Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Montgomery, Alabama’s Haunted Five

Alabama’s state capital, Montgomery, is sometimes seen to play second fiddle to Birmingham, the largest city in the state. But Montgomery has a complex history that has put it often at the forefront of many historical movements in the South. Starting as a frontier trading post, the city served as the first capital of the young Confederacy. After the Civil War, the city became known for technological achievements in the form of an electric trolley system and in 1910, a flying school opened by the Wright brothers. In the mid-20th century, the city’s sad racial history placed it at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement presenting us with a mighty lion in the form of Rosa Parks.
 
1887 Bird's Eye View of Montgomery by H. C. Davidson.
Paranormally speaking, the city has a fascinating panoply of spirits, many of which have been covered in two recent books: Faith Serafin’s Haunted Montgomery and Shawn Sellers and Jake Bell’s Montgomery: A City Haunted by History.

CAPITAL TOWERS APARTMENTS (7 Clayton Street, private) On February 7, 1967, fire ravaged the swanky restaurant on the top floor of this building. Dale’s Penthouse restaurant was one of the most fashionable dining options at the time in Montgomery. As the fire broke out on this frigid February night, rapidly moving flames blocked the elevator and the stairwell, trapping and killing 26 patrons including a few well-known politicians. While some conspiracy theories exist as to the origin of the fire, the official explanation points to a lit pipe left in a coat pocket.

The building itself only received slight damage and the penthouse that once housed the restaurant is now a private residence. Former residents of the building have reported hearing screams of “help,” while residents in the penthouse have spotted misty, black forms. Shawn Sellers notes that passersby near the building have smelled smoke and heard screams coming from near the top floor.

Sources
Hull, Christine Kneidinger. “26 died in Dale’s Penthouse fire
     in Montgomery 44 years ago today.” AL.com. 7 Feb 2011.
Sellers, Shawn & Jake Bell. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History.
     Shawn Sellers, 2013.
Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.

CHRIS’ HOT DOGS (138 Dexter Avenue) While the hot dogs are legendary around these parts, the good food is not the only reason Montgomery citizens still flock to Chris’ Hot Dogs, it’s the atmosphere; an atmosphere still punctuated by spirits. Founded in 1917 as the Post Office Café, this restaurant has become an institution in its 98 years of business. For three decades, this café was a popular late night hotspot serving hot dogs and liquor and attracting the likes of country singer, Hank Williams.

Shawn Sellers and his investigation team explored the restaurant and discovered that the staff has countless stories about employees still working their shifts from beyond the grave. Perhaps Hank Williams can be heard still singing under the green and white striped awning?

Sources
Cumuze, Greg. “My Immutable Heaven.” Chris’ Hot Dogs History.
     Accessed 26 May 2015.
Sellers, Shawn & Jake Bell. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History.
     Shawn Sellers, 2013.
  
F. SCOTT AND ZELDA FITZGERALD MUSEUM (919 Felder Street) In Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan remarks on the birth of her daughter, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Some suspect that Fitzgerald’s Montgomery-born wife, Zelda, may have made a similar remark on the birth of their daughter. Zelda, whose zest for life strongly influenced her husband as well as legions of young women, lived her life as the epitome of the “foolish” Flapper.
                                           
Zelda and her husband lived in this house for a very brief five months—October 1931 to February 1932—but during that time F. Scott Fitzgerald completed his novel, Tender is the Night, while Zelda outlined her one and only novel, Save Me the Waltz. The house was saved from demolition in 1986 and opened as a museum to the literary couple. The upper floor of the house now contains private apartments and the residents there have reported hearing faint jazz music and disembodied footsteps. The museum’s director has reported that Zelda’s “foolish” spirit has remained active in the house and is believed to be the spirit responsible for flinging a painting from the wall while a staff member watched.

Sources
Curnutt, Kirk. “Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.” Encyclopedia of Alabama.
     15 Mar 2007.
Herbert, Katherine. “Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.”
     Encyclopedia of Alabama. 14 Aug 2014.
Sellers, Shawn & Jake Bell. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History.
     Shawn Sellers, 2013.
Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.
  
LADY IN WHITE LEGEND (Downtown) The identity of this mysterious woman is unknown, but her apparition is quite frightening. Seen throughout downtown Montgomery, the Lady in White is, as her name implies, dressed entirely in white. Her hair is described as long and dark and her teeth are animal-like in their ferocity. In a 2013 article, Shawn Sellers is quoted as saying, “She’s actually the most reported ghost of anywhere in downtown Montgomery. She’s always seen outside. She’s never looking at anybody. She’s just always walking up the street, and people say they feel her before they see her. She’s just a creepy, creepy energy.”

Sources
Sellers, Shawn & Jake Bell. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History.
     Shawn Sellers, 2013.
Sutton, Amber. “Ghosts, curses and more: Take a walk on the
     supernatural side with Haunted Montgomery Tours.” AL.com.
     2 Oct 2013.

MONTGOMERY RIVERWALK STADIUM (200 Coosa Street) The home to the Montgomery Biscuits, the city’s minor league baseball team, Riverwalk Stadium is located on the site of a former Civil War prisoner of war camp. During the Civil War, this site was occupied by a cotton warehouse. After the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862, Union prisoners were housed in the warehouse in reportedly deplorable conditions until they were moved to Tuscaloosa in December of that year. Faith Serafin notes that some 200 prisoners died while in captivity at this site.
 
View of a 2008 game played at Riverwalk Stadium by
markcbrennan, courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to Shawn Sellers, before groundbreaking took place for the ballpark, this site was occupied by a hotel. Maids would sometimes find rooms disturbed after they had cleaned them and guests observed mysterious figures in their rooms. After the hotel closed, the building was occupied by offices where similar activity was reported. Located on the site of the haunted hotel, the stadium also may host activity including shadow figures, the sounds of weeping and screaming, and the occasional apparition.

Sources
Sellers, Shawn & Jake Bell. Montgomery: A City Haunted by History.
     Shawn Sellers, 2013.
Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC:
     History Press, 2013.