|Old Wilcox County Courthouse.|
The infamous “Unfilled Hole,” one of the spookiest locations in all of Wilcox County, is located right in the heart of downtown Camden, but it’s not as easy to find as it once was.
The first time I ever heard of the “Unfilled Hole” was about five years ago when the Web site, alabamafrontporches.com, published a brochure called “The Ghosts of Alabama’s Black Belt.” That brochure described 16 haunted locations in Wilcox, Perry and Dallas counties, including Camden’s notorious “Unfilled Hole.”
According to the Web site, the “Unfilled Hole” is located directly in front of the Old Wilcox County Courthouse on the downtown square in Camden. “It is reputed to be the site of public hangings,” the Web site said. “You can sit under the pecan tree at the left front of the building and sometimes feel the cold spots. You can see the hole which the county has had to fill so many times that they now have placed a metal warning post next to it.”
Not long ago, my son and I investigated Camden’s courthouse square and found a scene somewhat different than the one described on the Web site. One thing that we noticed right away is that if you’re standing on the Broad Street side of the square, facing the front of the courthouse building, there is no pecan tree to the left of the building on the front side, but there are pecan trees on the other three corners of the square. Also missing is the posted metal sign that warns pedestrians of the hole that won’t stay filled.
When we asked a few of Camden’s longtime residents about the “Unfilled Hole,” they told us that the large pecan tree that was once located on the northwest corner of the square was removed around 2010 and was replaced by a large, brick flowerbed. According to them, if you go to the brick flowerbed today, you’re standing in the vicinity of the “Unfilled Hole,” which is now apparently covered with bricks.
I visited this site on a Sunday recently and the downtown square was deserted except for the occasional passing car. I stood there and tried to imagine what the old courthouse square looked like a century or more ago. In my mind’s eye, dirt thoroughfares replaced the paved streets. Horses and buggies replaced our flashy, modern automobiles. Gone were the power lines, telephone poles and traffic lights.
I tried to imagine what the missing pecan tree and unfilled hole might have looked like. I could almost hear the crunch and crackle of dry pecan hulls beneath my boots. A pale sheet of newspaper floated across the courthouse lawn like a low-flying ghost, pushed along by the humid, summer wind.
I tried to imagine a large crowd on the courthouse grounds, quietly waiting for the county sheriff to lead the condemned out of the jail and up to the rough rope hanging from the now-missing pecan tree. Standing there, I knew this scene would have played out many times before the year 1927, the year that Alabama outlawed public county executions and began using the electric chair to put criminals to death.
In the end, please let me hear from you if you remember any details about the “Unfilled Hole” or if you remember when the old pecan tree was removed from the square’s northwest corner. I’d also like to hear from anyone who knows when Wilcox County carried out its last legal execution. You can reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.