Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Another Ghost Walk - Huntsville
As many of you know, I love ghosts. Any opportunity to learn more about them is a treat for me. This blogs is unusually long so I apologize now but I do love ghosts.
Every Saturday morning I watch the six o’clock news with Robert Reeves on WHNT in Huntsville where he plugs his and his wife’s downtown Huntsville Ghost Tours. the link to their tours is: http://www.huntsvilleghostwalk.com/index.html. Although I didn’t really like Mr. Reeves (he seems to slant sports against anything Auburn – Grrr), I decided I wanted to go.
We arrived in downtown Huntsville around five-thirty on the Courthouse Square. The place to purchase the tickets is Harrison Brothers Hardware on the corner of Franklin and Eustis Street. Guess who sold my husband the tickets? You got it, Robert Reeves. I tried to act nonchalant, like he wasn’t some local celebrity, by browsing the displays next to the cash register. Imagine my disappointment when I noticed his hair was real, not a toupee. I had always, in ranting about his disregard of Auburn, thought he wore a toupee. First myth busted and I hadn’t even started the tour. We went outside and met his wife Jacqueline Reeves, a local author and historian. She asked us which of the three tours we wanted to take. I wanted to take the Twickenham Tour because it concerned mostly pre-Civil War era houses (I do love old houses – remember Charleston?).
The Twickenham Tour seems to be the most popular and our group of over forty people was divided into two groups. Our guide, Kevin Thompson, was a very energetic man. He teaches at the Madison County Sheriff’s department and is an active member of the Madison County Paranormal Society. He was very informative about how the tour validates its ghosts, going through the various methods they use, including sensitives, mediums and plain old research.
The first house we stopped at was the Bibb House, circa early 1800s (I didn’t see a date for the house). This was built by the second governor of Alabama, Thomas Bibb. Kevin encouraged us to take pictures of the front, saying that a lot of pictures validate the ghost. It seems that Governor Bibb gave the house to his daughter, Adeline when she married James Bradley. Mr. Bradley was a gambler who was fifty thousand dollars in debt. He made one last bet to clear his debt and ended up losing the house. Adeline didn’t know about it until some gardeners arrived and began pulling out the flowers – they said the new owners didn’t like these flowers. She packed up and left the mansion. The ghost is probably Mr. Bradley. The medium talked to the ghost about “losing everything” and that “you can read about it in the Repulican (Huntsville newspaper of the time).” The medium said the ghost was full of shame and loss.
Front porch of The Bibb House
The second house, the VanValkenburg house, hasn’t been validated but Kevin seemed to like the guy/ghost. At the back of the house, a medium picked up on a guy, dressed in actor’s clothes and heavy makeup, who said he came back to Huntsville because “you love me here.” Seems the ghost wouldn’t tell his name, only saying he was Sir Thomas Moore.
The VanValkenburg House. I could live here...
Next we went to the house of Dr. Fearen (I don’t know how to spell his name). He was a well-known and beloved doctor in Huntsville prior to the Civil War. Kevin said that Dr. Fearen was the man who came up with drinking quinine for malaria (I’m not sure about this but the doctor was a researcher). Any way, during the War, Fearen was one of twelve men on the Confederate Council. A group of locals, known as the Thunderbolts of the Confederacy, were making guerilla attacks on the occupying Union troops. To stop this and to learn the identity of the Thunderbolts, the Union soldiers came to Dr. Fearen house and demanded he tell them. He refused and he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. The medium said the ghost on the front porch kept saying “I’m not gonna do it.” Well Dr. Fearen didn’t do it and he went back into his house. (As an aside, I met Dick Cheney in this house a few years ago. It’s a nice house with a lovely back garden.) At another house we stopped at a little later on Cruse Alley, we found out that Dr. Fearen’s neighbor, John Hunt Morgan, was one of the leaders of the Thunderbolts of the Confederacy. Gee, wonder what the doc thought about that?
The Fearen House
Next we stopped in front of the Samuel Moore house, circa 1826, and Kevin told us to remember the front.
The Samuel Moore House
We walked down to the next house, the McDowell House, circa 1848. It seems Mr. McDowell got the house plans from Dr. Moore because he loved the way the house looked especially the lovely columns on the front. He wanted to build his house just like it. Mr. McDowell went off on an extended trip and when he came back to his new house, they had built it backward on the lot. The lovely front porch was at the back and the back porch was at the front.
