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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: ghost stories

Alabama Oddities Collection #25

Amanda Herman

THE CENTER WITH NO COMMUNITY

The Brownville Community Center stands alone off highway 171 just above Northport, but the town of Brownville does not exist. Two brothers Brown opened a wood preserving plant in the isolated area in 1923, and built 40 small houses for the plant employees. The workers paid rent to the brothers that employed them, and the town ran smoothly for years. When the brothers agreed to commission the rail line to run through their area, larger machinery was able to be delivered to the plant, and commuting became an option for employees, sucking the life out of their self-serving city. The houses have been absorbed by the kudzu, but the wood preserving plant is still in operation. If the plant properly preserved the wood used to build this last remaining marker for Brownville, the lonely community center may be standing strong for quite a long time.

CRYPTID V.I.P.

Tell me about your favorite cryptid creatures! I want to hear from you guys on this one so tell me the creatures that creep you guys out! ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION: the weirder the better! One of my favorites is the legendary creature from the dense Alabama backwoods known as the hoop snake, as if snakes weren’t shocking enough. This terrifying serpent can chase its prey, moving even faster than its humdrum belly scooting brethren, by clutching his tail in his jaw and rolling like a wheel downhill. The detail that makes this cold-blooded creep even more chilling is that his tail is chock full of poison. So when this reptile has his prey close enough to catch, it stiffens up into a spear position, piercing the victim causing instant death. The only way to dodge the hoop snake is to duck behind a tree or jump a fence, so either the tree soaks up the fatal poison or the snake has to uncoil to get through the chain link. That’s it, folks, those are the only ways to survive the hoop snake. To read more on the “All Power to the Imagination” campaign, head over to our website, serpentsofbienville.com

PAINTER, NOT ARTIST

Mose Tolliver was said to be born on the Fourth of July. He grew up in Montgomery and was extremely dyslexic, relying heavily on visual learning. He married and had thirteen children. In his forties, while he was working at a furniture factory, sweeping up at the end of the day, a forklift malfunction caused him to be pinned under a load of marble, crushing his legs and putting him out of work. He turned to art to pass the time and hopefully make a few extra dollars today the bills. So starting in the late 1960’s, people could wander up to his home, next door to the house Zelda Fitzgerald grew up in, and see his art hanging from the trees in his front yard, consisting of plywood, house paint, and aluminum can ring hangers. He would ask a dollar or two if anyone wanted to purchase his work. His work quickly caught the attention of the art world, and they praised him for his color scheme (he said it was the only paint he had on hand at the time) and his subject matter (he said it made his wife mad to paint other naked women). In an interview, he told reporters, “I’m not interested in art, I just want to paint my pictures.” So he did, after his art became widely known, he still sat on the end of his bed and painted his life on plywood, signing each as Mose T.

CREATURE OF THE CREEK

Patsaliga Creek sits near Andalusia, just above the Conecuh National Forest. Heading into the densely wooded area, locals around the early 1900’s would tell tales of a hollering and screeching that was particularly inhuman. Dead animals riddled the tree line on a regular basis, mostly livestock that had been feasted on and left to rot. Armed men would head to the area known to be inhabited by the creature, and send their hunting dogs out to search the woods. Dogs would return shortly whimpering and whining, tails tucked underneath them, too frazzled to obey commands. After a few years of these occurrences though, the sounds ceased. The livestock remains disappeared. It seems the creature had moved on, but folks still swear their dogs still have fits near Patsaliga Creek.

SPIES IN LOVE

Farley Berman joined the army after studying at the University of Alabama. During WWII, while working for military intelligence, he met the woman he would marry, who was working for the French Intelligence. The spies were actually spying on each other, and fell in love. After the war, they returned to Farley’s hometown of Anniston, Alabama, and began their lifelong journey of collecting historical artifacts together. Some say they used their skills honed from working as spies to get their hands on some items that weren’t exactly available. They would simply reason that many items would just “show up at their house on their own.” They acquired Hitler’s tea set, assassination weapons, precious gems and bronzes, and an incredible collection of books and art from all over the globe. When the couple grew old, many were looking to take their collection off their hands, but the couple decided to bequeath the contents of their home to the town of Anniston. Farley says about his wife, “Germaine had two loves: Paris and Anniston. Paris had the Louvre, and doesn’t need any more museums”. So this is how the Berman Museum of World History came to be. If you are in the area, or have been to the museum, tell us about it!

