Old Cahawba shares its haunted history

Published 10:32 pm Friday, October 16, 2015

Seeing Old Cahawba during the day is something that can be done most days of the year, but there are only a select few that people get to experience it at night.

Friday night marked the start of the ninth annual Haunted History Tours with wagon rides through the old ghost town that was once one of the most prominent towns in Alabama and is now home to a ghost tale or two.

“The other 364 days we’re off limits,” said Jonathan Matthews, assistant site director at Old Cahawba.

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“We have these ghost stories, and I can tell that people are intrigued, and this is a chance for them to experience it first hand. I think everyone learns better when they’re doing something and not just passively listening.”

Matthews said Old Cahawba is known most for being the state’s first capitol, but the park is much, much more than that.

“It’s the confluence, or the intersection, of many different things. The most obvious is the confluence of the two main rivers, the Cahaba River and the Alabama River, but it’s also where the European culture intersected with the Native American culture and the African American culture,” Matthews said.

“It’s a place where Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers crossed paths at the infamous Castle Morgan Civil War prison camp we have, but it’s also where the spirit world meets our world. Anything you experience tonight is either in your head, or it’s the real thing. We’re not making it up.”

Tours started at 7 p.m., and the last one set off on its journey through the ghost town at 9 p.m. The first destination is what Matthews referred to as the “new” cemetery, which was established in the 1850s.

There, site director Linda Derry and groundskeeper Misty Green shared stories of people that are buried there, and the stories that still haunt the hallowed grounds.

As guests arrived at the first stop, Derry welcomed them to what she called one of the most haunted places in the park.
“There are more traditional ghost tales about this location than anywhere else, and there are others throughout this park,” Derry said.

“The beauty about this place is that all the ghost stories that have been told for generations are linked back to a particular place.”

Derry and Green took guests on a tour through the cemetery stopping at certain graves to tell their stories, all the while encouraging people to take pictures to see if they could capture any spirits or to listen closely to hear one of them whispering to them from beyond the grave.

The second stop was at the Barker family slave quarters.

Guests took part in a paranormal investigation conducted by Central Alabama Paranormal Investigations.

While telling the stories and sharing them with the guests of the park, Matthews said one of his favorite things is the people it brings together for the experience.

“You can see a real cross-section of different ages. We’ll get the younger folks who enjoy watch the paranormal ghost hunting shows on TV, but then we’ll get some older folks who remember coming down here as teenagers and parking down here with their girlfriend and telling stories like the wampus cat,” Matthews said, as he prepared to take another group of guests on a tour.

“What other event really attracts teenagers and 60 to 70-year-olds? They all enjoy it for different reasons.”

The Haunted History Tours will continue today at Old Live Oak Cemetery at 6:30 p.m. Old Cahawba will host more tours next Saturday starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for Old Cahawba and $10 for Old Live Oak Cemetery. For tickets, call 875-7241.