Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—Charleston Environs

N.B. This article was originally published 13 May 2015 as a single, massive article. It’s now broken up into three sections, South of Broad, North of Broad, and Charleston Environs, which have all been rearranged and revised for ease of use.

Known as the “Holy City” for the number of churches and raise their steeples above the city, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its architecture, colonial and antebellum opulence, as well as its haunted places. This tour looks at the highlights among Charleston’s legends and ghostlore.

The city of Charleston as seen from one of Fort Sumter’s gun ports. The steeple in the center is St. Philip’s Church, while the one at the right is St. Michael’s. Photo 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Broad Street cuts across the Charleston peninsula creating a dividing line between the most historic, moneyed, aristocratic portion of the city—located south of Broad—and everything else. For convenience, this tour is now divided into separate articles covering the area South of Broad, North of Broad, and the Environs. Locales in this article include places open to the public as well as private homes. For these private homes, please respect the privacy of the occupants, and simply view them from the street.

Angel Oak Park
3688 Angel Oak Road
John’s Island

Considered one of the oldest living things on the East Coast, it is hard to not feel the benevolent energy emanating from this mighty tree. There is evidence that this tree has served as a meeting spot for Native Americans, slaves, and slave owners whose spirits still remain among the massive branches. See my article, “A spiritual treasure—Angel Oak,” for a further examination..

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
US-17 over the Cooper River

Rising over the old buildings of Charleston is the majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the third longest cable-stay bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant, this bridge replaced two bridges, the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge which opened in 1929, and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge which opened in 1966.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The John P. Grace Memorial Bridge was the scene of a terrible accident in 1946. A drifting cargo ship rammed the bridge ripping a 240-foot section. As the ship destroyed a section of the bridge a green Oldsmobile with a family of five was traveling over. The car dropped into the water killing the family. The bridge was repaired and continued to be used for many years, though there were reports of an odd green Oldsmobile seen on the bridge with a family of five inside, all staring straight ahead with lifeless eyes. Since the bridge’s demolition, the sightings of the car have stopped.

Sources

  • Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • John P. Grace Memorial Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.

Drayton Hall
3380 Ashley River Road

Of all the great homes in Charleston, perhaps no house is described with as many superlatives, and deservedly so, than Drayton Hall. The form nominating this structure to the National Register of Historic Places describes it as “without question, one of the finest of all surviving plantation houses in America.” The house remains in a remarkable state of preservation, having changed little since its construction in 1738.

Drayton Hall, 2007, by Goingstuckey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to Ed Macy and Geordie Buxton’s Haunted Charleston, a psychic visiting this home in 2000 saw the bodies of four men dangling from the branches of the majestic oaks that line the approach to the house from the Ashley River. She stated that these men had been hung on orders from William Henry Drayton for their fealty to George III, during the American Revolution. Drayton’s spirit may also be among the spirits still wafting about this estate. Docents and visitors have reported seeing a man peering from the windows of the house and walking the avenue of oaks.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Dillon, James. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Drayton Hall. August 1976.

Fort Sumter
Charleston Harbor

Fort Sumter’s sally port with tourists beyond. Photo 2012, by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired here when Confederates led an attack on this Union occupied fort in Charleston Harbor. Interestingly, no one was killed in the initial bombardment. After the surrender, the Union commander, Major Robert Anderson, asked that his men be allowed to perform a 100-gun salute to the American flag before it was lowered. During that salute a pile of cartridges exploded wounding six men, two of whom died later of their injuries. One of those men, Private Daniel Hough, is believed to return as a smoky form. His visage can be seen in the flag of the Palmetto Guard that was raised in the flag’s place. The flag is now displayed in the fort’s museum.

