The bully bull of Roan Mountain—North Carolina

Rhododendron Gardens
NC-1348
Bakersville, North Carolina

Rhododendron Roan Mountain North Carolina
Rhododendron on the flanks of Roan Mountain with a bald rising above. Photo by Daniel Martin, 2008, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Straddling the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee is the scenic and imposing form of Roan Mountain. For centuries, this massif with a number of high peaks, has been a celebrated place of legend and history. Native American tribes inhabiting these mountains told stories of these peaks. The Cherokee spoke of a massive wasp, Ulagu, which once inhabited an inaccessible cave and was eventually killed by warriors with help from the Great Spirit. The Catawbas spoke of three tremendous battles fought on the mountain where they were victorious. With all the blood that was shed, the streams ran red and the rhododendron that initially bloomed white, turning crimson in memory of the slain.

As Europeans began to explore the area, naturalists descended on the high flanks of this mountain including the French botanist André Michaux, who may have named the mountain after the Rhone River of France. A few years after his explorations, Scotsman James Fraser scouted the plant life here under the auspices of the Russian government. During this time, he discovered a species of fir tree, Abies fraseri, commonly known as the Fraser fir, and he also named the crimson rhododendron the Catawba Rhododendron, or Rhododendron catawbiense.

In the early 20th century, the Appalachian Trail was routed over the ridge of the mountain, creating the highest segment of the trail in its nearly 2,200-mile trek from Georgia to Maine.

On the North Carolina flanks of the mountain, is the Rhododendron Gardens, considered the world’s largest grove of rhododendron, which sits below the grassy balds of the mountain. These balds have provided places for early settlers to leave livestock to roam, particularly cattle.

In 1975, a legend about a bull appeared in the Kingsport (TN) Times-News, that was reportedly collected from a lady living near Bakersville.

In the early days of the region’s settlement, settlers would often release livestock into the fields and forests to graze, marking the ears of the cattle with notches to indicate ownership. One of the wealthier settlers, called the “Baron” in one version, drove larger and larger herds up the mountain every season. Other settlers became increasingly worried that the Baron’s large herd would overgraze the bald. Leading the Baron’s herd was a magnificent prize bull.

Roan Mountain North Carolina
The view of Roan Mountain looking east from Toll House Gap. Photo by Brian Stansberry, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The bull was large and absolutely dominated the grazing herds. Other bulls grazing on the balds were bullied by the Baron’s bull; often ending up maimed or dead after the prize bull proved his dominance. There was nothing the other settlers could do when the Baron’s herd arrived with the huge bull at its fore except shake their heads and pray for the success of their herds.

Many years after the Baron began grazing his herds, the large herd arrived with the bullying bull leading the way. As the cattle surged forward, a shot rang out from the tree line. Falling to its knees and bellowing in pain, the bull quickly keeled over, its life draining out into the thick grass.

Since that fateful day, the mountain’s flanks still echo with the animal’s bellow and the ring of its cowbell.

stereoscopic view Rhododendron Roan Mountain North Carolina Tennessee
A 1905 stereoscopic view of Toll House Gap and the Cloudland Hotel. View published by the Keystone View Company. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Justin Guess’ 2012 eBook on Carter County places this story and the spectral sounds in Rhododendron Gardens, though Rogers Whitener’s 1975 article places this near the site of the Cloudland Hotel. The hotel was situated at Toll House Gap, just up the mountain from the gardens, on the state line. Stories are told that a white line was painted through the hotel’s dining room and those imbibing alcohol were forbidden from taking their drinks into North Carolina, which was dry at that time.

Sources

  • Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee. Kindle Edition, 2012.
  • Roan Mountain (Roan Highlands).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 1 February 2020.
  • Whitener, Rogers. “Ghost herd of Roan Mountain.” Kingsport Times-News. 30 March 1975.
  • Wright, Laura. “The Ghost Bull on Roan Mountain.” Virginia Creeper. Accessed 1 February 2020.

“Hard to dance with the devil in your back”–Virginia

This is the seventh entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas. May you have a blessed New Year!

Braley Pond Campground
Forest Development Road 96
West Augusta, Virginia

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh…
–“Shake it out,” (2011) Florence + the Machine

Deep within George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, a paranormal investigator had a frightening experience at a popular campground some miles from civilization.

Elliott's Knob Virginia
A view of Elliott’s Knob, the highest point in Augusta County, in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest a few miles south of Braley Pond. Photo by Aneta Kaluza, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The group of investigators had arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon of October 25, 2003 to investigate Braley Pond Campground. Stepping out of their vehicles, the lead investigator noted that the atmosphere was “so heavy as to be almost palatable, and I knew immediately that [this feeling] was not my own. I was feeling something that belonged to someone else.”

