Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is the historic Old Dr. Watkins House at Burnt Corn really haunted?

Dr. Watkins House at Burnt Corn, Alabama
Nine years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, the owners of the historic Dr. Watkins House at Burnt Corn opened the house up to loggers who needed a place to spend the night while they spent their days removing storm debris from county roadways. Loggers arrived at the house with their sleeping bags and luggage, but when the property manager checked on them the following morning, he was greeted by an unexpected sight.

“There were sleeping bags and suitcases scattered all over the yard,” Pat McPherson, who takes care of the house for its owners, said. “They got out of the house in a hurry. You could tell.”

Not only did they leave their sleeping bags and suitcases behind, but they also left a note.

“The note said that they’d heard a woman scream in the back of the house,” McPherson said. “When they went to check it out, there was no one there. It spooked them so bad, they didn’t spend another minute inside the house. These weren’t lightweights either, these were manly guys used to working in the woods.”

The Dr. Watkins House is located just off County Road 5, about 1-1/2 miles north of downtown Burnt Corn. It’s one of the oldest homes in Southwest Alabama, and it’s also rumored to be one of the most haunted. Built in 1812, it served for many years as the home and medical office of Dr. John Watkins, who was once the only practicing physician between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers. Watkins passed away in 1853, but not before treating individuals wounded during the Fort Mims Massacre of 1813 and seeing Andrew Jackson pass through Burnt Corn in 1814 on his way to the Battle of New Orleans. Some sources even say that Jackson spent the night in the Dr. Watkins House, while Jackson’s troops camped a little farther down the road.

Spooky tales about the Dr. Watkins House abound and leave little wonder why a hardy group of loggers couldn’t spend an entire night in the house.

Harry McMillan of Montgomery told The Courant that about 20 years ago, he and his wife, Anne, were in the sitting room one night when they looked into an adjoining bedroom and were shocked by the sight of blood dripping from the ceiling between two boards and down a wall. They ran upstairs to see where the blood was coming from and found nothing. When they returned downstairs, the blood was gone, McMillan said.

Watkins’ medical office was located on the second floor of the house, and McMillan wonders if the phantom blood may have been the result of something that happened in the house years before.

“There’s no telling what all has happened in that house over the years,” he said. “Pulling arrows out of people, delivering babies, you name it, he probably had to deal with it. Who knows how many people were born and died in the house?”

More recently, McMillan said that his nephew spent the night in the house and awoke to find a ghostly figure standing at the foot of his bed. A few seconds later, the mysterious figure disappeared. McMillan also reported that individuals spending the night in the house have repeatedly heard the sounds of footsteps on the front porch, but when they check for the source of the noise, nothing’s there.

Others have reported seeing Watkins’ ghost standing in the doorway of one of the home’s bedrooms while others have reported eerie feelings caused by artwork inside the house, particularly an original painting of a woman carving a Jack o’ Lantern. One man got so creeped out by one of the paintings, saying that he felt like he was being watched, that he refused to set foot back in the house, McPherson said.

With these spooky tales in mind, The Courant teamed up with award-winning reporter and photographer Josh Dewberry of The Monroe Journal and John Higginbotham of the Alabama Paranormal Research Society on Friday night to investigate the Dr. Watkins House, and the results of the overnight trip were not disappointing.

Around midnight, all three of us were sitting in the living room when one of us saw a pale blue, softball-sized light appear in front of a window in an adjoining bedroom. The light disappeared almost immediately and a few seconds later one of us saw another shapeless, pale blue object appear in the same spot. It disappeared almost immediately as well and nothing happened for several more minutes.

Later, the bedroom curtains began to move and after watching them sway slightly for nearly a full minute, we entered the room to see if it was being caused by a draft. We ran our hands along the edge of the window and along the floor, but couldn’t detect a breeze or find any other reason for the curtains to move. Eventually, the curtains stopped moving, and we never saw them move again for the remainder of our stay.

Around 1:15 a.m., we’d returned to the living room and a few minutes later got the surprise of the night. Suddenly and without warning, a dark shape appeared in the doorway to the same bedroom, almost as if it had darted out to look around the corner before disappearing around the edge of the door. This shadowy figure appeared low to the floor, just three or four feet off the ground. We searched the room and the adjoining rooms for anything that could have caused the shadow, but came up empty handed.

We turned in for the night around 2 a.m. and slept soundly, aside from the sound of an occasional hoot owl or passing car, until 6 a.m. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, and we headed for our vehicles a few minutes later. As a light frost crunched beneath our feet, we stopped for a few photos of the home’s exterior, and I was struck by the somewhat menacing aspect of the home’s façade. Silent and implacable, the house looked menacing, like a place full of secrets, a place that seemed to say that it had been there long before we were born and would be there long after we’ve passed from this world to the next.

Friday night marked the fourth straight year that The Courant has teamed up with Dewberry and Higginbotham to investigate a supposedly haunted location in our neck of the woods. In past years, we’ve investigated the Old Carter Hospital in Repton, Rikard’s Mill near Beatrice and the Old Castleberry Bank Building, and the Dr. Watkins House ranks right up there among them on the creepy scale.

In the end, can it be said that the Dr. Watkins House is truly haunted? Without more concrete evidence, it’s hard to say for sure, but one thing is certain – a lot of people believe it’s haunted, and it’s hard to disagree with them.

“The family definitely believes the house is haunted,” McMillan said. “But we don’t think it’s anything that intends to harm anyone.”

(Special thanks to the Lowrey Trusts, Jacob Lowrey, Harry and Ann McMillan, Pat and Mary McPherson and Clinton C. Berry Jr. for giving us permission to visit the Dr. Watkins House and their hospitality. The trip and resulting story would have been impossible without their gracious cooperation. Many thanks.)

Hunter Norris regains top spot in local college football pick 'em contest

More than a few people asked me on Monday if the 64 points Hillcrest scored in the football game Friday night against Monroe County was a school record for most points scored in a single game, and the answer is yes.

According to records maintained by the Alabama High School Football Historical Society, prior to Friday night Hillcrest had never scored more than 60 points in a single game. The Jaguars accomplished that feat in the 2003 season when they beat Gulf Shores, 60-13, on Oct. 24 in Gulf Shores.

Friday night’s 64 points also set a new record for most points ever scored by a Hillcrest team on their home field at Brooks Memorial Stadium in Evergreen. Prior to Friday night, the most points a Hillcrest team had ever scored in Brooks Memorial Stadium was 55 points they put up on W.S. Neal on Oct. 3, 2008.

As the old saying goes, “Records are made to be broken,” so we can all look forward to the day that Hillcrest tops 64 points at home or on the road.

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The ninth week of our local ESPN College Football Pick ‘Em contest has come and gone, and here’s what the standings looked like after the games last Saturday.

Hunter Norris went from third place to first place, unseating front-runner Jeremy Matheny, who dropped down to second place. Joey Matheny dropped from second place to third place. Aaron Albritton went from seventh place to fourth place, and Mike Dailey climbed from sixth place to fifth place.

Ricky Taylor dropped from fifth place to sixth place, and Mark Peacock dropped from fourth place to seventh place. I climbed from ninth place to eighth place, and someone named “Pman 1980” dropped from eighth place to ninth place. Sharon Peacock remained in tenth place for the second straight week.

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In the SEC this weekend, there will be four head-to-head match ups between conference teams. Those games will include Auburn at Arkansas, Mississippi State at South Carolina, Tennessee at Missouri and Florida against Georgia in Jacksonville. Other games this week will included Alabama State at Kentucky and UTEP at Texas A&M. Alabama, Vanderbilt, LSU and Ole Miss don’t play this week.

For what they’re worth, here are my picks for that slate of games. I like Auburn over Arkansas, South Carolina over Mississippi State, Missouri over Tennessee, Georgia over Florida, Kentucky over Alabama State and Texas A&M over UTEP. Last week: 7-0. So far this season: 63-14.

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Week Nine of the NFL regular season kicks off tonight (Thursday) with a game between the 6-2 Cincinnati Bengals and the 3-4 Miami Dolphins. That game will kick off at 7:25 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium. Eleven games will follow on Sunday, and the Monday night game will feature the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco and the New York Giants do not play this week.