Sources

  • Battle of Fort Sumter.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Carolinas. NYC: Sterling, 2007.
  • Zepke, Terrence. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

USS Yorktown—Patriot’s Point
40 Patriot’s Point Road
Mount Pleasant

Just days before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the keel of this fighting lady was laid. Just two years later, in 1943, this grand grey lady entered service. She fought in the Pacific during World War II and the Vietnam War. Since the ship’s retirement in 1973, and its donation to Patriot’s Point, guests and staff have had numerous paranormal experiences. See my article, “The Grand ‘Fighting Lady’—Photos from the USS Yorktown,” for further information and sources.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Louisiana

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, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library
Nicholls State University Campus
Thibodaux

Nicholls State University opened originally as Francis T. Nicholls Junior College of Louisiana State University in 1948. Eight years later, the school became a separate entity from LSU and developed a four-year curriculum. While the school is relatively young among schools in Louisiana, the campus has proven to be especially paranormally active. Perhaps the echoes of the 1887 Thibodaux massacre, a protest by African-American farm workers in the area which turned violent when whites began to hunt down and kill organizers and participants, may be to blame for this.

The Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library is one of many campus buildings with reported paranormal activity. According to Point of Vue Houma magazine, the spirit of a girl has been seen wandering the floors of Ellender Library. An article in My New Orleans magazine provides the description of the experience a janitor had one night after hearing footsteps coming from a locked librarian’s office. Moments later he watched as a girl with a bookbag, clad in a mini-skirt and with waist-length brown hair, walked through a wall and vanished. Near the spot where the janitor had his encounter, a student later caught a brief video of a shadowy form crossing the room and vanishing.

Sources

  • Frois, Jeanne. “School spirits in Thibodaux.” My New Orleans. October 2012.
  • “Local haunts: Fact or Fiction?” Point of Vue Houma. 30 September 2015.

Eunice Public Library
222 South Second Street
Eunice

Staff of the Eunice Public Library believe that a spirit may be haunting the building. See my article, “Louisiana Noteworthy Haunts—6/3/2014,” for further information.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
3201 Centenary Boulevard
Shreveport

While the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is more a museum and less a library, I think it still deserves to be listed here. This museum is one of twelve throughout the country that have been established to display documents from the Karpeles Manuscript Library, one of the largest collections of documents and manuscripts in the world. The collection was created by businessman David Karpeles and his wife and contains many notable historical documents including drafts of the Bill of Rights, the Confederate Constitution, Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, and letters from Christopher Columbus.

The Shreveport location is housed within a structure that was constructed as the First Church of Christ, Scientist in the 1920s. The museum has been housed in the old church for roughly 15 years. During that time, museum staff and visitors have had a number of odd experiences including seeing shadow-like apparitions, smelling odd odors, having objects manipulated and moved by unseen hands, and have been touched by or feeling the presence of spirits. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, the state’s most prominent paranormal investigation organization, investigated the building on three separate occasions during 2013, though results were mostly inconclusive.

Sources

Milton H. Latter Memorial Library
5120 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans

When Hurricane Katrina roared into New Orleans in 2005, some believe that the Latter Memorial Library was spared damage by the diminutive spirit of a former silent film star. Indeed, since the library’s opening in 1948, visitors and staff have seen a “woman-child” spirit, as well as smelling the odor of exotic perfume, and witnessing lights mysteriously flickering within the Italianate mansion.

Milton Latter Public Library New Orleans Louisiana haunted ghost
Marguerite Clark’s former St. Charles Avenue Mansion, now the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the heyday of silent film, Marguerite Clark was second only to “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford in the hearts of moviegoing Americans. The child-like star gained her popularity first on the New York stage, then on film in 1914. At the height of her fame in 1921, she retired from entertainment to live with her husband in their New Orleans mansion (which now houses this library). Clark’s husband was killed in a plane crash in 1938, and the widow moved to New York where she died in 1940. Due to the loss of many of Clark’s films her fame has been overshadowed by other actresses whose films have survived.

Sources

Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center
315 North Main Street
Opelousas

The building housing the Opelousas Museum has a long and interesting past. It was built in 1935 to house a funeral home and has since hosted a church and the city’s library for about a year. With such a history, and its current use as a repository for relics of the city’s past, there’s little surprise that the building is haunted. Doors open and close by themselves, loud noises issue from empty rooms, and several visitors have sensed such bad vibes that they stop at the museum’s door and refuse to enter.

