Now that we’re well into the month of October, many people are starting to turn their thoughts toward Halloween, which is just 24 days away.
With that said, I’ve always got my ears open for a good local ghost story, and I recently heard one that I think many of you will be interested in reading about – the story of Evergreen, Alabama’s “Grey Lady.”
I have to admit that I’d never heard of the Grey Lady until about two months ago when Bert Cook told me the story over lunch at J&T’s Diner in Evergreen. Bert, who grew up in Evergreen, told me that he’d heard the story of the Grey Lady all of his life, going all the way back to when he was a small boy in town. His version of the story was simple, all of his life he’d heard that the Old Croom House on North Main Street was haunted by the ghost of a woman known as the Grey Lady and that this ghost had been seen by many over the years.
Courant publisher and editor Robert Bozeman echoed his uncle Bert’s remarks, saying that he grew up in the house across the street from the Old Croom House and had always heard tales that the house was haunted by the Grey Lady.
The Old Croom House is currently owned by Len Price, who has lived there for over 33 years. According to Price, the house is one of the oldest homes in Evergreen, having been constructed sometime before 1857 by the Stallworth family. The house was later sold to the Farnham family, who adopted Robert “Bob” Croom when he was a small boy.
Price said that he doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t know about the Grey Lady and noted that most stories only involve people having seen her or having heard her play a piano in the house.
“She is in my earliest memories,” Price said. “I grew up afraid of the Croom House because of the tales of her presence, and even when I was in junior high I wouldn't walk to school on the east side of North Main. The place looked much more foreboding back then because all the windows sported black woodwork. It was just scary to look at even without the Grey Lady lurking inside.”
Price said that he was maybe four years old when he visited the house for the first time with his father, who was good friends with Bob Croom.
“We pulled into the drive, and I started gasping, unable to believe my father had brought me to the Grey Lady's house,” Price said. “I begged him not to make me get out of the car, which he, of course, thought was nonsense, but I knew even then where we were and that I shouldn't be there. We got to the front door and he knocked, with me clinging to his leg and trying not to cry.”
Price survived his first trip to the Old Croom House and ended up buying the house after his graduation from college in the 1970s. Only after moving in did it dawn on him that he’d bought the house “where the Grey Lady lives,” he said.
Price said that the legend of the Grey Lady is at least four generations old, but he’s never seen her himself. However, two female guests, including his sister, have had unusual experiences in the home.
“There have only been two incidents, virtually identical and a year or so apart,” Price said. “In both cases, girls left the old glass porch for the master bath and returned a minute or so later bug-eyed with their hair standing on end, saying they walked through the bathroom door and there was an old lady in the tub. They jumped in fright and in that blink of an eye she was gone. One of the girls was my youngest sister, the other a friend from out of town. She could not possibly have known (about the incident involving Price’s sister), so I see no possibility of their having collaborated to freak me out.”
Price also said that the house has been visited by a couple of people who claim to be sensitive to psychic phenomena and that they all “noted a presence in the house,” but felt that it was harmless. “Oddly, they both said exactly the same thing: ‘You have something here, but it's okay,’” he said.
Price said that he doesn’t know how or when tales of the Grey Lady got their start or who the Grey Lady might have been.
“There was talk of a ghost when (Robert Croom’s) wife Alice was still alive, ergo the Grey Lady must have been a Farnham, a Stallworth or a visitor who either met an untimely demise here or liked the place so much she decided to make it home,” Price said.
Price said that stories of the Grey Lady “seem now to live on only in the memories of ever fewer residents of ‘Old’ Evergreen,” and acknowledges that there may be people out there who have more information to share about the Grey Lady.
In the end, if anyone out there in the reading audience has memories of the Grey Lady they’d like to share, they’re encouraged to contact The Courant at 578-1492 or by e-mail at email@example.com. You can also write to The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.