Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VI

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.

Montgomery County

Pratt Hall
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

Huntingdon College’s most famous spirit may have followed the college as it moved to Montgomery from Tuskegee. In the school’s original dormitories, the upper floors, known as “Sky Alley,” were supposed to have been haunted by a Red Lady. After the school’s move to its new campus and the construction of Julia A. Pratt Residence Hall in 1912, the Red Lady may have taken up residence on the third floor.

Students still tell the legend of the Red Lady. A young woman arrived at the school from New York. Very much out of place in this Southern school, the woman remained aloof and was shunned by the other students. Depressed, she committed suicide in her room. In life, this young woman had always favored red, and her lonely spirit is still seen drifting the corridors of Pratt Hall in her favorite color.

Sources

  • Enzwiler, Susan & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Huntingdon College. August 1999.
  • Sellers, Shawn. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History. Shawn Sellers 2013.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Morgan County

Old State Bank
925 Bank Street
Decatur

In 2015 a friend of author Jessica Penot was driving through downtown Decatur with her young daughter. As they passed the Old State Bank, the child asked, “Mommy, why was that lady in the black dress murdered?” The mother immediately asked her daughter what she meant, to which the child replied, “Can we quit talking about this now?” The mother did a bit of research and discovered that there are two female spirits associated with the old bank, one who is weeping and one in a black dress.

Old State Bank, 2010, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Literally in “high cotton,” the Bank of the State of Alabama built this structure as a branch in 1833. Nearly a decade later, when the state legislature discovered corruption they refused to renew the bank’s charter, and the bank was shuttered. The building was requisitioned as a hospital during the Civil War as the city passed between control of Confederate and Union forces. At the end of the war, Decatur lay in ruins except for a few buildings including this one.

The identity of the two mysterious female entities is unknown, however. Perhaps they are the lady loves of soldiers who breathed their last here or maybe they are nurses who tended to the wounded. These spirits have been seen by visitors and staff alike, and investigations have uncovered evidence of their presence.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for State Bank Building, Decatur Branch. 15 June 1971.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Penot, Jessica. “The little girl who saw a ghost.” Ghost Stories and Haunted Places Blog. 28 April 2015.

Perry County

Marion Military Institute
1101 Washington Street
Marion

As the oldest military junior college in the country, Marion Military Institute traces its roots to the opening of Howard College in 1842. A Baptist institution, Howard College opened its doors as a school for boys. During the Civil War, when military training became necessary, the school added a military department. In 1863, the college’s chapel and Lovelace Hall were commandeered for use as a Confederate hospital. Operating as the Breckinridge Military Hospital, the military’s sick and wounded filled these school buildings for two years. The dead were buried behind the school’s chapel.

Howard College moved to Birmingham in 1887 and evolved into Samford University, and the Marion Military Institute was established on the legends-filled campus. Students have reported supernatural activity throughout the campus, though sources provide little detail.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • History.” Marion Military Institute. Accessed 5 July 2015.
  • Perry County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Perry County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.

Pickens County

Pickens County Courthouse
1 Courthouse Square
Carrollton

The north side of the late 19th century courthouse bears an arrow pointing towards the garret window at the top of the structure. This arrow points towards the ghostly window pane that is literally at the heart of Pickens County history and legend.

Twelve years after the first courthouse was burned during the Civil War, the second courthouse erupted in flames in 1877. Rumors spread that the courthouse was set alight by a freed slave, Henry Wells, who lived nearby. He was arrested, and a mob gathered on the courthouse lawn to mete out “justice.” Incarcerated in the attic of the building, Wells peered down on the mob screaming his innocence.

Pickens County Courthouse, 1998, by Calvin Beale for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A storm erupted, and a bolt of lightning struck nearby as Henry Wells was hung for his supposed crime, though proclaiming his innocence until the very end. Citizens passing the courthouse the next morning were shocked to see Wells’ visage etched into the pane of the window from which he had peered down on the mob. Frequent washing of the window has not been able to scrub the mysterious image.

As with many legends, there is a mix of fact and fiction at work here. While the image in the window pane is undeniable, the history is confused. Apparently, a lynch mob did gather on the courthouse lawn once, but for a murderer named Nathaniel Pierce. The mob succeeded in lynching Mr. Pierce. Henry Wells was arrested for the arson of the second courthouse, though he was not put to death by a mob. There are also questions as to the actual existence of the windows, which may have been added to the façade sometime after the deaths of both Pierce and Wells.

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. Jamie Roush Pearce, 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Pike County

Pace and Shackelford Halls
Campus of Troy University
Troy

Built in 1947 and 1930, respectively, these two residence halls have both been the scene of poltergeist activity. The activity in Shackelford Hall is explained as the product of a young female student’s suicide. Depressed over her fiancée’s death in a war, “Sally Shack,” as tradition identifies her, hanged herself in this building. Rumors state that two female students living here entered their dorm room to find two pens levitating. The incident led the young ladies to vacate their room the following day.

