Saturday, December 29, 2012

'Haunted Tuscaloosa' ranks among state's best books on the supernatural

I finished reading an awesome new book the other day called “Haunted Tuscaloosa” by David Higdon and Brett J. Talley. Published in August by The History Press, this 96-page book is jam packed with the haunted histories of dozens of old homes, hospitals, landmarks, cemeteries, theatres and university buildings in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tuscaloosa, it’s a city of just under 100,000 located on the banks of the Black Warrior River in West Central Alabama. Incorporated in December 1819, this former Alabama state capital is arguably best known as the home of the University of Alabama. Nicknamed the “Druid City” and “The City of Champions,” the Tuscaloosa area was inhabited by Indians as far back as 12,000 years ago. To say that Tuscaloosa has a long and unique history would be an understatement.

“Haunted Tuscaloosa” is divided into two parts. The first section discusses haunted sites in the City of Tuscaloosa and just outside of the city. The second section of the book discusses haunted locations on the University of Alabama’s 1,970-acre campus. Sites discussed in the first part include the Bama Theatre, the Battle-Friedman House, Bryce Hospital, the Drish Mansion, Greenwood Cemetery, the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion, Maxwell’s Crossing, the Murphy-Collins House, the Old Tavern, the Jemison Center (Old Bryce Insane Asylum) and the Shirley House. Sites on UA’s campus discussed in the second section of the book include the Allen Bales Theatre, the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, the Gorgas House, the Kilgore House, the Little Round House, Smith Hall, the Quad, the University Club and Woods Quad.

I found this book to be especially interesting and highly informative. I lived in Tuscaloosa for several years and became intimately familiar with the city and university campus as a student and as a late night “lock up cadet” with UA’s Department of Public Safety. Despite all that, this book told me a lot about Tuscaloosa and the university that I didn’t know.

Not only was this book well researched, but it was also well written and very entertaining, which comes as no surprise given the qualifications of the authors. Higdon, an Iraq war veteran, is the founder and lead investigator of the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group. Talley, an attorney with degrees from Alabama and Harvard Law School, is the author of “That Which Should Not Be,” which was a Bram Stoker Award nominee in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Their combined talents on “Haunted Tuscaloosa” have left readers with a book that they’ll want to read again and again.

When it comes to books about supernatural happenings and haunted locations in the state of Alabama, I’d rank “Haunted Tuscaloosa” among the best. Others that I would recommend include “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers” by George Singleton, “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery” by Kathryn Tucker Windham, “Ghosts and Goosebumps: Ghost Stories, Tall Tales and Superstitions from Alabama” by Jack Solomon and Olivia Solomon and “Forgotten Tales of Alabama” by Kelly Kazek.

In the end, how many of you have read “Haunted Tuscaloosa”? What did you think about it? Do you know of any other good books about Alabama’s supernatural history that you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

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