Author discusses ‘School Spirits’

Published 3:56 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One doesn’t have to believe in things that go bump in the night to enjoy hearing a good ghost story.

That was evident on Tuesday when students from LBW Community College and Fort Dale Academy, as well as members of the community filled the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center to hear some of Dr. Alan Brown’s favorites.

Brown presented “School Spirits: Ghost Stories from Alabama’s College Campuses” as part of the Alabama Humanities Foundation Roads Scholar program.

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Brown, who has taught at the University of West Alabama since 1986, has written a number of books on Southern ghost stories, including The Face in the Window and Other Alabama Ghostlore (1996), Shadows and Cypress (2000), Haunted Places in the American South (2002), Stories from the Haunted South (2004), Ghost Hunters of the South (2006), Ghost Hunters of New England (2008), Haunted Texas (2008), and Haunted Birmingham (2009).  He has also published two literary tour guides: Literary Levees of New Orleans (1997) and Literary Landmarks of Chicago (2002).

“I’m in the enviable position that my university actually gives me money each year to stay at haunted places,” Brown said with a smile. “I’ve stayed at haunted bed and breakfasts, haunted prisons and haunted mental institutions.”

Along with his excursions to places many would try to avoid, Brown also seeks out the stories of others who have had unexplained encounters.

“I started this at the right time when ghost hunting began to become sort of popular with shows like ‘Ghost Hunters,’ and people have been willing to share their stories with me,” he said. “Before people were more reluctant to discuss these things because people might think they were crazy. But these are just normal people. They aren’t crazy. They aren’t drunk or high on something, They’ve just had an experience they can’t explain.”

On Tuesday, Brown recounted a few of his favorite ghost stories involving colleges and universities in the area. He shared stories from the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Huntingdon College.

“Most ghost stories are legends, and a legend is a story based on facts,” Brown said. “In all of the stories I will share today there are actual people that can be looked up in history books or archives. That’s what makes them legends. That’s also what makes them so interesting. By the time you get to the scary part, you’re wondering if it could be true. That moment of doubt is when the goose bumps rise.”