Saturday, June 13, 2015

Birmingham’s Haunted Five

After my recent entry on Alabama, I had a comment on Facebook, “Interesting, but there’s more than the library in Birmingham…” Indeed.

I’ve previously covered two magnificent Birmingham theatres: the Alabama and Lyric; and the Tutwiler Hotel, in addition to the Linn-Henley Library which I covered in the Haunted Alabama entry. So here are a few more locations to add to the Birmingham list.

When Alan Brown wrote his 2009, Haunted Birmingham, he noted that this city’s ghostlore “is not nearly as rich as that found in much older cities.” Certainly, Birmingham is the youngest of Alabama’s large cities, having only been founded in 1871. Still, the city has some very interesting ghostlore including the iconic Sloss Furnaces.

Sloss Furnaces
20 32nd Street, North

Perhaps one of the most iconic haunted places in the whole state, this National Historic Landmark site is iconic of Birmingham’s history. Birmingham was built on industrial facilities like this producing iron during the latter half of the 19th and into the 20th centuries. While the facility opened in 1882, nothing remains of the original furnaces here. The oldest building on this site dates to 1902 with much equipment installed and added in later years. This facility closed in 1971 and local preservationists began work to save the facility. Their efforts paid off and the facility is open as a museum and events facility.
 
Sloss Furnaces, 2006. Photo by Timjarrett, courtesy
of Wikipedia.
There is always a chance for death in industrial sites, even more so around molten metal in a furnace. In 1887, Theophilus Jowers, assistant foundryman at the Alice furnace (one of the first furnaces on this site) fell to his death into the molten iron in the furnace. Some of his remains—his head, bowels, two hip bones and some ashes—were fished out of the molten iron. Jowers’ death remains one of the most spectacular and grisly, though many more men died throughout the time that the furnaces were in operation.

After Jowers’ death, his spirit was observed by co-workers. Kathryn Tucker Windham quotes one former employee, “We’d be getting ready to charge the furnace, and we’d see something, something like a natural man walking around on the hearth. Just walking slow and looking around like he was checking to make sure everything was all right.” Windham describes the first time that Jowers’ son saw his father’s spirit in 1927. The now grown son took his son for a drive over the First Avenue Viaduct and there, while watching the action at the furnace, they observed a man walking through the showers of sparks and flames.

Two more spirits are believed to be in residence at this site, but less historically based. A white deer that has been seen on the grounds is believed to be the spirit of a pregnant girl who committed suicide by throwing herself into the furnace. The other “apocryphal”—as Alan Brown describes him—spirit is that of a fiendish foreman named James “Slag” Wormwood. Like Jowers and the pregnant girl, Wormwood supposedly fell to his death into one of the furnaces, though it is suspected that he was really pushed by an angry employee. It is Wormwood’s angry spirit that is responsible for pushing employees.

The furnaces are known as a hotbed of paranormal activity and were investigated for the first time in 2005 by Ghost Chasers International out of Kentucky. They were joined by psychic Chip Coffey who would soon make his name working on the A&E show, Paranormal State. During the investigation, Coffey made contact with the spirit of a man who had lost a limb in an accident there. Moments after losing contact with the spirit, team members noticed blood on Coffey’s hands. After investigating him for scratches or another injury that could have produced blood, nothing was found. Over the past 10 years of paranormal investigations at the site, a slag heap of evidence has been produced.

Sources
Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
History.” Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Accessed 12 June
     2015.
Parks, Megan. “Sloss Fright Furnace: The haunts heat up in Alabama.”
     USA Today. 14 October 2014.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. The Ghost in the Sloss Furnaces. Birmingham,
     AL: Birmingham Historical Society, 2005.

East Lake Park
400 Graymont Avenue, West

On the 1st December 1888, Richard Hawes accompanied his daughter to the newly built lake here. Sometime later, he left without the seven year-old. On December 4th, two boys playing on a boat in the lake discovered the child’s half-naked body in the water. The discovery caused a sensation among the citizens who thronged the funeral home where she was taken to view the body. Eventually, she was identified as May Hawes. As his train pulled into Birmingham, Richard Hawes, May’s father, was arrested.
 
