Monday, October 31, 2011

'Who Fears Death' receives 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel

The winners of this year’s slate of World Fantasy Awards were announced yesterday during the final day of the World Fantasy Convention 2011 in San Diego, Calif.

For those of you unfamiliar with the World Fantasy Awards, they are given annually for outstanding achievement in the field of fantasy. Along with the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Awards are generally considered among the most prestigious awards in the fantasy and science fiction genres.

This year, awards were presented in nine categories – Lifetime Achievement, Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Short Fiction, Best Anthology, Best Collection, Best Artist, Best Special Award – Professional and Special Award – Non-Professional.

This year’s slate of winners and nominees in each category included:

Best Novel:
Winner - “Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor
- “Zoo City” by Lauren Beukes
- “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by N.K. Jemisin
- “The Silent Land” by Graham Joyce
- “Under Heaven” by Guy Gavriel Kay
- “Redemption In Indigo” by Karen Lord

Best Novella:
Winner - “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s ‘Bellerophon’” by Elizabeth Hand
- “Bone and Jewel Creatures” by Elizabeth Bear
- “The Broken Man” by Michael Byers
- “The Thief of Broken Toys” by Tim Lebbon
- "The Mystery Knight" by George R.R. Martin
- "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirsky

Best Short Story:
Winner - “Fossil-Figures” by Joyce Carol Oates
- "Beautiful Men" by Christopher Fowler
- "Booth's Ghost" by Karen Joy Fowler
- "Ponies" by Kij Johnson
- "Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us" by Mercurio D. Rivera

Best Anthology:
Winner - “My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me,” edited by Kate Bernheimer
- “The Way of the Wizard,” edited by John Joseph Adams
- “Haunted Legends,” edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas
- “Stories: All-New Tales,” edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio
- “Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror,” edited by S.T. Joshi
- “Swords & Dark Magic,” edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders

Best Collection:
Winner - “What I Didn’t See and Other Stories” by Karen Joy Fowler
- “The Ammonite Violin & Others” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
- “Holiday” by M. Rickert
- “Sourdough and Other Stories” by Angela Slatter
- “The Third Bear” by Jeff VanderMeer

Best Artist:
Winner - Kinuko Y. Craft
- Vincent Chong
- Richard A. Kirk
- John Picacio
- Shaun Tan

Special Award, Professional:
Winner – Marc Gascoigne (for Angry Robot)
- John Joseph Adams (for editing and anthologies)
- Lou Anders (for editing at Pyr)
- Stéphane Marsan and Alain Névant (for Bragelonne)
- Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi (for ChiZine Publications)

Special Award, Non-Professional:
Winner - Alisa Krasnostein (for Twelfth Planet Press)
- Stephen Jones, Michael Marshall Smith and Amanda Foubister (for Brighton Shock!: The Souvenir Book Of The World Horror Convention 2010)
- Matthew Kressel (for Sybil's Garage and Senses Five Press)
- Charles Tan (for Bibliophile Stalker)
- Lavie Tidhar (for The World SF Blog)

The Lifetime Achievement Awards are “presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field.” This year’s lifetime achievement awards went to Peter S. Beagle and Angelica Gorodischer.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

'World War Z' reappears on best-sellers list - just in time for Halloween

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, it’s one of those very rare weeks in which we have no new books at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week, that is, all of the books that were at the top last week, kept their No. 1 spots.

"The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks remained the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard retained the top spot on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Cross Fire" by James Patterson remained the No. 1 book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett retained the top spot on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are seven books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson, Richard DiLallo (2), "Bonnie" by Iris Johansen (3), "Damned" by Chuck Palahniuk (6), "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes (8), "The Tehran Initiative" by Joel C. Rosenberg (9), "The Lady of the Rivers" by Philippa Gregory (12) and "Double Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay (14).

There are five books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Suicide of a Superpower" by Patrick J. Buchanan (3), "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham (5), "West by West" by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman (10), "Van Gogh: A Life" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (11) and "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson (15).

There are four books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "What the Night Knows" by Dean Koontz (3), "The Athena Project" by Brad Thor (7), "American Assassin" by Vince Flynn (13) and "World War Z" by Max Brooks (14).

There are three books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Sing You Home" by Jodi Picoult (3), "Rescue America" by Chris Salamone and Gilbert Morris (9) and "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell (10).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks
2. "The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson, Richard DiLallo
3. "Bonnie" by Iris Johansen
4. "The Affair: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child
5. "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides
6. "Damned" by Chuck Palahniuk
7. "Shock Wave" by John Sandford
8. "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes
9. "The Tehran Initiative" by Joel C. Rosenberg
10. "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern
11. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
12. "The Lady of the Rivers" by Philippa Gregory
13. "The Dovekeepers" by Alice Hoffman
14. "Double Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay
15. "Lethal" by Sandra Brown

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
2. "Boomerang" by Michael Lewis
3. "Suicide of a Superpower" by Patrick J. Buchanan
4. "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark
5. "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham
6. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
7. "Seriously I'm Kidding" by Ellen DeGeneres
8. "Jacqueline Kennedy" foreword by Caroline Kennedy
9. "That Used to Be Us" by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
10. "West by West" by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman
11. "Van Gogh: A Life" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
12. "I Never Thought I'd See the Day!" by David Jeremiah
13. "Every Day a Friday" by Joel Osteen
14. "Great by Choice" by Jim Collins & Morton T. Hansen
15. "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Cross Fire" by James Patterson
2. "Miracle Cure" by Harlan Coben
3. "What the Night Knows" by Dean Koontz
4. "Bad Blood: A Virgil Flowers Novel" by John Sandford
5. "Legacy: A Novel" by Danielle Steel
6. "Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
7. "The Athena Project" by Brad Thor
8. "Christmas at Timberwoods" by Fern Michaels
9. "The Confession" by John Grisham
10. "Western Skies" by Nora Roberts
11. "A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin
12. "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King
13. "American Assassin" by Vince Flynn
14. "World War Z" by Max Brooks
15. "Eve" by Iris Johansen

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
3. "Sing You Home" by Jodi Picoult
4. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
5. "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis
6. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
7. "Room" by Emma Donoghue
8. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
9. "Rescue America" by Chris Salamone and Gilbert Morris
10. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell
11. "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff
12. "The Fifth Witness" by Michael Connelly
13. "The Sixth Man" by David Baldacci
14. "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
15. "Freedom: A Novel" by Jonathan Franzen

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is "A Game of Thrones" the best fantasy adventure book ever written?


I recently finished reading an awesome book that I would highly recommend to anyone in the reading audience, especially to fans of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Frank Herbert’s sci-fi series, “Dune,” and Tom Clancy.

A few days ago, I finished reading “A Game of Thrones,” which is the first book in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

I won’t be shocked to hear that some of you have already read this book because it, as well as other books in the series, have soared back on to the best-seller lists during the past year thanks to the hit HBO adaptation of the series of novels.

As of this Thursday, “A Game of Thrones” was sitting at No. 6 on Publishers Weekly’s mass market paperback best-sellers list. That’s not bad for a book that was originally published in August 1996.

I’ve heard “A Game of Thrones” described as medieval fantasy and as epic fantasy, and the book fits nicely into both categories. The winner of the 1997 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, “A Game of Thrones” is set for the most part on the fictional continent of Westeros and follows several members of the royal houses of the land as well as a host of other characters.

The book reminded me a lot of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as well as Frank Herbert’s award-winning “Dune” series. Its fantasy, sword-and-sorcery elements were similar to those seen in Tolkein’s Middle Earth, and the royal intrigues of the vying royal houses in “Dune” smack of those same intrigues among the noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. “A Game of Thrones” also reminded me of a Tom Clancy novel in the way that it shifted character viewpoints throughout the novel to tell the entire tale.

If you’re planning to read “A Game of Thrones,” be prepared to invest some time because it’s a long book. The paperback edition that I read contained over 800 pages. With that said, I’m going to have my work cut out for me to read the rest of the lengthy books in the series. The other books in the series include “A Clash of Kings” (1998), “A Storm of Swords” (2000), “A Feast for Crows” (2005), “A Dance with Dragons” (2011) and an as yet to be published sixth novel, “The Winds of Winter.” That is not to say that I’m not looking forward to them because if the rest of the books in the series are as good as the first, then I’m in for a treat.

In the end, I really enjoyed “A Game of Thrones” and would count it among one of the best books that I’ve ever read. I definitely plan to read the rest of the books in the series as well as watch the entire HBO series as soon as it becomes available on NetFlix.

How many of you have read “A Game of Thrones” or any of the other books in the series? What did you think about them? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How to become a National Weather Service cooperative weather observer

Conecuh County lost one of its best men a few weeks ago when 84-year-old Harry Ellis passed away.

He was known far and wide thanks to his 45 years as an employee, manager and owner of Miller Trading Co. in Evergreen as well as for the 23 years of faithful service he put in as Conecuh County’s National Weather Service weather spotter.

Ellis became a Cooperative Weather Observer for the National Weather Service on June 17, 1988 and went on to record daily weather information for the federal weather service every day at 7 a.m. for the next 23 years. Many readers of The Evergreen Courant became familiar with Ellis due to his weekly weather reports in the paper.

