Group dives deep into Tuscaloosa’s haunted history


CW / Rebecca Griesbach

Kinsley Centers | @kinsleycenters, Staff Reporter

The Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours will not be held this year, but they do plan to be back next year. However, that does not have to put a halt to learning more about the spooky history the city has this Halloween. 

Tuscaloosa has more haunted areas than people might be aware of. Students, employees and community members pass by these locations every day without realizing what they could potentially come across.

David Higdon, founder of the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group, founded the group in 2005. He said that since then, they have seen, heard and experienced various paranormal activity encounters over the years.

The Historic Drish House and the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group came together to host the Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours years ago. The tour is based off of the “Haunted Tuscaloosa” book written by Higdon and Brett Talley. They are also the authors of “Haunted Alabama Blackbelt.” 

“I didn’t want to just write a story about creepy stuff,” Higdon said. “I was wanting to write a story about Tuscaloosa and the history of what’s behind [each] ghost … It’s the personality, it’s the people behind the story.”

Laura Lineberry, a paranormal investigator, is one of the tour guides and said that they’ve experienced paranormal activity while giving the tours. Those along for the ride are always on edge for what spooky trivia they’ll be told next.

“There is definitely an entertainment factor,” Lineberry said. “There’s people that expect things to jump out at them and stuff like that. That’s not what we do. What we’re doing is sharing legitimate, solid claims that have been reported for decades.”

John Pace, a sophomore majoring in history and economics, is the vice president of the University of Alabama Undergraduate Historical Society. He’s well-aware of the University’s spooky legends. When people ask Pace about hauntings, he uses it as a conversation starter to then inform people on the root of the history.

“Sometimes you need that little bit of a hook to get more interested,” Pace said. “Someone tells you one story, and you’re like, ‘Woah, that’s really interesting.’ Sometimes that’s what gets a lot of people to look into this and hear more of the history of this university.”

During these tours, attendees will learn the haunted and general history of Tuscaloosa as they take a step back in time and get spooked. The tour begins and ends at the Historic Drish House with many eerie places in between.

The following spooky legends are courtesy of David Higdon and the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group.

Greenwood Cemetery

This cemetery was laid out in 1821, and the tour guides share Civil War history at this stop, as confederate soldiers are buried here. A haunting story shared during this stop of the tour is the story of Abby Snow. She was 10 months old when she passed away from a cholera outbreak in 1844. She is known as the “crying child,” since there are reports that her cries were heard near her grave. Lineberry said that to this day, toys and flowers are laid at Snow’s grave.

Woods Quad

Here, tourists can find the spirit of William W. Alston, which originated from the fatal duel of two students in 1877. The tour explains that the two men were members of rival fraternities, and the aggression progressed when Alston said something untoward about his rival’s cousin. The only way to resolve the problem was a duel. Harrison struck Alston, who fell from the second-floor veranda and died. The spirit of Alston haunts the second floor. The claims at Woods Quad include people experiencing cold spots, smelling gunpowder and hearing gunshots.

Gorgas House

Constructed in 1829, the Gorgas house was the home of Amelia Gayle Gorgas and Josiah Gorgas. It includes a guesthouse, a dining hall and now a museum. The claims in the house are people hearing the sound of voices and footsteps coming down the stairs. The “step, step, clink” sound of the footsteps indicate Joseph Gorgas’s sword knocking against the wall, Lineberry said. The spirits that haunt the Gorgas House and surrounding areas are not frightening or threatening, according to the tour guides. Those who have encountered the spirits of the Gorgas family feel a sense of protection.

The Historic Mound

The tour then makes its way to the Mound, and the tour guides explain the significance and history of this area. Years ago, three professors once had their ashes spread here so “they would never have to leave the school behind.” It has been said that the three men on the Mound can be seen on certain nights but will disappear if spoken to. 

The Quad

It was known for the Quad to hold military drills and parades during the Civil War. Some nights, the sound of the long drumroll to signal cadets to prepare for the day that Union troops may come is still heard. The sight of soldiers on the Quad have been reported as well, Lineberry said.

Gorgas Library

Amelia Gorgas was a librarian for 23 years. Students claim to have heard the sound of things moving on the fourth floor, and employees have said to have seen Gorgas’ ghost. The tour emphasizes that her spirit has a comforting presence and is not frightful. 

Jemison Van de Graff Mansion

Named after Robert Jemison Jr., the home was constructed between 1859 and 1862. The tour said some of the claims are the sound of heavy footsteps being heard, the apparition of a little girl and a crashing noise that sounds as if a dozen china cabinets were thrown to the floor.

Historic Drish House

The Historic Drish House is one of “the most haunted locations in the state,” according to Kathryn Tucker Windham’s research. The group has recorded, experienced and documented paranormal activity here, Lineberry said. John Drish died in the home, and Sarah Drish, his wife, wanted to lie him in wake. She lit candles to put in the window and requested that the same be done for her when she died. When Sarah Drish died, the candles were nowhere to be found. Now, some passersby claim to see a fire in the house’s tower. People still call to report a fire in the tower, Lineberry said, because they see the flickering lights of the candles, and there is no fire.