Ghost stories abound in nearly every region, and Alabama has a fair share of its own. Curses, haunted playgrounds, and ghostly flames are just a few of the spine-tingling tales from the Yellowhammer State.
The Face in the Window, Carrollton Courthouse
The courthouse in Carrollton, Alabama has a very creepy mark in its upper window; one that no amount of cleaning can erase. The impression of a man's face can easily be seen in the upstairs window, as if someone were looking down, watching the goings-on outside the courthouse. And the story behind it? Let's just say there was a curse and a lightning strike involved.
In 1878, a town troublemaker named Henry Wells was arrested for burning down the courthouse. After his arrest, the courthouse was rebuilt. But, Wells later escaped. Police shot him in the leg and brought him back, jailing him in the courthouse basement. The townspeople, who had lost many important papers and deeds and all sorts of other legal documents when the original courthouse burned down, were... more than a little tired of Wells' antics by that point. They gathered around the courthouse and were out for blood, to the point that he was moved out of the basement and up into the attic to keep the mob from getting to him.
From his attic perch, Wells watched the mob shout and call for his head. The story goes that he threatened to curse the town as he stood there, with his face pressed to the glass, and at that very moment, lightning struck, killing him where he stood.
The imprint of his face is still in the glass and as for that curse? The jury's still out on whether Wells ended up cursing them or not.
The Distraught Mother of Bear Creek Swamp
If you happen to be in Bear Creek Swamp, you might see ghostly balls of light, or maybe even the apparition of a child... which is tied to the creepier ghost story from this area. The swamp, it's said, is haunted by the ghost of a mother in search of her lost child... and she's not happy. Local stories claim that if someone says something along the lines of "we have your baby" in the swamp, the ghost will attack.
Sally Hansen's Ghost, Cedarhurst Mansion
Cedarhurst mansion in Huntsville is haunted by the ghost of a 15-year old girl named Sally Carter. Sally was visiting her sister at the mansion when she fell ill and died. The first reported sighting of her ghost was in 1919, and it is a chilling tale.
A teenage boy was visiting the home's current owners. He stayed overnight, sleeping in one of the guest rooms. That night, he had a dream about a teenage girl who came to him and told him to fix her tombstone. She was distraught that it had been knocked down during a recent storm.
The next morning, the boy told the home's owners about his strange dream, and everyone laughed about his overactive imagination. But, just to see, they took a walk out to Sally's grave and, sure enough, the tombstone had been toppled.
There are additional stories of visitors running into Sally's ghost, both in the house and at the gravesite, though her body has since been exhumed and moved to another location due to how much vandalism and attention the stories brought to the property.
Ghost Fires and Tragedy, Drish Mansion
The Drish mansion, in Tuscaloosa, has as much reason to be haunted as any home in the Old South. Several tragedies befell the Drish family including suicide, murder, and insanity, all within two generations. The first family tragedy happened to daughter Katherine, who was forced to marry a man her father chose for. That man was not Katherine's true love, and she became deeply depressed after the wedding. Her husband, unable to handle his wife in this condition, returned her and their two young boys to the mansion. He divorced her soon thereafter. Katherine could never function properly afterward and had to be locked in her room at night and followed about during the day to ensure that she didn't hurt herself.
The next tragedy was that of Dr. Drish. He had a penchant for drinking and gambling and soon drove his family to the brink of ruin. One evening, as he was suffering from delirium, he ran from his bed and headed towards the staircase. He fell halfway down the stairs and died.
One of the most interesting stories about the old mansion, however, is that of the ghost fires.
A custom, at the time, was to place candles about the room where a body was laid to rest. Dr. Drish's wife Sarah conducted this ceremony for him and put the candles in a drawer with the hope that they would be lit for her as well when she died. Her ceremony was forgotten. One evening after her death, the enslaved people on the grounds noticed that the tower was on fire and called for the fire crew. When the crew arrived, the flames had disappeared, along with any sign of having burned. Once the fires disappeared, so did the ghost of Mrs. Drish.
Jack Cole Road, Hayden
Jack Cole Road is a dirt road in a heavily wooded area off of Highway 7. An unusually high number people who lived along the road have died. Those people still haunt the road, especially at night. Witnesses report strange phenomena, such as spotting lights darting through the trees or encountering ghostly figures wandering the woods.
Deaths include several from a cholera outbreak in 1900 and one from murder. After a mummified woman was discovered in her home, people claimed she was a witch.
The strangest sighting is an apparition that appears to be half-wolf and half-man.
The Haunting of Jemison Van de Graaff House
The Jemison Van de Graaff home is located in Tuscaloosa. It was one of the first houses of its time to have running water and a coal heating system. Robert Jemison Van de Graff, Jr. built the home in 1859. He was a state senator and the inventor of the Van de Graaff generator.
Mr. Van de Graaff's daughter, Priscilla Cherokee, and her husband, Andrew Coleman Hargrove, haunt the house. Mr. Hargrove suffered for years from an incurable headache caused by a bullet wound to the head. Eventually, he could no longer take the pain and shot himself in the home's library. Priscilla was distraught over her husband's suicide and fell into a deep depression and wild hysteria. After eight years of such suffering, she died. The two remain in the home to this day.
The Ghost of Norman Staples, Bladon Springs
The cemetery in Bladon Springs is said to be haunted by the ghost of Norman Staples, captain of a sternwheel steamer who killed himself with a shotgun in 1913 at the age of 44. He was buried in Bladon Springs Cemetery alongside the graves of his three children. Legends claim that his spirit roams the cemetery, watching over his children. People who have reported seeing the captain's ghost claim that he's always looking toward the water.
Dead Children's Playground at Maple Hill Cemetery
Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville is the largest and oldest in the state. Near the cemetery, there's a playground, and that's where this ghost story takes place. Witnesses swear that children's ghosts play in the playground.
Locals also believe that the spirits aren't just those from the cemetery. In the 1960s there was a series of child abductions and the bodies were left around the playground. These children haunt the playground as well.
Visitors have reported seeing orbs, ghostly figures, and have witnessed seeing swings move with no explanation. When the Alabama Paranormal Society investigated the playground in 2008, they heard a female voice and captured photos of a woman's figure among the orbs.
Huggin' Molly, Abbeville
In Abbeville, one of the widest known urban legends is that of Huggin' Molly. Who or what is Huggin' Molly, exactly? According to the story, Huggin' Molly is a seven foot tall ghost dressed entirely in black. Huggin' Molly wears a witch's hat and roams Abbeville at night, in search of children. According to the stories, if she finds you, she'll grab you, and her bloodcurdling screeches will only add to your terror.
The Witch of Hinds Road
In the town of Gadsden, the ghost of a woman haunts Hinds Road. She emerges from the woods, and, if you happen to be on the road at night, she'll run up to you, screaming about how she sold her soul to the devil. Forced to wander the land of the living, she's distraught, wailing in despair.
There's no shortage of haunted locations in Alabama. Most of the ghost stories come with a rich backstory so you know exactly who's there and what to expect if you visit. From family tragedies to those who just want to be respected after their deaths, Alabama ghost stories can fuel your paranormal curiosity.