The McDowell House
Any way, across the street there is a ghost who sits in the front parlor of the George Harris house, always moving a chair to the center of the window. The medium said the ghost’s name was Derek Miller. Derek told the medium, after repeated attempts to get the ghost to talk, that he didn’t die (died 1923) here but he returned because he wanted the McDowell house. When asked why he was haunting the Harris house instead of the McDowell house, Derek said “I didn’t earn it.” The ghost went on to tell him about the bonus he was to earn for selling for the Stephens Tool and Die Co. and the car he was going to get. Kevin confirmed all this information from the Stephenson company which now only sells shotguns. I’m with Kevin on this one, though the McDonald house is lovely, it is nothing compared to the front of the Moore house. Poor little man. Why did he love it so? The owners of the Harris house say he keeps that chair in the front parlor so he can stare at the house across the street.
The George Harris House where poor Derek sits...
The William Pope Mansion, sitting on a hill overlooking the old section, was our next stop.
According to Kevin, there is a big black man there who told the medium to “be quiet, she’s sick.” The man said his name was “Tune” and he was sold to the Popes by the McCauleys because he beat a woman and made her lose a baby. Kevin said that the McCauleys’ records verify that happened. There are other ghosts on the grounds who wander saying “The Man is a Thief.” William Pope, through unscrupulous dealings, stole the land from John Hunt. Pope named the neighborhood “Twickenham” for his English roots. He built the house in 1814. The townspeople made an outcry and named the entire town after Mr. Hunt, hence “Huntsville.”
Just around the corner we stopped at the Cox House, circa 1823. Kevin told us to note how elongated the windows were. The house’s first floor had fifteen foot ceilings and the second had fourteen foot ceiling, much taller than others of the day.
Joshua Cox, one of the disgruntled citizens of the town, built the house directly in front of Pope’s mansion to block his view. Pope, in his nefarious ways, stole the house from under Cox. Instead of tearing it down to get his view back, Pope left it standing, saying Cox built it in spite but he would never live in it. The house stood as a warning to others – don’t mess with Pope. The medium said that Cox stands on the front porch, telling people to “Come in or he will see you.” The ghost also says “He’s a thief.” The ghost’s name is Joshua and he lives in the house now.
Directly down from the Cox House on a corner of Franklin Street we stopped. According to Kevin, David Todd (brother of Mary Todd Lincoln) had a store there. The medium picked up on a man ranting “How dare you touch me. I should command!” There were also feelings of inability to breathe, maniacal thoughts and blades stabbing everywhere. Early in the Civil War, Todd was given command of a POW camp, a job he hated. He drank a lot and started issuing strange commands. One thing he did, that was definitely crazy and evil, was to run through the barracks with all lights extinguished, stabbing the prisoners with a sword. He also took the dead body of a Union officer and sat him on Todd’s front porch to rot. The Confederates decommissioned him (big surprise) and sent him to Huntsville. Todd married a widow who owned a store there on Franklin. Todd contracted tuberculosis and was treated by a Union doctor before he died. Guess that was why he kept saying “How dare you touch me!” The Todds seemed to be a strange lot…
Our last stop was an undocumented case about a little girl named Mary Ann Rogers, who stayed in the Constitution Village area. She told the medium that no one paid her any attention. She said that every year when they had Santa there, she would wait her turn to see him and he would ignore her. So, to get attention, every time the musicians played she would cut there power. That has been documented.
I did enjoy the walk although I think it relied a bit much on mediums and sensitives without first-hand accounts. It was interesting with regard to the history of Huntsville. I would recommend this tour because the people were nice.
Oh, and did I say? As I was leaving, I told Mr. Reeves I watch him every morning but I had a bone to pick with him about his treatment of Auburn (you know me- I have to say my mind). His wife laughingly agreed with me when he started to protest. I will say this, he was definitely a gentleman and had a lot nicer demeanor than I expected. Second myth busted. He said he didn’t realize he did this (cue his wife laughing again). I told him I would email him the next time he did something. He smiled and said fine. We’ll see…