May Hawes' body as pictured in a
local paper, 1888.
Richard Hawes was aboard the train with his new bride and still in his wedding suit. He told investigators that he had divorced his wife and was paying for the support of the children. His new wife, from Columbus, Mississippi, was described as being prostrate with grief after finding that her new husband was suspected of murder. Hawes’ wife Emma and daughter, Irene, age six. As newspapers stirred the city’s emotions, Emma’s body was found in a lake in the Lakeview neighborhood. Outrage overtook countless Birminghamians who gathered outside the city jail demanding Hawes be brought to justice immediately. A militia that had been called out to protect the jail eventually opened fire on the crowd killing ten including the city’s postmaster and wounding many others. A few days later, the pathetic body of Irene Hawes was found in the same lake where her mother had been found.
 
Postcard of East Lake from the roller coaster that once
perched on the shores, 1909.
After a swift trial, Richard Hawes faced the gallows and was hung for the murder of his wife and two daughters. Hawes’ second wife was granted from her depraved husband. The lake in Lakeview where Emma and Irene were drowned is now a golf course while East Lake is the centerpiece of East Lake Park, which became a city park 1917. Little May Hawes is still seen in and around the lake where she is sometimes called the “Mermaid of East Lake.”

Sources
East Lake Park. Bhamwiki. Accessed 12 June 2015.
Jones, Pam. “The Hawes Murders.” Alabama Heritage. Spring 2006.
Kazek, Kelly. “’Tis the season: Haunting tales from ghost tours in 3
     Alabama cities.” AL.com. 2 October 2012.

Arlington Antebellum Home & Gardens
331 Cotton Avenue

Described as the “Birthplace of Birmingham,” Arlington is the oldest remaining home in Jefferson County. The core of this house was constructed in 1822 with additions being made to the house in 1842. As it served as the headquarters for Union General James H. Wilson during the closing months of the Civil War, the house was spared while the orders for the destruction of the University of Alabama, the arsenal at Selma and iron works throughout the region were issued from this home. As can be expected in a house of this age, there is some paranormal activity. Alan Brown notes that docents have heard doors slamming and witnessed rocking chairs rocking on their own accord.
 
Arlington by Jet Lowe. Photo for the Historic American Buildings
Survey, courtesy of the Library of Congress. 
Sources
Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
Floyd, W. Warner and Mrs. Catherine M. Lackmond. National Register of
     Historic Places nomination form for Arlington. 9 September 1970.

Carraway Methodist Medical Center
1600 Carraway Boulevard

This defunct hospital was, for many years, one of Birmingham’s leading medical facilities. In the 2000s, the hospital was plagued with financial difficulties that lead to its closure in 2008. The facility has been deteriorating since and it has attracted homeless people, vandals, copper thieves and some ghost hunters. A November 2014 article by Kelly Kazek reports on an investigation conducted by investigator and author, Kim Johnston. After touring the facility with the owner, Johnston reported that the Emergency Room had a “palpable heaviness.” Her group did have the experience of hearing muffled voices in the cardiac surgery area of the third floor. Even after bringing in local police, no one was found to be in that area. This building is closed and tresapssers will be prosecuted, please only observe from a distance.

Sources
Carraway Methodist Medical Center. Wikipedia. Acc. 6 Jun 2015.
Kazek, Kelly. “Abandoned Alabama Part 2: The ghost of cities past.”
     AL.com. 28 Nov 2014.

The Hotel Highland at Five Points South
1023 20th Street, South

Originally constructed as the Medical Arts Building in 1931, this building served as offices for surgeons and dentists for many years. In the 1980s, a former cardiac surgeon renovated the Art Deco structure into a hotel, the Pickwick Hotel. During this time, stories emerged of a nurse still making rounds on the eighth floor. Sheila Turnage quotes a former director of sales who said that the elevator would mysteriously be called to the eighth floor unexpectedly. The hotel was transformed into a boutique hotel in 2007.

Sources
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2001.
“History of the Hotel” The Hotel Highland at Five Points South
     Accessed 18 May 2015.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama

Four years ago, just after I started this blog, I created entries for each of the thirteen states that I cover. The “Haunted Alabama” entry was the first and now, it’s the first to be redone as well. In the past few years, I’ve added quite a number of resources to my library as well as collected a few hundred articles, all relating to haunted Alabama. I’m also removing any entries that are expanded elsewhere and bumping up the number of entries to thirteen. I hope you will enjoy and be informed by this expanded entry!

Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery

Perhaps one of the most important sites in the entire state is built on a place called Goat Hill. This building is the second capitol building on this site, the first having been destroyed by fire in 1849. The current building opened in 1851 and has witnessed the panoply of Alabama history. It was here in 1861 that representatives of six Southern states met to create the Confederate government. Later that year, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens were inaugurated here as the President and Vice President of the Confederate States, respectively. More than a hundred years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. would lead a civil rights march to the steps of this building.

With such history, it’s no surprise that spirits may still wander the capitol’s corridors. One legend concerns a Confederate widow. Desperate to find where her husband had died and was buried, she made inquiries but no information was forthcoming. She continued haunting the corridors in life and evidently in death. Security guards and staff members have seen this desperate woman and continue to hear her footsteps.

Alabama State Capitol, 2006, by Jim Bowen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
A security guard is quoted in a 1994 Birmingham News article as having seen a female spirit standing near the statue of Governor Lurleen Wallace. The woman was wearing white opera-length gloves which are reminiscent of the gloves Wallace is wearing in her official state portrait.

Faith Serafin notes in her book, Haunted Montgomery, Alabama, that bathroom sinks near the offices of the state board of convicts are often found with the water running. This may be related to a 1912 murder that occurred here. When a property discpute did not turn out in his favor, Will Oakley shot his stepfather, P. A. Woods, in the offices of president of the convict board. Legend holds that the spirit of Will Oakley is still trying to wash the blood off his hands.

Sources
Lindley, Tom. “Ghosts or good stories haunt Capitol’s halls:
     This Confederate widow will never tell.” The Birmingham News.
     27 November 1994.                    
Schroer, Blanche Higgins. National Register of Historic Place nomination
     form for the Alabama State Capitol. 29 September 1975.
Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.

Bear Creek Swamp
County Road 3
Prattville

Just this past Halloween, twenty-one dolls tied to bamboo stakes were found in Bear Creek Swamp. The Autauga County Sheriff’s Office thought they were simply a harmless Halloween prank, but after reports of the dolls began to spread through social media, the sheriff’s office decided to remove them. The reason for the dolls’ placement in the swamp remains mysterious, but then again, Bear Creek Swamp is full of mystery.

A newspaper article regarding the incident noted that the swamp “is a massive bog with a bit of a reputation locally. As a rite of passage, generations of teenagers have entered the area at night looking for creatures and haints said to roam the mist-covered realm. And it’s not unusual to hear reports of loud booms coming from its depths.”

Before the arrival of white settlers, this area was known as a place with pure water and medicinal springs. This area was once the home of the Autauga or Tawasa Indians who were members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. Many of these people were removed by force in the 1830s and marched along the Trail of Tears to be resettled in the West.

Some Native spirits may have remained in the swamp. A hunter told Faith Serafin about seeing a female apparition within the swamp while tracking a deer he and his son had shot. A couple hiking through the area encountered a wild looking woman with a gaunt face who screamed and disappeared into the swamp when they approached. Others, including an investigation team from Southern Paranormal Researchers, have witnessed strange orbs of light in the depths of the bog.

Sources
Roney, Marty. “21 dolls on bamboo stakes found in Alabama
     swamp.” Hattiesburg American. 27 November 2014
Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.
Sutton, Amber. “Officers remove more than a dozen dolls from
     Autauga County swamp.” AL.com. 25 November 2014.
Southern Paranormal Researchers. “Bear Creek Swamp—September
     3, 2006.” Accessed 29 November 2012.

Belle Mont
1569 Cook Lane
Tuscumbia

Built between 1828 and 1832 by Dr. Alexander Mitchell, Belle Mont is now owned by the Alabama Historical Commission and operated as a house museum. This house represents a rare example of what is sometimes termed “Jeffersonian Classicism,” the distinctive version of Palladian architecture that was created by Thomas Jefferson. While most likely not directly designed by Jefferson himself, the house was likely designed by one of his disciples whom he trained.

