Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some Alabama Hauntings, Briefly Noted

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

Bama Theatre
600 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa


Architect David O. Whilldin employed a theme of simplicity versus the exotic in his design for the Bama Theatre. The fa├žade of the theatre utilizes limestone (a stone believed to possibly conduct paranormal energy) cut in the simplified geometry of Art Deco and Moderne lines. Step into the lobby though, and a patron will find themselves immersed in the exuberance of an Italian Renaissance courtyard modeled on that of the Davanzati Palace in Florence. Perhaps Whilldin’s theme was meant to illustrate the condition of so many Americans during the Great Depression: leading simple and austere lives on the outside with vivacious, imaginative and highly cultured lives inside. Opening in 1938 and built with funds from the Works Progress Administration, the Bama Theatre can be considered one of the last of the great American atmospheric movie palaces.
 
Marquee of the Bama Theatre, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith.
Courtesy of the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama
Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.


The identities of the spirits at the Bama Theatre are mysterious. While research into the theatre’s past has revealed no deaths to link to the haunting, this may be a case of residual energy remaining after years of crowds visiting the theatre. One particularly interesting story from the theatre involves an employee who arrived early one morning. As he was making coffee, he heard the elevator moving. He stood at the doors expecting to greet the rider but when the doors opened, he was greeted with a blast of icy air. This is perhaps the most chilling of the paranormal events in this building. Others working in the building have reported shadow figures, odd lights, and the distinct feeling of being watched. The building was investigated by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team in recent years, though little evidence to support a haunting was uncovered.

Sources
Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation Report on The Bama
     Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL. Accessed 29 November 2012.
Higdon, David & Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2012.
“Our History.” Bama Theatre. Accessed 4 May 2013.

Bluff Hall
405 North Commissioners Avenue
Demopolis


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

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

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


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

Sources
“Area rich in ghost stories, folk lore.” Demopolis Times. 30 October
     2008.
Bluff HallWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 December
     2012.
Francis Strother Lyon. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     14 December 2012.
Hendrix, Barry H. “Image may have been real.” Demopolis Times.
     5 November 2003.
Walker, Alyce Billings. ed. Alabama: A Guide to the Deep SouthNew 
     Revised Edition. NYC: Hastings House, 1975.
   
Interstate 65
Between Evergreen and Greenville

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

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

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

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


These profiles are among 300 haunted locations throughout Alabama that I have covered in my book, Southern Spirit Guide's Haunted Alabama: AGuide to Ghostlore, Legends and Haunted Places, now available on Amazon. Get your copy today!

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