FAMILY PROTECTOR

“Can’t Get Away Club” was a group of physicians and researchers that were devoted to aiding and studying Yellow Fever outbreaks. Members of this group and their families are buried together in designated plots in the Magnolia Cemetery near downtown Mobile Alabama. One member of this group was Dr. Josiah Nott, a physician and author being the first to theorize that mosquitoes could be the carriers of Yellow Fever, just like Malaria, opposing the then-popular thought that Yellow Fever plagues people through “bad air” from rotting matter (“bad air” from food was also thought to make people fat, so there were a few amendments still to be made). Josiah Nott’s family stayed in Springhill while he was studying near Church Street in Mobile during the area’s epidemic, but the disease finally reached their home. In 1853, the Nott Family lost four of their children within five days to the plague that Josiah had devoted his life to controlling. The children’s graves, along with their mother’s, can be found in the Magnolia Cemetery, marked by a stone statue of the family dog, overseeing and protecting his young friends. (Disclaimer: if you research Dr. Josiah Nott, you will quickly find that he was a racist that also wrote books on cranial capacity and polygenism. *heavy eye roll*)

RUINS OF BATTELLE

Around the foot of Lookout Mountain, just south of Valley Head, Alabama, lie the Ruins of Battelle. Deposits of iron ore, coal and limestone were found in pockets large enough to catch the attention of a man named Battelle. Colonel John Gordon Battelle, who already had a prospering mining business in northern America, saw this as an opportunity to compete with those popping up around Birmingham at the time. He gave the operation his name and moved south to oversee operations, and he quickly found out that the resources he was mining for were of poor quality and ultimately unusable. Those eager workers that had moved to the area and built homes were forced to either sell or relocate their houses when the plant ceased operations in 1905. These days, all that remains are random piles of bricks and rotten wooden structures. Only one soul remains in this ghost town, looking down into the area where the 85 foot furnace rested (the furnace was deconstructed and shipped to India during WWI), reenacting his last moments of life for over 100 years. Locals say that you can see Drew Hester walking among the rose bushes and overgrown brush, just before he slips down into the ruins, shrieking as he did on that day, while the furnace was still in operation, when he slipped and fell into the molten pit.

SURVEYING DAMAGE

The Hurricane of 1916 came to its most powerful moment at 4:45 on July 5th, 100 years ago today, creating overwhelming devastation for the city of Mobile and the Eastern Shore. The 11.6 foot swells are the second largest the state of Alabama has ever seen, ranking just below the Hurricane os 1906 reaching 11.8 feet, and just above Hurricane Katrina hitting 11.4 feet. In this photo, Mobile citizens survey Dauphin Street at the intersections of Royal and Water for damages, amounting to nearly $15 million in total for the coastal area.

TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT

America’s psychedelic phase stems from two “tuned in” brains from of the University of Alabama. Timothy Leary studied at UofA until he was kicked out for getting caught in a female’s dorm. He returned and gained a degree in psychology. He studied hallucinogenic sat length, and he later coined the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out” to promote the use of LSD in the 60’s, describing it as a means to journey inward into one’s own spirit to find the unity and singularity of human nature. Humphry Osmond was a member of the faculty in the School of Medicine at UofA. Osmond related the effects of LSD on the brain as a mirror of schizophrenic symptoms and called for a research group to volunteer for LSD treatments to help scientists research the brain in a simulation of schizophrenia. One of these volunteers was Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World in 1931. In a correspondence with Huxley, Osmond came up with the term “psychedelic.” When the use of psychedelics in research was deemed illegal, Osmond resorted to experimenting with large doses of different vitamins. He practiced his research at Bryce Mental Hospital and founded The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

UPRIGHT BURIAL

Reverend Joshua Boucher died in 1845 in Athens, Alabama and was buried in the Old Town Cemetery. Newspapers reported: “Among those who filled a large space in the Southwest for many years, we mention the name of Joshua Boucher, or "Butcher,” as he was familiarly called. No marvel that one so pious, so laborious, so faithful, so self-sacrificing, should die in the faith, giving glory to God. His dying testimony was in favor of the gospel he preached, and he sleeps in hope of a glorious Resurrection. His remains repose at Athens, Alabama, while he lives in the memory of thousands who mourned for him as a brother, when it was announced that Joshua Boucher was no more.“ They failed to mention the odd request made by Boucher before his passing. Public records show he asked to be buried among his congregation, standing upright underground instead of laying vertically. Some say this is because he was red to be in a position to preach from beyond the grave, while others testify that he was afraid his crippling arthritis would hinder him from rising up when his savior returns for him.

