Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us with any questions, inquiries, or comments regarding the Serpents of Bienville project.

754 Government Street
Mobile, AL, 36602
United States

(251) 304-9008

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!

mossbanner.jpg

Blog

 

 

Filtering by Tag: murder

Alabama Oddities Weekly Rundown Monday November 16th - Sunday November 22nd

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!

 

Dressing the Part - Monday November 16th

Stories are told of a woman dressed in only the finest gowns and jewels sighted daily walking the streets of Mobile in the mid 1700's. Everything about they way she presented herself corroborated with her stories of being of Russian royalty. This woman told stories of her lavish days as the princess, married to Alexei Petrovich, the son of Peter the Great. She confided in the women of Mobile, Alabama and confessed that her husband was abusive and she feared her life. She fled, alone and afraid, until she crossed paths with a group of kind Germans, the group that brought her along to the Alabama Coast. One of the German men had fallen in love with her, and they spent years in Mobile before they set off to Paris with hopes of spending the rest of their days together. Soon after, the woman was recognized by a man that was employed by the princess in Russia. He unveiled her true identity as a chamber maid to the actual princess, who had stolen a collection of dresses and jewels from the Russian princess and fled the country

 

Goat Man Parade - Tuesday November 17th

We all hear about Joe Cain Day being the Sunday before Fat Tuesday during Mobile, Alabama’s Mardi Gras Celebration (the birthplace of Mardi Gras), but does anyone revel for the lesser-known Goat Man Saturday? Prichard is a suburb of Mobile, and celebrates this eccentric man that paraded down the streets in a wooden cart pulled by goats, being the first to ever parade in Pritchard. He would make toys and treats for his neighbors and throw them from his cart in the same fashion we throw moon pies and beads from floats today. On the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, the people of Prichard gather to revel with the Krewe of Goats in the Goat Man Parade, complete with a Goat Master, and yes, more goats.

 

Pictured: front hall Dearing-Bagby House, Tuscaloosa 1939

Pictured: front hall Dearing-Bagby House, Tuscaloosa 1939

I'm Sorry, Mrs. Fitch - Wednesday November 18th

The beautiful Tuscaloosa antebellum home is full of noises: sounds of creaking, cries of helplessness, slamming doors and clanking locks to keep her from leaving him, ever again. Fitch built the most beautiful staircases the south had seen, his work displayed inside the Drish house and many others in the area. Fitch was said to be a phenomenal architect, and a horrendous drunk. His wife and family pleaded with him to stop, but he was engulfed in his addiction. His wife had reached her limit of abuse from him, and mustered the courage to tell him she was leaving. She held her head high, standing in the bathroom doorway while he shaved his face before work. The words left her lips and he immediately reached for her embrace. He pulled her in close, and she didn't fight it, assured that he was overcome with remorse and repentance. Reality quickly set in as she felt her own blood pouring down her neck. He had slit her throat with his straight razor. He was never going to let her leave. 

 

Phantom Riders - Thursday November 19th

Mrs. Campbell tells a story of a path beaten out around a large, gnarly oak comprised of low hanging limbs all around the knotting trunk. Each night, a cloaked figure on a horse comes down the path on horseback. This has been going on for so many years that she can't remember a night without the phantom rider passing her window. She and friends have taken turns waiting up at night to identify this shadow man, but no one ever can, for when the are on alert, the path is quiet, but as soon as they give up and turn away, the horse and shadow comes galloping through. It takes the exact same path, circling the tree, never even snapping a twig on the tangled oak. Mrs. Campbell was told tales of witches riding their horse, a horse described as identical to the one that still rides past her house, onward through the darkness.

 

Women's Temperance Union - Friday November 20th

Temperance movements started as far back as the American Revolution when farmers petitioned against whiskey distilleries. This notion was shared by the Salvation Army, founded in London in 1864, and the movement took off, somewhat. The Women's Christian Temperance Union formed in 1874 and Alabama ladies jumped on board, forming local branches in Tuscaloosa, Selma, and around Gadsden and Etowah counties all around 1882. Membership dues were a minimum of fifty cents, and by 1919, collections reached around a half million dollars. I think their lovely advertisement speaks for itself.