Pace Hall, 2017, by Kreeder13. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the 1990s, a few students in one of these dorms decided to play with a Ouija board in an attempt to contact the spirit in Pace Hall. The group succeeded in contacting something after which the terrified girls witnessed “a paper clip tapping on their window from the outside, and things moving around the room.” As a result, the university had the room cleansed to settle the activity, though students continue to encounter activity throughout the buildings.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunting of Alabama. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2017.
  • Ferrell, Mary. “Ghost stories on campus.” Tropolitan (Troy University). 30 October 2014.

Randolph County

McCosh Mill
McCosh Mill Road
Rock Mills

Though the location is a bit remote, the ruins of this mill have become a popular place for picnicking families and teenagers searching for a thrill. Located on the banks of Wehadkee Creek, this mill possibly dates to the early 1870s when it was constructed by James Eichelburger McCosh, grandson of local industrialist Jacob Eichelburger who built the cotton mills in Rock Mills. The mill, which ground corn into meal and wheat into our, operated until 1958. It was purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1970 as part of the building of West Point Lake. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, the mill remained standing until vandals set it ablaze. The stone foundation and the mill race are the only remaining features at this site.

The ruins of McCosh Mill, 2015. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

This mill figures into lore on both sides of the state line, and there are many stories and much misinformation. A friend of mine, Celeste, and her husband Randy lived near the ruins until recently. The couple would often venture down to the site after dark to enjoy the quiet, and it is here that they have had a few experiences. Randy rode his four-wheeler down to the ru- ins one evening alone, and while he was there felt that something climbed onto the back of the vehicle with him. Fearing what was behind him, he started back home and never looked back. The unsettling feeling did not leave him until the next day.

A photographer and friend of Celeste’s took her children down to Wehadkee Creek to enjoy the water. As they played, the woman took video and photographs. At one point in the video, a woman appears near the children for a split second. After seeing the vid- eo, the startled mother looked over the photographs and saw the same woman in a few of the photographs seemingly watching from the treeline.

The ruins of the mill are located at the end of McCosh Mill Road which begins in Troup County, Georgia and eventually turns into a dirt road. Continue down this road to reach the mill; though proceed with caution as the road is heavily rutted and damaged from recent logging in the area. The site cannot be reached from Alabama.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner & Ellen Mertins. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the McCosh Grist Mill. 27 May 1976.
  • Interview with Celeste P., LaGrange, GA. 23 July 2015.
  • Randolph County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Randolph County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Russell County

Elite Café
1501 Fifth Avenue
Phenix City

The Elite Cafe with its infamous parking lot where Albert Patterson was shot. He died near where the historic marker now stands. By Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

On the evening of June 18, 1954, as state attorney general nominee Albert Patterson walked to his car parked in the parking lot between the Coulter Building and the Elite Café (pronounced ee-light), he was shot three times. He was able to crawl towards the Coulter Building where he died on the sidewalk. The assailant was never apprehended, though he was most likely associated with the organized crime and the rampant corruption in Phenix City that Patterson had been fighting to destroy.

In the early 20th century, Phenix City had a reputation as the wickedest city in America. Fueled by the influx of soldiers to Columbus, Georgia’s Fort Benning, across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, the city had become a haven for prostitution, gambling, alcohol, and other forms of vice. Patterson, a successful lawyer and politician, campaigned on cleaning up the city. Sadly, it took Patterson’s death to spur these changes.

Higdon & Talley report that a gentleman in an old-fashioned suit has been seen in the parking lot and on the sidewalk around the Elite Café and the Coulter Building. Perhaps Patterson is still minding Phenix City hoping it will not return to its sinful ways.

Sources

  • Grady, Alan. “Albert L. Patterson.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 24 July 2007.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
 

St. Clair County

St. Clair County remains the bane in my side. Despite all the searching, both online and in published sources, I cannot find an adequately sourced haunting within the county. Kelly Kazek describes the Flatwoods Community as “a settlement of freed slaves during Reconstruction” that “was later burned.” Nothing online or in the county heritage book provides information on this community. Hopefully, something from St. Clair will soon appear on my radar. If you know of a location here, please send me an email at southernspiritguide@gmail.com.

Shelby County

Old Shelby County Courthouse
1854 Old Courthouse Circle
Columbiana

The oldest remaining courthouse in the state, the Old Shelby County Courthouse has seen a myriad of uses in its long existence. Constructed as a courthouse in 1854, miraculously, this building escaped being burned by Union raiders during the Civil War. The building was used by the county until 1908 when a new courthouse was built nearby. The building was put to use as a hotel and later a boarding house until around 1934 when the public library opened on the second floor. It now serves as a county museum.

Old Shelby County Courthouse, 2016. By Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

A spirit reportedly dwells among the artifacts displayed within the old building. In a room on the second floor, the blinds are regularly adjusted by unseen hands. The same room often gives staff members a creepy feeling, and author Alan Brown reports that some workers in the building at night did see a spectral figure in this room. An investigation conducted in 2002 did not turn up any evidence of spiritual activity, though the investigators did have some strange personal experiences.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. Nation Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Columbiana City Hall. 19 July 1974.
  • Reed, Martin J. “Shelby County’s 1854 Old Courthouse in Columbiana gets new address, improvements.” com. 31 January 2013.
  • “Shelby County ghosts busted.” Shelby County Reporter. 24 July 2002.
 