As the group neared the dam, a couple of group members became physically ill and the entire group retreated. Two of the investigators decided to return to the campground after nightfall to investigate further.

Arriving around 11:30 PM, the pair sensed the same heaviness in the atmosphere that they had experienced on the first visit. Moving on, they felt as if whatever had been there before was lying in wait for their return. As they tenuously made their way towards the dam, one of them saw an orb of light in a nearby pine tree. “Roughly thirty or forty feet in the air, looking as though it were nestled in the branches of one of the big pines that flank the opening to the path, was a brightly glowing fluorescent green light.”

After the light mysteriously blinked out, the pair began to hear violent splashing in the water below. Sensing that something was coming after them, the pair took off for the safety of their vehicle. As they ran, one of the investigators was knocked off the bridge into the water. “I don’t know how to explain it except for he literally flew upwards and to the left, as if something had hit him right in the middle of his back, like using his forward momentum, and he went off the side of the bridge into the water.” The pair would later discover that their audio equipment picked up a mysterious screech just before the man was thrown into the water.

When the lead investigator stopped to check on her companion, he was fine but encouraged her to continue running back to the truck. As she stood up on the side of the pond, she began to feel something crawling on her back. She recalled that it moved like an inchworm and felt as if it had tentacles.

Continuing back to the truck, she screamed that something was on her. Both investigators piled back into the vehicle and nothing was found on the investigator, though she continued to feel the thing creeping along her body.

Over the next few months, the lead investigator was plagued by nightmares and dark feelings and images that would surface in her mind periodically. The pair returned to the campground several more times and witnessed odd events, but none as dramatic as the events of that first night. When the lead investigator felt oddly drawn to visit alone, she found herself walking trancelike around the parking lot and suddenly found herself in the restroom without any memory of getting there.

Several weeks later, she and her husband heard a terrifying scream from her eight-year-old son in another room. The boy had witnessed the image of a man standing in the corner “with multiple holes in his chest; wet and covered in blood.”

Following this frightening vision, the dark feelings began to retreat. Revisiting the campground a few years later, the investigator did not sense anything there.

According to the Mysterious Universe website, campers and hikers in the area have encountered sudden feelings of nausea and dread, orbs of light, shadow figures, the sounds of splashing water, and a feeling of being drawn into the water.

What could be the cause of the darkness here? The answer may lie in tragedies that have occurred here. Mysterious Universe notes that the quiet pond has been the scene of suicides, which I have not been able to confirm, but it was here that a vicious gang-related murder took place in May of 2003, some months before the terrifying investigation took place.

On the evening of May 21, 2003, two young men picked up 19-year-old Christopher Kennedy in nearby Staunton. Kennedy had reportedly become a member of the Los Angeles-based street gang, the Crips. After being picked up by two other members, the group drove to the Braley Pond Campground. A short time previous, Kennedy admitted to his grandfather that he had joined the gang and expressed his anxiety that he was “too young to die.” An account of the murder in the Staunton, Virginia News Leader says, “Kennedy first left with Noa and Tinsley voluntarily and might have realized he was going to be killed on the way out to Braley Pond.”

Once they arrived at the pond, Kennedy was stabbed 12 times in the chest and back at the water’s edge. It was there that his partially submerged body was found. In the initial reports of the murder, police speculated that Kennedy had tried to leave the gang.

Details of the murder would line up with some of paranormal activity reported here: feelings of nausea and dread, splashing of water, and the investigator’s son’s vision of a wet man with holes in his chest and covered in blood.

Allow me to speculate a bit on this haunting. I sincerely hope that Kennedy’s spirit is at rest, and it seems that his residual energy may be felt at the campground. The lead investigator, who is sensitive, noted in her journal that she felt “another presence ‘behind’ the original one. This one didn’t feel like the others. In fact, it didn’t feel human.” This leads me to believe that perhaps this inhuman spirit may be an elemental, or nature, spirit angered by the intense violence that took place in its domain. In fact, it was this spirit’s ire that attached itself to the investigator and haunted her.

If you visit the Braley Pond Campground, enjoy the scenery, but beware that this beauty has a darker side.

Sources

Haunted Kentucky, Briefly Noted

N.B. This is a repost of parts of the original “Haunted Kentucky” and “Haunted Old Louisville” articles published in 2011. These entries have been revised.

