Sunday, February 05, 2006

8136 7th Ave N

                                                        8136 7th Ave N


I moved into this house on October 15, 2005 after it sat empty for over a year. According to the realty ad, it was built in 1940 & is obviously a Sears kit house.

The next weekend Shela Pope came to visit & told me she felt the presence of an old man in the back yard. She felt he was benign & that he was glad to have some one living here who cared about the place. This neighborhood was once a settled middle class place that has been in decline since the seventies. Hopefully it's now on its way back.


There's a sign under the house for James M. Cash, Attorney At Law & Notary Public. I figured that must be who the old man was & I usually acknowledge "Papaw" whenever I go out back. Until last week I'd never seen anything unusual or felt his presence. A few weeks ago Dan Moon felt a brush on his cheek while sitting in the living room watching TV. It really freaked him out & he hasn't been back since. Last Sunday (Jan 29) I was placing moss at the southwest corner of the house & a sudden sensation of incredible well-being came over me. My 1st thought was it had to be the spirit of the old man Shela felt.


From the time I moved in until a couple of weeks ago something frightened Yao every time he went outside & he spent the 1st six months of his life as a yard cat. He'd be eager to go out but ended up at the door wailing to go back inside within a couple of minutes. Bud & Shug had no problems (Dax & Be rarely go out). He's now come to terms with whatever it is or was & has become quite a yard cat. All of this happening within a few days made me realize it was time to find out more about the spirit in the back yard.

On Saturday morning, Feb 4, 2006, I went across the street & asked Gladys, an old lady who's lived here for 40 years, about the people who used to live in my house. Come to find out, she & her family moved onto 7th Ave North in 1961, the same year I started 1st grade while living at 1917 Alabama Ave in West End. She knew nothing about Robert M Cash but there were some Cash's who lived around the corner on 82nd St. The Pamplins lived in this house. She asked why I was wanting to know & I hesitated before telling her the truth; I was trying to identify a spirit in my backyard. She put her hands over her ears & said, "Oh, don't tell me that! It has to be Old Lady Pamplin." It's a man, I told her. "Then it's Old Man Pamplin."


Well, that completely changed the house history I'd constructed. Today I went to the Birmingham Public Library & looked through City Directories to get as much as much info as possible. The collection wasn't complete but I learned a lot

Oddly enough, there was no house listed at this address until 1952 & it was for James M Reeves. Lee F. Pamplin moved in in 1958 or 59. There were gaps in the directories but Mildred M. Pamplin was listed as the owner from 1978 until 1994. So this was the Pamplin place for about 36 years. The 1996 directory was "not verified" & there were no listings beyond that. I guess searching the tax records for this plot would provide a more complete ownership history but at least now I feel I have a handle on this house. I now feel the spirit is Lee Pamplin.


The house fell into disrepair probably after Mildred died (or was moved into a nursing home) in the nineties because I can tell the bathroom floor has been replaced, as well as the dinning room & kitchen ceilings. Poison ivy covered the back of the house up to the eaves at some point because the tendrils are still visible, though painted over.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Saluda Hill Cemetery
I moved to Mobile in August 1976 to attend the University of South Alabama. It didn't take me long to meet many interesting and diverse people. Late in the fall I went with Fred Baldwin and his friend Virginia, a 77 year old self proclaimed witch, to find the ruins of the city of Blakeley on the Tensaw River in Baldwin County. This was long before the site was surveyed and made into a state park and Hwy. 225 hadn’t been there the last time Virgini visited in the late 50’s. Along the way, we stopped at Saluda Hill Cemetery where hundreds of Confederate soldiers were buried, along with early settlers of the area. I had never been a cemetery that old and was thoroughly enjoying myself. Eventually I found myself on top of the hill, looking down on the perfectly aligned rows of white crosses when I noticed Virginia near the outer edge of the cemetery below. She wasn’t more than 30 or 40 feet within the low stone wall when she started doing this bizarre, funky chicken-type dance. She high-stepped out of the cemetery like the ground was burning her feet, headed towards my car saying, “C’mon, let’s go! Let’s get out of here NOW!!” Of course I ran down the hill and cranked that little VW Rabbit up and got that old woman out of there! After she’d caught her breath and I put a few miles between us and the cemetery, she explained that years earlier she had contacted the spirit of a local man who had died in the Battle of Spanish Fort during the Civil War. This spirit had taken a special shine to her and wouldn’t leave her alone. For months he made her life a living hell by playing pranks and embarrassing her. I’m not sure how, but she finally managed to send him away and hadn’t been bothered by him in many years. She had no idea he was buried in Saluda Hill Cemetery but as soon as she stepped over the wall, could feel his presence and knew he knew she was there. That’s why she had to leave so suddenly, so he wouldn’t have time to home in on her and reattach himself to her aura. This episode didn’t convince me, but it made me mighty curious.