MURPHREE SISTERS ATTACK

The Murphree Sisters from Blount County are recognized as Confederate heroes due to their cunning and composure in a threatening situation. The girls were not left alone very often, but at ages 19 and 21, the girls were at home by themselves in the middle of the Civil War. They were aware of the dangers that surrounded them, with their home being in the line of travel for Union and Confederate Troops. Answering the knock at the front door on May 1st, 1863, revealed three hungry and tired Union soldiers, demanding nourishment and libations. This is where the truth and speculation become a bit fuzzy. Some accounts tell of the men getting drunk on Mint Juleps and passing out in their home, only to wake up tied to the dining chairs, forced to await the arrival of Confederate General Forrest and his men, ready to take the Union men captive. Other tales tell of the women slipping sedatives in the soldiers’ drinks, having the men wake up at the hollow end of their own guns. Some say the girls marched the soldiers straight up to General Forrest’s headquarters themselves. To fuel their fire, some say that the men were in desperate need of horses for transportation, so they wandered into the barn before approaching the house and killed two of the family colts with plans to confiscate the mares upon departure. Obviously, they never made off with the horses. General Forrest rewarded the girls’ bravery with another horse to ease the loss they suffered.

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. 

School Spirits: University of Alabama

Emma Wilson

The University of Alabama is definitely a school full of spirit. It is also said to be full of spirits. Most of the campus was destroyed during the Civil War, but almost all of the buildings that remain from that time contain haunting reminders: ghosts. 

The Gorgas House is one of the oldest buildings on the University of Alabama campus; it might also be one of the most haunted. Story goes that despite dying in the house, Josiah Gorgas, former President of the University and Confederate General still walks the stairs of the building, clanging his sword against the wall as he goes. He is not the only Gorgas that paranormally remains on the campus. 

The Gorgas House

The Gorgas House

Amelia Gorgas Library is not only named after the wife of Josiah Gorgas, its haunted by her. Amelia was the university librarian in the late 1800’s after the passing of her husband. With a library named after her now, she likes to make sure everything remains in order. Elevators are programmed to bypass the fourth floor which holds special-collections. Despite this, one elevator has been known to stop on the fourth floor, only to open its doors to no one inside. No one we can see anyway. Amelia isn’t far from her husband, who haunts the neighboring Gorgas House. 

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Attached to the haunted Amelia Gorgas Library is an even more haunted building. The Little Round House, aptly named, acted as a guard house during the Civil War. As Union soldiers were attacking campus, two cadets from the University acted as welcoming party to the northern force. One cadet hid in the Little Round House, watching the campus go up in flames around him. The other cadet was questioned by three Union soldiers as to where they could acquire some whiskey. The cadet pointed to the Little Round House. As the Union soldiers breeched the door, they were met with gunfire from the hiding cadet. The cadet mortally wounded all three soldiers. Both cadets managed to escape. Today, the ghosts of the three Union soldiers still roam the near the Little Round House. It is said if you put your ear to the door of the building you can hear the voices of the soldiers, still in search of a drink. 

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Many other ghosts of Civil War soldiers haunt the campus. Three ghostly figures have been known to walk the Quad during foggy mornings. Some believe one of the apparitions is the ghost of Colonel Murfree, commander of the university cadets during the war. The Colonel is also said to be seen in Woods Hall as well. The other two figures on the Quad are claimed to be past teachers. 

Smith Hall on the campus of University of Alabama also acts as Alabama Museum of Natural History. The building however, has quite a history of its own. The building is named after Eugene Allen Smith, former state geologist. Smith would frequently take tours of schoolchildren through the museum. At the age of 85, Smith died in 1927, but he was not done with giving tours. It is said that if you are in the museum after hours you can still hear the footsteps and voice of Eugene leading tours of schoolchildren through the second and third stories of the museum. It is also said he haunts the elevator, which appears on the second and third floors without being called. This is all harmless activity, but to there are more chilling occurrences.  

On the second floor of the Alabama Natural History Museum is the carriage of Eugene Allen Smith. Despite being sectioned off in a display, students say they have witnessed this carriage rolling down hallways of the building. Sometimes they can hear the sounds of horses and the cracking of a whip. Again, this seems rather harmless, but darker goings-on occur. A common tale is that a group of students stayed after hours and followed ghostly sounds to a classroom. When they went inside the desks were in disarray, though they had been in straight rows earlier. The students would later learn this is the classroom said to have been the site of the deaths of several students years earlier during a boiler room explosion. Another incident involved a lab assistant being pushed into a closet one night and locked in the room until the following morning.

 While not as menacing, there is another more active ghost on campus.

“How’s my blocking Miss Galloway?” These are the words you should say while on stage in the Marian Galloway theatre if you want to see the ghost of Marian herself. She is said to appear in the back of the theater. Other times students have seen her in the audience during a performance, on the stage dressed in white, or walking the sidewalk in front of the building. She is not always seen as an apparition. Students have been known to see her, seemingly as alive as you and I, only to learn later that she passed years ago. While a benevolent presence, she does not appreciate lollygagging. Mrs. Galloway has been known to slam doors if actors aren’t putting enough effort into rehearsal. 

The University of Alabama is most widely acclaimed for its football team, but if this supernatural activity continues, the school might soon be known for spirits instead of spirit.