The Face in the Courthouse
When I was 12, I read 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery.
One of the 13 was the ghost of Henry
Wells, who was innocent of his crime, yet lynched anyhow.
His face, staring down at the angry mob was frozen forever in the window of the courthouse by a flash of lightening.
That's heady stuff! I was enthralled
and wanted badly to see this face.
My parents would not take me, they divorced not long after and my mother remarried, my father waited a few years and followed suit. Another causalty of a broken home, these little hopes and dreams.
The legend obviously contains scenes of the bitter racism that prevailed in Alabama during the Reconstruction Era, including lynching. However, it is interesting to note that, in the legend, Henry Wells is depicted as an innocent man murdered by a vengeful, racist mob, while in true events Wells was shot by law enforcement officers while fleeing arrest, and it is at least somewhat likely that Wells was in fact responsible for burning down the courthouse. In addition to the testimony of his accomplice, Wells eventually confessed to the crime, although his confession couldn't be seen as completely conclusive, given the circumstances under which it was given. Still, Wells' was arguably less "innocent" in the true events than he has come to be portrayed.
Oh, who wants the real version? The story is so much more gruesome and my inner 12 year old wanted to see the ghost.
So...some 21 years later at 33, I was able finally go see the face for myself!
I took along my husband and 3 kids and 2 extras for the day, we got to the courthouse around 5 in the afternoon in June after going to Shark Tooth Creek and the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam first.
For a while there, the window was boarded
up, and there was a smiley face spray-painted where the window was.
For another period of time, there was an actual etching of the face in the courthouse window, but it was most likely broken out.
What is up there now is this:
There is only one window in the courthouse
turrets, and they added an arrow so you just can't miss the lower pane.
Across the road on the corner is a set of quarter-powered binoculars, like the ones at Niagara Falls.
We all had a peek!
Here is what we saw:
I was geeked but the kids decided someone drew the face in the dust every morning and suggested we come back when the guy doing it was not in such a good mood, as the 'ghost' seemed to be smiling.
Matt was on the OTHER corner snagging a geocache.
The cracks in the window make me think
if we come back in a year, there wil be a new pane and a new ghost face to see.
I wonder what happened to the original pane?
So, not QUITE the innocent face captured
to forever haunt the folks of Pickens County I had envisioned, but that will
hardly deter me from going to see the next site on the list!
The Original 13 Alabama Ghosts and
Jeffery Chapter Titles:
The book is by Kathryn Tucker Windham, she has written several others as well.
The Ghost of the Angry Architect
Death Lights in the Tower
The Faithful Vigil at Carlisle Hall
The Specter in the Maze at Cahaba
The Phantom Steamboat of the Tombigbee
The Unquiet Ghost at Gaineswood
The Face in the Courthouse Window
Mobile's Pipe-Smoking Captain
The Return of the Ruined Banker
The Hole That Will Not Stay Filled
Huntingdon College's Red Lady
The Crying Spirit at the Well
The Dancing Ghost of Grancer Harrison