The Athens Female Academy was built in 1822, but it was later turned into the Athens State College by the Methodist Church. Oddly, the school is both the oldest and the newest school for higher education in Alabama’s state college system, as the Athens Female Academy is the oldest, and the Athens State College is the newest, joining the system in 1975.
One of the college’s most iconic buildings is the Founders’ Hall, which has four columns named “Matthew”, “Mark”, “Luke”, and “John” holding up the structure. It is rumored that this structure was about to be completely burned down by the Union Army, but the school’s headmistress, Jane Hamilton Childs, gave the army’s commanding officer a note from President Lincoln. The group then left, leaving the school unharmed.
During the Civil War, an unknown woman wearing a long lace dress was looking out her window when the Confederate soldiers decided to bomb the place. In a state of panic, she looked at her room on the top floor, seeing her own blood spatter against the wall. Now, every Monday at exactly 9:00 AM, the scene seems to reenact itself with a cast of ghostly actors.
One of the tales of hauntings that takes place in the hall says that a young woman died there shortly after the end of the Civil War. Two young ladies tried to sneak out to meet two men. As they descended the staircase with candles in their hands to light their way, the wind swept a spark into one of the girls’ hair, igniting her and eventually killing her from her burns. Now, the sound of disembodied footsteps can be heard near the staircase where the girl caught fire, light switches will turn on and off by themselves, doors squeak, and odd knocking noises can be heard against the wall. People have reported seeing her on the third story of the building, peering out of the windows.
The most famous haunting at Athens comes from inside McCandless Hall. Abigail Burns was a beautiful young opera singer who often performed in the hall in 1914. During one of her largest and most successful performances, she had to leave, but she promised the excited audience that she’d be back. However, she would never be able to fulfill her promise.
Later that same night, an encroaching storm came to its head – it was a thunderstorm, which frightened the horses pulling her carriage. The vehicle flipped over, killing Abigail. Like she said, she did return…but from beyond the grave. Those who see her say she has blond hair and is wearing a long white gown with a bouquet of flowers in her soft, delicate hands. Sightings of her have been reported in the dressing rooms, hallways, and the main hall, and she is followed by a flowery fragrance. Similarly to the young woman who was burned, she is also seen in the third floor windows. Luckily, she is a benign spirit and seeks no revenge on the mortals.
In 1997, Professor Mark Durm went on a quest to disprove Abigail Burns’ haunting of McCandless Hall. In this search, he couldn’t find a death record for Miss Burns, and he didn’t find any information regarding her time as a singer at the Hall. Durm’s attempts to debunk the myth did not go well, as witnesses stood their ground.
Brown Hall, built in 1912, is another supposedly haunted location on the campus. It was named for Florence Brown, one of Athens’ employees. She took care of sick students during a typhoid outbreak when most all other staff members fled in fear of their lives. She died shortly after contracting it. Everyone who stayed ended up dying. Disembodied footsteps, knocking noises, “domino-style knocking cascades”, and levitating objects are just some of the activities in the hall.
- Athens State College – Wikipedia
- Athens State College – Ghost Eyes
- Athens State College – Forgotten USA