Cahawba listed among World’s 10 Spookiest Ghost Towns

Published 8:29 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

By Linda Derry

Special to The Selma Times-Journal

Cahawba, located 13 miles southwest of Selma, obtained international fame this week when it appeared on a list of the ten spookiest ghost towns in the world. The list was posted by a popular travel site, www.thetravel.com, with over 4 million readers, that focuses on “the hottest once-in-a-lifetime vacation destinations.”     

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International recognition is new, but Cahawba has appeared on many national lists of haunted or scary places.  For example, it was chosen to represent the southeastern states in Gary B. Speck’s beautiful coffee table book, “Ghost Towns, Yesterday and Today,” and often featured in those slick magazines about “the scariest places” that you see in the supermarket check-out lanes.

The town of Cahawba was abandoned shortly after the Civil War. It has been a ghost town for a very long time, and most of its ghost stories have been handed down through several generations.  Today, the abandoned town is preserved as the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, and according to many of the park’s visitors, Cahawba’s ghosts are not just creatures of the night, they also prowl the grounds during the park’s open hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The “New Cemetery” at Cahawba is known as the most haunted location within the park.  Daytime visitors occasionally come to the visitor center to warn the staff that they heard children laughing and playing in the woods surrounding that cemetery.  Knowing that we lock the gates to the park at 5 p.m., they are afraid these children will be locked in overnight.  The park staff, including the night security guard, used to hunt for these children, but they never found any living children in the woods near the cemetery.

Park Director Linda Derry, already baffled by this strange phenomenon, was shocked by something she overheard a few years ago while eating lunch at Hancock’s BBQ in nearby Selma. 

“I was alone, so could not help but overhear a conversation in the next booth.  The people speaking lived in a cabin about a quarter mile south of Cahawba’s ‘New Cemetery,'” Derry said. “They were speaking to their lunch companions, telling them about how they had been sitting on their porch after work when they heard children laughing in the woods nearby – children that didn’t belong on their land.  So, they chased after them, but although the children sounded like very little girls, they could never catch up with them.  The laughter was always just ahead of them, no matter how fast they ran, until they reached the old fence that surrounded Cahawba’s ‘New Cemetery.’ At that point, the laughter stopped, and the woods fell eerily silent.”

If Cahawba is this spooky during daylight hours, imagine what it is like in the dark. However, visitors are strictly prohibited from visiting the park after hours, except on two nights. This year those nights are Oct. 21 and Oct. 28, and only if you are one of the lucky few people who have purchased a Haunted History ticket.

Ticket holders will be transported to the most haunted places within one of the world’s spookiest ghost towns.   At each location, historians will tell a traditional and authentic story about the ghost that supposedly haunts that place.   Later they join a team of real paranormal investigators in a mini-ghost hunt.  Call 334/872-8058 for more information or to reserve one of the remaining Haunted History tickets. Old Cahawba is a historic property of the Alabama Historical Commission.