It seems that wherever people are incarcerated their spirits may remain. Many of these places, be they jails, prisons, or the like, may be the scenes of deaths. In older jails, executions may have been conducted, but then there are also suicides, murders, accidents, and natural deaths as well occurring to the incarcerated as well as staff members. With death’s often malignant presence, it is no surprise that they are haunted.
Buck Creek Mill Site
Off 7th Street, Southwest
This site, now owned by the City of Alabaster, was once the site of a large cotton mill and associated buildings. The mill opened in 1896 as the Selma Cotton Mill, was renamed the Siluria Cotton Mill in 1902, and finally named the Buck Creek Cotton Mill in 1911, the name it would retain until it closed in 1979. The city purchased the property and demolished most of the structures, with the exception of the water tower and old jail, in the late 2000s. While much of the site is off limits to the public, the old mill’s dam on Buck Creek may be accessed by way of the Buck Creek Greenway.
In the years since, visitors to the site have reported paranormal experiences here including a black figure deemed, “The Black Phantom.” Investigator and author Kim Johnston notes that some visitors have had run-ins with a red-eyed specter here while others have felt an unexpected sense of panic.
Johnston, Kim. Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Limestone County Courthouse
200 West Washington Street
This, the third courthouse on this site, has witnessed the panoply of Athens history. The first courthouse was built on this site in 1820 and destroyed during the Civil War. Within the ruined shell of the first courthouse, the second building was built. That structure was razed and replaced with the current courthouse in 1916.
Author Jessica Penot spoke with the staff of the courthouse and discovered that this building apparently harbors the spirit of an inmate. Officials report that the third floor of the building once housed the jail and the spirit of an inmate who hung himself in his cell.
Lauderdale County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Lauderdale County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
There’s a ghost in the heart of Madison, specifically in the Main Street Café. Built in 1955, the structure that now houses the restaurant was built as the city’s third city hall. Originally, the structure contained offices and two jail cells, both of which remain as part of the restaurant. One spirit may remain from the building’s past: a spirit who has been dubbed George by the restaurant staff. Author and blogger Jessica Penot notes that the spirit is mostly mischievous and seems to play pranks on the employees like arranging things to fall out when a cabinet is opened or moving or hiding kitchen utensils.
Tucker, Leslie & Christy Anderson. Madison Station Historic District. February 2005.
Old Bibb County Jail
21 Court Square, West
This 1910 Renaissance-styled jail is no longer standing. It was used from the date of its construction until 2004, after which the building served as storage for the city. It was demolished in 2015. During this time, it gained notoriety as being haunted. For further information, see my entry on the jail in “Alabama Haunt Briefs.”
Orline Street Wetumpka
Standing near the riverside in downtown Wetumpka is a small brick building with tiny windows and a single, solid door. This old calaboose, from the Spanish calabozo, meaning dungeon, was the first jail in the area, having been constructed around 1820. It could house only two prisoners at a time. This location was featured on the Wetumpka Haunted History Tour in 2016 and activity there was only vaguely described.
Wetumpka-Elmore County Chamber of Commerce. Wetumpka Haunted History Tour. 28 October 2016.
Old Coffee County Jail
329 Putnam Street
The ruins of this 1912 jail hold perhaps a number of spirits. This building was the scene of the assassination of the county’s sheriff in 1979. This, combined with the usual negative energy found in jails, may contribute to the building’s haunted nature. For further information, see my entry on the jail in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part II.”
Old Covington County Jail
Behind the Covington County Courthouse
101 North Court Square
Situated behind the county courthouse, this jail was constructed in 1916 and has been probed by paranormal investigators on at least two occasions. Writer and investigator Faith Serafin, who led a team through the building, remarked that evidence of spirits within the building is “beyond a shadow of a doubt.” For further information, see my entry on the jail in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part II.”
Old Rock Jail
Corner of Jackson Street and AL 22
Legend holds that the spirit of an inmate who committed suicide remains to walk the halls of this old jail. This three-story structure, constructed in 1842, is the oldest stone jail in the state. It served the county until 1938. The building is now owned by the local historical society and operated as a museum and events venue.
Old Townley Jail (private)
Off Main Street
Located in woods just off Main Street in this small Walker County community, are the ruins of the old jail. These remains, on private property now, are reportedly haunted. A young lady reported on GhostsofAmerica.com that she and her friends had several frightening encounters while investigating there one night. The group heard chains in the empty building and took several pictures with anomalies.
Behind the Bullock County Courthouse
217 North Prairie Avenue
Behind the courthouse stands the intimidating Pauly Jail named for the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company of St. Louis which constructed it in 1897. The building is among the oldest jails still in existence in the state. Like many jails of the period, executions were conducted here using the trap door on the second floor. The condemned may remain here in the form of voices, odd sounds, and fleeting shadows.
Fox, Jovani. “Paranormal research team investigates Pauly Jail.” Union Springs Herald. September 2009.
Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Sipsey City Hall
3835 Sipsey Road
Like Townley above, Sipsey is also a small town in Walker County. City Hall once featured jail cells, but those have been disused for some time. Perhaps the remaining cells may be the cause of paranormal activity experienced throughout the building. According to a report from the Alabama Paranormal Research Team, an investigation in this building turned up a surprising amount of activity.
Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation Report on the Sipsey City Jail. Accessed 29 November 2012.
Winston County Courthouse
10 Blake Drive
This 1894 county courthouse also houses the county jail. According to a post on HauntedPlaces.org, a jailer has had a series of unusual experiences here. One night after getting a bag of chip from a vending machine, the jailer’s chips were knocked from his hands but a cool breeze. A comment on the post from someone who spent time incarcerated here states that “old lawman” still walks the corridor.
Kay, Steven M. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Winston County Courthouse. March 1987.
Along Southern roadways and bridges, people sometimes experience strange activity. From lonely “Cry Baby Bridges” to apparitions, phantom coaches, and strange sounds and feelings, this directory covers hauntings throughout the South. This directory covers roads, streets, bridges, trails, and sites immediately adjacent to byways.
AL 169, Connecting US 80 to Opelika, Lee and Russell Counties
241 West Columbus Street
In small towns throughout the South, residents are often pitted against one another based on college or high school football allegiances, or church denominations. Or, as is this case, whether or not to tear down a lovely historic and haunted home for a parking lot. These rivalries are most evident at the end of an article in Alexander City, Alabama’s The Outlook.
Banks said an acquaintance of his had implied that the house was going to be leveled.
“She told me — inferred to me — that it was the Baptist church’s plans to enlarge the parking lot to encompass the house,” Banks said. “But she’s a Methodist and in small towns like Dadeville, you’re committed to one or the other. If you’ve found out about Auburn fans and Alabama fans, being a Baptist and Methodist in Dadeville is about the same thing.”
Having grown up in a nearby town (my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia is about 40 miles away), I’ve heard about these rivalries all my life. Most of them are good natured, though sometimes extreme views can lead to tension and rifts between people.
In the case of the McClendon-Ingram-Banks House, located adjacent to the First Baptist Church’s parking lot, this rivalry shows concern for this lovely old home. According to the National Register nomination form for the Dadeville Historic District, the home was built around the turn of the 20th century. It was the home of several prominent local doctors over the years. One legend concerns one of the early doctors going out at night for a house call. His horse returned, but the man was never seen again. Another of the residents, Dr. McClendon, lost his young daughter here after the child’s dress caught fire when she got too close to a fireplace.
