Monday, September 15, 2014

The Haunting at Murder Creek- Brewton, Alabama

Murder Creek in Brewton, Alabama got it's name after a tragic event took place that claimed the lives of several men crossing the frontier territories in 1788.

In 1788, a party of English Loyalist from South Carolina were traveling to Pensacola to get passports in order to pass through the Creek territories and settle in the Spanish Colonies located in the Louisiana territory. While on their expedition, the group led by Colonel Joseph Kirkland, went to the home of his friend Alexander McGillivray who lived on the Coosa River in what is today Alabama. 

McGillivray was a biracial Creek Indian whose father was a Scottish fur trader. His mother hailed from a prominent bloodline if Creek royalty and he was educated in both his father and his mother’s cultural beliefs and economics. He would later use his influence to negotiate treaties between the Creek Indians and the American government, including the Treaty of Pensacola with Spain.

Alexander McGillivary

During Kirkland’s stay with McGillivray, he informed the men that traveling through the native territory was extremely dangerous due to the growing hostilities caused by the encroachment of settlers. He offered Colonel Kirkland a guide to help navigate through the territories safely.

Kirkland and his men carried large amounts of silver coins with them. They intended to use the money during the trip to pay for provisions, purchase their passports in Pensacola, and establish their settlements once they reached Louisiana. As the group traveled further south with their slave guide, they meet a group of Creek fur traders who were returning from Pensacola with a pack-mule full of supplies and goods. There were a couple of Hillabee Indians with the traders and two white men.

As the two groups met, they engaged in a friendly conversation and without the threat of duress, both groups decided to make camp for the night. Kirkland’s men set up camp on the opposite side of the trading group on the banks of the Aloochahatche Creek. Unbeknownst to the Colonel’s group, the men across the creek were far from friendly and they conspired to rob and kill the Colonels party after the camp went to sleep. 

One of the outlaw men was called “Istillicha” which translates to “the man slayer”. Another man they called “Cat”. He fled his home state to escape murder charges and was a notoriously violent criminal. There was also a white man in the group who was known as Sullivan and he apparently owned an Indian slave named Bob, who was also present.

Just after midnight, the murderous group crept across the river and slipped quietly into Kirkland's camp. They took all the guns and other items they could carry before opening fire on the Colonels men, killing them all except the servant guide that McGillivray sent. When Colonel McGillivray received word of his friend's death, he ordered a search party to located and kill the men responsible. When the outlaws were captured, Cat was led to the location where the murders took place and strung up in tree. He begged and pleaded for his life but his cries fell on deaf ears as McGillivray’s men wrenched the noose tighter and tighter around his neck, stretching him for several minutes until the finally succumbed to suffocation.

After this event, the location that is now in Brewton, Alabama, was known as “Murder Creek”. Since the events of 1788, this creek that divides Brewton and East Brewton has been a source of many other tragic events and ghostly sightings. More than a few suspected homicide victims have been found floating in Murder Creek. As early as 2012, bodies have been recovered from the location and the small town of Brewton itself is rumored to have more than a few unsolved mysteries pertaining to accidental drowning, suicides and murdered people, the most noted being Annie Jean Barnes who was found beaten,abused and dead outside of a hunting club in 1966.

Whatever the source of a story, legend or rumor, it’s likely the spirits of Brewton, and the spirits who haunt Murder Creek, are those who have died under tragic circumstances or mysterious deaths. Many people who recreate on the scenic waterway have seen the ghastly apparition of Cat, hanging by his neck in the trees. Campers have packed up their tents and belongings in the middle of the night when they encounter the howling cries of what they describe as angry and terrified screaming. This could be the agonizing cries of the murdered men from Kirkland’s party. Or perhaps, the pleas of Cat himself.

A man who allegedly committed suicide by driving his car into Murder Creek, was found dead in the 1960’s. His death is still a heated debate in Brewton but the phantom orbs that resemble the headlights of a car aren’t exactly debated by those who have witnessed the phantom effigy near the location of his death. The floating apparition of a woman has recently surfaced since 2012 and many associate that spirit with a woman whose body was found submerged in the creek that summer.

What is it about Murder Creek that has stained it with an ominous stigma of ongoing mystery and grief? Were the first recorded events a precursor to future tragedies? Or is it somehow cursed by the name itself – Murder Creek. 

