Ghosts haunt local historical sites


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Do you believe in ghosts? People say Tuscaloosa is full of them because of its rich history of violence, eccentrics and Civil War lore. Whether visiting old plantation homes or sites of untimely and gruesome deaths, ghost seekers are sure to be spooked by odd noises and visions at these historically haunted locations, where reports of ghost sightings abound.

The Kilgore House

The Kilgore House, also known as the blue Victorian-style home on the corner of Hackberry and Campus Drive was built in 1890 for Charles C. Kilgore, who worked for the Alabama Hospital for the Insane at the time of the house’s construction.

The Alabama Paranormal Society decided to investigate the house in 2009 after hearing that a lot of activity had been occurring at the house, said founder and investigator for the group Leilani Catalan. She said their cameras captured spirits of dogs, sounds of footsteps in empty rooms and a transparent hand moving up the staircase.

On one video, the team captured a bright light that quickly appeared and disappeared as it moved across the room. Viewing the video in slow motion reveals the face of a young girl within the orb, Catalan said.

The reason ghosts appear in the Kilgore House is up for debate, but the ghosts are most likely related to the deaths of Kilgore’s youngest daughter and niece at the ages of 16 and 20 respectively, said David Higdon, founder of the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group, which has also investigated the house.

After the two girls’ deaths, the Kilgores no longer opened their home to University students, and they moved shortly thereafter, leaving the house to Bryce employees and eventual decay.

The Drish House

Perhaps the most famous haunted place in Tuscaloosa is the Drish House, located downtown on 17th Street. Built in 1837, the house is haunted by Dr. John R. Drish’s wife Sarah, Higdon said.

Records show John Drish was an alcoholic, and he died after having one too many and falling down the stairs. His wake was held in the tower room of the house, and a ring of candles surrounded Drish’s body and burned throughout the ceremony.

Sarah made it known to her friends and relatives that she wanted those same candles to be used at her wake, too, but when she died, the candles could not be found.

Now, at night, the tower room of the Drish House often looks like it is on fire, and fire departments have often been called to the house only to find the room untouched. Legend has it that Sarah comes back at night to light the candles that were never lit at her wake.

Campus Haunts: Little Round House, Gorgas Library

The Little Round House is one of only four buildings that survived the fires set by Union soldiers that destroyed most buildings on the Alabama campus in 1865.

Originally a guardhouse, the Little Round House is said to be haunted by Union soldiers who were killed by Confederate soldiers at the time of the campus burning.

Rumor has it that you can hear the soldiers’ voices if you put your ear against the door of the house. Sometimes, the soldiers’ spirits can be seen roaming the Quad at night.

The Gorgas Library is said to be haunted by its namesake, Amelia Gayle Gorgas, who worked tirelessly as the campus librarian for more than 20 years.

In “Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities,” written by Daniel W. Barefoot, the library’s elevators are said to be haunted by Gorgas’s spirit. Although programmed to bypass the fourth floor, librarians have often witnessed the elevators open on the fourth floor, completely empty.

“No other explanation being readily available,” Barefoot writes, “the bizarre occurrences are attributed to the wraith of Amelia Gorgas, who continues to keep the place in order after all these years.”

University Club – ghost haunts the kitchen

Van de Graaff Mansion – The house is haunted by Van de Graaff's daughter, Priscilla, and her husband. After her husband committed suicide, Priscilla fell into a deep depression and wild hysteria and died eight years later.

Old Bryce Mental Institution - The ghosts of former mental patients who were tortured and even killed still haunt the institution.

Quad – It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of four Civil War soldiers.

Woods Quad – In the 1870s, one student murdered another student by pushing him from the balcony of Woods Hall.

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