Yet another legend of the house notes that it was used as a convalescent home for Confederate soldiers. When a couple looked at the house recently they took photographs of the interior which showed “semi-transparent, ghostly images in several of them.” The wife thought they resembled Confederate soldiers. It should be noted, however, that the home was built about 35 years after the end of the Civil War, thought it still may have served as a convalescent home for aging soldiers.
Over the decades, a number of families have reported paranormal activity in the home including disembodied “footsteps, medicines appearing and reappearing,” and the apparition of Dr. McClendon’s daughter. While some of the activity may be somewhat frightening, the spirits, according to a member of one of the last families to inhabit the house, are benign.
The latest rivalry concerns the First Baptist Church’s recent acquisition of the property. Rumors have spread that the church may tear the house down to expand its parking lot, though a representative of the church told the paper that nothing has been decided yet. He suggested that the house may be used as meeting space by the church, or that the house may be moved for the expansion of the parking lot. Hopefully, the house and its sprits may be saved, and that this rivalry will be revealed as a lot of hot air.
In the early 20th century, American roads were a mess. In the late 19th century, the railroad was really the only means to travel throughout the country as roads weren’t well-maintained or even necessary except for local transportation. With the advent of the automobile however, “good roads” (as the movement was called) became increasingly crucial. Car owners began to band together to form auto clubs to create roads for themselves.
In the 1910s, these auto trail organizations and automobile clubs reached even further to create the Lincoln Highway, one of the earliest transcontinental highways stretching from New York’s Times Square to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. With its popularity among travelers and local governments alike, the idea was expanded to the South with the creation of the Dixie Highway, which originally connected Chicago to Miami. Not only did this open up the South to tourism, but it brought industry as well.
While this new network of roads was increasingly useful, the Federal Government began investigating ways to expand and organize this network. State roadway standards were introduced in 1914 with the creation of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). Their standards eventually evolved into a U.S. Highway system over the next decade. This system, now nearing a hundred years old, continues to expand to this day.
U.S. Route 29, a north-south highway, connects Pensacola, Florida to Ellicott City, Maryland. Along its route it passes through a number of major cities including Auburn, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; Danville, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Fairfax, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and some of DC’s Maryland suburbs before its termination in Ellicott City, a suburb of Baltimore.
For me, US 29 has a very personal connection. On its route through my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, it passes many landmarks from my youth and is the road on which I currently live. It also figures into several stories that I now tell on my Strange LaGrange Tour. For a few years I have wanted to take a big road trip to visit many of the haunted places I have written about and considered that driving the length of US 29 would make an excellent trip. This article covers many of the haunted locales I plan to visit should the trip come to fruition.
This article is intended to provide links to places I have written about elsewhere on my blog along with several brief entries and other suggested locations that I may cover in the future. This article is not intended as a static article, but will change as I cover more locations along the route of US 29.
US 29 begins at the intersection of North Palafox Street and Cervantes Street (US 90 and 98), just north of downtown Pensacola. While there are no haunted places (that I know of) at that immediate intersection, less than a mile south is a cluster of locations. The Saenger Theatre (118 South Palafox) is located at the intersection of South Palafox and Intendencia Street. A block south of the theatre is a cluster of hauntings around Plaza Ferdinand VII (which is haunted) that includes the T.T. Wentworth Museum, the portion of Zaragoza Street between S. Palafox and S. Baylen Streets, the Quayside Art Gallery, Pensacola Children’s Museum, and Seville Quarter. Just east of the Plaza is Old Pensacola Village.
Old Christ Church 405 South Adams Street
The Old Pensacola Village consists of a collection of historic and haunted buildings important to the early history of Pensacola including the 1832 Old Christ Church. The churchyard of the church once held the remains of three of its vicars, but during renovations, their graves were obscured. Some years ago, their remains were recovered during archaeological excavations. During the service marking their reburial, one young man witnessed the three vicars walking among the guests.
US 29 bypasses downtown Andalusia which features a haunted jail. The Old Covington County Jail can be viewed from North Cotton Street behind the courthouse.
As the highway makes its way through downtown Troy, Alabama, it passes near the first of many major institutions of higher learning, Troy University. Two dormitories on the campus, Pace and Shackleford Halls, feature ghost stories.
North of the city of Tuskegee, US 29 heads through the Tuskegee National Forest, a site of high strangeness that includes tales of ghosts and Sasquatch sightings.
As US 29 approaches Auburn, it joins with I-85 to bypass the city, though there is a concentration of haunted places in and around downtown and Auburn University. Two locations at the university have been covered in this blog including the University Chapel and the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, both of which are located on College Street.
Auburn Train Depot
120 Mitcham Avenue
Railroad passengers entering and leaving Auburn have passed through one of the three buildings that have occupied this site since 1847. The first building was destroyed during the Civil War while its replacement was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. The current building was erected in 1904 and served as a rail depot until 1970. The building was left empty in 2003 after being used as a real estate office for some 20 years. The building has served as a restaurant for a number of years and rumor has it that staff has experienced a number of strange doings.
There is a legend about the building recounted in Haunted Auburn and Opelika regarding a young woman who met a young man here. The couple began to meet regularly despite the insistence of the young woman’s father that she would marry another man. The young couple planned to elope, but the young woman’s brother thwarted the plans and killed his sister’s lover. She then threw herself in front of an arriving train. Her wail intertwined with the train’s whistle are supposedly still heard.
Cole, Ashtyne. “City plans to renovate historic train depot.” Auburn Plainsman. 12 June 2014.
Serafin, Faith, Michelle Smith and John Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
Woodham, Brian. “Restaurant coming to Auburn Train Depot.” Auburn Villager. 3 December 2014.
As US 29 (still concurrent with I-85) passes into Opelika, it crosses AL 169, which has had some activity.
The exit with US 280 provides access to Spring Villa(1474 Spring Villa Road), a most unusual plantation home with ghosts and other strangeness. At the next exit, US 29 becomes independent and heads north through Chambers County.
The city of Valley extends up to the state line with West Point, Georgia. Just before 29 crosses that line it passes through the community of Lanett with its Oakwood Cemetery(1st Street) which is home to the dollhouse grave of Nadine Earles.
West Point, Georgia
In downtown West Point, the Depression era U. S. Post Office(729 4th Avenue) may feature a few spirits. The area also has a small Civil War-era fortification, Fort Tyler, which was constructed to protect an important railway bridge over the Chattahoochee. The four-hour siege that was fought here in April of 1865 left many dead, including the commanders of the fort. These men were buried in Pine Wood Cemetery which is passed by US 29 as it leads north to LaGrange. Both of these locations may be home to paranormal activity.
I have been a resident of LaGrange since early childhood and this town instilled in me a love of ghost stories. For the past couple years, I have been providing a ghost tour of downtown, the Strange LaGrange Tour, on which I feature the LaGrange Art Museum(112 Lafayette Parkway). Along its route through town, 29 passes LaGrange College with its antique centerpiece, Smith Hall. My tour discusses Smith Hall, Hawkes Hall, and the College Chapel, which are all spirited places. The college’s theatre, Price Theatre, off Panther Way, has an assortment of theatre ghosts.
In its journey between LaGrange and Atlanta, the road passes a number of haunted locations, though I have yet to cover any of them in this blog.
Downtown Atlanta has a number of haunted places on its famous Peachtree Street including the Ellis Hotel(176 Peachtree Street), the Fox Theatre (660 Peachtree Street), and Rhodes Memorial Hall(1516 Peachtree Street) all of these are covered in my “Apparitions of Atlanta” article.