Sumter County

Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge
Campus of the University of West Alabama
Livingston

The oldest remaining of Alabama’s covered bridges; the Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge may harbor the spirit of an outlaw. The bridge was originally constructed to span the Sucarnoochee River but was moved to the nearby Alamuchee Creek after its replacement by a concrete bridge. It served automobile traffic there until 1958. The Sumter County Historical Society acquired the bridge in 1971, restored it, and moved the bridge to the campus of the University of West Alabama.

Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge, 2007, by Mld74. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The bridge figures into the story of notorious Sumter County Sheri Stephen S. Renfroe. Sometimes known as the “Outlaw Sheriff Renfroe’s notoriety comes from his involvement in murders, leadership in the local Ku Klux Klan, excessive drinking, and embezzlement while in office. Renfroe eventually fled the county, but when he returned he was apprehended by a mob of locals and was lynched either near or on this bridge. A dark shade seen pacing the length of the bridge is believed to be the Outlaw Sheriff Author Alan Brown, a professor at the university who has penned many books on Southern ghosts, stated in a 1994 article that he doesn’t believe the bridge to be haunted.

Sources

  • Alamuchee-Bellamy Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 May 2015.
  • “Bridge harbors legend: Serenity of covered bridge belies dark legend.” Mobile Register. 1 November 2004.

Columbia, South Carolina’s Haunted Five

The city of Columbia was born out of conflict over representation between small farmers in Upstate South Carolina and the wealthy planters of the Low Country. As a compromise, Columbia was founded in 1786 on the fall line near the center of the state. Over the following decades, the city developed from what George Washington described on his visit in 1791 as “an uncleared wood with very few houses in it,” into a wealthy, and bustling city by the middle of the 19th century.

As talk of secession began to circulate throughout the South, Columbia became a hotbed for pro-Secession sentiments and the first state Secession Convention was held here until it was forced to move to Charleston due to a smallpox epidemic. The city’s location in the interior of the Confederacy spared it the harsh realities of war until Sherman’s arrival on the city’s doorstep in February of 1865. During Union occupation, fires spread destroying a large portion of the city. Throughout the latter years of the 19th century, the city recovered its importance as an economic engine for the state with the building of textile mills.

As it moves from its industrial past, Columbia has continues in its role as an Upstate economic powerhouse and still crawls with ghosts of its past. 

Hampton-Preston House
1615 Blanding Street

During the 1982 Christmas Season, docents led visitors on candlelight tours of many Historic Columbia Foundation properties including the Hampton-Preston House. State law required the presence of a firefighter if open flame was used and, at the end of the night, the firefighter accompanied the docents as the candles were extinguished. One evening, after seeing that all the candles were out, locking up the house, turning on the security system accompanied by the firefighter, another docent was surprised to see flickering light in the windows of the Hampton-Preston House. Through the window, the docent could see all the candles in the sitting room were brightly burning and she called police. The police arrived to find that the house was still securely locked with the security system on, despite the blazing candles in the sitting room.

Hampton-Preston House, 2017, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Built by merchant Ainsley Hall in 1818, this magnificent manse was purchased by General Wade Hampton, patriarch of the powerful Hampton family, who had fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The purchase was carried out much to the chagrin of Hall’s wife, Sarah, who had been promised the house by her husband. In turn, Hall began work on a large house directly across the street, which is now called the Robert Mills House (see the entry further down the page). The house remained in the Hampton family until the Civil War. After barely escaping the burning of the city by Union forces, the house was saved by a nun from the nearby Ursuline convent who begged to use the house for refuge after the convent was burned. The house later became Chicora College and was restored and opened in 1970 as a house museum.

Docents, staff, and visitors have all reported encounters with possible spirits within the house. Some docents working in the house afterhours have reported a feeling of being watched and a general sense of uneasiness pervading the house.

Sources

  • Hook, Debra-Lynn B. “Spooky tales of South Carolina.” The State. 31 October 1991.
  • Kelly, Sharon. “’Ghost houses’ continuing to baffle Columbians.” The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, SC). 1 January 1983.
  • Lister, Mrs. Toney J. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Hampton-Preston House. 29 July 1969.
  • Workers of the Writers’ Program of the WPA of SC. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.

Olympia Mill
500 Heyward Street

Olympia Mill, 2014, by Batterup55. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

When Olympia Mill was constructed in 1899, it was called the largest cotton mill under one roof in the world. This massive mill continued under operation until it was closed in 1996. After sitting empty, it has recently been converted into loft apartments.

As was common at the time, the mill operated using the labor or children, as well as adults. Because of their small hands, children were ideal for certain tasks in keeping the looms running and, as a result, some children were killed or had arms and hands mangled by the high-speed machines. Roger Manley writes in Weird Carolinas that since the mill has been turned into lofts, residents have reported the sounds of children crying and have seen small handprints appear in fogged up windows.

Sources

  • Hamilton, Cynthia Rose. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Olympia Mill. Listed 2 February 2005.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Carolina. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2007.

