Monday, February 27, 2012

The Moody Brick and the Tragic Story of Joseph Sanders


One of my favorite chapters in my book Haunted North Alabama is the chapter about The Moody Brick.  In fact,  The Moody Brick is one of my favorite ghost stories.   When I did a presentation on ghost stories at the library,  a lovely lady named Ms. Dorothea came to see the presentation just to discuss the Moody Brick with me.   She had read my book and wanted to share her family history with me.   Although she was no ghost story junky, she collected stories about the Moody Brick because her family was linked to the old house.   This week, she sent me an amazing collection of photographs and information about and of The Moody Brick.  I am honored to share this information.

For those of you who haven't read Haunted North Alabama, The Moody Brick is an old plantation house in rural Alabama.  Its bricks positively drip with ghost stories and old legends.  The ghost stories there are so thick you'd have to shovel them away to see past them.   The stories start with tortured slaves who rise up to kill their masters and enter into the civil war when the house was used as a hospital and keep on going through suicide and tragedies.   Ms. Dorothea added another sorrowful tale to the Moody Brick's history.

The paperwork she sent me told of her 3rd Grandfather, Joseph Sanders.   She sent me information that came from a grave website and was submitted by Gary Sanders.  When describing the family relations to the Moody Brick  he told this story:
     "Joseph Sanders had some rebel neighbors.   The rebel neighbors hung him on a mulberry tree because they thought he was giving information to the Yankees.  There were three of the rebels, one a neighbor by the name of Barbee-after killing him they left with a horse thy were using as a pack mule to carry the things that they had taken.  That evening, not long after the rebels had left, a group of Yankees came down out of the mountain and went after the rebels.   They caught up with them near the foot of the mountain close to the old Moody Brick.  The Yankees killed te horse and made the men dig a grave for it.  When the grave was dug- they killed the men- put them in the hole and rolled the horse on top of them. "

 There seem to be many variations on this story.  In some variations, Sanders is shot and killed by bushwhackers rather than rebels.  Either way, the murderers were killed and buried under the mulberry tree at The Moody Brick, adding to the many ghosts that wander the grounds.

Ms. Dorothea also sent me information on The Harris/Moody Brick Family Cemetery located on the grounds of The Moody Brick.  According to this information there are seven marked graves on the cite and six graves with markers but no inscriptions.  There may be as many as 50 graves on the property outside the fenced in family cemetery area.  There was a clean up of the area in 2005 and they attempted to mark as many of these graves as possible with concrete blocks. 

Other information she sent me included a tour guide for the Moody Brick and farm with its history on it.  The tour guide describes the restoration of this beautiful old home and its significance in the history of the region.  It also described the architectural evolution of the house.  At the bottom of the brochure it states: "We appreciate your interest in this historic home.  Unfortunately for some, it is not a paranormal site- no ghosts here."  It is clear the current owners want to respect the history of their amazing house and dispel the folklore and fascination associated with it.  I respect that and include this information in this post so people know not to travel to the house expecting to ghost hunt there.  Although I love the many ghost stories surrounding the house, I appreciate that the current owners want no part in them and ask people to come and visit to enjoy the rich and interesting history, not the ghosts. 

   The pictures Ms. Dorothea sent me are included in this post. I can not thank Ms. Dorothea enough for all the information she sent me and for coming to talk with me about hr family history and the history of the Moody Brick.  I wish I could write another book and include the wealth of information she has sent me.  It was an honor to meet someone who is a part of the history I love and for them to holds me in enough regard to send me information on their family.     

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cracked Ghost Stories: The Anus Ghost

Recently, cracked.com posted a list of the seven most ridiculous ghost stories.   It was a wonderful list that I enjoyed on every level.  I didn't agree with the writer on every count.   He did seem to think all Japanese ghost stories are insane.  I love Japanese ghosts and folklore and I know some of their ghost stories are silly, but I can't agree that all of them are ridiculous.  I also have to wonder if some of the list just seems ridiculous to Westerners because there is cultural context we are missing.   Most of cracked.com's list seems to come from other cultures and different cultures vary greatly in their folklore and religion and this makes one culture's terrifying tale another cultures exercise in absurdity.   Anyhow,  here is my favorite ghost story from the list and I can't think of a cultural context that wouldn't make me giggle a little over this.

The Shirime


According to cracked.com, The Shirime is a terrifying naked man ghost.  It accosts people on long lonely roads and sexually harasses them.   In one story, a samurai is attacked and when the samurai turns around to face his attacker, his attacker disrobes.  When the samurai decides to flee, the naked man ghost bends over and exposes his anus.   This is horrifying on so many levels.   The most horrifying aspect of this is that the ghost has an eyeball in its butt hole. I did some research and I couldn't find any more to this story than this.  Apparently the Shirime can be attributed to one Haiku poet from the 17th century.  I haven't read of anyone who has actually encountered this spirit, so thankfully it seems to be just folklore.  I guess we are all grateful for this.
 