Ellis was notified in June that he had received a prestigious John Campanius Holm Award for outstanding accomplishments in the field of meteorological observations. Named after a 17th century Lutheran minister who is believed to be the first person to take systematic weather observations in the American colonies, the award is given to no more than 25 observers in a single year and the winners are picked from hundreds of nominations. Recipients are selected based on their accuracy, promptness, legibility, cooperation, consistency and care of equipment.

The award is signed by the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is presented by local NWS representatives. Ellis was scheduled to receive the award during a ceremony on Oct. 26 in Evergreen.

It goes without saying that no one will ever be able to replace Mr. Ellis, but I got to wondering the other day about how a person goes about being becoming a cooperative weather observer (CWO). Ellis served the Conecuh County area and there is likely someone already serving in this role in the community where you live.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the cooperative weather observation network was established in 1890, and about 200 observers resign each year, about four per state. Keep in mind that CWOs aren’t paid for their services except in rare and extreme circumstances.

To become a CWO, a volunteer must meet five requirements. They must be dedicated to public service, pay attention to detail, have the ability to learn and perform daily duties, have a willingness to allow the NWS to place measuring instruments on your property and have the willingness to allow at least one visit per year from a NWS representative.

On top of that, while it’s not mandatory, the NWS likes it if their CWOs own a personal computer with a modem, be familiar with computer basics and have internet access.

CWOs are selected by the official NWS Cooperative station in their area and station officials will provide you with the training and supervision you’ll need to perform your duties. Depending on what type of equipment you’re given, your site will be visited once or twice each year or more if equipment maintenance or training updates are required.

The NWS Cooperative station in southwest Alabama, which covers Baldwin, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Escambia, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Washington and Wilcox counties, is located on Airport Blvd. in Mobile.

You can reach them by mail by writing the National Weather Service, Data Acquisition Program Mgr., 8400 Airport Blvd., Bldg. 11, Mobile, AL 36608.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is Rikard's Mill haunted by 'shadow people' and 'woman in pink casket'?

As the crow flies, one of the spookiest places in southwest Alabama sits about 20 miles from the Conecuh County line, and those of you who have been to Rikard’s Mill will know what I’m talking about.

On Friday night (and on over into Saturday morning), The Evergreen Courant and The Monroe Journal were part of a small group of thrill-seekers who spent the night inside the historic gristmill, which is located off of State Highway 265, north of Beatrice, between the Wainwright and Chestnut communities.

The fully restored mill, which is over 150 years old, is the main attraction at the Rikard’s Mill Historical Park, which is owned and operated by the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville.

Aside from myself, the others in our group included award-winning Monroe Journal reporter and photographer Josh Dewberry; John Higginbotham with the Alabama Paranormal Research Society; Nathan Carter, the museum’s Director of Properties and Public Relations; and Larry Tuberville, the park’s on-site miller/caretaker/security guard, who also serves as a frontier skills demonstrator and re-enactor when the park is up and running.

Our group experienced temperatures down into the 30s, but even more chilling were the unusual stories that Tuberville shared with us. Standing outside the covered bridge gift shop, we had a full view of Flat Creek’s dark waters and the old mill. Tuberville told us that it was on that very spot that he first saw the “shadow people.”

Tuberville is an outdoorsman, and one night some time ago he was fishing off the covered bridge, hoping to land a large bass for supper. That was when he happened to look up just in time to see something unusual pass in front of one of the mill’s illuminated windows.

"I was standing here fishing one night, and the lights were on inside the mill," he said. "I looked up and a shadow crossed in front of the window. There was no one else on the property at the time."

Tuberville said that the shadow was shaped like a man and passed from left to right in front of the window.

Tuberville shook off the experience and thought no more of it, that is, until someone else reported seeing the same shadowy figure.

Sometime later, Tuberville and another man were standing in the same spot on the covered bridge, fishing at night, when his fishing partner saw the “shadow man.”

“Man, you aren’t going to believe what I just saw in that window,” Tuberville’s friend said, pointing at the mill. “It looked like someone just walked in front of that window.”

“Was it a man’s shadow?” Tuberville asked.

“Yeah,” his friend said. “How’d you know?”

“Because I’ve seen it before,” Tuberville replied.

Tuberville followed this story with another bizarre tale, which also came from another Flat Creek fisherman.

An old man who still lives near the mill told Tuberville once that on a Sunday decades ago, he and several of his siblings were fishing in Flat Creek just down from the mill. Because of what they saw that day, they’ve never fished on Sunday again.

"When he was young - 10 or 12 or something like that - he was up here fishing with his family," Tuberville said. "They were just enjoying the day, he told me, and then a woman in a pink casket came floating down the creek. From that day on, he and his family never fished on a Sunday again."

This elderly witness still comes to the mill to fish, but, true to his word, he avoids the place on Sundays.

Around midnight, our group settled down into our sleeping bags inside the mill and spent the next few hours telling ghost stories and offering up our theories about the supernatural. I have to say that I am extremely skeptical when it comes to claims of the paranormal, but I like to keep an open mind. I do think that there are things in this world that we don’t fully understand and that a healthy interest in the unexplained is perfectly natural.

With that said, I have to admit that the spookiest things that we experienced that night was the eerie sound of a hoot owl and the loud bang of a heavy nut, striking the mill’s roof at an unexpected moment.

None of us witnessed any ghosts in the mill that night, but Higginbotham, who brought along an electro-magnetic field (EMF) detector and digital camera, did make two findings.

He snapped a few pictures with all of the mill’s lights out and in the first shot, you can clearly see a large white ball of light in front of the window where witnesses claim to have seen “the shadow people.” Was this “orb” a bit of dust or a passing bug? It’s hard to say, but in the next photo, it was no where to be seen.

Paranormal investigators, like those you may have seen on television’s “Ghost Hunters” or “Ghost Adventures,” claim that EMF detectors can help determine when a spirit is trying to manifest itself. The theory is that the ghost is drawing energy out of the environment, so that it can make itself seen, felt or heard.

Again, the EMF activity Higginbotham detected seemed to be located in the vicinity of the same window, but it was also detected at other times in other places around the large room. Was this the spirit of an old mill worker, trying to let us know he was there, or was it just random electrical energy emanating from the building’s wiring?

Whatever the case may be, Rikard’s Mill is a spooky place, especially late at night, during this time of year, when the temperatures are dropping and the days are shortening on their march toward Halloween. Maybe the best thing about it all is that you don’t have to take my word for it.

The Monroe County Heritage Museum is holding a “Ghost Stories at Rikard’s Mill” Halloween-themed event at the Rikard’s Mill Historical Park Friday and Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The event will feature costumed storytellers who will entertain visitors with scary tales at the park’s covered bridge, millhouse, pioneer cabin, carriage house and barn. Visitors brave enough to journey down the “Haunted Swamp Trail” should be prepared to encounter the “ghosts” of Native Americans, Confederate soldiers and “the Headless Horseman of Gin House Bottom.” Admission is $5 per visitor or $20 per car.

In the end, special thanks to the Monroe County Heritage Museum, especially Carter and Executive Director Stephanie Rogers, who let us spend the night in the park. I think I can speak for the entire group when I say that we had a good, memorable time.

Was it a visit from Mr. Rikard or not?



BY JOSH DEWBERRY
STAFF WRITER
THE MONROE JOURNAL

There have been a few unexplainable occurrences at Rikard's Mill, ranging from claims of a shadow in a window just a few months back to a dead woman in a pink casket floating down the creek years ago, and my intrepid ghost hunting buddy Lee Peacock and I, along with mutual friend John Higginbotham and Nathan Carter with the Monroe County Heritage Museum, set out to see if there was any paranormal activity on the property.

Just before 7:30 p.m. Friday, the four of us met at the mill, heavy coats in tow, and took a brief tour with miller Larry Tuberville, who spends several nights a week at the property in his RV.

Lee, John and I walked the trail around the park, peeking in the mill house - where we eventually settled - and moving on to the cabin, barn and carriage house. The cabin, Nathan explained earlier, is a modern structure built in the style of a pioneer cabin, so we decided there was no potential for any kind of paranormal activity there. The barn and carriage house have limited interior space, and Larry said nothing had happened there, as far as he knew.

Now, let me stop here and say I am a skeptic when it comes to ghosts or the paranormal. I believe most ghost stories have a logical explanation, but there are some things that can't be explained away.

A gentle, chilly breeze puffed throughout the night, making the low-hanging moss and trees around the park wave gently, and Larry walked us to the covered bridge gift shop overlooking the creek and mill house.

"I was standing here fishing one night, and the lights were on inside the mill," he said. "I looked up and a shadow crossed in front of the window. There was no one else on the property at the time."

Tuberville said on a second occasion he was standing in almost the same spot fishing with another man, and the other man reported seeing the same thing. Again, there was no one else on the property.

He took us to see where the shadow would have been, and showed us it's unlikely that anyone could get into or out of the cabin without being seen or heard.

This tale piqued our collective interest, and we decided to see what it looks like when a person walks past the window in the dark. John, Lee and I hiked back to the bridge and had Larry walk across again, and after several passes noticed something odd.

Larry described seeing a shadow or silhouette. What we were able to see, even from that distance and in pitch black outside with lights on inside the mill, was a person. We were able to make out Larry's beard, his cap and even some of the details of his jacket, not just a silhouette.

In paranormal circles, there's a belief in "shadow people," or a simple physical manifestation of a spirit. Experts in the field say shadow figures are the easiest form for spirits to assume and require the least amount of energy.

Earlier, also while all five of us were standing on the bridge eyeing the mill house, Larry told us another tale, this one not so paranormal but spooky nonetheless.