Conrad-Caldwell House
1402 St. James Court
Louisville

On the south side of Louisville’s Central Park is the St. James-Belgravia Historic District which consists some of the grandest houses in the Old Louisville neighborhood. This area was the site of the Southern Exposition held between 1883 and 1887. Once the exposition ended, the acres that it occupied were auctioned off and laid out in a British style.

haunted ghosts Conrad-Caldwell House Louisville Kentucky
Conrad-Caldwell House, 2016, by Kenneth C. Zirkel, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Conrad-Caldwell House, now a house museum, was perhaps the grandest house in this most grand of settings when it was constructed in 1893. Built of limestone, a stone associated with paranormal activity, the interior utilizes seven different types of hardwood to great effect. The house was constructed for Theophile Conrad, a French immigrant who built a number of successful businesses and who wished to build a home similar to the opulent house of his childhood. Conrad passed away in the home in 1905 and his wife later sold the house to another successful businessman, William Caldwell.

After the Caldwell’s residence, the home was used as a boarding house and later sold to the Presbyterian Church as a retirement home.

Employees in the home are accustomed to greeting the spectral residents when they come in the morning. “I think all of us have gotten into the habit of saying hello when we come in morning because we know we’re not alone.” The director told local news station WDRB in 2013. It is also believed that Theophile Conrad continues to run his home in a strict manner, occasionally appearing to visitors, wagging his finger in disapproval. The Caldwells may also be around, as the odors of perfume and cigar smoke have been smelled within the museum as well.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Ghosts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2005.
  • History.” The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Accessed 10 December 2019.
  • “Mingling with spirits at the Conrad-Caldwell House.” WDRB. 26 October 2013.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
7351 KY-90
Corbin

At 68-feet high, Cumberland Falls is known as the “Niagara of the South,” and it’s also the only place in the Western Hemisphere where one can witness a moonbow, a rainbow caused by moonlight filtering through the falls’ mist. Considered a sacred place by local Native Americans, the site was developed for tourists at the end of the 19th century. The state park was developed in 1930.

The legend surrounding the park involves a bride who either slipped and fell or jumped to her death from one of the overlooking cliffs. One version of the legend holds that this happened in the 1950s, when the bride and her groom were exploring the park on their honeymoon. The couple had not had time to change clothes and the groom had decided to photograph his bride on one of the cliffs. As she posed, she slipped and fell to her death.

ghosts haunted Cumberland Falls State Resort Park Corbin Kentucky
Cumberland Falls, 2009, by J654567, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another version of the legend speaks of a young couple marrying at the park’s lodge. The bride had become worried when the groom did not show up and was crushed when word arrived that he had been killed in a car accident. In despair, she rushed to the precipice in her wedding dress and flung herself off.

A woman in a white gown has been seen throughout the park, both in and around the falls as well as on the main road. Some have seen her form drifting up through the waters on nights that the moonbow appears. A 2008 blog entry reveals that she may also be active at the park’s lodge.

Sources

  • Cumberland Falls. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 January 2010.
  • Lamkin, Virginia. “Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls.” Seeks Ghosts. 15 December 2015.
  • Specter, Jason. “The Bride of Cumberland Falls.” The Scary States of America Blog. 23 February 2008.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Filson Historical Society (Ferguson Mansion)
1310 South Third Street
Louisville

In a city filled with extravagant Gilded Age homes, the Ferguson Mansion is perhaps the finest. Constructed in 1901 for the Walter Hite Ferguson who built a business selling cottonseed oil, the home was initially built to house him, his wife, their daughter, and a retinue to six servants. Little expense was spared on this Beaux-Arts style manse which included light fixtures by Louis Comfort Tiffany and other works by the leading designers and decorators of the day. The Ferguson family occupied the home until 1924, when it was sold to the Pearson family who operated a funeral home here until 1978. The house was renovated as a home for the Filson Historical Society, which concentrates on the history of Kentucky, the upper South and the Ohio River Valley.

ghosts haunted Filson Historical Society Ferguson Mansion Louisville Kentucky
The Filson Historical Society by W.marsh, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The house is believed to be the residence of a spirit named Sally who gleefully tosses books from the shelves in front of shocked visitors and staff members. She is known to produce disembodied footsteps, strange odors, and slam doors, as well as pulling volumes from the shelves which sometimes end up in piles on floors or tables. While there is nothing in the home’s history to attest to Sally’s identity, David Dominé posits that the spirit may stem from the home’s use as a funeral home.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Haunts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2009.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park
2135 Natural Bridge Road
Slade
 