Tonight, I look for Cincinnati to beat Miami. On Sunday, I like Carolina over Atlanta, Dallas over Minnesota, New Orleans over the New York Jets, Tennessee over St. Louis, Kansas City over Buffalo, Washington over San Diego, Philadelphia over Oakland, Seattle over Tampa Bay, Baltimore over Cleveland, New England over Pittsburgh and Indianapolis over Houston. On Monday night, I look for Green Bay to beat Chicago. Last week: 10-3. So far this season: 84-36.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Oct. 31, 2013

1949 Evergreen High School football team.
OCT. 27, 1994

“Sparta Warriors beat Greenville 21 to 20: The Sparta Warriors broke a seven-game losing streak when they defeated the Greenville Tornados Friday night 21 to 20 in overtime.
“The Warriors were led by Lyle Bell with 104 yards on 23 carries for a 4.5 yard per carry average. Brent Worrell had 60 yards on 13 carries, James Johnson 10 yards on six carries and Rod McIntyre had two yards on three carries.
“Brent Worrells was two of five passing for 63 yards and one interception and McIntyre completed his only pass for four yards. Adrian Mitchell had 63 yards on two receptions and Larry Wright had one catch for four yards.
“Bell scored two of the Warriors touchdowns on runs of four and one yards and Brent Worrells scored the other touchdown on a 20-yard run. Brian Gorum kicked each of the extra points.”

“On Oct. 15, 1994, the Conecuh County Jr. High Blue Devils Tiny Mites played the Evergreen Jaguars for the South Central League Tiny Mite Championship. The Blue Devils won, 22-0. They were presented the winning trophy by Mark Fedor. Members of the Blue Devils Tiny Mite team are Dearco McCreary, Josh Wiggins, Dejuan Rudolph, Chenson Griffin, Josh Gray, Zack Davis, Greg Bogan and Davis McGinite, manager, Justin Rabon, Jamie Coleman, Dusty Wilson, Leon Johnson, Avery Pate, LeAndre Glover and Lee Rabon; John McGinite, Troy Hart, Eric Chavers, Shannon Coleman, Brandon Wilcox, Kevin Hall, Ethan Blair, assistant coaches Wade Wilcox and Phillip Kast and head coach Bruce Madden.”

OCT. 25, 1979

“Aggies edge Miller in upset of season: The T.R. Miller High Tigers of Brewton were undefeated and ranked the No. 1 Class 3A team in the state when they invaded Brooks Stadium here Friday night. They left victims of a startling upset at the hands of the Evergreen High Aggies, the first win for EHS over Miller since 1960.
“The Aggies overcame a 14-0 halftime deficit as Michael Adams scored on a couple of one-yard runs and added two-point conversions after each to give Evergreen a 16-14 victory and the upset of the season in South Alabama.”

“The Conecuh County Blue Devils just could not stay with the team that is expected to be the area champions. CCHS put up a great defensive battle in the first quarter holding the Frisco City Whippets to just seven points.
“The Blue Devils got on the board in the fourth quarter with senior running back Jamey Weaver scoring. Bill Downing led the rushing attack with 157 yards.
“’I was well pleased with our defensive game,’ said Coach Doug Williamson. ‘We had a great team effort on defense.’”

“The South Montgomery Academy Raiders routed Sparta Academy, 56-6, Friday night at Grady to run their record for the season to 7-1.
“Sparta got its lone touchdown in the final quarter on a two-yard run by Jeff Johnson who led the offense with 29 yards on five carries and completed one of six pass attempts for 15 yards, Robert Johnson making the catch.”
Other standout Sparta players in that game included Ed Carrier, Andy Hammonds, Ronny McKenzie and Terry Peacock.

OCT. 29, 1964

“The Repton High Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season last Friday night in McKenzie, losing to the McKenzie Tigers, 13 to 6.
“Halfback Robert Lowery accounted for Repton’s only score on a 19-yard pass from Glen Baggett in the second period.”

“MISS FOOTBALL: Miss Becky McKenzie will reign over homecoming at Evergreen High tomorrow having been chosen ‘Miss Football.’ Becky is a senior and captain of the Aggie cheerleaders.”

“Two evenly matched teams battled to a standoff here in Brooks Stadium Friday night as the Evergreen Aggies and the Frisco City Whippets put on a show of defensive strength. The score was the same at the finish as it was at the start, 0 to 0.”

“Mike Fields has been named Player of the Week by the Evergreen Jaycees for the Frisco City game. The first voting ended in a three-way tie and in the runoff the honor went to Mike thus making him eligible for the Player of the Year award at the end of the season.
“Fields is a senior end who has turned in consistent play for the Aggies all year. He has excelled on defense which he did again in the scoreless tie with the Whippets.”

OCT. 27, 1949

“UNDEFEATED – Pictured above are the 11 starters on the undefeated Evergreen High School Football team. The Aggies have won four and tied two in six starts and allowed only six points to be scored on them. Friday night they go against the tough Bay Minette Tigers in Bay Minette. From left to right, front row, Bruce Johnson, 167; Max Pope, 180; Douglas Potts, 170; Capt. Jack Cunningham, 175; Jeff Moorer, 170; Shelton Craig, 185; and Dickey Bozeman, 160; standing, Bertie Hassel, 130; John Greel Ralls, 167; Edward Hooks, 165; and Gillis Morgan, 130.”

“George, owned by W.S. Beasley of Foley, was judged the best All Age Hound at the end of the three-day field trials held at Burnt Corn last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by the Dixie Foxhunters Association. Miss Jessie, owned by W.H. Miller of Bay Minette, was second. Big Jim, owned by Fred Owens of Repton, took third place and fourth went to Slim, owned by Bill Stevens of Monroeville.”

“The fast-stepping Evergreen High School Band will have its night when the Evergreen Aggies tangle with Millry High here next Friday night, Nov. 3, at 7:30 in Brooks Stadium.
“The band, which has added so much to the Evergreen games this year and in the past, will receive all the net proceeds of the game.
“Tickets to the game are now on sale.
“The Band Booster Club and the band are in charge of advance ticket sales. All band members have tickets to the game and are selling them. Prices are the same, adults 75 cents, students, 35 cents.”

OCT. 25, 1934

“Messrs. J.L. Kelly, R.G. Bozeman, Paul McMillan and J.E. Jones attended the Alabama-Tennessee football game in Birmingham Saturday.”

“Mr. Hunter, Mr. Sportsman, Hunting Season Opens NOVEMBER FIRST, Come in as soon as possible and see our line of hunting supplies. Don’t wait until Nov. 1st to get that new gun or your ammunition. They’re Here KLEANBORE Game Loads – The shot shells you have been waiting for – Kleanbore. The shells with the patented priming mixture made only by Remington. Kleanbore shells outshoot all others. Ask for Kleanbore Game Loads. We have the right load for whatever game you are hunting – 1-1/8 KLEANBORE SHUR-SHOT SHELLS 75 cents PER BOX – In our past years of service we have found Remington Arms and Ammunition to give the best results. It is no longer an experiment. ‘We Know It.’ Numbers of our customers that have been using Remington products know they have the best. Be sure to let us show you before you buy. We have everything you need for hunting – Rutland Hardware Co. - ‘Always Reliable’ - Evergreen, Ala.”

“Cheap Shells are Not Cheap in the Long Run – Mr. Wild Says: ‘For the past 37 years this store has handled none other than the best to be had in Fire Arms and Ammunition. We have all popular gauge sizes of Shot Guns and Rifles and all sizes of Shells with popular loads in both shot and powder. Hunters that trade with us are highly satisfied because they are assured of the best from the beginning. HUNTING SEASON Opens Nov. 1st – Come In And Let Us Fill Your Needs – A NEW SHOTGUN – A NEW RIFLE – YOUR AMMUNITION – Any gauge, size or load that you want. – Wild Bros. Hardware Co. – Evergreen, Ala.”

