming the building’s heavy doors, and moaning to scare occasional students.

Sources

  • Enzwiler, Susan & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Huntingdon College. August 1999.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Houston Memorial Library
101 North Houston Street
Athens

The former home of Governor George S. Houston has been used as a public library since 1936. The governor’s spirit may still occupy the premises. The library has been covered as the Limestone County entry in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part V.”

Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion
1305 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa

The history of this grand Italianate mansion–which served as a library at one point in its life–connects with several haunted places throughout Alabama. Robert Jemison, the prominent businessman and politician who had this house built, ardently supported the construction of the haunted Bryce Hospital and had the construction supervisor for the hospital, John Stewart, oversee this home’s construction as well.

Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion haunted ghost
Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion, 2010. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another tale links this house with the Drish Mansion. Higdon & Talley, authors of Haunted Tuscaloosa and Haunted Alabama’s Black Belt, note that the mansion’s tower was constructed specifically by Dr. John Drish so that he could observe this mansion’s construction. Additionally, Robert Jemison worked with African-American bridge builder Horace King who is believed to have designed and built Spring Villa, a haunted mansion in Opelika.

Throughout the years, the Jemison Mansion has played host to several families including the Van de Graaf family (Robert Jemison Van de Graaf was the inventor of the Van de Graaf generator) and later served as the Friedman Library. Staff within the house have encountered some paranormal activity. A director of the mansion told The Crimson White, a student newspaper for UA, that several times he had heard a tremendous crash within the house. “It sounds like a bookcase is falling over. You can hear the glass and timber splintering, but you can’t feel it like you would if something had actually fallen over.”

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Leopard, Colby. “Buildings on campus and around Tuscaloosa thought to be haunted.” The Crimson White. 31 October 2012.

Julia Tutwiler Library
University of West Alabama Campus
Livingston

Opened in 1962, this International-styled campus building seems like the least likely of places on campus to harbor a ghost. Yet it does harbor a spirit; one that may remain here until a spelling error is corrected. First encountered in 1995, the spirit is believed to be that of former education professor Lucille Foust. She was known as a very “serious-minded woman” and an excellent educator. Therefore, Miss Foust may not be pleased that her memory is honored with a portrait with a brass plaque reading, “Principle of the Laboratory School.” Those on campus who knew Ms. Foust knew very well that she did not tolerate misspelled words, especially when it came to her title as “principal.” The portrait now hangs in the library with the uncorrected plaque.

Students and library staff have observed a feminine form, perhaps that of Ms. Foust, moving through the stacks, though her spirit is most commonly heard. Staff members have had their names called and have heard pages turning and drawers slamming in the empty building late at night. While this spelling error may keep the indomitable Ms. Foust’s spirit earthbound, it is all in the principle of the issue.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Linn-Henley Research Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham

Opening in 1927, this historic library building originally served as the Birmingham Public Library. When the new library building was constructed across the street, this became a research library housing archives, government documents, a southern history library, and a ghost. Please see my entry, Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama, for further information.

Monroe County Public Library
121 Pineville Road
Monroeville

Few libraries can boast that someone famous slept there, though the Monroe County Public Library can. Actor Gregory Peck, star of the film, To Kill a Mockingbird, based on the novel by Monroeville’s most famous resident Harper Lee, stayed here in the 1960s when the building was the LaSalle Hotel. The old hotel was converted into the public library in 1984.

A sense of foreboding surrounds the second floor of the library. People have experienced disembodied footsteps, inexplicable sounds, and strange lights here.

Sources

Ralph Brown Draughon Library
Auburn University Campus
Auburn

According to Brandon Stokes and John Mark Poe of the Haunted Auburn Walking Tour, someone passing the South College Street façade of the Draughon Library saw a woman peering out the third-floor windows. While seeing someone looking out the windows is not unusual, being able to see the fluorescent lights behind the woman through her is quite unusual.

Draughon Library, Auburn University,
South College Street facade of the Draughon Library at Auburn University, 2017. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The third floor seems to be the primary location of most paranormal activity. This includes books sliding across tables and desks as students worked, books pulling themselves off shelves, and strange noises heard within the stacks.

Sources

  • Haunted Auburn Walking Tour. Organized and guided by Brandon Stokes and John Mark Poe. Auburn University Campus, 31 October 2016.

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

This small library near Montgomery could be considered one of the most paranormally active libraries in the state. It is the representative haunting for Tallapoosa County in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII.”

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is to examine ghost stories county by county, though 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 on Halloween of 2017, 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.

For a further look at Alabama ghosts, please see my Alabama Directory.

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.

Talladega County

Talladega Superspeedway
3366 Speedway Boulevard
Lincoln

Curses figure into many Southern legends, especially in places that are legendary themselves, places like Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the home of country music. So, it’s no surprise that the largest and perhaps the most important race track in the NASCAR circuit is home to legends of a curse and other strange activity.

Opening in 1969 as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, the track was anointed with its current name in 1989. Despite initial questions about the safety of the track, the speedway has been used successfully for more than four decades.

Aerial view of the Talladega Superspeedway, 2007, by AuburnPilot. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Stories reveal that the spit of land where the track now sits was cursed. Many tales lay the blame for that curse on the Muscogee Creek people who were forced from this area in the 1830s. These tales are usually the result of romantic, overactive imaginations of white settlers.

Nonetheless, there have been some deaths here starting in 1973 when driver Larry Smith was killed after his car hit the outside concrete wall. Besides a handful of other drivers who have lost their lives here, several freakish accidents have claimed a few more lives. Several drivers on the course have reported hearing voices while racing. Stories of the “Talladega Jinx” became so common that in 2009 the president of NASCAR brought in a Muscogee Creek medicine man to “restore balance to the land.” There is no word if that has worked.

Sources

  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Estes, Cary. “Talladega Superspeedway.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 28 October 2008.
  • Hinton, Ed. “They’re hearing voices at Talladega.” com. 22 April 2009.