Sources

Encounter at Plant Hall–Tampa, Florida

Plant Hall—Universityof Tampa
401 West Kennedy Boulevard

Tampa, Florida

Several years ago, I wrote about Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. Originally constructed by Henry Plant as the grand Tampa Bay Hotel, this whimsical edifice had trouble turning a profit, and sold to the city of Tampa. In 1933, the building was converted for use as the University of Tampa, which remains its use today.

About a year after I posted the article, I received an anonymous comment telling a chilling story. This has been edited for clarity.

Several years ago, my husband and I were vacationing and visiting my sister in Florida. On one afternoon we were looking for something to do and my sister suggested we check out the Plant Museum in Tampa. My husband knew I loved architecture and especially grand,old, buildings. I was very excited.

We went in and began walking around. I could just imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. I saw the grand staircase and couldn’t help but walk up several flights ahead of my husband. Then I came to a strange hallway that seemed out of place and as I started walking down the hallway, I felt uncomfortable and I felt just a little bit cold (I thought probably because of all the windows). I felt I had gone to a part of the building that was off-limits to the public and decided to turn back.

A curving corridor. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

My husband was still on the first floor. As I headed toward the top of the stairway of the third-floor landing, I felt that there was a young girl in a long, white dress nearby. I think I sensed her on the way up too, but I thought I must have quite a vivid imagination and tossed it aside.

Then I reached the top of the stairway and looked down the 3 flights and I heard a man whisper, “Go ahead, why don’t you just jump?” I ignored it and heard it again. “Why don’t you just jump?” This scared the hell out of me.

A grand staircase inside Plant Hall. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

The railing I was clutching now seemed so flimsy and low to my body that I could easily fall right over. I felt dizzy and very frightened. I held the railing deliberately and I kept my grip all the way down until I made my way back to my husband. I told him, “I want to leave this place, now!”

In the car, on the way back to my sister’s house, I explained what happened.

This experience has stayed with me for years even though I have put it out of my mind. Recently I saw something on TV today that reminded me of it again. That’s when I decided to look up the history of the Plant Museum and found this web site with the two things I remembered most; the grand stairway and that cold corridor. Does anyone know if, in the history of the hotel, did a young girl, maybe 12-14 years old, fall to her death there? Or commit suicide?

While I cannot validate any of this, especially since the commenter is anonymous, it seems to ring true to me.

Several years ago, I visited Tampa. While I strolled downtown with my partner, I suddenly was greeted with the sight of minarets poking up through the tree canopy across the river. The sight stopped me in my tracks. Just the way that I imagine Henry Plant planned it.

The minarets of Henry Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall, rises above the Hillsborough River across from downtown Tampa. Photo 2014 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The battlefield ghosts of Blue Licks–Kentucky

Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park
10299 Maysville Road
Carlisle
 

Located on the Licking River, the Lower Blue Licks were a mineral spring and salt lick where immense herds of buffalo gathered before they were driven from the area. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 ended fighting in the east, the British and loyal Native Americans continued fighting in the west, particularly in western Virginia, the area that is now West Virginia and Kentucky. After British troops under the leadership of Captain William Caldwell and a contingent of Native Americans unsuccessfully laid siege to the settlement of Bryan Station, on August 19, 1782 they attempted to lure a small militia led by Colonel John Todd (an ancestor of first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln) and famed frontiersman, Lt. Col. Daniel Boone.

The remains of a buffalo path at the Blue Licks Battlefield, 2009. Photo by Mason Brock, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Though the leaders of the patriot militia suspected they were being led into an ambush, Major Hugh McGary mounted his horse and stubbornly rode into the enemy trap. A 15-minute battle commenced killing Col. Todd and Lt. Col. Stephen Trigg and many of their men. Only Boone’s small force was left on the battlefield and, after he ordered a retreat, his son Israel was shot in the neck and killed. The death of Boone’s son and his defeat at Blue Licks would haunt him for the rest of his life.

During the 19th century, the springs attracted visitors wishing to take advantage of the mineral water found in the springs here. The Great Depression brought the construction of a Pioneer Museum here and lodge.