Alabama Sports Writers Association releases new prep football poll

The Alabama Sports Writers Association released its latest high school football poll yesterday and more than a few teams from Southwest Alabama received mention in the poll.

The following schools were ranked No. 1 in their respective classes: Hoover High School, Class 6A; Spanish Fort High School, Class 5A; UMS-Wright, Class 4A; Madison Academy, Class 3A; Tanner High School, Class 2A; Pickens County High School, Class 1A; and Edgewood Academy, Alabama Independent School Association.

What follows is the complete rankings with first place votes and current records in parentheses.

Class 6A
1. Hoover (30) (9-0)
2. Auburn (8-1)
3. Clay-Chalkville (8-1)
4. McGill-Toolen (8-1)
5. Shades Valley (8-1)
6. Bob Jones (8-1)
7. Blount (8-1)
8. Opelika (7-2)
9. Vestavia Hills (7-2)
10. Spain Park (8-1)

Others receiving votes: Carver-Montgomery (7-2) 25, Oxford (7-2) 20, Bessemer City (8-1) 19, Daphne (7-2) 16, Smiths Station (7-2) 7, Florence (7-2) 2.

Class 5A
1. Spanish Fort (29) (9-0)
2. Jackson (1) (9-0)
3. Muscle Shoals (9-0)
4. Homewood (8-1)
5. Benjamin Russell (8-1)
6. Southside-Gadsden (9-0)
7. Center Point (8-1)
8. Saraland (8-1)
9t. McAdory (7-2)
9t. St. Paul’s (7-2)

Others receiving votes: Pleasant Grove (8-1) 26, Briarwood Christian (7-2) 6, Hartselle (7-2) 4, Cullman (7-2) 3, Walker (7-2) 3, Etowah (7-2) 2, Scottsboro (7-2) 2, Valley (6-3) 2.

Class 4A
1. UMS-Wright (21) (8-1)
2. Charles Henderson (8) (9-0)
3. Bibb Co. (9-0)
4. Oneonta (8-1)
5. Calera (1) (8-1)
6. Dadeville (8-1)
7. Central-Clay County (8-1)
8. J.O. Johnson (8-1)
9. Andalusia (8-1)
10. Munford (8-1)

Others receiving votes:Guntersville (8-1) 20, Beauregard (7-2) 11, Tallassee (7-2) 4, Anniston (5-4) 1, Central-Florence (7-2) 1, Childersburg (7-2) 1, Hillcrest-Evergreen (6-3) 1.

Class 3A
1. Madison Academy (29) (9-0)
2. T.R. Miller (1) (9-0)
3. Saks (9-0)
4. Fayette County (8-1)
5. Trinity (8-1)
6. Piedmont (8-1)
7. Dale County (9-0)
8. Leeds (7-2)
9. Colbert County (8-1)
10. Straughn (7-2)

Others receiving votes: Hamilton (8-1) 21, Hanceville (8-1) 11, Lauderdale County (7-2) 6, Gordo (7-2) 2, Midfield (6-3) 2, New Hope (7-2) 2.

Class 2A
1. Tanner (23) (8-1)
2. Lanett (5) (9-0)
3. Washington County (8-1)
4. Fyffe (8-1)
5. Luverne (2) (9-0)
6. Sweet Water (7-2)
7. Oakman (8-1)
8. G.W. Long (8-1)
9. Fultondale (8-1)
10. Ranburne (8-1)

Others receiving votes: Lamar County (8-1) 30, Mobile Christian (7-2) 23, Houston Academy (8-1) 18, Montgomery Academy (8-1) 10, Gaston (6-3) 3, Red Bay (7-2) 3, Walter Wellborn (6-3) 1.

Class 1A
1. Pickens County (26) (9-0)
2. Maplesville (4) (9-0)
3. Brantley (8-1)
4. Valley Head (9-0)
5. Linden (7-2)
6. Loachapoka (8-1)
7. Addison (7-1)
8. McKenzie (8-1)
9. Ragland. (7-1)
10. Falkville (7-1)

Others receiving votes: R. A. Hubbard (7-2) 12, Autaugaville (7-2) 5, Hubbertville (7-2) 3, A.L. Johnson (7-2) 2, Donoho (7-2) 2, Geneva County (7-2) 1, Marion County (6-3) 1.

Alabama Independent School Association
1. Edgewood Academy (26) (10-0)
2t. Monroe Academy (4) (9-0)
2t. Restoration (9-1)
4. Marengo Academy (9-0)
5. Bessemer Academy (9-1)
6. Tuscaloosa Academy (7-2)
7. Autauga Academy (7-2)
8. Patrician Academy (8-2)
9. Kingwood Christian (8-2)
10. Pickens Academy (8-2)

Others receiving votes: Escambia Academy (8-2) 31, Abbeville Christian (8-2) 15, Fort Dale Academy (6-3) 13, Clarke Prep (5-4) 2, Wilcox Academy (6-3) 1.

The Alabama Sports Writers Association prep committee members are: Paul Beaudry (Chairman), Alabama Media Group; Josh Bean,; Andrew Garner, Andalusia Star-News; Brandon Miller, Anniston Star; Jeff Sentell, Birmingham News; Adam Robinson, Brewton Standard; Rob Rice, Blount Countian; Shannon Fagan, Cherokee Herald; Ross Wood, Clarke Co. Democrat; Rob Ketcham, Cullman Times; Jonathon Bentley, Daily Mountain Eagle; Justin Graves, Decatur Daily; David Mundee, Dothan Eagle; Lee Peacock, Evergreen Courant; Newton Peters, Florala News; Gregg Dewalt, Florence TimesDaily; Lew Gilliland, Fort Payne Times-Journal; Dennis Victory, Freelance (Birmingham); Chris McCarthy, Gadsden Messenger; Nick Johnston, Gadsden Times; Davis Potter, Hamilton Journal Record; Daniel Boyette, Huntsville Times; Ben Thomas, Mobile Press-Register; Stacy Long, Montgomery Advertiser; Robert Carter, North Jefferson News; Jason Galloway, Opelika-Auburn News; Shannon Allen, Sand Mountain Reporter; Jason Bowen, Scottsboro Daily Sentinel; Lavonte Young, Talladega Daily Home; Griffin Pritchard, Tallassee Tribune; Andrew Carroll, Tuscaloosa News; Cory Diaz, Wetumpka Herald.

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., Oct. 31, 2013

Temp: 64.2 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies, almost overcast; security light still on in the yard; birds audible.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: Not measured.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Fall to Date Rainfall: 2.00 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 44.25 inches

NOTES: Today is the 304th day of 2013 and the 40th day of Fall. There are 61 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Historical marker tells of famous Alabama lawyer, general and politician

Edmund Winston Pettus House Site in Selma, Ala.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “EDMUND WINSTON PETTUS HOUSE SITE” marker in Selma, Alabama. The marker is located on Alabama, up the street from the Vaughan Smitherman Museum.

This marker was erected by the Alabama Historical Association in 1972. There’s text on both sides of this marker, but both sides are identical. What follows is the complete text from the marker.

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“EDMUND WINSTON PETTUS HOUSE SITE: Edmund Winston Pettus, lawyer, General C.S.A., U.S. Senator, was born Limestone County, Alabama, 1821. Admitted to bar, 1842. Moved to Cahaba, 1858. Major, C.S.A., 1861. Brigadier General, 1863. U.S. Senator, 1897-1907. Resided here from 1866 until death, 1907. When in Senate, with John T. Morgan, Selma was home of both U.S. Senators from Alabama.”

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Pettus was an interesting man. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, he was the last Confederate brigadier general from Alabama to serve in the U.S. Senate and he was an influential leader in the state Democratic Party. However, he didn’t hold public office until he was 75 years old.

The youngest of nine children, he was born in 1821 and was admitted to the bar in 1842. He and his wife, Mary Lucinda Chapman, had three sons and two daughters. He served two years as a lieutenant in the Mexican War and then traveled to California on horseback during the famous California Gold Rush. He returned to Alabama two years later.

