One of the best-known and widely shared books about the South, Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey has haunted the imaginations of generations of delighted young readers since it was first published in 1969. Written by nationally acclaimed folklorists Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh, the book recounts Alabama’s thirteen most ghoulish and eerie ghost legends. Curated with loving expertise, these thirteen tales showcase both Windham and Figh’s masterful selection of stories and their artful and suspenseful writing style. In crafting stories treasured by children and adults alike, the authors tell much more than ghost tales. Embedded in each is a wealth of fact and folklore about Alabama history and the old South. “I don’t care whether you believe in ghosts,” Windham was fond of saying. “The good ghost stories do not require that you believe in ghosts.” Millions of readers cherish memories of being chilled as teachers and parents read them unforgettable stories like “The Unquiet Ghost at Gaineswood,” about the ghost of Evelyn Carter, who fills this Demopolis antebellum mansion with midnight musical lamentations because her body wasn’t returned to her native Virginia, and “The Phantom Steamboat of the Tombigbee,” about the wreck of the steamboat Eliza Battle, which caught fire on the way to Mobile and sank one February night in 1858. People who live along the river say the flaming steamboat wreck still rises on cold nights, its cotton cargo blazing across the waves while its terrified survivors cry for help from the icy water. The title’s “Jeffrey” refers to a friendly ghost who resides in the Windham home and who served as Windham’s unofficial collaborator in this work and the subsequent books in this popular series, all of which are now available in high-quality reproductions of their spooky originals.
|Publisher:||University of Alabama Press|
|Edition description:||facsimile of the first edition with new material|
|Product dimensions:||7.10(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||5 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Kathryn Tucker Windham grew up in Thomasville, Alabama, the youngest child in a large family of storytellers. For many years a Selma resident, Windham was a freelance writer, collected folklore, and photographed the changing scenes of her native South. A nationally recognized storyteller and a regular fixture on Alabama Public Radio, her commentaries were also featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Her other books include Jeffrey Introduces Thirteen More Southern Ghosts,Jeffrey’s Latest Thirteen, Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey, Thirteen Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey, and Thirteen Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey. Writer and folklorist Margaret Gillis Figh was a frequent contributor to Southern Folklore Quarterly.
Read an Excerpt
13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey
By Kathryn Tucker Windham, Margaret Gillis Figh
The University of Alabama PressCopyright © 2014 University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
The Ghost of The Angry Architect
THE BARBED WIRE GATE HAS a rusty "No Trespassing" sign stapled to it. Beyond the gate a rutted clay road leads across a rocky pasture, skirts a clump of tall cedars, and ends at the foot of an overgrown knoll.
On the top of that promontory once stood Rocky Hill Castle, the showplace of the Tennessee River Valley area.
So imposing was its architecture—or so remote was its location—that Rocky Hill Castle escaped the fate of many of the other antebellum mansions in that area during the final months of the Civil War: deliberate burning by Federal troops. However, neglect and vandalism combined to destroy Rocky Hill Castle, leaving only a pile of rubble and a long, silent avenue of cedars to mark the spot where the castle stood.
Rocky Hill Castle was the kind of house that invited—even required—ghosts. And the ghosts were there almost from the time Rocky Hill Castle was completed.
In 1832 twenty-six-year-old James E. Saunders moved from Brunswick County, Virginia, to Rocky Hill, three miles east of the established village of Courtland in Lawrence County, Alabama. Saunders was a lawyer, a former student at the University of Georgia. He had left the university at the age of eighteen to marry fifteen-year-old Mary Frances Watkins. Older people shook their heads and said, privately, that the couple was much too young for marriage. But James and Mary lived happily together for sixty-five years, many of those years at Rocky Hill Castle.
Nobody knows the exact date that Rocky Hill Castle was built, but it was probably in the late 1840's. By that time Saunders was an established lawyer, prominent in the politics of the state, a member of the legislature, the head of a growing family, and the owner of thousands of acres of rich Tennessee River land. He was a proud man, and he wanted a home grand enough for a man of his standing and position. So he built Rocky Hill Castle.
His architect came from France, bringing with him plans for the house's identical front and rear porticos with their fluted Doric columns, the graceful spiral staircase in the entrance hall, the ornate acanthus leaf decorative motifs, the arched windows in the cupola atop the roof.
Slaves on the Saunders plantation made the bricks for the mansion, shaping them from the red clay found on the place and firing them in the large kilns built for the purpose. The warm red color of the bricks did not show, however, since it was hidden beneath a heavy coating of stucco.
