Halloween may be over, but how about a ghost story from our travels as fulltime RVers?
The South is filled with ghost stories, and in tiny Carrollton, Alabama, we spent some time exploring one of them, a popular tale known as the Face in the Window.
It all started when the Pickens County Courthouse burned to the ground on the night of November 16, 1876. A former slave named Henry Wells was accused of the crime and arrested two years later.
Protesting his innocence, Wells was lodged in a cell at the newly rebuilt courthouse in February, 1878. The story goes that a lynch mob formed and approached the courthouse, demanding that the accused man be turned over to them. Wells continued to declare that he was innocent and said that if he was murdered, he would haunt those involved forever.
Unwilling to fight off the mob, and probably sympathizing with them, a jailer unlocked the cell door, but before he could turn his prisoner over to the hooded mob, Wells escaped to the garret, where he hid out and watched the crowd looking for him on the courthouse grounds below.
And what would a ghost story be without a dark and stormy night? As the legend goes, it was just such a night, and as a panicked Henry Wells kept watch from a window, a bolt of lightning struck nearby, etching his panicked face in the glass forever. Eventually, the mob did make its way to the attic, where they seized the poor man, dragging him outside, and strung him up. They say that it wasn’t until the next day that someone from Carrollton looked up and spotted the dead man’s face staring back at them from high above.
That was 144 years ago, but even today visitors to Carrollton can see an image that does indeed look like a face in the courthouse window. In fact, the town has even erected a telescope on a corner across the street to make viewing the ghostly image easier and mounted an arrow on the side of the building to point you to the correct windowpane.
Of course, the story has its skeptics. Some claim that another man actually committed the crime and was lynched for it, and the records at the courthouse do show that about the same time, a black man named Nathaniel T. Pierce was taken from the jail and lynched. Others say that Henry Wells may or may not have been involved in the arson, but that he was shot resisting arrest on burglary charges. At least one newspaper article from that time period says Wells died from two gunshot wounds he received after signing a confession to burglary and arson. And, of course, many claim that the so-called “ghostly image” is nothing more than an aberration in the glass. An aberration that has lasted all these years.
I think what you believe about this tale depends on what you want to believe. We definitely saw something in the courthouse window that some might describe as a face, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. Carrollton is about 32 miles west of Tuscaloosa on State Route 86. The courthouse square is in the center of town.
Across the street from the courthouse is the Kelly-Stone-Hill Home, the former home of Confederate General John Herbert Kelly, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in 1864. For many years it was the home of Lewis Maxwell Stone, a prominent Alabama statesman and politician during the Reconstruction era.
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.
Thought For The Day – It may look like I’m doing nothing, but in my head, I’m quite busy.