Ghosts of the Black Belt

Located in County | What you’ll find:


photo collage from Live Oak Cemetery, courtesy of Ben Burford

Ghost stories and ghostly events echo from the banks of our rivers and the front porches of our historic homes. An antebellum home with a restaurant now known for pie but originally filled with ghostly whispers is but one example. Read on to learn where you’ll get the best boo for your buck. (And good pie, too!)

Learn more about the annual Tale-Tellin’ Festival, a haunted hay ride, ghost walks and other events focused on the spooky side of southwest Alabama.

Gaines Ridge Dinner Club (933 Alabama Highway 10 in Camden).

Haunted by a woman seen floating past its windows, this 1827 antebellum home was turned into a fine dining hall in the mid 1980’s. Try their famous Black Bottom Pie, one of Alabama’s “100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die.” Owner Betty Kennedy believes there are several ghosts at the site. One night, someone was heard calling out from the empty kitchen. Other spooky tales include the sounds of a baby crying (one was accidentally smothered in the home), the smell of pipe smoke, and the image of a tall, thin man with a long beard dressed in dark clothing.

Interior of Gaines Ridge Plantation Restaurant. Photo courtesy of

Interior of Gaines Ridge Plantation Restaurant. Photo courtesy of

Gaineswood Plantation (805 South Cedar Ave. in Demopolis).

According to legend, a young woman with a passion for piano died here. She was unable to be returned home promptly for burial. Her music sometimes still echoes through the house on quiet moonlit nights. Another of Gaineswood’s tales was the love affair between a woman and a French count that ended in a broken heart—and death. The woman’s body was buried in the cellar. Footsteps have been heard creeping up those basement stairs.

Haunted well at Old Sparta, Conecuh County.

Screams, yells and whispers, so the story goes, emanate from the well. The site is rumored to sit atop an old Indian burial ground. It is also the site where a gallows was once erected and two different courthouses were burned to the ground.

Sturdivant Hall (713 Mabry St. in Selma).

Former Sturdivant Hall owner John Parkman was accused of shady dealings and cotton speculation during the Civil War. He was sent to prison in 1866. Parkman was fatally wounded during a jailbreak attempt staged by friends. But he had vowed never to leave his beloved Sturdivant Hall until his name was cleared.

Strange happenings have been seen ever since, including howling winds, a ghostly male figure, objects that move on their own, the creaking of footsteps when no one is there, and doors that mysteriously open and close. In addition to the Parkman haunting, two ethereal little girls have been seen gazing out an upstairs window.

Eliza Battle ghost ship in Bladon Springs.

According to a report in the Mobile Advertiser, the steamboat Eliza Battle was destroyed by fire on the river near Pennington, on March 1, 1858. Roughly 33 people were killed, many freezing to death in the cold waters of late winter. Sightings of the burning steamboat just north of Pennington to Nanafalia downriver are still considered an ill omen for current vessels.

Curse of Nancy Mountain in Monroe County (Haines Island).

The vision of an old woman, Nancy, can be seen walking down a path to the river, according to writer Josh Dewberry. Nancy lived at a small farm with her husband and only son before and during the Civil War. Her son joined the Confederate cavalry and soon died in battle. His body was never returned home. Broken-hearted because she was unable to give him a proper burial, Nancy would walk the road at night distraught, an act she does, so they say, to this day.

No matter the location, you are sure to find a spooky encounter when visiting Southwest Alabama. To experience these creepy locations yourself, check out our online calendar. To get a fright right from the comfort of your house, visit the Ghost Trail video page to watch first-hand accounts from real storytellers of their time visiting these haunted homes.

The area’s most beloved ghost storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham (1918-2011) brought many of these stories to fame in her books, including the classic 13 Alabama Ghosts. You’ll see her breathe life into these and other ghost stories on the Ghost Trail video channel, too.

Don’t miss these great events during 2015

Oct 9-10 | Kathryn T. Windham: Tale Tellin’ Festival                   
Selma. Three nationally known storytellers and a vocal string band/comedy troupe from Birmingham highlight this family friendly event with folk tales, spooky tales, sacred tales and hilarious misadventures. 334.878.2787.

Oct 10 | Kenan’s Mill Bluegrass Festival
Selma. A celebration of rural life and traditions at historic Kenan’s Mill featuring live music, stone ground cornmeal, folk-life demonstrations, arts and crafts vendors and children’s activities. 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. 334.412.0722.

Oct 16 & 24 | Haunted History Tours at Old Cahawba 
Orrville (near Selma). You don’t have to believe in ghosts to hear the past speaking to you. On this rare, moon lit tour you’ll be shuttled to this ghost town’s most haunted spots. Historical accounts of personal experiences and a paranormal investigation demo on the art of “ghost hunting.” Advanced tickets required. 334.875.7241.

Oct 17 | Haunted History Tours
Selma. Enjoy a spooky adventure through historic houses & Old Live Oak Cemetery. You’ll be shuttled to Selma’s most haunted locations. Advanced tickets required. 334.875.7241.

Oct 17 | Hear the Dead Speak Walking Tour
Orrville (near Selma). Be an “above-ground archaeologist” & discover messages in the relic landscape left behind by the town’s long dead residents. Bring walking shoes, camera & curiosity for guided walking tour. Meet 15 minutes before the tour at the visitor center. 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. 334.872.8058.

Oct 17 | The KTW Ghost Walk
Thomasville. Ghost stories from our most beloved citizen Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham.  Music & vendors + a carnival for the kids. Costume Contest, 5k run, pumpkin patch, hay rides. 334.637.3304.

Oct 23 -24 | Tombigbee Haints and Haunts
Demopolis. Come aboard for an evening excursion through the darker side of ‘the people’s city’. Join us for itombi ikbi: a coffin maker’s tale, spine-tingling stories about real people, true history, & ghosts! $15. 334.289.9644.

Oct 24 & Oct 31 | St. Stephens Park Haunted Hay Ride
St. Stephens. This ride will make several stops so children can get off and trick or treat at each spooky location. Snacks & drinks available in the store. Dark – 10 p.m. 251.247.2622.

Oct 29 | Ghost, and Ghouls, and Goblins, Oh My
Monroeville.  A spooktacular storytelling contest in the library courtyard 12 p.m – 5 p.m. Kathryn Tucker Windham’s “The Red Lady of Huntingdon College” from 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey will be presented by the Red Lady herself. Contestants prepare to tell a 10 minute or less Halloween or fall original story. Spectators are welcome! Cash prizes 251.575.8271.

Oct. 31 | Brewton Haunted Trail                 
Brewton. Jennings Park. Enjoy a spooky experience through the trails of Brewton. Not for pets or small children. 6-10 p.m. 251.809.1770.

Oct 31 | Monster Mash Bash
Repton. Old Dees Bldg Featuring Repton’s own House Band! Buddy Bell & Southern Tradition!
$20 Adult / Child Free. Bring a snack & drink & dance the night away! Costumes Optional! 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. 251.714.4445.

article by Barry Hendrix

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