Belle Mont, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Around the time the house was completed Dr. Mitchell lost his wife and both daughters to a fever and subsequently, he sold the property. The apparitions of a woman and two small girls have been seen in and around the house with the last reported sighting in 1968.

Sources
Gamble, Robert S. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Belmont. Jan. 1981.
Belle Mont. Alabama Historical Commission. Accessed
     16 December 2010.
Belle Mont (Tuscumbia, Alabama). Wikipedia, the Free
     Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 December 2010.
Johnston, Debra. Skeletons in the Closet: True Ghost Stories
     of The Shoals Area. Debra Johnston, 2002.

Bragg-Mitchell Mansion
1906 Springhill Avenue
Mobile

Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, 2006, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The spirits of the 1855 Bragg-Mitchell Mansion in Mobile include a cat and the spirit of Judge Bragg whose brother Alexander possibly designed the house. One employee and an assistant felt someone board an elevator after they had boarded. Later an air conditioning repairman was locked in the attic from the outside by an unseen force. Another employee after leaving a vase of flowers on a table returned the next morning to find the vase and arrangement shoved under the table on its side.

Sources
Coleman, Christopher K. Dixie Spirits: True Tales of the Strange
     and Supernatural, 2nd Edition. Nashville, Cumberland House,
     2002.
Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted
     Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.

Fort Morgan
51 AL 180
Baldwin County

With Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan guards the entrance to Mobile Bay. Construction began in 1819 following the British capture of the area in 1815 during the misnamed War of 1812. Using slave labor, this enormous masonry fort was completed in 1834. With rising tension after Alabama’s secession from the Union, the fort was peacefully turned over to the Alabama militia.

Fort Morgan, 2002, by Edibobb. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The fort saw action on August 5, 1864 during the Battle of Mobile Bay when it was attacked and besieged by Union warships. Fort Morgan finally surrendered to Union forces a few days later. It remained in operation until it was abandoned by the military in 1924. It was re-occupied by the military during World War II and then turned over to the State of Alabama in 1946.

Southern Paranormal Researchers investigated the fort in 2006 and witnessed a good deal of activity including hearing voices, seeing shadow figures and having fully charged batteries drained. They also captured a number of anomalies in photographs and one EVP. Visitors to the fort have encountered phantom smells of gun smoke, the sounds of battle and figures in period clothing.

Sources
Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.
Schroer, Blanche Higgins. National Register of Historic Places
     nomination form for Fort Morgan. 4 October 1975.
Southern Paranormal Investigation Team. Fort Morgan Investigation.
     16 Dec 2006.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
11288 Horseshoe Bend Road
Dadeville

A bend on the Tallapoosa River formed an ideal spot for the Muscogee Creek village of Tohopeka. During the Creek War—a civil war within the Muscogee Creek Nation that eventually embroiled white Americans—a band of Red Stick Creeks under Chief Menawa bravely defended this position against white American troops and Native American allies under the command of Andrew Jackson. Some 800 Red Stick warriors were slaughtered here on March 27, 1814, bringing an end to the Creek War of 1813-14 and leaving the Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend stained red with blood.

The Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend. Courtesy of the NPS.
With the slaughter that occurred here, it’s no wonder that visitors have reported a plethora of paranormal activity here ranging from smells and odd noises to full apparitions. A paranormal investigation by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team produced some photographic anomalies as well as the sound of someone screaming in the vicinity of the Muscogee Creek village site.

Sources
Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.
Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Investigation of
     Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. Accessed 18 Dec 2010.
Jensen, Ove. “Battle of Horseshoe Bend.” Encyclopedia of Alabama.
     26 Feb 2007.

Linn-Henley Research Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham
Linn-Henley Library, 2009, by DwayneP. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Originally opened in 1927 as the Birmingham Public Library, this building is now home to the library’s archives, government documents library, a southern history library and a ghost. Blogger Jessica Penot visited the library in 2012 and noted the “uncanny quiet that fills the building like a tangible presence.” The spirit of Fant Thornley, dedicated library director from 1953 until the 1970s, still makes occasional appearances in his beloved library. The spirit of Thornley has been seen by an electrician and a library staffer and other staffers have smelled the smoke from Thornley’s cigarettes.

