|Flowerbed atop 'Unfilled Hole' in Camden|
Halloween is less than one week away, and in the spirit of that ghostly holiday, I give you my first ever list of the “Spookiest Places in Wilcox County.”
I compiled this list after discussing the subject with a number of the county’s residents and with individuals well versed in the county’s history. I was surprised by some of their suggestions, and I learned a lot about a few places that I’d never heard of.
Without further ado, here’s the list:
Purifoy-Lipscomb House: Located at Furman, this house was built by the Purifoy family in the 1840s and is arguably Wilcox County’s most famous haunted location. An old well behind the house is said to be haunted by the ghost of a man who died after being buried by tons of dirt while digging the well. This house has been featured in numerous books, including “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey” by Kathryn Tucker Windham and “Haunted Places: The National Directory” by Dennis William Hauck.
Gaines Ridge: Located off State Highway 10 east of Camden, this iconic house-turned-restaurant is said to be haunted by a wide variety of spirits. According to one history of the house, Gaines Ridge “has its share of ghosts: the woman who screams and calls out, and has been seen from outside floating past the windows, the incessant crying of a baby, the aroma of pipe smoke in one room when nobody in the house is smoking, and the reflected image of a tall, gaunt man, dressed in black with a long beard.”
Castro’s Tree: Located behind the former Progressive Era newspaper office in downtown Camden, this pecan tree is said to be visited by an unusual informant who has an uncanny knowledge about events in Camden, including the names of wanted criminals. Newspaper editor Mark Curl said that Castro appeared to be a young, clean-cut black man who often rode up to the tree on his bicycle in the late 1970s. Curl indicated that there was something otherworldly about Castro especially since no one else in town had ever heard of him or seen him, including the police.
New Providence Cemetery: Located off County Road 13, this cemetery is also known as the Coy Cemetery. Visitors to this small cemetery have reported seeing an eerie, unexplained light over the graves and disembodied voices from unknown sources. Some witnesses have even reported hearing their names called out by unseen spirits. Surnames of those buried in this cemetery include members of the Dumas and Luker families.
Snow Hill Institute: Located off State Highway 21 at Snow Hill, this historic school was founded in 1893 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. A wide variety of ghosts have been seen on this old campus and at the Rhumpf Slave Cemetery nearby. For more information about this supposedly haunted school, I recommend that you read “Haunted Alabama Black Belt” by David Higdon and Brett Talley.
Unfilled Hole: Located on the northwest corner of Camden’s downtown square in front of the Old Courthouse, this unusual hole is now covered by a large, brick flowerbed. Historians say that a large pecan tree once stood on this spot, and it was used for public hangings more than a century ago. Supposedly, the spot beneath the hanging limb would not stay filled, despite the county’s best efforts, and visitors to the site today report feeling “cold spots.” This “haunted hole” is also described in “Haunted Alabama Black Belt” by Higdon and Talley.
Intersection of County Roads 59 and 24: Located north of Pine Apple, this spooky intersection is said to be haunted by the ghosts of slaves and Civil War soldiers. Visitors to the site at night say that they’ve heard the rattling of chains. Others say that the sound is caused by the clanking of military gear as ghostly soldiers march through the area after dark.
Gee’s Bend Ferry Landing: Located at the end of Ellis Island Road, northwest of Camden, this landing is said to be the site of a ghostly light that rises to the surface of the Alabama River. Witnesses say that this light grows up to 60 feet in diameter, and some say that it may have something to do with a military plane that crashed near the landing decades ago. Other say it’s the ghostly remnants of someone who drowned there while others say it has to do with a riverboat disaster.
House of the Dancing Skulls: Located on County Road 51 north of the Rosebud community, the attic of this house was supposedly filled with human skulls. The belief is that spirits from these skulls 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.” For more information about this story, check out “Ghosts and Goosebumps: Ghost Stories, Tall Tales and Superstitions from Alabama” by Jack and Olivia Solomon.
Other nominees for this year’s list included the Coy Railroad Crossing, Moore Academy in Pine Apple, the Millie Hole on Pine Barren Creek, Prairie Bluff Cemetery, Dale Masonic Lodge in Camden, Camden Cemetery, the Wilcox Female Institute in Camden and the Liddell-Burford House in Camden.
Before I close this thing out, I want to make it perfectly clear that more than a few of these places are on private property, so if you get the idea to visit any of these places (especially at night) you’d better get permission first to avoid 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 Wilcox County. You can reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.