 

Von Doon - Saturday November 21st

There is a cabin that sits atop the Third Ridge in Birmingham, deep in the dense wood. This where Von Doon sits and watches. He was known as a crazed scientist from Germany, and it was said that he spied the campers of Camp Cosby, looking for his next experiment. He watched and waited until one would stray from the marked grounds. With his viciously trained hunting dogs, with eyes of red and mouths filled with razors, he would track the lone camper and snatch him up before he could cry out to his comrades. The camper would never be seen again. The cabin has been explored by few who have deemed themselves brave enough to handle an encounter with Von Doon, but evidence in the cabin suddenly changed everything they thought they knew about this man. Von Doon may not have been watching the campers to abduct them, but to protect them. The cabin was said to contain a chamber comprised of thick, heavy walls and a powerful lock, but the lock was shredded. The creature he contained inside this cell could have been the attacker, and Von Doon was the only soul standing between this monster and their graves.


iJohn's Ride with JFK - Sunday November 22nd

According to the Alabama author behind the alias iJohn, JFK was warned of his assassination (conspiracy theorists, feel free to weigh in). IJohn was picked up by President Kennedy while hitchhiking from Mobile, Alabama to Dauphin Island, as Good Samaritan presidents do. IJohn seemed to have inside information about plans for an assassination attempt on his president, and divulged this information, but JFK did not heed this warning. So iJohn proceeded to publish a nearly 400 page account of what unfolded. We may never know why this man's life was really taken, but for some down home southern conspiracy theories, we turn to iJohn.

Alabama Oddities Weekly Rundown Monday October 26th - Sunday November 1st

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!

 

Jenny Gets Her Revenge - Monday October 26th

Jenny Johnston was a loving wife and mother, living in a cabin deep in the woods. Men who were running from the war would hide out in the woods for so long, they would be starving. They felt the finding of her house was a miracle, for her husband would have fresh food prepared at their arrival. The Home Guard caught wind of this and raided Jenny's home. They savagely lynched her husband for aiding deserters. Her eldest son ran to his father's aid, to be shot in the back of the head by this disgusting clan. That day, Jenny vowed to avenge her men by hunting down each of the eight men and ending their ugly lives. She succeeded in killing seven of the eight men, and died at the age of 98. Her soul is said to be unfulfilled because she left one of the murderers behind, so she is known to still haunt her land. If you ever come upon a cabin deep in the Bankhead National Forest, an old woman will beat on your car and scream for you to leave, threatening your life, as you may be mistaken as the last murderer, the one that got away.

 

Just Below The Surface - Wednesday October 27th

On Burnt Corn Creek Bridge, a woman and her boyfriend were having a nasty argument one dark night. She was so heated that she got out of the car and decided to walk home. As she was crossing the bridge, her boyfriend accelerated the car and drove off. The bridge she was crossing had no rails, and she fell into the creek. She reached for help out of the murky water, but no one came. She drowned that night. Visitors to the area would cross the bridge to feel a cold wind rise in the middle of summer. A green glow would emerge from the water, reaching for the onlookers, only to return to the woods and disappear. If the living stood too close, the woman's apparition would assume they had returned to help her out of the water, and she would grab their arm and pull them down under the water with her. The bridge had to be destroyed because of the amount of people falling into the water and getting hurt, or even meeting the same fate as our ghost. You can still visit the site of the incident, and people say she still glows under the water, waiting for help. Locals vow that the wind is always cold there, and fish avoid the spot completely.

 

Cosper the Lightning Rod - Thursday October 28th

This man proves that the saying, “lightning never strikes the same place twice” is a bald-headed lie. WIlliam Yeldell Cosper is from Childersburg, Alabama. This man was standing on his porch during a storm, and was struck by lightning. He miraculously lived, but a few years later, he was struck again. He passed away from this strike, and after being buried in the local cemetery for a few years, his body inside his grave was struck by lightning, breaking his gravestone into pieces. His family sprung for a brand new headstone for William, but that one was struck by lightning as well. He is now listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

 

Sweetwater Mansion - Friday October 30th

Sweetwater Mansion in Florence, Alabama is said to be one of the most haunted houses in the country. The mansion was designed by General John Brahan, a veteran of the war of 1812. The house was completed in 1835 and strange occurrences began shortly after. There is said to be a "spirit room" in the middle of the house. No door leads to it. The only entrance is a small interior window. It was designed for dark magic practices. An angry spirit is fabled to loom around the living quarters. One of the bedrooms that has always given people a creepy feeling infamous for locking female guests inside dare they enter alone. Employees still report terrifying occurrences all around the property. A confederate soldier is seen staring in the windows with his cold, hollow eyes. One woman walked downstairs to witness the vision of a full casket, lying open on the floor, with a decomposing body inside. This was later said to be the son of General Patton. Vandals have been tearing the place apart for years, and some fine folks had begun renovations in the late 2000's. As they were working, they smelled fire in the kitchen. People ran to the source, yet no fire was found. In the photos they took at that time, the entire kitchen was up in flames. The Sweetwater mansion is definitely not lacking in number of great ghost stories.

