“You’ll never walk alone”—Florida Keys

This is the fifth entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. All Hallows Eve is tomorrow!

US-1 through the Florida Keys 

I had planned to do an entry on my Encounter Countdown to Halloween everyday throughout the month of October. As this is the fifth entry and Halloween is tomorrow, you can obviously see how that went. I think this story is especially prescient for me during this wild month.

When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.

At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams may be tossed and blown.

Walk on with hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone.

–Oscar Hammerstein II, from the musical Carousel (1945)

US-1 is the only road through the Florida Keys and much of it occupies the former roadbed of the Florida East Coast Railroad, the culmination of Henry Flagler’s dream, built in 1912. When much of it was wrecked during the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the railroad was unable to makes repairs and the right of way was sold to the state to develop a highway.

Florida East Coast Railroad
A Florida East Coast Railroad train chugs across one of the many bridges on its route between Miami and Key West. Courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

In 2017, the Florida portion of US-1 was deemed the “deadliest highway in America.” As the main highway through the Keys, the road is notorious for gridlock, accidents, and wildlife in the road. Add to these traffic fatalities the many deaths that occurred here during the building of the original railroad and the 1935 hurricane, this could very well be one of the most haunted roads in the country.

In his 2003 Haunted Key West, David L. Sloan tells the story of a woman driving from Miami to Key West on US-1. Driving a rental car, this frazzled young mother encountered a fierce rainstorm which reduced her vision to nothing. The defrost did nothing to clear the windshield and the wipers weren’t doing their job, even at their highest setting. As she drove, she became frightened of pulling off the road as she couldn’t see the side.

US-1 through Florida Keys
The modern Overseas Highway as it crosses Craig Key, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Suddenly, the sight of red taillights in the distance brought a bit of comfort. She began following the comforting glow and the storm’s intensity began to lessen. As the rain slowed to a light sprinkle, the driver looked down to readjust her wipers and radio and she refocused her eyes on the road ahead.

The comforting taillights were no longer glowing up ahead, in fact, the road was open and free of cars. The lonely road was devoid of any other cars. What happened to the car? The woman wondered what had helped her through the storm for some time.

Years later, she met a couple in Key West who had experienced the same thing. They had been driving on the Overseas Highway when a storm erupted and severely cut their visibility. As they drove, they encountered a comforting pair of headlights up ahead and they followed that car through the storm. Once they regained their visibility, the car vanished into thin air.

The couple pulled into a small bait shop alongside the highway. When they explained to the owner what they had just experienced, the man suggested that they had just gotten help from the ghost of US-1.

Sources

  • Elfrink, Tim. “Florida’s U.S. 1 the deadliest highway in America, study shows.” Miami New Times. 18 April 2017.
  • Overseas Highway. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 October 2019.
  • Overseas Railroad. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 October 2019.
  • Sloan, David L. Haunted Key West. Key West, FL: Phantom Press, 2003.

‘He said we could descend’—Bluemont, Virginia

This is the first entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 30 more days until All Hallows Eve! 

TWA Flight 514 Crash Site Memorial
VA-601
Bluemont, Virginia

Early on a chilly morning in 2004, a long-haul trucker pulled into a closed gas station near the intersection of VA-7 and VA-601 to check his map. It was extremely dark in this rural, mountainous area, though close to the bustle of cities like Winchester, Leesburg, and suburban Washington, D.C.

He was startled by a knock on the door of his cab, turned on the interior light, and rolled down his window. Staring into the dark, chilly morning, he saw a man standing next to his truck oddly wearing an airline uniform.

The man climbed up onto the side of the truck and asked if the trucker could give him a lift. The trucker noticed the TWA insignia on the man’s cap and the four stripes of a captain on the shoulder of his short-sleeved shirt. The man also reeked of kerosene.

“I am with TWA. I have to get to Dulles Airport to work a flight. Please give me a ride. I’ll pay you.”