Robert Mills House
1616 Blanding Street

The Robert Mills House, 1970. Photo by V.D. Hubbard for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Usually houses are named for former owners, but rarely for their designers. This home, however, is known for its architect, Robert Mills, one of the first great American architects known best for his designs for the Washington Monument. Mills designed the house for merchant, Ainsley Hall. Sadly, Mr. Hall did not have a chance to live in his new home as he died before it was completed. With the death of her husband and litigation over her husband’s estate, Mrs. Hall was forced to sell the incomplete house to the Presbyterian Church. It is believed to be her spirit that leaves impressions on the bed in one of the second-floor bedrooms.

Sources

  • Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Ainsley Hall House. 16 May 1970.
  • Hook, Debra-Lynn B. “Spooky tales of South Carolina.” The State. 31 October 1991.

South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street

South Carolina’s economy has been powered by textiles since the 18th century, so it’s no surprise that the state museum’s largest artifact is the Columbia Mills building that houses the museum itself. Built between 1893 and 1894, the Columbia Mills opened as the first totally electrically powered mill in the world. It remained running until it closed in 1981, and the building was donated to the state.

South Carolina State Museum, 2010, by Abductive. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the mill’s conversion to a museum, a ghost, nicknamed “Bubba,” was reported on the third floor. Witnesses have seen a man in overalls and boots wandering about the exhibits. Two visitors walking towards an elevator saw a man climb on just ahead of them. When they hurried to board the elevator before the doors closed, they discovered an empty car.

Author Tally Johnson posits that up to four spirits may haunt the museum. Johnson encountered one spirit near the museum’s replica of the CSS Hunley. Johnson had accompanied his god-daughter to the museum, and she had gotten away from him. Seeing a man standing near the replica, Johnson asked if he had seen the child. The man did not reply but turned and walked towards the replica where he vanished.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Palmetto State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Johnson, Tally. Civil War Ghosts of South Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Postmortem Press, 2013.
  • Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Columbia Mills Building. Listed 24 May 1982.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Cemetery
1100 Sumter Street

Among the many historic churches in the state of South Carolina, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral ranks among the most important. Sitting just across Sumter Street from the state capitol, the church has had a seat front and center to the panoply of South Carolina’s history. Modeled on York Minster Cathedral, Charleston architect Edward Brickell White designed this edifice in 1840. Construction began in 1845 with additions added throughout the 19th century.

During General Sherman’s occupation of Columbia after its surrender in 1865, fires broke out throughout the city and quickly devoured much of it. The grand statehouse across the street withstood six artillery strikes and was soon alight. While some public buildings were “put to the torch” by Sherman’s troops, there is controversy as to how many of the fires started. Legend holds that to spare the church from destruction, all signs of the church’s Episcopal denomination were removed, and papier mache crosses placed on the roof to disguise the church as Roman Catholic. Supposedly, this spared the church the fate of its neighbors.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2018, by Farragutful. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The church’s cemetery holds the graves of some of South Carolina’s elite of the including three Confederate generals, Wade Hampton I and his son and grandson (who occupied the Hampton-Preston House), poet Henry Timrod and assorted governors. According to Jody Donnelly of Spirits and Spectres of Columbia tours, there are also ghosts under the cemetery’s ancient oaks. He tells a story of a love triangle that ended when one man shot the other. The woman ended up nursing the man who was shot, and they fell madly in love. Both were buried here, but their grave is visited by the specter of the shooter.

Sources

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

A Road of Legend —US-1 in Maryland

Stretching from Key West, the southernmost point in the country to the Canadian border at the St. John River in Fort Kent, Maine, US-1 connects the East Coast. In the South it links together important cities from Miami to Jacksonville, Florida; Augusta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Richmond and Arlington, Virginia; Washington, D. C.; to Baltimore, Maryland before entering into Yankee territory. It also links historic and haunted cities like St. Augustine, Florida; Aiken and Camden, South Carolina; Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria, Virginia before it solemnly passes The Pentagon, with Arlington National Cemetery beyond it, before crossing the Potomac into Washington.

US-1 in Maryland, 2004 by Doug Kerr. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

US-1 may be considered among the most haunted roads in the country. Not only does it directly pass a number of haunted places, but many more can be found within a short drive of this legendary road. This tour samples just a few of the legendary spots found alongside or near this legendary road.

Pig Woman Legend
Cecil County

As US-1 dips south out of Pennsylvania into the countryside of Maryland, it enters Cecil County, the domain of the Pig Woman. According to local folklorist, Ed Okonowicz, the Pig Woman stalks the northern counties of the state as well as the marshes of the Eastern Shore, though the primary setting is usually in Cecil County. Okonowicz’s version of the tale begins near the town of North East where a farmhouse caught fire in the 19th century. The lady of the house was horribly burned in the fire and witnesses watched her flee into the nearby woods. She usually confronts drivers near a certain old bridge and causes cars to stall. The drivers see the specter of the Pig Woman who scratches and beats on the car. Terrified drivers who flee their vehicles are never seen again, though those who stay in their cars are left with horrible memories and odd scratches as well as dents on their vehicles.

