Among the oldest cities in the Deep South, Mobile was founded in 1702 by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, of whom the latter is considered the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana. The city’s location on the well-protected Mobile Bay, led to the city becoming a major port for exportation. That strategic location, however, made it a major target during the Civil War, which brought economic devastation to the city; that devastation would last for many decades. Through the 20th century, the port city’s fortunes have been restored and the city has become a major tourist destination with beautiful and large historic districts which are, of course, brimming with spirits.
The genteel ghosts of Mobile have been explored in a number of sources, including three books by Elizabeth Parker: Mobile Ghosts (2000), Mobile Ghosts II (2004), and Haunted Mobile (2009). In this blog, I have covered a few sites in the city including the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Richards DAR House, and the Phoenix Fire Museum.
Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
26 North Royal Street
Considered one of Alabama’s premier hotels, the Battle House is the fourth hotel on this site, though only the second called the “Battle House.” In 1825, as floods ravaged the state capital at Cahaba, Daniel White moved his inn to Mobile using flatboats. That hotel opened as the Franklin House and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1829. A larger hotel, the Waverly Hotel, was constructed on this site only to be destroyed by fire in 1850. Led by James Battle and his brothers, a group of prominent locals created a company to build a large hotel on this site, and the Battle House opened in 1852.
Throughout the second half of the 19th century, this hotel served many luminaries including presidential candidate Stephen Douglas, who was here the night he lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. That hotel burned in 1905, and it was replaced by the current hotel building which opened in 1908. Among the prominent figures who have stayed in this building are President Woodrow Wilson who stayed here in 1913. The hotel went through a difficult financial period in the 1970s and closed in 1974. After being closed for nearly 30 years, the hotel has recently been fully restored and reopened.
Historic hotels like this rarely do not have ghosts or, at the very least, rumors of ghosts. The Battle House spirits have not been well documented, though an article by Amy Delcambre on the website, VisitSouth.com, includes an interview with George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian. When asked, Moore disavowed a belief in ghosts, though he did recount some of the curious incidents that have taken place here.
One story Moore recounted involved a recently married couple who stayed in the hotel in 1910. The husband left his wife alone while he took care of some business outside of the hotel. When he did not return, she supposedly hung herself in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. After the hotel’s recent reopening, a wedding reception was held in the ballroom where a portrait of the bride was displayed on an easel. The mother of the bride noticed a strange man in a gray suit admiring the picture, when guests began to enter the room, the strange man disappeared.
Other guests here have seen mysterious lights and apparitions in their rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors.
- Delcambre, Amy. “Haunted History of the Battle House Hotel.” com. 19 October 2014.
- Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Battle House Royale. 4 June 1975.
- The Battle House Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 May 2015.
Located within Church Street Cemetery, just off Bayou Street
This mighty live oak growing amid the gravestones of Church Street Cemetery is a supposed sign of the innocence of Charles R. S. Boyington. In 1834, within this cemetery, the body of Nathaniel Frost was found; severely beaten and robbed of his money and pocket watch. Boyington, who had been close friends with Frost and, according to testimony, had been seen walking near here with him, was arrested for the murder and found guilty. He was hung before a huge crowd on gallows erected in Washington Square. Before his execution, however, he stated that his innocence would be proven by an oak sprouting from his heart. This tree sprouted not long after Boyington was laid in his grave. Passersby have claimed that whispers are still heard as the wind blows through the branches.
- Kirby, Brendan. ”Murders, burglaries and ‘lynch discipline;’ Mobile was a lawless place in the 1830s.” com. 12 June 2013.
- Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.
Central Fire Station
701 St. Francis Street
Firefighters were shocked in 2010 when the Gamewell Alarm System here lit up. Of course, as firefighters, they should always be prepared, but they’re not usually prepared for dealing with the supernatural. The alarm system was last used in the 1960s, and the system was not connected to a power source, so there was no reason it should be lit up.
The old Gamewell system is displayed on the second-floor museum of this active fire station. Some firefighters have suggested that the system lights may be just more evidence of the presence of Laz Schwarz, a former mayor for whom this facility was dedicated when it opened in 1925. The shadowy figure of a man has been seen here for years and is believed to be the shade of the Mayor Schwarz.
- Dials, Renee. “South Alabama re station haunted?” WISH TV. 17 August 2010.
- Hough, Jere. “New re station museum in Mobile is trip back in time.” com. 26 April 2009.
- Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
359 Church Street
One of Mobile’s finest inns, the Malaga Inn is noted as being haunted, though the specifics are harder to discern. Elizabeth Parker, the author of three books on haunted Mobile, notes in her blog that she spoke with a few guests who had haunting experiences in this inn that occupies a pair of 1862 townhomes. One guest reported smelling a flowery, perfume-like scent in her room while another guest was physically touched by something she could not see. A different guest awoke to find the apparition of a man standing at the end of his bed.
- “Ghost-berfest, Day 31: Ghostober Notebook and Happy Hallowe’en.” Mobile Ghosts Blog. 31 October 2010.
Mobile Carnival Museum
355 Government Street
Housed in the historic 1872 Bernstein-Bush House, the Mobile Carnival Museum displays artifacts from the history of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, the oldest in the nation. Prior to the building’s use as the Carnival Museum, this building contained the Museum of Mobile which did not experience much paranormal activity besides having a men’s patent leather shoe mysteriously appear on the staircase of the carriage house. The staff arrived one morning to find this very nice shoe sitting on the stairs. There was no sign of an intruder, and the building had been tightly secured.
An unseen entity, dubbed “Ralph” by the museum’s staff, is known to make adjustments to displays. After the Carnival Museum began to install its exhibits in 2005, one mannequin was repeatedly found to be lying on its side. Lights throughout the building often turn themselves on after they have been turned off for the night. One of the more mysterious incidents involved a Mardi Gras crown that was found to be missing from an exhibit. After a frantic search, the curator found the crown sitting on a chair next to her desk the following Monday morning. None of the staff fessed up to knowing anything about the missing object. No one is sure who Ralph may be, though the building did house a funeral home for some decades.
- Parker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
- Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.