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Alabama Oddities Collection #23

Blog

 

 

Alabama Oddities Collection #23

Amanda Herman

I am reading, researching, adventuring, and investigating to uncover all things weird and wonderful that make Alabama so intriguing. Check back each week to see what I've found, or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter to keep up with our discoveries daily! If you have been taking your own trip into the depths of odd Alabama and have found a story worth telling (hint: yours is worth telling, I promise.) I would love to hear from you! Comment below or email us at serpentsofbienville@gmail.com. Now Onward, Odd Folks!

 

HAUNTED MINES OF HUEYTOWN

The Virginia Mines opened in 1902, being one of the first mines in the area. The mines are known now to be haunted by the remnants of the deafening explosion in 1905, erupting from 500 feet underneath the Alabama ground surface. One hundred twelve people lost their lives, and many of them were incredibly young, boys who traded their childhood to support their families. Children laughing and crying, the sounds of hammers and axes raining back to the ground, deep disturbing groans, and the sound of the serpent-like hisses of methane have all been reportedly heard from the ruins, while the ground sits lifelessly still and barren. The mines are located in Hueytown in Jefferson County, also known for the unexplained “Hueytown Hum.” (that story can be found here: http://www.serpentsofbienville.com/blog-index/2015/10/24/alabama-oddities-weekly-rundown-october-19th-october-24th 

 

BIENVILLE SQUARE NEEDED CLEANING

Bienville Square started as a city park in 1824 when the land was deemed by the federal government as a recreational area, but the area grew in size and esthetics, so I’ve heard, as a means to keep the riff raft out of the center of town. The land once housed horse stables, and on top of those stables were coops. Those coops were said to be home to the gamecocks that locals bet on at the weekly cockfights on Royal Street. The side of the stables even had large painted signs advertising when and where you could see these competitions. The folks looking for a more family-oriented area in Mobile’s future had had about enough of this around 1837, when the city tore down the stables, stating that the area was voted to be used as the grounds for a new city hall. Then, surprisingly, nothing happened. The area sat vacant for thirteen years, only seeing use when the occasional traveling circus or band would pull through town and need somewhere to perform. This was also looked down upon, so much so that in 1847, Mobile outlawed public dancing. In Spring of 1850, the city held a beautification celebration, dance free, for citizens to plant live oaks and lay out paths to make the area more closely resemble what we know Bienville Square to be today.

 

CATTLE PROD THE SPRING BREAKERS

The original Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama always brings up fond memories for those who can recall the means of discipline enforced by the owner. Kids were made to behave or leave. I’m told if the woman in charge saw that you were dancing too close to your sweetie she would yell, “Leave room for the Holy Spirit,” and if you were just plain acting like a fool, she poked you with an electric cattle prod. That’ll keep you in line.

 

DAPHNE NORMAL SCHOOL

The Baldwin County seat was moved from Blakely, after the now ghost town was plagued by Yellow Fever, and took up residence to the south in Daphne, Alabama in 1868. The building that would house government operations would wear many a prominent hat in Daphne’s history. During the building’s construction to become a courthouse, court sessions were held under the “Jury Oak” on the grounds of the Howard Hotel. The courthouse was said to be a grand and beautiful addition to the bayside views, with a great spiral staircase and a two story jail tucked away behind it. After the county seat was ruled by the state of Alabama to be moved to Bay Minette, Daphne didn’t want to give it up. Citizens of Bay Minette concocted a great ruse to distract everyone, creating a tale of a known and wanted criminal running loose through Daphne. When the police and official were out searching for the alleged bad guy, they came in on wagons wielding shotguns and torches to steal the courthouse papers and take the seat northward to Bay Minette. After the seat was taken, the building would then become home to the Daphne Normal School, an open boarding school for higher learning. The Annex area became a teacher’s school for seniors while Junior High and High Schoolers learned in the main building. When funding dropped off in 1940, the building was demolished. The Nicholson Center, that stands in its place presently, was built as a community center funded by the estate of George Albert Nicholson.

 

LITTLE BETHEL CHURCH MARKER

The historical marker outside the Little Bethel Church, just two buildings down the street from The Serpents of Bienville Gallery in Olde Towne Daphne, tells the story of the town’s being owned by Russell Dick. His mother, Lucy, was brought here on the last voyage of the slave ship Clothilde. Russell Dick is now buried in the cemetery behind the church.