A monument at the Blue Licks Battlefield, 2010. Photo by SuzRstamps, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The multiple layers of a history here have left a varied group of ghosts throughout the park. Campers have encountered a mysterious black-clad woman who appears by campfires to warm her hands. Others have experienced Native American spirits and spectral British soldiers. The founder of the park’s museum was buried next to the building and is known to continue welcoming guests to his museum. Within the park’s lodge, the doors of the dining room are reported to open and close on their own accord.

Sources

  • Battle of Blue Licks. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 April 2018.
  • Morgan, Robert. Boone: A Biography. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2008.
  • Ross, Denita. “Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park’s First Ever Paranormal Weekend.” Fantasma: Kentucky’s Magazine of the Paranormal. Fall 2006.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Haunted Virginia, Briefly Noted

Virginia possesses a vast history; subsequently, it could be described as one of the most paranormally active states in the country. This is a selection of some of the more interesting hauntings throughout the Old Dominion.

Aquia Church
2938 Jefferson Davis Highway
Stafford

Aquia Church , photograph taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

As with many of Virginia’s great landmarks, Aquia Church has a ghost story attached. The legend tells of a young woman murdered in this National Historic Landmark church at some time in the eighteenth century and her body hidden in belfry. Accordingly, her spirit descends from the belfry at night and has been witnessed by many over the centuries. One caretaker also spoke of seeing shadowy figures among the tombstones in the graveyard. The current Aquia Church building was built in 1751 and destroyed by fire just before the construction was complete. Using the remaining brick walls, the church was rebuilt in 1757.

Sources

  • Driggs, Sarah S., John S. Salmon and Calder C. Loth. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Aquia Church. Listed 12 November 1969.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1993.

Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Island

In terms of books documenting the spiritual residents of the state, Virginia has an embarrassment of riches. Marguerite DuPont Lee can be noted as one of the first authors to document many of Virginia’s ghosts in her 1930 book, Virginia Ghosts. More recently, L.B. Taylor, Jr. has published some 22 volumes covering the state. Most recently, Michael J. Varhola published his marvelous Ghosthunting Virginia and it is that book that documents the haunting surrounding the Assateague Island and its lighthouse.

Assateague Lighthouse, 2007, by DCwom, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Assateague Island is a barrier island along the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Much of the island is now Assateague Island National Seashore with parts of Assateague State Park and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The island is famous for its feral horses, descendants of the horses aboard the Spanish ship, La Galga, which wrecked just off the island in 1720. It is said the spirits of the humans who died in the wreck still comb the beach near the Assateague Lighthouse. The lighthouse, constructed in 1866 and first lit the following year to replace an earlier lighthouse from 1831, may also have some spiritual activity related to it. Varhola cites a National Park Service employee who tells of the door to the lighthouse being found mysteriously unlocked.

Sources

  • Assateague Island. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Assateague Lighthouse. December 1972.

Bacon’s Castle
465 Bacon’s Castle Trail
Surry

Bacon’s Castle, 2006, by Yellowute, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bacon’s castle ranks highly on a number of lists. It’s described as the only Jacobean house in America and one of three in the Western Hemisphere; one of the oldest buildings in the state of Virginia and the oldest brick home in the United States. Indeed, it may be one of the oldest haunted houses in the US as well. Researchers in 1999 dated tree rings on some of the home’s beams and determined the house was constructed around 1665. Originally called Allen’s Brick House, the house acquired its current name during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 when some of Nathaniel Bacon’s supporters took over the house. The house, which has survived and witnessed centuries of American history, is now a house museum.

As for the ghosts, this house may possess many. The final private owner of the house, Mrs. Charles Walker Warren, told many tales of the house involving doors opening and closing by themselves and footsteps that were heard. Certainly, the most well-known phenomena regarding Bacon’s Castle is the red fireball that has been seen rising from the house and disappearing in the churchyard of Old Lawne’s Creek Church nearby.

Sources

  • Barisic, Sonja. “Houses’ ‘Bones’ Yield Secrets of Its History.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch. 19 December 1999.
  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Melvin, Frank S. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Bacon’s Castle. Listed 15 October 1966.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1983.
  • Tucker, George. “Ghosts Long A Part of the Lore of Bacon’s Castle.” The (Norfolk, VA) Virginian-Pilot. 9 November 1998.