This tale has been told around Cecil County for decades with hotspots for Pig Woman encounters being reported around North East, Elkton, and, in the 1960s, near Rising Sun, through which US-1 passes. Matt Lake, author of Weird Maryland, associates this tale with tales from Europe that tell of a woman with a pig-like face, particularly stories that ran rampant in early 19th century London. Despite deep European roots, the Pig Woman Legend remains fairly unique among Southern ghostlore.

Sources

  • Lake, Matt. Weird Maryland. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2005.
  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Wormuth, Laura. “Decoding the Pig Lady of Elkton legend.” 31 October 2013.

Susquehanna River
At the Conowingo Dam
Between Cecil and Harford Counties

 The Conowingo Dam, built between 1926 and 1928, carries US-1 over the Susquehanna River. Only five miles from the Pennsylvania border, this area was rife with activity when the Underground Railroad was in operation before the Civil War. Slaves seeking freedom in Pennsylvania would ply the river at night looking for red lanterns on the riverbanks that marked the safe houses. Slave catchers also used red lanterns to capture contraband slaves only a scant few miles from freedom in order to return them to their owners. Flimsy rafts were often employed here that led to the drowning deaths of some.

1930s era postcard of the Conowingo Dam. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Along the river, the red lights are supposed to bob and dance on the riverbanks even today while the moans of slaves and even spectral bodies floating in the water are encountered by hikers, campers, and fishermen in the area.

Sources

  • Okonowicz, Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2007.
  • Ricksecker, Mike. Ghosts of Maryland. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Peddler’s Run
Flowing parallel to Glen Cove Road and MD-440
Near Dublin

On the western side of the river, one of the tributaries offering up its waters to the Susquehanna is named for a ghost; it’s called Peddler’s Run. As the legend states, in 1763 a poor peddler on the Dublin-Stafford Road (now MD-440) was found decapitated near John Bryarley’s Mill on Rocky Run. Locals buried the body near the creek where it was discovered. Not long after the peddler’s burial, his specter was seen walking along the creek without his head. In 1843 a skull was found by another local farmer. Presuming it to be that of the now legendary peddler, the skull was buried with the traveler’s remains. The peddler’s spirit was not seen again, though his name still graces the creek.

Sources

  • Dublin, Maryland. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 September 2016.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin Press, 1995.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Tudor Hall
17 Tudor Lane
Bel Air

As it hurries towards Baltimore, US-1 passes through the county seat of Harford County, Bel Air. Northeast of downtown is Tudor Hall, the former home of the famous and infamous Booth family. Junius Brutus Booth, one of the greatest American Shakespearian actors of the first half of the 19th century, built this Gothic-style home for his family. In this fine home, Booth’s family were immersed in the family occupation of acting. The halls rang with snippets of Sheridan and Etheredge while family members are supposed to have performed the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet using the balcony on the side of the house. Some of the elder Booth’s children would achieve their own celebrity including his sons Edwin, Junius Brutus Jr., and his daughter, Asia. Booth’s son, John Wilkes, who inherited his father’s fiery personality, would achieve notoriety after he assassinated President Lincoln after the end of the Civil War heaping infamy of Shakespearean proportions on the family name.

As word of Lincoln’s assassination spread, troops began to seek out members of the Booth family. Troops searched Tudor Hall which was still owned by the Booths but being rented to another family. The house passed out of family hands a few years later and has been owned by a host of individuals. Now owned by Harford County, the house is home to the Center for the Arts and is open a few times a month for tours.

Tudor Hall, 1865. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Booth’s legacy has extended from the theatrical realm into the spiritual. The spirits of several Booth family members have been reported throughout the South including John Wilkes Booth’s spirit which may still stalk Ford’s Theatre in Washington and Dr. Mudd’s farm in Waldorf, Maryland, where he was treated for a broken leg after his dastardly deed at the theatre. Legend holds (wrongly so) that Edwin’s dramatic spirit still appears on the stage of Columbus, Georgia’s Springer Opera House where he appeared in the early 1870s as well as in the halls of the Players’ Club in New York City where he died. Junius Brutus Booth’s fiery spirit may still roam the halls of Charleston, South Carolina’s Dock Street Theatre, formerly the Planter Hotel, where he stayed in the 1850s. Appropriately the building was transformed into a theatre in the 1930s.

Of course, the family’s seat in Bel Air may also be haunted by members of the spirited family. One couple who owned the house told the Washington Post in 1980 that they once were greeted by small brown and white pony. The curious creature looked into the couple’s car and then peeked into the house through a rear window. Moments later the creature vanished. The couple believed the animal was the spirit of Junius Booth’s favorite pony, Peacock. The same couple had a dinner party interrupted by spectral antics when a guest asked for seconds. The hosts and their guests were astonished as the top of a cake lifted up and landed at the place of that guest. People who have lived and worked in the house continue to tell stories of unexplained footsteps, voices, and things moving on their own accord with this storied house.

Sources

  • Allen, Bob. “In Maryland, a couple preserves the estate of the ill-starred Booth family.” The Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA). 21 December 1986.
  • Meyer, Eugene L. “House Booth built is slightly spooky.” Washington Post. 10 January 1980.