A fellow who fishes at the site once told Larry why he no longer fishes on Sunday.

"When he was young - 10 or 12 or something like that - he was up here fishing with his family," Larry said. "They were just enjoying the day, he told me, and then a dead woman in a pink casket came floating down the creek. From that day on, he and his family never fished on a Sunday again."

Larry said as long as he's been the miller the man has never been there on a Sunday to fish.

We all decided this is a mighty specific story for someone to fabricate, and, for it to affect a man so much that he and his family refused to fish on Sunday again, it would indicate there's some truth in the tale.

Around midnight Lee, John, Nathan and I decided it was time to start some sort of investigation to see if there is, in fact, anything going on inside the mill.

The only thing more interesting than the story of the Franklin Light John related to us, and my own experience at, of all places, Nettles Auditorium at Alabama Southern Community College on two different occasions, was when John cut off the lights and snapped a couple of photos.

In the very first picture there is a large, bright ball of light almost in the center of the image, near the window where Larry and his friend reported seeing the shadow. Orbs of light are often dismissed as dust, bugs or moisture in the air reflecting the flash, but some are believed to be simple manifestations of spirits. In a second photo snapped almost immediately after the first, there is no light.

Also, John brought along an electromagnetic field (EMF) detector - used to pick up fluctuations in EMF, which are believed to signal a ghost attempting to manifest in some way - and picked up a couple of pings.

The most intriguing results were when the EMF showed a fluctuation on one side of where John and I were sitting, right under the window, and again on the other side in succession. This pattern repeated itself several times.

As the night wore down, we decided to get some sleep, and bedded down in sleeping bags and under blankets for the night. By 2:45 a.m. Saturday, temperatures had dropped to the mid-30s and John and I, at almost the exact same time, decided we were done shivering and packed up for the night, leaving Nathan and Lee asleep on the floor of the mill house.

Other than the occasional owl hooting in the woods and some sort of large nuts falling on the roof of the building, jarring me awake, there was really little to report.

While we may not have captured any specific evidence proving or disproving the possibility of ghosts at Rikard's Mill, it doesn't mean there is or isn't anything there. Larry's experiences combined with our inability to show a real, live person could cross in front of the window and cast only a shadow leads me to believe there is something going on in north Monroe County.

But don't take my word for it, visit the site yourself for some ghost stories this weekend.

Monroe County Heritage Museum will sponsor a Halloween Weekend Friday and Saturday from 6:30-10 p.m.

On Halloween weekend at the restored grist mill at Rikard's Mill north of Beatrice activities will include pumpkin relay races, pumpkin painting, a pumpkin toss and more as well as roasting marshmellows over an open campfire.

Costumed storytellers will entertain with scary tales at the covered bridge, millhouse, pioneer cabin, carriage house and barn. Ghosts of Native American Indians, Confederate soldiers and even the Headless Horseman of Gin House Bottom will appear along the Haunted Swamp Trail.

Admission is $5 per person or $20 per car. Food vendors will be available. Contact Monroe County Heritage Museum at mchm@frontiernet.net or 575-7433 or Rikard's Mill at 789-2781 for more information.

I also have to thank the museum staff, especially Nathan Carter and Director Stephanie Rogers for allowing us to make the trip. It was a lot of fun, even if we didn't have any harrowing experiences of our own.

(This story, written by Josh Dewberry, was originally published in the Oct. 27, 2011 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville, Ala.)

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Oct. 27, 2011

11 YEARS AGO
OCT. 26, 2000

“The Sparta Warriors prevailed in a hard fought contest against the Crenshaw Christian Academy Cougars last Friday night in Luverne. After battling both injury and illness all week long, the Warriors held on late to win 19-14 and insure themselves a trip to the AISA state playoffs.
“For the Warriors, Rusty Salter and John McKenzie did most of the offensive work before McKenzie was injured and had to leave the game following a hard tackle along the sideline. That play occurred just before the end of the first quarter and McKenzie was finished for the evening after sustaining a shoulder injury.
“Wiley Cobb stepped in to play quarterback with Salter moving to the running back position behind fullback Kyle Johnston.
“The Warrior defense turned in another strong effort Friday night. Leading tacklers were Derek Faulkner with 10 tackles (one sack) and Derrick Williams with 10 tackles (two sacks) and a safety. In addition, Kyle Johnston added eight tackles (one sack); Alex Armuelles, seven tackles; Josh Varner, five tackles and a fumble recovery for a TD; Justin Stillwell, five tackles; Justin Tranum, five tackles; and Smith with four tackles (three sacks) and caused a fumble that led to a Warrior score.
“Others who contributed to the defensive effort were Rusty Salter with three tackles; John Anderson, two tackles and caused a fumble; Jimmy Hyde, two tackles and caused a fumble; McKenzie, two tackles; and Cole Commander with one tackle.”

26 YEARS AGO
OCT. 24, 1985

“The T.R. Miller Tigers jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and went on to defeat the Evergreen Aggies by the score of 28-8 in the Aggies final home game of this season.
“The only score for the Aggies came with 2:07 left in the game on a 35-yard touchdown pass from James Hawsey to Tim Stallworth. Evergreen went for two with Michael Johnson completing the pass to Darryl Dryer.”

“The Sparta Academy Warriors completely dominated the Fort Dale-South Butler Academy Eagles here Friday night and romped to a 20-0 victory.
“Danny Reed ran for 97 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown. Chad Grace had 66 yards on 17 attempts; Tim Wilson, 25 on three; Jeff Walker, 16 on three; Jeff Carrier, eight and a touchdown on two; Mike Osban, six on one; and Brad Watts, two on one.
“Walker completed seven of nine pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown, but suffered two interceptions. Reed was 0-for-2 with an interception, and Watts was 0-for-1. Tommy Conway had three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Mark Rigsby, one catch for 29 yards; Scott Salter, two for 31; and Reed, one for five.
“Conway scored on a 43-yard pass play from Walker and a pass for points failed. Reed scored on an 11-yard run and then ran in a two-pointer. Carrier scored from the eight and a run for points failed.
“Mark Rigsby led the tackle chart with eight solos, three assists and a fumble recovery.”

41 YEARS AGO
OCT. 22, 1970

“The Evergreen High Aggies left their hopes of victory lying on the Luverne 1/2-yard line when the final whistle blew Friday night. Tiger fans were happy as their fired up team came home with a big, 8-6 homecoming victory.
“The Aggies came back in the second half (after a Luverne score in the second quarter) and almost pulled out the win. Reggie Smith got Evergreen back in the game when he scooped up a fumble and dashed 40 yards for a score in the third period.”

“The Repton High Bulldogs spotted McKenzie’s Tigers an 8-0 halftime lead then rallied for two last half touchdowns to win 14-8 in a game played Friday night in McKenzie.
“The Bulldogs came back to dominate the game in the final two periods and pull out their third victory of the season. Hanks scored on a 17-yard pass from Watson in the third frame and then punched across the extra points to tie it up at 8-8. Hanks banged across from the two in the fourth quarter for the winning points.”

“The Lyeffion Yellow Jackets failed to convert the extra points Friday night and that was the difference as they lost to the Lowndes County Red Devils, 14-12, in Ft. Deposit.
“Quarterback Darwin Cook threw two touchdown strikes to figure in on both Lyeffion scores. Joiner scored on a 25-yard pass play, and Taylor was the receiver on a 55-yard play.
“The Jackets missed a kick after their first score and a run which would have tied the game failed after the second TD.”

56 YEARS AGO
OCT. 27, 1955

“Coach Hart’s EHS Aggies have been running several different combinations in an attempt to get back in the win column this week against the Frisco City Whippets at Frisco City.
“In the backfield, Eddie Kelly has been switched to quarterback, a position he has played several times this year. Ronnie Edson will be running at left half, and Buck Lewis has been switched from quarterback to right half. Jimmy Moore has been moved up from the Bee team, and will play at fullback. These changes were made because of the loss of Eugene ‘Peewee’ Hyde in the Greenville game two weeks ago. Walter Carrier, sidelined in the Andalusia game, is still out of the lineup and appears to be so indefinitely.
“Bert Cook has been seeing some action during practice at end and may play some at that position. Timmy Boykin, guard, has been switched to center, and will probably see action on defense at guard.
“Starting lineup for the Frisco City tilt Friday night will probably be: LE, Randy White; LT, Murray Johnson; LG, Robert Mason; C, Bert Cook or Timmy Boykin; RG, Milton Moorer or James Nelson; RT, Wayne Frazier; RE, Neil Hyde or Mickey Joyner; QB, Eddie Kelly; LH, Ronnie Edson; RH, Buck Lewis; FB, Jimmy ‘Tiger’ Moorer.”

“Repton scored twice and made more first downs than W.S. Neal last Thursday night, but came out on the short end of the score as the East Brewton club won, 50-13.
“Ray Blackwell scampered 28 yards for Repton’s first TD. Repton scored again as Jerry Owens bucked over from five yards out, Blackwell going over for the extra point.”

71 YEARS AGO
OCT. 24, 1940

“W.W. Kelly and J.E. Kelly Jr. met Walter Kelly, a student at Auburn, in Montgomery Saturday and they attended the Alabama-Tennessee football game in Birmingham.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Berne E. Jones spent the weekend in Birmingham and attended the Alabama-Tennessee football game.”

“Miss Frances Scott Key spent the weekend in Birmingham with her brother, Robert Key, and attended the Alabama-Tennessee football game.”

Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant. To read The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature online, visit leepeacock2010.blogspot.com.

Hillcrest High School, Sparta Academy close out 2011 seasons tonight

Hillcrest High School and Sparta Academy will close out their varsity football seasons this week as they take on Georgiana and Wilcox Academy, respectively.

Hillcrest’s game against Georgiana will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two schools in football, and Hillcrest holds a 1-6-0 edge in the all-time series. Hillcrest beat Georgiana, 49-0, last season, and the Jags haven’t lost to Georgiana since 2006. In fact, that’s the only time the Jags have ever lost to Georgiana.

Sparta will play Wilcox tonight (Thursday) in Evergreen, and this year’s game will be the 21st all-time meeting between the two schools in football. In a series that goes all the way back to 1971, Sparta is 7-11-2 all-time against Wilcox, and Sparta beat Wilcox, 24-7, last year in Camden. Sparta’s last defeat at the hands of Wilcox came in 2009, when Wilcox won, 20-0, in Evergreen.

Tonight’s game will close out Sparta’s 41st football season, and Sparta’s game against Wilcox will be the 438th football game in school history. It’ll be the 214th all-time game at Stuart-McGehee Field in Evergreen.

Tonight’s game will close out Hillcrest’s 23rd football season, and Hillcrest’s game against Georgiana will be the 239th football game in school history. It’ll be the 120th all-time Hillcrest game at Brooks Memorial Stadium in Evergreen.

Neither Hillcrest or Sparta qualified for the state playoffs this year. Hillcrest made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2002 and has made the playoffs in eight out of 23 seasons.

Sparta hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008 and has made the playoffs in 13 out of 41 seasons.

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As of Monday, most of the first-round playoff games had been set and football fans will have their choice of big games in our area to watch Nov. 3-4.

Games on the table for those nights that you might want to check out include Tallassee at Greenville (5A), Elmore County at Andalusia (4A), Straughn at Dadeville (4A), Greensboro at T.R. Miller (3A), Walter Welborn at Opp (3A), Billingsley at Flomaton (2A), Prattville Christian at Monroe Academy (AISA-3A), Fort Dale Academy at Bessemer Academy (AISA-3A) and Escambia Academy at Springwood (AISA-2A).

----- 0 -----


As of Monday, the World Series remained in full swing as the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals remained at two games each in the best-of-seven series.

I couldn’t help but notice how much weight all of the baseball news carried on Monday in the football crazy South. After an exciting game in which the Rangers came back to beat the Cards to tie up the series, the story received a Page 3B treatment in the Mobile Press-Register. Stories that got higher billing than the World Series included a story about the stockcar race in Talladega and a short blurb about an upcoming Nick Saban speaking engagement.

Not that I’m complaining.

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Here are my picks for this week’s slate of SEC football games. I like Arkansas over Vanderbilt, Auburn over Ole Miss, Georgia over Florida, Mississippi State over Kentucky and South Carolina over Tennessee. Alabama and LSU do not play. Last week: 4-1 (.800), Overall: 51-10 (.836).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'The Rum Diary' and 'Captain America'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

13 (Action, Crime and Mystery, Drama, Suspense, R): Directed by Gela Babluani and starring Jason Statham, Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke, Curtis Jackson and Sam Riley.

All’s Faire in Love (Comedy, Romance PG-13): Directed by Scott Marshall and starring Christina Ricci, Owen Benjamin, Ann-Margret, Matthew Lillard and Cedric the Entertainer.

Anonymous (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall, Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis and Sebastian Armesto.

The Double (Drama, Suspense, Thriller, PG-13): Directed by Michael Brandt and starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen, Odette Yustman and Stana Katic.

The Hammer (Documentary, Special Interest, Sports, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Oren Kaplan and starring Russell Harvard, Raymond J. Barry, Shoshannah Stern, Michael Anthony Spady and Courtney Halverson.

In Time (Drama, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, PG-13): Directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde and Alex Pettyfer.

Janie Jones (Drama, Not Yet Rated): Directed by David M. Rosenthal and starring Abigail Breslin, Elisabeth Shue, Allessandro Nivola, Frank Whaley and Brittany Snow.

Like Crazy (Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Drake Doremus and starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Messina and Alex Kingston.

The Rum Diary (Drama, Comedy, Crime and Mystery, R): Directed by Bruce Robinson and starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins, Amber Heard and Amaury Nolasco.

Puss in Boots (Action, Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by Chris Miller and starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.

New DVD releases for the week of Oct. 25 include:

Atrocious (Horror, Suspense, Thriller, R): Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna and starring Rafael Amaya, Jose Masegosa, Chus Pereiro and Cristian Valencia.

Attack the Block (Action, Science Fiction, R): Directed by Joe Cornish and starring John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones and Jodie Whittaker.

Captain America: The First Avenger (Action, Adventure, PG-13): Directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan and Hugo Weaving.

City of Life and Death (Drama, Epic and Historical, War, R): Directed by Lu Chuan and starring Hideo Nakaizumi, Yuanyuan Gao and Ye Liu.

Faces in the Crowd (Action, Drama, Suspense, Thriller, R): Directed by Julien Magnat and starring Milla Jovovich, Sarah Wayne Callies, Julian McMahon and Michael Shanks.

Father of Invention (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Trent Cooper and starring Kevin Spacey, Heather Graham, Craig Robinson, Virginia Madsen and Johnny Knoxville.

The Night Shift (Comedy, Horror, Not Rated): Directed by Thomas Smith and starring Erin Lilley and Khristian Fulmer.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Action, Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Jalmari Helander.

Shaolin (Action, R): Directed by Benny Chan and starring Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bingbing, Jackie Chan and Jacky Wu.

Winnie The Pooh (Family, Childrens, Animation, G): Directed by Steve Anderson and Don Hall and starring Jim Cummings, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, John Cleese and Bud Luckey.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Rum Diary,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Harry Potter' movie finale named 2011's 'Ultimate Scream' award winner

Back on Oct. 1, I mentioned that this year’s slate of Spike TV Scream Awards would be announced on Oct. 15, and tonight I’m providing you with an update on this year’s winners as well as the all-time winners.

The Spike TV Scream Awards, officially known this year as “Scream Awards 2011,” were selected by fan votes and are Spike TV’s sixth annual “celebration of the sci-fi, fantasy, horror and comic book genres and the actors, creators, icons and pioneers who have influenced and shaped the industry over the past year.”

What follows is a complete list of this year’s winners:

- The Ultimate Scream (Best Genre Film): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Best Science Fiction Movie: Super 8
- Best Fantasy Movie: X-Men: First Class
- Best Horror Movie: Let Me In
- Best Thriller: Limitless
- Best TV Show: Game of Thrones
- Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
- Best Scream-Play: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Best Chase Scene: Chase Through London, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- Best Fantasy Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
- Best Fantasy Actor: Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Best Science Fiction Actress: Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Afterlife
- Best Science Fiction Actor: Matt Smith, Doctor Who
- Best Horror Actress: Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In
- Best Horror Actor: Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood
- Best Villain: Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Best Superhero: Chris Evans, Captain America
- Best Supporting Actress: Mila Kunis, Black Swann
- Best Supporting Actor: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
- Best Breakout Performance – Female: Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
- Best Breakout Performance – Male: Joe Manganiello, True Blood
- Best Cameo: Hugh Jackman, X-Men: First Class
- Best Ensemble: True Blood
- Most Memorable Mutilation: Scalped by motorboat, Piranha 3D
- Fight Scene of the Year: Final battle, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
- Holy Shit Scene of the Year: The Room of Requirement Fiendfire, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Best Independent Movie: Monsters
- Best 3D Movie: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- Best F/X: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel: The Walking Dead
- Best Comic Book Writer: Ed Brubaker
- Best Comic Book Artist: John Romita Jr.
- Best Comic Book Movie: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

The first ever Scream Awards were handed out in October 2006, and I’ve always been especially interested in the “movie categories.” Here’s a list of the all-time winners in a few select categories.

The Ultimate Scream:
2010 - Inception
2009 - Star Trek
2008 - The Dark Knight
2007 – 300
2006 - Batman Begins

Best Science Fiction Movie:
2010 – Inception
2008 – Iron Man
2007 – Transformers
2006 – V for Vendetta

Best Fantasy Movie:
2010 – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
2009 – Twilight
2008 – Hellboy II: The Golden Army
2007 – Pan’s Labyrinth
2006 – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Best Horror Movie:
2010 – Zombieland
2009 – Drag Me to Hell
2008 – Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2007 – 28 Weeks Later
2006 – The Devil’s Rejects

Best TV Show:
2010 – True Blood
2009 – True Blood
2008 – Dexter
2007 – Heroes
2006 – Battlestar Galactica

Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel:
2010 – The Walking Dead
2008 – “Y: The Last Man”

Best Comic Book Movie:
2010 – Kick-Ass
2009 – Watchmen
2008 – The Dark Knight

In the end, which of the movies, TV shows and books mentioned above are your favorite? Which did you like or dislike and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more information about the Scream Awards, visit their official Web site at www.spike.com/shows/scream.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This year's 'Top 10 Spookiest Places in Monroe County' list released

Halloween is a week from today, and in the spirit of the creepy holiday, I present to you today my annual list of the “Top 10 Spookiest Places in Monroe County, Alabama.”