Belle Isle
Richmond

Originally called Broad Rock Island, Belle Isle was used for mostly industrial purposes in the nineteenth century. Mills, quarries and a nail factory appeared on the tranquil island in the James River. Notoriety came to the island in 1862 with the opening of a Confederate prisoner of war camp that was as notorious as Georgia’s dreaded Andersonville and with a huge influx of prisoners, the camp quickly descended into squalor. Prisoners lived in tents that provide little insulation from the bitter cold of Virginia winters or the heat of the summer sun and were offered little in the way of food. By 1865, most of the prisoners had been shipped to prison camps throughout the South and the island was returned to its more tranquil use as the site of a nail factory. The Old Dominion Iron and Nail works operated on the island until it closed in 1972 and many of its buildings demolished. The island became a park around that same time and has been a popular spot for hiking and jogging.

Belle Isle, 2012, by Morgan Riley, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Still, remnants of the island’s past linger: the site of the prison camp is marked but little else remains while there are ruins of some of the old industrial buildings. Indeed, spirits from the islands past may also linger. There are reports from island visitors of shadow people, hearing footsteps on the trail behind them, lights in the woods at night and photographic anomalies. Author and investigator Beth Brown in her Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts conducted an investigation and picked up an EVP of a male voice clearly saying, “Where are we?”

Sources

  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Dutton, David and John Salmon. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Belle Isle. Listed 17 March 1995.

Michie Tavern
683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

My first introduction to the Michie Tavern came through the eyes of paranormal researcher and writer Hans Holzer. Among some of the first books about ghosts I read were some of Holzer’s books and I still vividly remember reading of some of his investigations. For his books, he traveled the world with a psychic medium in tow investigating haunted and historical locations such as the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City and the famous house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, the basis for the “Amityville Horror.” On his travels through Virginia he visited the Michie Tavern and nearby Monticello and was able, through his medium Ingrid, to find spirits still partying in the ballroom of this 1784 tavern. Staff members have reported the sounds of a party in that very room late at night.

Sources

  • Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
  • Michie Tavern. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.

Monticello
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Monticello, 2013, by Martin Falbisoner, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1928, a Charlottesville preservationist purchased the Michie Tavern, an 18th century tavern in nearby Earlysville and moved it near to Thomas Jefferson’s “little mountain,” Monticello. Jefferson, perhaps one of the country’s most brilliant, enigmatic and creative presidents, designed and built his home over many years at the end of the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. Over the years that the house has been open as a museum, there have been a few reports of phantom footsteps and other minor incidents including the occasional sound of someone cheerfully humming.

Sources

  • Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
  • Monticello. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.

Octagon House (Abijah Thomas House)
631 Octagon House Road
Marion

Octagon House, 2007, by RegionalGirl137, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In a state of magnificently preserved historical homes, it is surprising to find a magnificent architectural gem like the Abijah Thomas House standing forlornly unrestored.  Neglect and vandalism by teenagers out for a “scare” have also taken their toll on this home. The octagon house style found prominence in the middle of the nineteenth century and currently only a few hundred to a few thousand (sources differ) survive. This particular house, described in its National Register of Historic Places nomination form as “the finest example in Virginia of a 19th-century octagonal house,” also has a number of legends about it. According to Michael Varhola, the internet is full of these legends that seem scary but are unlikely to be true. Certainly, this old house is creepy in its deteriorated state, but it really needs a professional investigation.

Sources

  • Octagon houses. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Abijah Thomas House. Listed 28 November 1980.

Old ’97 Crash Site
Route 58 and Riverside Drive
Danville

It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And a line on a three mile grade.
It’s on that grade that he lost his airbrakes.
You see what a jump he made.
— “Wreck of the Old ‘97” first recorded by G.B. Grayson and Henry Whittier

The wreck of the Old ’97, 1903.