Adjacent to the Red River Gorge, a place noted for its wild landscape and mysterious encounters, Natural Bridge State Resort Park has its own paranormal activity. According to investigator and writer Patti Starr, the park is home to the Purple Lady, a female apparition wearing a purple evening gown who has been frequently spotted throughout the park. Staff members and visitors alike have seen the spirit in and around the park’s lodge, roads, and campgrounds. Her identity is unknown, though one park employee suggested that she may be the spirit of a woman who was murdered in a cabin on the property many years ago.

ghosts haunted Natural Bridge State Park Slade Kentucky
The Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, 2009, by Ken Thomas. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Nina Lautner published the experience of a park visitor in her 2014 Ghosts of America: Southern Appalachia. The visitor stayed in the park’s lodge in 2008 and she experienced an overwhelming sense of dread from the moment she stepped into the room. Unable to sleep, she turned on the lights and they flickered a bit, but she wasn’t able to shake the negative feeling. When she reported her experience to the front desk, the clerk asked if she had seen the spirit.

The titular feature of Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a sandstone archway formed by millions of years of weathering. The park opened in 1896 as a private attraction and trains brought visitors from Louisville, Lexington, and other large cities. The park and Hemlock Lodge are now under the auspices of the state of Kentucky as a state park.

Sources

  • Lautner, Nina, ed. Ghosts of America: Southern Appalachia: True Accounts of Ghosts. Stratus-Pikpuk, 2014.
  • Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 January 2010.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Pink Palace (private)
1473 St. James Court
Louisville

In the late 19th century, St. James Court was developed as one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Louisville. The dramatic French-styled house at number 1473 was constructed in 1891 originally as a gentlemen’s club for the wealthy homeowners. Rumors allude to the fact that this staid institution may have provided female companionship to club members after dark. Interestingly, after a brief stint as a private family home, the house was acquired by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a group that crusaded against the consumption of alcohol and other vices. After the WCTU discovered the home’s sordid past, the decision was made to paint the home pink to counteract the negative memories of the building.

Pink Palace Old Louisville Kentucky ghosts haunted
The Pink Palace in 2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over the years, residents of the palatial home have had various encounters with an aristocratic gentleman. David Dominé included the story of one young lady who lived in a basement apartment some decades ago. One particular night, she had two visits from the spectral gentleman. She saw him first standing in her kitchen; then a short time later he appeared in her bathroom doorway while she took a bath. She quickly got out of the bath and left the room. Hearing the crash of breaking glass and splashing water, she returned to the bathroom to find the window broken. She summoned the police who discovered that the window had been broken by a cement block during a robbery attempt. The cement block landed in the bath where she had been lying just moments before.

The apparition, believed to be the image of one of the home’s former owners, has also appeared to other residents of the home as a warning. The house remains a private residence.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.

Presentation Academy
861 South Fourth Street
Louisville

The oldest school in continuous operation in the city, the Presentation Academy is a private college-preparatory high school for girls founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 1831. The school’s current building was opened in 1893 and designed by D. X. Murphy, one of the city’s leading architects of the time.

Legendary spirits at the school include a nun who died after falling down a staircase and Mary White a student who was killed in a car accident while en route to her coming out party. While documentation does not back up either story, that does not discount the numerous encounters that have occurred here.

ghosts haunted Presentation Academy Louisville Kentucky
Presentation Academy, 2012, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

David Dominé includes the frightening account of one student’s encounter. As she walked down the hall towards a class, the student noted that another student was walking next to her. After seeing that she was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform, she then noticed that the young lady did not have legs. The student stopped in the middle of the hall to gawk as the spirit continued down the corridor and faded from view.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.
  • Hedgepeth, Mary Poynter. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Presentation Academy. 15 August 1978.
  • Presentation Academy. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 December 2019.

L. B. Speed Art Museum
2035 South Third Street
Louisville

Founded as a memorial to her husband, the Speed Art Museum opened in 1927. Hattie Speed’s devotion to her husband’s memorial and her own perfectionism may be what is keeping her spirit within the walls of the museum. A rose-type perfume has been smelled, motion sensors set off, elevators operate mysteriously by themselves and misty, white shapes have been seen on security monitors; all believed to be Mrs. Speed checking up on “her” museum. Some particularly notable occurrences have been connected with the portrait of J. B. Speed’s first wife, Cora Coffin, which has had issues with its label mysteriously peeling from the wall. One museum staff member was shocked to discover the portrait removed and left propped with its face turned to the wall.

ghosts haunted Speed Art Museum Louisville Kentucky
A view of the galleries inside the Speed Art Museum, 2016, by Sailko. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Several visitors and staff members have reported odd encounters with a Native American man in the museum’s Native American gallery. While the man’s identity is unknown, he has been seen and his presence felt in the space.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Ghosts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2005
  • Speed Art Museum. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 December 2019.