The Ghost of Evelyn Carter - Demopolis, Alabama

Gaineswood Mansion - Demopolis, Alabama
The haunted history associated with the Gaineswood Mansion in Demopolis, Alabama is probably most recognized from the book “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery” by Alabama folklorist and author Kathryn Tucker Windham. In its infancy, the frontier property started out with a simple dog-trout cabin built by the Indian Agent, George Strother Gaines. Gaines was most noted for his meeting with the Choctaw chief, Pushmataha. Their meeting, regarding the surrender of Indian land in the region, apparently took place on the Gaineswood estate under a large post oak that would later be known as the “Pushmataha Oak”.

In 1842, the 480 acre property was purchased by General Nathan Bryan Whitfield. Construction expanded the existing log cabin into a large home and thriving plantation. Like most southern plantations, the homestead had beautiful gardens, Iron fences, stables, and slave quarters. In 1843, the Whitfield family named their home “Marlmont”. It took Twenty years to complete construction and in 1856, General Whitfield renamed the estate “Gaineswood”, after its original tenant.

Nathan and Elizabeth Whitfield lived in the home for many years and raised a family. In 1846, tragedy struck when Elizabeth died, leaving behind her husband and young children. Out of necessity, the General searched for a live-in Nanny and house keeper to help with the children and their daily needs. He met a beautiful, young, woman named Miss Carter and offered her the job. Miss Carter was from a prominent Virginia family and her father was a Greek Ambassador working in Europe at the time. Because her family was so far away, the General allowed Evelyn Carter, (the sister of his housekeeper and nanny), to spend the winter at Gaineswood with them.

General Nathan Bryan Whitfield.
Evelyn and General Whitfield shared a love of music, especially Irish folk tunes. She played the piano daily and occasionally General Whitefield would rouse his bagpipes and belt out tunes so loud the entire countryside could hear them. Evelyn was a welcome and pleasant presence at Gaineswood and the whole family loved and adored her. She and General Whitfield became great friends and she brought cheer and joy back into the home that would have otherwise been dreary for the widowed family.

As the months passed, and fall changed to winter, freezing temperatures from an unusual Alabama ice storm brought blankets of snow and ice that covered the ground. The frozen countryside looked as if it had been dropped into the artic. During this time, Evelyn had fallen in love with a local man - a Frenchmen. He was most likely part of the Louisiana exiles that settled in Demopolis, growing olive crops. He courted Evelyn Carter for some time and the couple planned to announce their engagement that spring. Sometime before the happy couple was to make their announcement public, an argument over an unknown issue caused Evelyn to become very upset and she flung her engagement ring across the garden at Gaineswood. Her French lover left and did not return. Evelyn soon fell very ill with Phenomena and died shortly after contracting the deadly infection.

Because of the frozen ground and unusually cold temperatures, Evelyn’s body could not be buried. The sharpest shovel, nor horse plow, could break the icy ground. During the Victorian era, it wasn’t uncommon for a corpse to be stored in a cool cellar or basement at home until the ground thawed for burial. Like many funerary traditions of the early 1800’s, Evelyn’s body was placed in a pine coffin and stored in the cold, dark cellar at Gaineswood.

Burial didn’t come soon enough for Evelyn and her spirit could not be contained despite the fidget winter. Shortly after her body was placed in the basement, the children and her sister could hear the faint sound of the piano playing in the parlor. When they investigated the sounds, no one was found. Perhaps even more disturbing were the footsteps coming from the cellar. The haunting sound of pacing feet seemed to get louder and louder as they gathered momentum toward to basement door, at which point, the sound would stop. At night, when the house should have been quiet and still, Miss Carter would often get up to see if the children were out of bed due to the sounds of running up and down the hallways. When visitors or guests stayed overnight at Gaineswood, loud thumping throughout the mansion would often wake them, and they were forced to endure the ghostly torture until dawn when they would promptly pack up and leave.

Evelyn’s body was eventually returned to Virginia and buried in her family’s cemetery. But the paranormal phenomenon didn’t stop at Gaineswood. Her spirit is still haunting the mansion, turned museum, today. Her ghost is often seen roaming the hallways of the Greek revival style mansion, as well as the surrounding grounds outside. The ghostly piano still emanates from within the parlor and the footsteps from the cellar still manage to spook the hardest nonbelievers when they visit this Alabama landmark. After a hundred years of burial, Evelyn’s corpse rest quietly in the Virginia ground but her spirit will always be at Gaineswood in Demopolis, Alabama.