On September 27, 1903, the No. 97 “Fast Mail” train jumped its track on the Stillhouse Trestle in Danville and plunged some 75 feet into the ravine. The train’s engineer, who was rushing to get to Spencer, North Carolina on time, tried to slow the train as it approached the trestle, but the train did not slow. Of the 18 souls aboard, 10, including the engineer were killed. Not long after the crash stories emerged of people seeing odd lights in the ravine where the crash occurred. Even after the trestle was removed and the ravine was filled with growth, the lights are still said to appear.

Sources

  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Wreck of the Old 97. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.

Rosewell
5113 Old Rosewell Lane
Gloucester

Rosewell ruins, 2002, by Agadant, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The magnificent main house at Rosewell burned in 1916, but it is hardly a distant memory. The brick wall still stands, and archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of items that were inside the house during the fire. Construction began in 1725 and the house was completed in 1738 for the powerful Page family. The power of the Page family extended into the nineteenth century and included friendships with people such as Thomas Jefferson who legend says drafted the Declaration of Independence within the walls of Rosewell. The ruins have been preserved as a historic site and still attract visitors and spirits. An old legend speaks of a woman in red seen running down the remains of the house’ front stairs with the sound of slaves singing has also been heard.

Sources

  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.

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

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part IV

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.

Geneva County

“Big Oak”
Robert Fowler Memorial Park
South River Street
Geneva

Big Oak, 2006, by AlabamaGuy2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Before the establishment of Geneva County, early settlers gathered under the massive, leafy branches of what is now known as the Big Oak or Constitution Oak. This live oak’s age and size have led to its inclusion in the list of Alabama Famous and Historic Trees. Supposedly the huge branches of the tree have been used for hangings and the spirits of those who died here may continue to haunt this location.

Sources

Greene County

Oakmont Bed & Breakfast
107 Pickens Street
Eutaw

As workers were working on the restoration of Oakmont, a spirit in the house wanted more heat. After continuing to find a heater on in the home, construction workers taped the control knob so that the heat could not be turned on. However, the spirit thought otherwise and turned the heat on again.

Built in 1908 as a wedding gift for Mary Elizabeth and Charles Alexander Webb, it was not until Oakmont began the transformation into a bed & breakfast that the owners discovered that they might have to share the house with spirits. After the restoration, numerous spectral sounds began to be heard including tremendous crashes and disembodied footsteps. It doesn’t appear that this bed and breakfast is open any longer.

Sources

  • Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill Publishers, 2003.

Hale County

Moundville Archaeological Park
634 Mound State Parkway
Moundville

Between approximately 1120 C.E. and 1450 C.E., Moundville was the site of a large city inhabited by the Mississippian people, predecessors to the tribes that the Europeans would encounter when they began exploring the South about a century later. At its height, this town was probably home to nearly 1,000 inhabitants. Stretching to 185 acres, the town had 29 mounds of various sizes and uses: some were ceremonial while others were topped with the homes of the elite.

Visitors and staff have often mentioned a certain energy emanating from this site. A Cherokee friend of mine visited and while atop one of the mounds let out a traditional Cherokee war cry. Afterward, he noted that there was a palpable change in the energy. Dennis William Hauck speaks of the “powerful spirit of an ancient race” that “permeates this 317-acre site” in his Haunted Places: The National Directory. Southern Paranormal Researchers notes that park staff has witnessed shadow figures, odd noises, and doors opening and closing by themselves in the buildings on the site. Higdon and Talley add orbs and cold spots found throughout the location to the list of paranormal activity here.

Sources

  • Blitz, John H. “Moundville Archaeological Park.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 26 February 2007.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. Paranormal Investigation Report for Moundville Archaeological Park. 10 February 2007.

Henry County

Legend of Huggin’ Molly
Abbeville

For over a century, a legend has dwelled in the dark streets of Abbeville: the legend of Huggin’ Molly. This specter is thought to target children on the streets after dark. Most versions describe Molly as a large woman who prowls the dark streets in search of children walking alone. After pursuing a child, she would embrace them and scream in their ear. Most sources agree that this tale was perhaps created to frighten small children and keep them from staying out too late, though the story has remained. In fact, a restaurant named after the legendary figure has recently opened.