“Well, how about I give you a ride to the next open store where you can call a taxi?” the trucker responded.

“Okay, thank you.” the captain muttered awkwardly. “He said we could descend.”

The trucker invited him to get in and the captain jumped down off the side of the truck.

As he walked around the front, the captain suddenly vanished. Shaken, the trucker got out of his cab to investigate, even looking under the truck with a flashlight. The captain was nowhere to be seen.

Agitated, the trucker continued his lonely route home pondering his strange encounter, made especially strange when he realized that TWA had gone bankrupt just two years prior. A little research revealed that his experience had occurred a short distance from the crash site of TWA Flight 514 in 1974.

The trucker recounted his story on the Your Ghost Stories website where it was picked up by the late L.B. Taylor, Jr. and included in his 2010 Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories.

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
TWA Flight 514 crashed around this rocky outcropping on VA-601. A small memorial is now located here. Taken in March 2017 by Engelalber, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The crash site today, along a wooded stretch of VA-601 on the flanks of Mount Weather, is marked by a small memorial stone set upon a rocky outcropping. It was at this site on the morning of December 1, 1974, the TWA Boeing 727 with 92 souls aboard slammed into this mountain on their descent into Dulles Airport. Miscommunication between the pilot and air traffic control led the plane to shear off the tops of trees before it disintegrated.

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
The TWA Flight 514 crash site in December of 1975, a year after the crash. These trees were sheared off by the low-flying plane. Photo by C. Brown, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ghost stories concerning the crash site have circulated for some time receiving attention from the nearby Queen City Cryptic Researchers who checked out the site in October of 2018. According to their case file, the group witnessed lights in the woods around the crash site as well as a hearing voices. They also noted feeling a powerful energy there.

Sources

  • Dead Pilot?Your Ghost Stories. 5 May 2007.
  • Rogers, Dawn. “Case File—TWA Flight 514 Crash Site.” Queen City Cryptic Researchers. 22 October 2018.
  • Taylor, L.B. Jr. The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • TWA Flight 514. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 October 2019.

Turnpike Terror—West Virginia

West Virginia Turnpike—Interstate 77
Between Princeton and Charleston

N.B. Part of this article was originally published 22 December 2014 as part of my article, “13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.” This article has been revised and expanded.

If there was ever a place for a ghost, it’s that two-lane holocaust.
–Terry Marchal, “Always on Sunday,” Charleston Mail Gazette, 12 September 1971

The West Virginia Turnpike was plagued with problems from the very beginning. In the early 20th century the very mountains that made “The Mountain State” unique also cut off much of the state’s population from the outside world. To rectify this, the state looked into a major north to south thoroughfare between two major cities.

After a route was chosen, construction involved literally moving mountains at tremendous cost. By the time it opened in 1954, the project’s price amounted to $133 million—around $1.5 million per mile—over two years. But, the staggering statistics do not stop there; construction required the movement of 33 million cubic yards of earth, 16 million pounds of dynamite, 60% of excavation through rock, 116 bridges within the road’s 88 miles, and, sadly, five lost were lost during the project.

As it opened, some even deemed the highway “88 miles of miracle,” though that positive image did not last. Criticism followed with the two-lane road being called “the road to nowhere” by The Saturday Evening Post. As it became packed with the increased traffic brought to it by the Interstate Highway System, even more scorn was heaped upon the highway.

West Virginia Turnpike 1974
A two-lane section of the turnpike in 1974. Photo by Jack Corn for the EPA.

With the traffic and congestion also came a sharp increase in deaths on the road. Terry Marchal’s 1971 quip about the turnpike being a “two-lane holocaust” was apt considering the huge death toll. By 1975, the toll stood at 278 fatalities.

During the late 1970s and into the 80s, the road was expanded into a four-lane highway, which has eased some traffic woes, though congestion remained a problem. Another issue that arose—although the state government could not have foreseen such a thing—was ghosts.

congestion on the West Virginia Turnpike
Modern congestion on the turnpike in Raleigh County, 2006. Photo by Seicer, courtesy of Wikipedia.

