Halloween is the day after tomorrow, and in the spirit of that creepy holiday, I give you today my list of the “Top 10 Spookiest Places in Monroe County, Alabama.”
I compiled this list after discussing the subject with a number of the county’s lifelong residents and individuals well versed in the county’s long history. I was surprised by a number of their suggestions and even learned a little bit about a few places that I’d never heard of.
Without further ado, here’s the list, in no particular order:
1. McConnico Cemetery: Large cemetery, located off Monroe County Road 1 at Perdue Hill, containing some of the count’s oldest graves. According to “Haunted Places: The National Directory” by Dennis William Hauck, this cemetery is the setting for the county’s best known ghost story.
“The phantoms of 12 Union horsemen have been seen riding near this old graveyard,” Hauck wrote. “Captain and Mrs. Charles Locklin witnessed the ghostly parade in autumn of 1865. The Locklins were in their carriage early one morning when two columns of six soldiers on gray horses passed by on each side of them.
“Each member of the eerie troop wore white gloves, with his hands crossed on the pommel of his saddle, and every one wore a white bandage wrapped tightly around his head. The two respected citizens were certain they had been victims of Confederate solider Lafayette Sigler, who ambushed Northern patrols, killed them and cut off their ears. Sigler’s collection of Yankee ears was said to have been quite impressive.”
This first encounter with the ghost soldiers is also said to have occurred on Mount Pleasant Road and sporadic sightings were reported over the hundred years.
2. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Train Tunnel at Tunnel Springs: This abandoned train tunnel is now home to hundreds of thumb-sized bats. Completed in 1899, this 840-foot-long tunnel was built by four crews of 15 men each working day and night using simple equipment. One crew is said to have worked from the north side while the other worked from the south. The story also goes that a number of workers died during the construction of this eerie tunnel.
3. Old Monroe County Courthouse: Nicknamed “America’s Most Famous Courthouse,” this building was constructed in 1903 and is now one of the most often photographed buildings in the state. From 1903 to the construction of a new courthouse in 1963, this building housed most county offices and was the center of the county’s court system. It’s most famous for being the model of the courtroom seen in the trial scenes in the movie version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Now the home of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, frequent quests say that the upstairs part of the building can get very creepy on quiet nights.
“Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze,” one man said. “You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or even there to be smoking.”
4. Claiborne Masonic Lodge: Located now at Perdue Hill on U.S. Highway 84, this building, pictured above, is the oldest existing manmade structure in Monroe County. Built in 1819 at Claiborne, this building was used as a courtroom, town hall, church, school and one of the earliest Masonic lodges in the state. Visited by Revolutionary War hero, Marquis De Lafayette, in 1825, this building was moved a few miles east to Perdue Hill in 1884. Lafayette was the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War at the time of his visit.
5. Nancy Mountain at Haine’s Island: Located off Monroe County Road 17 at Franklin, this locale is the site of one of the county’s most enduring ghost stories, the story of “Crazy Nancy.”
Variations of this story exist, but the most common version says that the ghost of a woman, “Crazy Nancy” or “Aunt Nancy,” can be seen walking up and down the hill to Davis Ferry in hopes of meeting her son and husband who were claimed by the Civil War, never to return. Witnesses say that this female phantom is seen walking with a lantern (or long walking stick) in one hand and with a bucket of water in the other.
According to George B. Singleton’s book, “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” you’ll know this spirit by her long, gingham dress, her old bonnet and the long, white hair that hangs out the back of her bonnet and all the way down to her waist.
6. The C.L. Hybart House: Located on Hybart Drive in Monroeville, this restored 1920s house is one of Monroe County’s most distinctive buildings. Built in the manner of a Mediterranean Spanish villa, including stucco, tile and columns made with stones from Limestone Creek. Now owned by the Monroe County Heritage Museums and operated under the name of the “Hybart House Museum and Cultural Center,” this reputedly haunted residence was built by the late Charlie Hybart, a colorful local attorney who became known for holding lavish parties that were attended by VIPs and politicians from all over the state.
7. Monroe County Public Library: Located on Pineville Road, this building houses over 60,000 volumes and is located in the former LaSalle Hotel. The library has been in this location since 1984, but the building is located on one of the oldest parcels of land recognized for continuous usage in Monroe County. In the past, the property has been used as a stable, various homes, a Methodist parsonage and as the LaSalle Hotel. Its famous guests included actor, Gregory Peck, who visited Monroeville during the 1960s.
More than a few library patrons have claim to have had unusual experiences on the library’s second floor.
“Once you leave the bright, sunny ground floor and climb the stairs to the second floor, where many of the former rooms were located, you just get a creepy feeling all over. Like most hotels, this building probably saw its fair share of visitors from all over, and I think that a few of them just decided to stay.”
8. The Robbins Hotel: Now a hunting club, this historic former hotel is located in downtown Beatrice, adjacent to town hall. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel was located just off the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and was operated for many years by Miss Minnie Robbins. The hotel’s patrons were largely made up of railroad travelers, and the hotel featured 14 rooms, each with a fireplace.
9. Gin House Bottom: Located north of Monroeville, near the intersection of the Ridge Road and State Highway 41 (formerly called the Camden Highway), there were once a number of stores and family residences in this area, which took its name from a local cotton gin.
Also in this area, a tale sprung to life about a headless horseman that was seen by a number of county residences.
“On moonlit nights, when one could see, the headless rider could be seen riding the road along Gin Bottom Road,” George Singleton wrote in one of his Monroe Journal columns. “This was a common sight to the men who had to travel the road late at night after a hard day at the cotton gin. I have been told that on several occasions, the horse and rider would pass so close to a traveler that he could try to reach out and touch the headless rider.”
10. The Devil’s Bowl: Located about three miles off of State Highway 21 in the vicinity of the Megargel and Goodway communities, this geological oddity is a pool that’s about 30 feet in diameter. Also called “The Devil’s Soup Bowl,” no surface stream feeds this freshwater pool of deep, dark water, which is said to be one of “Monroe County’s strangest sights.” Locals claim that this pool is bottomless. Possible explanations for its existence vary from an ancient meteor impact to the idea that it’s the shaft left behind by dead volcano.
Before I wrap this thing up, I want to make clear that more than a few of these places are more than likely located on private property, so if you get the idea to visit any of these places (especially at night) you’d better get permission first or run the risk of trespassing. Also, if you plan to visit any of these places, especially cemeteries, respect your surroundings.
In the end, I’d like to hear from you if you know a good local ghost story or have information about a spooky location in Monroe County. You can reach me by calling 251-578-1492, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.