It was a magnificent house, so grand that even a man of James Saunders' wealth was not able to pay for it. When the architect presented his bill, Saunders was astonished at its size. Normally a restrained man, he lost his temper completely and shouted angry threats at the equally angry Frenchman.
The Frenchman departed, cursing the mansion and its "thieving master." Not long afterward he died, still resentful over never having been paid what he felt was due him for his work.
Thus the background was laid for the ghost of that artistic and indignant Frenchman to become the first of many spectral visitors to Rocky Hill Castle.
Sometimes at night when the Saunders family was seated at the long table in the dining room having an evening meal, or when gathered around the square piano in the music room for an informal musicale, loud noises of pounding were heard in the cellar as though someone were beating on the foundations with a heavy hammer.
When the pounding first started, braver members of the family would rush down to the cellar to investigate. But no matter how fast they ran or how thoroughly they searched, they never found anything unusual in the dark, silent cellar.
Then almost as soon as the searchers rejoined the rest of the family upstairs, the heavy thuds would begin again, seeming at times to shake the whole house.
The mysterious hammering continued almost as long as the Saunders family lived at Rocky Hill Castle, and eventually they became accustomed to the noise and even laughed in a rather subdued sort of way about the angry architect's apparition trying to destroy the mansion he had created by knocking it from its very foundations.
The French architect was not the only ghost to haunt Rocky Hill Castle.
Sometime after his classic home was completed, after his quarrel with the architect, Colonel Saunders supervised the construction of a turret, six stories tall, at one end of the house. The stark Gothic tower contrasted strangely with the gentle lines of the house, but the clash of architectural styles did not disturb Colonel Saunders at all. He delighted in his tower.
From the top of the structure Colonel Saunders could see the acres and acres of land he owned, and he could watch his slaves at work in the fields. His voice was so powerful he could stand in the tower and shout orders audible to crews working a mile or more away.
With the approach of the Yankee forces during the final phase of the Civil War, the tower served as a hiding place for the family jewels, just as it had served earlier as a hiding place for Confederate soldiers and scouts.
Some of the Confederates who came to Rocky Hill Castle for refuge were sick and wounded, and Mrs. Saunders converted the top floor of the turret into an emergency infirmary for their care. Two young soldiers whose names were never known died there and were buried in the Saunders family cemetery near the house.
Although the two soldiers themselves never returned to haunt Rocky Hill Castle, one of them is said to be responsible for the next apparition who came, the ghost of a lovely young Confederate lady. It is thought that one of the dead soldiers was her sweetheart and that she was looking for him.
She made her appearance after the Saunders were moving back into Rocky Hill Castle (they sold and repurchased the property three times) after a period of absence. While Colonel Saunders was supervising the unpacking of some belongings outside the house, Mrs. Saunders pushed open the front door and hurried inside to see if Rocky Hill Castle was still as lovely as when she had last lived there.
She started up the stairway, eager to see again the panoramic view from her bedroom window, when she was startled by a lady standing on the stairs. The lady, dressed in soft blue, stood with one hand resting on the stair rail and the other hand gracefully lifting, ever so slightly, her full hoop skirt.
Recovering from her surprise at finding someone in the house, Mrs. Saunders regained her composure, remembered her manners, and held out her hand to welcome her unexpected guest.
"Good morning," Mrs. Saunders said graciously, "I am Mrs. Saun----"
Even as she spoke, the lady vanished.
Mrs. Saunders knew her family would laugh at her and tease her about "seeing things" if she told them about the incident, but she could not possibly keep such a secret. They did laugh and they did tease, but they could not shake her conviction that she had seen a little lady in blue.
Colonel Saunders stopped his teasing a few days later when he also had an encounter with the lady in blue. He had gone down to the wine cellar to get a bottle of blackberry wine, and as he was crossing the shadowy room to the wine racks he glanced up and saw a lady in blue sitting on a box and smiling at him.
The colonel, known throughout the state as a cordial and courtly host, completely lost his poise. He backed up the steps, never taking his eyes off the blue-gowned lady, slammed the cellar door shut, locked it, and did not ever return for his wine again.
The family's final encounter with ghosts came one morning when Mrs. Saunders was preparing to take her bath. There had recently been a number of unexplained noises and other such manifestations of phantom visitations, and Mrs. Saunders had become provoked over the continuing annoyances. She was standing by the walnut wardrobe trying to decide which dress she would put on when the irritating noise began again.
Mrs. Saunders was not frightened, just disgusted and impatient.
"If there's anybody there, speak up or forever hold your peace," she shouted in annoyance.
Back came the distinct reply, "Madam, I'm right here!"