Tallapoosa County

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

In a 2008 Tallassee Tribune article, the librarian of the Tallassee Community Library, calls them her “ghostly patrons.” She continues, “When I get here every morning between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and open the door, for about the rst ve seconds, I hear music, laughter, and children.” During times when she is alone in the building, she will hear movement and the peculiar sound of pages being turned coming from one corner. And she is not the only one to have this experience, other employees and patrons have their own stories.

When this unassuming small-town library was featured on an episode of the Biography Channel show My Ghost Story the librarian described how she will often be re-shelving books only to have a force push back against the book. She mentions that at times, entire shelves of books will be found to have been turned around when she opens the library in the morning. The activity eventually got to the point where the librarian asked a paranormal investigation team to look into what may be going on here. Enter David Higdon, an investigator with the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Society and co-author (with Brett J. Talley) of two books on the ghosts of Tuscaloosa and the Black Belt.

The first time Higdon entered the children’s section of the library, he recalls that he felt that, “something just ain’t right in this room.” Later asking for a sign of a presence he heard two loud, distinct knocks, knocks that he found to be very disturbing. After asking for another sign, the investigators were met with a loud crash as the grating over the replace came crashing down. The startled investigators quickly left the room.

The group also investigated the basement of the library, where the librarian reported she heard growls as well as the voices of a group of people in conversation. It was here that a startling EVP was captured; after the spirit was asked for a name, a response was recorded saying, “You may address me as Sergeant Fuller.” From this, investigators believe that at least one of the spirits may be a soldier who died at the field hospital located near here during the Civil War. The children that are heard throughout the building may date to the building’s original use as a clubhouse for local children. As well as the living, the library continues to be patronized by spectral children and soldiers.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • My Ghost Story, Episode 3.3. Biography Channel. 29 October 2011.
  • “Paranormal group visits local library.” Tallassee Tribune. 11 April 2011.

Tuscaloosa County

Little Roundhouse
Campus of the University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa

On April 4, 1865, as much of the rest of the university was blazing under orders from Union General John T, Croxton, this small sentry house—the only actual military building on campus—received little damage. This crenelated Gothic Revival building was constructed in 1860 as the university moved to a military system in hopes of restoring order and discipline. The octagonal building provided shelter for students as they endured guard duty.

Tradition holds that though most students had left campus to help defend the Confederate cause, two eager students remained to “kill Yankees.” As the campus was burning, a Union soldier stumbled upon one of the remaining students asking if there was whiskey on campus.

Little Round House, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landregger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

He was directed to the guardhouse where his companion lay in wait to ambush the thirsty soldiers. By the end of the night, several Union troops lay dead in the Little Round House. While this is a marvelous story, there does not appear to be any truth behind it.

The legend continues that if one puts their ear to the door of the Little Round House, one can hear the sounds of the thirsty Yankees still searching for their whiskey.

Sources

  • Center, Clark E. “University of Alabama (UA).” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 12 September 2009.
  • Crider, Beverly. “Crimson Hauntings: The Ghosts of UA.” com. 10 May 2012.
  • Floyd, W. Warner & Janice P. Hand. National Register of Historic Place Nomination Form for the Gorgas-Manly Historic District. 2 June 1971.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • “Question of Shape: Little Round House, A.” Dialog (UA faculty newsletter). 9 November 2009.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Walker County

Franklin Ferry Bridge
Franklin Ferry Road over the Black Warrior River
Adger

This bridge over the Black Warrior River plays host to the spirit of an angry motorist who supposedly throws sticks and stones at eighteen-wheelers as they pass over the bridge. An article in the Birmingham News mentions this as a legend told among truckers passing through the region. Perhaps this is a spectral case of road rage?

Sources

  • MacDonald, Ginny. “Boootiful Alabama: Don’t let night catch you driving alone.” Birmingham News. 31 October 2002.

Washington County

St. Stephens Historical Park
2056 Jim Long Road
St. Stephens

Occupying a bluff above the Tombigbee River, settlement here precedes the creation of the state of Alabama. In the years following the American Revolution, Spain built a fort atop this bluff, naming it Fort San Esteban. Their stay, however, was temporary, and they lost the fort in the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo, which redrew the boundary lines. In 1799, the fort was occupied by American forces. The establishment of a trading post for trade with local Native Americans attracted frontiersmen to the area and St. Stephens began to grow as a town.

With the creation of the state of Mississippi in 1817, the rapidly growing town of St. Stephens was named as the territorial capital of the Alabama territory. When the territorial government created the state of Alabama in 1819, political wrangling led to Cahaba being named as state capital. St. Stephens’ importance diminished by the capital move, the town slowly withered over the next few decades. By the Civil War, the original town had mostly vanished with the establishment of a new town of St. Stephens several miles away.

An article in a 1928 edition of the Birmingham News relates a legend about St. Stephens. According to the legend, St. Stephens, at its height, was an “ungodly place,” lacking a house of worship. An itinerant preacher wanting to hold religious services asked if he could use a local saloon to that purpose. His suggestion was met with ridicule and the preacher was ordered out of town. As he was forced out he cursed the town with disaster and ruin.

Stories of the prosperous town destroyed after being cursed by a holy man exist throughout Southern folklore. Some sources on this story argue that the holy man in the St. Stephens story is none other than famed Methodist preacher Lorenzo Dow. It is known that Dow passed through the area during St. Stephens’ most prosperous era. While nothing remains of the old St. Stephens above ground, in accordance with the curse, archaeological excavation has slowly begun to uncover the foundations and cellars of this most historic town.

Sources

  • Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Lewis, Herbert J. “Old St. Stephens.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 4 September 2008.
  • Stockham, Richard J. “The Misunderstood Lorenzo Dow.” Alabama Review. January 1963.

