Northern Alabama Ghost Walks Oct 11, 2015 15:23:06 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 11, 2015 15:23:06 GMT -5
Northern Alabama Ghost Walks
ATHENS, Ala. – The iron lantern rhythmically swung, its eerie glow casting shadows on the century-old homes. At the columned Vasser-Lovvorn House (above) tucked next to Athens’ oldest cemetery, Bill Ward recalled the ghost story of the woman, so distraught by the death of her husband, she attempted to hang herself from the rafters. “She is buried in that cemetery, but you see, even though she died, Pattie Vasser still lives here, or at least her ghost does,” Ward said with a wry grin.
Clutching the lantern, Ward, wearing a top hat and carrying a walking cane, lumbered down the streets of downtown. A trail of spectators – a mix of believers in the paranormal and skeptics of the supernatural – snaked behind him. Mixing history with the haunted, ghost tours and haunt walks have become annual October traditions in cities and towns across the Southeast, from Savannah, Georgia, and Louisville, Kentucky, to Decatur and Athens. “Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? When you’re afraid is when you feel the most alive,” said Jacque Reeves, organizer of the Huntsville, Madison and Decatur Ghost Walks. More than fear, the entertaining walks provide a connection between the present and the past of places steeped in the history of the War Between the States.
“This is an awesome way to learn about the history of your town. It’s so much better than those thick history books in school,” said Bill Davis, of Athens.
During the kickoff to the Athens Haunt Walk season Tuesday night, 20 people saw the windows in Founders Hall, where the students of the then-named Athens Female Institute, watched Confederate and Union soldiers battle. They heard about the great 1893 fire that burned the wooden buildings on Marion Street. They walked up the steps of the Houston Library where a crowd gathered on the night voters elected George Houston the state’s first governor after reconstruction. For those who believe, the tales begin only when the history lesson ends.
“Oh, of course, I believe in ghosts. There is no way I can’t. I have had experiences. I’ve never seen one, but I have felt them touch me and felt their presence around me,” said Shelia Tucker, of Athens. “I’ve never had an experience before, but who knows. Who am I to say they don’t exist,” said Mary Ann Gregor, who moved to Athens from Ohio three years ago. “For me, this is a way to get to know my new hometown. When I moved here, I wanted to learn as much about it as possible. The walks are very informative and entertaining.”
Ward enchanted listeners with the mysterious and unexplainable sights and sounds of the Houston Library, Vasser-Lovvorn home and Founders Hall. His favorite story involves a golden-haired opera singer who fulfilled her promise to return to Athens. Abigail Burns performed with a theater troupe at McCandless Hall in 1914 and captivated the sold-out audiences. After repeated encores, Burns vowed to return to Athens if it was the last thing she did. That night, on the journey from Athens to Florence, lightning spooked the horse pulling her carriage and it fell into a ravine, killing the singer. She was still clutching the roses she received in Athens when her corpse was removed from the scene. “People have reported seeing a woman in a long white dress and golden hair through the window of McCandless Hall. They say they smell roses,” Ward said. “See, Abigail kept her promise. Coming back to Athens was the last thing she ever did.”
The Athens Haunt Walks take place every Tuesday in October at 6:30 and 7 p.m. with Ward and historian Shane Black leading the tours. Black, author of The Spirits of Athens, started the walks eight years ago. The two-hour tours cover a mile and cost $5. To reserve a spot for one of the walks, which often sell out, contact the Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association at 256-232-5411.
“Will you see a ghost? You just might, if you believe,” Ward said with a wink and a tap of his cane. “You just might.”
Decatur: Jacque Reeves and her crew of guides returned to Old Decatur this year to pass on tales of the city’s most famous haunts. Held every Saturday in October at 6 p.m., the two-hour walks explore Dead Man’s Alley, the Old State Bank and the infamous boat captain Simp McGhee. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. To participate, gather at the Old State Bank 30 minutes before the walk.
Other local haunt experiences include the Madison Ghost Walk on Fridays at 6 p.m. and the Huntsville Ghost Walks through the Old Town, Twickenham and Haunted Downtown districts on Saturdays at 6 p.m.
Source: Catherine Godbey, The Decatur Daily, October 11, 2015.