We here at Serpents of Bienville have a lot of different projects currently running. One project that we are particularly excited about is the Alabama Oddities pieces that Amanda is writing for our social media sites. She is doing daily updates, bringing you a new story every morning, of something strange and odd from our Southern home. Not everyone has social media, so we will be doing weekly rundown's of her stories, which we will be publishing every Sunday. We hope you guys enjoy, and remember to follow us on our social media sites to get daily Alabama Oddities stories. With the opening of the new Serpents of Bienville Art Gallery we have been a little behind on the rundowns so here's one a day or two late. So enjoy!
Monday February 1st - 150th Anniversary I think…
According to numerous accounts written in the early twentieth century about Joe Cain and the first time he stepped out of the streets of Mobile as Chief Slacabamorinico, this Sunday will mark the 150th anniversary of the Joe Cain Mardi Gras celebration. Each account differs drastically, however, and each stands firm in being the absolute truth. Some say Old Slac was parading by himself, on foot. Another says that he was followed by the Lost Cause Minstrel Band. One more states that Joe was pulled in a coal cart with a handful of other comic friends. As the Mobile Mask (mobilemask.com) has revealed, however, 1866 may not even be the actual date of his first appearance. The parades and celebrations that Joe Cain was fabled to have witnessed in New Orleans and brought back to Mobile the following year, didn't even take place according to newspaper reports, until 1867. Yet, a newspaper clipping obtained by the History Museum of Mobile is supposedly written by Joe Cain himself, and states that he attended a fire department parade in New Orleans in the year of 1866, which would mean that he couldn't have paraded in Mobile until 1867, though that particular parade actually took place in 1867, bringing the party back to Mobile in 1868. So, just to be safe, let’s just celebrate the 150th anniversary of Joe Cain’s legacy for the next three years.
Tuesday February 2nd - LaShe’s Roll On
With their emblem based on a Broadway showgirl, the Order of LaShe’s prove time and again that the show must go on. In 2008 as float 10 was passing through the intersection of South Claiborne and Church Street, the giant koala caught fire. The “LaSheilas Downunder” themed float seemed to fall victim to an electrical fire, and firefighters responded within minutes. The revelers awaited so impatiently, that as soon as the last flame was extinguished, the women ran back onto the float and returned to throwing their goodies to the crowds. The firefighters had not even finished their inspection of the area. Moments later, the parade rolled on. Check these ladies out and join the party tonight in Downtown Mobile at 6:30.
Wednesday February 3rd - Wragg Swamp Stomp
Wragg Swamp is the area that Chief Slacabamorinico, Grampa Gator, the satirical Comic Cowboys, and their burly Queen Eva call home. This legendary folk ground is all but a tale to tell nowadays. The swamp was filled during Mobile’s westward expansion in the 1950’s to build Springdale and Bel Air Malls. Filling in that area, that once caught and cleansed runoff from the surrounding areas, has proved to be devastating to the nearby ecosystems and waterways. But I’ll let the Wragg Swamp Band tell you the story themselves:
Wragg Swamp "Wragg Swamp Stomp"
1st verse: We grew up on the edge of the swamp
Steamin' heat and Spanish moss
Creeks and critters, skeeters and snakes
Screeched and hummed the night away
2nd verse: One cold day during Mardi Gras
A strange parade came from the swamp
Grandpa Gator led the line
Slacabamorinico close behind
Chorus: Doin' the Wragg Swamp Stomp
Wragg Swamp Stomp
A bunny-hop with a cool be-bop
That's the Wragg Swamp Stomp.
3rd verse: When the morning mist began to clear
Comic Cowboys did appear
Following the merry troupe
Telling tales, some tall, some true
4th verse: I saw them dance down Emogene
The chief was red, the gator green
When Eva stopped to straighten her hose,
She dropped her stogie down a crawdad hole
Bridge: Now the plaza pavement simmers
They filled that swamp to build a shopping center
But Gator, Chief and the Cowboys, too
Live forever like legends do.
Copyright 2010, Windy Holler Music, ASCAP
Check it out here.
