By Edith Parten
The faint cries of a baby heard across Greenwood Cemetery; a man falls to his death in his home; a deadly duel from the balcony of Woods Hall on the University of Alabama campus. These are just three of the many tales you’ll hear on the Haunted Tuscaloosa Tour.
I recently took the Haunted Tuscaloosa trolley tour that began at what is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city, the Drish House.
The Drish house, built in 1837, is a historic plantation house just off of Greensboro Ave. on 17th Street. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At night, the house looks spooky from the outside, but when you step inside it just appears to be an old house with a beautiful chandelier in the main room. The tour begins at the bottom of the staircase, the exact spot where Dr. John Drish met his demise.
The story goes…Dr. Drish fell to his death, reportedly intoxicated, from the second story to the bottom of the stairs inside the house. After her husband’s funeral, Sarah Drish saved the candles from the ceremony and requested that those same candles be used for her funeral; however, the candles could not be found at the time of Sarah’s death—her wish never fulfilled.
Maybe this is why the house is known for its story of phantom fire sightings. Some have reported seeing fires burning in the third story tower of the house—assuming that it’s Sarah’s ghost lighting the candles that were supposed to be used at her funeral.
I didn’t see any fires other than the candles lit for the tour. Our tour guide told us that over the years the house had been used as a wrecking company, a church and a school.
The house is also featured in Kathryn Tuck Windham’s “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.”
The house has been renovated and is now used for hosting events and weddings.
We hopped on a trolley that seats about 30 people. Our first stop was at Greenwood Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Tuscaloosa with the grave markers dating back to 1821.
Dr. Drish is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but he’s not the only soul buried there. Confederate soldiers, some of the city’s important leaders and many children are buried here.
A cholera epidemic hit Tuscaloosa in the 1800s and many of the victims were children. Many of them are buried at Greenwood. One of the youngest victims, Abby Snow, died from the disease when she was just 10-months old. Some say you can hear her cries at night. Also, the ghost of 12-year-old Virginia Summers is said to play hide-and-seek in the cemetery. During the time of the Civil War the young girl was thrown from a pony and died after hitting her head on a cobblestone street.
After departing the cemetery, the tour took us to the University of Alabama campus where we visited Woods Quad, The Round House, the Mound, Gorgas House and the Gorgas Library—each said to be haunted with their own ghosts.
William W. Alston, for whom the University business school building is named, reportedly haunts Woods Hall. Legend has it that Alston and Kibble Harrison had an argument over their perspective fraternities, Sigma Chi and Delta Kappa Epsilon. The squabble ended with Harrison challenging Alston to a duel on the second floor of Woods Hall. With pistols in hand, the men counted their paces, turned and shot at each other. Alston was shot and fell over the second-story banister to his death. Alston’s bullet missed Harrison.
After the dueling story, we walked a short distance to the historic Gorgas House that was built in 1829—surviving the burning of campus during the Civil War. It is said that Josiah Gorgas, the seventh University of Alabama President, can be heard tapping his cane and walking across the wood floors and stairs.
We then stopped by the Little Round House, a round white structure that was originally built as a guardhouse and was once home for the drum corps. Friendly cadets purportedly haunt it.
The last stop was the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, named after the matron and librarian of the University. Most paranormal reports focus on the fourth floor of the library where many students claim to have heard things moving around. Some have witnessed books flying from the shelves. It is believed that Amelia Gorgas herself haunts the library, but we are told she is a friendly ghost.
Our tour headed back to the Drish House where it ended. The entire tour was about 90 minutes and was worth the stories; however, we did not get to go inside any of the buildings on campus. But you can go back on your own time during the day to visit the buildings on campus. The Gorgas House offers tours of the house during the week.
You can also visit other reportedly haunted sites on campus that the tour did not show us, such as Smith Hall that houses the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
If you want to take the tour next October be sure to visit http://www.hauntedtuscaloosatours.com.