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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: Mobile

School Spirits: Private Colleges (Part One)

Emma Wilson

Big state schools aren’t the only ones with big paranormal activity. Multiple private schools throughout Alabama have their own school spirits.

 

At the top of our haunted list is Huntingdon College. The college was originally an all-female college, founded in Tuskegee in 1854 as the Tuskegee Female College. It was here the story of the Red Lady began. One night on the upper floor of the residence hall, an eerie red glow appeared under the doors lining the hall. Upon opening their doors, young women were met by the spirit of a woman glowing in a red gown. Blanked-faced, she paced the hallway all night, only to disappear when the sun rose. The Red Lady was not seen at the campus again. This is not where her story ends however. Years later, in Montgomery, a woman named Margaret (sometimes called Martha) enrolled in Huntingdon College upon her late father’s request. Margaret did not fit in well. She was not only a Northerner in a Southern college, she was reclusive, and had an odd affinity for the color red. Everything she owned was red. Her fourth-floor dorm room was covered in that one color. Margaret went through numerous roommates during her time in the dorms, each time her roommate would request to transfer rooms. Upon the dorm president requesting a transfer, Margaret became bitter and swore to the retreating girl she would regret her actions.

After this event Margaret began strange behaviors. After lights-out, she would get out of bed, pace the halls, and let herself into all the rooms on the hall. She would never speak a word, only staring blank-faced before proceeding to the next room. While she did not glow, Margaret always wore her signature red.

One day Margaret did not show up for class. The dorm president, the felt she should check on her former-roommate. Upon walking the hall and opening the final door, she saw Margaret, this time dawning a different red. Her own blood. Margaret slit her wrists and bled to death.

The Red Lady as she is now known still walked the halls of Pratt. While still a residence hall, girls would cower at the site of her crimson apparition. It was said if you bullied another student or were mean-spirited, the lights would unexplainably go out, a chill would fill the room, or creaking noises would fill the room without reason. This activity would escalate on the anniversary of her death. Today, Pratt holds the Department of Education and Psychology. Some say with the changes, the Red Lady left. Others still claim to see her.

 

Huntingdon also has another ghost with a colorful name: the Ghost of the Green. This is the unseen spirit of another troubled student. A young man is said to have shot himself on the green after rejecting his girlfriend. While no one has seen his ghost, students say they occasionally feel a tugging at their clothes, or someone blowing in their ears as they walk along this part of campus.

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From Montgomery to Mobile. Spring Hill College has multiple tales of haunted dormitories, but there is also another well known ghost. A former math professor, Father Mueller, can be seen near his old office. It is also said Father Mueller appears to students who need assistance with seemingly impossible math questions. One boy spoke of a kind priest with a long, grey beard that knocked at his door to welcome him to the university. He then assisted him in his homework. The description of the priest matched no one living; only the late Father Mueller.

 


Montevallo has its fair share of ghosts. A man on an eternal search for his son, and a Confederate soldier with a vow to uphold. These are Amanda Herman’s writings on the spirits at the University of Montevallo.

The house of the late Edmund King, a businessman who had a lavish love affair with his own money, sits prominently on the campus of Montevallo, smack in the middle of the state of Alabama. It is said that he can be seen with his lantern in the top story of the house, with the green flashing orbs most active during storms. He peeks out at passersby from behind the curtains, and does not shy away when he is aware he’s been spotted. The graves of his wife and son are not far from the front porch, which gives an even eerier feel to the whole haunting experience. It has been said that he never forgave those present when his son died, being accidentally shot by his own brother. Edmund King spent many days out at his son’s grave, seemingly spending more time with his in death than in life. After Edmund died and the lights began to manifest in his bedroom, they are also seen coming out of the house and taking the same path to the tiny graveyard that King walked every day. The shadowy figure is seen carrying his lantern out in hopes of joining his son. He’s still searching. 

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Edmund King is said to have loved his money so wholeheartedly, that he dares not give it away upon his death. Days before he passed away, legend holds that King buried his money under a peach tree, safe and secure for all eternity. These days, there is no peach tree in front of the King house, but there is still a pay phone. This would not seem out of the ordinary years ago, but most everyone of campus will have a cell phone on them at all times, so the antique booth sticks out like a sore thumb. And even more strangely, it rings. Someone is calling this pay phone on a regular basis, and students report that they pick up to help the obviously confused caller, yet they are answered with silence. Not a dial tone, not a busy signal, not even creepy breathing, the sure sign of a prank call. There is no sound at all.

