With autumn upon us and the arrival of October, temperatures will begin to fall as the foliage begins to transition. Classes at The University of Alabama are in full swing as well as the SEC football slate for the Crimson Tide. For most of us this time of year is filled with flannel, pumpkin spice and candy, however, others have an itch for the paranormal and haunting when Halloween rolls around.
If you are the type of person who loves scary movies, suspenseful interactions, and heart-pounding thrills we have an opportunity for you! The Friends of Drish are presenting Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours throughout the month of October. This 1.5-hour journey introduces you to 16 unique locations such as the Drish House, the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion and Capital Park. Provided below is an insight into a few of these locations and the haunting stories which make these places special, yet frightening.
Tuscaloosa’s Drish House on 17th street is considered one of the most haunted locations in the state of Alabama. It was built at the center of a 450-acre plantation in 1837 by Dr. John R. Drish. Rumors say Dr. Drish loved gambling and drinking, which contributed to his death in 1867 after falling from atop a stairwell. His wife, Sarah McKinney, became obsessed with her husband’s funeral, so much so that it became an extravagant event. She supposedly kept candles from the funeral hoping to eventually use them during her own. Her family searched for these candles following her death in 1884 but were able to find anything of the like. This is said to have angered Sarah so much that she has come back to haunt the house, even allegedly causing a fire in the third-story tower by lighting the candles. The Drish House has been featured in the short story “Death Lights in the Tower” in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s popular book of ghost stories, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.
According to opacity.us, “the history of the Jemison Center, often called ‘Old Bryce,’ seems to be mired in half-truths and speculation on the internet. The earliest information found dates back to when the land was a plantation, called Crab Orchard back in the 1820s, due to the many crab apple trees located on the property. It was owned by William Jemison, who then passed it down to his son, Robert Jemison Jr., a successful politician and businessman. Jemison was a major advocate for the establishment of a hospital for the insane in Alabama and is considered a major influence to select the area as the site for the first asylum in the state – the Alabama State Hospital for the Insane (Bryce Hospital). By the 1920s the asylum had become severely overcrowded, and satellite institutions were created nearby to relieve the pressure, such as the Alabama Home for Mental Defectives (later known as Partlow State School). A mid-19th-century structure was also erected on the property, called the S.D. Allen Intermediate Care Facility; it was used as a nursing home until it closed in 2003.” Visitors claim to feel intense changes in temperature as well as seeing and hearing abnormal things. Supposedly some people have even seen the tail of a doctor’s coat traveling through the halls.
Halloween generates a unique desire to be frightened and spooked as we see examples of this throughout the United States with haunted houses, ghost tours, cemetery tours, scary movies and costumes gaining mass attention in the month of October. If you enjoy any of these or merely have a love for history then we recommend you check out Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours! Going on one of these tours will assuredly have you on the edge of your seat and provoke a heart-pounding thrill in time for the arrival of Halloween. Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours will be happening every Friday night in the month of October with tour times of 7:00, 8:30, and 10:00 pm each night. Costs of tours are as followed: $25 for adults (13+), $20 for students/military, and $15 for kids (8-12). Children under 8 years of age are not permitted and it is required for children under 12 to be accompanied by an adult. To purchase tickets or if you have any questions visit http://www.hauntedtuscaloosatours.com/.
Kirsch, Tom. “Jemison Center: an Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital in Northport, AL.” Opacity, http://opacity.us/site245_jemison_center.htm. Accessed 25 September 2017.
Tilstra, Elisabeth. “Ghost Light in the Window: The Drish House Haunting.” The Lineup, https://the-line-up.com/drish-house-hauntings. Accessed 2 October 2017.
Written by Will Wyatt