Leaving DeKalb County, the road enters Gwinnett County near Stone Mountain, home of Stone Mountain Park(1000 Robert E. Lee Boulevard). Not only have there been spiritual encounters on the slopes of the titular monadnock, but the park’s Southern Plantation has a number of spiritual residents inside the historic structures.
As the highway leaves Gwinnett County, it passes through Barrow and into Oconee County. South of US 29 is the small town of Watkinsville, where the creepy Eagle Tavern(26 North Main Street) has served customers, and now museum patrons, for more than 200 years.
Wofford College is one of several institutions of higher learning located in Spartanburg, nearly all of which have spirits. Wofford’s Old Main Building is the haunt of several spirits.
Gaffney, South Carolina
On the way into Gaffney, US 29 passes the small town of Cowpens. A major battle of the American Revolution took place about nine miles north of town and the battlefield is known to be haunted.
In 1968, a serial killer operated in Gaffney and some of the sites where he dumped his victims’ bodies are known to be haunted. These sites include the Ford Road Bridge over Peoples Creek.
Blacksburg, South Carolina
After passing through Blacksburg, US 29 comes near another battlefield from the American Revolution with paranormal activity, Kings Mountain(2625 Park Road).
Charlotte, North Carolina
From Blacksburg, South Carolina, US 29 continues across the state line into North Carolina. I have not covered any locations in Cleveland or Gaston Counties. In Charlotte, I have covered one location, the Carolina Theatre(224-232 North Tryon), though I intend to rectify this in the near future.
Salisbury, North Carolina
Some years ago, I discovered an 1898 article from the Salisbury Sun describing the appearance of a ghost on Fisher Street. In addition, I discovered that the building at 122 Fisher Street has been reported as haunted. These locations were written up in my article, “’His ghostship’—Salisbury, NC.”
Salisbury National Cemetery 202 Government Road
The treatment of prisoners by both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War was atrocious and certainly has led to very active haunted locations where the prisons operated. This is certainly evident in Salisbury where an old textile mill was turned into a prison to house 2,000, but eventually held some 11,000. With a number of deaths occurring on a daily basis, a small cemetery was established a short distance from the prison which in 1874 became the Salisbury National Cemetery. According to Karen Lilly-Bowyer, a retired educator and the operator of the Downtown Ghost Walk, the area around the old prison site and the cemetery are quite active and a Union sentry has been spotted around the trenches where the prisoners were interred.
Lilly-Bowyer, Karen. “A war-haunted landscape.” Salisbury Post. 22 January 2011.
After crossing into Virginia, US 29 briefly runs concurrent with US 58. US 58 BUS goes through Danville, while the regular route takes a southern dip around the city where it meets up with US 29. Near the intersection of US 58 BUS and Riverside Drive is the site of the crash of the Old ’97 Train in 1903. This site has produced anomalous lights ever since.
While I have yet to cover Lynchburg in my blog, there are a number of haunted locales here, especially on the campus of Randolph College.
Sweet Briar, Virginia
US 29 passes through the small college town of Sweet Briar, home to the private women’s college Sweet Briar. From the tales that have been told on campus, it seems the founders of the college have remained here.
As US 29 passes out of the city, it comes near a haunted former bed and breakfast, the Silver Thatch Inn(3001 Hollymead Drive).
Brandy Station, Virginia
This small community in Culpeper County was the scene of one of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War in 1863. A small home near the Brandy Station depot was commandeered as a hospital after the battle. The patients left graffiti covering the walls and perhaps spirits as well, giving this home the nickname Graffiti House(19484 Brandy Road). A small, historic church, Fleetwood Church, nearby and the Brandy Station Battlefield are also known to be paranormally active.
This small, Fauquier County town is home to several haunted places, including the Black Horse Inn, the Hutton House, and a home called “Loretta.”
Manassas National Battlefield Park
This highway cuts directly across the Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County. Through these farm fields and copses of wood, two major battles of the Civil War were fought, the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas on July 21, 1861, and the Second Battle fought on August 29-30, 1862. As a result, this battle is known to be haunted.
Occupying the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s former estate, Arlington National Cemetery provides a resting place for some 400,000 soldiers from every conflict since the Civil War. With so many dead, there are ghost stories regarding the cemetery, Arlington Mansion, and the surrounding area.
US 29 enters the nation’s capital on the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River. It continues onto Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown before crossing Rock Creek and becoming an elevated freeway. This point over Rock Creek is significant for two reasons, the bridge itself is haunted and this crossing is at the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
The canal, which was begun in 1828, was meant to provide transportation of cargo from the end of the navigable portion of the Potomac to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the end, cost overruns ended the construction in Cumberland, Maryland, 184.5 miles from it’s beginning. From the end of construction in 1831 to 1928, the canal was used primarily to ship coal from the Alleghany Mountains to Georgetown. The “Grand Old Ditch,” as it was called, lay abandoned for many years until ownership was overtaken by the National Park Service. The canal is open as a National Historic Park with a trail alongside it. From end to end, the canal is lined with legends and ghost stories.
Along its route through Washington, US 29 comes near many haunted places. For a list of places covered in this blog, please see my District of Columbia Directory.
Montgomery County, Maryland
Montgomery County is a suburban county providing suburbs for Washington. I have discovered that my coverage of Maryland, as a whole, is lacking and I have not covered any locations within this county, though there are a number. I intend on rectifying this as soon as possible.
This city’s historic district lies in the valley of the Patapsco River, with Main Street running downhill to a bridge over the river. A tributary, the Tiber River, meets the Patapsco near here and problems with severe flooding have been experienced at points along Main Street. One of these recent floods is discussed in my article on theJudge’s Bench(8385 Main Street). Housing shops, boutiques, and homes, many of the buildings along Main Street also house spirits.
Since I started my blog, I have been hesitant to use random encounters from online. Of course, while many of these stories are hard, nay impossible, to prove, some of them do ring with a sense of truth. For a writer like me, one of the most difficult tasks in my research is finding good, firsthand accounts of ghostly encounters, especially for areas where there is a general lack of documented stories (i.e. books, newspaper articles, etc.).
Recently, I have become fascinated with the Ghosts of America website. This website collects stories from people throughout the country. While many of these accounts talk about ghosts in private homes, some discuss specific locations. While wading through this vast collection, I’m looking for specific accounts that not only mention specific locations but have a sense of authenticity as well.
Please note, I cannot guarantee that any of these places are truly haunted or that these accounts are totally truthful.
Birmingham, Alabama was named for the English city of Birmingham—one of the earliest industrial cities in the Western world. Altoona, Alabama, which was founded around the turn of the 20th century as a coal-mining town, was named for the great Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Altoona. Likely, the town supplied coal for the burgeoning steel industry centered in nearby Birmingham.
There’s not much to the community of Altoona; Main Street is Alabama Highway 132 as it heads southwest to Oneonta in neighboring Blount County, traveling east you’ll connect with US 278. A post office and several stores form the center of the town with small homes radiating outward.
Brown Street branches off Main Street and winds through rural woods with sporadic houses lining its side before it terminates south of town. An anonymous poster to Ghosts of America documented an interesting encounter on this street. A woman was driving this street at night when her car broke down within 500 yards of 11th Avenue. She pulled off the road and called her husband to come get her.
As she waited on the side of the road, she noted that she felt comfortable as she was familiar with the area. An old Dodge drove past her and she watched as it turned around to check on her. As the vehicle passed her again, she saw an elderly man driving. Slowing down, the mysterious driver smiled at her and nodded, “as if to let me know I would be fine.” Reaching for her phone, the woman looked to see if her husband was nearby. As she looked up again, the vehicle was nowhere in sight, and the witness realized the old Dodge had made no sound at all.