He settled in Carrollton, Ala. in 1851 and moved to Cahaba in 1858. He was living there at the start of the Civil War, and during this time, his brother, John J. Pettus, was governor of Mississippi. In 1861, he became a major in the 20th Alabama Infantry and he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1862.

He eventually rose to the rank of colonel and was promoted to brigadier general in 1863, which put him in charge of the 20th, 23rd, 30th, 31st and 46th Alabama regiments. He served in a number of battles during the war and was wounded a few days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. He eventually recovered and began practicing law in Selma, not far from Cahaba.

He ran for the U.S. Senate at the age of 75 and beat incumbent James L. Pugh. He served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee supported the Gold Standard Act of 1900. Morgan, who was also from Selma, was 82 at the time. Pettus was eventually succeeded by Joseph F. Johnston, and Morgan was succeeded by John Hollis Bankhead. During a vacation to Hot Springs, N.C., Pettus had a stroke and died two days later on July 27, 1907. He’s buried in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. One of Selma’s most famous landmarks, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, was named in his honor.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below.

This week's movie picks are 'Ender's Game' and 'R.I.P.D.'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue or pick up at the local Redbox.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- About Time (Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, R): Directed by Richard Curtis and starring Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie.

- Big Sur (Drama, R): Directed by Michael Polish and starring Stana Katic, Kate Bosworth, Radha Mitchell, Josh Lucas and Henry Thomas.

- Dallas Buyers Club (Drama, R): Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and starring Matthew McConqughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn and Dallas Roberts.

- Diana (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Olivier Hirschbiegel and starring Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Cas Anvar and Laurence Belcher.

- Ender’s Game (Science Fiction, Action, PG-13): Directed by Gavin Hood and starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis.

- Free Birds (Family, Comedy, PG): Directed by Jimmy Hayward and starring the voices of Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Danny Carey and Eddie Sotelo.

- Last Vegas (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Jon Turtletaub and starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen.

- Mr. Nobody (Drama, R): Directed by Jaco Van Dormael and starring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Rhys Ifans and Linh-Dan Pham.

- A Perfect Man (Drama, Not Rated): Directed by Kees Van Oostrum and starring Live Schreiber, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Joelle Carter, Louise Fletcher and Renee Soutendijk.

- Sal (Drama, Not Yet Rated): Directed by James Franco and starring Val Lauren, Jim Parrack, James Franco, Vince Jolivette and Trevor Neuhoff.

New DVD releases this week include:

- All Hallows’ Eve (Horror, Not Rated): Directed by Damien Leone and starring Catherine Callahan, Katie Maguire and Marie Maser.

- Bounty Killer (Action, PG-13): Directed by Henry Saine and starring Matthew Marsden, Kristanna Loken, Christian Pitre, Barak Hardley and Abraham Benrubi.

- Byzantium (Drama, Fantasy, R): Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller and Daniel Mays.

- Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (Comedy, Family, Not Rated): Directed by Peter Hewitt and starring Christian Martyn, Eddie Steeples, Jodelle Ferland, Doug Murray and Ellie Harvie.

- Monsters University (Comedy, Family, G): Directed by Dan Scanlon and starring the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina and Julia Sweeney.

- R.I.P.D. (Action, Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Robert Schwentke and starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker and Robert Knepper.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Ender’s Game,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “R.I.P.D.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Wed., Oct. 30, 2013

Temp: 56.8 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies, almost overcast; light fog visible in the distance, visibility more than half a mile; security light still on in the yard; birds audible; moon visible overhead.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.74 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Fall to Date Rainfall: 2.00 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 44.25 inches

NOTES: Today is the 303rd day of 2013 and the 39th day of Fall. There are 62 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

'Batman, Vol. 2' takes top spot on Paperback Graphic Books list this week

Today is Tuesday, so that means it’s time for my weekly breakdown of this week’s New York Times lists of best-selling graphic novels. According to those lists, there is one new book at the top of the two major graphic novel lists this week.

“Batman, Vol. 2” by Scott Snyder and others replaced “Battling Boy” by Paul Pope as the top book on the Paperback Graphic Books best-sellers list this week.

“The Walking Dead, Book 9” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard remained the No. 1 book on the Hardcover Graphic Books best-sellers list for the second straight week.

There were four books on this week’s Hardcover Graphic Books best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They (and their places on the list) included “Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Omnibus, Vol. 1” by Jonathan Hickman and others (2), “The Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story” by Peter Bagge (3), “Primates” by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (9) and “RASL” by Jeff Smith (10).

There were three books on this week’s Paperback Graphic Books best-sellers list that wasn’t on that list last week. They included “Batman, Vol. 2” by Scott Snyder and others (1), “Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake” by Natasha Allegri (2) and “The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 2” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (4).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Tuesday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Sunday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit The New York Times’ Web site at Below you’ll find both of this week’s best-seller lists.

1. “The Walking Dead, Book 9” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
2. “Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Omnibus, Vol. 1” by Jonathan Hickman and others
3. “The Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story” by Peter Bagge
4. “Avengers: Endless Wartime” by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone
5. “The Best American Comics 2013” by Jeff Smith
6. “Shazam, Vol. 1” by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
7. “Justice League, Vol. 3” by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
8. “Mission in a Bottle” by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff
9. “Primates” by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
10. “RASL” by Jeff Smith

1. “Batman, Vol. 2” by Scott Snyder and others
2. “Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake” by Natasha Allegri
3. “The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 1” by Robert Kirkman and others
4. “The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 2” by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
5. “Battling Boy” by Paul Pope
6. “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier
7. “March: Book One” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
8. “Blue is the Warmest Color” by Julie Maroh
9. “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse” by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti and Attila Futaki
10. “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Mick Herron's 'Dead Lions' wins CWA's 2013 Gold Dagger Award

The UK-based Crime Writers Association announced the final winners of this year’s Dagger Awards during an awards ceremony on Friday in London.

Mick Herron received the prestigious Goldsboro Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel for his novel, “Dead Lions.”

Roger Hobbs received the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year for his novel, “Ghostman.”

Derek B. Miller received the John Creasey Dagger for Best New Crime Writer of the Year for his novel, “Norwegian by Night.”

Malcolm MacKay received the Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read Award for “The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter.”

Other winners included:
- Best Actor Dagger: David Tennant
- Best Actress Dagger: Olivia Colman
- Best Supporting Actor Dagger: Andrew Buchan
- Best Supporting Actress Dagger: Amelia Bullmore
- TV Dagger: Broadchurch
- International TV Dagger: The Killing III
- Film Dagger: Skyfall
- CWA Hall of Fame Awards: Martina Cole and Wilbur Smith

The Goldsboro Gold Dagger Award is arguably the most prestigious award given out each year by the CWA, and more than a few famous novels have received that award over the year. With that said, here’s a complete list of all of the crime novels that have received Gold Dagger Award over the years.

2013 – Dead Lions by Mick Herron
2012 – The Rage by Gene Kerrigan
2011 – Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
2010 – Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
2009 – A Whispered Name by William Brodrick
2008 – Blood From Stone by Frances Fyfield
2007 – The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
2006 – Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
2005 – Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indrioason
2004 – Blacklist by Sara Paretsky
2003 – Fox Evil by Minette Walters
2002 – The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza
2001 – Sidetracked by Henning Mankell
2000 – Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
1999 – A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson
1998 – Sunset Limited by James Lee Burke
1997 – Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
1996 – Popcorn by Ben Elton
1995 – The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid
1994 – The Scold’s Bridle by Minette Walters
1993 – Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
1992 – The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter
1991 – King Solomon’s Carpet by Barbara Vine
1990 – Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill
1989 – The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter
1988 – Ratking by Michael Dibdin
1987 – A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine
1986 – Live Flesh by Ruth Rendell
1985 – Monkey Puzzle by Paula Gosling
1984 – The Twelfth Juror by B.M. Gill
1983 – Accidental Crimes by John Hutton
1982 – The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey
1981 – Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
1980 – The Murder of the Maharaja by H.R.F. Keating
1979 – Whip Hand by Dick Francis
1978 – The Chelsea Murders by Lionel Davidson
1977 – The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carre
1976 – A Demon in My View by Ruth Rendell
1975 – The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer
1974 – Other Paths the Glory by Anthony Price
1973 – The Defection of A.J. Lewinter by Robert Littell
1972 – The Levanter by Eric Ambler
1971 – The Steam Pig by James H. McClure
1970 – Young Man I Think You’re Dying by Joan Fleming
1969 – A Pride of Heroes by Peter Dickinson
1968 – Skin Deep by Peter Dickinson
1967 – Murder Against the Grain by Emma Lathen
1966 – A Long Way to Shiloh by Lionel Davidson
1965 – The Far Side of the Dollar by Ross Macdonald
1964 – The Perfect Murder by H.R.F. Keating
1963 – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
1962 – When I Grow Rich by Joan Fleming
1961 – The Spoilt Kill by Mary Kelly
1960 – The Night of Wenceslas by Lionel Davidson
1959 – Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler
1958 – Someone from the Past by Margot Bennett
1957 – The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons
1956 – The Second Man by Edward Grierson
1955 – The Little Walls by Winston Graham