Wilcox County

GainesRidge Dinner Club
933 AL-10
Camden

The owner of the GainesRidge Dinner Club does not describe her paranormal experience as a “ghost story” but rather as a “ghost truth.” While in the restaurant one evening preparing for the next day with the cook, the owner went upstairs to retrieve a pot. While upstairs, she heard a voice calling her to come quickly downstairs. The owner raced down the stairs and found the cook in the kitchen calmly preparing food. The cook looked up and said that she had not called the owner, nor did she know who did. After a fruitless search for someone else in the restaurant, the owner and the cook fled the restaurant.

One of the oldest structures in the area, this house is believed to have been built in the 1820s. After the house was opened as a restaurant in 1985, the owners and staff have reported a variety of paranormal manifestations including the spectral crying of an infant and the shade of a tall bearded man. Author Beverly Crider relates in her Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama that a very young relative she took to dinner here saw a spectral dog and later a little boy, neither of which were seen by the adults present.

Sources

  • Alabama Ghost Trail. “Gaines Ridge.” YouTube. 6 July 2009.
  • Brief History of GainesRidge.” GainesRidge Dinner Club. Accessed 7 June 2015.
  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Winston County

AL-5
Between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge

The stretch of Alabama Highway 5 between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge is said to be haunted by the spirit of a young woman who met her death here. According to Barbara Duffey’s 1996 book, Angels and Apparitions, the young woman was killed along this section of highway in 1990. She and her boyfriend were driving a Buick when they began arguing and pulled off the road. After the boyfriend had assaulted his girlfriend, she fled towards the truck stop across the road. As she crossed the road, she was struck by an eighteen-wheeler. Since then, her desperate spirit has been encountered by motorists driving here after dark.

In her book, Trucker Ghost Stories, Annie Wilder includes a story from a Hamilton, Alabama resident. The version of this tale he relates specifies that the young woman was a high school student who had been attending her school’s prom. After a fight with her boyfriend, she asked that he put her out on the side of the road saying she would walk home. While walking down the side of the busy highway, she was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer. He continues, saying that the spirit will climb up on the step of trucks passing through and stare at the driver. This local relates an experience he had while traveling down this stretch of road one evening. He felt the sensation of a spirit’s presence, but he wouldn’t turn his head to see if anything was there.

Sources

  • Duffey, Barbara. Angels and Apparitions: True Ghost Stories from the South. Eatonton, GA: Elysian Publishing, 1996.
  • Wilder, Annie. Trucker Ghost Stories. NYC: TOR, 2012.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part V

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is to examine ghost stories county by county, though 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 on Halloween of 2017, 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.

For a further look at Alabama ghosts, please see my Alabama Directory.

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.

Lee County

Opelika Chamber of Commerce
601 Avenue A
Opelika

Known also as the Whitfield-Duke-Searcy House for the three families that called this place home, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce may remain the residence of a child’s spirit. Stories from family members reveal that a child may have died in the house in the early 20th century. Chamber staff believes the child may still be in this 1895 home.

Opelika Chamber of Commerce, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Some years ago, three employees witnessed a “bright flash of light” descend the home’s front staircase. Another staff member noticed child-sized footprints in the carpet on the back staircase when no children had been in the house. Chairs and other objects here sometimes playfully move on their own accord.

Sources

  • Hines, Nikolaus. “A young ghost toyingly haunts an old house.” Auburn Plainsman. 17 October 2014.
  • Lee County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Lee County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.
  • Mission and History.” Opelika Chamber of Commerce. Accessed 29 June 2015.

Limestone County

Houston Memorial Library
101 North Houston Street
Athens

On the morning of New Year’s Eve 1879, former governor George S. Houston awoke from sleep. At that time a senator representing Alabama in Congress, Houston called out, “John, bring me my shoes. I must return to Washington!” He then closed his eyes and passed away.

While Houston did not make it back to Washington, he is believed to remain in his former home. After Houston’s death, his wife lived here until her death in 1909. The house was turned over to the city for use as a library in 1936. One of the reminders that the library was once a former residence is the chiming of the grandfather clock. This chiming occurs on occasion though no grandfather clock exists in the building.

Governor Houston House, 1934, by W.N. Manning for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Two gentlemen within this building installing central air were bothered by something in the attic some years ago. As they worked, they continued to hear a rustling behind them. At one point both men saw something standing near them out of their peripheral vision. When they turned to look directly at the figure it vanished. Exasperated, the pair told the former governor firmly that they were doing no harm. The kindly spirit allowed them to continue unimpeded.

Sources

  • Black, Shane. Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town. NYC: iUniverse. 2009.
  • Rogers, William Warren. “George S. Houston (1874- 78).” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 21 April 2008.

Lowndes County

Marengo
100 North Broad Street
Lowndesboro

Lowndesboro remains a sleepy town, lost in the haze of its past. North Broad Street, lined with historic structures, many of which date to before the Civil War, is, despite its name merely a country road passing through the community. Among those grand 19th century homes is a transplant, Marengo, which was originally built around 1835 in Autauga County but moved here sometime between 1843 and 1847. If local tradition is to be believed, Marengo’s second owner, Dr. Charles Edwin Reese, is responsible for this remarkable collection of antebellum structures surviving the Civil War.

As General Wilson and his Union troops swept through this part of Alabama destroying anything of military importance as well as other property, Dr. Reese met with the general urging him to spare the town as it was suffering an epidemic of smallpox. To provide proof, Dr. Reese brought a patient with a serious rash. Though it was all a ruse, the general was convinced and spared the town.

It seems, however, that despite the good doctor’s work in the community, his wife Sarah was fearful whenever her husband was called out to visit a patient. She never felt safe in her home, regardless of the large, brass lock that her husband had installed on the front door. Like Sarah Reese, the wife of Lindsay James Powell, Jr., a subsequent owner of the home, also felt unsafe in the house. Powell bought a gun for his wheelchair-bound wife Kathleen’s protection and peace of mind. When, in 1961, Powell discovered his wife shot to death in her bed with the same gun at her side. Kathleen Powell’s death was ruled a suicide while evidence pointed to a possible murder.

