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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 Category: Alabama Oddities

Alabama Oddities Collection #23

Amanda Herman

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

 

HAUNTED MINES OF HUEYTOWN

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

 

BIENVILLE SQUARE NEEDED CLEANING

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

 

CATTLE PROD THE SPRING BREAKERS

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

 

DAPHNE NORMAL SCHOOL

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

 

LITTLE BETHEL CHURCH MARKER

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

 

 

YANCEY BRANCH

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

 

LEPRECHAUNS ARE JERKS

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

 

TWO TOED TOM RETURNS

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

 

"OH NO!" ISLAND

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

 

ANCIENT MUDBUG BOIL

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

 

THE LEGEND OF THE TIE SNAKE

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

 

HORNED SERPENT'S MANY TALENTS

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

 

 

SPLIT IT WITH THE DEVIL

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

 

IT'S BAD LUCK TO BE RUDE

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

 

If you eat too fast, you will never marry. 

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

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

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

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

 

TECUMSEH REINCARNATE

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

Alabama Oddities Weekly Rundown Tuesday March 1st - Monday March 7th

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.  With the opening of the new Serpents of Bienville Art Gallery we have been a little behind on the rundowns so here's one a day or two late. So enjoy!

 

Tuesday March 1st - Preventative Measure by Goldfish

Here is an early vaccine from Walker County, Alabama. Whooping Cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection, and is known to be fatal for smaller children. This was a serious worry for parents before the life saving vaccine became available in the 1940's. As with most superstitions, the fabled prevention of whooping cough in Alabama grew out of fears from the natural world. Mrs. Lois Pinkard took the medically unsound advice of an elder, worried about her child's health and safety. She says she was told to put a goldfish in her baby's mouth and hold it there until the fish fluttered its tail, then remove the fish and the child would be protected from the infectious disease. Her hesitation was outweighed by the drive to keep her baby safe, so the child opened wide, and mama dropped the goldfish in its mouth. The baby swallowed the fish whole. Mrs. Lois panicked, not knowing if the fish had fluttered long enough for the spell to take hold. She figured it was the effort that really made the difference, because her child never caught whooping cough. 

 

Wednesday March 2nd - Jessie Turns White

 Dekalb County children have carried a story through the years, turning this folktale into a household urban legend in Alabama. Jessie talked her parents into leaving her at home by herself overnight with the reassurance that she was safe. Her big dog Mob would protect her to the ends of the earth. Her mother obliged and Jessie and Mob were left alone as the rest of the family crossed the river to spend time with kin. Jessie and Mob finished their chores, ate dinner, and rocked in a chair by the fire. Jessie thought she was listening to the wind whistling in the trees, but Mob began growling. The whistling grew heavier and Mob growled more crazily. Jessie decided to open the door and show her companion that nothing was out to spook him. Mob never wore a leash, because he never left Jessie's side. But tonight, Mob took off as soon as the door cracked open, needing to protect his girl. The sounds Mob created, screeching out from the woods scared Jessie ice cold. Then silence fell hard. When Jessie's family returned the next day, the doors were all locked from the inside. No one answered their knocking. When the family finally broke through the window to unlatch the door, the found Jessie alone, sitting still in her rocker, her hair turned white as a ghost. Mob never returned to her, and she never spoke of what really happened that night. Jessie never again spoke of anything at all.

 

Thursday March 3rd - White Stone

The White Stone is known to bring hardship on those who allow it to reside on their property. A story of its curse is known in Walker County. The couple that owned the farm worked in the field in view from their kitchen window every day, so the wife was surprised to see something standing still smack in the middle of it one morning. She went out in the early fog to check it out, and she found a stark white rock, about three feet tall and egg shaped, tall and still amongst her crops. The husband moved the rock to the flower garden, and the effects of the cursed stone befell the house shortly thereafter. The milk cow ran away, the well dried up, livestock and crops died inexplicably, and the barn caught fire, all within a month's time. When the realization set in that the streak of bad luck started at the discovery of the stone, the husband immediately loaded up the white menace and deposited it at the shore of a shallow creek. The milk cow returned, the well water flowed once more, and the next crop of vegetables were healthier and more plentiful than ever. Another man came across the white stone at the creek and, entranced by its beauty, loaded the cursed thing in his truck only to have it break down on the highway before he could even get it home.