 

 

YANCEY BRANCH

I’ve been exploring the oddities and hauntings here in our own back yard, and it turns out that Coastal Alabama is riddled with legend. Yancey Branch was a major traveling route in the Daphne area during the Civil War, and when the folks living along this area caught wind that the Union soldiers would be traveling through to from the east on their way to Fort Blakeley, they his all of their valuables deep in their well and throughout the woods along the trail. Soldiers did not always travel through the area peacefully, so locals believe there is still many a buried treasure waiting in the woods. Fireballs are seen flying through the trees from neighborhoods and main roads, said by some to be the paranormal reminders of the devastation left behind by the war.

 

LEPRECHAUNS ARE JERKS

We are told that if we don’t wear green on this day, the annual celebration of St. Patrick, some obnoxious neighbor may pinch us. The more historical context of wearing green draws back to the English invasion of Ireland, where the Irish proudly distinguished themselves by wearing the color green and fighting under the green banner in opposition of the “Orangemen.” The Irish were facing genocide, yet still wore green proudly, being pinched by fellow Irish to stay alert of imminent threats. Now, the more lighthearted, celebratory reason that we wear green, as told to me by my second grade teacher, Sister Catherine, in her beautifully dense Irish accent, is that the color green makes you camouflage to hell-raising leprechauns, and the pinch is to remind us of the mean hearted tricks that could befall is, should one of these tiny grumps discover us. She knew leprechauns weren’t all cute and cuddly, selling you delicious cereals and mending shoes, just waiting around to tell you where they hid their gold. Oh, no. Leprechauns are jerks. They don’t want to tell you anything about their hidden riches, and if they catch you not wearing the hue of the Irish, these practical jokers will make your life miserable for the duration of St. Paddy’s. So, the way my favorite teacher and I saw it, the pinch is the least of your worries.

 

TWO TOED TOM RETURNS

You guys remember Two Toed Tom: the gator from Bon Secour that runs on his hind legs at speeds up to 50 miles per hour, the gator known to steal livestock and scare unsuspecting children? (If you don’t recall, just head over HERE) Tom had his most recent honorable mention in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchmen. The monster gator had supposedly dug tunnels all under fictional Maycomb County, popping out at night to steal people’s chickens and feast on them right under the farmer’s land. Another tale from south Baldwin County says people were so hellbent on killing the creature that was eating their mules and scaring their children that a farmer placed enough explosives around his pond, where he swore up and down that tom was making his home, to blow the entire mass of water sky high. the explosion went off and his pond was completely destroyed. Moments later, a friend from a neighboring farm came running up the way that tom was now residing in HIS pond, scaring his children as he spoke!

 

"OH NO!" ISLAND

Today’s oddity is a legend stemmed from the name of this prestigious island off the Alabama Coast. Ono island may have received its name from a skirmish between the Alabama and Florida residents, long before its settlement. John Golightly was the first to live on this Island, in 1963, building himself a primitive house in the middle of the untouched island. Not too soon thereafter, wealthy families began constructing lavish homes all around his cabin, and he exclaimed that their cocktail parties just ruined the entire atmosphere of his paradise. Golightly told his daughter that the island received its name after a hurricane blew through the coastal area and separated the island from Alabama’s mainland, leaving it uncharted and therefore up for grabs by either territory. Before the Floridians could lay proper claim on the land, Alabamians stormed the island proclaiming, “Oh no, this is our island!”

 

ANCIENT MUDBUG BOIL

FUN FACT: Not much has changed between the eating habits of the archaic folk claiming home in Baldwin County and the family gathering-type feasts held at so many bars and restaurants across the Bay Area and along the Gulf Coast. I’m talking about the celebratory crawfish boil. Shellfish mounds from ancient human consumption have been discovered around the site of Fort Morgan, reaching as high as 25 feet. We have so many crawfish boils in the Mobile and Baldwin County areas alone, that if you plan it just right, you could eat dinner for free every day of the week for the entire season.

