Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fourth annual list of 'Spookiest Places in Monroe County' released

Dr. Watkins House at Burnt Corn, Alabama
Halloween is less than a week away, and in the spirit of that ghostly holiday, I present you today my fourth annual list of the “Spookiest Places in Monroe County.”

As with previous editions of this list, I compiled it after discussing the subject with a number of the county’s lifelong residents and individuals well versed in the county’s long history. Without further ado, here’s the list:

- Butterfork Creek Bridge: Located on State Highway 59, a mile or so west of downtown Uriah, this bridge serves as a way for travelers to go between Uriah and the Palmers Crossroads community in south Monroe County. More than a few motorists over the years have repeatedly reported seeing a woman in dressed in white on the bridge. Most report seeing this ghostly woman on the east end of the bridge.

- 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.

- 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.

- The Devil’s Bowl: Located about three miles off of State Highway 21 in the vicinity of the Megargel and Goodway communities, this geological oddity is a pool that’s about 30 feet in diameter. Also called “The Devil’s Soup Bowl,” no surface stream feeds this freshwater pool of deep, dark water, which is said to be one of “Monroe County’s strangest sights.” Locals claim that this pool is bottomless. Possible explanations for its existence vary from an ancient meteor impact to the idea that it’s the shaft left behind by dead volcano.

- Dr. Watkins House: Located on the west side of County Road 5, about 1-1/2 miles north of Burnt Corn, this house was built in 1812 and was once the residence of Dr. John Watkins, the only doctor between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers. Watkins is said to have treated the wounded from the Fort Mims Massacre at the house in 1813, and some sources say Andrew Jackson spent the night there when he passed through the area on his way to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

The ghost of Watkins has reportedly been seen standing in the doorway to one of the home’s first floor bedrooms and the top of the front porch is painted with traditional “haint paint” to keep spirits from entering the home. Perhaps the most bizarre thing to occur in the house in recent memory took place in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when loggers fled the house after hearing a woman scream. Others who’ve stayed at the house have complained of the uneasy feelings they get from artwork inside the house, including an original painting of a woman carving a Jack o’ Lantern.

- 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.”

- King Plantation House: Featured on two episodes of the Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files,” this 9,000-square feet Greek Revival Style house was originally located at Packer’s Bend in the northwest corner of Monroe County. Built by the nephew of U.S. Vice President William Rufus King in the late 1850s and early 1860s, it was moved to Uriah by former state legislator Eugene Garrett in 1965.

Creepy tales abound about this house, where supposedly a number of the King family passed away within its walls from yellow fever that was brought home by a family member who served in the Civil War. In “The Dead Files” the house’s owner said she feared her life was in danger from being attacked by the evil spirit of a man who once lived in the house.

Located on State Highway 59, about half a mile from the intersection of Hwy. 59 and State Highway 21, it’s said that this house has the broadest fa├žade of any plantation house in Alabama.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.”

- Mt. Pisgah Cemetery: Located off Wildfork Road (Monroe County Road 18) between Frisco City and the Wildfork community, this cemetery serves as the final resting place of hundreds of former community residents. Variations of the story exist, but more than a few people have reported parking at this cemetery late at night and when conditions are just right a mysterious red ball of light will emerge from the tree line on the east side of the cemetery. The ball of light is most often described as “basketball-sized” and reportedly travels from the trees towards the parked vehicle.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.”

- 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.

- The Robbins Hotel Site: Used for years as a hunting club, this historic former hotel located in downtown Beatrice, adjacent to town hall, burned down in October 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel was located just off the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and was operated for many years by Miss Minnie Robbins. The hotel’s patrons were largely made up of railroad travelers, and the hotel featured 14 rooms, each with a fireplace.

Before I close this think out, I want to make perfectly clear that more than a few of the places mentioned above are 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, contact me if you know a good local ghost story or have information about a spooky location in Monroe 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.

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