Saenger Theatre, Mobile
I never actually believed in ghosts because I’d never seen one or make that evidence of one, until 1978 while I was working as a “techie” at the Saenger Theatre in downtown Mobile. It was well known that the Saenger had a ghost named George. According to the legend, he was the chief contractor who died of a heart attack shortly before the theatre was completed in 1927, while inspecting the grid above the stage. George was a benign spirit who only made his presence known during bad performances. He always made me think of Leonard Pinth Garnel, Dan Ackroyd's snooty threatre critic character on Saturday Night Live. One evening I was headed back down to the stage from the balcony staircase after a particularly awful dance recital. The staircase was fairly dark, being lit only from the light coming in from the auditorium above and the dim glow from the stagemanager’s booth beyond the downstairs door. There was a landing midway with a door to the right going to what had originally been the organ loft. As I walked down, my eyes were focused on the door knob, if for no other reason only because it was there. After 2 or 3 steps, the doorknob turned and the door slowly swung open about a foot. I didn’t get freaked out or anything, I continued on down and figured my weight on the stairs had caused the door to shift in its frame and simply swing open. No big deal, right? I pushed the door closed and immediately noticed it didn’t swing freely; it dragged on the carpet. I opened the door wide and looked in with the aid of my Zippo and saw the loft had been sealed off from the auditorium by a brick wall and was being used as a janitors closet. There was no draft that could have pushed the door open and the door did not swing freely, it dragged on the carpet. I must admit, this had me a little freaked! The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I felt a shiver. I went down to the stage and shared my experience with my fellow workers. Ron, the tech director, told me I had just encountered George. He acted as though it was a very special event and told me I should feel honored; the vast majority of people who spent any significant amount of time at the Saenger only heard of George; few ever saw evidence of him. It made a believer out of me.

I’m not a mystic, true believer type of person. I know unexplained things happen in this world, and have been since mankind first started taking notice of such things, but few of these unexplained things have ever happened to me. I saw some pretty cosmic events one evening at a prayer meeting at Our Lady of Fatama Church. It could very well have been God, but it also could have been human psychic energy being channeled through and by the leader of the group. The only vivid out of body experience I’ve ever had, one that clearly was not a dream or part of a Sub Beta Sy-napse Sixteen could be explained by excessive drug use. But it was so very real to me that I’m going to tell about it because I don’t think I ever have before.
In the summer of ‘78, my wife and I went to Orange Beach, AL with some college friends on a spur of the moment trip. We stayed in a rustic little cabin that had started out as an Airstream travel trailer and had evolved over the years by the addition of 2 sleeping porches, a kitchen, and a big dinning room. We had all taken some over the counter speed before ever leaving Mobile, that is every one except my wife, Frances. Every party has to have one and she was always the one. Lots of pot was smoked because after all, it was that summer of marijuana bales washing up on shore all along the Gulf Coast, so pot was in good supply. But I digress. There was six of us and we laid on a pier about 200 yards from the cabin on the canal (Inter-coastal Waterway) and watched the August meteor shower and entertained one another with witty repartee. I had never in my entire 23 years seen so many meteorites! It was the perfect place to witness this seasonal spectacle; there was very little light pollution and the night was fair and clear.
Towards the wee hours of the morning we all went to bed to nap so we could get up in time to see the sun rise. Who the hell did we think we were fooling with that silly notion?! Frances and I settled into a double bed in the “master” bedroom within the trailer (since we were the only married couple) and she fell asleep almost immediately. I was dead tired- at least my body was, but my mind was racing along at a million miles a second. Usually I fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed but this time I was wide awake. Sleep would not come, but vivid images and thoughts proceeded to bombard me with incredible intensity. My limbs ached because I was tired and could not get to sleep. I finally forced myself to lay still and tried to use that old trick of telling my feet to go to sleep, then my legs, and envisioning it creeping up my body to my head. It didn’t work, but at least it got me to stop tossing and turning. Eventually I felt as though I was sinking into the bed. It was an actual physical sensation; my legs were sinking into the mattress. It wasn’t sleep, but at least something was happening.
Finally I realized I wasn’t sinking, but rather rising very slowly. Soon I was about 3 feet above the bed! I willed myself to roll over and saw that I was still in bed with my wife! I looked at the wall to my left and passed through it and found myself about 6 feet above the ground at the back of the cabin, next to a huge live oak tree that had been leaning at a nearly 45° angle since the 1926 hurricane. I settled down near the roots and slowly spiraled around the trunk until I was about 8 feet above the ground, then drifted over towards the path leading to the pier. I followed the path down to the water; the same path I’d walked earlier, but this time I was seeing it from a different perspective, higher up than when I’d walked. I looked down at the pier as I passed over and noticed how still the night was. I could hear the water gently lapping at the pilings, smell the water, and feel the wind on my face, even though I didn’t actually have a face! I focused on a buoy on the far side of the canal and drifted out over the open water. I got close enough to hear the sounds of the hardware on the buoy itself and see clearly its design, when the thought occurred to me, “how am I going to get back?” That’s all it took. From that instant it was as though a rubber band snapped me back. The trip back was so fast it was a blur. I passed through the same spot in the wall and collided with my body with such a force that I felt the breath knocked out of me. I was back in my body and wide awake; Frances stirred beside me and mumbled something in her sleep. I got up and peed and went back to bed and soon fell asleep.
The next morning I told my friends what had happened then went out and inspected the tree behind the cabin. I’d only seen it the night before in passing, on our way to the pier and back, and from the vantage point of a 5’7” person. The roots were as thick as I’d seen them in my out-of-body experience. I climbed up the trunk to view it from eight or nine feet off the ground and it was as I knew it would be. I’d seen it before. That was enough to convince me my trip had been real. Months later I told Virginia the witch about this & she told me that under ho circumstances was I to ever do that again because I wasn't knowledgeable about such things. She said it was a miracle that I had found my way back at all. Wow. It's never happened since nor have I ever tried to repeat that experience.