By 1971, tales had been told for years about ghostly hitchhikers along the road’s route, when an article appearing in the Martinsville Bulletin of Virginia stirred some interesting commentary among West Virginia newspapers.  The article reports that the Associated Press reported that a West Virginia radio station reported (many people are reporting on others’ reporting in what might be a classic example of the telephone game) that witnesses have encountered a ghostly hitchhiker on the turnpike.

Columnist Bob Wills in the Raleigh Register (in Raleigh, West Virginia) pointed out this farcical reporting in his column on September 20, 1971, describing it as “another case of ‘I know a man who etc…’” Wills reprints the original Martinsville Bulletin article to show how ludicrous it is. The original article in the Martinsville Bulletin takes a humorous turn with the author suggesting several “answers to the mystery of the vanishing hitchhiker,” including “Anything can happen in West Virginia…and will on the West Virginia Turnpike.”

Despite the article’s skeptical tone, it seems that the story itself may still bear a kernel of truth, especially when compared to more recent stories from the turnpike. Wills reprinted the entire Martinsville Bulletin article in his column of which this is the most interesting part, my own notes are provided in brackets:

According to the AP, as reported by a West Virginia radio station, 22 motorists on the turnpike between Princeton and Bluefield [this is the southern end of the turnpike] have reported they picked up a hitch-hiking man who later vanished from their cars. [I can find no evidence of the Associated Press coverage of the hitchhiker, though this may simply be due to the fact that many papers from this period are not yet available online.]

You read that correctly. The man just vanished from their vehicles—in some cases while they were traveling at 65 miles an hour.

Some motorists even reported the car seat belt was still hooked together on the front seat after the man disappeared.

According to the radio station, the neatly dressed man got into the cars when motorists stopped, but said nothing.

But in cases he later spoke one sentence—“Jesus is coming.”

And with that he vanished.

Earlier that month, Bob Wills reported on a message the newspaper received on its reader tip line:

This is Charley Jackson, City Councilman at large, Beckley, West Virginia. Something happened to me not too long ago and people have been asking about it since. Also, it was announced on the radio that I was one of the witnesses that could explain it…it happened on the West Virginia turnpike…Well, this is it:

I was going down the Turnpike and I saw a hitchhiker. I picked up this hitchhiker and I had reached the climax of 60 miles an hour when this gentleman said to me, he said, “Jesus is coming soon.” And then he disappeared. Where he went to, how he left, only God knows. But I do know that it is mighty strange. There were no witnesses, no warlocks, no magic; but something is going on. There is a change that should be made in everyone’s life—and that is my story.

Wills says that the reporters who listened to the recording were well familiar with Councilman’s Jackson’s voice and the voice on the recording was not his.

While they also noted that the story was “a thin tale with an evangelistic bent” the story does seem to bear the hallmarks of more recent stories from the turnpike. In the intervening years, several state troopers have reported experiences here including one who discovered a little girl who appeared lost and wandering on the side of the road. After picking up the unusually quiet child and putting her in the backseat of his car. During the drive the trooper glanced in his rear-view mirror and was shocked to discover the child had vanished.

Another trooper encountered a pedestrian along the turnpike and arrested him as pedestrians are forbidden from walking along the road. Placing the handcuffed man in the back seat of his patrol car, the officer headed back to headquarters. At some point during the drive, the trooper looked in the rear-view mirror to find the back seat was empty. The pedestrian simply vanished leaving the handcuffs on the seat.

ghostly hitchhiker haunted West Virginia Turnpike
West Virginia Turnpike as it passes through Fayette County. Photo 2006 by Seicer. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Blogger Theresa Racer writes in her blog of her own experience. She and her mother were traveling along the turnpike when they passed “a scraggly looking young man wearing dark clothing and carrying an olive green army-like sack” standing in a particularly lonely area of the interstate. After passing him, they looked in their rear view mirror to see the figure had vanished. They turned their car around and did not see anyone along that same lonely stretch of interstate.