 

Woodhaven Dairy - Saturday October 31st

Nights in the country, in the quiet town of Silverhill, are so dark at times, you can't see the hand held in front of your own face. This is quite a problem when the place you have wandered up to on this dark and muggy country night is completely haunted by two mischievous boys. The darkness may have also been the culprit for the fate they met at the bottom of the well on the back of the Woodhaven Dairy property, unless information of foul play surfaces after all these years. These children are heard running and playing around the dairy at all hours, day and night, and have been known to thunder down the hallways. People have witnessed one of the boys fly down stairs and burst through a window at the bottom floor. The boys move items around the rooms and hide valuables all over the property. But there is one barn they will not enter. Even the undead fear for their souls in the back barn. This barn always has a strong stench of old blood and flesh. The figure that is standing in the middle of that room, when he shows himself, is taller than any man and darker than any night. His eyes glow red with warning, red as the blood that pumps through your chest at racing speed in his presence.

 

Thomas Bibb Is Not Pleased - Sunday November 1st

Thomas Bibb was a wealthy plantation owner and Alabama's second governor. He was originally buried behind his plantation in Limestone County, the Belle Mina. He did not rest in that place for long, though. His body was exhumed and moved to Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville shortly after his first burial. Thomas Bibb is obviously very upset with having to leave his home and brought to a strange place without his consent. His spirit is often seen by locals and visitors to Maple Hill around dusk, climbing out of his present grave and awaiting his stylish ride. He is said to board a carriage pulled by four black horses. When he is securely inside, the carriage takes off toward his old home and more preferred eternal resting place.

Cry Baby Bridge

Sean Herman

Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

"Legend has it that on driving over Cry Baby Bridge on a late night may be the last decision you ever make.  As your car drives over the road, slowly approaching the other side, the lights cut off.  Darkness envelops the car, and all that can be heard is the crying of a baby in the distance..."


 

“Myth could be as sustaining as reality - sometimes even more so.” 
― Alexander McCall Smith, The Lost Art of Gratitude

 

Deep in the dark recesses of a balmy night, gloom covers your eyes, like warm hands playing a game of “guess who”, making you fearful of turning around.  In the distance lies a plantation home, dilapidated, rundown, and abandoned.  The closer you come, the more obvious it is that no living creature could reside there.  Firefly’s move about, as if haints were holding candles, flying around and taunting you.  One firefly seems stuck though, frozen in time, right in front of the window of the tomb-like plantation house.  Slowly a face rises behind the light, her face, stricken with fear.  A deafening scream follows.  You close your eyes tight, attempting to hold out the horrific sound, but once they reopen you realize that you are in your car, never having left it, engine still running, stopped on Kali Oka bridge.  

 

Legend has it that the woman in the window was the wife of a plantation owner who was known for his abuse, and his sadistic, dark hearted ways.  He tortured his slaves, and his house, into submission.  One slave stood above the others, hulking in size, dwarfing all those around him.  The Mistress of the house, sneaking into the slave quarters, found his embracing arms, and an affair began.