I plan on continuing to write about Alabama State Hospitals tomorrow.   As the doors close on Alabama's hospitals, I hope these posts will serve as a memorial, but for today I needed a laugh and there isn't a ghostly story out there that made me laugh as hard as the butt hole ghost.
 
To read more of cracked.com's ridiculous ghost stories you can follow this link: 

http://www.cracked.com/article_18814_the-7-most-ridiculous-ghost-stories-from-around-world.html?wa_user1=3&wa_user2=Weird+World&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=recommended

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Alabama Psychiatric Hospitals Will Soon Be Ghosts

This month Alabama announced its intentions to close all but two of its psychiatric hospitals.  As an Alabama mental health professional, I saw this news as devastating.   I've worked in inpatient psychiatric care for 4 years.   The hospital I worked in was for short term care, three to five days was our average length of stay.   Our biggest problem and my greatest challenge was trying to find sufficient aftercare for the seriously mentally ill.  There are virtually no group homes available for the mentally ill and the state hospitals were near impossible to get into, but at least they were there.  When we had chronic patients that were a consistent danger to themselves and others, the state hospital were an option.  When we had a man come in who insisted he was going to kill his children, we could release him to the state hospital.  Apparently, that option will be gone in Alabama.  Where will he go?  Nobody knows.

According to the New York Times this is what the state says:
"By May 2013, the state plans to have two remaining state mental health hospitals, one for criminal suspects and another for geriatric patients. Nearly all of the 524 other mentally ill patients will get treatment at group homes and community centers, which are less expensive and give them more freedom, state officials say. "

This would be lovely if there were adequate community centers and homes, which there aren't, and if such homes were sufficiently staffed to take care of people who are dangers to themselves and others, which they aren't.  So I am saddened by this news.  I am sad to see the state hospitals go and I am sad for the many patients and for all the hundreds of state employees that will soon lose their jobs. I am sad for all the patient who have begged for more care when there was none available.  As a memorial to the Alabama state hospitals,  I'm going to post about the ghosts of these hospitals this week.   Here is my post about the ghosts Searcy State Hospital, one of the many hospitals that is soon to be a ghost itself.


Searcy is one of my favorite haunted places. I did my internship here a very long time ago and I fell in love with it's history and it's white chipped walls. Everything about this old hospital spoke to me. It was even more remarkable because most of those who worked there and lived there every day were oblivious to it's history. Searcy State Hospital is located in Mt. Vernon, Alabama. Prior to being a state hospital the old hospital has a long and dark history that is very difficult to find, but easy to see upon casual observation. The hospital is encased in long, chipped, white walls that seem as old as anything in the United States. From outside these walls, you can see a battered watchtower that gives testament to the fact that the hospital is in the same location as a 300 year old fort. The fort bears witness to American history. It was originally a French fort and then a Spanish Fort. It switched hands during the Louisiana Purchase and became a US fort. After the US took possession of the fort it was converted to a military arsenal and became known as the Mount Vernon Arsenal.

The Arsenal switched hands again several times and was taken by the Confederates during the civil war only to be passed back over the United States again in 1862. From 1887 to 1894, The Arsenal became a Barracks and was used as a prison for the captured Apache people. The most famous of the Apache people to be held in these barracks was Geronimo. There is a door in the lobby of the old hospital that is labeled as the door to Geronimo's cell. It is beautiful and intricate. Sadly, history notes that Geronimo was not kept in a cell during his stay at Mt. Vernon. He was allowed freedom to wander the barrack, so the door is just a lovely bit of folklore. The infamous Aaron Burr was also held at this secluded prison at some point after his notorious gun fight.

In 1900 the Barracks were transformed once again and the prison became a mental hospital. Searcy hospital was built as the African American mental hospital in Alabama. Conditions in the hospital were beyond questionable and at one time there were over 2000 patients in the crowded hospital and all were seen by one psychiatrist. All patients were expected to work in the fields.

The hospital was desegregated in 1969, but it’s history is all around it. The hospital is still in used today, and although the residents live in new buildings, many tell stories of ghosts and devils that linger in the white walls and abandoned buildings that surround the new facilities. These stories are usually ignored, because the patients are crazy, but I’m not the only sane person who saw a few ghosts while they were working there.

