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!

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Southern Feast of All Souls—Feast Wrap Up

The feast is done, the table has been cleared, the guests have left, the spirits have quietly returned to their rest, and the veil between our world and the next has been restored. This season has been great for articles about the haunted South so, I’m wrapping up this Southern Feast of All Souls with a look at some of the new (to me) haunted places that were covered in the news media.

Colby Building
191 North Foster Street
Dothan, Alabama

An investigator from Circle City Ghost Hunters said of the Colby Building in downtown Dothan, “Somebody once upon a time put their heart and soul in the building.” Perhaps that soul is still here. According to an October 29th article in the Dothan Eagle, this group investigated the building after numerous reports of paranormal activity in the building surfaced.


While working on my recent book about haunted Alabama, I had a heck of a time trying to find anything on the Dothan area. As the seventh largest city in the state by population, there should be more information on hauntings in the area, sadly there was nothing reliable. Therefore, I was rather excited to see this article appear. The Colby Building was built in 1938 as a J.C. Penney’s Department Store and has since hosted a number of businesses. The building was redeveloped by a private/public partnership in 2008 and currently houses two restaurants, Colby’s on North Foster Street and Bella’s in the back of the building on West Troy Street.

Employees and guests have had experiences in the building including things moving on their own and seeing figures. Others have had their names called and the employees have nicknamed the spirit “’Rachel’ because all kinds of crazy stuff happened.” (I’m presuming this a reference to the television show Friends.) The owner of the restaurants was delighted to host an investigation when Circle City Ghost Hunters inquired about investigating there. The article notes that the activity is explained by a story involving the death of a young woman on the building’s third floor in the 1950s.

Sources
Ingram, Debbie. “Plans unveiled for $2.4 million Penney building project.”
     Dothan Eagle. 18 August 2008.
Sailors, Jimmy. “Circle City Ghost Hunters conducting investigation in
     downtown Dothan.” Dothan Eagle. 29 October 2015.

Suntan Arts Center (Don Vicente Building)
3300 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, Florida

Adjoining the Don CeSar Beach Resort, a palatial pink dream from the Jazz Age, is the Don Vicente Building which was built just prior to the grand hotel to serve as offices during the hotel’s construction. Over the years, the building has seen many incarnations serving as offices for the hotel, a bank and even a firehouse. The building has housed the 50 year old Suntan Arts Center for many years. The center provides classes and support for the local arts community.


The center hosted a ghost tour this year highlighting the paranormal activity that has been experienced in the building. For many years people within the building have encountered the spirit of a man in a white suit. As this building did serve as an office for Thomas Rowe, the hotel’s founder, this spirit has been identified as him. During an investigation of the building in 2013 by SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, the group got a response when Rowe’s name was mentioned. Besides Mr. Rowe’s white-suited spirit there may be other spirits within this building as well.

Sources
“Self-guided ghost tour departs from Suntan Arts Center.” TBN
     Weekly. 28 September 2015.
SPIRITS of St. Petersburg Paranormal Investigation Group. “Report
     for Suntan Arts Center.” Accessed 8 November 2015.

Porter Hall
Mercer University
Macon, Georgia

Porter Hall, a residence hall on the campus of Mercer University, one of the oldest private universities in Georgia, possibly has something mysterious residing on its fourth floor. One student reported that she “heard things like chairs being dragged across the pine, like a hard pine floor.” The fourth floor is not accessible to students and used for storage. Reportedly, only the dorm’s resident advisor has access. When students complain of noise from that floor, the resident advisor will check it out and find the floor empty of living beings.

Sources
     locations across campus.” WGXA.  30 October 2015.
Top 5 Hauntings of Mercer University.” Gateway Macon. Accessed 23
     October 2015.

Westover Terrace
905 West Main Street
Richmond, Kentucky

When the current owners of Westover Terrace began restoration on the house after they acquired it in 1995, the house was severely dilapidated and vandals had defaced parts of the interior. A pentagram had been painted upstairs, walls and windows had been smashed, and the mantelpieces and radiators had been stolen. Local kids occasionally prowled the creepy house in search of ghosts in this former funeral home. The current owners did not realize they acquired ghosts with this magnificent 1881 home.

As work progressed, the owners and contractors began to have odd experiences including loud crashes and bangs that sounded like sledge hammers being used and heavy furniture being moved. The voice of a little girl was heard asking workers what they were doing and warning them on occasion. While doing repair work on a staircase, one particular board was removed several times. After the owner used a hydraulic nail gun to attach the board, the board disappeared entirely. When the owners finally moved into the home in 2005, the activity seemed to quiet down. Evidently, the ghosts are pleased with the renovations. This is a private home, please respect the owners’ privacy and observe the house from the street.

Sources
King, Critley. “The haunted history of Richmond.” Richmond
     Register. 29 October 2015.

Green Light Bridge
Green Light Road
Winnsboro, Louisiana

An article about Louisiana hauntings from the Shreveport Times highlighted this very interesting location near Winnsboro in Franklin Parish in the northeast portion of the state. The origin of the road’s odd name has been lost to history, but is possibly related to the paranormal green light that is supposed to emanate from underneath the bridge and along the banks of the stream here. The article does not name the creek, but after looking at Google maps, it seems that the road only crosses one stream, Turkey Creek, in its course from LA-15 to its termination at Dummy Line Road.

The possible reasons for the odd green light are varied. A church once existed on one side of the creek and sometime in the mid-20th century a man was hung from a tree in front of the church. A fatal car accident that occurred here may be related to the activity as well. A woman lost her life when her car crashed into a tree. There is also speculation that the woman was frightened by the mysterious green light.

Sources
“’Haunted’ Louisiana: Tales of Terror from Shreveport and beyond.”
     Shreveport Times. 30 September 2015.

Glen Burnie Regional Library
1010 Eastway
Glen Burnie, Maryland


Librarians at the Glen Burnie Regional Library have been spooked by something within this 1969 library for many years. Odd sounds have been heard by staff when they have closed the building at night while books have been pushed to the floor by unseen hands. Staff called in the Maryland Ghost Trackers to investigate. During the investigation, the investigators made contact with a number of male spirits who are apparently hanging around and enjoy making a bit of trouble now and then.

Sources
     Capital Gazette. 23 October 2015.
     28 October 2015.

Ole Tavern on George Street
416 George Street
Jackson, Mississippi

There are several ghosts still patronizing the Ole Tavern on George Street according to a Halloween article from Jackson, Mississippi news station, WAPT. The article highlights a recent investigation of this establishment by the Mississippi Paranormal Research Institute. Employees of the popular eatery have had several eerie encounters with a few possible spirits here.


One employee saw a woman sitting at the bar one morning as he opened up. He had just removed the padlock from the door when he saw the woman. Realizing that no one was in the building, the employee returned to his car until someone else arrived. This spirit is believed to be the spirit of a prostitute who once worked in the building and committed suicide here in the 1970s. The investigation produced evidence that this woman may remain in the building with some other spirits.

Sources
“Ghost hunters seek answers from ‘Bitter Hooker.’” WAPT. 31
     October 2015.