 

THE LEGEND OF THE TIE SNAKE

Tie snakes are attributed to uncommonly high drowning rates and disappeared fishermen. A native legend tells of the tie snakes pulling a chiefs son under the water. Friends jumped in after him but no body was found. The boys returned to their tribe to tell the chief and father that his son was gone, and the people mourned. The boy, however, was not dead. He was taken to an underground tunnel, and when he came to, to wonder what was going on, he realized he was being carried by a mound of tie snakes. “Patience,” they whispered. Arriving at a dark clearing inside the underwater cave, the snakes began to hiss, “He is here.” The King go the Tie snakes slithered up to the top of an adjacent mound of black serpents, and the king opened his jowl wide. “Ascend.” The boy knew this was a command directed to him. He lifted his foot, but the snakes rose with him. “ASCEND.” The boy tried three times, each with the rise of the snakes. The fourth try started with the boy jerking his foot free from the serpent mound. He passed the first test, and each test thereafter. The serpents molded themselves into a chair for the tired youth, and carried him to the king snake’s side. “You may return to your father in three day’s time. Know that when he is in need of my assistance, step out to the raters edge and call to my serpents. We will come to your aid.” Sure enough, he returned to his father, joyous at the sight of his son, alive and well. An enemy was approaching from the north soon after, and the son knew he could now cash in on the Tie snake king’s favor. He went to the water and called to the tie snakes, and as the chief awoke the next morning, he found the enemy just at the borders of his land, bound by the tie snakes, yet unharmed. The chief was given the opportunity to talk with the enemy and come to an agreement and mutual understanding before the tie snakes would allow the enemy to walk free.

 

HORNED SERPENT'S MANY TALENTS

The great horned serpent is not known to bring any harm to humans, but to provide mystical insight and gift of prophesy, capable of shapeshifting, hypnosis, and invisibility when necessary. Weather control and medicinal concoctions are available to humans upon meeting the great horned serpent’s challenge. This guy has been described as more of a loch ness in size and mystery, but has been chocked up to, a more likely story, of some giant eel that has made its way into the Alabama waterways.

 

 

SPLIT IT WITH THE DEVIL

Two men coming back from a fishing trip through Bayou La Batre were looking to divide up their fish. Passing a cemetery and feeling pretty worn down, they figured here was just as good a place as any. They stopped inside the gate, two fish slipping from their bucket, just outside the cemetery’s iron fence. When they finished splitting the fish into two piles, one exclaimed, “You take one, I’ll get the other.” A few moments later, while loading the fish into their separate buckets, the men heard a voice repeat their statement, “You take one, I’ll get the other.” The men immediately attributed the voice to a conversation between God and the devil, deciding which of the men’s souls would be toted to heaven, and which one dragged to hell. The men left their fish behind, racing home without as much as a glance back to be sure.

 

IT'S BAD LUCK TO BE RUDE

Etiquette is synonymous with the southern belle, the debutante, good old southern hospitality. But what if children were actually scared into acting like civilized human beings here in Alabama? Well, it seems they were. Here are a few of the taboos keeping the southern lady and gentleman in line.

 

If you eat too fast, you will never marry. 

If you take the last piece of bread, your significant other will leave you. 

If you eat with your hat on, you will never become full. 

If you sass your elders, bad luck or a haunting will befall you (because elders were considered “almost ghosts.”)

If you spit anywhere in walking areas, your teeth will come loose.

 

TECUMSEH REINCARNATE

A fearsome black dog roams the fog lined fields in rural Alabama, with numbers sightings around Tallassee. It is said that this dog stalks the countryside exacting revenge on those that have gone against the native customs of the people that once honored this land. The legendary creature is so protective of his land, he is said to possess the soul of Tecumseh, the native leader that rallied his and many other tribes against the americanization of their people and their land. Tecumseh was incredibly motivational to move others to action as shown in how quickly the story spread of his wrathful earthquake. When recruiting tribes to stand up against their aggressors, one tribe was hesitant. Tecumseh told them if they were not to join him in his efforts by three day’s time, he should stomp his powerful foot, and the lands would quake, tearing their homes down and leaving their people without protection. Sure enough, the earth rumbled, known as the New Madrid Earthquake, on December 16th, 1811. Word spread like wildfire, and tribes began to join Tecumseh without question. The mystic dog is said to be the size of a bear, but distinctly canine. His wrath is known to be unwavering since Tecumseh, the man, was protecting these same sacred lands.