Walnut Street Baptist Church
1101 South Third Street
Louisville

Demon Leaper Walnut Street Baptist Church Louisville Kentucky
Early 20th Century postcard of Walnut Street Baptist Church.

Erected just at the outset of the 20th century, the grand Gothic Revival Walnut Street Baptist Church has provided spiritual sustenance for over a century to the citizens of Old Louisville and beyond. But it also harbors a legend. Over the century, people have reported a large, winged creature around the church. Reports of this creature, dubbed the “Demon Leaper” even come from as recent as 2005.

Sources

Dominé, David. Haunts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2009.

The Giving Tree—Athens, Georgia

Tree That Owns Itself
277 South Finley Street
Athens, Georgia

…the Tree was happy…
–Shel Silverstein, “The Giving Tree,” 1964

When I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child many moons ago, I found the story disturbing. There is more than a bit of sadness in this story of altruism, and I found that disquieting. Perhaps this was one of my first introductions into that grey area where noble ideals spar with reality. That place where morality and immorality square off, where the dramatic tension lies between the blacks and whites of good and evil.

Tree That Owns Itself Athens Georgia
The Tree That Owns Itself in 1910, by Huron Smith for the Field Museum.

The legend of Athens, Georgia’s Tree That Owns Itself exists in this same grey realm of fact and legend. When I stumbled across this 1916 article while browsing the historic newspaper collection of the Digital Library of Georgia, I was happy to be able to add this story to my collection on Athens. Unfortunately, the bottom corner of the paper has been torn and part of the paragraph describing the phantom is lost. 

The Daily Times-Enterprise
Thomasville, Georgia
July 1, 1916
Courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia

GHOST HAUNTS TREE THAT OWNS ITSELF
_____
AT LEAST THAT IS STORY COMING
OUT FROM ATHENS, AND
THERE IS MUCH SPECULATION
OVER REPORT.
_____

Atlanta, July 1—Has the ghost of William Jackson come back to haunt the Tree That Owns Itself?

That’s the tale they are telling in Athens, Ga., where on a big hill in the center of the city stands a giant white oak, the only tree that owns itself, trunk, twig and leaf, together with eight feet of land on all sides.

Early in the nineteenth century William Jackson was one of the largest plantation owners of Clarke county. Under the white oak, which is four or five hundred years old, he used to sit and direct his slaves at work. When he died, this paragraph was found in his will:

“For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.”

Now comes the report that a phantom has been seen beneath the Tree That Owns Itself.

[page torn]…mist of a man, fading is-
[page torn]…a man with powdered
[page torn]…a broad hat
[page torn]…and laces and frills sitting there under the tree, with one hand resting gently on the bark.

Was it the ghost of William Jackson?

Ask the boys of that college town—they don’t know.

A surprisingly thorough article on Wikipedia examines the legend and its inconsistencies, noting that the first documented version of the tree’s legend appeared in the Athens Weekly Banner in 1890. That article, couched in the heroic language of the period, describes the tree as seeming to “stand straighter, and hold its head more highly and proudly as if we knew that it ranked above the common trees of the world.” The 1890 article continues with the history of the tree but noting that the tree’s deed of ownership is mysteriously missing from the county’s records.

Postcard of the Tree That Owns Itself Athens Georgia
The original Tree That Owns Itself shortly before it fell in 1942. Postcard from the Boston Public Library.

Since 1916, the original tree succumbed to rot and fell on October 9, 1942. The Athens Junior Ladies Garden Club took up the cause of the tree and replaced it with a sapling grown from one of the original oak’s acorns. The current tree, sometimes deemed “Son of the Tree That Owns Itself,” continues to flourish from its space on South Finley Street. The tree is now surrounded with a retaining wall and a chain barrier with a plaque denoting the tree’s ownership of itself. Perhaps Col. William Jackson still appears on occasion to rest beneath the stately branches that he gave so much for?

Son of the Tree That Owns Itself Athens Gerogia
Son of the Tree That Owns Itself, 2005, by Bloodofox, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • “Deeded to itself.” Athens Weekly Banner. 12 August 1890.
  • “Ghost haunts tree that owns itself.” Daily Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, Georgia). 1 July 1916.
  • Tree That Owns Itself. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 June 2019.

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 that 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.

