Alabama Ghost Trail: St. Stephens

Oct 31, 2017

Editor’s Note: Since it is Halloween, APR brought this story from our archives to take a look at the haunted history of the state. This story first aired in October of 2011.

            Halloween is almost upon us and the increased popularity of haints and haunts is inevitable.  Some in Alabama are using people’s fascination with the paranormal to conjure up tourism into one of the state’s most economically depressed areas. Alabama’s Ghost Trail could provide a much needed financial shot in the arm…

      “People are very open to talking about ghosts… you can be sitting around anywhere and if you sit long enough the topic gets around to ghosts.

            That’s Linda Vice the director of the southwest Alabama office of tourism and film.  She says that fascination lead to the creation of Alabama’s Ghost Trail in the southwestern portion of the state.  Vice says the trail was formed as an alternative economic development program for the region…

            “It has really helped us in the past few years. We have to take what we have and put it together and make something interesting… and these are things that touch the imagination.”

            One of the ways they are doing this is by capitalizing on the growing popularity of paranormal investigations, or real life ghost hunters... Now when most people hear that term the first thing that usually comes to mind is something like this…

            Actors Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis carried proton packs and portable ghost traps in the 1984 comedy ghostbusters. In reality, it is sounds a lot more like this…

            Members of the paranormal investigation society of central Alabama are on the hunt for ghosts. It’s a quiet Saturday night, and members of the group also known as Pisca are unpacking their gear at the court house in the town of St. Stephens. It’s pitch dark inside, so the atmosphere is downright spooky.  

             “Seriously though, if you look at it from this side it kinda reminds you of the Amityville house, that’s what creeps me out, if you look at it this way…”  

APR's Stan Ingold with the Pisca Paranormal Investigative Team

            That’s Bryant Ladson, better known as B-Lad to his colleagues at Pisca. He’s helping to set up a variety of cameras and detectors designed to pick up anything that might be considered paranormal. Team leader jay johns describes the tools of tonight’s ghost hunt, including equipment to detect ghostly voices, or e-v-p’s…

            “Alright what an e-v-p session is where we have our voice recorder here and we try to communicate with the spirits. It’s called an electronic voice phenomenon and usually what we do if we can’t hear them with the naked ear we can hear them through the voice recorder after we go back.’

            Johns says there are other ways to contact the spirits should they not be strong enough to speak through the recorders…

            “K-2 meter is basically all it does is like the e-m-f which means electromagnetic field. They can just walk up close to it and where you see the green light now, they can make it go to red and when we establish communication through that we’ll ask a series of questions, we’ll say for yes or no make it blink twice.”

            Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s hard not to have the hairs on your neck stand up when the detectors appear to pick up something…

            “Just say for instance if we establish communication now, and …..uh there we go, we’re getting communication now…so…did you see the flash Stan… “yes” what this general means is that “something just” exactly we’re having communication now.”

            Seeing the light jump from green to yellow made the investigators completely switch gears and focus on making contact…

            “So we’re starting to get some hits here, let’s go ahead and try to see what we’re dealing with…if you’re here make your presence known…and we have two devices here we have a voice recorder which is the red light if you can’t manifest or if you don’t have enough energy to walk up to the green light talk to us through the red light…”

            After spending the night in the old courthouse gathering information johns sums up the investigation…

            “At the beginning we had a few k-2 spikes, we thought we had some communication going but it …uh dissipated and we heard a few knocks could have been the actual place settling, we don’t know yet.”

            Okay, maybe no ghosts so far. The film footage and recordings the Pisca team gathered tonight contains no video or audio evidence. As you might imagine, the work at Pisca draws its share of skeptics, but johns says that’s okay…

            ‘All a skeptic is… is someone who hasn’t had an experience yet.”

            Johns says they’re investigating locations on the ghost trail to help these sites gain attention and to bring the memory of these places back to the forefront…

            “We’re gonna be in a different city at a different location each month, basically what we’re trying to do is bring tourism to these towns, you like St. Stephens here. A lot of these towns like this, I think the history got lost, even if there isn’t a lot of paranormal activity at least people need to know about this place because it has a lot of history for the state of Alabama.”

            The hunt continues as efforts are being made to expand Alabama’s ghost trail from the Tennessee border to the gulf coast... With hopes that the dead can draw in the living, and maybe scare up some tourist dollars.