New York Avenue begins auspiciously at the White House heading northwest towards Maryland. As one of the original avenues laid out by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, this thoroughfare originally began at the Potomac River southwest of the White House, but over time those sections of the avenue have been consumed by development, so now only a block remains south of the White House. According to L’Enfant’s plan, the avenue terminated at Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue), though support was garnered around the turn of the 20th century to extend the road into Maryland. This was finally accomplished in 1931.
As New York Avenue stretches northeast away from the hubbub of downtown Washington, its monumental nature falls away and it begins to take on a more plebeian flair as it sidles up to the Amtrak Railyards. Upscale businesses are replaced with light industrial and pedestrian commercial development. Efforts to redevelop the corridor were discussed in 1980 and up through the early 2000s, though much of that work has not come to fruition. A 2005 study of the most crash-prone intersections in the city concluded that five were located on New York Avenue, with the top one being the intersection with Bladensburg Road.
An encounter posted to Ghosts of America makes note of the avenue’s dicey reputation, especially after dark. “Larry” however, decided to use it as a shortcut around 3 AM one morning. As he waited at a stoplight, a disheveled man approached his car and stopped in front. The light turned green and the man continued to stand in front of his car. Larry honked, though the strange man continued standing there. As he backed his car up to go around, Larry realized that the man did not have legs and was seemingly floating in mid-air. Terrified, he sped away from the scene.
Melrose Landing Boulevard is a sparsely inhabited road through rural Putnam County, Florida, near the towns of Hawthorne and Melrose. According to a poster named Sarah on Ghosts of America, it was along this road that her father and brother came upon a woman standing in the road “in a dress that looked to be out of the 1700’s.” She appeared suddenly, and the truck didn’t have time to stop before passing through her.
Around 3 AM on November 1, 2009, All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween, Sarah turned onto the road at the same place where her father and brother had their earlier incident. As she drove down the road she passed a woman walking “with her long dress all gathered up in her arms.” Realizing that she might need to check on the woman, she turned around and discovered no one around. Sarah also noted that she was returning home from working at a seasonal haunted attraction and was driving a hearse. She considered that the oddity of someone encountering such a vehicle on such a day might have frightened the mysterious woman and that she may have fled into the woods, though Sarah doubted it.
Connecting Valdosta with Moody Air Force Base and Fitzgerald, GA 125 is named Bemiss Road in Valdosta as it heads towards the small community of Bemiss. A poster on Ghosts of America named Arturias revealed that he drove this road frequently at night over the course of fifteen years. During that time, he witnessed people walking along the road, though on three occasions he “noticed coming up on them that they didn’t have legs under the streetlights. Looked faded out.”
After these experiences, he heard the road referred to as the “Highway of Death.” I can find nothing online to prove or disprove whether this is actually the case and why.
Branching off of US 31W, Baker Road serves as a truck entrance to Fort Knox. A post on Ghosts of America from someone going by the handle, Redfraggle, was apparently written by one of those truck drivers who frequently drives Baker Road late at night. While headed towards the Brandenburg Gate, this driver had to swerve “to avoid hitting a dark-haired woman crossing the road.” Dressed in a muumuu, the woman appeared solid and the driver stopped to check on her. The woman only looked at him with a “broken hearted” expression and vanished.
The driver reports that he has seen the woman many times but doesn’t stop for her. In addition, this apparition has appeared along this stretch of road to his fellow drivers.
Please note that this road is on a military base and off limits to the public.
Fort Knox, Kentucky Ghost Sightings. GhostsofAmerica.com. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Elbert Stewart Road
Albany/Independence, Louisiana Area
About five miles north of Albany and five miles west of Independence is Elbert Stewart Road, home to the locally known Albany Lights. I can find no other reference to these lights online or in any of my research.
A submission from Larry on Ghosts of America, describes his experiences with the lights throughout his life. According to the post, Elbert Stewart Road was once called Dummy Line Road. The term “dummy line” refers to railroads that were constructed to serve the timber as it cut huge swathes of land throughout the South the end of 19th and into the early 20th centuries. Presumably, these lines were called “dummy” because they did not connect to the transportation rail lines.
The story of the lights involves a brakeman who was killed when he failed to pin the coupling between two cars and was crushed. The lights are supposed to be the brakeman’s signal “that the pinning was made.”
Larry explains that some years ago the road was named for his grandfather and that at 49 years of age, he recalls the lights appearing all his life. Interestingly, he points out that if you have photographic equipment on you, the lights will not appear (what about cellphones?). Otherwise, viewers have an 80% chance of seeing the hazy, bluish colored light.
Interestingly, he notes that the phenomenon has been investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Geographic Society. None of these investigations were successful as they all had photographic equipment on them.
A comment on the post from a nearby resident states that they have encountered the lights here “plus much more.”
Church Road Cemetery
Broomes Island, Maryland
Occupying a small peninsula extending into the Patuxent River, the community of Broomes Island plays host to a haunted cemetery. Not only do spirits haunt the cemetery, but they apparently have spilled out onto surrounding streets. This location is documented in Ghosthunting Maryland by the father and son duo of Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. The Varholas describe a ritual where someone circles the cemetery three times at night, after which a fog rolls in the laughter of young girls can be heard.
A post on Ghosts of America mentions that the cemetery has numerous spirits which have spilled out into the nearby streets where they “scream and laugh.” A comment on this post is from a newspaper delivery man who has encountered the spirit of a young boy who told him and his mother to leave. Afterwhich, they saw it run past the car windows.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cinncinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.
MS 33 Bridge over the Homochitto River
Less than a mile north of the unincorporated community of Rosetta in the Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi State Route 33 crosses the Homochitto River on a fairly new bridge. This bridge has seen multiple iterations as the shallow river erodes the stream banks. For nearly two centuries a ferry crossed here which was eventually replaced by a bridge. That bridge was replaced in 1941. The new bridge was damaged during a flood, and it was repaired and extended in 1956.
By 1974, the bridge was again needing work and it was extended again. Just two months after completion, the bridge was washed out during a flood. This washout claimed the lives of two men who were reportedly standing on the bridge. The current bridge was completed by the MDOT in 1978, though it too, has been extended around 2014.
A brief post on Ghosts of America states that phantom headlights have been seen on this bridge heading southbound but disappearing before they cross the full length of the bridge.
South Queen Street Bridge over the Neuse River
Kinston, North Carolina
A couple from out of town was staying at “the hotel that sits right next to the Queen Street Neuse River Bridge,” presumably the Red Carpet Inn and Suites. After dark they walked across the road to get dinner from Hardee’s. As they made their way back to their hotel, they began to hear the sounds of “men screaming, ‘stop the fire’ and the sounds of water splashing” coming from the direction of the bridge. The sounds continued with the noise of a battle. At the same time, they both smelled the odor of cigar smoke. They ran back to their room.
The following day, they mentioned the incident to the hotel manager and were told that a battle was fought there during the Civil War, and that guests routinely report hearing and seeing things around the bridge. The couple reported their experiences on Ghosts of America.
In fact, this was the site of the Kinston Bridge which came under attack by Union troops on December 14, 1862. After defending a defensive line south of the bridge, Confederate troops retreated towards the bridge and crossed into town. Thinking that all his men had crossed, General Nathan Evans ordered his men to set the bridge aflame. However, a number of Confederate troops still remained on the opposite side and were now taking the brunt of artillery fire from both Union troops and their own men on the other side of the bridge.
As these men began to run for the bridge they realized that it was in flames and many were captured by Union forces. General John G. Foster sent his men to douse the flames and continue across the partially destroyed bridge into Kinston. As Evans retreated away from town, Union soldiers looted and destroyed parts of the city.