Sources

  • Legend of Huggin’ Molly.” Huggin’ Molly’s Restaurant. Accessed 13 July 2015.
  • Smith, Michelle. Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Houston County

Columbia Manor
306 South Main Street
Columbia

During the Halloween season, this unassuming white frame house is home to nightmares of the fictional kind. However, this house is home to real nightmares as well. Built in 1864, this home has served several uses including serving as a hospital and later a sanitarium for those suffering from pellagra, a severe vitamin deficiency.

Following renovations to transform the house into a haunted attraction, the spirits have begun to act out. The owner of the house told the producers of the BIO Channel show, My Ghost Story, about tools that would go missing only to be found in their original location a short time later, mysterious footsteps, and the shade of an older gentleman that the owner and another volunteer saw standing in the house. He also mentioned the swinging of a chandelier in the foyer which a paranormal investigator has linked to the suicide by hanging of a nurse there.

Sources

  • “Enter at your own risk; they dare you.” Dothan Eagle. 18 August 2014.
  • “Haunting Columbia Manor.” Dothan Eagle. 19 October 2013.
  • My Ghost Story, Episode 3.3. Biography Channel. 29 October 2011. 

Jackson County

Russell Cave National Monument
3728 CR-98
Bridgeport

One of the most significant archaeological sites in the state, Russell Cave has revealed evidence that this site has been in use by humans for at least 8,000 years. That evidence includes human remains, pottery shards, spear points, arrowheads, and charcoal from ancient fires. The remains of various animals, including some prehistoric species, have also been unearthed here.

Entrance to Russell Cave, 2014, by Fredlyfish4. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Within the cave, some visitors have experienced an uneasy feeling, sometimes even sensing ghostly presences while others have heard spectral sounds and seen apparitions. With thousands of years of human occupation, it’s no surprise that spirits remain here.

Sources

  • Kidd, Jessica Fordham. “Russell Cave.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 22 September 2010.
  • Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

Jefferson County

Bessemer Hall of History Museum
1905 Alabama Avenue
Bessemer

While the Bessemer Hall of History Museum displays an eclectic mix of items from Bessemer’s past, including a cell door from the local jail where Martin Luther King, Jr. was brie y incarcerated, it appears that a former exhibit may still be haunting this building. For many years, the museum displayed the mummy of a local woman who had taken her life in 1906. Hazel Farris had shot and killed her husband during a domestic incident at their home in Louisville, Kentucky. After neighbors had summoned the police, Farris shot and killed three of them and fled the state.

Beautiful Hazel settled in Bessemer and confessed her crimes to a man with whom she had fallen in love. He betrayed her to the police, and Hazel ingested arsenic, ending her life. Her corpse was sent to a local funeral home which only put the unclaimed body in storage where it mummified. The funeral home began to charge admission to view the grisly final remains of Miss Farris, and over the course of many years; the mummy was loaned to various exhibitors. In 1974, the museum borrowed the mummy as part of a fundraiser, and the museum displayed it for quite some time.

Southern Railway Depot (now home to the Bessemer Hall of History Museum), 1992, by Jet Lowe. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

After the mummy’s exhibition in 1981, the museum placed it in permanent storage. National Geographic produced a documentary about Hazel’s corpse in 2002 with various scientists examining it before it was eventually cremated. The old train depot that has housed the museum since 1994 has had some paranormal activity through the years, some of which has been attributed to Hazel. Lights turn off and on within the old building, and other odd sounds have been heard.

Sources

Lamar County

Old Stage Coach Inn
Jackson Military Road
Moscow

Also known as the Moore-Hill House, this circa 1834 stagecoach stop was the scene of a murder in 1881. A Mrs. Armstrong was killed by an African-American man with a grappling hook on a chain. After the gruesome killing, the cook ran out the back door and alerted the men working in the nearby fields. The supposed murderer was hunted down and lynched in the front yard. This event is believed to be the cause of paranormal activity in and around the house. Tradition speaks of a glowing orb that is seen in the front yard and the spirit of Mrs. Armstrong clanking down the stairs with the hook and chain that killed her.

