Saturday, February 6, 2016

Narrow Gap community home to ghostly woman and strange balls of light

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Community of Narrow Gap has history and spirits” was originally published in the Feb. 11, 1993 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Very few Monroe County citizens know where the community of Narrow Gap is located. But, take it from me, there is such a place. I have been there. I also had the opportunity to spend almost an entire day with one of Narrow Gap’s more well-known citizens.

I had received an invitation some time ago to visit the community of Narrow Gap from Arthur Reed, a 76-year-old man who has forgotten more history about this area than most people will ever know.

In talking with this very fine gentleman, I was amazed at his ability to remember exact dates and times and where certain events took place. I found myself wishing that my memory was as sharp as his, even though he was some years my senior. Two local friends, who accompanied me on this venture, also was amazed at Mr. Reed’s ability to remember with such exactness and detail.

As I have stated earlier, this citizen of Narrow Gap was in very familiar surroundings. He knew every pig trail and every old home place along the back roads that we traveled. He knew the history of the families who had settled the old farms, some now abandoned, and others where the old homes were falling in decay.

Our first stop was near the old home place of the Qualls family. Andrew Jackson Qualls had homesteaded here in the early 1800s. Down the road a ways, was a small cemetery, a place that we would visit later. Andrew J. Qualls had been laid to rest in this small cemetery in 1846.

Out in the front yard of the Qualls’ home place stood a very large oak tree. The huge tree was about six or seven feet in diameter. With one glance, I could tell that this old oak had been around for many, many years. Looking up at the huge bare limbs of the giant oak tree, a certain air of mystery seem to cling there.

“I have traveled this old road many, many times,” Mr. Reed said. “One night as I was passing this old tree, I was amazed to see a huge ball of light resting on the ground near the tree trunk. Not believing my eyes, I stopped to get a better look at this ball of light. As I stood and watched, the huge ball slowly started moving toward the large oak. Upon reaching the tree trunk, the ball of light slowly began to move up the old tree as though it was climbing it.

“Very slowly this large ball of light moved up among the large limbs of the old tree. As I watched with great excitement, the light continued to move up, ever so slowly, toward the top of the large oak. The glow from the light was bright enough that the entire tree top could be seen.

“Finally, upon reaching the top of the tree, the large ball of light began to descend toward the ground. Upon reaching the ground, the light moved slowly out into the narrow road about 30 feet away.

“Here, it began to move down the narrow dirt road toward the small abandoned cemetery about 150 yards from the old oak tree. As it reached the cemetery, the large ball of light seemed to roll off in and among the few graves found there; here it disappeared.”

I asked Mr. Reed if this was the only time that he had seen this strange phenomena. He stated that he had witnessed it several other times when coming this way. He stated that it always was seen in the same manner; first, near and in the large old tree, and then moving to the cemetery where it disappeared from sight.

As we discussed the mystery light, I asked Mr. Reed if he had ever seen anything else in this vicinity.

“One day, my wife and I were coming along this same road between the old home place and the cemetery when we spotted a woman in a long dress wearing a bonnet.

“She was walking along the road in the direction of the cemetery. I was going to stop and ask her if she needed help; she didn’t look like anyone that we knew around here. My wife didn’t want me to stop; she said it was a spirit or ghost.

“She was walking in the same direction that we were going. Just about the time we got up to her, she just stepped off the road and disappeared in thin air. My wife worried about seeing that woman a lot. I have seen her a couple of times since my wife died.” (Mr. Reed’s wife passed away since the first sighting of the woman in the bonnet.) “Each time I see her,” Mr. Reed said. “She is always walking toward the cemetery.”

Upon entering the small cemetery, I saw the tombstone of Andrew Jackson Qualls, who died in 1846. Perhaps the lady in the long dress and bonnet was the ghost of the wife of Andrew J. Qualls. Perhaps, too, she was on her way to visit the final resting place of her departed husband there in the small, abandoned cemetery.

As I searched the few remaining grave markers, I spotted one of a Confederate soldier. Upon examining it closely, I read the name of Randolph Reed, Co. A, 21st Alabama Regiment; Born Nov. 20, 1847; Died Jan. 4, 1930.

When I asked Mr. Reed if he was related to this man, he said:

“That’s my father; he went off to war at the early age of 14. He was 74 years old when I was born; my mother was about 33.

“He used to talk a lot about the war; he was held prisoner by the Yankees, but he managed to escape. While he was held prisoner by the Yankees, an officer would make my father carry him on his back. One day when carrying the officer near a deep ravine, my father threw the Yankee off his back and into the deep ravine. This was when he ran away and escaped. Later, he managed to return to his unit.”

Without realizing it, the shadows of the evening had slowly crept in upon us. Looking across the vast countryside, the glowing sun was nearing the distant horizon.

The time had come for us to depart the community of Narrow Gap and head for home. The day had been wonderful; I assured Mr. Reed that soon I would return for another day of exploration and another walk through the early history of lower Monroe County. Such a pity that days like this have to end.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in 1961 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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