Close up of Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

Close up of Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

This affair could only last so long before the eyes of her husband were to see what was happening. Late one evening, upon suspicion that his wife had been sneaking into the slaves roost, his heart racing, he decided to confide in his local dog pack at the local watering hole.  After the night of heavy drinking and trading stories with his drove at the drinking hole, a plan was concocted.  The group raced to the plantation with hatred burning their hearts of coal black.  Escorted by the inferno raging inside of him, one that would just as much burn the space to the ground, and take all of the slaves lives with, he had decided their fate.   With the aid of his brood, he flung the door open.  What he saw was his wife, with whom he had abused and beaten, being comforted in the embrace of two gigantic dark arms.  He yelled to his drove to grab the slave, and take his wife away.  It took 13 men to rip her from his arms, an embrace neither would ever feel again.  Both were taken out of the house, the slave drug to a large, disfigured oak.  The mistress drug in the other direction, her clothes ripping, skin coming with it, as she fought to see her love for one last time.  As she was taken away, screaming curses at her husband, her captor, the last sight she saw of her love was one that took her breathe away. She gasped in horror, witnessing her love chained to the tree, blooded, swollen, as if he had been the Nazarene beaten with a cat of nine tales. He made eye contact with her, his brow swollen over, eyes just barely able to see her soft, pale face, blood filling his sockets, slowly blurring his sight of her.  As red filled his vision, he could see her face contort in fear, screaming.  She saw what he couldn’t: his fate.  A large hatchet raised up from behind the tree, and was sunk deep into the slaves arms, at the wrists, severing his hands.  With his strength and size, the gnarled muscle dented the hatchet, and they continued, over and over.  Finally, wiping his blood from their eyes, they saw his hands, lying lifeless on the ground.  The devil proprietor screamed, sounding as if demons possessed his throat, howling in unison, “You will ne’er… touch… anything… again…”  He spit in the slaves swollen eye sockets, turning now, directly facing his wife.  Holding the hatchet tight, he pointed at her with it, “And You!” he growled, “You Must Be Held Accountable for your sins!”

Close up of Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

Close up of Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

The slave’s body was left there, rotting into the oak.  With one last lament to the heavens, his head fell. As the balmy, warm fog rolled in, onto the river, carrying the man’s last breath with it.  A pool of blood began to collect on the ground, traveling through the sandy dirt, and pouring into the rushing waters behind him.  His love knew she suffered the unspeakable fate of a lifetime with a monster, a demon.  Her hell was here now.  As the days passed, the slave’s body had been left to decompose, partly held up by chains to the oak.  His body stood as an example of what happened to those who defied their owner. 

When she initially moved into the plantation home, her one solace from her husband was sitting in the kitchen, looking out the window.  The view was of a beautiful old tree, as the river flowed next to it.  She watched from her home everyday, and continued to watch after that fateful evening.   Her once serene view, now the sight of her love, slowly being eaten by time.  Her eyes, now vacant, stared hopelessly, as she became nothing.  Truly empty, until…

Through sickness and pain, she realized that she was not alone, and a piece of her love grew inside her.  She carried the child to term, hiding it from her captor the entire time. She treasured something that was a piece of her love, but she knew that it couldn’t last, for there was no love in damnation.  One night she knew, as her water broke, the time had come.  She snuck down to the river, where the blood of her love had flowed down to, and birthed their child. Alone in the moonlight she finally felt as if she wasn’t alone, and for that brief instant, she was free.  As she floated in the water, all three of their blood mixed, intertwined as one dark mass, she knew it was the end, there would be no more suffering for her or her brood. This hell didn’t deserve the angelic child, or herself, any longer.  She clutched the child close to her breast, kissed it’s still bloody head, and descended.  The large rock she had tied to her leg had finally rolled off the small isle of sand it was set upon, and fell, hard and deep into the river.  As she sank, and life left her, she knew it was over, she had escaped her hell, she was on her way to her inamorato arms once again.  She felt her lover’s warm embrace as water filled her burning lungs.  She was finally safe.  They were finally free.


 

If you were to attempt to count the number of “Cry Baby Bridges” across the US, the number would exceed into the hundreds. I can remember 3 or 4 just off hand, from living in the rural south.  The one you just read was based off the “Cry Baby Bridge” location in Saraland, Alabama, right off of Kali Oka Road (which has some stories of it’s own, including a ghost car prophesying impending doom).

Kayo Road bridge, Highway 31, Decatur, Alabama

Kayo Road bridge, Highway 31, Decatur, Alabama

In researching these true stories in our area, I came across that of Cry Baby Hollow in Decatur, Alabama. The old bridge on Kayo Road, off Highway 31, is an dilapidated, lonely and apparently a little used bridge.  Stories abound about this site, many of the standard “mother losing her child” accident scenario, which there is no real historical tie to.  Most stories I did find tied it to a serial killer named Frank Hammond.

According to stories, Mr. Hammond’s activities started in 1925 outside of Hartselle, Alabama, with the discovery of three dead bodies.  As the bodies were found over the years, the stories continued to grow about a looming presence,  a killer abiding in that dark hollow.  Stories state that in 1943, Mr. Hammond strolled into a hardware store, his clothes stained with blood, and purchased rope and a hacksaw, nothing too suspicious.  For some reason, town Police followed his back to his shack, an old barn, in the woods.  What was discovered can only be described as the stories slasher films are made of.  From a very “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” like scene, found was human skins nailed to the walls, among other homemade taxidermy items.