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.” 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 briefly 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 shot and killed her husband during a domestic incident at their home in Louisville, Kentucky. After neighbors 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 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

Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama

N. B.  This article was overhauled 8 December 2019.

Shortly after starting this blog, I created a series of articles covering each state. When I moved this blog, I removed those articles and I have slowly, but surely reposted edits of these articles. The only article to remain intact is the one I created for Washington, D.C. Some of the edited articles have been reposted for Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

After publishing my Haunted Alabama book as an eBook in 2015, I redid the haunted Alabama article using entries from the original manuscript. When I republished the book in print, the text received a major overhaul, though this article wasn’t updated. Now, in 2019, I’m finally getting around to updating this article.

Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery

One of the most important sites in the entire state stands on a place called Goat Hill. This building is the second capitol building on this site, the first having been destroyed by fire in 1849. The current building opened in 1851 and has witnessed a panorama of much of Alabama’s history. It was here in 1861 that representatives of six Southern states met to create the Confederate government. Later that year, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens were inaugurated here, respectively, as the President and Vice President of the Confederacy. A little more than a hundred years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. would lead a civil rights march to the steps of this building.

With such history, it’s no surprise that spirits may still wander the capitol’s corridors. One legend concerns a Confederate widow. Desperate to find where her husband had died and the location of his grave, she made inquiries, but no information was forthcoming. She continued haunting the corridors in life and, evidently, in death. Security guards and staff members have seen this desperate woman and continue to hear her footsteps.

haunted Alabama State Capitol Montgomery ghost
Alabama State Capitol, 2006, by Jim Bowen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A security guard is quoted in a 1994 Birmingham News article as having seen a female spirit standing near the statue of Governor Lurleen Wallace. The woman was wearing white opera-length gloves which are reminiscent of the gloves Wallace is wearing in her official state portrait.

Faith Serafin notes in her book Haunted Montgomery, Alabama that bathroom sinks near the offices of the state board of convicts are often found with the water running. This activity may be related to a 1912 murder that occurred here. When a property dispute did not turn out in his favor, Will Oakley shot and killed his stepfather, P. A. Woods, in the offices of the president of the convict board. Legend holds that Will Oakley’s spirit may still be trying to wash the blood off his hands.

Sources

  • Lindley, Tom. “Ghosts or good stories haunt Capitol’s halls: This Confederate widow will never tell.” The Birmingham News. 27 November 1994.
  • Schroer, Blanche Higgins. National Register of Historic Place nomination form for the Alabama State Capitol. 29 September 1975.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Bear Creek Swamp
County Road 3
Prattville

On Halloween of 2014, twenty-one dolls tied to bamboo stakes appeared in Bear Creek Swamp. The Autauga County Sheriff’s Office thought they were simply a harmless Halloween prank, but after reports of the dolls began to spread through the media, the sheriff’s office decided to remove them. The reason for the dolls’ placement in the swamp remains mysterious, but then again, Bear Creek Swamp abounds in mystery.

A newspaper article regarding the incident described the swamp as “a massive bog with a bit of a reputation locally.” The article continues, “As a rite of passage, generations of teenagers have entered the area at night looking for the creatures and haints said to roam the mist-covered realm. And it’s not unusual to hear reports of loud booms coming from its depths.”

Before the arrival of white settlers, local Native Americans knew the swamp as a place with pure water and medicinal springs. This area was once the home of the Autauga or Tawasa Indians who were members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. The Muscogee Creek were removed by force in the 1830s and forced west on the Trail of Tears.

Some Native spirits may have remained in the swamp. A hunter told author Faith Serafin about seeing a female apparition with- in the swamp while tracking a deer. A couple hiking through the area encountered a wild-looking woman with a gaunt face who screamed and disappeared into the underbrush when they approached. Others, including an investigation team from Southern Paranormal Researchers, have witnessed strange orbs of light in the depths of this mysterious bog.

Sources

  • Roney, Marty. “21 dolls on bamboo stakes found in Alabama swamp.” Hattiesburg American. 27 November 2014
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Sutton, Amber. “Officers remove more than a dozen dolls from Autauga County swamp.” AL.com. 25 November 2014.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. “Bear Creek Swamp—September 3, 2006.” Accessed 29 November 2012.