 

The legend of Reynolds Hall on the campus of Montevallo is attributed to its namesake. Captain Reynolds was a soldier for the Confederacy before he was named president of the college. The Hall was first used as a wartime hospital. Union soldiers were searching for Reynolds when he was assigned to protect the building, but left his post to assist in a nearby battle. He returned to find a heart wrenching massacre—everyone that he left behind in that hospital was dead, ambushed by the Union. He vowed to never leave that building exposed again, and has held his promise in death. Reynolds is reported shutting doors and windows behind students leaving them carelessly open, lest Union soldiers come sneaking in when their backs are turned. He also moves his own picture away from the front room where it hangs, knowing that he is wanted by his enemies, that they may see his photo and come in looking for him again.

 

These are only a few of the many apparitions walking the halls. Stay tuned for Part Two of our Private College edition of School Spirits. 

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.

Beasts of the Bay: Farragut's Monster

Christian Mott

Farragut's Monster

Beast of the Bay Series, Part 1

Christian Baxter Mott

 

    From too far west, where the tattered edges of ancient maps are drawn with undulating sea serpents half-concealed with tails, teeth, or tentacles, the quivering lips of intrepid men have always whispered eastward in the washing quiet of night, when only the darkness itself could be listening over the creaking of the deck, over the rippling of wind in the sails, afeared that speaking the omen outright would consequently breathe it into existence: 

Here there be monsters.

    Farragut grit his teeth at the thought and swallowed down the old tales he heard back in the West Indies. He peered over the bow of his flagship toward the dark Bay; beyond the Mobile Point peninsula, the three silhouettes of forts stood situated on its sands guarding the mouth of the last of the Confederate port beasts. He’d already taken New Orleans; Mobile was the last protected harbor, the last throat still able to feed the rebellion. Yet the harbor would soon be won, the forts captured, and the port his—in a matter of time, the beast would starve.

    Gray dawn approached in a haze. Granger rushed him, sending the army ashore to Dauphin Island, but the belated Tecumseh hadn’t yet arrived from Pensacola. It would, though, at any moment . . . Any moment, now . . .

    And when the warship appeared off the horizon of the Gulf, Farragut prepared for the final siege. The bleeding red sun followed the Tecumseh, shedding August light on the maritime battlefield before his fleet. Buoys teetered on the water, marking the perimeter of the naval minefield, forcing any intruders too far east, and far too close to the guns of Fort Morgan. 

    The rebel navy moved into position just beyond the torpedoes, ready to intercept him and his true Navy. Farragut lifted his nose to the salty breeze, sensing that conditions were ideal, realizing the southwest wind would blow smoke into the faces ofMorgan’s artillerymen. 

    “Reduce steam pressure,” he said to the man at his side, thinking of the boilers. “The current will give us speed.”

    The ships were paired, iron and wood lashed together, to resist the fire of the Fort. If one failed, its partner would carry it through. The Tecumseh lined up in the first column and eagerly fired the first shot. The final battle began.

    The eruption of war disturbed the latterly calm waters of morning. A swash to the right of the minefield caught Farragut’s eye, but he deemed its wake negligible. As planned, the old cowcatcher Brooklyn took lead before the Tecumseh and shot forward toward the opposing fleet.

    Farragut kept a close eye on the few vessels before him, assessing how they steered east and remained clear of the minefield to the west. The Tecumseh cut it closer than he liked, but all in all swam true to orders. Yet another swash caught his eye; a boiling beneath the surface, a molten shimmering glow, and the piercing sound of ripping metal initiated the lurching of the Tecumseh

    “The torpedoes!” yelled the man at his side. “She steered too close!”

    But Farragut had been watching and saw with his own eyes that it was impossible. There wouldn’t be any mines outside the buoys—no, it would’ve been far too dangerous for the rebel blockade-runners.

    The injured vessel sunk in a matter of moments, leaving nothing but sailors hanging onto the wreckage or swimming to shore. Fewer and fewer of the men kept their heads above water, and something like oil darkened the blue surface. Farragut spotted Commander Craven grasping the remaining side of the hull, gasping, until a pale cloud of gun smoke passed between the two ships, blocking his view. When it cleared, Craven had disappeared.

    Farragut didn’t understand what he’d seen, certain only that it was no torpedo that sunk the Tecumseh

    The smoke was too thick to see. As his flagship passed Morgan now, he climbed to the rigging of the mainmast for a better view. A sailor followed him up, attempting to lash him to it.