Folklorist Dennis Deitz posits in his The Greenbrier Ghost and other Strange Stories that the road cuts across two creeks where tragedies have occurred. Along both Paint and Cabin Creeks there were many mines where miners were killed in accidents. He also notes that both creeks have experienced flooding that has killed residents in the area. During the turnpike’s construction in the 1950s there were also a number of old cemeteries that were moved, perhaps these hitchhiking spirits are trying to find their way back to their earthly remains?

For further stories of ghostly hitchhikers in West Virginia, see my article on Fairmont’s Old Grafton Road, and  WV Route 901 in Berkeley County.

Sources

  • Deitz, Dennis. The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories. South Charleston, WV: Mountain Memories Books, 1990.
  • Gavenda, Walter and Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
  • Monday, Christopher R. “The West Virginia Turnpike: “88 Miles of Miracle.” West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. Volume 11, No. 2.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WV Turnpike.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 2 March 2011.
  • “West Virginia Turnpike History.” West Virginia Parkways Authority. Accessed
  • Wills, Bob. “The Turnpike Ghost turns up on tape.” The Raleigh Register. 14 September 1971.
  • Wills, Bob. “Virginian enlarges TP ‘Ghost’ tale.” The Raleigh Register. 20 September 1971.

An Incident at the Siam Steel Bridge—Elizabethton, Tennessee

Site of the Siam Steel Bridge
Steel Bridge Road over the Watauga River
Elizabethton, Tennessee

An ugly, modern concrete bridge now crosses the Watauga River in the Siam Valley outside of Elizabethton, Tennessee. This crossing was formerly occupied by an impressive steel bridge that was constructed in 1941. Stories, with many historical inaccuracies, have circulated for decades.

Siam Steel Bridge Elizabethton Tennessee haunted ghost
The Siam Steel Bridge, July 2008, by Calvin Sneed. Courtesy of Bridgehunter.com.

The most common story speaks of a time just after the construction of the bridge, when the area was a popular “Lovers’ Lane” of sorts. A young couple was spending time underneath the bridge one night when they were attacked by a vagrant. The couple was stabbed with the young lady dying on the spot, while the young man was able to hail a passing car and climb into the back seat. He was rushed to the hospital where he passed away. According to the story, the police spent more than a year looking for the assailant, but to no avail.

The imminent Tennessee folklorist Charles Edwin Price published an account of this story in his 1992 book, Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee, though some of his details are inaccurate. He dates the murder to the 1920s or 1930s, before the actual construction of the bridge and he provides names for the young couple, Tom Jackson and Wanda Smithson.

In his short, but excellently researched eBook, Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee, researcher and investigator Justin H. Guess delved into local records on this murder only to discover that there were none. He did, however come across the marvelous account of an incident at the bridge experienced by a sheriff’s deputy. This account was published in a HubPages article published in 2008. Bracketed comments are mine.

On July 18th, 1977, the first report of paranormal activity was documented. Beecher Davis, a Gate City, Virginia [in Scott County, about 40 miles north of Elizabethton] sheriff’s deputy, arrived at the Carter County Sheriff’s department around 1:42am in a panic. He stated that he was driving over the steel bridge when the passenger’s side door flew open and then slammed shut. He slammed on the brakes and noticed an indention in the passenger’s seat, as if someone were sitting there. He then caught a glimpse in his mirror of a dark figure that appeared to be wearing a dark cloak and hood. He said that it appeared to be inching closer to the car, but it didn’t look like it was walking. He stated at that point, he got out of the car and nothing was there. He became even more startled at that point and drove off to the Sheriff’s station.

Joey Parsons, the author of the HubPages article, states that this was the first documented experience of some 185 that have been documented over the years. Sadly, he doesn’t include who is doing the documenting.