Belle Mont
1569 Cook Lane
Tuscumbia

Built between 1828 and 1832 by Dr. Alexander Mitchell, Belle Mont is now a house museum owned by the Alabama Historical Commission. This house represents a rare example of what is sometimes termed “Jeffersonian Classicism,” the distinctive style of Palladian architecture created by Thomas Jefferson. While most likely not directly designed by Jefferson himself, the house may be the work of one of his disciples.

haunted Belle Mont Tuscumbia Alabama ghosts
Belle Mont, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Around the time the house was completed Dr. Mitchell lost his wife and both daughters to a fever, and he subsequently sold the property. A family renting this house in 1938 had a frightening experience. Just after moving their things into the house, the family began to hear sounds throughout the house including footsteps and voices crying “help me.” Time passed with these events growing more and more frightening until one rainy night when the family watched with horror as a group of apparitions: a man, a woman and one, possibly two, small girls, appeared at the top of the staircase. The woman and children, dressed in night- clothes that were dirty and torn, wore expressions of horror as they descended the staircase and out the front door. After this frightening vision, the family continued to hear odd sounds. The last reported paranormal incident is recorded in 1968 with nothing seen or heard since.

Sources

  • Gamble, Robert S. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Belmont. Jan. 1981.
  • Belle Mont. Alabama Historical Commission. Accessed 16 December 2010.
  • Belle Mont (Tuscumbia, Alabama). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 December 2010.
  • Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories of The Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.

Bragg-Mitchell Mansion
1906 Springhill Avenue
Mobile

haunted Bragg-Mitchell Mansion Mobile Alabama ghosts
Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, 2006, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the years following the Civil War, General Braxton Bragg was considered one of the most inept generals to have served in the Confederate Army. Bragg had earned victories though lost tactically in battle at Perryville, Kentucky; Chickamauga, Georgia, and Stones River (Murfreesboro), Tennessee. He lived here in the home once occupied by his brother Judge John Bragg, from 1869 until he moved to Texas in 1874. He would die in Galveston two years later having found about as much success in civilian life as he found in military life. From time to time, docents and visitors to the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion have seen the gray form of a man, believed to be the form of General Bragg. Once, as a docent was opening the house for wedding photographs, she saw a man striding across the parking lot behind the house. The strange man neared the tool shed and vanished. A thorough search of the property by the docent and the wedding party did not uncover the gentleman.

The Bragg-Mitchell House was built by Judge John Bragg in 1855. After construction, the house was the scene of gatherings by prominent Alabamians of the period and members of the Bragg family including John’s brothers: Braxton, former North Carolina governor Thomas Bragg, Captain William Bragg, and Alexander Bragg, who may have had a hand in designing his brother’s home. During the Civil War, Judge Bragg’s wife anxiously sent the family’s furnishing and many of their possessions to the family’s inland cotton plantation for safe keeping. Unfortunately, the estate was destroyed along with the contents of her city home, something from which Mrs. Bragg never quite recovered. After Judge Bragg’s death in the late 1870s, the house passed through a few different hands before being purchased by the Mitchell family who lovingly restored the home and left it to the City of Mobile.

The house has served as a wedding venue and events facility for many years. Over time, guests and docents have had many encounters with the spectral residents of the house including a ghostly feline that was first noted by Mrs. Mitchell when she owned the house. A spectral woman, possibly Judge Bragg’s wife, has been seen peering from one of the upstairs windows. Others have had more mischievous encounters including an AC installer who was locked in the attic and others who have been irritated by the ghosts turning lights on just after they have been turned off.

Sources

  • Coleman, Christopher K. Dixie Spirits: True Tales of the Strange and Supernatural, 2nd Edition. Nashville, Cumberland House, 2002.
  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Fort Morgan State Historic Site
51 AL 180
Baldwin County

Along with Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan guards the entrance to Mobile Bay. Construction of the fort began in 1819, following the British capture of the area in 1815, during the misnamed War of 1812. Using slave labor, this enormous masonry fort was constructed in 1834. With rising tension after Alabama’s secession from the Union, the fort was peacefully turned over to the state’s Confederate militia.

haunted Fort Morgan Alabama ghosts
Fort Morgan, 2002, by Edibobb. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The fort saw action on August 5, 1864, during the Battle of Mobile Bay when it was attacked and besieged by Union warships; the fort surrendered a few days later. It remained in operation until it was abandoned by the military in 1924. It was then re-militarized during World War II and turned over to the State of Alabama in 1946.

Southern Paranormal Researchers investigated the fort in 2006 and witnessed a bevy of activity including disembodied voices, fleeting shadow figures, and having fully charged batteries drained. They also captured a few anomalies in photographs and one EVP. Visitors to the fort have encountered phantom smells of gunsmoke, the sounds of battle, and figures in period clothing.