Marengo, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Owners of the home since that time have heard the sound of a woman laughing. A psychic visiting the home confirmed that one of the spirits is that of Kathleen. Another psychic flatly stated that no one that had lived in the home had been happy adding that an additional female spirit haunts the home. The house was donated to the Lowndesboro Landmarks Foundation in 1975 and has been used as an events space for many years.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Places in the American South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Lowndesboro. 1 November 1973.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Macon County

Tuskegee National Forest

The smallest national forest in the country, Tuskegee National Forest was created from abused and eroded farmland purchased by the federal government at the height of the Great Depression. Consisting of nearly 11,000 acres, the forest provides recreational opportunities and conservation of natural habitat for the region.

During the Satanic worship scare of the 1980s, rumors spread that teens and young people were engaging in occult rituals deep in the forest here. Higdon and Talley note that some of the spirits raised by these rituals may remain in the more remote woods. Indeed, the forest may also be home to Sasquatch or Bigfoot, as well.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Tuskegee National Forest.” USDA Forest Service. Accessed 14 June 2015.

Madison County

Huntsville Depot
320 Church Street, Northwest
Huntsville

Huntsville Depot, 2010. by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Huntsville Depot has witnessed much of the panoply of railroad history in the area since its construction in 1860. The building has seen the tumult of the Civil War, and a changing transportation picture until its closure as a railroad depot in 1968. It now stands as a museum preserving one of the oldest rail depots in the nation.

As Union troops under Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchell swept through North Alabama in 1862, one of his primary objectives was Huntsville and its depot. With the city, Ormsby also captured some 200 ill and wounded Confederate troops. The soldiers were held on the depot’s third floor before being shipped to prisoner of war camps in the North. Graffiti covering the walls preserves some of the experiences of soldiers here.

Visitors and staff within the building have had a variety of experiences. A frequent visitor reported to Alan Brown that she felt a cold spot on the second-floor landing of the staircase. She also described how she and a group of reenactors watched an apparent Confederate soldier peer down at them from a third-floor window. Also on the third-floor, the bust of a Civil War soldier tends to turn on its own accord. A psychic passing through the building described a “cluster of ghosts” within the historic structure.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Gray, Jacquelyn Proctor. When Spirits Walk. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006.
  • Madison County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Madison County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
  • Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Marengo County

Gaineswood
805 South Cedar Avenue
Demopolis

Gaineswood can be considered a historical, architectural, and paranormal treasure. According to the home’s National Register of Historic Places nomination form, Gaineswood is considered by many authorities to be one of the grandest and most important American houses built in the antebellum era. Part of the home’s uniqueness is found in its innovative and extraordinary design, which was conceived and realized by the home’s owner and builder, Nathan Bryan Whitfield. A self-taught architect, Whitfield spent much of his time and energy constructing his magnificent Neo-Classical home starting in 1842 and finishing on the eve of the Civil War in 1861.

After having his fortunes nearly wiped out by war, Whitfield sold the home to his son who allowed it to deteriorate. During this time a tree took root in the floor of the dining room, and goats roamed the halls. The house was restored in the 1890s and passed through a few hands before being bought by the State of Alabama in 1966 and opened as a house museum in 1971. Gaineswood was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Gaineswood, 1939, by Frances Benjamin Johnston for the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Besides the architectural importance of Gaineswood, the house is home to a classic Alabama ghost story originally told by Kathryn Tucker Windham. Mrs. Windham contends that after Nathan Whitfield’s wife died, he engaged Evelyn Carter, the daughter of a U.S. Consul to Greece, to care for his children. The delightful young woman was educated, musically inclined, and added a cultural touch to the home and the children’s lives. Unfortunately, she was taken ill and died during a particularly harsh winter. Miss Carter had requested that her body be returned to Virginia where she could be buried in the family cemetery, yet the harsh winter weather would not allow that. Instead, her body was sealed in a wooden casket and placed underneath the stairs until it could be shipped home.

Soon after, Miss Carter’s unhappy spirit began to roam the house noisily expressing her displeasure. Eerie melodies were heard playing on the piano accompanied by the swish of rustling skirts and disembodied voices. Even after Miss Carter’s remains were returned to her home, the spirit has remained in residence, though sources argue if she may have finally left the house.

Sources

  • Hand, Janice P. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Gaineswood. 13 September 1971.
  • “The Haunts of Gaineswood Plantation.” Ghost Eyes Most Haunted Places in America <www.GhostEyes.com>. 4 August 2009.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Norman, Michael and Beth Scott. Historic Haunted America. NYC: TOR, 1995.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Marion County

Pikeville
Intersection of CR-21, CR-31, and CR-470

Little remains of the town of Pikeville, a small town built alongside the Jackson Military Road. The town served as the county seat of Marion County from 1820 until 1882, when the seat was moved to nearby Hamilton. The old county courthouse still stands, though it is now a private residence, and the town’s cemetery continues to memorialize the dead of Pikeville. This ghost town may also be populated with ghosts.

Sources

Marshall County

Main Street
Albertville

On April 24, 1908, a tornado roared through northeast Alabama killing some 35 residents and destroying a portion of Albertville including much of Main Street. According to Faith Serafin, there has been quite a bit of paranormal activity reported along Main Street including the spirit of a young boy in khaki knee-pants, a white shirt, and suspenders who has been observed running down the street at night. Residents have seen children wearing period clothing playing on the street in the evenings while business owners have reported the front doors of their businesses opening and closing on their own accord.

Main Street, Albertville, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

Mobile County

Phoenix Fire Museum
203 South Claiborne Street
Mobile

Originally located on Conti Street, the old Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company No. 6 building was a state of the art rehouse when it was constructed in 1858. Slightly more than a hundred years later, the neglected building faced demolition for the construction of the Mobile Civic Center. The building was saved by the Mobile Historic Preservation Society, dismantled, and moved to its current location where it now serves as a part of the Mobile Museum of History. Artifacts relating to the history of firefighting within the city are displayed here including antique firefighting vehicles. Not on display, but present within the old building, is a spirit that has been heard stomping around the second-floor and occasionally rifling through an antique secretary located there.