To read more about the state hospital closures go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/us/alabama-plans-to-shut-most-mental-hospitals.html

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Valentine's Day Began With Naked People and Dead Dogs

My favorite thing about holidays are their bizarre origins.  Most of our modern celebrations have roots in old pagan traditions.  Valantine's Day is no different.  Its pagan roots are just more bizarre than most. They are so strange I like to write about them every year.  I know it is slightly off topic, but naked people being flogged with animal hides is worth discussing in any forum. Apparently the ancient roots of Valentine's Day begins with the Romans. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia from Feb. 13 to 15. In Roman mythology Lupercus was the equivalent of the Greek god Pan who was known to be a sexy sort of fellow who promoted fertility. His holiday was a somewhat romantic kind of celebration. During Lupercalia the men would sacrifice a goat and a dog and then whip women with the hides of the dead animals. The women would line up naked in order to be whipped. They did this because they believed this ritual would make them more fertile. Afterwards, there would be lottery in which men and women would be paired up for a night of naked fun.


I know, you are now wishing we still celebrated Valentine's day this way. Enough with the cheesy cards. Where are the dead animals, whippings, and naked people? It was the Catholic Church that ruined the fun. Emperor Claudius II killed two Valentine's in different years of February 14th. Both men were martyred and the day derives its name from these two martyred saints. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I got confused and merged the two martyrs into one person and named February 14th after them. He also absorbed the romantic traditions of Lupercalia into the day in order to soften the pagan debauchery and retake the day for Christianity. Christianity has a long history of doing this type of thing. Christmas was taken from Roman Saturnalia traditions and Norse Yule traditions. By absorbing pagan holidays rather than forbidding them, ancient Christians were able to gain new followers rather than lose them.

Chaucer and Shakespeare can be credited with further romanticizing St. Valentine's day and turning it into the romantic, kissy holiday it is today, but I will always think back to better days when women ran naked through the streets being beaten with dead animals.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ghosts on Airplanes

I have been catching up on my ghostly movie watching lately, as evident by recent blog posts.   In my viewing, a trailer for a new film caught my eye.  The film is called 7500 and it appears to be a haunted airplane movie.  All the early buzz confirms my thoughts on this.  It looks really interesting and I have to wonder if it has any basis on the real haunted airplane story.

American Airlines Flight 401 crashed into the Everglades on December 29, 1972. One-hundred and one people died in the crash. Captain Loft survived the impact, but died as they were removing him from the aircraft. Another gentleman, Officer Repot died one day after they removed him from the airplane.


In a desperate attempt to salvage some of what they lost, Eastern Airlines salvaged much of the airplane and redistributed the parts among other aircraft in their fleet. Not long after the redistribution the sightings began. People reported seeing the ghosts of Repot and Loft in the planes that had received spare parts from Flight 401. Repo’s ghost was said to appear often. He appeared in the cockpit and the galley and seemed to be very concerned about safety. He pointed out fire hazards and safety concerns to whoever was present to listen. Loft’s ghost was also seen sitting in first class. One stewardess reports seeing him and thinking he was a stow away. She reported him to her Captain. The Captain recognized him immediately and then Loft vanished before his eyes. There were numerous reports like these from the dozens of planes containing 401 parts. The reports became almost epidemic.

Eastern Airlines rejected these claims and referred employees making them to see a counselor. When these stories didn't stop Eastern Airlines threatened to fire anyone who told ghost stories about flight 401. Despite their consistence rejection of the notion that the pieces of flight 401 were haunted, they finally did remove all the salvaged parts from their fleet. As soon as this was done, the sightings ended. A book was written about this very odd haunting called The Ghost of Flight 401. John Fuller wrote it. I haven’t read it yet. It is an older book, but I’m going to definitely put it on my list of reads.

In any case, 7500 will be on my must see list.  I have included the trailer below.   Enjoy!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Woman in Black

I have been spending a good deal of my time trapped at home lately.   My adventures have been fewer and fewer and the only thing I really want to do is sleep when I have a few free minutes.  I guess that is the price you pay for having a baby.  That made it a miracle that I made it to a movie on Friday night and it was a fantastic movie.   The Woman in Black stars Daniel Radcliff as a forlorn father who lost his wife in childbirth.  He is trying to keep up with his job and his young son on his own and is quite obviously crippled by grief.  His son even notices his father's depression and all the pictures he draws of his father bare a distinct frowny face.  When the Father is forced to close up an old house and go through all of the paper work in it, the ghost story begins.   Radcliff's law firm gives him an ultimatum.  He can do a fantastic job with the paperwork or he will lose his job and thus be unable to support his son.  Trapped in a bleak house that terrifies the local villagers, Radcliff discovers old secrets and a vengeful ghost that enjoys killing children.