In the end, how many of these Gold Dagger Award winners have you had a chance to read? Which did you like? Dislike? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., Oct. 29, 2013

Temp: 54.5 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies with scattered clouds, but mostly clear; foggy, visibility less than half a mile; dew on the ground; security light still on in the yard; birds audible, including a rooster and an owl; moon visible overhead.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.76 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Fall to Date Rainfall: 2.00 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 44.25 inches

NOTES: Today is the 302nd day of 2013 and the 38th day of Fall. There are 63 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Monday, October 28, 2013

LIFE LIST UPDATE – No. 614: Spend the night in the Old Dr. John Watkins House at Burnt Corn

Old Dr. John Watkins House at Burnt Corn
I’ve lived in Monroe County, Ala. for most of my life, and I’ve always been deeply intrigued by the county’s history. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to tales of the county’s early settlers and its old buildings, and I never tire of hearing about them. One of the oldest homes in all of Monroe County is the Dr. Watkins House at Burnt Corn, and I’ve always wanted to spend a night under its historic roof.

I added “Spend the night in the old Dr. John Watkins House at Burnt Corn” to my “life list” a couple of years ago, and I got the chance to scratch this item off my list on Friday night. Thanks to the gracious hospitality of the home’s owners, two friends and I were allowed to spend the night there as part of a Halloween-themed newspaper story. (The story about our visit to the house will be published in the Oct. 31 editions of The Evergreen Courant and The Monroe Journal.) Not only did we get a detailed tour of the house, we were also pretty much given the run of the place.

Located on the west side of County Road 5, about 1-1/2 miles north of downtown Burnt Corn, the Dr. Watkins House was built in 1812. Watkins lived in the house until his death in 1853 and for many years he was the only practicing physician between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers. Added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on Oct. 4, 1993, this 2-1/2 story house was standing when General Andrew Jackson passed through Burnt Corn in 1814. Some say that Jackson even spent the night in the house, which I think is pretty cool.

Watkins’ medical office was on the second floor of the house, and some sources say he treated the wounded from the Fort Mims Massacre in the house. Watkins and his wife, Mary, also raised eight children in the house, and it’s hard to imagine that many people living in the house, which wouldn’t be considered spacious by modern standards. The first floor consists of four rooms, three of which are now used as bedrooms, with a bathroom having been added on to the back.

Today, the current owners use the house as a hunting lodge and as a place to get away from it all. For a house that over two centuries old, it felt very warm and comfortable, and appeared so well built that it’s not hard to figure out why it has lasted so long. If you go there today, you’ll see such unusual features as “haint paint” on the front porch and cool old-timey fireplaces decorated with carved sunburst ornaments.

In the end, I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend the night at the Dr. Watkins House, and I really appreciate the owners allowing me and my colleagues to spend some time there. How many of you are familiar with the Dr. Watkins House? How many of you have spent time there or spent the night there? Do you have any interesting stories about the house? Let us know in the comments section below.

1. Ate a funnel cake
2. Ate a peach from Chilton County, Alabama
3. Ate at Big Daddy’s Grill in Fairhope
4. Ate at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile
5. Ate catfish at the Stage Coach Café in Stockton
6. Ate octopus
7. Ate pigs feet
8. Attended a Beulah Campground service
9. Drank a fresh lemonade at Toomer’s Drugs in Auburn
10. Drank a Mimosa
11. Drank Cognac
12. Drank goat’s milk
13. Hiked the Grand Canyon
14. Joined the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society
15. Joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans
16. Made an origami animal
17. Listened to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” without interruption
18. Listened to The Beatles’ “White Album” without interruption
19. Planted a vegetable garden
20. Ran the Alligator Trot 5K in Florala
21. Ran the Battle of Mobile Bay 5K on Dauphin Island
22. Ran through the Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile
23. Read all the Hellboy graphic novels
24. Read “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
25. Read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
26. Read MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech
27. Read “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” by Warren St. John
28. Read “Savage Wilderness” by Barry Ralph
29. Read the “Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe”
30. Read the entire Bible
31. Read “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr.
32. Saw the Ginkgo tree in Evergreen
33. Spent the night in the Old Dr. John Watkins House at Burnt Corn
34. Started a fire without matches
35. Took the downtown Selma walking tour
36. Tried 100 different types of beer
37. Visited Ellicott’s Stone
38. Visited Packer’s Bend
39. Visited the Grand Canyon
40. Visited the grave of Lewis Lavon Peacock
41. Visited the Hank Williams Statue in Montgomery
42. Watched “A Streetcar Named Desire”
43. Watched “Brazil” (1985)
44. Watched “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958)
45. Watched “Dracula” (1931)
46. Watched “Easy Rider” (1969)
47. Watched “Frankenstein” (1931)
48. Watched “Nosferatu” (1922)
49. Watched “This Is Spinal Tap”

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: The whole point of these life list updates is NOT to draw attention to myself or to anything that I’ve done. Instead, I hope to encourage others to accomplish their own bucket list goals. I’m just a regular guy, and if I can do these things, so can you.)

The Evergreen Courant's News Flashback for Oct. 28, 2013

Senator Lister Hill
OCT. 27, 1994

Local weather reporter Harry Ellis reported .55 of an inch of rain on Oct. 21, 1994 and .30 on Oct. 22, 1994. He reported high temperatures of 83 degrees on Oct. 19 and Oct. 21. He reported lows of 55 degrees on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18.

“These eight lovely young ladies will be competing for the title of Conecuh County’s Junior Miss for 1995 on Nov. 12. The contest will be held in the Wiley Salter Auditorium at Reid State Technical College at 7 p.m. They are Heather Watson, Monica Williams, Rachel Bohanon, Kristie Ivey, Kelly Booker, Carmon Salter, Amanda Chavers and Ruby Lett.”

“The Repton Volunteer Fire Department won first place in the firefighters competition held at the Second Annual Firefighter Appreciation Day at the Evergreen Municipal Park Saturday. Members of the team are George Lee Nettles, John Thorn, Jerry Waters, Chief, Jeff Moore, Jo Bartlett and Kenneth Joseph.”

“Marvin Lee Salter, 49, of Evergreen died Tues., Oct. 18, 1994 in an Evergreen hospital. Mr. Salter was a veteran of the Vietnam War and was a member of the Latter Day Saints Church.”

“Charlotte Gulsby, manager of Movie Gallery, presents Lisa Godwin with a Super Nintendo System courtesy of Movie Gallery and Sight and Sound Distributors.”

OCT. 25, 1979

Local weather reporter Earl Windham reported no rain between Oct. 15-Oct. 21, 1979. He reported a high of 87 degrees on Oct. 21 and a low of 43 on Oct. 15.

“Reigning as Miss Homecoming 1979 at Evergreen High School on Friday was Cordella Johnson, daughter of Southside Elementary School Principal Alex Johnson and Mrs. Johnson, Donna Bolden, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bolden, was first alternate and Deborah Montgomery, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ivey Montgomery, was second alternate.”