Sources

  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Monroe County

Rikard’s Mill Historic Park
4116 AL-265
Beatrice

Fleeting shadow figures have been spotted at this mill established in 1845. While the original structure is gone, the current mill, built in the 1860s, has been preserved by the Monroe County Museum. The mill has been probed by paranormal investigators, though little evidence of paranormal activity was uncovered.

Sources

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part I

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. Perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish this is to examine ghost stories county by county, though 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 on Halloween of 2017, 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.

For a further look at Alabama ghosts, please see my Alabama Directory.

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.

Autauga County

Cross Garden
Autauga County Road – 86
Prattville

An odd collection of signs, crosses, and rusting appliances dots two hills along Autauga County Road 86; this is W. C. Rice’s Cross Garden, a testament to the South’s enduring religious fervor and one man’s personal religious devotion. After he was saved and healed of painful stomach issues in 1960, Rice began a journey to save those around him from eternal damnation. Created in 1976, the Cross Garden was maintained by Rice until his death in 2004.

Listed among Time Magazine’s “Top 50 American Roadside Attractions” in 2010, the Cross Garden has attracted a following fascinated with this place’s spiritual ambiance and the paranormal activity that supposedly permeates the area. There is a pair of visitors who claimed to have had their car held in place by an odd force. Others have heard strange sounds coming from some of the old appliances used in the display. Faith Serafin notes that in 2008 a man in a white robe seen stalking through the woods here.

Sources

  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Cruz, Gilbert. “Miracle Cross Garden, Prattville, AL: Top 50 American Roadside Attractions.” Time Magazine. 28 July 2010.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Baldwin County

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

Bay Minette Public Library, 2013, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is believed that the spirit of Bay Minette Public Library’s first librarian, Mrs. Anne Gilmer, is still on duty. A recent librarian encountered Mrs. Gilmer’s spirit while shelving books when she observed a book slowly pulling itself off a shelf and tumbling to the floor. This book was joined by others falling, by themselves, off the shelves. The librarian realized these books had been mis-shelved, and she returned the books to their proper places.

After her long tenure at the library, Mrs. Gilmer’s portrait was removed from its position above the library’s main desk. After some time, the portrait was returned to its original spot and employees began to notice the smell of roses. This same odor returns whenever something good happens in the library; perhaps as a sign of Mrs. Gilmer’s happiness. When the library was moved to the old Baptist church across the street, the librarian issued a verbal invitation for the ghost to join them in the new building just before workers moved Mrs. Gilmer’s portrait. When the elevator began to act strangely, librarians knew that Mrs. Gilmer was continuing her spectral duties in the new library.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Barbour County

Kendall Manor
534 West Broad Street
Eufaula

Crowning the hill of West Broad Street, Kendall Manor, with its white Italianate architecture and cupola resembles the front of a grand steamboat. It is certainly an architectural masterpiece among the hundreds of stately homes in Eufaula. The house, completed just after the Civil War, was constructed for James Turner Kendall, one of the few merchants and planters in the area whose fortune survived the war. A story circulated among the servants about a spirit that appeared near the house as a harbinger of bad luck. The Kendall family thought nothing of it until James Kendall’s manservant saw the spirit of a man in a gray uniform astride a white horse. Reportedly, James Kendall passed away the following day.

Kendall Manor, 2014, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

For many years, this grand house served as a bed and breakfast with a unique staff member. A spectral nursemaid, known as Annie, is apparently on duty and has often been spotted by the children in the house. One family member told of seeing the specter wearing a black dress and starched white apron scowling at him as he and his siblings raced their tricycles on the home’s veranda. It seems Kendall Manor has returned to being a quiet, private residence in recent years, so please respect the home’s occupants.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Kendall Hall. 24 August 1971.
  • Mead, Robin. Haunted Hotels: A Guide to American and Canadian Inns and Their Ghosts. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1995.

Bibb County

Brierfield Ironworks Historic State Park
240 Furnace Parkway
Brierfield

Founded by a group of local businessmen in 1862—as the Civil War was ramping up—the Brierfield Ironworks quickly attracted the attention of the Confederate Government which was interested in the high-quality pig iron produced here. During the war, the ironworks saw the production of about 1,000 tons of pig iron per year. Later in the war was Union General James H. Wilson swept through central Alabama, destroying targets of military importance, Brierfield was targeted and destroyed. Production resumed here after the war and continued until the ironworks was closed in 1894.

The ruins of the Brierfield Furnace by Jet Lowe. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, 1993.

In 1976, the county heritage association turned the ruins into a heritage park. Two years later, the state took over the park, moving several historic structures here including Mulberry Church, which arrived here from its original site near Centreville. Built in 1897, this church is where tradition holds that the daughter of a moonshiner eloped despite her father’s disapproval of her fiancé. At the completion of the couple’s vows, the bride’s father appeared, firing his gun into the church door. The bullet struck both the bride and her new husband who was standing behind her. As a reminder of this tragic incident, the bullet hole remains in the door while the living have encountered the specter of the young bride at the site of her death.

Sources

Blount County

Old Garner Hotel
111 1st Avenue East
Oneonta

Built in 1915, the John Garner Hotel was built to accommodate guests arriving in town via the train depot located nearby. The building now serves as home to several businesses that occupy the first floor of this three-story building. Southern Paranormal Investigators spent an evening in the building in 2007 and were awed by the “findings and activity detected” within. Occupants had reported the smell of brewing coffee and tobacco smoke while the sounds of furniture moving and papers shuffling have also been heard here when the building was empty. The paranormal investigation team captured a few EVPs and photographic anomalies leading them to conclude that possibly three different spirits are present in this old hotel.

