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The Serpents of Bienville is an artist collective started in Southern Alabama by Amanda and Sean Herman. The project has grown from a study of southern mythology and folklore to include art, books, and merchandise available for purchase. The Serpents of Bienville is a celebration of the Southern Arts community and the people that carry on the tradition of creativity. Subscribe to our blog to hear about Alabama's history, oddities, lore and hidden treasures. Follow us on social media to stay up to date with new artists and projects in our community!

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Filtering by Tag: Birmingham

School Spirits: Private Colleges (Part 2)

Emma Wilson

Most private schools in Alabama are small in size, but big in spirit; or should I say spirits. In a previous blog we already discussed the ghosts of Huntingdon, Spring Hill, and Montevallo.

 

The ghosts of Stillman College in Tuscaloosa are close to the very haunted University of Alabama. Stillman isn’t as haunted, but some say there is definitely an unseen presence. The most popular tale is the haunting of Hay Hall. The residence hall is supposedly haunted by a girl who used to live there. She haunts the second floor, while the third floor is haunted by unknown spirits. Strange noises, voices, and loud sounds can be heard without explanation. Many would say this is typical for a dormitory; the scary part is, no one lives on the third floor, and no one has for years.

 

Not far from Stillman is Samford University. Some say the Wright Center is haunted by a construction worker who died during construction of the building. His name was Cleophus, and he supposedly fell down the elevator shaft five floors, to his death. There is the usual paranormal activity of flickering lights, random chills in the air. Most professors claim Cleophus is just a tall tale, made up by students. There’s no real way to know for sure.

 

An almost unquestionable ghost roams Judson Women’s College in Marion, Alabama. The ghost of former professor Anne Kirtley has been seen in numerous spots on campus, including her namesake building. Her picture changes position around campus randomly, but administration assure it is moved in the spirit of things by staff.

Other hauntings on campus include room 313 of Kirtley Hall. Other buildings, such as Jewitt Hall are said to contain female spirits. There is one story of a girl spending the night in the skydome of Jewitt Hall. That night she heard someone calling her name. When she went to the window, there was a crowd of girls dressed in old fashioned clothing. She recognized some, but not others. The group was coercing the girl to lean further out the window, but she refused.

Another story of Jewitt Hall includes a rebellious graduating student. She wanted to break as many rules and traditions as she could in her final days at Judson. She and her friends snuck into the third floor of Jewitt. There they were met with a pale, hazy figure of a girl, telling them to get out. Needless to say, they ran.

Other random paranormal activity like cold spots, or unexplained marks on students have also been reported.

A much friendlier ghost is that of Papa Noll. “Mama” Noll lived as the Residence Director with her husband in Kirtley Hall for years. One day Papa Noll passed away from a heart attack in the dining room. It is said his spirit still lingers there. He can occasionally help you find your keys by placing them in plain sight as you’re searching.

 


If your college is haunted, or if you’re interested in us investigating a certain college, comment below or email us!

 

Alabama Oddities Collection #24

Amanda Herman

A tale is told that a place called Sweet Gum Bottom, outside of Andalusia, Alabama, is home to a headless woman searching for her assailant. A woman gives a friend’s name and account of the town’s last encounter with the headless woman to date. A man named McVay was headed out from Andalusia and came upon the hollow amidst the densely wooded countryside. He heard his back tailgate rattle and unlatch, and from his rearview mirror, Mcvay gasped at the image of a headless woman clutched onto the sides of his truck, hiking her leg to climb into the vehicle with him. He slammed on the gas and she lost her grip. Afraid someone would be coming for her, it seemed, she hunched her shoulders, gripped her dress, and took off back into the woods.

The DeSoto caverns were claimed by the Creek tribes of the area when I.W. Wright was traveling through to trade and negotiate with the natives in the early 1700’s. Wright stopped and napped in the cavernous solitude. After he felt well rested, he gathered his belongings, carved his name and the date in the side of the cave in a “Wright was here” fashion, and started on his way. When his vandalism was found out, he was allegedly captured, scalped, and killed for his disrespect. Remains were reportedly found in the nearby area, the name “Wright” carved deeply into one of the bones.

“Sacred to the memory of William Patterson who departed from this life May 29, 1847. Aged 30 years. When sorrow weeps on virtue’s sacred dust/ Our tears become us and our grief is just. Such were the tears she shed who gratefully pays/ This last sad tribute of her love and praise.” Mr William B. Patterson was a young bachelor who is said to have taken his fair part in drinking, brawling, dancing and horse racing. It is rumored that the forbidden lover who wrote this beautifully emotional tribute to William was an Italian belle over whom he had dueled and lost. He owned a cotton gin on present day Dryer Avenue, and his plantation was located where Highway 98 runs now, just outside of Village Point Park Preserve, the park that Jackson Oak calls home. When the streets were being laid, his headstone displaying these beautiful words was moved out of the way, now displayed just off the road, but his body was never exhumed, so he is still resting just under the highway.