“Gov. Fob James today announced the appointment of members of the Conecuh County Board of Registrars. All three members were appointed for four-year terms of office which expire on Sept. 28, 1983.
“Mrs. Pauline B. Cook, Rt. One, Evergreen, and G.L. Lemley, Rt. C, Evergreen were reappointed. Mrs. Alice Presley, 748 Magnolia Ave., Evergreen, was appointed to a full-four year term after serving the remainder of the unexpired term of Mrs. A.H. Dees, Rt. F, Evergreen, who resigned last year.”

“William Wood Register Jr. of Evergreen is serving as a proctor at the University of the South for this school year. Woody is head proctor for the men. A senior history major, he is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Register of 515 Shipp St. He is also president of the Honor Council and vice-president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.”

OCT. 29, 1964

“MISS HOMECOMING: Miss Sally Oswald will reign over homecoming at Evergreen High School tomorrow having been chosen ‘Miss Homecoming.’ The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Oswald, Sally is head majorette of the Aggie Band and a senior.”

“The State has given approval for the installation of four proposed traffic lights in Evergreen.
“On the recommendation of (Nelson Brooks, safety engineer with the State Highway Department), the city plans to install lights at the intersection of Rural Street and West Front Street at the foot of the overhead bridge, and at the intersection of Cooper and West Front St. (between Lone Star and Standard stations).
“Also, a light will be installed at the intersection of Highway 83 and Rural Street where there have already been several accidents. The fourth light will be at the Four Points intersection at Evergreen High School. This light will only be turned on during peak traffic hours.”

“Goblins to roam Saturday night: The annual Halloween Carnival will be staged at Evergreen City School Saturday night from 5:30 til nine o’clock. The carnival is the PTA’s major fundraising project of the year. Profits from last year’s event made it possible to modernize the boys restroom.”

“American voters will elect a president Tuesday, or at least they will elect presidential electors who will go through the formalities in December.”

OCT. 27, 1949

“Conecuh County may soon have a 25 to 30 bed modern hospital. It all depends on the voters of Alabama ratifying a bill passed by the state legislature to provide funds to bear the state’s end of the bargain, and the voters of Conecuh County approving a special four-mil county hospital tax. The Federal Hill-Burton bill became law with President Truman’s signature Tuesday, and will provide for two-thirds of the cost of the proposed hospital. The remaining one-third is to be shared by the state and county.”

“The annual membership drive of the Conecuh County Farm Bureau was officially opened Monday night at a kickoff supper held at the Evergreen Country Club Community House. A goal of 1,000 plus was set by the enthusiastic group of workers with every beat chairman vowing to top his 1948-49 total.”

“Senator Lister Hill said publicly yesterday what Everybody in Alabama has taken for granted for months – he will seek reelection next year.
“Elbert Boozer, Anniston businessman and 1946 candidate for governor, Wednesday formally declared his intention of entering the governor’s race in the spring primaries.
“Boozer ran fourth in a field of five in 1946.”

“POLIO CASES DECLINE: The number of cases of infantile paralysis has declined for the ninth consecutive week, the Public Health Service announced from Washington Wednesday.”

OCT. 25, 1934

“George W. Coleman Disappears From Home: Reports have come into Evergreen that George W. Coleman, farmer living on Highway 31 about three miles this side of McKenzie, disappeared from his home Fri., Oct. 12, and has not since been heard from. According to the reports, he left his place about noon of that day and the last time he was seen was sometime later in the day over near Books in Covington County.
“Members of his family state that he was thought to have had something like $200 on his person when he left, together with several cotton receipts. They do not suspect foul play, it is said.
“It is said that his wife who was critically ill when he disappeared, was carried to the Georgiana hospital that (Friday) night and operated upon for appendicitis. She died the following morning.
“His disappearance is considered quite mysterious and is the source of much speculation. It is believed some interesting developments will take place within a short time regarding the affair.”

“Douglass Skinner’s friends will regret to learn that he is confined to his home, where he is ill of scarlet fever.”

“Dr. and Mrs. R.H. Ervin of Troy were weekend guests of his cousin, Mrs. G.G. Newton and Dr. Newton. Dr. Ervin, who is a member of the Troy College faculty, is teaching an extension course here in psychology.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., Oct. 28, 2013

Temp: 55.4 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies; security light still on in the yard; birds and dogs audible; moon visible overhead.

Wind: Not measured.

Barometric Pressure: 29.68 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Fall to Date Rainfall: 2.00 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 44.25 inches

NOTES: Today is the 301st day of 2013 and the 37th day of Fall. There are 64 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

COMIC BOOK OF THE WEEK – “Batman” #468 (Early September 1991)

Batman #468
This week’s “Comic Book of the Week” is “Batman” #468, which was published by D.C. Comics in early September 1991. This comic was titled “Shadow Box, Part Two” and included such characters as Batman, Robin, Commissioner Jim Gordon, Alfred, Lynx and Sir Edmund Dorrance, aka, King Snake. This issues creative team included Chuck Dixon, writer; Tom Lyle, pencils; Andy Mushynsky, inks; Todd Klein, letters; Adrienne Roy, colors; Kelley Puckett, assistant editor; and Denny O’Neil, editor. Tom Lyle was the cover artist for this issue, which sold for $1 at newsstands.

“Batman” #468 was a 24-page issue that begins with Batman and Gordon in a police morgue where they’re looking at the bloody body of Johnny Yune, a young Chinese street criminal. Yune’s killers dressed him in a Robin costume as a way of sending a threatening message to Batman and the Boy Wonder. Batman blames the act on Dorrance, the leader of the Ghost Dragons, and Batman explains how all of this plays into the fact that rival Chinese crime lords are fighting for over turf in Gotham.

The next scene takes place in Gotham’s Gate Street District, the city’s “Chinatown” neighborhood. Lynx and other members of the Ghost Dragons use a rocket launcher to destroy a building owned by a man who wouldn’t pay for the gang’s “protection.” They speed away as sirens approach and the building burns.

The story then cuts to Dorrance, who’s lying on his back, asleep and having a nightmare. In his dreams, he’s falling from the top of a downtown skyscraper and comes to a stop when he crashes into a grated awning. In his dream, Robin ridicules Dorrance for his weakness due to the broken back he suffered in the fall. Dorrance wakes up in a cold sweat, cursing Robin and vowing to murder the Boy Wonder.

We then cut to a young Tim Drake – Robin’s alter ego – who’s hitting tennis balls being fired from a machine on one of the courts at stately Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, interrupts to say that he’s concerned about Drake’s schoolwork. Wayne tells Drake that he and Alfred believe that he should spend more time on his schoolwork, which is why Wayne plans to “go out solo for a few nights.” Drake doesn’t like the idea and realizes there’s more to this than his education.

The next scene begins with Batman sitting atop the iconic Chinese-style gate over Gate Street, and he doesn’t have to wait long for the action to begin. He watches as five members of the Steel Unicorns gang pull up in front of the Ting Fu Garden Restaurant and open fire on five members of the Ghost Dragons. Batman swings in and can hear the Unicorns laughing over their gunfire, which makes Batman believe they're high on PCP or “some other kind of designer drug.”

Batman begins to take out the Unicorns, which gives the Dragons time to recover and return fire. A Unicorn getaway driver arrives soon thereafter in a pickup truck, and the Unicorns pile in. Batman jumps on back and begins kicking butt, but that all comes to an end when one of the Unicorns leans out of the passenger side window with a gun. The Unicorn gunman fires one shot, and it hits Batman in the chest, causing him to fall out of the back of the moving truck.

Batman’s Kevlar vest keeps the bullet from breaking his skin, but doesn’t keep Batman from suffering some broken ribs. Batman struggles to his feet and makes his way to the Bat Cave, where Alfred patches him up. Batman wants to get back out on the street, and Robin wants to join him. Robin says that he knows that his schoolwork isn’t the only reason Batman wants him to stay home and realizes that Batman’s trying to protect him.

Robin tells Batman that he needs him out there on the street with him, so that he’ll have someone to watch his back. Batman says that he’s not sure if Dorrance is alive, but he’s sure that someone has singled Robin out for vengeance. Batman thinks that the best way to keep Robin safe is to keep him out of the line of fire for the time being. Robin stands down as long as Batman will agree to heal up before he gets back out on the street.