Stretching between Key West., Florida and Fort Kent, Maine, US 1 is the longest north-south road in the country. While this highway passes through many busy urban areas, it also passes through quiet, rural areas such as this area of Kershaw County. Michael posted on Ghosts of America about his experience on this lonely stretch of road around 12:30 at night.
As he passes through an undeveloped area, Michael passed a woman walking on the side of the road. He noticed that she had an “old mottled blanket wrapped around her. The entire figure was so very pale. Her hair was blonde, and the blanket appeared to have dark dots on it.” As he passed her, he wondered why someone would be out on a chilly night on this lonely stretch of road. Looking in his rearview mirror, he could only see darkness. The following night he was on the lookout for the woman, but she did not appear. After arriving at work, he told some of his co-workers about the experience only to have someone come in from the next room saying that they had seen the woman as well. Their description matched his, all the way down to the blanket.
An employee for an industrial laundry posted on Ghosts of America that two of his drivers had strange experiences on Dolly Parton Parkway. The first encounter involved a driver as he drove into work around 2:30 AM along Dolly Parton Parkway. He encountered a thick fog, and “came upon 4 men in old tattered clothes pushing a cannon across the road.” Slamming on the brakes, he sat and watched as the men rolled the cannon across the road without noticing him or his car. Going into work, the shaken driver told his supervisor of his experience.
The second encounter also involved a man driving the same stretch of road in the very early morning also driving through a thick patch of fog. “His entire windshield froze completely over with frost to the point where he had to pull over and scrape it with his license.” Interestingly, the temperatures that morning were quite warm.
The poster, Leslie, Googled the area and discovered that a battle was fought near the roadway during the Civil War. Though a small battle, the Battle of Fair Garden was furious, and led to roughly 250 casualties. Most curious is a detail on the recently installed marker near the battlefield: the battle was fought on a cold January morning in a heavy fog.
A resident East Virginia Avenue named Larry reported seeing a man walking the street with a lantern in this small Virginia town. He notes that he and his family have lived on the street as long as he can remember and that he has seen this apparition the entire time. While he knows of no other neighbors who have witnessed it, several of his relatives have seen it. One relative visiting from out of town went out to smoke in the front yard around midnight and watched an orange light glide down the street. As the light came closer, it vanished.
The town of Crewe was created in 1888 by the Norfolk & Western Railroad—later Norfolk Southern—as a site for locomotive repair shops. The necessity of the repair shops decreased towards the middle of the 20th century.
West Virginia State Route 2 New Cumberland, West Virginia
Hancock County is the northernmost county in West Virginia, and the South. It pushes up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and one side of the county is defined by the Ohio River. New Cumberland is one of the towns located on the river. WV 2 runs through the heart of the town.
A post on Ghosts of America from John describes an incident that happened to him as he was driving southbound on WV 2 in New Cumberland in the spring of 1974. As he and his passenger neared railroad tracks and a bridge, “a ‘man’ stepped out in front of my vehicle. He turned and looked directly at me as the hood of my car went through him.” Then he suddenly disappeared. He continues, “I actually saw the upper part of his body in the middle of my hood. The lower part was inside the front of the car.” Reportedly, the man had white hair and beard, and “wore a ‘brimmed’ hat.”
In tracing the route of WV 2 through New Cumberland, I could only locate one place where a bridge and railroad tracks are close together: at the bridge over Hardin Run. Going southbound, the railroad crossing is about 200 feet after the bridge. Is this where the mysterious apparition appeared to a frightened driver in 1974?
Along Alabama’s roadways and bridges, people sometimes experience strange activity. From lonely “Cry Baby Bridges” to apparitions, phantom coaches, and strange bridges, this article looks at a selection of hauntings throughout the state.
AL 169 Connecting US 80 to Opelika
Lee & Russell Counties
AL 169 runs north from its junction with US 431 in Seale in Russell County to Opelika in Lee County. It follows the route of a much older road, as evidenced by the spirits seen along it. In their 2011 book, Haunted Auburn and Opelika, authors Serafin, Smith, and Poe detail two different sightings that have occurred along this road. One apparition is that of a man on horseback who has been seen charging towards terrified drivers before disappearing. They note that the spirit, which may be that of a highwayman active in this area in the mid-19th century, has been seen with less and less frequency as the road has been changed over the years. The other apparition is that of a ghostly coach drawn by two horses that was seen here in 2000.
Serafin, Faith, Michelle Smith, and John Mark Poe. Haunted Auburn and Opelika. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
Montgomery & Macon Counties
Barganier Road stretches from AL 110 in the community of Cecil to Macon County Road 2 near Shorter. This lonely country road is, according to legend, the scene of all types of strangeness. The road is nicknamed “13 Bridges Road,” and drivers at night are supposed to cross 13 bridges headed north from Cecil, though only cross ten if they turn around and head back. This phenomenon is also supposed to exist on other roads throughout the country.
According to investigator and writer Shawn Sellers, travelers may encounter apparitions and hear unearthly sounds along this rural route. In fact, he experienced an “eerie feeling” during a visit here when he was in high school.
Author Jeff Lawhead explores this legend further in his 2016 Phantoms Fill the Southern Skies. He notes that some drivers have hit a dog, gotten out to examine the dog’s carcass, and seen the apparitions of a woman and child off in the distance. A teenage boy was taken out to the road some years ago and left standing alone on one of the bridges. After sensing a presence, the teen looked around for his friend’s car and discovered that he had mysteriously moved from one end of the bridge to the other.
Lawhead, Jeff. Phantoms Fill the Southern Skies. 23 House Publishing, 2016.
Sellers, Shawn. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History. Shawn Sellers 2013.
Chelsea Road Hitchhiker
Shelby County Road 47 near the intersection with CR 49
Wending its way from Chelsea to Columbiana, Chelsea Road is reportedly the home of a ghostly hitchhiker legend. Described by author Kim Johnston as a “hippie,” the apparition of a woman has been seen “staggering along the road in a flannel shirt and jeans.” She sometimes appears walking along the road while at other times she leaps in front of moving cars. When the frightened driver steps out of the car to investigate the person they think they have hit, there is no one there. Another haunted road, Pumpkin Swamp Road which is described later in this article, is a short distance from this intersection.
Johnston, Kim. Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Clinton and Washington Streets
A local tale tells of the spirits of the Union raiders, who sacked the city of Athens in 1862, reappearing on Clinton and Washington Streets. Author Shane Black states that these phantom soldiers sometimes appear on “foggy evenings in the wake of thunderstorms.”
These phantoms, appearing on horseback and bearing mournful expressions on their faces, are believed to be members of the Eighth Brigade, Third Division, Army of the Ohio under Colonel John Basil Turchin. Russian-born and trained Turchin allowed his soldiers to sack the city in May 1862, for which he later faced three charges in a court-martial.
Black, Shane. Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town. NYC: iUniverse. 2009.
Paysinger, Christopher B. “Sack of Athens.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 28 October 2008.
Lawrence County Road 25
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 CR 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. As he pushed his car, another vehicle struck and killed him. 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.
A 2007 article from the Florence, Alabama newspaper, the Times Daily, recounts this story a bit differently. Placing the accident in 1954, it notes that the man involved in the accident was named Henry Hill. He was a traveling salesman who got lost in this maze of country roads. When his car overheated and quit in the middle of the road, he got out to push it and was subsequently struck by another vehicle.