This is the second year that I’ve compiled such a list, and I put together this year’s list in much the same way as last year’s list. I discussed the subject with a number of the county’s lifelong residents as well as with individuals well versed in the county’s long and interesting history. More than a few of the suggestions caught me by surprise, and I even learned a little about a few places that I wasn’t very familiar with.

Without further ado, here’s the list. Enjoy.

1. Nettles Auditorium at Alabama Southern Community College: Located in Monroeville, this building seats almost 900 people and is often the preferred venue for large community events. Former students and workers at the college claim to have heard unusual sounds at odd times as well as the unexplained malfunction of lights and other electrical devices. Others claim to have heard an unseen “entity” walking down the aisles, making his (or her) presence known by the scraping of their feet along the carpet. Witnesses have also reported hearing the loud pop of a seat back being slapped by unseen hands as well as the unexplained unlocking of door locks that should have been secured.

2. Rikard’s Mill: Located about five miles north of Beatrice, this fully restored 19th century grist mill is currently owned and operated by the Monroe County Heritage Museums. Constructed over Flat Creek, multiple witnesses have reported seeing “shadow figures” pass in front of the mill’s windows when the mill was completely empty and no one else was in the area. Other witnesses have reported the unexplained sighting of a woman floating down the creek in a pink coffin.

3. Claiborne Masonic Lodge: Located now at Perdue Hill on U.S. Highway 84, this building, pictured above, is the oldest existing manmade structure in Monroe County. Built in 1819 at Claiborne, this building was used as a courtroom, town hall, church, school and one of the earliest Masonic lodges in the state. Visited by Revolutionary War hero, Marquis De Lafayette, in 1825, this building was moved a few miles east to Perdue Hill in 1884. Lafayette was the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War at the time of his visit.

4. The C.L. Hybart House: Located on Hybart Drive in Monroeville, this restored 1920s house is one of Monroe County’s most distinctive buildings. Built in the manner of a Mediterranean Spanish villa, including stucco, tile and columns made with stones from Limestone Creek. Now owned by the Monroe County Heritage Museums and operated under the name of the “Hybart House Museum and Cultural Center,” this reputedly haunted residence was built by the late Charlie Hybart, a colorful local attorney who became known for holding lavish parties that were attended by VIPs and politicians from all over the state.

5. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Train Tunnel at Tunnel Springs: This abandoned train tunnel is now home to hundreds of thumb-sized bats. Completed in 1899, this 840-foot-long tunnel was built by four crews of 15 men each working day and night using simple equipment. One crew is said to have worked from the north side while the other worked from the south. The story also goes that a number of workers died during the construction of this eerie tunnel.

6. McConnico Cemetery: Large cemetery, located off Monroe County Road 1 at Perdue Hill, containing some of the count’s oldest graves. According to “Haunted Places: The National Directory” by Dennis William Hauck, this cemetery is the setting for the county’s best known ghost story.

“The phantoms of 12 Union horsemen have been seen riding near this old graveyard,” Hauck wrote. “Captain and Mrs. Charles Locklin witnessed the ghostly parade in autumn of 1865. The Locklins were in their carriage early one morning when two columns of six soldiers on gray horses passed by on each side of them.

“Each member of the eerie troop wore white gloves, with his hands crossed on the pommel of his saddle, and every one wore a white bandage wrapped tightly around his head. The two respected citizens were certain they had been victims of Confederate solider Lafayette Sigler, who ambushed Northern patrols, killed them and cut off their ears. Sigler’s collection of Yankee ears was said to have been quite impressive.”

This first encounter with the ghost soldiers is also said to have occurred on Mount Pleasant Road and sporadic sightings were reported over the hundred years.

7. Monroe County Public Library: Located on Pineville Road, this building houses over 60,000 volumes and is located in the former LaSalle Hotel. The library has been in this location since 1984, but the building is located on one of the oldest parcels of land recognized for continuous usage in Monroe County. In the past, the property has been used as a stable, various homes, a Methodist parsonage and as the LaSalle Hotel. Its famous guests included actor, Gregory Peck, who visited Monroeville during the 1960s.

More than a few library patrons have claim to have had unusual experiences on the library’s second floor.

“Once you leave the bright, sunny ground floor and climb the stairs to the second floor, where many of the former rooms were located, you just get a creepy feeling all over. Like most hotels, this building probably saw its fair share of visitors from all over, and I think that a few of them just decided to stay.”

8. Old Monroe County Courthouse: Nicknamed “America’s Most Famous Courthouse,” this building was constructed in 1903 and is now one of the most often photographed buildings in the state. From 1903 to the construction of a new courthouse in 1963, this building housed most county offices and was the center of the county’s court system. It’s most famous for being the model of the courtroom seen in the trial scenes in the movie version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Now the home of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, frequent quests say that the upstairs part of the building can get very creepy on quiet nights.

“Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze,” one man said. “You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or even there to be smoking.”

9. Nancy Mountain at Haine’s Island: Located off Monroe County Road 17 at Franklin, this locale is the site of one of the county’s most enduring ghost stories, the story of “Crazy Nancy.”

Variations of this story exist, but the most common version says that the ghost of a woman, “Crazy Nancy” or “Aunt Nancy,” can be seen walking up and down the hill to Davis Ferry in hopes of meeting her son and husband who were claimed by the Civil War, never to return. Witnesses say that this female phantom is seen walking with a lantern (or long walking stick) in one hand and with a bucket of water in the other.

According to George B. Singleton’s book, “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” you’ll know this spirit by her long, gingham dress, her old bonnet and the long, white hair that hangs out the back of her bonnet and all the way down to her waist.

10. Gin House Bottom: Located north of Monroeville, near the intersection of the Ridge Road and State Highway 41 (formerly called the Camden Highway), there were once a number of stores and family residences in this area, which took its name from a local cotton gin.

Also in this area, a tale sprung to life about a headless horseman that was seen by a number of county residences.

“On moonlit nights, when one could see, the headless rider could be seen riding the road along Gin Bottom Road,” George Singleton wrote in one of his Monroe Journal columns. “This was a common sight to the men who had to travel the road late at night after a hard day at the cotton gin. I have been told that on several occasions, the horse and rider would pass so close to a traveler that he could try to reach out and touch the headless rider.”

Locations that didn’t make the Top 10 list this year, but were considered, included The Devil’s Bowl at Goodway, Polar Bridge Cemetery at Manistee, McDuffy Cemetery at Franklin and the Robbins Hotel in Beatrice.

Before I wrap this thing up, I want to make clear that more than a few of these places are more than likely located on private property, so if you get the idea to visit any of these places (especially at night) you’d better get permission first or run the risk of trespassing. Also, if you plan to visit any of these places, especially cemeteries, respect your surroundings.

In the end, I’d like to hear from you if you know a good local ghost story or have information about a spooky location in Monroe County. You can reach me by calling 251-578-1492, by e-mail at leepeacock2002@hotmail.com or by mail at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson's 'The Rum Diary' reappears on PW best-sellers list

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got one new book at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week.

"The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks replaced "Shock Wave" by John Sandford as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard retained the top spot on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Cross Fire" by James Patterson remained the No. 1 book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett retained the top spot on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are five books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks (1), "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides (2), "Snuff" by Terry Pratchett (3), "Heat Rises" by Richard Castle (12) and "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain (13).

There are three books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark. (3), "Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy" by Ozzy Osbourne (4) and "Great by Choice" by Jim Collins & Morton T. Hansen (10).

There are two books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin (9) and "Eve" by Iris Johansen (13).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" by David Sedaris (13) and "The Rum Diary" by Hunter S. Thompson (14).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks
2. "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides
3. "Snuff" by Terry Pratchett
4. "The Affair: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child
5. "Shock Wave" by John Sandford
6. "A Dance With Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
7. "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern
8. "Lethal" by Sandra Brown
9. "The Dovekeepers" by Alice Hoffman
10. "1225 Christmas Tree Lane" by Debbie Macomber
11. "Survivors" by James Wesley, Rawles
12. "Heat Rises" by Richard Castle
13. "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain
14. "Neverwinter Saga, Book II" by R.A. Salvatore
15. "Nightwoods: A Novel" by Charles Frazier

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
2. "Boomerang" by Michael Lewis
3. "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark
4. "Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy" by Ozzy Osbourne
5. "Seriously I'm Kidding" by Ellen DeGeneres
6. "I Never Thought I'd See the Day!" by David Jeremiah
7. "Jacqueline Kennedy" foreword by Caroline Kennedy
8. "That Used to Be Us" by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
9. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
10. "Great by Choice" by Jim Collins & Morton T. Hansen
11. "Every Day a Friday" by Joel Osteen
12. "This Is Herman Cain!" by Herman Cain
13. "EntreLeadership" by Dave Ramsey
14. "Confidence Men" by Ron Suskind
15. "Destiny of the Republic" by Candice Millard

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Cross Fire" by James Patterson
2. "Miracle Cure" by Harlan Coben
3. "Bad Blood: A Virgil Flowers Novel" by John Sandford
4. "Christmas at Timberwoods" by Fern Michaels
5. "The Confession" by John Grisham
6. "Legacy: A Novel" by Danielle Steel
7. "Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
8. "Western Skies" by Nora Roberts
9. "A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin
10. "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King
11. "Only His" by Susan Mallery
12. "Towers of Midnight" by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
13. "Eve" by Iris Johansen
14. "The Unquiet" by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
15. "Dark Peril" by Christine Feehan

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
3. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
4. "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis
5. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
6. "Room" by Emma Donoghue
7. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
8. "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff
9. "The Fifth Witness" by Michael Connelly
10. "The Sixth Man" by David Baldacci
11. "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
12. "Freedom: A Novel" by Jonathan Franzen
13. "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" by David Sedaris
14. "The Rum Diary" by Hunter S. Thompson
15. "Dead or Alive" by Tom Clancy and Grant Blackwood

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

September UFO reports from across Alabama plus one from Conecuh County

It’s the fourth Saturday of the month, so today I’m giving you an update on UFO reports in Alabama from the past month, courtesy of the Mutual UFO Network.