The story then moves to a scene in which Dorrance and Lynx are discussing Batman’s interference in the shoot out between the Unicorns and Dragons. All Dorrance wants to know is if Robin was there. Dorrance believes that the only way to get to Robin now is through Batman, but Lynx tells him that he needs to concentrate on the looming gang war.

Dorrance says that he’s got to kill Robin first then everything else will follow. Lynx ridicules Dorrance, saying that he’s afraid of the Boy Wonder. Dorrance lashes out of the woman, who deftly avoids every kick and punch before she eventually pulls a short knife from her jacket and slashes Dorrance across the chest. Dorrance calms down, and he and Lynx agree to lay a trap for Robin.

In the next scene, Gordon’s surveying the damage left behind by the rocket attack on Gate Street, which apparently is less than a quarter mile from city hall. Detective Mathers explains to Gordon that the building contained a large, underground casino. Gordon can’t believe that someone in the department didn’t know about the casino and vows to shake up the department over the situation.

Gordon and Mathers are discussing the situation when the building’s owner, Benjamin Minh walks up and begins to berate Gordon for the department’s inability to protect the neighborhood. Gordon fires back with questions about the casino in Minh’s basement. Minh says he pays a gang called the Wolf Pack and the police for protection. Gordon then orders Mathers to arrest Minh on charges of criminal conspiracy and racketeering and transport him downtown for questioning.

Gordon tells Mathers that he’s headed home, but as he walks to his car, someone calls to him from a dark alley. Gordon draws his gun and enters the alley. He calls out to the person who got his attention, but no one answers. Gordon then stumbles upon a bundle on the floor of the alley. As Lynx watches from a nearby rooftop, Gordon opens the bundle to find a dead robin.

Instead of going home, Gordon switches on the Bat Signal atop police headquarters and has a meeting with the Caped Crusader over the dead bird. Gordon gives Batman the bird in a sealed plastic bag, and Batman says he’ll analyze it to see if it has anything more to reveal. Gordon offers to render all possible assistance and the story ends with Batman saying, “Thanks, Jim. But this one is all mine. He (Dorrance) wants to get at Robin. Wants revenge on him. He’ll have to step over my corpse first.”

This comic (unless I’ve sold it) and others are available for purchase through Peacock’s Books on If you’re interested in buying it, search for it there by title, issue number and date of publication.

'Doctor Sleep' remains atop best-sellers list for fourth straight week

Today is Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly breakdown of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Sellers Lists. According to those lists, there was one new book at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"The Sins of the Mother" by Danielle Steel replaced "Mad River" by John Sandford as the No. 1 book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"Doctor Sleep" by Stephen King remained the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list for the fourth week in a row.

"Killing Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard remained the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list for the fourth week straight.

"The Hit" by David Baldacci remained the top book on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list for the fifth straight week.

There were five books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They (and their places on the list) included "Identical" by Scott Turow (4), "Just One Evil Act" by Elizabeth George (5), "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy" by Helen Fielding (7), "The Wolves of Midwinter" by Anne Rice (9) and "Police" by Jo Nesbo (10).

There were four books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They included "Humans of New York" by Brandon Stanton (2), "Pokemon X & Pokemon Y" by Pokemon Co. Int'l (9), "Orr" by Bobby Orr (10) and "Johnny Carson" by Henry Bushkin (13).

There was only one book on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that wasn’t on the list last week - "The Black Box" by Michael Connelly, which was No. 4 on the list.

There were three books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They included "Unlikely Loves" by Jennifer S. Holland (9), "Michael Symon's 5 in 5" by Michael Symon (13) and "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed (15).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

1. "Doctor Sleep" by Stephen King
2. "The Longest Ride" by Nicholas Sparks
3. "Gone" by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
4. "Identical" by Scott Turow
5. "Just One Evil Act" by Elizabeth George
6. "Storm Front" by John Sandford
7. "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy" by Helen Fielding
8. "Starry Night" by Debbie Macomber
9. "The Wolves of Midwinter" by Anne Rice
10. "Police" by Jo Nesbo
11. "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert
12. "Never Go Back" by Lee Child
13. "Doing Hard Time" by Stuart Woods
14. "The Quest" by Nelson DeMille
15. "W Is for Wasted" by Sue Grafton

1. "Killing Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
2. "Humans of New York" by Brandon Stanton
3. "David and Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell
4. "I Am Malala" by Malala Yousafzai
5. "My Story" by Elizabeth Smart
6. "Si-Cology 1" by Si Robertson
7. "The Reason I Jump" by Naoki Higashida
8. "Break Out!" by Joel Osteen
9. "Pokemon X & Pokemon Y" by Pokemon Co. Int'l
10. "Orr" by Bobby Orr
11. "Guinness World Records 2014" by Guinness World Records
12. "What Are You Afraid Of?" by David Jeremiah
13. "Johnny Carson" by Henry Bushkin
14. "One Summer" by Bill Bryson
15. "Happy, Happy, Happy" by Phil Robertson

1. "The Sins of the Mother" by Danielle Steel
2. "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
3. "Mad River" by John Sandford
4. "The Black Box" by Michael Connelly
5. "Private London" by James Patterson and Mark Pearson
6. "The Forgotten" by David Baldacci
7. "Glory, Glory" by Linda Lael Miller
8. "Whispered Promises" by Nora Roberts
9. "The Bone Bed" by Patricia Cornwell
10. "Flintlock" by William W. Johnstone
11. "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
12. "Taking Eve" by Iris Johansen
13. "Call Me Mrs. Miracle" by Debbie Macomber
14. "Merry Christmas, Cowboy" by Janet Dailey
15. "Mirror, Mirror" by J.D. Robb

1. "The Hit" by David Baldacci
2. "Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander
3. "Dear Life" by Alice Munroe
4. "The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling
5. "Four Blood Moons" by John Hagee
6. "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
7. "Brain on Fire" by Susannah Cahalan
8. "The Time Keeper" by Mitch Albom
9. "Unlikely Loves" by Jennifer S. Holland
10. "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter
11. "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline
12. "I Declare" by Joel Osteen
13. "Michael Symon's 5 in 5" by Michael Symon
14. "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich
15. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fourth annual list of 'Spookiest Places in Monroe County' released

Dr. Watkins House at Burnt Corn, Alabama
Halloween is less than a week away, and in the spirit of that ghostly holiday, I present you today my fourth annual list of the “Spookiest Places in Monroe County.”

As with previous editions of this list, I compiled it after discussing the subject with a number of the county’s lifelong residents and individuals well versed in the county’s long history. Without further ado, here’s the list:

- Butterfork Creek Bridge: Located on State Highway 59, a mile or so west of downtown Uriah, this bridge serves as a way for travelers to go between Uriah and the Palmers Crossroads community in south Monroe County. More than a few motorists over the years have repeatedly reported seeing a woman in dressed in white on the bridge. Most report seeing this ghostly woman on the east end of the bridge.

- Claiborne Masonic Lodge: Located now at Perdue Hill on U.S. Highway 84, this building, pictured above, is the oldest existing manmade structure in Monroe County. Built in 1819 at Claiborne, this building was used as a courtroom, town hall, church, school and one of the earliest Masonic lodges in the state. Visited by Revolutionary War hero, Marquis De Lafayette, in 1825, this building was moved a few miles east to Perdue Hill in 1884. Lafayette was the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War at the time of his visit.

- The C.L. Hybart House: Located on Hybart Drive in Monroeville, this restored 1920s house is one of Monroe County’s most distinctive buildings. Built in the manner of a Mediterranean Spanish villa, including stucco, tile and columns made with stones from Limestone Creek. Now owned by the Monroe County Heritage Museums and operated under the name of the “Hybart House Museum and Cultural Center,” this reputedly haunted residence was built by the late Charlie Hybart, a colorful local attorney who became known for holding lavish parties that were attended by VIPs and politicians from all over the state.

