A crisp, cool autumn air supplants the otherwise heavy hot and humid Alabama climate. As the sun sets, a light breeze blows the season’s withered russet leaves across your path as you walk down a desolate and dark city street. Wait! Was that a voice you heard? Is someone there? Or maybe it’s the voice of someone reaching out to you from beyond the grave?
Tales of murder, suicides, lost cemeteries, and the unexplained lurk just around the next corner in towns and cities across America — and Alabama is no different. Those stories are brought vividly back to life as tour guides lead you down the darkened streets of Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile, and countless smaller towns on one of the state’s many haunted ghost tours.
Are you brave enough to come face-to-face with the unknown? Then join local historians as they guide you down the haunted streets to experience the state’s ghostly and ghastly past on one of these creepy haunted tours.
Keep in mind that most of these tours sell out quickly, so if you can, purchase your tickets well in advance. Pack a flashlight, wear comfortable walking shoes, and check the weather before heading out and dress appropriately for the cool fall breezes.
1. Birmingham Ghost Walks — Birmingham
Walking the shores of East Lake in Birmingham at twilight, you may hear the sobs of a young girl calling out for her mother. Some say they have seen the girl sitting on the banks of the lake stroking the geese that frequent its shores. When they walk up to her, she steps into the lake and slips beneath the water’s surface.
They have seen the “Mermaid of the Lake,” the ghost of seven-year-old May Hawes who in 1888 was drugged by her father, weighted down with railroad irons, and tossed into the lake to drown. Days later, her body, as well as the bodies of May’s mother and six-year-old sister, were discovered in the lake. Rage swept the city over the father’s horrific acts of murder and a riot ensued during which 10 people were killed.
Another tour offered, the Ghost and Graveyards Driving Tour, has you hop aboard a bus and visit the city’s only antebellum mansion in Arlington, where you will stroll the grounds and visit the spirits that still live in the cemetery and the lost cemetery, the city’s fabulous historic (and haunted) theaters, and Sloss Furnace where a ruthless supervisor in the steel mill was killed but still roams the facility. The driving tour is perfect for those who have mobility issues.
Free parking is available at the meters downtown after 5:00 p.m. Walking tours are about a mile in length. The meeting area to begin a tour varies and the location will be sent to you on your confirmation email when you book your tickets. Admission is around $30 for adults and around $20 for children seven to twelve. The driving tour is around $40 per person.
2. Huntsville Ghost Walks — Huntsville
On an occasional cool autumn evening, the sound of laughing and giggling children can be heard along Walker Street in Huntsville. The children sing a nursery rhyme that was popular with the jump roping set during the tragic 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak where 400+ people died in Huntsville that year from the disease. The song went:
“I had a little bird
And its name was Enza.
I opened up the window,
And in flew Enza.”
As you walk the street, look around. There are no children. The streets are vacant, but you know what you heard.
This is just one of many stories you will hear as you take one of the Huntsville Ghost Walk Tours.
Tours run every Friday and Saturday beginning the first weekend of September through the last weekend of October. Three separate tours are offered each night — the Twickenham Ghost Walk, Old Town Ghost Walk, and Haunted Downtown, each guaranteed to make you shiver with well-researched tales of a frightened Union soldier that hides from the Confederacy to this very day, ax murders, and more. Each tour group is led by highly knowledgeable and informative guides as well as a medium. Oh, and bring your camera. You never know what might appear out of the shadows.
Pro Tip: The 90-minute tours begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.
3. Dark Secrets At Iron Hand Tour — Mobile
Guests arrive early at the Iron Hand Brewery where they sample a craft brew before heading out into the darkened streets of Mobile’s De Tonti District, an area of the state’s oldest city that has survived countless hurricanes and devastating yellow fever epidemics, and one of the most haunted areas of the city. In fact, the most haunted house in the Port City, Richard’s DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) House, is one of the stops along the route led by Secret History Tour’s Dark Secrets at Iron Hand tour.
The 2-hour walk winds through the streets where your informative guides stop at each location to tell stories of death, darkness, and the people who once — and still — live here, like at the DAR House where they say the giggles of the De Tonti children who once lived there can still be heard throughout the house.
The tour is completely outdoors. No buildings are entered but the tales that your guides weave are fascinating and guaranteed to send shivers up your spine. Visit the Secret History Tour website for dates, admission prices, and to purchase tickets.
While in the Port City of Mobile, visit the city’s second-oldest cemetery, Church Street Cemetery. Located behind the city’s main public library on Government Street, the cemetery’s 19th-century cast and wrought iron fences, and moss covered gravestones and mausoleums are the final resting places of many yellow fever victims from 1818. There’s also the grave of the man credited with reviving Mardi Gras after the Civil War, Joe Cain. It is also the site of the Boyington Oak Tree, where Charles Boyington, after being convicted of murder, proclaimed that an oak tree would grow from his heart to prove his innocence. Did his vow come true?
4. Florence Ghost Walk — Florence
Disembodied footsteps, moans, and screams. All perfectly normal as you join the guides of the Florence Ghost Walk for a spine-tingling tour of the city’s haunted downtown streets.
One of the most famous stops on the Downtown Florence Haunted District tour is Pope’s Tavern and Museum. The tavern dates back to 1811. The original building was destroyed by fire in the 1800s. The rebuilt building is believed to be the oldest in Florence. During the Civil War, the tavern was turned into a field hospital where many amputations occurred and at least 33 soldiers died. Today, visitors have reported seeing the apparition of amputees in the main bedroom.
A second tour, Haunted UNA, explores the hidden secrets and hauntings on the campus of the University of North Alabama where another Civil War hospital was established and sounds of the victims of the war can still be heard. The tour also makes stops at an antebellum mansion on campus where a spirit has repeatedly frightened staff and students away and Guillot University Center where the mournful cries of Priscilla, a former student who committed suicide after failing her classes, raise the hairs on your neck.
Tickets are around $15 for adults, around $10 for children seven to twelve, and six and under are free. You can purchase tickets for each tour online or in person. Both tours begin at 7:30 p.m. with the downtown tour starting at Wilson Park on the third and fourth weekend of October and the full week of Halloween. The UNA tour starts at the Harrison Fountain on the UNA campus. A portion of the proceeds from the UNA tour helps support the care and feeding of the university’s mascot, Leo the Lion.
5. Athens Haunt Walk — Athens
The picturesque town of Athens is what you would call a quintessential southern town brimming with friendly people, southern hospitality, antebellum homes, and ghosts.
Author Shane Black (The Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town) guides those who dare face the city’s “spirited” past on the Athens Haunt Walk.
Your tour takes you to the town square where you may hear the frantic pounding of windows from those who tried (and failed) to escape a fire that swept the town in 1893, the frightening sound of a grandfather clock that doesn’t exist at the George S. Houston library, and the piercing screams of a woman that emanates from the attic of the Vasser-Lovvorn House.
Tours are held every Tuesday and Thursday in October at 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Athens-Limestone Visitors Center.
Credit cards are not accepted, so bring cash or check when purchasing tickets. In the event of heavy rain or severe weather, both tours will move inside to the meeting room of the visitor center at 7:00 p.m. where the author will do a presentation on the ghosts of Athens.