A search for UFO reports in Alabama between Sept. 1 and Sept. 30 on MUFON’s website, www.mufon.com, resulted in two UFO incidents from within our state.

The first incident occurred on Sat., Sept. 24, and was reported to MUFON that same day.

“I happened to look up and see this gray object, moving at a very high velocity,” the witness said. “It crossed the entire sky in just seven seconds, and I could tell it was extremely high in the atmosphere.”

The second incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 25, and was reported on the following day. According to the witness, they were fishing on the Gulf State Park Pier when they saw what they described as an “orb” or “fireball” of green light “streak across the sky.”

“I thought maybe it was a small aircraft and was going to fall into the ocean,” the witness reported. “But before it got to the water, it just burnt out. I probably watched it for about five seconds.”

Before I wrap this thing up, I want to mention that a reader sent me an e-mail a week ago to tell me about a UFO experience he had in Conecuh County. He couldn’t remember the exact year, only that the incident took place one night some time between 1979 and 1982.

The witness, who asked not to be named, described the UFO as a “ball of yellowish-white light perhaps 30 feet in diameter at a treetop altitude of about 200 feet. It made no sound, and the light varied in intensity with its speed – dull when slow, bright when fast.

“Myself and a friend were able to get very close to it, and it flew almost directly over our heads. When we first saw it, it was moving slow, perhaps 30 miles per hour. As we got closer, it slowed when almost overhead and dimmed completely out as it appeared to come to a stop. About five seconds later, it began moving, brightened up and sped up to perhaps 100 miles per hour.”

The object then appeared to increase its speed and “shot up into the sky at about a 45 degree angle and disappeared in a streak of light. The whole incident lasted about 10 minutes, from the time we first saw it to when it disappeared.”

The witness said that the “only sound it made was the sound of something moving through the air as it sped away” and that it reminded him of the time when he was in his yard and a hawk swooped down behind him to pick off a sparrow a few yards away.

“Imagine the sound of a hawk moving through the air on its dive but magnify it by a factor of 10 and you have some idea.”

After the event, the witness and his friend rarely spoke about the incident. The witness described it “one of those odd events that happen in life, but it was nothing we fretted over. Several years later, my friend passed away.”

“The UFO was odd enough, but the really odd thing about the incident was we were having a party at the time and perhaps 20 people were there. I saw it coming towards us and silently walked away from the crowd towards it to get a better view. It wasn’t until I was well across the yard before I even noticed my friend was walking behind me and watching it too. No one else even noticed it and when we returned to the party, no one had even noticed we had been gone.”

In the end, I’d be very interested to hear from any readers who have witnessed a UFO. I think a lot of other people would be interested in hearing your story too, and I’d be willing to accept your report on an anonymous basis if you’d be more comfortable with that arrangement. You can contact me by e-mail at courantsports@earthlink.net or by phone at 578-1492.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween event is perfect time to visit Rikard's Mill Historical Park

I read this week that the Monroe County Heritage Museum will hold a “Ghost Stories at Rikard’s Mill” Halloween-themed event at the Rikard’s Mill Historical Park on Oct. 28-29 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The event will feature costumed storytellers who will entertain visitors with scary tales at the park’s covered bridge, millhouse, pioneer cabin, carriage house and barn. Visitors brave enough to journey down the “Haunted Swamp Trail” should be prepared to encounter the “ghosts” of Native Americans, Confederate soldiers and “the Headless Horseman of Gin House Bottom.”

The event will also include pumpkin relay races, pumpkin painting, a pumpkin toss, a marshmallow roast and other food vendors. Admission is $5 per visitor or $20 per car.

I’ve lived in Monroe County for most of my life and worked at the newspaper in Monroeville for six years, but I’ve never been to the Rikard’s Mill Historical Park.

Located on Flat Creek, the park features a fully restored, water-powered gristmill, which was built and operated by Jacob “Jake” Rikard, who was born in 1806 in South Carolina. Rikard was a blacksmith, locksmith and miller and some say that he was a “mechanical genius.”

In an effort to support his many children, Rikard built a mill on Flat Creek in 1845 and operated the mill until sometime before 1858 when the creek flooded and washed the mill off of its foundation. The original mill featured 48-inch millstones, which weighed several thousand pounds and were powered by a horizontal tub-style water wheel below the mill.

Rikard began rebuilding the mill in 1858, and there is some dispute as to how long it took to rebuild the structure. Some say that it took three years, while others say that it wasn’t finished until 1868. The “new” mill was built from cypress, heart pine, yellow poplar and white oak.

Locals flocked to the mill to have corn and other grains ground into flour, and it also served as a social gathering place where people discussed the latest news, shared meals and swam in the creek.

Rikard died of typhoid fever in 1880, and the mill passed to his daughter, Mary Rikard, and her husband, Holly Middleton Forte. They ran the mill together until their son, John Dennis Forte, took over.

John Forte, who was a longtime teacher and was elected Monroe County’s Superintendent of Schools in 1900, installed a new metal turbine at Rikard’s Mill in 1905. The turbine was manufactured by The James Leffel & Co. of Springfield, Ohio, which has been designing and making hydraulic turbines since 1862.

Sometime in the 1930s, John Forte replaced the 48-inch millstones with 36-inch millstones. I’ve read that the 36-inch stones can still be seen at the mill today and that flint composite stones are currently in use at the mill.

John Forte retired in 1921 and served as the full-time millwright at Rikard’s Mill until his death in 1966. During his 45 years as the full-time millwright, John Forte and his son, Maurice Forte, ran the mill together for a number of years.

In 1993, Maurice Fort and Mack Albert Rikard agreed to preserve the mill for historical purposes and began restoring the mill and dam. The mill reopened in 1994, complete with a covered bridge gift shop. The gift shop features arts and crafts by local residents as well as books and souvenirs.

A 19th century-style blacksmith shop opened on the property in 1995 and features authentic blacksmith equipment used by former blacksmith, Peter L. Shamburger. A barn and mule-driven cane syrup mill opened in 1997. The mill was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on Oct. 7, 1998.

A carriage house was moved to the park in 1999. Restoration of the mill was completed in 1999 and a “pioneer cabin” that doubles as a classroom for workshops was built on the site in 2000. The park is now owned and operated by the Monroe County Heritage Museum.

About 2,500 people visit the park each year, including nearly 1,000 students who attend “Pioneer Days” at the park each November. “Pioneer Days” is a two-day event for student groups that gives young people the chance to see workers in period clothing demonstrate skills like quilt-making, fabric-weaving, blacksmithing, milling and syrup-making. A “Cane Syrup Making Day” is also held at the park on the second Saturday of each November.

For those of you interested in visiting the mill, it’s located at 4116 State Highway 265 North, between Monroeville and Camden. The mill is 22 miles north of Monroeville and just five miles north of the Town of Beatrice. From Interstate Highway 65, the mill is about 35 miles west of the Greenville-Pine Apple exit (Exit 128).

In the end, I hope to get the chance to check out the upcoming “Ghost Stories at Rikard’s Mill” event. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hillcrest, Sparta have chance to redeem themselves tomorrow night

Hillcrest High School and Sparta Academy both had rough times on the football field last Friday night.

Hillcrest suffered a 42-0 loss to Saint James in Montgomery, and Sparta suffered a 41-21 loss to Cornerstone Christian in Evergreen.

Both of our hometown teams will get the chance to redeem themselves tomorrow (Friday) night when they take on a pair of region rivals.

Hillcrest will close out its region schedule against 4A Region 2 opponent, Alabama Christian, at Brooks Memorial Stadium in Evergreen. Sparta will play 1A Region 2 opponent, Jackson Academy, at McCorquodale Stadium in Jackson.

Tomorrow night’s game will be the 16th all-time meeting between Sparta and Jackson in football, and Sparta holds an 8-7 lead in the series. Sparta, which first played Jackson in 1972, hasn’t lost to Jackson since 2009. Last season, the Warriors beat Jackson, 29-28, in Evergreen.

Hillcrest’s game against Alabama Christian is arguably Hillcrest’s biggest game of the year due to the playoff implications for the Jaguars.

Hillcrest and Alabama Christian are relatively new foes on the football field. The first ever meeting between the two schools in football was last year when the Jags whipped ACA, 44-27, in Montgomery. Of course, that means that Hillcrest has never lost to ACA in football.

Good luck to both teams as they look for a pair of wins tomorrow night.

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It’s the best time of year for pro baseball fans in the audience thanks to the ongoing World Series. This year’s World Series, which started with Game One yesterday (Wednesday), features the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Personally, I think that Texas is going to win it all. Let’s face it, St. Louis has a good team, but they didn’t even win their division this year. To their credit, though, St. Louis made the playoffs as a wild card team and went on to beat the Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

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The good folks at the state tourism department released this week their monthly list of Top 10 events statewide, and several sports-related events in November made the cut.