Perry Hall Mansion
3930 Perry Hall Road
Perry Hall

It is arguable that the namesake of this Baltimore suburb is actually haunted. This grand colonial mansion sat derelict for many years and acquired a reputation of being haunted. The legend that has persisted about this house states that builder of this home and his wife both died on Halloween night in the late 18th century and that in the time since, some 50 other people have died here under mysterious circumstances some of whom still haunt the house. Though, according to the mansion’s website, none of this is true.

Baltimore businessman Harry Dorsey Gough acquired this vast estate in the 1770s and constructed this mansion which he named for his family’s ancestral home in Britain. Gough lived the life of a colonial playboy for a while after Perry Hall was constructed but after a visit to a Methodist meeting in Baltimore, he converted to the new Christian denomination. After distinguishing himself as a planter, businessman and politician, Gough passed away here in May of 1808 (not Halloween as the legend states). The estate remained in the family until 1852 when it began its long journey in the hands of others. Baltimore County acquired the derelict house recently and will be used as a museum and events facility.

In a 2011 article for the Perry Hall Patch Jeffrey Smith, then president of the Friends of Perry Hall Mansion debunked some of the legends around Perry Hall. Using the version of the legend in Matt Lake’s 2006 book, Weird Maryland, Smith breaks down the points of the legend. While there have likely been deaths in the house, the 50 deaths under mysterious circumstances that the legend purports are absurd. Smith notes that the house is hooked up to electricity and lights seen inside may have simply been left on by a previous visitor. Where the legend states that visitors have been unable to capture video of the house is also preposterous. While this house has reasons to be haunted on account of its history, there are no stories to support that assertion.

Sources

  • Coffin, Nelson. “Perry Hall Mansion shuttered while updates considered.” Baltimore Sun. 1 March 2016.
  • History of the Perry Hall Mansion.” Historic Perry Hall Mansion. Accessed 23 September 2016.
  • Lake, Matt. Weird Maryland. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2004.
  • Smith, Jeffery. “Perry Hall’s most renowned and mistaken ghost story.” 31 October 2011.

Green Mount Cemetery
1501 Greenmount Avenue
Baltimore

As US-1 bypasses downtown Baltimore it forms a northern border for this venerated cemetery. After visiting Boston’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, the first “garden cemetery” in the country, Samuel Walker, a Baltimore merchant, began to draw up plans for a similar cemetery to occupy a former estate called Green Mount. Hiring Benjamin Latrobe, architect for the U.S. Capitol Building, to design this park-like cemetery which opened in 1838. In the decades since, the cemetery has become the resting place for famed statesmen, artists, writers, and military figures, as well as the infamous including John Wilkes Booth who is buried with his family.

Gates of Green Mount Cemetery, 2010, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

While numerous articles state that Green Mount is haunted, none of them connect specific stories with this august resting place. However, the cemetery has one very interesting connection to the paranormal, the grave of Elijah Bond, the creator of the Ouija Board. It was not until recently that Bond’s grave was marked, appropriately with a stone engraved with his Ouija board design.

Sources

  • “Baltimore headstones, horrors for a hair-raising, haunted Halloween.” The Towerlight (Towson University). 27 October 2013.
  • History.” Green Mount Cemetery. Accessed 23 September 2016.
  • Oordt, Darcy. Haunted Maryland: Dreadful Dwellings, Spine Chilling Sites, and Terrifying Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2016.

Hilton Mansion
Campus of the Community College of Baltimore County
Catonsville

Hilton 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As US-1 leaves Baltimore it swings by the suburb of Catonsville. According to a 2004 lecture given on the haunts of Catonsville, community college faculty held contests to select a member to attempt to spend the night in this haunted mansion. Some encountered the sword-wielding Confederate soldier who is supposed to guard the home’s main staircase. Author Tom Ogden notes that the apparition of a woman wearing a nightgown and holding a candle has also been encountered here. The house dates to the early 19th century, though the interior was completely replaced in the early 20th century. The home now serves as the college’s Center for Global Education.

Sources

  • Hagner-Salava, Melodie. “’Spirited’ talk evokes ghosts of Catonsville’s past.” Catonsville Times. 4 March 2004.
  • Ogden, Tom. Haunted Colleges and Universities: Creepy Campuses Scary Scholars and Deadly Dorms. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2014.

Historic Savage Mill
8600 Foundry Street
Savage

Located between Baltimore and Laurel, Savage, Maryland is a quiet, unincorporated community on the banks of the Little Patuxent River. Downtown Savage lies between busy I-95 and slightly less busy US-1. The community was created as a mill town providing employees for the Savage Manufacturing Company’s textile mill which was constructed in the 1820s. The mill was in operation for more than a hundred years before it closed just after World War II. The old mill complex was used for the manufacture of Christmas ornaments for a few years before it was purchased for use as a warehouse. In 1985, the mill was reopened as a venue for boutiques, restaurants, and antiques dealers.

Aerial view of Savage Mill and the Little Patuxent River, 1970, by William E. Barrett for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The mill has since become one of the driving forces for tourism to the area drawing more than a million people in 2010, but not all those people are attracted by shopping and attractions at the mill, some are brought because of the ghosts. The owners of the mill started ghost tours in the mid-2000s to capitalize on the ghost stories surrounding the mill complex.