Sources

  • Blount County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Blount County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. Paranormal Investigation Report on The Lobby. Accessed 29 November 2012.

Bullock County

Josephine Arts Center
130 North Prairie Street
Union Springs

The old Josephine Hotel is now home to the Josephine Arts Center. Built in 1880, the Josephine Hotel was a social center here in rural Southeast Alabama. Phantom odors of cigar and cigarette smoke are often encountered in this building along with the sounds of revelry from former patrons.

A 2012 investigation revealed some paranormal activity. At one point during the probe, members of the paranormal team witnessed an orb of light moving through a hallway which they captured on video.

Sources

  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Paranormal Investigation Report for the Bullock County Courthouse. Accessed 29 November 2012.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Tour of Union Springs.” Union Springs, Alabama. Accessed 25 January 2013.

Butler County

Consolation Primitive Baptist Church and Cemetery
Oakey Streak Road
Red Level

On the morning of February 16, 2015, this historic church was lost to a fire. Local officials suspect that the church’s status as a haunted place led vandals to torch the small, rural building. Legend speaks of this place being the scene of a panoply of paranormal activity including demon dogs, or hellhounds; a banshee; and apparitions.

Organized in the 19th century, the church has not had an active congregation for many years, though a few locals maintained the building and cemetery and defended them against the rising tide of vandalism that had begun to overtake it. Teens and amateur “ghost hunters” had damaged the building by burning candles inside, carving their names on the structure, breaking windows, and even painting a pentagram on the floor of the lonely church. The Andalusia Star-News reports that 13 people were arrested in 2007 for burglary and criminal mischief after the police investigated reported illegal activity here.

Local investigator and author Shawn Sellers visited the church with his team in 2013. Upon arriving, two carloads of teens also appeared at the site. The group found the church standing open and showing signs of vandalism. One group of teens brought a Ouija board and attempted to make contact with spirits (something I cannot condone or recommend). A short time later, a man with a flashlight accosted the investigators and mysteriously disappeared after they attempted to speak with him.

Legends surrounding the church include the appearance of a banshee who wails as an omen that someone in the church will die. The grounds of the church are supposedly the domain of red-eyed “hellhounds,” as well as Confederate soldiers, two ghostly children, and a haunted outhouse where those who enter may be locked in. In 2012 reporters from The Greenville Advocate investigated the grounds and encountered nothing. In an article about the investigation, reporter Andy Brown suggested that the stories about this location are merely urban legend. I would like to speculate that if there is paranormal activity here, it may have been drawn by irresponsible use of Ouija boards and rituals being performed here by amateurs attempting to summon spirits.

It is unknown if the loss of the church building has affected the spiritual activity here. Visitors should be warned to use extreme caution when visiting this location and to respect the site and the cemetery.

Sources

  • Bell, Jake. “The Church.” Shawn Sellers Blog. 18 January 2013.
  • Brown, Andy. “Butler County church haunted by tall tales.” Greenville Advocate. 5 October 2012.
  • Edgemon, Erin. “Church said to be haunted burns in Alabama.” com. 17 February 2015.
  • “Fire wasn’t first brush with vandalism for historic church.” Andalusia Star-News. 17 February 2015.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Peacock, Lee. “Bucket List Update No. 165: Visit Consolation Church in Butler County.” Dispatches from the LP-OP. 28 July 2014.
  • Rogers, Lindsey. “Haunted Butler County church destroyed by fire.” WSFA. 16 February 2015.

Calhoun County

Boiling Springs Road Bridge
Boiling Springs Road over Choccolocco Creek
(This bridge is permanently closed to traffic)
Oxford

Known locally as “Hell’s Gate Bridge,” local lore related that visitors to this bridge at night could stop in the middle of the bridge, look back over their shoulders and see the fiery gates of Hell. Other lore tells of a young couple who drowned in the creek here. A traditional ritual said that stopping your car in the middle of the bridge and turning o the lights could summon one of the two people who drowned here. A sign of their presence would appear in the form of a wet spot left on the back seat of the car.

This wooden-decked, steel truss bridge was constructed between 1890 and 1930 and closed permanently in 2005. The Oxford Paranormal Society investigated the bridge in January 2007 and encountered an armadillo that was very much alive; no paranormal evidence was captured. When visiting this site, use extreme caution as the bridge is no longer maintained.

Sources

Chambers County

Oakwood Cemetery
1st Street
Lanett

Within this relatively modern cemetery stands a child-sized brick house complete with a front porch and chimney. The grave of Nadine Earles is among the most unique grave sites in the region. When four-year-old Nadine became ill with diphtheria just before Christmas in 1933, the child’s father had been building a playhouse as a gift for his daughter. After the child passed away on December 18th, the decision was made to erect the playhouse on the little girl’s grave. The playhouse has been well maintained ever since and remains filled with toys.

While not officially haunted, a recent interview with a friend revealed that she had a hard time photographing the grave when she visited. Using a smartphone camera, my friend’s attempts to photograph the grave resulted in black photographs. However, once she stepped away from the grave, the camera functioned properly.

Sources

  • Interview with Celeste Powell, LaGrange, GA. 23 July 2015.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Alabama child’s playhouse mausoleum one of nation’s rare ‘dollhouse’ graves.” com. 5 June 2014.
  • Rouse, Kelley. “Little Nadine’s Grave.” Chattahoochee Heritage Project. 16 December 2011.
 

Cherokee County

Lost Regiment Legend
Lookout Mountain
Near the Blanche community

Extending from Chattanooga, Tennessee, through the northwest corner of Georgia, and into Alabama, the ridge of Lookout Mountain has played a prominent role in the history of the region. During the Civil War when its flanks were crawling with military activity, the mountain bore witness to several major battles and many skirmishes as the Union army attempted to extend its reach into the Deep South.