In recent years, the one lane bridge was deemed structurally deficient and in 2010 was demolished and replaced with a less charming and attractive sibling bridge. It is unknown if paranormal activity has continued at the site.

Sources

  • Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee. com. 2012.
  • Parsons, Joey. “A Great American Haunting: The Watauga River Bridge.” 23 September 2008.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1992.
  • Siam Steel Bridge.” Bridgehunter.com. Accessed 14 April 2019.

“It came upon a midnight clear”—A West Virginia Christmas Tale

Old Grafton Road
(WV-310)
Between Grafton and Fairmont

Late one Christmas Eve a trucker was hauling a load of dry powdered glass to the Owens-Illinois Glass Plant in Fairmont, West Virginia. After passing through Grafton, the trucker drove north on West Virginia Route 310, also known as Old Grafton Road; passing the Tygart Valley River as it parallels the route for part of the journey. After it parallels Old Grafton Road, the river swings northwest before it meets the West Fork River to create the Monongahela River in Fairmont.

Monongahela River Fairmont West Virginia
Monongahela River in Fairmont. After picking up the phantom hitchhiker on Old Grafton Road, the trucker would have crossed this river to reach downtown Fairmont. Photo by Tim Kiser, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the vicinity of Valley Falls Road, the trucker noticed an odd figure on the side of the road waving him down. Stopping, the driver stepped down out of his rig to find a young woman standing in the cold in a red gown. She was wet, and her hair matted. She asked to be taken to Fairmont.

Despite being late with his delivery, the driver knew he could not leave the young woman by the side of the road. Helping her into the passenger seat of his cab, he grabbed one of his coats and put it around her shoulders for warmth. After climbing into the driver’s seat, the trucker asked where in Fairmont the woman wanted to be taken. Quietly she replied that she wanted to be dropped off at the Cook Hospital.

While he may have known that Cook Hospital had been replaced by a modern hospital, the driver was anxious to get his haul to the glass plant. Stopping in front of the old building at the intersection of Gaston Avenue and 2nd Street, the driver stepped down from the cab, and walked around to help the young lady down. Opening the door, the driver was stunned to see the seat was empty except for his coat.

Heading to the glass plant with his haul, the driver told the manager his strange tale. He was fired for his tardiness anyway.

Hearing of folklorist and Fairmont resident, Ruth Ann Musick, the unemployed driver contacted her with the hope that she could lend credence to the his tale. Musick was indeed familiar with the tale and agreed to call the managers of the glass plant on the driver’s behalf. The driver was rehired after Musick’s call. The moral of this story is that if you cannot be fired if you run into beings from West Virginia folklore.

This is far from the typical ghostly hitchhiker scenario because of its details. This story was detailed in a 2015 article in the Clarksburg, West Virginia Exponent Telegram that looks at folktales throughout the Mountain State. The story has been passed around by many folklorists. I stumbled across this wonderful story in a December 16 post from the Haunted West Virginia page on Facebook.

What makes this story unique are the details that fits this typical type of story into the West Virginia landscape and the involvement of Ruth Ann Musick. It is possible to roughly date this story through its precise details. The Owen-Illinois Glass Plant opened in Fairmont in 1910 making bottles. With the construction of a large factory on 40 acres east of town, the company expanded production and the plant began running 24 hours a day, which would account for a trucker making a Christmas Eve delivery.

According to a recent article in The Fairmont News, production ramped up over the decades to where, in the 1970s, the plant employed nearly 1000 employees. In 1978, the company began to phase out operations at the plant, laying off the bulk of the plant’s employees by 1980. The plant was shuttered in 1982. Last year, it was announced that the site of the former plant will be developed into a business park.

The Cook Hospital in the story still stands, though it no longer operates as a hospital. The large Italianate building was built in 1903 for Dr. John R. Cook as a 100-bed hospital. A nursing residence was added in the 1920s and the hospital served as a training ground for nurses. The hospital closed in the late 1930s with the construction of Fairmont General Hospital. In the intervening years, the building has also been used as offices for the Marion County Board of Education. In 2017, it was announced that the building would be renovated for use as low-income housing.