The article continues by stating that there was also military action in the vicinity during the Civil War and that may contribute to the current activity. Furthermore, it describes the location of the dip as being located on nearby CR 448. However, all other sources place the location on CR 25. Perhaps this article is a fanciful retelling of the legend?
Parker, Melissa. “Mount Hope residents discuss notorious haunted hill.” The Flor-Ala (University of North Alabama). 30 October 2014.
Shuttleworth, Bobby. “Paranormal Mysteries: Haunted Places in Bobby’s Bama.” WAFF. 31 October 2012.
Sockwell, Wade. “Legend of Henry Hill.” Times Daily. 28 August 2007.
Mary Daniel Road
This rural dirt road is home to a typical “cry baby bridge” legend, though the story here has some unique elements. Tradition holds that Mary Daniel, who lived along this road in the latter part of the 19th century, was a notorious witch. One day, while crossing the bridge with her daughter, the child fell into the water. Another version of the legend includes the child’s father diving into the water to rescue the girl but drowning as well. The child was laid to rest in a small cemetery nearby. To protect her child, Mary Daniel summoned watchers who haunt the nearby woods going after anyone who disturbs the cemetery after dark. However, this may be a case of the fiction being stranger than the truth.
Alongside the road is a small family cemetery for the Daniel family. Within its confines is the grave of a Mary Melissa Daniel who was born in 1846. According to information on Find-a-Grave, she was an “old maid” (spinster perhaps?) and the daughter of Abel and Harriett Daniel, who were also buried here. Being a spinster, she would not have been married, and have had children. This doesn’t preclude that she may have had a lover or a child out of wedlock, though that does seem unlikely. If she was a spinster, that may be the reason she entered legend as a witch. She died in 1911.
In his 2019 book, Haunted Highways USA, George Dudding examines this legend and describes some of the paranormal activity here. The apparition of a woman (presumed to be Mary Daniel) has been seen along the road, the bridge over Little Patsaliga Creek, and along the creek itself. Unexplained bright lights have been seen along the road. He continues by saying that there is supposedly a curse on Mary Daniel’s gravestone and anyone who tampers with it may be tormented by an evil spirit.
Dudding, George. Haunted Highways USA. Spencer, WV: GSD Publishing, 2018.
Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Pumpkin Swamp Road
Shelby County Road 32
This old road along the edge of Chelsea is purported to have quite a bit of paranormal activity. Kim Johnston notes that this area was the last refuge of Muscogee Creek natives in the area and was later inhabited by pioneer families. Labeling this road the “Devil’s Corridor,” she notes that residents living along the way have experienced the sound of children playing within their homes, as well as seeing shadowy dogs and cats. A phantom hitchhiker is known to walk on Chelsea Road (see the above entry in this article), a short distance from this road’s terminus on CR 49.
Johnston, Kim. Haunted Shelby County, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
North of Elkmont in Limestone County, close to the Tennessee state line, Robinson Road stretches for a few miles through farm fields and old woodlands. According to the blog, Elkmont Alabama, this road is also home to a legend. During the Civil War, there was a tremendous amount of activity in the area, most centered on a Union fort at the Sulphur Creek Trestle (for more information see the Richard Martin Trail below. Legend holds that this road was the scene of the capture and decapitation of a Confederate officer in front of his family by Union troops. As a result, the officer’s widow and daughter have been seen riding a white horse through the area looking for his head.
The Robinson Road resident who reported this to the blog explained that they have seen the apparition while driving the road late at night. The spirit passed through their car and left it very cold inside. A report on GhostsofAmerica.com reveals that a woman driving AL 127 nearby, had a similar experience with the spirit dimming her headlights and turning off her radio as it passed through. It’s possible these reports may be related.
Richard Martin Trail
Trailhead on Piney Chapel Road (Limestone CR 81)
After Union forces captured much of Northern Alabama in 1862, forts were built to protect strategic points, particularly railroad bridges and trestles. In 1864, Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forrest attempted to sever rail lines through the area, and attacked the fort guarding the trestle at Sulphur Creek. However, this fort had a fatal flaw: it was constructed below the adjacent hills. This flaw allowed the attacking Confederates to pour fire onto the 1,000 Union troops within the rudimentary fort. General Forrest demanded and was granted, the unconditional surrender of the Union forces there. The fort and the trestle were promptly destroyed, and the battle entered the annals as the bloodiest battle fought in North Alabama. Union forces lost some 200 men while Confederates only lost 40 men.
When the railroad abandoned this historic rail line through Limestone County, the county Department of Parks and Recreation acquired rights to this segment for use as a 10-mile “rails-to-trails” trail, marking it with plaques providing the story of the battle. Numerous visitors have had strange experiences here. One gentleman felt a searing pain in his buttocks, similar to the feeling of being shot, though the pain disappeared after he left the area. A couple passing through felt an odd tingling and saw flashes of light; while a group of children here felt a chill and heard a voice calling orders to spectral troops.
Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Route of the “Floating Islands”
From 655 St. Emanuel Street to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 2 S. Claiborne Street, to the Mobile Docks
An old Mobile legend speaks of Mary Eoline Eilands (1854-1937), dubbed “Floating Islands,” who daily walked the route between her crumbling house at 655 St. Emanuel Street to the cathedral and then to the docks. From the late 19th century until her death in 1937, she traveled this path attired in 19th century dresses. The long skirts gave her the effect as she traveled to the cathedral for morning mass and then to the docks in search of her lover.
Along with her nickname, legends sprang up to explain her odd appearance, many saying that Ms. Eilands had a lover who had sailed from the docks and never returned, or that she had been engaged to a man who later spurned her affections, or a lover possibly left her standing at the cathedral’s altar. While these seem to be spurious, it is known that the floating apparition has been said to haunt the streets on her daily route for decades after her death, though she is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.
Ericson, Sally Pearsall. “Hauntings and history: Ghost stories abound in Mobile.” com. 29 October 2013.
Ghost-berfest, Day 13: Floating Eilands.” Mobile Ghosts Blog <www.MobileGhosts.net>. 13 October 2010.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.
—Williams Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5
The world of the theatre is filled with mysticism, superstition, and spirits. As a theatre person, nearly every theatre I have worked in has this mysterious side, especially in the connection to the spirit world. In his Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, author Jeff Dwyer contends that one can be almost certain that a theatre will be haunted.
There are few certainties in ghost hunting. But when it comes to haunted places, ships and theaters offer ghost hunters the greatest opportunities for encounters with the spirit world. Theaters often harbor the ghosts of actors, writers, musicians and directors because something about their creative natures ties them to the place where they experienced their greatest successes or failures. Stagehands and other production staff may haunt backstage areas where they worked and, perhaps suffered a fatal accident. They may also be tied to room where props are stored. The ghosts of patrons remain long after death because they love the theater or, more likely, they loved an actor who performed regularly at that location.
Much of the mysticism in theatre revolves around actors, especially in how they take on a character. Even the language of an actor bears parallels with the language of ghosts and spirits. Some actors will describe an experience akin to possession when they are inhabiting another’s body and lose themselves. Certainly, within the ritual of preparing for a show, there may be a ritual in applying makeup, getting into costume, and warming up. I’ve watched as some actors will walk the set, absorbing the energy of the world of the play, all of which resembles summoning. If the play utilizes masks, actors may put on the mask in a nearly religious manner. Onstage, the actors are in tune with the energy that surrounds them, including that from other actors, the set, the audience, the crew, and the audience. Once the actor has finished his hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage, these spirits are banished to the world of fiction. But, are they really? Perhaps some of these spirits linger in the theatre?