    “Never mind,” he told the man as he peered into the depths of the Bay waters below, searching through the pale clouds. “I am all right.”

    Even so, the man tied him to the forward and after shrouds, but Farragut paid him no mind. He couldn’t proceed without knowing what had taken the Tecumseh. Could it be? Were there truly stray torpedoes outside of the boundary?

    He sought out the mines, spotting a few of their dark shapes beneath the clear surface, when he caught sight of another incredible shadow in the water. It swam with a jerking motion, ripping its colossal tail back and forth, craning around and around what must be its rigid serpentine neck. The giant beast circled the sinking Tecumseh, snatching survivors from its wreckage.

    A fear took hold of Farragut’s heart, a nauseous sensation he’d subdued since departing boyhood. There, lashed to the rigging, he questioned the goodness of his eyes, doubted his own sanity. It couldn’t be, and yet it had to be.

    He could swallow down the old tales no longer. The miserable stories he heard from a grinning, toothless pirate captured in the West Indies were true: a Leviathan guarded the mouth of Mobile Bay, watching and protecting those who unknowingly fed it. 

    “It breeds chaos,” the bastard had said, repeating the legend. “It feeds on lost souls of the sea, lost by any means necessary—storms, scurvy, sirens . . . Its breath is the fog that darkens lighthouses, its wet stench the foul sea mists of melancholy. Its tempered patience alone allows safe passage to blockade-runners and slave ships, only to devour as many of its passengers as death keeps from reaching the shores . . .”

    Anyone who threatened those Bay waters, the pirate had said in not so many words, would challenge the beast. The only way out, he’d said, was in.

    Yet Farragut had forgotten the reason why . . .

    And then it hit him. We must reach shallower waters. We must, or we all die.

    Coming to, remembering his place in this battle, he scanned the naval front. The cowcatcher halted before the destroyed Tecumseh, and the fleet nearly came to a standstill within firing range of Morgan. The ship’s flags signaled a question, requesting orders, but had he not already given them? Farragut gesticulated as best he could, pointing forward and shouting, “Go! Go, damn you!”

    Yet it did not proceed. He called down to his man, “The Brooklyn! Why doesn’t she go?”

    “Torpedoes in her path!” he yelled over the gunfire. “The Tecumseh blocks safe passage!”

    The giant serpent beneath the waters now took the long way round the minefield, and soon it would overtake them from behind, leaving no escape. Farragut realized then, with a wrenching in his gut, what he had to do—what he had to ask his men to do with him. 

    He peered back from his rigging—the Beast of the Bay ripped nearer—and he thought with a sense of grim satisfaction how, once again, the salvation of a country rested solely in weathering the dark and dangerous waters to the west. But progress was never achieved by fearing the unknown, life never lived by waiting to die . . .

    Either endure the wrath of the sea titan, or brave the torpedoes . . .

    He prayed they were soused and ineffective.

    “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

Charting of Farragut's Entrance to Mobile Bay for purchase  here

Charting of Farragut's Entrance to Mobile Bay for purchase here

    The man below ran the orders to the Captain, and the flagship pressed on past the cowcatcher, leading the column of fourteen warships through the minefield, steady as she goes. They passed through to the other side unharmed, to shallower waters, where the giant creature could not follow. It remained back in the depths, lashing about in its molten ire, rending apart what remained of the Tecumseh.

    The vessels continued in the battle with Farragut distracted by the chaos in the background. In its rage, the Leviathan set off one of the torpedoes, silent in the mess of battle. The waters roiled into a sort of repose, and Farragut was certain no one had seen but he.

    Looking on from his rigging, the gun smoke of battle surrounding him, he choked up one last memory of the pirate in the brig, gazing drunkenly at him through the bars; his words now sat on Farragut’s lips, as though an echo first spoken from a specter at the deepest depth of the sea itself:

    “How do you kill it? Oh ho, Lieutenant Farragut, it’s already been long dead.”

    A clammy, cold sweat now chilling him in the midmorning humidity, he climbed down from the rigging, prepared to halt progress and assess the damage done to his fleet, so they could press onward. For the only way to end the Leviathan, he surmised, taking notice of the Tennessee approaching slow like a shark, would be to cut off the hand that fed it. 

    He would forget the beast, siege the forts, and take the harbor. 

    This port would be his.

    For here there be monsters.