Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Of Crying Babies and Bridges (Newsworthy Haunts)


Cry Baby Hollow
Kayo Road Bridge
Hartselle, Alabama

Southern legends and lore are filled with tales of “Cry Baby” and other haunted bridges. Some are modern highway bridges while others are ancient, rickety affairs, perhaps even a historic covered bridge, on lonely dirt roads in the woods. Regardless, stories have become attached to these bridges. Some of the tales are typical: either a mother, an infant or both die in an accident in this lonely spot, thus haunting the place until peace may be found in the afterlife. Another typical version has the mother dropping her infant into the waters under the bridge as she is unable to care for the child. Other bridges are the scenes of deadly accidents, the dumping ground for murder victims. Occasionally rituals appear in these legends with those wishing to encounter the spirit stopping their car on the bridge, bringing candy, flashing headlights, sounding the horn or perhaps calling the name of a particular spirit.

The Decatur Daily of Decatur, Alabama reported on one of its local cry baby bridges, this one located in Morgan County, near Hartselle. Sadly, the article only promotes the legends surrounding the location and provides no information to prove or disprove them.

The old bridge on Kayo Road, off Highway 31, is an unkempt, lonely and apparently a little used bridge. From some of the photographs circulating the internet, it appears that trash has been dumped along the road, though the bridge may also be popular with fisherman. The article describes a local ghost hunting team, Paranormal Research Alliance of Cullman, who investigated the bridge both at night and during the day. The team did feel uneasy at the location, though this is not a true sign of a haunting. Video taken at the bridge had possible moaning or talking in the background, though this may simply be the sound of cars from Highway 31 some two miles away. Otherwise, the team did not capture any conclusive evidence that there may be paranormal activity in the location.

Kayo Road originates at this intersection with US Highway 31.

There seems to be no lack of stories about the desolate bridge. Many of the typical cry baby bridge stories have been applied including a mother losing an infant in an accident at the site, though, as I mentioned above, the article provides no evidence if any of these things occurred. The other primary legend associated with the bridge is that of a serial killer who supposedly operated in the area by the name of Frank Hammond or Hammon.

The article includes a story (from the internet, imagine that!) that speaks of Mr. Hammond’s activities in the 1940s. Gory details such as living quarters with human skins tacked to the walls and a family being brutally murdered one by one with the child witnessing his parents’ deaths before being beaten to death with a hammer are included. The killer was finally caught and died in a Georgia prison by his own hand. One would think his heinous activities would have him serving in Alabama prison for many decades before serving time in neighboring Georgia. While the details make for a memorable story, they just don’t all add up. Indeed, it seems that serial killers are far less common than urban legends and lore indicate.

Jessica Penot explores this location in her book, Haunted North Alabama. In gathering stories for the book, she encountered a multitude of origins for this legendary location. According to her, the story may predate European settlement of the region and one story involves a local native woman whose child was swept away by flooding during torrential rains. She also notes that some versions of the legend for this spot include bringing candy bars which may be left to appease the spirit.

It does appear that these stories seem to be told about lonely and desolate places. These places tend to spawn urban legends (or perhaps “rural legends” given this specific location). Is there activity at this old bridge on Kayo Road? Perhaps, but the legend is still interesting in spite of it.

Sources
     legend or forgotten truth?Decatur Daily. 31 October 2012.
Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History
     Press, 2010.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Newsworthy Hauntings 11/24/12


I’m still working on settling in after my transition home after working in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, but I’m still collecting news.

USO of North Carolina, Jacksonville Center
9 Tallman Street
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Organized at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United Service Organizations (USO) was created in 1941 to provide recreation to military personnel during the dark days of World War II. The first facility in the United States opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina. After the war, the facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina remained open due to the concerted efforts of volunteers and this facility is the oldest continuously open USO facility. Since the “Great War,” the organization has expanded its efforts from just providing support to military personnel to including their families as well. It seems, however, that this facility may be providing support to those on other planes as well.

A fund-raising ghost hunt was held in the 70 year-old building on Halloween night and led by Dave Tango (a guest investigator from the show Ghost Hunters) and members of the SEPIA (Southeast Paranormal Investigative Association) team. The SEPIA team had previously investigated the building and discovered evidence that there may be paranormal activity in the center. Returning Halloween night for the investigation with the public, they encountered quite interesting activity.

Perhaps the most dramatic bit of paranormal activity was the scratching of one young woman. An avowed skeptic, the young woman had requested that the spirits not touch her. Moments later, she “felt like someone put Icy-Hot across my back.” After complaining that it itched, her sister discovered that she had scratch marks on her back. Generally, the activity reported in the building and witnessed by the paranormal team has been far less malevolent and includes distant music and the moving of small objects.

Sources
Daily News Staff. “’Ghost Hunters’ to check out USO of NC.” Jacksonville
     Daily News. 26 October 2012.
Our History.” USO-NC. Accessed 23 November 2012.
Perez Rivera, Jackeline M. “Ghosts make contact at USO.” Camp Lejeune
     Globe. 20 November 2012.
United ServiceOrganizations. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     23 November 2012.

Planter’s Hall
822 Main Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi

It’s interesting to see a building alternate between public and private uses and it’s rare to find a building that has alternated so much as Planter’s Hall has. Built around 1834, this structure was constructed to serve as the local branch of the Planter’s Bank of the State of Mississippi. Like many other Mississippi banks, the bank failed in 1842 and the branch was closed. The building changed hands many times in the years leading up to the Civil War and it was converted into a residence in 1854, though most likely not occupied until 1861.

Planter's Hall in a 1936 Historic American Buildings Survey
photograph by James Butters. Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
When the city, one of the most important cities on the Mississippi River, was laid siege to by the Union army, the house was occupied by a Confederate officer, Colonel Allen Thomas, and his staff. Following the city’s fall, the home may have been occupied by General William Dennis of the Illinois Cavalry. The home soon returned to service as a private residence and remained as such until 1956 when the building was purchased and turned into a museum. Recently, the building returned to status as a private residence, though certainly it is one of the most historic private homes in the city.

According to a recent story from Jackson, Mississippi’s WAPT News, the home’s current residents have been experiencing some possibly paranormal activity. Interestingly, the reporter in this story is doing the investigating himself. While the reporter found few things that were unexplained, the stories from the residents are quite interesting with the home’s owner being awakened to find an angry soldier looming over the bed.

Please keep in mind that this is a private residence and not open for tours. 

Sources
Bagley, Clinton I. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for
     Planters Hall. 22 February 1971.
     1 November 2012.