1677.5 Government Street
I moved into the upper flat of 1677 Gov’ment Street. in Mobile in the fall of ‘79 but didn’t encounter the ghost until the summer of ‘80, that summer it was so damn hot. My roommate was working at Gulf State Park for the summer so I had the place to myself five days a week. It was great; like living alone with a house guest who came every Sunday and Monday! So that summer it was just me and a couple of cats living at 1677. The downstairs flat was empty for the first time in nine years and I knew for a fact both doors to that apartment were locked because I locked them after ripping off three gas space heaters soon after the lady moved out. One evening I was sitting at my drawing table in my bedroom at the front of the house and the cats were snoozing in the hall beneath a large attic fan when I clearly heard footsteps passing thru the middle bedroom heading towards the back of the house. I looked around to see who (or what) it was and both cats woke up and were looking too. Three of us heard something but nothing was there. We gave each other a “what the hell was that?” look then within a few minutes, settled back down to our routine and life went on. Now it’s one thing to think you hear a noise, but having two cats hear it as well pretty much convinced me something had really happened. A couple of night later the same thing occurred but this time the cats barely stirred, and by the third occurrence the next night, they didn’t even move. It was always the same thing; footsteps passing thru the middle bedroom going towards the back of the house.
Several months later I was sitting in the living room in a chair next to the fireplace reading, with Morgan, my big black cat curled up beside me. Behind me and to the right was a door leading out to the small porch off the living room. I clearly heard footsteps coming towards me from the porch! Morgan heard them too and raised his head and looked towards the door, following the progress of the steps. The footsteps made a clicking sound when they passed over the threshold into the living room and were silent after that. As soon as whatever it was passed behind my chair, it was like a cold wind blew up my ass; every hair on my body stood on end and Morgan bristled and hissed. Then it was gone and we both knew it was gone. We sat there looking at each other for a few minutes, probably each wondering just what the hell that had been, then went back to what we’d been doing.
I heard the steps in the bedroom a few more times, but only when I was alone and I never felt any fear from them. One evening in the winter, while using the middle bedroom as a den, we got out the Ouija board and tried to contact it. We got ahold of something but received no clear explanation as to what it actually was or why it felt compelled to haunt the middle bedroom of a house built in the 30’s.

5028 Pleasant Hill Road, Greenwood
While living with my grandmother in the summer of '87, I realized the reason old men spend so much time puttering around outside is because they live with old women. Granny had a bug up her ass that day and I was engaged in busy work just to stay out of her way. I had just carried a load of tree limbs down to the road and was on my way back up the hill towards the house. At the moment of this realization, I saw my grandfather, Arthur Craft, standing about 15 feet in front of me. This was quite odd since he died in '65 when I was 10 years old, but there he was, clear as day. He had on khaki work pants, a dark green shirt with the sleeves rolled up past the elbows, and a wide brimmed straw hat with a green visor in the brim. He stood there with his arms folded over his chest, smiling and nodding at me as if to say, “Yeah boy, that’s the reason old men spend so much time puttering!” I slowed down but never stopped walking and when I got to within about 5 feet of him, he simply faded away. This was the first time I’d ever actually seen an apparition and I was mighty glad it had been my grandfather.