Sources

  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Schroer, Blanche Higgins. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Fort Morgan. 4 Oct 1975.
  • Southern Paranormal Investigation Team. Fort Morgan Investigation. 16 Dec 2006.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
11288 Horseshoe Bend Road
Dadeville 

A bend on the Tallapoosa River formed an ideal site for the Muscogee Creek village of Tohopeka. During the Creek War of 1813-14—a civil war within the Muscogee Creek Nation that eventually embroiled the American government—a band of Red Stick Creeks under Chief Menawa defended this position against American troops and Native American allies under the command of General Andrew Jackson. Some 800 Red Stick warriors were slaughtered here on March 27, 1814, bringing an end to the Creek War of 1813-14 and leaving the Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend stained red with blood.

With the slaughter that occurred here, it’s no wonder that visitors have reported a plethora of paranormal activity here ranging from smells and odd noises to full apparitions. A paranormal investigation by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team produced some photographic anomalies as well as the sound of someone screaming in the vicinity of the Muscogee Creek village site.

haunted Horseshoe Bend Battlefield Dadeville Alabama ghosts
The riverbank at the Horseshoe Bend Battlefield, 2015. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation of Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. Accessed 18 Dec 2010.
  • Jensen, Ove. “Battle of Horseshoe Bend.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 26 Feb 2007.

Linn-Henley Research Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham

haunted Linn-Henley Library Birmingham Alabama ghosts
Linn-Henley Library, 2009, by DwayneP. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This building opened in 1927 as the Birmingham Public Library and now houses archives, government documents, a southern history library, and a ghost. Blogger Jessica Penot visited in 2012 and noted the “uncanny quiet that fills the building like a tangible presence.” The spirit of Fant Thornley, the library’s dedicated director from 1953 until the 1970s, still makes occasional appearances here. The spirit has been seen by an electrician, and library staffers have smelled the smoke from his cigarettes.

Sources

Monroe County Heritage Museum
(Old Monroe County Courthouse)
31 North Alabama Avenue
Monroeville

In 1903, this structure was constructed as the Monroe County Courthouse. It was here that a young Harper Lee, Monroeville’s most famous resident and author of the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, would watch her attorney father as he argued cases. When Hollywood put the story on celluloid, the set designers replicated the courtroom on a California sound stage. This building was used by Monroe County as a courthouse until 1967.

haunted Old Monroe County Courthouse Monroeville Alabama ghosts
Dome of the Old Monroe County Courthouse, 2008, by Melinda Shelton. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The upper floors of this building still seem to retain some of the energy from the building’s judicial use. Blogger Lee Peacock quotes one man as saying, “Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze. You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or there to be smoking.” Staff members working late here often get the feeling of not being alone and have heard mysterious sounds within this storied building.

Sources

  • Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013
  • Peacock, Lee. “Ten new locations make list of “Spookiest Places in Monroe County.” Dispatches from the LP-OP. 31 October 2014.
  • W. Warner Floyd. National Register of Historic Places nomination  form for Old Monroe County Courthouse. 29 March 1973.

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.

haunted Moundville Archaeological Park Moundville Alabama ghosts
One of the mounds at Moundville, 1998, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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

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

Old Depot Museum
4 Martin Luther King, Jr. Street
Selma

haunted Old Depot Museum Selma Alabama ghosts
Old Depot, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A part of the Alabama Ghost Trail, a series of haunted places linked by the Southwest Alabama Regional Tourism and Film Office, the Old Depot Museum features a ghost that reportedly has an affinity for the museum’s elevator. The museum occupies the Romanesque Revival circa 1890 Louisville & Nashville Railroad Depot.

Sources

  • Besser, Susan A. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Water Street Historic District. March 2002.
  • Old Depot Museum. Alabama Ghost Trail. YouTube. Posted 19 July 2009.

    Timmons Cemetery
    Buxton Road
    Redstone Arsenal

When the Army took over some 40,000 acres in Huntsville in 1941, it swallowed up many old farms and plantations including some 46 cemeteries. Located in the woods off of Buxton Road, the Timmons Cemetery is considered, by some, the spookiest place on the Arsenal. Guards patrolling Buxton Road at night have seen a little girl running across the road near the cemetery.

To explain the little girl’s spirit, a legend has surfaced, though apparently not backed up by historical documentation. Margaret Ann Timmons was an energetic child and sometimes difficult to control. When work required the family to be in the fields, Margaret would be tied to a chair inside the house. The energetic child wiggled out of her restraints, and kicked over an oil lamp that destroyed the house and killed the child. Now, not even death and the stone wall that surrounds the family’s cemetery can restrain her.

Sources

  • “Does a little girl really haunt Redstone Arsenal.” WAAY. 31 Oct 2014.
  • “Redstone Report: Ghost story still haunts Redstone Arsenal.” WAFF. 31 Oct 2011.