Throughout the mill complex, spirits of former millworkers still linger. Merchants and patrons of the mill have heard their names called, been tripped by the puckish little girl’s spirit on the steps of the New Weave Building, seen faces at the windows, or perhaps encountered the spirit of Rebecca King who fell down the steps in the mill’s tower.

Sources

  • Alexander, Sandy. “Using the supernatural to sell Howard County.” Baltimore Sun. 4 October 2004.
  • “Ghostly history.” Washington Times. 23 October 2004.
  • Hoo, Winyan Soo. “At Maryland’s Savage Mill, history and commerce converge.” Washington Post. 28 April 2016.

St. John’s Episcopal Church
11040 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville

Like a moralizing parent looking over wild children, St. John’s Episcopal Church presides over the sprawl of US-1 (known as Baltimore Avenue here) as it passes through Beltsville. During the Civil War this commanding site featured a Federal artillery battery. The wife of a rector here in the 1970s recorded a number of experiences with spirits both in the church and in the churchyard. One evening while the wife and her children picked flowers in the churchyard they were startled to hear the sounds of a service coming from the church. After intently listening, the family entered the sanctuary to find it darkened and empty.

Sources

  • Carter, Dennis. “Hunting for haunts.” The Gazette. 25 October 2007.

Tawes Fine Arts Building
Campus of the University of Maryland
College Park

Moving south out of Beltsville, US-1 passes through College Park and the University of Maryland Campus. Though no longer home to the Department of Theatre, the Tawes Fine Arts Building retains its theatre and recital hall. The current home to the university’s English department, the building may still also retain its resident spook. Not long after the building’s opening in 1965, students began noticing the sound of footsteps in the empty theatre and would occasionally have mischievous jokes played on them, seemingly from beyond.

With quite a population of resident ghosts on campus, the university archivists have started documenting the stories. According to one of the archivists quoted in Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola’s Ghosthunting Maryland, Mortimer, Tawes’ ghost, may actually be a dog rather than a human spirit. According to campus lore, Mortimer was brought into the theatre during its construction and would frolic on the stage. The theatre’s seats had yet to be completely installed and the house was filled with metal frames the seats would be attached to. The frolicsome canine jumped from the stage into the house and impaled himself on one of the frames. Supposedly, he was buried in the building’s basement.

Sources

  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA, Stackpole, 2010.
  • Tawes TheatreWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 5 April 2013.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Bladensburg Dueling Ground
Bladensburg Road and 38th Street
Colmar Manor

When Washington outlawed dueling within the limits of the district, the hotheaded politicians and gentlemen of the district needed a place to “defend their honor.” They chose a little spot of land just outside the district in what is now Colmar Manor, Maryland. The activities at the dueling ground provided the name for the nearby waterway, Dueling Creek or Blood Run, now blandly called Eastern Branch. When the city of Colmar Manor was established in 1927, the city used dueling imagery on its town crest including a blood red background, a pair of dueling pistols and crossed swords.

Senators, legislators and military heroes are among the hundred or so men who dueled at this place in some fifty duels that are known and countless others that took place at this spot. Commodore Stephen Decatur was killed here in a duel with Commodore James Barron in 1820 and Representative John Cilley of Maine, who knew little of firearms, died here after combat in 1838 with Representative William Graves of Kentucky. The spirit of Stephen Decatur has been seen here along with other dark, shadowlike spirits that still stalk the old dueling grounds. The bloody grounds are now a park that stands silently amid the roaring sprawl of suburbia.

Sources

  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Taylor, Troy. “The Bladensburg Dueling Grounds, Bladensburg, Maryland.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Rending the veil—Historic Preservation in Alabama

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom…
— St. Matthew 27:51 (KJV)

One of Eufaula’s magnificent mansions seen through the veil of trees of North Eufaula Avenue. Photo 2014 by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Frequent travelers on Alabama Highway 431 know the short section that passes through north Eufaula as a verdant meditation, a brief respite from the normal hustle of this four lane highway. For about a quarter mile, the road narrows from four to two lanes; the speed limit drops while ancient oaks spread their branches over the road, and historic homes keep watch from the sides. Travelers throughout north Georgia and Alabama know this lush drive, called North Eufaula Avenue, as they head towards the Florida Panhandle. Movie-goers may recognize this street from the Reese Witherspoon film, Sweet Home Alabama. In the film, the lead character drives down this historic roadway on the way to her Alabama home.

Historic preservationists often talk about the “historical fabric” which includes the concrete things that actually make up a historic structure, but also the things surrounding a structure that help to provide a complete historical picture, or context, if you will. Within a historic district this may include outbuildings, the roads and streets, sidewalks and other fixtures, plantings and the arboreal canopy. North Eufaula Avenue and its trees are a major feature of the historic fabric of the Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District, which encompasses the residential neighborhoods to the north and west of Eufaula’s downtown.

The Alabama Department of Transportation is ramping up to rend part of the fabric of North Eufaula Avenue, considered by many to be the most iconic street in the city, if not the whole state. In an effort to ease occasional congestion on Highway 431—proponants argue that the congestion only occurs a few times a year—the DOT has decided to expand the two lanes to four through the historic district. This will require the destruction of part of the median and the removal of a few trees as well as trimming the arboreal canopy. Aside from this minor destruction to the physical fabric, the construction would cause some drastic changes to the aesthetics and spiritual fabric of the district.

