There are a million reasons why someone might want to come to the south and a million things to do, see and experience while you are here. There are beautiful cities, rich, wonderful foods and historical buildings and sites that mark major turning points in the history of the United States, but NOTHING seems quite as intriguing as the South’s deep rooted love and connection with… ghost stories.
I have been asked dozens of questions about living in the south from the far-fetched (Do you have indoor plumbing?) To the truly absurd (Do you fry everything you eat?) In case you are curious, I do have indoor plumbing and don’t actually know anyone who still uses an outhouse. I don’t fry everything I cook, but if I could, I just might! The one question I have never been asked is, ‘Are there really that many haunted houses in the south?’ My answer to this would be a resounding… YES!!!
For the next several months I will be tackling as many of the local haunts as I can and delving deeply into their past to see just what we can uncover. For some of my visits I will be interviewing owners, curators and even those who believe they have seen a ghost in these famous or not so famous haunted places. I will also be sneaking out and trying to get a glimpse of these spectral beings and the properties they haunt and even snapping a photo or two to get you, the reader, a little closer to the south; a little closer to the place I call home.
I set out to find as many haunted houses or buildings as I could and then narrowed it down to the ones with documented sightings. These included any photos of full bodied apparitions or unexplained orbs, any EVP’s that were taken with clear disembodied voices and of course, any homes or buildings that are on the National Historic Registry and are open at any time for tours based on their individual hauntings. What I found was mind blowing. In Columbus, Mississippi (the town where I was raised) there are five documented cases of hauntings within private residents and ALL are available for tours in the early spring months and are registered as landmarks. My whole life I knew of only one, Waverly Mansion, and now I find four more have been there all along just under my nose.
I could write for days and never come close to a complete listing of every haunt that I was able to find just in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia & Louisiana! So, I have decided to find the ones that I hold particularly near and dear in my heart and share them with you.
Just down the road from my current home in Alabama is a very famous haunt that boasts an extremely interesting story to go along with its very long history.
Pickens County courthouse is located in Carrolton, Alabama in Courthouse Square. Easily one of the more famous haunted buildings from this area, the courthouse has seen its share of Ghost Hunters and ghost investigations. With a little digging on the Internet you can come across a ton of information as well as some pretty incredible EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) that are available from the investigations that took place there.
The Pickens County Courthouse has a long history dating back to the early 1800’s, but it would be November 16, 1876 that would change the town and add a harrowing twist to the courthouse’s history. It was on this date that the Courthouse burned to the ground for the second time. The first burning had come at the hands of Union Army soldiers during the chaos of the American Civil War. Carrolton Courthouse was the pride of Pickens County during those years mostly because it had been rebuilt during the Reconstruction Era, a time when money and resources were scarce for all Americans. The locals became so outraged at the second burning of their beloved courthouse that they set out for some swift justice of their own. Although nothing was ever proven, the local people believed that a hooligan by the name of Henry Wells was the perpetrator of the heinous crime.
Henry Wells was never given the opportunity to plead his case in court… his would be a much more malevolent and infamous type of justice. As a black man during a very tumultuous time in our nation’s history, a time when racism was rampant, Henry Wells quickly became an easy target. He was accused of burning down the courthouse and was arrested two years later in 1878 and charged with arson, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and assault with intent to murder. He was whisked away and taken to the brand new jailhouse located inside the newly re-constructed courthouse. When word of his whereabouts spread, an angry mob was assembled and made their way to the courthouse.
As the mob assembled at the base of the courthouse steps, Wells became afraid and (as the story goes) it was then that he began to shout: “I am innocent. If you kill me, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your lives.” Just as they were about to break through the doors and drag Wells from the courthouse, lightning struck and Wells was killed instantly. What remained behind was a permanent imprint of Wells face etched into the windowpane in the room where he stood as he died that night.
No one in the town noticed the window until daylight broke and it was then, while walking past the courthouse steps, that locals looked up and saw the haunting image of Henry Wells looking down over Carrolton, Alabama.
That same piece of glass is still in the window to this day and no amount of washing, scraping or the passage of time can remove the stain.
If you go to the courthouse in Carrolton you will find an old historical marker which reads:
If you walk just a few yards from that sign you will find a magnifying viewer that points to a lone window on the courthouse and for twenty-five cents, you can get a close up look into the face of Henry Wells.
Just remember, if you are ever in these neck of the woods, be sure to bring your camera and maybe, just maybe you might get a glimpse of this Sothern Ghost.
By: CK Webb