During this dark time, legend speaks of a group of Union soldiers getting lost in the mountain wilderness after a skirmish near Adamsburg, in DeKalb County. After retreating, the soldiers attempted to survive in the dangerous terrain. Fearful locals and enemy soldiers picked off a few of the men while others did not survive the harsh mountainous conditions. The last of these survivors was seen near the Blanche community in Cherokee County. Even decades after the disappearance of these soldiers, tales still circulate of sightings of the “Lost Regiment.” Others have discovered bootprints in the snow that suddenly stop, as if the men have vanished into thin air.

Sources

  • Hillhouse, Larry. Ghosts of Lookout Mountain. Wever, IA: Quixote Press, 2009.
  • Youngblood, Beth. Haunted Northwest Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2016.

Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn

During the first few minutes of the first annual Haunted History Tour in the small town of Wetumpka, Alabama, my tour group was shuffled into a room in the unrestored portion of the town’s CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUILDING (110 East Bridge Street). The dingy room was in rough shape and a collection of folding chairs was set out for tour participants. I glanced through a doorway into an adjoining room and was greeted by a scarecrow with a mischievous grin painted on its burlap face.

The Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce just before Wetumpka Haunted History Tour, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The thought ran through my head, “Someone has put out some tacky Halloween decorations out for this tour. Oh my God, I hope the rest of the tour isn’t like this!” My fears were allayed however when the guide began talking about how this scarecrow moved on its own around the third floor. Passersby on the streets outside have noted the scarecrow peering down on them from one of the third floor windows. When they look again the scarecrow is often looking down from a different window. Employees of the chamber of commerce have also noted the scarecrow’s erratic movement, even once finding it torn apart on the floor of the bathroom. Even more shocking was when the scarecrow reappeared “in pristine condition”—to use our guide’s words—the following day in its usual position overlooking downtown.

The chamber’s scarecrow that moves on its own accord. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The scarecrow, along with the other spirited compatriots, is overseeing a revival that’s taking place in downtown Wetumpka and throughout the state of Alabama. The state is beginning to awaken from its long, sad economic dream state and confidently stride back towards a fully awakened existence. Utilizing its own history, hominess, natural hospitality, stories, and even its ghosts, Alabama is brushing off the dust of its past and creating a more hopeful future.

Some of you may have noticed my absence during October. Please forgive me, I have been traveling throughout Alabama taking part in investigations and ghost tours. The life of a blogger can be rather dull when you’re only writing about these places rather than experiencing them. Last Halloween I promised myself that I would leave my schedule open this year so I could take advantage of the various investigations and ghost tours that crop up during the Halloween season. With one exception, all my investigations and tours were in Alabama, a state that I have discovered really wants its stories told.

My first jaunt, the first weekend of October, took me to Sylacauga, the Marble City. Located in central Alabama, Sylacauga (pronounced sil-uh-CAW-guh), is about 45 miles south east of Birmingham. The town was built primarily on marble quarrying: carving up the fine marble vein that spans thirty miles under this section of Talladega County. Near the downtown, the COMER MUSEUM (711 North Broadway Avenue) is situated in an Art Deco-styled marble-clad building built in the 1930s as the town’s library. Sculptures and carvings from the local marble grace the entrance of the elegant building that serves as a virtual attic for the area squirrelling away and displaying an array of historic artifacts.

I was in town for an investigation at the museum with S.C.A.R.E. of Alabama, a group founded by authors Kim Johnston and Shane Busby (who wrote Haunted Talladega County together, Johnston is also the author of Haunted Shelby County, Alabama and Haint Blue: The Rockford Haunting). Members of the group include haunted collector and author Kevin Cain whose book, My Haunted Collection, is now a part of my Southern Spirit Library, he’s also written a number of supernatural fiction works; and Kat Hobson who hosts the radio show “Paranormal Experienced with Kat Hobson” on which I appeared a few months ago and will be appearing at the end of this month. The group hosted this investigation as part of a series of public investigations that they host as fundraisers for the places investigated.

The fascinating investigation concentrated on a number of objects throughout the building that may have spirit attachments. See my rundown of the investigation here, “The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama.”

Entrance to De Soto Caverns, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On the route I decided to stop outside of Childersburg to check out DeSOTO CAVERNS & FAMILY FUN PARK (5181 Desoto Caverns Parkway). As I waited for the cave tour I watched a young father carry his child off the porch of the gift shop heading towards the family’s car. In his arms the child squirmed and cried in the depths of a temper tantrum. As they passed the statue of Hernando de Soto the father said, “Hey look, it’s Hernando de Soto!” The child only screamed louder. Goodness knows that de Soto inspired similar reactions from the natives when he marched through this area in 1540.

Interior of the caverns with a replica of a native burial in place. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Scholars suggest that Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto may have stopped in the area as he hacked his way through the forests and natives of the region. While there is no proof that he visited the cave, there is evidence that it was known to the local natives. Several native burials were located in the main room of the cave as well as the remains of a white trader who was killed after he carved his name in the cave which was considered sacred to the natives. Being a cave fan, I was happy when Johnston and Busby included the cave in their book on haunted Talladega County.

While I have had some creepy experiences in caves (see my experiences at Lost Sea Cave in Sweetwater, TN), I didn’t have anything odd happen. Johnston and Busby note that a young daughter of the cave’s owners had experiences with Native American spirits during her childhood on the property. Worried that these spirits may have been upset by the family’s use of the cave as a tourist attraction, the owners brought in members of the native tribes that once owned the land to cleanse the property and rebury the bones of their ancestors that had originally lain quietly in the cave. Apparently, the spirits have been appeased, though I do wonder if there is any residual energy that may cause some activity on occasion.

Sylacauga itself seems to be waking up however: a number of buildings in its downtown were occupied and open for business including what appeared to be several new restaurants. For dinner I considered BUTTERMILK HILL RESTAURANT (300 East 3rd Street) which occupies an early 20th century house just outside of downtown. Listed in Johnston and Busby’s book, the restaurant shares the house with an assortment of spirits and a dark history that includes a murder within the past decade. While the menu looks delectable, it was a bit pricey for my current budget, though I did take some pictures.

