Some Alabama Hauntings, Briefly Noted

This entry was originally posted 16 January 2013, it has been edited and expanded a bit.

Bama Theatre
600 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa

Architect David O. Whilldin employed a theme of simplicity versus the exotic in his design for the Bama Theatre. The façade of the theatre utilizes limestone (a stone that may conduct paranormal energy) cut in the simplified geometry of Art Deco and Moderne lines. Step into the lobby, and a patron will find themselves immersed in the exuberance of an Italian Renaissance courtyard modeled on that of the Davanzati Palace in Florence. Perhaps Whilldin’s theme was meant to illustrate the condition of so many Americans during the Great Depression: leading simple and austere lives on the outside while their inner selves are vivacious, imaginative and highly cultured. Opening in 1938 and built with funds from the Works Progress Administration, the Bama Theatre can be considered one of the last of the great American atmospheric movie palaces.

Marquee of the Bama Theatre, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The identities of the spirits at the Bama Theatre are unknown. While research into the theatre’s past has revealed no deaths to link to the haunting, this may be a case of residual energy remaining after years of audiences and performers in the theatre. One particularly interesting story involves an employee who arrived early one morning. As he was making coffee, he heard the elevator moving. He stood at the doors expecting to greet the passenger, but when the doors opened, a blast of icy air greeted him, this is perhaps the most chilling of the paranormal events in this building.

Others working in the building have reported shadow figures, odd lights, and the distinct feeling of being watched. The building was probed by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team in recent years, though little evidence to support a haunting was uncovered.

Sources

  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation Report on The Bama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL. Accessed 29 November 2012.
  • Higdon, David & Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • “History.” The Bama Theatre (bamatheatre.org). Accessed 4 March 2013.

Bluff Hall
405 North Commissioners Avenue
Demopolis

The fortunes of Demopolis’ Lyon family reflect the rise and fall of the entire state during the 19th century. While the family owned a large plantation, Bermuda Hill, outside of town, it required a home in town for business and social functions. This home, Bluff Hall, was constructed in 1832 by Allen Glover for his daughter Sarah and her husband, Francis Strother Lyon.

Bluff Hall, 2008, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The revised WPA guide to the state describes the house as “fortress-like in its strength and severity,” an apt description for the magnificently sited home. Occupying one of the bluffs above the Tombigbee River, the home illustrates the Lyon family’s remarkable and powerful position in the region. Francis Lyon, the home’s first owner, served in the Alabama State Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Confederate Congress, all the while running his plantation at Bermuda Hill. The home remained in the Lyon family until just after the turn of the 20th century when another family purchased it as a residence. The Marengo County Historical Society purchased the home in 1967 and restored it to its antebellum glory.

Since its purchase by the historical society, evidently no one had stayed the night in the home until 2003. A group of people staying overnight encountered odd sounds during the evening. When the President of the local Chamber of Commerce went to investigate, she was confronted with the apparition of a child on the stairs. Local historians have suggested that the child was the spirit of Leonidas Mecklenburg “Merk” Polk, Francis Lyon’s grandson and grandson to Confederate General Leonidas Polk, who passed away in the home of scarlet fever in 1877.

Sources

  • “Area rich in ghost stories, folk lore.” Demopolis Times. 30 October 2008.
  • Bluff HallWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 December 2012.
  • Francis Strother Lyon. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 December 2012.
  • Hendrix, Barry H. “Image may have been real.” Demopolis Times. 5 November 2003.
  • Walker, Alyce Billings. ed. Alabama: A Guide to the Deep SouthNew Revised Edition. NYC: Hastings House, 1975.

Interstate 65
Between Evergreen and Greenville

This roughly 40-mile stretch of I-65 between Evergreen, in Conecuh County, and Greenville, in Butler County, is the setting for a legend. Like much of the state of Alabama, this area was initially part of the vast nation of the Muscogee, or Creek, people. After Alabama’s creation in 1819, land-hungry white pioneers flooded the area and tensions rose as the Muscogee watched the theft and degradation of their homeland. Skirmishes between the two groups brought violence and orders of removal from Washington. Thousands of Muscogees were forcibly removed from their rich and fertile homeland and resettled in the dry and barren Oklahoma territory.

The Muscogee left behind villages, farmland, hunting grounds, trails, and the bones of their ancestors. According to legend, I-65 cuts a swath through part of this sacred Muscogee territory and, as a result, this section of interstate is cursed. One commonly quoted statistic on this stretch of road states that “between 1984 and 1990, there were 519 accidents, 208 injuries, and 23 deaths on this 40-mile stretch of highway, though the road is straight, even, and well maintained.”

Many of these accidents are supposedly caused by something, possibly a human figure, darting across the road. A 2002 Birmingham News article says that Native American spirits have been seen in this area, “some as tall as 50 feet, towering over the pine trees in the interstate median.” Other reports involve mysterious, bright lights temporarily blinding drivers. Then again, this may just be another old Indian curse legend.

Sources

  • Granato, Sherri. “Haunted America: Interstate 65 in Evergreen, Alabama.” Yahoo Voices. 24 October 2011.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
  • Haveman, Christopher. “Creek Indian Removal.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 23 February 2012.
  • MacDonald, Ginny. “Boootiful Alabama: Don’t let night catch you driving alone.” Birmingham News. 31 October 2002.
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