When I initially wrote the above entry for my book way back in 2015, I struggled with how little information existed about this house and the grim murder that took place here. As I was visiting the library yesterday, I decided to take a second look at the research for this particular location. Evidently, I didn’t look hard enough the first time.

Situated on Andrew Jackson’s Military Road, a route constructed after the War of 1812 connecting Nashville, Tennessee with New Orleans, the Moore-Hill House was built for James Moore, an early politician in the state. For many years the house served as a stagecoach inn, but it was an incident in 1881 that gave the house a bit of a notorious reputation. According to family legend, a Mrs. Armstrong was killed by an African-American man with a grappling hook on a chain. After the gruesome killing, the cook ran out the back door and alerted the men working in the nearby fields. The supposed murderer was hunted down and lynched in the front yard. After consulting newspapers of the period, the events did not take place exactly as family memory recalls.

Two brief reports appearing in area newspapers in December of 1881 attest that the murder was bloodier that family legend recounts. An African-American man (described in one newspaper as a “crazy negro”) attempted to seize one of the Armstrong children. The child’s mother, Mrs. Winchester Armstrong,” and her mother tried to wrestle the child away and both were killed. The newspaper reports that the child’s mother was struck in the head with an ax. Moments later, Mr. Armstrong approached and shot and killed the assailant.

Sources

  • “A heart-rending murder…” Pickens County Herald and West Alabamian (Carrollton, AL). 7 December 1881.
  • Hill, Beulah and Pat Buckley. “History.” Accessed 6 June 2015.
  • “Horrible murder of two women by a crazy negro.” The Marion Times-Standard. 14 December 1881.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Few historic stagecoach inns and taverns survive across Alabama, take a tour.” com. 14 August 2014.
  • Lamar County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Lamar County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Lauderdale County

Forks of Cypress
Jackson Road
Florence

Crowning a hill above Jackson Road are the skeletal remains of the graceful Forks of Cypress, built in the latter half of the 1820s. Until it burned in June 1966, the house was known as one of the grandest homes in the area. James Jackson, an Irish-born venture capitalist who moved to the area in 1818 and is considered the founder of the city of Florence constructed the home.

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

Even before a conflagration destroyed the house, it was known to be haunted, and spirits may continue to roam the picturesque ruins. The Jackson family cemetery not far from the house has also seen some paranormal activity. Debra Johnston records an incident whereby a visitor to the cemetery one afternoon encountered a young man on horseback. As he talked with the strange young man, he realized the young man was one of the sons of James Jackson. The visitor was astonished when he shook hands with the man and watched him vanish before his eyes.

Southwest of the ruins, a bridge spanned Cypress Creek until its recent demolition. Known as “Ghost Bridge,” the bridge was associated with a typical crybaby bridge story. The woods near the bridge, tradition holds, are supposed to be haunted by a spirit carrying a lantern, a possible holdover from a skirmish fought here during the Civil War.

Sources

  • Farris, Johnathan A. & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Forks of Cypress. 2 May 1997.
  • Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of the Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.

Lawrence County

Henry Hill
CR-25
Mount Hope

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

Sources

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part III

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. 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.

Crenshaw County

Patsburg Bridge
AL-59 over Patsaliga Creek
Patsburg

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

Sources

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

Cullman County

Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park
516 CR 1127
Vinemont

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

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

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

Sources

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

Dale County

Claybank Log Church
East Andrews Avenue
Ozark

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

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

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

Sources

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

Dallas County

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum
109 Union Street
Selma

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

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

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

Sources

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

DeKalb County

Hitching Post
6081 AL-117
Mentone

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

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

Sources

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

Elmore County

Robinson Springs United Methodist Church
5980 Main Street
Millbrook

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Escambia County

Fort Crawford Cemetery
Snowden Street
East Brewton

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

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

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

Sources

Etowah County

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Fayette County

Musgrove Chapel Methodist Church
CR 21, North
Winfield

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

Sources

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

Franklin County

Dismals Canyon
901 CR 8
Phil Campbell

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

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

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

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

Sources

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