The Exponent Telegram version of the story adds a detail with the trucker dropping the young woman off at the Marion County Courthouse instead of the Cook Hospital. A folklorist quoted in the article also points out the fact that regardless of where the spirit requested to be dropped off, spirits aren’t known to cross water. However, the story would require that the trucker drive over the Monongahela River to reach downtown Fairmont where the hospital and courthouse are located. The folklorist concedes that perhaps the man’s coat weighted the spirit down.

Marion County Courthouse Fairmont West Virginia
Marion County Courthouse in downtown Fairmont, West Virginia. Photo by Tim Kiser, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ruth Ann Musick, the folklorist who came to the trucker’s defense, is an eminent figure in the preservation of the state’s folklore. She originally came to Fairmont State College (now Fairmont State University) to teach mathematics and English in 1946. During her more than two decades at the school she delved into folklore, becoming a passionate champion of West Virginia’s peculiar tales. As well as creating classes about folklore, she revived the West Virginia Folklore Society and started and served as editor for the West Virginia Folklore Journal.

As a collector of the stories and tales that sprang from the rocky soil of the Mountain State, she published several collections that are still in print including The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales and Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales. The folklorist quoted in the Exponent-Telegram articles notes that Musick knew 21 versions of this story, so the trucker was right in contacting her to strengthen his excuse. We can also use Musick to add a date to this story. According to her Wikipedia entry, Musick was diagnosed with spinal cancer and passed away July 2, 1974. Coupled with the dates from the glass plant and Musick’s death, that would likely set this story sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s.

Sources

Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Experiences–Georgia

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia

When the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought in 1864, much of the area north of Atlanta was sparsely settled. Over the past few decades as the Atlanta Metro area has expanded, growth has even overtaken the quiet stillness of this place where tens of thousands fought to stop Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.

Union Cavalry sergeant 1866 Oliver H. Willard Kennesaw battlefield Georgia haunted ghosts
A Union Cavalry sergeant, 1866, by Oliver H. Willard.

Residential and commercial developments have been constructed and roads cut across parts of the battlefield. It was along one of these roads that a father and son had an interesting experience one night in October of 2007. As the duo drove along, the driver braked as something appeared to start crossing the road in front of the car.

Both Civil War enthusiasts, they were shocked to see a horse with a rider emerge from the darkness. Dressed in the uniform of a Union cavalry officer, the rider held a saber aloft as if to make that point even more apparent. The specter passed through a fence on the opposite side and vanished.

The driver told Atlanta’s 11 Alive News, “My son and I were in a state of almost sheer panic, but we managed to maintain and get on the way home very quickly.”

__________

It has been noted that many residents living in homes built on the battlefield have experienced strange things. After this article appeared, one of these residents wrote in to the paranormal blog Phantoms & Monsters:

I’ve got a bad back and haven’t worked in over a year, so I spend a lot of time in bed. Earlier this year, late spring or early summer, I was in a half-awake state and I noticed the hazy form of what appeared to be someone in Civil War clothing on a horse standing in my bedroom. It was there for only a second and kind of dematerialized. I remember it being a kind of yellowish color.

I wasn’t scared and thought it was probably not so much a ghost but the energy of something that happened here during the Civil War. I am 3 miles from the epicenter of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and probably less than a mile from the cavalry battleground at Mud Creek.

Illinois Monument at Cheatham Hill Kennesaw battlefield Georgia haunted ghost
The Illinois Monument at Cheatham Hill, 2013. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Several years ago, I spoke with a family who lived in one of these haunted houses. After moving in and experiencing paranormal activity, they asked their neighbors about it only to find out that they lived with the same thing.

The wife told me that she took the trash out one night. As she rounded the corner of the house, she came face to face with a figure in the dark. Startled, she quickly realized that the figure was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform. Not knowing how to react, she dropped the bag of trash at his feet saying, “here you go!” and ran back into the house. She failed to mention if the ghost put the trash in the receptacle.