As for the directors, writers, musicians, technical crew members, and the backstage functionaries, many imbue their work with their own passion, thus leaving a little bit of themselves behind in their work. Even once these people pass on, they may return to the theatres to feed their passion in the afterlife.
The practice of leaving a ghost light onstage when the theatre is dark is wrapped up in superstition and practicality. Some will argue that the light assures the theatre’s spirits that the theatre is not abandoned and provides light for their own performances. In a way, this could be a sacrifice to the genius loci, or the spirit of a location. As for practicality, non-superstitious thespians will contend that a ghost light provides illumination to prevent injuries if someone enters the darkened space.
Theatres are often inherently dangerous places where actors, crew, and even some patrons can, and do, get injured. Indeed, there have been numerous accidents throughout history where deaths have occurred on or just off stage sometimes leaving spirits in limbo within the space. The haunting of the Wells Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia comes to mind. One of the spirits in this 1913 theatre may be that of a careless stagehand who became entangled in the hemp rope-operated fly system (a system that is still in use) and accidentally hung himself. Other deaths may be blamed on medical conditions that have claimed have claimed lives while people are at work.
As for lingering spirits of theatre patrons, a love for theatre or a particular space may be reason enough to return in the afterlife. Though it seems that most of the hauntings by members of the audience are residual in nature with phantom laughter and applause sometimes being heard.
Contributing to theatres’ haunted natures, some theatres occupy spaces that were not intended to be performance spaces. These repurposed buildings may already be haunted, and the spirits adapt to the new use of the location. Among the numerous examples of these types of theatres are the Baltimore Theatre Project in Maryland in an old building originally constructed for a men’s fraternal organization and the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, formerly a post office and courthouse.
Over the decade I have worked on this blog, I have covered a number of theatres and theatre spaces. In addition to places that have formerly served as theatres, I have added movie houses, larger structures that include a theatre, structures that are associated with theatres, and the Maryland home of the Booth family, which included some of America’s most famous and infamous actors in the 19th century.
Needing a project to carry me through this quarantine, I’ve decided to return to some original blog roots. Just after establishing this blog in 2010, I created a series of articles highlighting ten haunted places within each of the 13 states that I cover. Over time, these articles have been picked apart, rewritten, expanded, and used elsewhere. When I moved this blog, I did not move over those articles. Because I have a backlog of incomplete articles and bits and pieces that haven’t been published I’m creating a new breed of these articles during this quarantine.
The Alabama article, the first to be posted, was recreated after I finished my Alabama book as the “Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama.” This article contains new entries that I have not covered in this blog.
Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum
127 Rose Street
One of Alabama’s most important native sons, Hiram King “Hank” Williams, Sr. played a major role in taking country music from the rural backwaters and byways of the South to nationwide popularity. He created a sound that combined the folksy sound of Jimmie Rodgers with stylistic elements of African-American blues, taught to him by Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne, all combined with honest, straight-talking, and evocative lyrics that are now the standard for country music lyricism. Williams’ hard drinking and even harder living lead to an early death at the age of 29 while traveling to West Virginia. While he sang, “I’m Leavin’ Now,” it seems that Williams’ spirit may remain earthbound. His lonesome spirit appears at several sites associated with his life including Birmingham’s Redmont Hotel.
Born in rural Butler County in 1923, young Hank’s early childhood was fraught with difficulties. Hank’s father, a long-term patient at the veterans’ hospital in Pensacola, Florida suffering from a brain injury sustained during his service in World War I, left Lily, Hank’s mother, to fend for herself and her little family. They were offered this home in Georgiana in 1930 after the family lost their cabin and all their possessions in a fire.
Williams lived here with his family during perhaps the most significant time in his musical development. During the four years the family occupied this house, Williams is said to have practiced his guitar underneath it while sitting on “an old car seat.” Williams’ son, Hank Jr., writes of an encounter with his father’s spirit at this home in his song, “127 Rose Avenue.” Can this be considered actual evidence of a haunting? Perhaps, or maybe it’s simply Hank Junior’s lyrical way of memorializing his late father.
Butler County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Butler County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2003.
Lange, Jeffrey J. “Hank Williams Sr.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 19 March 2007.
Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Lafayette Lanier Elementary School and Langdale Auditorium
6001 20th Avenue
Following the Civil War, local industrialists began establishing textile mills throughout the South. In order to provide for their employees—and also as a way of making them and their families beholden to the mill owners and managers—these industrialists established mill villages. These villages provided most everything an employee and their families would require including housing, schools, churches, and stores. Valley, Alabama is made up of a series of mill villages on the western bank of the Chattahoochee River.
One of the oldest of these villages is centered on the Langdale Mill that was established in 1866. While the village has a number of late-19th century buildings, many of the most prominent buildings were constructed in the early 20th century. Lafayette Lanier Elementary School and the adjoining Langdale Auditorium were constructed around 1935. Though the mill across the street has closed, both buildings are still used for their initial functions and known to be haunted.
Kenneth W. Allen, a local paranormal investigator, penned a book, Southern Alabama Hauntings, in 2013. An employee with local law enforcement and first responders, Allen was in a great position to collect tales of strange doings in the area. With these stories, he also investigated several of these locations to further prove rumors of them being haunted.
In the book, Allen includes the experience of a local police officer who was sent to investigate a possible intruder in the school. He made his way through the first floor and found no one so he headed up to the second floor. Stepping into the second-floor corridor, he spotted a figure darting into one of the classrooms. He drew his weapon and called for backup. When three other officers arrived, they proceeded into the classroom that the suspect had disappeared into only to find the room empty. Over the years, teachers, staff, and students have seen an odd figure on the second floor. One story reveals that the figure is that of one of the school’s principals.
The auditorium has its own panoply of ghosts. Besides footsteps that reportedly resound throughout the old building, the spirits enjoy playing with toys that are kept in storage. Allen tells one story of a teacher who put toys away only to find them out again when she entered the storage room a short time later.
Allen, Kenneth W. Southern Alabama Hauntings. CreateSpace: 2013.
Binkley, Trina. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Langdale Historic District. May 1999.
Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery
7400 Tabor Road
A recent conversation with a Northeast Alabama resident led me to begin uncovering stories from this cemetery. Located northeast of Gadsden on Lookout Mountain, this small country church has an old cemetery located just across the road. Consulting the Find-A-Grave page on this cemetery, it seems that the first burial occurred in 1886 and continuing to the present day.
As for the spookier side of this cemetery, it is reported that strange lights are sometimes seen here. I would note that these are likely cemetery lights, which are seen in and around cemeteries worldwide. Additionally, disembodied voices are heard.
A search on this location brought up a frightening account on GhostsofAmerica.com. While I cannot vouch for the validity of this account, it seems to me to ring true. According to this account, a group of curious people decided to visit the cemetery after finding it listed on a haunted places website. As they stepped out of their car, the group began to hear strange whistling, screaming, and a thumping noise. Frightened, the group piled back in their car as the sounds grew closer. Before the group drove away, a hand appeared, pressing against the passenger window.
Please respect this holy burial ground, and tread lightly taking only memories with you.
Old Bibb County Jail
21 Court Square, West
When I wrote my Alabama book, the Old Bibb County Jail was facing a death sentence. Local officials had made the decision to demolish the forlorn building on the town square. Sadly, the death sentence was imposed, and the building has been razed.
Built in 1910, this imposing Renaissance Revival structure had seen many a prisoner pass through its barred cells until its closure in 2004. Indeed, it also saw executions as well, with the last occurring in 1949. Perhaps this is why the building may be haunted. A 2009 investigation report from the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group suggests that paranormal activity in the old jail ranges from full body apparitions to odd sounds and a feeling of being watched.
Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Centreville Historic District. 21 December 1977.
McClanahan, Mike. “Old Bibb County Jail set to be demolished, citizens protesting decision.” WIAT. 5 June 2015.
Peerless Saloon & Grille
13 West 10th Street
The Peerless Saloon may have had few peers when it opened in 1899, though now there are quite a few options for spirits in Anniston. However, the Peerless has few peers regarding ghosts, legends, or history. From 1899 until Prohibition, the Peerless offered an opulent place to enjoy a cocktail and possibly buy some time with a lovely woman upstairs.
Gentlemen entering the Peerless in the early 20th century were greeted by Lucinda Talley from her perch at the top of the stairs. She reigned as a queen over her brothel for a little more than 20 years before she met her death here. In 1920, as police chased a saloon patron upstairs, she unknowingly stepped into the line of a police bullet; some suspect she has not left her post.
After sitting abandoned and decaying for many years, the saloon was restored and reopened in 1992. Mrs. Talley’s upstairs domain now features an events space called the Atlanta Room. Staff members have glimpsed Lucinda still at her post at the top of the stairs and in the Atlanta Room. It may also be her spirit who occasionally breaks glasses behind the bar. The Oxford Paranormal Society visited The Peerless some years ago capturing a few visual anomalies on video.
Barton, Donna. “Local filmmakers tackle the legend of Lucinda.” Anniston Star. 1 March 2015.
“History.” Peerless Saloon. <http://www.southernmusic.net/peerless2.html>. Accessed 6 June 2015.
Kazek, Kelly. “Few historic stagecoach inns and taverns survive across Alabama, take a tour.” com. 14 August 2014.
Oxford Paranormal Society. Peerless Saloon. Accessed 6 June 2015.
Swift-Coles Historic Home
17424 Swift-Coles Lane
This late 19th century home presents a glimpse into life on the Alabama coast in the early 20th century. When Charles Swift moved to the area in 1885, he purchased a small dogtrot house—a house featuring an open hallway through the middle— with four rooms on either side. During the Swift family’s occupation, they transformed the home into a luxurious 16-room mansion. The house remained in the family until 1976 when a local entrepreneur bought and restored it.
In 2008, the house was investigated by Bon Secour Paranormal Investigations. An article from the Mobile FOX affiliate details the investigation and reveals that the apparition of a female servant has been seen on the stairs, while Civil War soldiers have been seen in the front yard. The article reports that throughout the night the team experienced “small, but strange phenomena.”
Jackson, John. “Baldwin County’s tidewater mansion: the historical Swift-Coles home.” Gulf Coast Visitor’s Guide. 20 August 2013.
Rockwood, Mike and Charissa Cowart. “Ghost hunters, Swift-Coles House.” FOX10. 31 October 2008.
Trinity Lutheran Church
1024 Quintard Avenue
A “benign, Casper-like, presence” may haunt Trinity Lutheran Church, according to the church’s pastor. A Halloween 2010 article in the Anniston Star details the haunting of this 1920s-era church and the parish house next door. The legend of this church dates to the church’s construction as Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. A priest supposedly died in a bedroom of the parish house, and he has continued to return for many years. Another priest living in the parish house later summoned the police after hearing heavy footsteps walking towards his bedroom. When police arrived, no one was found in the home. Now a Lutheran church, members and staff have continued to hear footsteps and have sensed the presence of the long- dead priest.
Buckner, Brett. “Ghost of the parsonage: It is said that Trinity Lutheran is haunted by a benign spirit.” Anniston Star. 30 October 2010.
Walter J. Hanna Memorial Library
4615 Gary Avenue
Fairfield , Alabama
Since I’m under semi-quarantine like so many other people, I have begun to haunt several Facebook groups in search of new-to-me hauntings and further information. I was delighted to find accounts of several frightening encounters experienced by a member of the Hauntings of Alabama group in the public library in Fairfield.
It seems that the poster was involved in renovations at the library in 1989. According to her, the building formerly housed a financial institution Judging from the architecture, it appears that the building was built in the 1950s, though it could be earlier and appears to have been a bank building. A photograph on the library’s website shows what appears to be an old bank vault. It appears to be clad in light colored marble, with a band of darker marble on the front façade. The presence of marble (a type of limestone) may be significant as limestone is believed to possibly attract paranormal activity. Unfortunately, there’s little available online speaking of the building’s history.
Among the activity the poster described was seeing shadow figures “that would dart below my 20 ft ladder as I was painting.” She also noted that something in the ladies’ room scared her so much that she avoided using that restroom in the building for the remainder of the three months she worked there. “There is something in the ladies’ restroom that makes you just want out.”
Most significant was an encounter that happened during a work break. As the workers sat on the stairs inside the building an amorphous black figure “with no defined edges” entered through the door. A four-foot-long slab of marble leaning against the wall, was lifted by the entity and shattered on the floor. After a chill went through the group on the stairs, they heard a door slam.
Fairfield is located in Jefferson County, just west of Birmingham. It was founded in 1910 by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad division of U.S. Steel as a “model industrial city” built around a steel plant. The community was incorporated in 1919 and continues to operate as a separate entity from Birmingham.
William Gibson Gravesite
US-11 between Shelley Drive and Pinedale Road
The wind doth howl today m’love
And a winter’s worth of rain;
I never had but one true love
In cold grave she was lain.
–“The Unquiet Grave,” traditional ballad (Child Ballad #78)
Since I wrote my Alabama book, I have been searching for a haunting from St. Clair County. I finally found one, thanks to my friend, Dr. Kelsey Graham. Dr. Graham has always had an interest in the unexplained, even recently creating an organization, Abnormal Alabama. In his travels through his home state, he has explored numerous sites, including this lonely, and possibly unquiet roadside grave. My thanks to him and the members of the Hauntings of Alabama Facebook group for information!
U.S. Route 11, which stretches from New Orleans to the Canadian border in Rouses Point, New York, passes through many small towns such as Springville. It also passes a number of haunted sites including the white oak outside of Surgoinsville, Tennessee, that is the subject of the “Long Dog Legend.” Created in 1925, this U.S. Highway pieced together a number of roads under one designation to ease driver confusion and to systematically establish travel routes between major cities. Among the Southern cities linked are Meridian and Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Gadsden, Alabama; Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee; Winchester, Staunton, and Roanoke, Virginia; Martinsburg, West Virginia; and Hagerstown, Maryland. Dr. Graham notes that this road was originally a stagecoach route between Georgia and Tuscaloosa.
About six miles north of the town, the road passes a single gravesite with a headstone still standing sentinel over a broken marble slab. This is the grave of William G. Gibson, born 12 December 1795, who died, possibly near here, on 20 October 1827. This early grave may be the one of the oldest marked burials in the county.
There is some mystery and legend surrounding the grave’s occupant. Legends agree that Mr. Gibson was a hat salesman from North Carolina. How he ended up dying in the wilds of Alabama is mere speculation. Some stories describe him as the victim of a duel, while others say that he was gored by an ox. The most likely reason for his death was probably an illness that afflicted him as he traveled this early road.
Despite its location in the right-of-way, officials have worked to preserve this grave, even carving out part of the landscape when the road was graded and paved. However, this location just above the road can sometimes surprise drivers. A 1961 article from the newspaper in nearby Pell City describes how this gives “the illusion that it is in the road.” One motorist felt chills when he spotted “the grave silhouetted against the sunset.” Strange lights are sometimes seen around the grave, which I might attribute to cemetery lights, which are frequently seen around graveyards.