Thursday February 4th - Slapstick
The imagery of Folly chasing Death with a large stick and inflated pig bladders tied to it is not a modern carnival tradition. The wooden pole folly carries is actually the object that spurred the idea of "slapstick" comedy. Slapstick is of the Italian "batacchio," a wooden, slatted pole used to create a comical slapping noise in stage performance. The bladders tied to the end also made a hilarious noise, later detached and used as, the prank we all still childishly amusing, the whoopie cushion. "A style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity which exceeds the boundaries of common sense," if your Mardi Gras celebration cannot be described as slapstick, you're doing it wrong.
Friday February 5th - Boyington Oak
On Joe Cain Day, this Sunday, as the widows are circled around the famous grave of Old Slac and the Excelsior Band blasts it's beautiful funeral jazz, keep your eye out for the dark and gnarled oak tree lurking at the back of the graveyard. Amongst its crawling, knotty roots of are the bones of Charles R. S. Boyington. He was put to death for the murder of his friend, a murder he swore on his near ready grave, he did not commit. Boyington vowed that from his body, when dead and buried, an oak would sprout. He knew that oak would be a reminder to all that thrust those pitchforks and flames to his brow, that their hate and haste stole the life of an innocent. Look for the oak before the Mistress procession takes off, the moss covered obelisk, the pillar of truth: The Boyington Oak.
Read Sean Herman's eerie blog on this tale here.
Saturday February 6th - Under the Malaga Inn
Reservations to stay in the Malaga Inn, located in the Downtown Historic District of Mobile, during Mardi Gras season, sell out faster than chicken on a stick. It's picturesque courtyard and its "genteel southern living atmosphere" will float you back in time, a time when the souls that haunt its halls were still free to leave. The Malaga Inn is actually two twin houses built in 1862. These two townhouses were constructed by the husbands of two sisters during the Civil War. As wealth became unstable, the houses were sold off, eventually being renovated to connect by a three story addition of rooms, and the doors opened to travelers, vacationers, and honeymooners of Southern Alabama nearly a century after the War. From the legends told by guests and staff, though, many of its wartime inhabitants never actually left. Room 007 seems to be a favorite of a woman in a white hoop dress. She has been seen entering and leaving its quarters, with chandeliers swaying and objects moving in her wake. Although this is the most famous haunting of the Inn, it's certainly not the most disturbing. Ask one of the staff members to give you a tour and if you're lucky, they may just take you underneath the original houses. Tunnels were built to provide cover and shelter to Confederate Soldiers, and with so many Americans killed in battles nearby, some may still be taking advantage of its protection. People have reported, on quite a regular basis, dark shadows and light orbs following them, rushing past them, or even "standing" still in the corners of their rooms. This beautiful Boutique inn is a staple for a Mardi Gras pre party, or a place to escape the chaos for a while, as long as you're aware that you may not actually be alone in the Malaga Inn.
Sunday February 7th - Haunted Fort Conde Village
When people picture a haunted fort in Southern Alabama, they picture men in Confederate uniforms marching the perimeters for eternity, or women in white flowing dresses searching for their love that never returned to them. But what if the fort was reduced to rubble? Where do the ghosts find comfort when the last home they knew is gone? Well, not entirely gone. Downtown Mobile is riddled with secret underground tunnels and passageways from the original Fort Conde to facilitate secretive cover and escape from attacks. What still lies under the streets of Mobile doesn't always stay hidden. The Fort Conde village is a block of historic homes from the 1800's turned bed and breakfast or offices, that have been restored and protected behind the smaller replica Fort Conde, built to house the 1720's original structure's history and artifacts. Many paranormal teams have investigated this historic ground that people have found shelter, comfort, and security in, reaching back before the original fort's construction, when the natives called this sacred port area home. The most thorough investigation has been done by Beyond Sight (beyondsightparanormal.com) who have spoken with at least 7 different souls still inhabiting the area. They encountered children aggressively shouting and warning one's father to run. A gentle soul thanked them for returning to the village, because the gentlemen promised her they would come back. Ghosts followed them on their journey exclaiming their presence, confused as to why they couldn't be seen, saying over and over, "I am right here!" A woman was asked about another inhabitant, to which she offensively replies, "We're not ghosts." So when you're wandering the scenes of Mobile today, don't forget about those hiding beneath the streets. Take a walk through Fort Conde Village and say hello to the unseen residents. Just don't tell them they're already dead.