 

Friday March 4th - There’s Silver in that Church Bell

The Daphne Museum is an elaborate step back in time, since it is housed inside the antebellum Daphne Methodist Church. At the casting of the original bell that rang from its belfry, Mr. and Mrs. William Jones donated silver dollars to line the inside of the bell because they told it "enhanced the tone." The Daphne Methodist Church held services since the 1840's, with the oldest grave marker found to read from 1847. It now preserves the beauty, history, and heritage of this Jubilee City. If you haven't been lately, I highly recommend it! The museum is open Sunday from 1 til 4!

 

Saturday March 5th - Essie Lignon Found Her Baby

Though many stories of phantom women on bridges, in search of their lost babies, have made their rounds through the circuit of urban legends, the Wild Woman of Pea River has turned up in written accounts linked to the death of Essie Ligon. Essie was an undocumented slave near Sylvan Grove just off the banks of Pea River, and she was fetching water when she heard her baby shriek from the basket where he was previously napping. She climbed as fast as she could back to her child's side, but the basket was empty. She searched every waking moment for years to find her little boy, with no clue to lead her looking. One day, though, fetching water at the same spot on Pea River, she saw a little black boy dressed in native garments, and just knew it was him. She scrambled to cross the river, but at a swell from heavy rains, the current was too much. The water took her. Locals say the Essie Ligon, the Wild Woman of Pea River, will chase cars across the bridge between Opp and Enterprise with a feverish rage, even causing flat tires and electrical problems that keep vehicles from reaching the other side, the side where her baby stood, the place of a reunion that never was.

 

Monday March 7th - The Little Girl at the Loxley Hotel

An Amish girl from Ohio with a child growing in her womb knew that she could bring nothing but shame and despair to her family in the early 1900's. She boarded the train one night and never returned to the north. Baldwin County, Alabama was advertised as a land of fertile soil and cheap estate, which sounded like a wonderful place to raise her child and start anew. Single mothers were not treated with any respect at the time, so constructing a story of losing her husband in the Great War, her backstory was covered, and with her broad skill set, employment came easy. Taking up work and residence at the Loxley Hotel, she hid her growing belly under numerous aprons, but the owner caught on quickly. She helped the mother-to-be during her pregnancy and protected the child after its birth. Soon, the kind owner sold the hotel, though, and the new employer was not so understanding. The little girl never left the upstairs room as advised by the mother, and the child would stare out the window all day, longing to play with the children passing through town. When the mother realized that this was no way to raise her child, that the girl deserved more than the confines of this room, the mother began to look for other work. But before the woman could pack up her little girl and start a better life, the influenza epidemic swept heavily through the region. When the woman didn't return to work for tow days, the angry hotel owner marched up to the maids quarters to give her what for, and found her cradling her child in the corner rocking chair, their lives recently slipped away. The rocking chair is now owned by a nearby resident of Loxley, and reports the rocking chair swaying at odd times throughout the day, and if you pass by the old hotel, you can still see the little girl staring out the top right window of the building, longing for companionship, clutching nothing but her doll.

Alabama Oddities Weekly Rundown Tuesday February 23rd - Saturday February 27th

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.  With the opening of the new Serpents of Bienville Art Gallery we have been a little behind on the rundowns so here's one a day or two late. So enjoy!