Sources

  • Crawley, Paul. “Ghost rider at Kennesaw Mtn.?” 11Alive News. 1 November 2007.
  • Strikler, Lon. “Mailbag: the Kennesaw Mountain ghost rider.Phantoms and Monsters. 8 November 2009.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII

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

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and on Halloween of 2017, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

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

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

Talladega County

Talladega Superspeedway
3366 Speedway Boulevard
Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Tallapoosa County

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Tuscaloosa County

Little Roundhouse
Campus of the University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Walker County

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

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

Sources

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

Washington County

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Wilcox County

GainesRidge Dinner Club
933 AL-10
Camden

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

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

Sources

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

Winston County

AL-5
Between Nauvoo, Lynn, and Natural Bridge

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

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

Sources

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

“The swift sword of Erin”—Sharpsburg, Maryland

Antietam National Battlefield
5831 Dunker Church Road
Sharpsburg, Maryland

Avenging and bright fall the swift sword of Erin
On him who the brave sons of Usna betray’d!
For every fond eye he hath waken’d a tear in
A drop from his heart-wounds shall weep o’er her blade.

 We swear to avenge them! – no joy shall be tasted,
The harp shall be silent, the maiden unwed,
Our halls shall be mute, and our fields shall lie wasted,
Till vengeance is wreak’d on the murderer’s head.

–Thomas Moore

Georgians should never be pissed off before breakfast. At least this was sentiment expressed by a Georgia soldier (many of whom were likely of Irish stock) from one of General John Bell Hood’s (the Hoods were of old Dutch stock, via New York and Kentucky) divisions when he wrote about the morning of September 17, 1862. The soldier complained, “Just as we began to cook our rations near daylight, we were shelled and ordered into formation. I have never seen a more disgusted bunch of boys and mad as hornets.”

General Robert E. Lee (of English stock) was attempting an invasion of Maryland from which he could terrorize Pennsylvania and, hopefully, bring about a swift end to the war. But, General George B. McClellan’s (from Scottish stock) Army of the Potomac had doggedly pursued him and barred his way towards the Keystone State.

Alexander Gardner’s photo of Confederate dead along the Hagerstown Pike near the cornfields where the initial fighting took place, 1862.

In quiet cornfields on the outskirts of Sharpsburg, Maryland, Union General Joseph Hooker (of English stock) hurled his forces at the Confederates stationed near the Hagerstown Pike. Both armies fed multiple divisions into the conflagration in a cornfield watched over by a modest church built for a German Protestant sect, the Dunkers. Into this meat-grinder soldiers of vast and varied heritage met gun-barrel to gun-barrel with their brothers from Wisconsin, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. By 10 o’clock that morning, some 8,000 men lay dead or wounded.

As carnage washed over Miller’s Cornfield, Confederates took up a position in an old farm road that decades of wagon wheels had eroded below the landscape, an old, sunken road. Around midday, Union forces were directed to attack this surprisingly strong position and each was mowed down. Fourth in line for this onslaught was the 69th New York Infantry, known as the Irish Brigade, led by General Thomas Francis Meagher.

Undated photograph of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher.

Meagher was of solid Irish stock, having been born in the Irish city of Waterford in 1823. His father, a merchant and politician, was Canadian, though his father was born in County Tipperary, Ireland. Young Thomas Francis received his education at the hands of Jesuits in Ireland and later Britain before he settled in Dublin where he became involved in the Irish Nationalist movement.

In the village of Ballingarry, in South Tipperary, Meagher and other “Young Irelanders,” led an attack on a local police unit in 1848. After the police called in reinforcements, Meagher and the other rebels fled. They were arrested and put on trial for treason. The leaders of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848 were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in the British tradition, but a public outcry led the judge to commute their sentence to being exiled to the British penal colony in Tasmania, Australia.