This year’s Turkey Day Classic will be held on Nov. 24 in Montgomery and will feature the Alabama State University Hornets and the Tuskegee University Golden Tigers. Evergreen football fans will have an extra reason to watch this annual showdown between football rivals because former Hillcrest High School standout, Justin Nared, is the starting quarterback this season at Tuskegee.

This year’s Iron Bowl will be played on Nov. 26 in Auburn. This game is without a doubt the nation’s biggest college football rivalry game, and this year’s contest will feature the latest two BCS National Championship winners.

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Here are my picks for this week’s slate of SEC football games.

I like Alabama over Tennessee, Arkansas over Ole Miss, LSU over Auburn, Jacksonville State over Kentucky and Vanderbilt over Army. South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State do not play this week.

Last week: 5-0 (.100), Overall: 47-9 (.839).

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Oct. 20, 2011

TWO YEARS AGO
OCT. 15, 2009

“Jake McInvale and Connie Baggett were the overall male and female winners in the Evergreen Medical Center’s Health and Wellness Center’s Fifth-Annual 5K Run and One-Mile Fun Walk.
“Age group winners also included Kim Hardin, Bill Robbins, Joseph Ross, Aaron Watz, Joel Williams, Marc Williams and 14-year-old Grace Matlock, who was the event’s youngest competitor.
“Mack and Bernadine Williams received the event’s annual Most Inspirational Award.
“In all, 39 runners took part in the 5-K run and 42 walkers participated in the non-competitive One-Mile Fun Walk. Competitors in the event came from as far away as Birmingham and Mobile, organizers said.”

“Drayton Rodgers and Erica Palmer were named this year’s Mr. and Miss Football during Sparta Academy’s homecoming festivities Friday evening at the school. Palmer is the daughter of Craig and Joy Palmer, and Rodgers is the son of Joey and Jeri Rodgers.”

“Sparta is looking to bounce back from a 42-0, homecoming loss to region opponent Restoration Academy. That game was played Friday night at Stuart-McGehee Field in Evergreen before a sizable crowd that was on hand to take part in Sparta’s 40th anniversary celebration.
“Joey Bradley led Sparta’s offense with 17 carries for 52 yards. Matt Johnson ran twice for four yards and caught a nine-yard pass from Nick Hardin.”

17 YEARS AGO
OCT. 20, 1994

“Monica Williams, daughter of Doug and Libby Williams, was named as Miss Football for 1994 at Hillcrest High School’s Homecoming last Friday night.”

“With respect already earned, the (Hillcrest High School) Jaguars were now looking for a win against Opp High School as Hillcrest celebrated its 1994 Homecoming. The result was a thrilling 16-13 setback that once again suggests the Jaguars are for real.
“Blake Anderson, Carey Pugh and Ryan Meeks were particularly effective in slowing the Opp offense.
“Don Ray Mixon and Derrick Rudolph picked up good yardage on the ground, while a new offensive weapon may have been found in tight end Meeks. While it was Rudolph who scored, Meeks made the drive with some big receptions and his ability to run afterwards.
“On Hillcrest’s next possession, the Jaguars tied the game at 13 by going 58 yards on five plays. Again, Meeks had two big receptions and Roger Rudolph had two good runs. Mixon covered the last 34 yards on a beautiful run that saw him cut back against the Opp defense.”

“The Sparta Academy Warriors continued on a losing spiral as they lost 24 to 6 to the Ashford Academy Falcons last Friday night.
“The Warriors only score on the night came on a 30-yard run by junior Brent Worrell.”

32 YEARS AGO
OCT. 18, 1979

“The Lyeffion High School Jackets came back from a three-game losing slump to even their season record at 3-3 with a 18-14 win over Red Level on Friday night at Lyeffion’s Mabry Covin Field.
“Lyeffion’s Yellow Jackets moved quickly in the closing minutes of the first half, mainly on the passing of Donald Lee and the running of Ricky Gill and went 91 yards in nine plays to score their first touchdown. Lee tossed to Floyd McNeil in the end zone for a one-yard pass and the t.d.”
Other outstanding Lyeffion players in that game included Ardell Taylor, Richard Benson, William Mobley, Mack Dailey, Grady Lett and Floyd McNeal.

“The Area 2, Class 1A Repton Bulldogs advanced one step closer to a state playoff bid with a 30-14 win over the J.U. Blacksher Bulldogs at Uriah on Friday night.
“Repton jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Doug Blackwell returned a punt for a 64-yard touchdown, making the score 7-0. Kenny Harris mad a three-yard touchdown, and Trey Wilson added both PATs.”
Other outstanding Repton players in that game included Darrel Brantley, Leon Dailey, Herbert Dukes, Jerry Dukes, Mitch Hammack, Robert McMillian, Greg Tate, Jerry Waters and Tommy Watson.

“Sparta Academy and Escambia Academy battled evenly Saturday night at the latter’s home stadium in Canoe, but the home team came out on the long end of a 12-6 score.
“Ronny McKenzie had another big, big night as he ran 27 times from scrimmage and netted 231 yards.”

47 YEARS AGO
OCT. 15, 1964

“The Evergreen Aggies parlayed clutch defensive play and one successful offensive thrust into a 6 to 0 win over the Greenville Tigers here Friday night.”
Paul Deason scored Evergreen’s only touchdown on a 24-yard pass from Scott Cook. Other outstanding Evergreen players in that game included Alvin Dees, Truett Sims, Brent Thronley and Jimmy Warren.

“Alvin Dees was named ‘player of the week’ by the Evergreen Jaycees for the Greenville game. As winner of the weekly award, he becomes eligible for the ‘player of the year’ award at the end of the season.
“Dees, a 185-pound senior tackle, won the award for his outstanding defensive play and strong blocking. Dees has been a consistent leader for the Aggies this year and a standout lineman since he was a sophomore. Last year, he was named to the Birmingham Post-Herald’s AA All-State team.”

“The Repton High Bulldogs ran up their largest score of the season as they blasted Zion Chapel 49 to 0 Friday night. The game was played at Zion Chapel.
“Robert Lowery and Jimmy Bradley scored twice each for Repton and Nickey Thompson, Glenn Baggett and Davis Robinson counted once each.
“Coach Gene Madison’s Bulldogs will host Red Level this Friday with the kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. on the Repton field.”

62 YEARS AGO
OCT. 20, 1949

“The Evergreen High School Aggies twirled their fifth shutout of the season here Friday night by downing a strong W.S. Neal squad of East Brewton by a 13 to 0 count. It was the fourth win of the season for the unbeaten, unscored on, Aggies. The only blot on their record is a 0-0 tie with Andalusia, one of South Alabama’s strongest prep elevens.”
Standout players in the Evergreen-Neal game included Dickey Bozeman, Jack Cunningham, Bertie Hassel, Ed Hooks, Bruce Johnson and John Greel Ralls.

“Ralph Lancaster scored twice to pace the Repton High Bulldogs to an 18 to 0 win over the Lyeffion High School Yellow Jackets on the Repton field Friday afternoon. It was Repton’s second win over the Jackets this season. They defeated Lyeffion in the season opener for both squads 32 to 0. Repton has lost only one game in five starts. Century defeated them 32 to 0. The Bulldogs have tied Uriah 0-0 and Walnut Hill 13-13.
“Lyeffion’s Jackets played a much better game than in the opener as they limited the Bulldogs to two scores in the first half and one in the second. Lancaster scored both of the first half markers and Jimmy McInnis scored the final tally on a pass.”

“Dr. and Mrs. Joe Hagood and son, Joseph, and Allard French Jr. attended the Alabama-Tennessee game in Birmingham Saturday.”

“Mr. and Mrs. V.P. Smith and son, Palmer, attended the Alabama-Tennessee game in Birmingham Saturday.”


Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant. To read The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature online, visit leepeacock2010.blogspot.com.

This year's 'Top 10 Spookiest Places in Conecuh County' list released

Halloween is just 11 days away, and in the spirit of that creepy holiday, I give you today my annual list of the “Top 10 Spookiest Places in Conecuh County, Alabama.”

I compiled this list after discussing the subject with a number of the county’s lifelong residents and individuals well versed in the county’s long history. I was surprised by a number of their suggestions and even learned a little bit about a few places that I’d never heard of.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

1. Conecuh County Department of Human Resources Building: Built on the site of the county’s old poor house, convict farm and a former World War II German prisoner of war camp, DHR workers claim to hear the sound of unexplained footsteps in the halls, especially in the building’s north wing, late in the day and after hours. Other employees have had their hair “blown back” by unexplained forces, and others claim to have seen the ghost of a “lady in a long, drab skirt.” Others claim to have seen the ghosts of “women walking with laundry” and the unexplained sounds of “clanking dishes.” The building is also constructed adjacent to a number of graves that date back to the property’s use as a POW camp, poorhouse and convict farm.

2. Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library: Staff members at the library have had a number of unusual experiences in the building, which is located on Cemetery Avenue in Evergreen. Unusual occurrences at the building include unexplained temperature drops, thumping noises and the sound of someone coming up the stairs when no one is there. Staff members have also found lights on that should have been off and books “turned topsy-turvy” or misplaced on shelves as well as items on the floor, even though things had been in their proper place when they closed the building the day before. Other library workers claim to have seen a ghost outside on the library grounds. They describe this ghost as a young girl, wearing what looks like turn-of-the-century clothing and riding breeches, standing next to a phantom horse. The girl has her arm draped around the horse’s neck, witnesses said.