Seamen's Bethel Chapel Theatre was built in 1860 in downtown Mobile, Alabama, used as a refuge for sailors. In the 1980's it was relocated to the campus of the University of South Alabama, and it seems two spirits made the move along with the building. People attending and participating in performances in the theatre have reported seeing the same tall man in the fly loft, wearing a sailor cap and a captain's coat. Others that have used the basement area as a dressing room report a small child running wildly through racks of clothes and chilling folks with her laughter, just before she vanishes.

8x10 print available for purchase  here

8x10 print available for purchase here

Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Alabama was built in the 1880's and stayed in operation until the 1970's. Working conditions were incredibly dangerous at times, and this now nationally recognized Historic Landmark has seen its unimaginable share of tragically fatal accidents. Grown men's guttural screams, forceful shoving by invisible entities (especially while crossing high risers and rafters), heavy footsteps chasing closely behind, and even deceptive changes in pathways while folks are carefully navigating the grounds. The paranormally charged site is a overwhelmingly shared belief, reports flooding in by locals and tourists every year leading up to the famous FrightFurnace.com haunted spectacle of a tour.

During the Great Depression, the Federal Government built a Cannery at 1901 Main Street in Daphne, a high pressure cooker and preservation machine to protect excess produce from spoiling. This area quickly grew into a social hub for homemakers and farmers. The operation was managed by Miz Clara, described as outspoken and hot-tempered, with an adoring husband, her biggest cheerleader. Miz Clara traveled as a feature with the Ringling Brothers as a bareback equestrian. She was also a main costume designer for the famous clown, Emmett Kelly, creator of “Weary Willie.”

Available for purchase as postcard and photo print  here

Available for purchase as postcard and photo print here

The route carved out by Jackson and his men, stopping in the Daphne area to give his speeches and motivations from the branches of what is now known as Jackson’s Oak, is called Jackson’s trail, leading across Baldwin County to Pensacola. Jackson was on his way to Pensacola from New Orleans to stop the British from occupying Spanish ports. When he and his men reached Pensacola, he was unwilling to negotiate terms, and the British replied by blowing up the fort and sailing away.

On this day, May 5th in 1937, Alabama’s 22 year ban on liquor was lifted and legal hooch sales returned to the state. But did you know that the hottest spots to hang during the years of the illegal party scene were actually underground? Three caves in Alabama are noted to have housed quite a few all-nighters in their day. DeSoto Caverns was known as “The Bloody Bucket” due to the Road House style crew it attracted. Shelta Cave, operating as a party palace before prohibition as well, was given electric lighting and was not at all deterred by illegal liquor sales. Bangor Cave, pictured above, was a speakeasy in the 1920’s and gained popularity as “America’s Only Underground Nightclub.” Papers falsely read that the hot spot was newly opened in 1937, just as Alabama’s illegal liquor law was abolished. How convenient.

 

Today’s Alabama oddity is the tale of Eufaula’s property owning plant. An amazing oak tree has been standing longer than most buildings in Eufaula, Alabama. The home of Confederate Captain John Walker, just feet from where the tree resides, burned to the ground after the Civil War, and the tree went on unscathed. Not even the destructive hurricane that swept through Alabama in 1919 damaged the mighty oak. By 1936, the oak stretched to 66 feet in height and a whopping 85 feet wide. The city wanted to preserve the tree with honor, so a “deed of sentiment” was written for the tree and “by” the tree, so that the Walker Oak could quite literally own itself. When the mighty tree finally met its fate in 1961 at the terror of a tornado, area newspapers prominently announced its death in the obituaries.

On a sunny day in Wilcox County, Alabama in the spring of 1956, people were baffled by the strange cloud looming over them. The fear set in only when they realized that it wasn’t rain falling from the sky, but live fish: local bass, brim, and catfish! Yes, they were confused, but not scared enough to realize that dinner was being delivered, and quickly pulled out buckets and boxes to catch the odd bounty. Fish rains have been reported numerous times across Alabama, and the explanation for them is actually quite simple. Water spouts or concentrated whirlwinds that sit over one of the many bodies of water surrounding and running through Dixie causes these fish to be shot straight into the air. If they reach high enough, these creatures can be carried for miles before falling back down on unsuspecting folks.

Alabama Oddities Weekly Rundown Monday November 2nd - Sunday November 8th

Amanda Herman

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.  Enjoy!

 

Birmingham Batman - Monday November 2nd

Willie J. Perry would help anyone in distress, he even wrote it down the side of his 1971 Thunderbird he converted into a “Rescue Ship” decked out in the early 80’s with a car phone, a color TV, and Atari, and a turntable. He drove around helping stranded motorists with gas and jumper cables, helping elderly ladies get to where they’re going in style, and just taking kids on rides in his amazing car. People called him the Birmingham Batman, and he rolled with it, donning a white jumpsuit and helmet with the batman symbol proudly painted across the front. This car was actually the thing that ended him, ironically, when he was fixing her up and suddenly the garage door closed unknowingly. We need more people like Willie J. Perry today, and couldn’t be prouder to call him our neighbor and share his story with you.