The Saunders family sold the house and moved out in less than two hours!CHAPTER 2
Death Lights in the Tower
JUDGE! JUDGE! COME QUICK!! Your house is burning up!"
The excited man beat upon the door of the old mansion, trying to rouse its sleeping occupants.
Inside the house, Judge W. G. Cochrane was awakened by the commotion, and he lay still for a moment trying to identify the noise.
"Oh, no. Not again!" he muttered sleepily. But he got out of bed, threw his robe around his shoulders, and went to answer the door.
"The tower room is blazing," the Negro gasped as the judge opened the door. "You can see the fire all over this end of town!"
"All right. Let's go investigate," Judge Cochrane replied.
Together they climbed the two flights of stairs to the square tower room, and Judge Cochrane threw open the door.
The room was dark—no flames, no sparks, no smouldering ashes, not even a wisp of smoke.
The visitor shook his head in disbelief and hurried for the stairs.
"But I seen it myself! I seen it myself!" he kept repeating as Judge Cochrane escorted him down the hall and out the back door.
"Thank you for being concerned," the judge said wearily. "Good night."
"How many times has it happened now?" Judge Cochrane asked himself as he climbed back into bed. "And when will she stop burning those damnable candles?"
The "she" he referred to was Mrs. Sarah Drish, builder and longtime resident of what is now known as the Old Drish Place in Tuscaloosa. Mrs. Drish was a gentle, intelligent woman, but, according to tales told about her home, it is her frustrated ghost who returns to alarm the neighborhood by burning candles in the tower, candles which she wanted to be burned around her coffin at her death.
The story goes back to 1817 when three or four Owen brothers and their sister, Mrs. Sarah McKinney, a widow, came from Norfolk District, Virginia, to Tuscaloosa. They traveled by covered wagons, bringing their handsome mahogany furniture and other family heirlooms. Some of this furniture stood proudly in the Drish home. But that was later.
In Tuscaloosa, Mrs. McKinney met and married Dr. John Drish, a physician whose wife had died some time before. Dr. Drish had one child, Katherine, a beautiful young lady who, heartbroken by a love affair which her father's stern intervention had terminated and further tormented by a miserable marriage, had lost her mind.
About 1830 Dr. and Mrs. Drish built on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa (now in the residential-business section on 17th Street between Greensboro and Queen City avenues) an imposing plantation home.
The house can probably best be described as Southern colonial with strong Greek and Italian Renaissance influence. A wide porch with stark Doric columns extends across the rear, and the front is distinguished by two Ionic columns on each side of a large square tower rising from the middle of the porch. The main entrance to the home is through the arched door on the ground level of the three-story tower.
Above the entrance is a square room which opens into an upstairs hall. A winding stairway leads from this room to the square tower room which stands above the level of the flat roof.
At the rear of the large downstairs hall a horseshoe staircase rises in a graceful curve to the landing where straight flights, one on each side, ascend to the upstairs hall.
Mrs. Drish was evidently a woman of excellent taste and of impressive financial means. Rich velvet carpets covered the floors of her home, imported lace curtains hung at the windows, and the soft glow of candles danced in the crystal prisms of the candelabra on the marble mantel.
A lodge at the main entrance to the estate provided shelter for the slaves whose duty it was to open and close the heavy gates. A long driveway bordered by flowering shrubs and evergreens led from the gate to the house. One approach was bordered with pink and white altheas, and in the formal gardens were thousands of roses. Beyond the gardens were the fruit orchards, and beyond them stretched the fields and woods.
Such an elaborate estate required much attention. Dr. Drish was unfortunately a very poor manager. It was widely reported that he "gambled and drank—and did both very poorly." Often, the story goes, he would take a boatload of cotton from his plantation down the river to Mobile to sell. Weeks later he would return to Tuscaloosa with nothing except a terrific hangover and a remorseful conscience. Usually he had to be put to bed and carefully nursed for some time.
It was after one such trip that, tormented by his own guilt and by sadness over Katherine's increasing madness, he broke from the restraining arms of servants trying to hold him on the bed, stumbled to the curved stairway, shrieked, and died.
For many years after his death Negroes on the plantation often claimed they heard Dr. Drish's stumbling footsteps followed by his agonized cry.
Before his burial, Dr. Drish's body lay in state with candles burning around the bier, the same candles that were to provide another restless spirit with a reason for haunting the Drish house.
Mrs. Drish, after the funeral, asked that these candles be put away to be saved until her death when they were to be lighted again around her coffin.
Following Dr. Drish's death Mrs. Drish's niece, Mrs. Virginia Owen Green, her husband, Thomas Finley Green, and their children came to live with her. The happy confusion of having children in the house was a delight, particularly to Katherine who had become more and more silent and withdrawn.