Sources
Birmingham Public Library. “History of Birmingham Public Library.”
     Accessed 24 May 2015.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Places in the American South. Jackson,
     MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
Penot, Jessica. “The Breathtaking, Haunted Beauty of the Linn-
     Henley Library.” Ghost Stories and Haunted Places Blog. 2 November
     2012.

Monroe County Heritage Museum
(Old Monroe County Courthouse)
31 North Alabama Avenue
Monroeville

In 1903, this structure was constructed as a courthouse for Monroe County. It was here that a young Harper Lee, Monroeville’s most famous resident and author of the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, would watch her father as he argued cases. When the novel was filmed on celluloid, the designers replicated the court room here on a Hollywood sound stage. This building was used by Monroe County as a court house until 1967.

Dome of the Old Monroe County Courthouse,
2008, by Melinda Shelton. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The upper floors of this building still seem to retain some of the energy from the building’s judicial use. Blogger Lee Peacock quotes one man as saying, “Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze. You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or there to be smoking.” Staff members working late here often get the feeling of not being alone and heard odd sounds within this storied building.

Sources
Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt.
     Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013
Peacock, Lee. “Ten new locations make list of “Spookiest
     Places in Monroe County.” Dispatches from the LP-OP. 31
     October 2014.
W. Warner Floyd. National Register of Historic Places nomination
     form for Old Monroe County Courthouse. 29 March 1973.

Moundville Archaeological Park
634 Mound State Parkway
Moundville

Between approximately 1120 C.E. and 1450 C.E., Moundville was the site of a large city inhabited by the Mississippean people, the predecessors to the tribes that the Europeans would encounter when they began exploring the South about a century later. At its height, this town was probably home to nearly 1000 inhabitants. Stretching to 185 acres, the town had 29 mounds of various sizes and uses: some were ceremonial while others were capped with the home of the elite.
One of the mounds at Moundville, 1999, by Altairisfar. Courtesy
of Wikipedia.
Visitors and staff have often mentioned a certain energy emanating from this site. A Cherokee friend of mine visited and while atop one of the mounds let out a traditional Cherokee war cry. He noted that there was a palpable change in the energy there. Dennis William Hauck speaks of the “powerful spirit of an ancient race” that “permeates this 317-acre site” in his Haunted Places: The National Directory. Southern Paranormal Researchers notes that the staff of the site has witnessed shadow figures, odd noises and doors opening and closing by themselves in the buildings on the site. Higdon and Talley add orbs and cold spots found throughout the site to the list of paranormal activity here.

Sources
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National
     Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
Southern Paranormal Researchers. Investigation Report for
     Moundville Archaeological Park. Investigated 10 February
     2007.
Higdon, David & Brett Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt.
     Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Blitz, John H. “Moundville Archaeological Park.” Encyclopedia of
     Alabama. 26 February 2007.

Old Depot Museum
4 Martin Luther King, Jr. Street
Selma
Old Depot, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of Library
of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
A part of the Alabama Ghost Trail, a series of haunted places linked by the Southwest Alabama Regional Tourism and Film Office, the Old Depot Museum features a ghost that reportedly has an affinity for the museum’s elevator.

Sources
Old Depot Museum. Alabama Ghost Trail. YouTube.
     Posted 19 July 2009.

Timmons Cemetery
Buxton Road
Redstone Arsenal

When the Army took over some 40,000 acres in Huntsville in 1941, it swallowed up old farm and plantation land including some 46 cemeteries. Located in the woods off of Buxton Road, the Timmons Cemetery is considered, by some, the spookiest place on the property. Guards patrolling Buxton Road at night have seen a little girl running across the road near the cemetery.

To explain the little girl’s spirit, a legend has surfaced, though apparently not back up by historical documentation. Margaret Ann Timmons was an energetic child and sometimes difficult to control. When work required the family to be in the fields, Margaret would be tied to a chair inside the house. The energetic child wiggled out of her restraints and kicked over an oil lamp that destroyed the house and killed the child. Now, not even death and the stone wall that surrounds the family’s cemetery can restrain her.

Sources
“Does a little girl really haunt Redstone Arsenal.” WAAY.
     31 Oct 2014.
“Redstone Report: Ghost story still haunts Redstone Arsenal.”
     WAFF. 31 Oct 2011.