The Ghosts of Selma

Doors that open and close mysteriously. Lights that glow where there is no electric power. The sound of footsteps on a staircase when no one is there. All of these things can be experienced in Selma, Alabama. Is this city haunted?

“The Ghosts of Selma,” a 1998 documentary on Alabama Public Television, explored this topic. The program was produced by Max Shores as a part of the Alabama Experience series.

Ghost stories are almost as common in Selma as street corners. The city served as a Confederate naval munitions center and is filled with antebellum houses that creak and shift, giving rise to tales of haunting spirits. But some people in Selma have experienced things that cannot be explained by the settling of old structures.

In 1962, some unexplainable occurrences in the home of writer Kathryn Tucker Windham inspired her to pen a collection of Alabama ghost stories. She named her ghost Jeffrey. Her book “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey” was just the first of a half-dozen such books which followed.

Windham’s first book included the story of John Parkman, a prominent Selma banker who died under mysterious circumstances in 1867. Parkman’s ghost is said to wander the halls of Sturdivant Hall, a Selma museum which was once his home. Tour guides at the museum just laugh when doors open and close. They say, “Mr. Parkman is at it again.”

Norm and Pat Trotter attribute the strange lights and ghostly images in their home to the return of a young man who lived in the building when it was a boarding house. The man died in 1941, but they say he runs up the staircase, rattles coat hangers, and lurks over them as they sleep.

The Trotters didn’t learn that their house was haunted until after they had moved in, but a ghostly voice helped convince Debbie Gresham to purchase the home where she now lives with her husband and children.

“When I walked in the hall a voice said, ‘You will own this house… This house needs the laughter of children again.’” says Gresham. The ghost later identified itself as Gerald and became a playmate for her children.

Bed and Breakfast proprietors Coy and Joey Dillon say the presence of a ghost at Grace Hall is a mixed blessing. They have had some guests who specifically wanted to stay there to see Miss Eliza, the kind old lady in a white gown. A few guests, however, have left early because of what they have seen.

Just down the street from Grace Hall, the Weaver House is uninhabited. Built by the son of one of Selma’s founding fathers and patterned after a German castle, the house’s Gothic style makes it look like it should be haunted. There have been stories of strange lights and voices there and people have seen a woman peering from an attic window.