- The Devil’s Bowl: Located about three miles off of State Highway 21 in the vicinity of the Megargel and Goodway communities, this geological oddity is a pool that’s about 30 feet in diameter. Also called “The Devil’s Soup Bowl,” no surface stream feeds this freshwater pool of deep, dark water, which is said to be one of “Monroe County’s strangest sights.” Locals claim that this pool is bottomless. Possible explanations for its existence vary from an ancient meteor impact to the idea that it’s the shaft left behind by dead volcano.

- Dr. Watkins House: Located on the west side of County Road 5, about 1-1/2 miles north of Burnt Corn, this house was built in 1812 and was once the residence of Dr. John Watkins, the only doctor between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers. Watkins is said to have treated the wounded from the Fort Mims Massacre at the house in 1813, and some sources say Andrew Jackson spent the night there when he passed through the area on his way to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

The ghost of Watkins has reportedly been seen standing in the doorway to one of the home’s first floor bedrooms and the top of the front porch is painted with traditional “haint paint” to keep spirits from entering the home. Perhaps the most bizarre thing to occur in the house in recent memory took place in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when loggers fled the house after hearing a woman scream. Others who’ve stayed at the house have complained of the uneasy feelings they get from artwork inside the house, including an original painting of a woman carving a Jack o’ Lantern.

- Gin House Bottom: Located north of Monroeville, near the intersection of the Ridge Road and State Highway 41 (formerly called the Camden Highway), there were once a number of stores and family residences in this area, which took its name from a local cotton gin.

Also in this area, a tale sprung to life about a headless horseman that was seen by a number of county residences.

“On moonlit nights, when one could see, the headless rider could be seen riding the road along Gin Bottom Road,” George Singleton wrote in one of his Monroe Journal columns. “This was a common sight to the men who had to travel the road late at night after a hard day at the cotton gin. I have been told that on several occasions, the horse and rider would pass so close to a traveler that he could try to reach out and touch the headless rider.”

- King Plantation House: Featured on two episodes of the Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files,” this 9,000-square feet Greek Revival Style house was originally located at Packer’s Bend in the northwest corner of Monroe County. Built by the nephew of U.S. Vice President William Rufus King in the late 1850s and early 1860s, it was moved to Uriah by former state legislator Eugene Garrett in 1965.

Creepy tales abound about this house, where supposedly a number of the King family passed away within its walls from yellow fever that was brought home by a family member who served in the Civil War. In “The Dead Files” the house’s owner said she feared her life was in danger from being attacked by the evil spirit of a man who once lived in the house.

Located on State Highway 59, about half a mile from the intersection of Hwy. 59 and State Highway 21, it’s said that this house has the broadest façade of any plantation house in Alabama.

- Louisville and Nashville Railroad Train Tunnel at Tunnel Springs: This abandoned train tunnel is now home to hundreds of thumb-sized bats. Completed in 1899, this 840-foot-long tunnel was built by four crews of 15 men each working day and night using simple equipment. One crew is said to have worked from the north side while the other worked from the south. The story also goes that a number of workers died during the construction of this eerie tunnel.

- McConnico Cemetery: Large cemetery, located off Monroe County Road 1 at Perdue Hill, containing some of the count’s oldest graves. According to “Haunted Places: The National Directory” by Dennis William Hauck, this cemetery is the setting for the county’s best known ghost story.

“The phantoms of 12 Union horsemen have been seen riding near this old graveyard,” Hauck wrote. “Captain and Mrs. Charles Locklin witnessed the ghostly parade in autumn of 1865. The Locklins were in their carriage early one morning when two columns of six soldiers on gray horses passed by on each side of them.

“Each member of the eerie troop wore white gloves, with his hands crossed on the pommel of his saddle, and every one wore a white bandage wrapped tightly around his head. The two respected citizens were certain they had been victims of Confederate solider Lafayette Sigler, who ambushed Northern patrols, killed them and cut off their ears. Sigler’s collection of Yankee ears was said to have been quite impressive.”

This first encounter with the ghost soldiers is also said to have occurred on Mount Pleasant Road and sporadic sightings were reported over the hundred years.

- Monroe County Public Library: Located on Pineville Road, this building houses over 60,000 volumes and is located in the former LaSalle Hotel. The library has been in this location since 1984, but the building is located on one of the oldest parcels of land recognized for continuous usage in Monroe County. In the past, the property has been used as a stable, various homes, a Methodist parsonage and as the LaSalle Hotel. Its famous guests included actor, Gregory Peck, who visited Monroeville during the 1960s.

More than a few library patrons have claim to have had unusual experiences on the library’s second floor.

“Once you leave the bright, sunny ground floor and climb the stairs to the second floor, where many of the former rooms were located, you just get a creepy feeling all over. Like most hotels, this building probably saw its fair share of visitors from all over, and I think that a few of them just decided to stay.”

- Mt. Pisgah Cemetery: Located off Wildfork Road (Monroe County Road 18) between Frisco City and the Wildfork community, this cemetery serves as the final resting place of hundreds of former community residents. Variations of the story exist, but more than a few people have reported parking at this cemetery late at night and when conditions are just right a mysterious red ball of light will emerge from the tree line on the east side of the cemetery. The ball of light is most often described as “basketball-sized” and reportedly travels from the trees towards the parked vehicle.

- Nancy Mountain at Haine’s Island: Located off Monroe County Road 17 at Franklin, this locale is the site of one of the county’s most enduring ghost stories, the story of “Crazy Nancy.”

Variations of this story exist, but the most common version says that the ghost of a woman, “Crazy Nancy” or “Aunt Nancy,” can be seen walking up and down the hill to Davis Ferry in hopes of meeting her son and husband who were claimed by the Civil War, never to return. Witnesses say that this female phantom is seen walking with a lantern (or long walking stick) in one hand and with a bucket of water in the other.

According to George B. Singleton’s book, “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” you’ll know this spirit by her long, gingham dress, her old bonnet and the long, white hair that hangs out the back of her bonnet and all the way down to her waist.

- Nettles Auditorium at Alabama Southern Community College: Located in Monroeville, this building seats almost 900 people and is often the preferred venue for large community events. Former students and workers at the college claim to have heard unusual sounds at odd times as well as the unexplained malfunction of lights and other electrical devices. Others claim to have heard an unseen “entity” walking down the aisles, making his (or her) presence known by the scraping of their feet along the carpet. Witnesses have also reported hearing the loud pop of a seat back being slapped by unseen hands as well as the unexplained unlocking of door locks that should have been secured.

- Old Monroe County Courthouse: Nicknamed “America’s Most Famous Courthouse,” this building was constructed in 1903 and is now one of the most often photographed buildings in the state. From 1903 to the construction of a new courthouse in 1963, this building housed most county offices and was the center of the county’s court system. It’s most famous for being the model of the courtroom seen in the trial scenes in the movie version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Now the home of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, frequent quests say that the upstairs part of the building can get very creepy on quiet nights. “Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze,” one man said. “You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or even there to be smoking.”

- Rikard’s Mill: Located about five miles north of Beatrice, this fully restored 19th century grist mill is currently owned and operated by the Monroe County Heritage Museums. Constructed over Flat Creek, multiple witnesses have reported seeing “shadow figures” pass in front of the mill’s windows when the mill was completely empty and no one else was in the area. Other witnesses have reported the unexplained sighting of a woman floating down the creek in a pink coffin.

- The Robbins Hotel Site: Used for years as a hunting club, this historic former hotel located in downtown Beatrice, adjacent to town hall, burned down in October 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel was located just off the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and was operated for many years by Miss Minnie Robbins. The hotel’s patrons were largely made up of railroad travelers, and the hotel featured 14 rooms, each with a fireplace.

Before I close this think out, I want to make perfectly clear that more than a few of the places mentioned above are located on private property, so if you get the idea to visit any of these places (especially at night), you’d better get permission first or run the risk of trespassing. Also, if you plan to visit any of these places, especially cemeteries, respect your surroundings.

In the end, contact me if you know a good local ghost story or have information about a spooky location in Monroe County. You can reach me by calling 578-1492, by e-mail at or by mail at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.