Arriving in Australia, nearly all of these political convicts escaped with Meagher and John Mitchel making their way for New York City where both settled and became prominent activists and journalists. Taking up the cause of slavery, Mitchel found his way to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he started the Southern Citizen newspaper, and later he served as editor for the Richmond, Virginia newspaper, the Richmond Enquirer. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, Meagher was moved to support the Union, despite previous sympathies with the South and his friend, Mitchel.

Of his decision to support the Union, Meagher wrote, “It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.” He recruited his fellow countrymen and built Company K of the 69th Infantry Regiment, New York Volunteers, which was now being sent into the hail of gunfire and artillery towards the Sunken Road.

Brig, General Meagher and the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Fair Oaks, 1 June 1862, by Currier & Ives. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

To remind his men of the Irish heritage, Meagher wanted to present each man with a shamrock before the battle, but as none were available, he presented the men with sprigs of boxwood instead. The ranks lined up for their charge into the valley of death while the brigade’s chaplain, Father William Corby, rode up and down giving the men conditional absolution. With their emerald green flags flapping in the breeze, the Irish Brigade marched into the fray with an old, Irish battle cry, “Faugh-a-ballagh!” or “clear the way.” Around 540 of his men were killed before the brigade was withdrawn from the field. Meagher reportedly fell from his horse with some reports that he was drunk, while the official Union report presented to General McClellan states that his horse had been shot.

A statue at the Gettysburg Battlefield of Father William Corby with his hand raised in absolution. Photo by Samuel Murray, 2010, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Following the Irish Brigade’s bravery on the field of glory, the Union was able to beat back the Confederates from the Sunken Road, which earned this once peaceful farm road the gory moniker, “Bloody Lane.” The battle progressed south to a picturesque stone bridge on Antietam Creek where the battle concluded with nothing gained by either side. To historians, the battle proved to be the bloodiest day in American history with some 23,000 souls killed, wounded, or missing.

The battlefield at Antietam has been preserved by the National Park Service and it is considered one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the country. With all the blood that stained the battlefield that day, it’s no surprise that echoes of the battle still ring across the fields and vaporous martial apparitions continue to appear. One of the most commonly told stories from the battlefield concerns the a visit from a class from the McDonogh School, a private school in Owings Mills, Maryland. After touring the battlefield, the teacher allowed the students to wander the park, consider the events that took place there, and write their impressions. When the teacher began reading the students’ papers he was shocked to read that some students heard shouts coming from the Bloody Lane that sounded like someone singing a Christmas carol, something that sounded like “fa-la-la-la!” Was this the old Irish battle cry from the Irish Brigade of “Faugh-a-ballagh?”

Bloody Lane at Antietam, 2005. Photo b y Chris Light, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In his 2012 book, Civil War Ghost Trails, former park ranger Mark Nesbitt includes another fascinating story that asks if the spirits of the Confederates killed at Bloody Lane may also be active. Some years ago, a group of Civil War reenactors decided to camp at Bloody Lane. Just after settling down, the uniformed reenactors began to hear whispering and moaning as well as feeling odd chills. One-by-one they escaped to the safety of their cars leaving one reenactor alone on the battlefield. As they settled into their cars, the men a shriek and saw the reenactor stumbling back from field.

Still shaking from his experience, the reenactor told his friends that he was laying within on the old road. He had heard the same sounds that frightened the others, but he only thought their imaginations were getting the best of them. Suddenly he saw a hand rise from the ground between his chest and his arm. With brute force the hand began to press on his chest as if to pull him into the earth. After he began screaming, the arm vanished.

Sources

  • Battle of Antietam. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.
  • McPherson, James M. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. NYC: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • John Mitchel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.
  • Nesbitt, Mark. Civil War Trails: Stories from America’s Most Haunted Battlefields. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2012.
  • Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Thomas Francis Meagher. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.
  • Taylor, Troy. “Haunted Maryland, The Antietam Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland.” Ghosts of the Prairie.
  • Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 17 March 2018.

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