 

Tuesday February 23rd - Isaac Uncovers Warship

In 2012 in the aftermath of the Category 1 Hurricane Isaac cleanup on the beaches of Fort Morgan, residents found an incredible sight. As the sands had been washed out, it seems they had been concealing a large steamship, 150 feet in length by 30 feet width. The actual use of this ship is up for debate, though. The long and skinny design was first used by the British in their trade with the Southern United States during the 1800's, but based on the materials used, this ship was American made. Historians are left with two options: this ship was either used in battle or to smuggle rum into the Gulf Coast. The style of steamer was used during the Civil War in the 1860's, being more agile than earlier designs, and its slender frame used to break through blockades by enemy ships. Its quickness was also useful for Rum Runners in the 1930's during Prohibition. Either way, the ship went unmoved. The mystery ship was left to be naturally tucked back in beneath the shifting sands once again, waiting to be uncovered by another powerful storm.

 

Wednesday February 24th - Bigfoot on the Porch

The Alexander City family was pulling back up to their house after a long evening of errands when the car headlights scanned the porch, turning into the driveway, and uncovered a frightening scene. The father slammed on the car breaks illuminating the hairy figure hunched over the cat food bowl off to the east side of the porch. Thinking the bear-like figure would get spooked and hightail it away from the house, the animal terrified the family by uncurling its hunched bank and standing erect, and shooting a hard glare back over his broad shoulder at the source of the blinding headlights, just before he stepped off the porch and simply walked away toward the woods. The father immediately pulled the car back out that driveway and headed to the in-law's house for the night. Later as the kids were settled out of earshot, they debates on whether they just witnessed Bigfoot eating their cat's food. Granddad believed their story wholeheartedly, telling the family that he and his friends have heard stories of Bigfoot, or "Wampus" sightings in the area all their lives.

 

Thursday February 25th - Tickets for the Underground River

The natives that were settled in the now Birmingham area would tell stories of how they traveled to the area from the north by way of canoe along the Underground River. Claims that this river actually exists is up for debate. While the limestone that Birmingham rests on shows lines of wear from long periods of water flow, an actual river running through the county from Tennessee is still up for debate. The fabled existence of this river and its location heavily shaped the decisions for placement of construction during the city's industrialization. A notorious "tale-teller" named Joe Mulhatton reported in the Louisville Courier-Journal a grand story about the ground breaking open and exposing the river during a building's construction, and the tale caught on like wild fire. A man from Selma immediately began selling tickets to travel with him to view the "Mystic River" flowing beneath the streets of Birmingham, but when the day of the tour arrived, paying customers realized the salesman and the magical river dock were nowhere to be found. 

 

Friday February 26th - De Pineda Island

 Mobile Bay was the first body of water in the entire Western Hemisphere to be accurately charted! Over a century before pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, a Spanish ship headed by a man named ALONZO ALVAREZ de Pineda discovered Mobile Bay, and finding the port area incredibly useful for his future plans in trade expansion, he and his men spent a month docked in the area of now Pineda Island on the Spanish Fort side of the causeway, charting an incredibly detailed map. The accuracy of this map differs very slightly to the modern day Bay Area, most likely due to the building of the causeway and the number of moving barrier islands 

Art and story brought to us by Walter Overton.

 

Saturday February 27th - Flagpole Sitter Extraordinaire

 In 1963, Peggy Townsend Clark sat at the top of a flagpole in Gadsden for seven and a half months. Peggy was in a terrible car accident a few years prior to the record breaking event, and having to lay in bed bound by a full body cast for almost two whole years is said to be her training for the mental and physical steadiness of flagpole sitting. Her boyfriend at the time, before realizing she would be the one to attempt this feat, told Peggy anyone crazy enough to attempt something like this was an idiot. She assured him that he must indeed, then, be looking at an idiot. He figured he was still in her good graces, though, when he sent an engagement ring up the flagpole in a basket and she responded with a cheerful "yes" during her months of perched isolation. After 217 days, Peggy climbed down from the 50 foot high 6x7 foot box having earned a Guinness World Record, a fiancé, and 2 brand new cars from local sponsors. Her record was held until 1984 during a protest regarding gas prices.