Alabama is, according to some, a very haunted place: Not necessarily the William Faulkner, sins-of-our-fathers kind of haunting (though that is true as well.)
No, we’re talking about ghosts: haints and haunts, goopher dust and goblins and gremlins, spooks and spirits, trolls and tommyknockers. A place like Alabama — a deeply religious society with broad influences from Pan-Carib, West African, British, and Appalachian peoples — can’t help but be culturally primed for syncretic mysticism. And it has resulted in nearly every county and every landmark in Alabama having its own ghosts.
There are the respectful ghosts, those just coming by to pay a visit (even if they’re not very good at picking up their mess):
Apparently, a bartender working at the [Tutwiler] hotel in 1995 experienced a multitude of ghost sightings after the lights of the bar and kitchen would turn on by themselves. The bartender reportedly turned the lights off four times for them to be snapped back on for five nights in a row. On the sixth day, he was greeted by a mysterious and unexplained multi-course meal with candles and wine. Many believe it was offered by the ghost of Colonel Tutwiler, for whom the hotel was named. Although messy, Tutwiler was a respectful ghost as no further paranormal shenanigans occurred since the bartender began to conclude each shift by bidding the Colonel a good evening and kindly asking him not to leave a mess.
There are the companions, like Kathryn Tucker Windham’s spirit friend, Jeffrey; ghosts who drop by and make their presence known for absolutely no reason at all.
“There would be loud clumping of footsteps down the hall. There would be rearranging of furniture — and I’m not talking about just a chest of drawers sliding across the wall, this was honest-to-God interior decorating.”
Jeffrey wasn’t the most terrifying ghost — Windham later wrote a song about him that included the lyrics “Nobody’s scared of Jeffrey. Nobody shivers with fright.”
But, for every Colonel Tutwiler or Jeffrey, or even a ghostly child dropping by to take a nibble of your candy, there are the waking nightmares against which you lock the doors and draw the curtains. For not all of Alabama’s ghosts are as benign or as light-hearted.
There are the fire-starting poltergeists, endless tales of the macabre and unexplained from Indian burial grounds, the raving insanities and sorrows of Southern Gothic, the tragedy of the Civil War played out night-after-night in fens and fields — from the boys in both Blue and Gray, the slaves that toiled and died in servitude, the despondent suicides, the unspeakable sorrow of dead children, voodoo possessions, the love of mothers bereft of their family. And, of course, there are the haunted places: the haunted bridges and courthouses and houses and sanitariums and plantations and factories and furnaces, the haunted roads — even a stretch of a river and an entire island.
Wherever you step, Alabama is seemingly beset by a darker world, a companion world of the unexplained where ghosts and spirits rule the night. And, whether these spooks exist or not, the rich history and stories that Alabama’s ghosts provide, and the cultural imprint they leave, makes for an awesome place. If you’re up for it, take a digital trip on Alabama’s ghost trail — you just might find that you have a haunting in your own backyard. If books are more your thing, then you must get Kathryn Tucker Windham’s iconic “Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey” on this 50th anniversary of its publication.
And you can always share your ghost story below. Everyone loves a ghost story.
Do you believe in ghosts?
This poll is closed
Unsure, but probably not.
Unsure, but probably so.
I’m open to the possibility.
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