3. Hawthorne House Site: This residence, which was located in Belleville and burned down in 2003, was used as a hospital for individuals injured in a train collision in October 1862 and as a hospital for Confederate soldiers hurt near the end of the Civil War. Many in the Belleville community believed that the Hawthorne House held the lingering spirits of countless Confederate souls. Lights, televisions and other modern conveniences in the home would often malfunction for no apparent reasons.

4. Interstate 65: The 40-mile stretch of the interstate between Evergreen and Greenville was designated “The Haunted Highway” in the book, “Haunted Places: The National Directory” by Dennis William Hauck. Book claims that this section of highway is haunted by the spirits of displaced Creek Indians and has resulted in an “accident rate that is well above average.”

5. Monster Road: The traditional nickname of what is officially known as Hagood Road, which connects Conecuh County Road 29 and Brooklyn Road, southeast of Evergreen. I asked a number of people about how the road came to be called Monster Road, but no one could say with any certainty. County officials are currently in the process of closing a portion of this road to public traffic.

6. Conecuh County High School Building: Former teachers at the Castleberry school claim to have heard, after school hours, the unexplained sound of running footsteps in the building’s attic - when it was known that no one else was in the building. Built in 1936, this building now houses the Conecuh County Junior High School.

7. Old Carter Hospital: Located on Burnt Corn Street in Repton, this was once the only hospital for a hundred miles in every direction. Closed in the mid-1950s, when Monroe County Hospital opened in Monroeville, this structure has seen more than its fair share of pain, sickness and death.

8. Old L&N Train Depot: Located in downtown Evergreen and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this building is over 100 years old. Thousands of people passed through this train station during its heyday, and former employees have shared tales about hearing unexplained noises in the building at all times of the day and night.

9. Old Sparta Site: According to “Shadows and Dust, Volume II” by Kevin McKinley, this is the location of a haunted well. The story goes that whispers can be heard coming from the well, which may have been constructed near the burial grounds of some long since removed Indian tribe.

10. Sanders Cave: Large cave located about 3-1/2 miles northwest of Brooklyn. According to the June 1, 1967 edition of The Brewton Standard, it’s believed that Joseph Thompson Hare’s gang of robbers buried gold in the cave. Hare’s gang, which was organized in New Orleans in 1801, robbed overland travelers from New Orleans to Pensacola. Hare was eventually hanged in Baltimore in 1818 for robbing a U.S. Mail coach.

Other nominees this year included Baggett Cemetery in Castleberry, the Old Red Wine Bridge near Castleberry, the Old Pritchett Home in Evergreen, the old Civil Air Patrol Building in Evergreen, Hampden Ridge Cemetery near Old Fort Autrey, the Old Huggins Grist Mill site at Cohassett and the old Ray Brothers Store site near Travis Bridge.

Locations that were on the list last year that didn’t make the list this year included The Evergreen Courant office, Old Beulah Cemetery and the First Evergreen Cemetery.

Before I wrap this thing up, I want to make clear that more than a few of these places are more than likely located on private property, so if you get the idea to visit any of these places (especially at night) you’d better get permission first or run the risk of trespassing. Also, if you plan to visit any of these places, especially cemeteries, respect your surroundings.

In the end, I’d like to hear from you if you know a good local ghost story or have information about a spooky location in Conecuh County. You can reach me by calling 578-1492, by e-mail at courantsports@earthlink.net or by mail at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'Paranormal Activity 3' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (Documentary, Special Interest, Not Rated): Directed by Constance Marks and starring Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Frank Oz and Joan Ganz Cooney.

- Johnny English Reborn (Adventure, Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by Oliver Parker and starring Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West and Richard Schiff.

- The Last Ride (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Harry Thomason and starring Henry Thomas, Kaley Cuoco, Ray McKinnon, Stephen Tobolowsky and Jesse James.

- Margin Call (Drama, Thriller, R): Directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley.

- Martha Marcy May Marlene (Drama, Suspense, Thriller, R): Directed by Sean Durkin and starring Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy and Brady Corbet.

- Norman (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Jonathan Segal and starring Dan Byrd, Emily Van Camp, Richard Jenkins, Adam Goldberg and Billy Lush.

- Oranges and Sunshine (Drama, R): Directed by Jim Loach and starring Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Lorraine Ashbourne and Tara Morice.

- Paranormal Activity 3 (Drama, Horror, Suspense, Thriller, R): Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and starring Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown and Brian Boland.

- Snowmen (Comedy, Drama, Family, PG): Directed by Robert Kirbyson and starring Bobby Coleman, Josh Flitter, Beverly Mithcell, Bobb’e J. Thompson and Doug E. Doug.

- The Three Musketeers (Action, Adventure, Drama, Epic and Historical, PG-13): Directed Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Logan Lerman, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Matthew Macfadyen and Christoph Waltz.

New DVD releases for the week of Oct. 18 include:

- Bad Teacher (Comedy, R): Directed by Jake Kasdan and starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, John Michael Higgins and Lucy Punch.

- Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (Documentary, Music, R): Directed by Michael Rappaport.

- A Better Life (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Chris Weitz and starring Jose Julian, Demian Bichir, Dolores Heredia, Joaquin Cosio and Carlos Linares.

- The Captains (Documentary, Special Interest, Not Rated): Directed by William Shatner and starring William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula.

- Freerunner (Action, Adventure, R): Directed by Lawrence Silverstein and starring Sean Faris, Danny Dyer, Rebecca Da Costa, Tamer Hassn and Amanda Fuller.

- The Howling Reborn (Horror, Thriller, R): Directed by Joe Nimziki and starring Ivana Milicevic, Landon Liboiron, Lindsey Shaw, Erin Agostino and Kristian Hodko.

- Monte Carlo (Comedy, Romance, PG): Directed by Thomas Bezucha and starring Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy, Leighton Meester, Cory Monteith and Andie MacDowell.

- Page One: Inside the New York Times (Documentary, Special Interest, R): Directed by Andrew Rossi and starring Bruce Headlam, David Carr, Brian Stelter, Bill Keller and Tim Arango.

- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Action, Adventure, Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Rob Marshall and starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Astrid Berges-Frisbey.

- Red State (Horror, Suspense, R): Directed by Kevin Smith and starring Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano and Anna Gunn.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Paranormal Activity 3,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Second annual Airship Awards announced at Steamcon III in Seatle

The winners of the second annual Airship Awards were named during an awards banquet during the Steamcon III steampunk convention in Seattle.

The Airship Awards were first awarded last year at Steamcon II and are given annually “to recognize the best and brightest in the steampunk community.”

Nominees for this year’s round of Airship Awards were solicited online from the world at large and were announced in early August. The winners were selected by a vote of the registered members of Steamcon III with voting ending on Sept. 30. Airship Awards are currently awarded in five categories – Written, Visual, Aural, Community Contributor and Potpourri.

This year’s slate of winners included the following:

Written – “Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel” by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine

Visual – Joe Benitez

Aural – Vagabond Opera

Community Contributor – Jordan Block, Sepiachord

Potpourri – Rise of Æster RPG

It’s All Your Fault Award – K.W. Jeter, for coining the term “steampunk”

Nominees in the Written category can include “any written piece of work, including, but not limited to, novels, short stories, blogs, screen plays, etc.” The other nominees in this category this year included “The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack” by Mark Hodder, “Camera Obscura” by Lavie Tidhar and “The Half Made World” by Felix Gilman.

Nominees in the Visual category can include “any visual piece of work, including but not limited to 2D art, 3D art, digital art, fashion design, website design, making/modding, short film (by an individual).” The other nominees in this category this year included James Ng, Myke Amend and Adam Smith.

Nominees in the Aural category can include “any aural piece of work, including but not limited to bands, songs, musicians, music videos, etc.” The other nominees in this category this year included Professor Elemental, Unwoman and Steam Powered Giraffe.

Nominees in the Community Contributor category can include “an individual who is outspoken and supportive in the steampunk community, including but not limited to a Blogger, event organizer, convention runner, scholar, speaker etc.” The other nominees in this category this year included Ay-leen the Peacemaker – Beyond Victoriana; Lia Keyes – The Steampunk Writers and Artists Guild; and Suzanne Lazear – Steamed.

Nominees in the Potpourri category can include “anything not yet covered, including but not limited to game design/designer, acting troupes, short film (by a group), movie, television, etc.” The other nominees in this category this year included Clockwork Cabaret and Unhallowed Metropolis RPG.

The innaugural Airship Awards were presented at Steamcon II on Nov. 19, 2010 and what follows is a list of the winners and nominees of the 2010 Airship Awards.

Written:
• Winner: "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" by Alan Moore
• "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest
• "Mainspring" by Jay Lake
• "Soulless" by Gail Carriger

Visual:
• Winner: Jake von Slatt
• Paul Guinan
• Richard Nagy
• Haruo Suekichi

Aural:
• Winner: Abney Park
• The Clockwork Dolls
• Extraordinary Contraptions
• The Men that Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing

Community Contributor:
• Winner: Captain Robert Brown of Abney Park
• GD Falksen
• Mike Perschon
• Jake Von Slatt

Potpourri:
• Winner: Girl Genius
• Deadlands Role Playing Game
• The League of STEAM
• The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello

In the end, which of the written works mentioned above have you read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more information about the Airship Awards and Steamcon, visit Steamcon’s official Web site at www.steamcon.org.