Sunday, September 25, 2016

Does the house of the 'Dancing Skulls' still stand in Wilcox County?

Many readers will be familiar with the Rosebud community, which is located between Camden and Oak Hill, but I’m willing to wager that very few have ever heard the old tale of that community’s “Dancing Skulls.”

Rosebud is a classic example of a crossroads community. Located at the intersection of State Highway 10 and Wilcox County Road 51, it once boasted of a post office that was established in 1876. As the years passed and the community’s population declined, the post office eventually closed and faded from memory, as have memories of the “Dancing Skulls.”

The best version of the “Dancing Skulls” story that I could find was in “Ghosts and Goosebumps: Ghost Stories, Tall Tales and Superstitions from Alabama” by Jack and Olivia Solomon, a husband and wife team of folklore collectors. This book, originally published in 1981 by the University of Alabama Press, contains a collection of old folk stories and superstitions from central and southeastern Alabama, including a few from Wilcox County.

According to “Ghosts and Goosebumps,” the story of the “Dancing Skulls” was told to the Solomons by an old man named Henry Bonner. The story takes place at “what was once a large frame house” located on top of a small grass-covered hill, about three miles north of the Rosebud community. The house looked similar to the other “tumble-down, weather-beaten frame houses” in the area, but its history was much different, Bonner said.

The house was once used as a hospital, Bonner said, but no one seemed to know for sure just how long it was used for that purpose. Some say it served as a hospital during the Civil War and just about all agree that it ceased being used as a hospital sometime before 1900, a few years before Bonner was born.

Visitors to the house in later days would find scattered about in the front yard “an assortment of grave markers in the form of headstones and slabs,” Bonner said. “There are not many of these, but the small number there suffice to give the place a weird appearance.”

At this point, the tale takes an extremely sharp turn for the weird. According to “Ghosts and Goosebumps,” the attic of this creepy house was “filled with human skulls” and the occupants of the house and others in the community said “that within these skulls lie the spirits of their former owners. 

The belief is that these spirits are very sensitive and are easily excitable, and when they become upset, they dance about in the attic and frequently about the walls and the ceiling. In times of great excitement, especially during storms, these ‘ha’nts’ even venture out into the yard and hover around the tombs that hold their companions.”

In the end, I’m left to wonder if the “House of the Dancing Skulls” still stands. Looking at a map of the area, it would appear that the house was located off County Road 51, somewhere between Rosebud and Darlington. Also, records reflect that Henry Bonner passed away in 1988, around the age of 84. He is buried in the Brazeale Cemetery at Darlington, not far from the mysterious house of the “Dancing Skulls.” 

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