The Woman in Black is a very well constructed piece of Gothic ghostlore.  It uses atmosphere, foreshadowing and subtlety to ramp up the tension in the plot.   The film moves beyond creepy and becomes truly scary at times.   Daniel does a very good job with his role as a young attorney struggling to keep his sanity for his son and the supporting cast is equally as skilled.   I would definitely recommend this movie to any fan of ghost stories and hauntings.  Sadly, my viewing experience was somewhat diminished by the man seated a few rows behind me.   I believe this movie would have scared me, but as children died tragically he called out,  "That's a good way to get out of paying child support."   I suppose having your children murdered by a vengeful ghost will get you out of child support,  but it will also get you out of parenting all together.   He also managed to fart to so loud that despite the movie theater quality surround sound that literally shook the chairs, the entire theater giggled when he passed gas.   I think he probably should see a GI doctor for that.  Also, for some reason his young son sat on the other side of the theater from him (maybe because of the farting?) and every few minutes he would run in front of me with the popcorn yelling at his father and asking him if he needed more popcorn.  The long and short of it is,  The Woman in Black was probably a scary movie, but I wouldn't know it  because I couldn't stop giggling at the farting and madness of the man behind me.   Oh well, I still enjoyed the movie and I couldn't stop laughing all the way home.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Innkeepers


Last night I watched The Innkeepers on amazon prime.   I was excited.  I have noticed a new trend towards more classic ghost stories and haunting stories and have been really thrilled about several movies I have seen in trailers lately.   The Innkeepers is the story of two young hotel clerks who are left in charge with running a hotel on its last weekend before it shuts down.  The hotel is said to be haunted by a woman named Katherine O'Malley who hung herself after she was jilted by her fiance.   The two clerks are ghost enthusiasts.   They have tried to find ghosts in the hotel before and even have a website.  They decide to give it one last go before the hotel closes down because the hotel is almost completely empty.  

The movie began very slowly.  There was a tremendous amount of character development.  Normally, I salute a steady ramping up of tension through character development and atmosphere.   This movie certainly tried to do this.  However,  the characters weren't overly interesting so I found myself getting a little bored by this in the Innkeepers.   It got so bad, I played scrabble on my phone after a while. When the ghosts finally started to appear, they were kept mostly in the shadows.   This was very well done.  After the slow start, the actual haunting portions of this film wasn't that bad.    Overall, The Innkeeper was an alright film.  It wasn't great, but I think I might have rated this movie lower than it might be to others because my expectations were so high.  I was really looking forward to this atmospheric ghost story.  Oh well,  I am going to see The Woman in Black tonight and maybe that one will bring a few more chills and I won't play scrabble through it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Ghosts of the Rawls Hotel

The Rawls Hotel is in the Southern most part of Alabama.   It is located in Enterprise, Alabama far from the larger cities like Birmingham or Mobile.   Its history doesn't seem to be marred by murder or tragedy.   Its story is the story of a normal historic, small town hotel.   Japheth Rawls was a developer who had made some profit from turpentine plants.  He decided to invest his money in a small hotel.   He and his wife built the Rawls Hotel in 1903 and named it the McGee Hotel.  It was a small building in the Spanish Mission style.  In 1928, when Japheth passed away,  Jesse Rawls took over the hotel and began remodeling it.  He added two three-story wings to the structure and the Rawls Hotel evolved into a town center.  It was elegant and pretty and  many gatherings and meetings were held in the building.  The Hotel was conveniently placed next to the railroad so travelers to Enterprise could enjoy a pleasant night in a luxurious hotel.  In the 1970s, the hotel fell into disrepair and may have been forgotten if it weren't for Hayden Pursley.  Pursley purchased the building and renovated it.  The Rawls is now a bed and breakfast that is famous for its hauntings and ghosts.

It is my hope to travel down to the Rawls some time in the next several months to learn more about the ghosts that are said to linger in its halls.   The stories say that there are many children ghosts in the old hotel, but I don't know where they come from.  None of the stories seem to explain the presence of so many children ghosts in the hotel.  There is a little girl who has been seen by many visitors and the voices of children are said to come from the wine cellar.  Orbs are frequently seen in photographs and visitors describe feeling a presence in the hotel.  

Mr. Rawls is also said to haunt this old hotel and many have described seeing him in the halls.  He is said to stand by and watch decoration and renovation of the building and his spirit is thought to be interested in the well being of the hotel.   Many of the apparitions of the Rawls are said to linger on the third and forth floor.   The Rawls is listed as one of the most haunted hotels in Alabama.   Hopefully, I will discover why some day in the near future.