Once Hammond was taken away, the tore the house apart, searching for more evidence of his horrific crimes.  Under one of the floor boards, they found the poorly decomposing body of his long dead wife, Loretta May.  Hammond was a quiet man, until it came to his recalling of the events that led them up to that point.  Time and time again, he went into great detail about every victim, how he lured them to their death, and how he took each ones life.  Stories remain about the torture he inflicted on her poor wife, keeping her prisoner in the old shed, tied up and starved.  In 1950, after spending years in a prison in Georgia, he supposedly took his own life.  Reportedly his suicide note read, “For the family’s I’ve hurt, this is for you.  Now you can’t see me die in the chair.  The evil is ready to go home, and get you all.  It’s never over, it has just begun.”  With a suicide note like that, I began to be a little doubtful of much truth lying in this theatrical story.  Proposed as truth, the deeper I looked into it, no facts lined up, but that didn’t stop the story from spreading like wildfire. Just like a good horror franchise, ala “Friday the 13th,” Mr. Hammond always came back, even if facts were few and fair between their stalkers’ existence.  To this day, though, local town’s people attribute the screaming sounds to be that of a young boy, his soul for ever trapped by Mr. Hammond, deep in The Cry Baby Hollow.  Maybe in the end, we want to believe these created monsters, because the real ones are much worse.


Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

Illustration entitled "Cry Baby Bridge" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

 

“Myths which are believed in tend to become true.”
George Orwell

 

Stories of fright fill the dark nights spent at these local sites.  A bridge, a hollow, what ever area has been given this damned persona, becomes the source of nightmares told to make local hair stand on end, but the truth is always much more horrific.  Here’s a quick rundown of some true stories these “Cry Baby Bridge” myths may have come from.  

 

July 19, 1886 – Four-year-old Richard Tufts of Long Beach, New Brunswick, carried a neighbor’s baby to a bridge over Tuft’s Brook and tossed him over the edge. When asked why, he said, “I don’t know.”
November 1, 1890 – Sadie McMullen threw Ella May Connors and Delia Brown (ages 11 and 6, respectively) 70 feet from the New York Central trestle bridge over Murderer’s Creek in Akron, New York, before unsuccessfully trying to drown herself. Ella died instantly; Delia survived but was permanently injured.
January 30, 1914 – In “one of the most sensational crimes” from the history of Spartanburg, SC, Clyde Clement threw his infant daughter Virginia off a bridge into a millpond on Lawsons Fork Creek. He threatened to leave his girlfriend, Laura Pendleton, if the baby wasn’t “done away with” and would only marry her after the child was gone.
February 28, 1914 – Mrs. Ralph Dinsmore, 23, of North Attleboro, Massachusetts, jumped from the Metcalf Street Bridge clutching her 4-month-old baby and was struck by a train around 12:30 PM. She left a suicide note stating that “no one will understand” her reasons.
May 1, 1937 – Myrtle Ward tossed her 3-year-old daughter Louise off the Colorado Street bridge in Pasadena, California. The infant’s 100-foot fall was broken by a tree; the mother jumped afterward and died instantly.
May 23, 1972 – Keith Hamilton, 17, was seen tossing the infant of a 19-year-old girl and her 16-year-old male companion into the Ohio River at 2:00 AM from the 17th Street West Bridge in Huntington, West Virginia. It turned out to be a hoax; the baby was a doll. All three were charged with juvenile delinquency.
February 16, 2010 – Following a domestic dispute, Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem threw his three-month-old daughter off the Garden State Parkway’s Driscoll Bridge near Sayreville, New Jersey.”

 

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
[Commencement Address at Yale University, June 11 1962]” 
― John F. Kennedy

 

Even with horrific true stories existing, the lore and mythology behind “Cry Baby Bridge” seems to be something altogether different.  A majority of these stories are usually traced back the early to mid 20th century, America’s moralist hey day.  In this era, a baby born out of wedlock was considered a immoral act, one that could never end well.  Single mothers were not as common as they are now, and many people believed that such would bring disgrace to their house.  These myths begin to show a cultural reaction to the moral majority, with the cries being those of an oppressed woman, being told her sexuality was evil, ultimately leading to death.  Some believe that the baby could represent this turmoil the young woman was facing, and that getting rid of it was the only recourse.  The horror of this story becomes the reflection it could be of our reality at that given time, and that it is continued to be believed today.