At the University of North Alabama in Florence, the son of a Civil War colonel wanders the corridors of Wesleyan Hall and a little girl named Molly haunts the off-campus bookstore.
And at the Tutwiler Hotel in Birmingham, the person who closes down the restaurant and bar always says goodnight to Major Tutwiler to keep him from turning on the lights and making a mess in the kitchen.
These are some of the stories that author Jessica Penot included in her new book, “Haunted North Alabama.”
Penot, a Huntsville resident, writes a daily blog called “Ghost Stories and Haunted Places.” Her posts provided the initial material for the book.
Penot said her interest in the supernatural began because of a haunted Victorian family home in Michigan.
“I grew up with ghost stories. Our family had been in the house for so long that everybody had a story about someone they had seen or heard in the house,” she said.
Penot visited almost all of the areas she wrote about in “Haunted North Alabama.” A spring tornado damaged the Albertville Public Library before she could visit the little library where the elevator goes up and down on its own and loud, unexplained rapping is often heard.
Penot said she did not witness any suspicious behavior on her visits because she was there during the day to get good photos for the book.
However, all of her son’s pictures from a family visit to the Tutwiler Hotel had a strange mist.
“None of my photographs showed it, which is interesting because it is supposed to be a child ghost who haunts the sixth floor of the Tutwiler,” Penot said.
Penot, a member of the American Ghost Society and American Ghost Hunter’s Society, said she never passes up an opportunity to go on a ghost tour while traveling.
Penot and her husband were also invited to go ghost hunting at the Old South Pittsburg Hospital in Tennessee recently.
“Although we didn’t see anything, we got to listen to the EVPs (electronic voice phenomena). There were tons of ghosts talking on there,” Penot said.
Penot, who is a behavioral health therapist with a master’s in clinical psychology, said she knows that there are logical explanations for even the best ghost stories.
The psychological term called attribution bias may provide some of the answers.
“Once a place is labeled as haunted, then anyone who goes there will attribute everything they hear to a ghost. If you didn’t know that place was haunted, you might just assume it was the wind,” Penot said.
However, Penot said even if ghosts are myths, the stories they provide are still fun to tell and hear.
Some, like the legend of Crybaby Hollow, are found in various versions and several different towns.
Penot is particularly amused at how many places claim to be the most haunted city in the country.
“Even if local stories are just folklore, it’s wonderful folklore and it reveals history and culture,” Penot said.