Quite simply, the increased traffic will destroy the quiet beauty of the district. But there’s also the possibility that the spiritual fabric of the district may be harmed. In cities ranging from New Orleans, Louisiana to Savannah, Georgia to Frederick, Maryland and Williamsburg, Virginia—places where the historical fabric is very much intact—there often seem to be many ghosts. Perhaps the ghosts remain because the historical fabric has not been disturbed. While documentation for Eufaula’s spirited side is sorely lacking, there is one documented haunting on North Eufaula Avenue. The grand SHORTER MANSION (340 North Eufaula Avenue) has graced this lovely street since 1884, though it was remodeled into its current form starting in 1901.

The Shorter Mansion, 2014. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Considered an outstanding example of neoclassical architecture, the house remained in the politically prominent Shorter family until 1965 when it was purchased by the Eufaula Heritage Association which has operated the house as a museum, memorial and events facility since. The house has been used frequently for weddings and it is in some of the wedding photos taken here that two spirits are purported to appear, though the man in the top hat and the woman in pink have also made some rare appearances in person as well. In one case, a staff member encountered the woman in pink and spoke to her in the parlor. The staff member turned away from the woman for a moment and turned back to her to find she had disappeared.

In 2007, Southern Paranormal Researchers, a paranormal investigation organization out of Montgomery, investigated the house. In their investigation report they note that there is other activity that has been witnessed within the house including phantom smells, items being moved and a feeling of being watched. Over the course of two investigations, the investigators had a few personal experiences including hearing “loud laughing” and banging in the next room. A possible apparition was observed as well as shadow figures. The investigators concluded that the house had residual energy manifesting itself, though there is the possibility of an intelligent spirit at work here as well.

While the activity at the Shorter Mansion is the only documented paranormal activity on North Eufaula Avenue, I imagine there is activity in many of the other graceful structures along the avenue. It is accepted in the paranormal community that renovation and remodeling can stir up activity, though it may also eventually lead to a decrease. Certainly, the activity from cities that have lost much of their historic fabric is decreased, witness Southern cities like Atlanta, which has little-reported activity from its core.

A sign advertising the Eufaula Pilgrimage in the median in front of the Shorter Mansion, 2014. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The battle of North Eufaula Avenue is turning into a David and Goliath type fight. The city government, citizens and supporters of historic preservation have taken a stand against the state DOT and the Governor, who has come out in support of the road widening. Walking down North Eufaula Avenue just last month, I observed that nearly every house had signs against the widening prominently displayed. But the saddest sight seemed to be a large sign advertising the Eufaula Pilgrimage that is held annually in the spring. As if to rub in the destruction, the DOT originally scheduled the widening to be completed by the start of the pilgrimage.

One of the many anti-widening signs lining North Eufaula Avenue, 2014. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Proponents of the widening have tried to stop or at least put the construction on hold through legal means. A lawsuit in federal court was dismissed just before the new year because the federal government is not involved in this battle. The judge suggested that the heart of the matter is really who owns the median of North Eufaula Avenue. Just yesterday (January 2), the mayor and members of the city council voted to not sue the state over the median’s ownership. It now appears that barring any further delays, Eufaula’s verdant veil will be rent beginning on Monday.

While the fate of North Eufaula Avenue looks bleak, another historic and haunted Alabama site appears to be off the chopping block. The future of Prattville’s landmark PRATT COTTON GIN (Bridge Street) building has been up in the air for a few years. The huge mill complex, which provides a background for downtown Prattville, has been abandoned since 2011. Recently, developers have taken an interest in the buildings, some wishing to demolish the buildings for their brick and wood while others have bandied the idea of renovating the mill into residential lofts.

One of the old entrances to the building now locked within the more modern structure. Photo 1997, by Jet Lowe for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

On Monday, the mill complex was sold on the courthouse steps to the Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority, which will immediately begin to stabilize the buildings and begin creating a plan to reuse the old mill. The HPRA purchased five large mill buildings constructed between 1843 and 1912, some 40 acres of mill property, the millpond, and a few spirits.

Downtown Prattville with the Daniel Pratt Cotton Gin in the background. Photo 2010 by Spyder_Monkey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Before the advent of child labor laws, mills throughout the country employed young children. Often lacking safety policies and devices, millworkers were sometimes seriously injured or killed. At some point in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, sources do not provide a date, a young boy named Willie Youngblood was killed in one of the mill buildings. After his death, a woman was observed near the mill clad in black. Legend says that she threw herself off the mill dam.

The Pratt Cotton Gin with the mill dam in the foreground. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, 1974 for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Believed to be the spirit of Willie’s mother, the darkly dressed figure has been seen by millworkers for decades. Recently, the mill buildings were investigated as part of the SyFy Channel show, Deep South Paranormal. While the team was able to capture some evidence during their investigation, the most impressive evidence was video of a black-clad figure walking on the mill dam. Perhaps the veiled figure won’t be rent from her nightly dam walk by the mill’s renovation.

Sources