Through the years Mrs. Drish maintained an alert interest in the happenings beyond her dwindling estate. Records show that, despite her old age and loss of wealth, she continued to subscribe to and readThe Philadelphia Times, The New Orleans Picayune, Godey's Ladies' Book, The London Illustrated News, Littel's Living Age, Appleton's Journal, and other periodicals. And she insisted that the accustomed ceremonies of gracious living which had been practiced in less poverty-stricken years be continued as far as was possible. As she grew older she was particularly concerned that the death rites she desired be observed, especially that the same candles which had burned after Dr. Drish's death light her coffin while she lay in state.
When Mrs. Drish died one of the old servants reminded Mrs. Green of the dead woman's almost obsessive wish.
"Ole Miss said a hundred times she want them same candles burned," the servant prompted Mrs. Green.
The niece made a search, not a very diligent one, for the candles, but they were not found. Mrs. Green had not been present for Dr. Drish's funeral and did not attach any real significance to her aunt's request concerning the candles, possibly dismissing it as a whim of an old and addled woman.
She paid no heed, except for a show of impatience, when the servant kept repeating, "We got to find them candles. Ole Miss going to walk if we don't find them candles and burn them like she say. Ole Miss sure gonna walk!"
The candles were not found, and Mrs. Drish, though given a proper funeral, was buried without their having been burned.
Soon afterwards began the strange appearances of fire in the tower room, sightings which for many years caused the occupants of the house to be ousted from their beds by false fire alarms.
Some people tried to find scientific explanations for the fiery lights in the tower, but those wise in the ways of the spirit world never doubted that "Ole Miss" was indeed walking and had come back to her home to burn her own death candles.
Most Alabama homes are content to provide habitation for only one ghost, but the Drish house has had several ghostly inhabitants. Not only have both Dr. Drish and Mrs. Drish returned, but another and in some respects even stranger presence has manifested itself there.
After the death of Mrs. Drish, Mr. and Mrs. Green closed the upstairs of the house and converted the two downstairs parlors into bedrooms. Katherine had been sent, before Mrs. Drish's death, to be cared for by family members in another state, and so there were not enough people living in the house to necessitate the use of the upstairs portion.
Mary, fourteen years old, and her sister, Nimmo, a year younger, slept in the front parlor, and their parents shared the bedroom in the converted back parlor. The folding doors between the two rooms were kept locked.
One night Mary and Nimmo had been invited to a spend-the-night party at their cousins' home, but Nimmo had a headache and stayed at home, going to bed alone in the front bedroom.
Her headache kept Nimmo from sleeping, but, when she heard the hall door open softly, she pretended to be asleep so that her mother would not worry about her. She lay quite still and kept her eyes closed while gentle hands straightened the covers and tucked them snugly around her. Not until the soft sound of the tiptoes had died away and she heard the latch on the hall door click did Nimmo open her eyes. She laughed to herself at the joke she had played on her mother.
The next morning at breakfast she confessed, "Mother, I was just pretending to be asleep when you came into my room and covered me up last night."
Her mother was amazed. "I didn't come to you
Excerpted from 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham, Margaret Gillis Figh. Copyright © 2014 University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword to the Original 1969 Edition The Strode Publishers,
The Ghost of the Angry Architect,
Death Lights in the Tower,
The Faithful Vigil at Carlisle Hall,
The Specter in the Maze at Cahaba,
The Phantom Steamboat of the Tombigbee,
The Unquiet Ghost at Gaineswood,
The Face in the Courthouse Window,
Mobile's Pipe-Smoking Sea Captain,
The Return of the Ruined Banker,
The Hole That Will Not Stay Filled,
The Red Lady of Huntingdon College,
The Crying Spirit at the Well,
The Dancing Ghost of Grancer Harrison,
Afterword to the Commemorative Edition Dilcy Windham Hilley and Ben Windham,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Can I just tell you that I LOVE Kathryn Tucker Windham. Hers were the first ghost stories I ever read and had the distinction of being the only ones that earned my Mum's approval. This book was in my house growing up and was a favorite of mine. Ms. Windham has an amazing talent for making history come to life with her stories; I remember more history from her books than I do my Alabama History class. Maybe it was the touch of mysticism that found its way into her stories. Each story is well-written and vibrant and her talent shines through.
I read these books as a child and loved them. They are spooky without being too scary. I couldn't tell you how many times I read these books. I do/did not like scary movies or books but these are different. You must check these out. Your kids have to read them. They are wonderful!