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

My second sojourn to Alabama took place over the penultimate weekend of October. Due to work on Friday, the trip turned out to be rather rushed and I didn’t have much time to really enjoy it the trip up. S.C.A.R.E. of Alabama sponsored an investigation of JEMISON-CARNEGIE HERITAGE HALL MUSEUM (200 South Street East) and the adjoining ARMSTRONG-OSBORNE PUBLIC LIBRARY (202 South Street East) in Talladega. Despite  NASCAR races taking place the same weekend at the nearby (and cursed, supposedly) Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, the leafy streets of Talladega were quiet and still. South Street boasts some fine institutions and a handful of ghosts. On this peaceful night, antebellum MANNING HALL (205 South Street East), the huge, main edifice of the Alabama Institute for the Blind and Deaf, across the street from Heritage Hall was lit up like a beacon. Heritage Hall’s smaller, more feminine, Beaux-Arts façade was lit up as if in graceful answer to Manning Hall’s heavy, masculine Greek Revival colonnade. According to Johnston and Busby, Manning Hall does have some spirits of its own, quite possibly including the shade of the Institute’s founder, Dr. Joseph Johnson.

Manning Hall at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The Jemison-Carnegie Public Library was the dream of Louisa Jemison, a member of the prominent Jemison family who now have a handful of haunted places associated with them. Designed by noted Alabama architect Frank Lockwood, the library was built with a donation of land from Louisa Jemison and the Carnegie Foundation. When the library opened in 1908 local lore tells of a little 8-year-old girl sitting on the top step the first day and her being the first person to check out a book. The little girl, Gentry Parsons, would eventually pen her own books and donated many books to this library.

The facade of Heritage Hall on the night of the investigation.
Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Good architecture has power. In creating beautiful spaces, the architect can physically manipulate those entering the space; the eyes and chin are raised and the dignity of the space encourages those entering to straighten their back out of respect. With better posture, those entering have their senses heightened and the feeling of awe can mellow into a sense of inspiration, lightness, refinement, and freedom. Like the great cathedrals of Europe, the architecture of Heritage Hall does exactly that. The high ceilings, airiness, and grace raises the senses of those walking up the front staircase and entering the front door. The main bay of the building is a large open space with a dramatic staircase directly ahead leading down to the main librarian’s desk.

Interior of Heritage Hall just inside the front door. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved. 
The interior of Heritage Hall looking down the stairs just inside the front door towards the old librarian’s desk. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

After entering for the investigation I was greeted by the museum’s director and given an excellent tour of the building. The open space inside with the walls lined with art from local artists gives the place a sense of veneration and the art displays the tremendous talent throughout the region. I was also introduced to some of the paranormal activity that has been experienced here. With this building being a community center for such a long period of time, the energy that has passed and continues to pass through it has likely left a psychic imprint. That can be one explanation for the disembodied footsteps and doors opening and closing on their own accord. As a library, this building has also inspired passion for many people, people who return to this beloved spot in spirit. Some of the spirits believed to still oversee business here are Miss Willie, a former librarian; Tom Woodson, a long-time director of the museum who died a few years ago; and Louisa Jemison who may return to check on her beloved library.

Main entrance of Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Spooning Heritage Hall like a protective older sibling is the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library which opened in 1979. Sadly, the architects of the newer building did not take their cues from Lockwood’s design. The building is minimalist and angular with no ornamentation; utilitarian modernist at its worst. The interior is very typical late 20th century library design which emphasizes function over design. While the architecture is nothing to write home about, the institution itself seems to be very well stocked and the librarians and staff present were delightful and very interested in the investigation.

Hall of Heroes entrance. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

The library itself has experienced a modicum of strange activity particularly around the genealogy room and its adjacent hallway which are actually part of a 2006 addition to the building. That hallway is now the Hall of Heroes, honoring the many men and women of Talladega County who have served in the armed forces. The hall is lined with photographs ranging from World War I to the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this hallway the spirit of a woman has been seen while the sounds of a party sometimes emanate from the genealogy room itself when it’s empty. The investigation of the library and Heritage Hall didn’t really uncover much evidence-wise. After sitting with Ghost Boxes in the main reading room of the library we adjourned to the genealogy room and the Hall of Heroes. Fitted out with computers, microfilm readers, and shelves of books old and new, the genealogy room isn’t particularly creepy, even in the dark. We did an EVP session and at one point seemingly heard a “no,” though I was one of the few people to hear it. It may have also been gastric noises from one of the participants. After relocating to Heritage Hall we didn’t pick up much activity, though we had some K2 spikes when some of men began lounging on Miss Willie’s library desk.

The Hall of Heroes is lined with the photos of men and women who served in the armed forces from Talladega County. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • Johnston, Kim and Shane Busby. Haunted Talladega County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2015.
  • History.”Talladega Armstrong-Osborne Public Library. Accessed 12 November 2016.
  • Our History.” Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall Museum. Accessed 12 November 2016.
  • Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce. Wetumpka Haunted Heritage Tour. 28 October 2016.

The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama

Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
Sylacauga, Alabama

 The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
–William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1

The Comer Museum, 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All
rights reserved.

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.” 

Harriet, the museum’s haunted doll sits forlornly amidst flashlights and other investigative devices. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

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.

Recreated pioneer cabin in the museum’s basement. Photo 2016, Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

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. 

Kevin Cain’s haunted dolls. Note the temperature gauge in front of Tammy on the left. Robin sits in the middle with Maci on the right. Photo 2016 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

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.

The S.C.A.Re of Alabama team with the Southern Spirit Guide. Back left: Lewis O. Powell IV, Shane Busby, Tristen Cox, Kevin Cain. Front left: Harriet the Haunted Doll, Kat Hobson, Kim Johnston.

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!

Sources

  • 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.