 

Russell Cave - Wednesday November 4th

Russell Cave in Northeast Alabama is 7.2 miles long with quite a large opening, that was used as the perfect shelter for prehistoric Native Americans—the oldest recorded settlement of peoples in the southeastern United States to date. The artifacts were dated to before 1000 B.C. The natives would cover the items they were done with in dirt, so the findings were exhumed in incredibly detailed condition. The artifacts found were tools made from bones, arrowheads and weapons, bowls made from clay and from grass fiber, scorched seeds, charcoal, and remains from a burial ground. The items collected add up to over two tons. Bodies were laid to rest once more near the opening of the cave, and some of these amazing glimpses into our ancestor’s lives are displayed on site. If you visit or visited Russell Cave and have any photos or info to add, let me know!

 

Jubilee City Phenomenon -Thursday November 5th

The "Jubilee City" of Daphne, Alabama is named for a phenomenon that has been studied very little. This village on the bay is one of the only two places this seemingly magic event occurs. In the early dawn, the tide will rise and bring with it more blue crabs, shrimp, and fish than the locals can carry. Marine Biologist Harold Loesch theorized that organic material on the sea floor could deplete the waters of oxygen, forcing marine life to rush to shallows seeking more oxygenated areas. This research was done in the 1960's, though, so the locals' imaginations were running wild long before anyone decided to apply science to the magic. Villagers still run to the shallows, coolers and buckets in hand, filling them to the brim while they speculate what conditions must have brought this miracle on.

 

UFOs Fell on Alabama - Friday November 6th

In the early hours of July 24th, 1948, pilots Chiles and Whitted were manning a flight from Houston to Atlanta was passing over Montgomery, Alabama when they were approached by another aircraft. This type of craft scared these two men cold and sent passengers into a frenzy. The black, cigar-shaped craft was the length of a b-29 bomber, and was sailing less than 1,000 feet from their plane. It had a streaking tail and brightly lit square windows, but not a soul was spotted inside. The craft realized it was about to collide with the plane, and pulled up. Straight up. One of the pilots reported the craft disappearing for seconds and reappearing again in their sky. The abrupt movement of the flying object created no turbulence for the plane, and all mechanics continued to work fine. The blinding lights flashing through the windows were the only disturbances. When the plane landed, pilots and passengers were interviewed by news outlets and government agents from Project Sign. The agents officially ruled out conventional aircraft from the sighting options. They eventually classified the object as a comet (eye roll) with a disclaimer that it wasn't quite described to move the way a comet would. The Chiles/Whitted UFO is known to be incredibly significant for early UFO research.

 

Fairhope Museum's Inmate - Saturday November 7th

The Old City Hall and Jail in Fairhope, Alabama have been standing since 1928. Offices for the mayor, fire department, city council and clerk, and police department all operated under the same roof. One by one, the offices moved, except for the police department. The building housed inmates up until 2001. After this, the entire building was kept as-is, and plastered with history and artifacts to be used as the Fairhope Museum of History. The place is really neat, but the jail cells are still sitting open, beds still covered in linens, bored prisoners' ramblings still etched on the walls. If anything, it's creepy by itself. But the director of this museum, Donnie Barrett, who is amazing at his job, has things happen to him that are particularly chilling. Phantom people follow him upstairs and jail cell doors sound to clank and slam, yet are still sitting open when in view. A group of paranormal investigators of the area encountered a ghost with a particular favored pastime that has Americans in a frenzy these days. The group asked if there was anyone present in the cell, and as a strong and chilly wind swooped down on them, their equipment picked up the phrase, "Cannabis high!" Maybe that's what happens, guys. I wouldn't risk it.

Not even once.

 

Like the Stars, We Honor You - Sunday November 8th

The Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall in Florence, Alabama has taken thirty years to construct by the hands of a single man. Tom Hendrix has continued building a wall for his great-great-grandmother for her pain and suffering during the Trail of Tears, with eight million pounds of stone, and counting, from all corners of the world. This is the largest memorial in the United States dedicated to a woman, and a Native American woman at that. He was told, "One step at a time, one stone at a time. Lay a stone for every step she made… We shall pass this earth. Only the stones will remain. We honor our ancestors with stones." Quoted from NatchezTrailTravel.com, "After walking the length of the wall, Charlie Two Moons, a spiritual person, said:

'The wall does not belong to you, Brother Tom. It belongs to all people. You are just the keeper. I will tell you that it is wichahpi, which means 'like the stars'. When they come, some will ask, 'Why does it bend, and why is it higher and wider in some places than in others?' Tell them it is like your great-great-grandmother's journey, and their journey through life--it is never straight.'"