About 40 miles southeast of Montgomery, Alabama, just off highway 82, is the sleepy town of Union Springs, Alabama. This small community has managed to preserve some of its most historic buildings which are now serving as a spiritual mecca for the supernatural. For years the residents of Union Springs have seen, heard and felt the presence of shadowy spirits, piano playing specters, and ladies dressed in white Victorian gowns. The days of the antebellum-era are long gone and the streets are no longer filled with horse drawn carriages, but the ghosts of that time are still very much alive and are waiting to tell their stories.
Some of the historical buildings in Bullock County include the court house, which is rumored to be haunted by several spirits, including a former sheriff named Red Williams, the Pauly Jail and the Josephine hotel. The Pauly jail has been restored to a great state of preservation and serves as a museum dedicated to the history of law enforcement during prohibition in Bullock County. The three story building is complete with a trap door and eyelet where a single noose hangs. It was also used in the 2006 movie, “Heavens Fall” and the scene for the jail on the bottom floor was kept after production for patrons to see.
Perhaps the most impressive building, from the aspects of stature, history and spirits, is the Josephine Hotel. This building once hosted some of the South’s most festive parties and the most charming masquerade balls held East of New Orleans. It was built in 1880 by Robert A. Fleming and was named for his beautiful wife, “Josephine”. The lavish dinners held here brought guests from all over the region. Under the careful and meticulous eye of Mrs. Josephine Fleming, the hotel hosted “bird dinners”. Wild fowl were brought into the hotel by local hunters and piled in rows in front of the hotel. The birds were prepared and served in to guests from the town’s most elite and most prominent families in the hotels formal dining room. Other splendid dinners included oysters, shipped in from as far away as Eufaula, Alabama and Orchestra’s from Columbus, Georgia serenaded the guests into the late evening hours.
Over time the hotel changed hands and was renamed the “Drummers Center” and “Commercial Hotel”. The 32-room hotel was still considered one of the finest in the region and the saloons, located on the bottom floor, hosted cards games and kept the finest whiskey in town. In 1903, the building became the property of F.F. Ravencroft, a druggist and active supporter in the campaigns of tonics or “near beers”, as they were called during prohibition. Ravencroft established his pharmacy here for many years until the building eventually became a commercial property.
Today the Perrin’s own the building and it has been a labor of love for the couple for many years. Extensive renovations have been done to resurrect the old hotel, and, once again, bring it to life. But rebuilding this grand hotel has come with a few spirited surprises. According to the owners and a few locals, some guests that checked in during the mid-1800’s, never checked out. It started out with an odd feeling of being watched, a cold chill in the humid and damp rooms, to seeing apparitions of people walking through the hotel. Joyce Perrin reports on some occasions, she stays overnight during renovations and she can hear the shuffling footsteps of what sounds likes several people on the upper floors. Also, the abandoned piano on the second floor, seems to play on its own. Haunting sounds of saloon music occasionally bellows through the establishment that now serves as a deli where locals come to have lunch and some of the area’s best ice cream.
Logic, of course, plays a big part in dismissing some of the claims of the paranormal activity here at the Josephine, but ghost hunting teams, who have investigated the building, have been able to document many of the ghost sightings and sounds. During one investigation, by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team, a team member found herself in the grips of a frightening experience when a photo of the hotel literally flew off the wall toward her in the downstairs parlor. Sounds were recorded by the team that matched a sighting from a local who said he saw a woman dressed in white, mid-century, clothing appear in the 2nd floor window. The EVP recorded that night also captured a woman’s voice. When the investigator asked for anyone present to touch the electromagnetic device, the voice captured on the audio of the camera said, “Yes”. Light anomalies were also captured manifesting out of thin air on the second floor, and the sensation of being watched was very prominent among all the investigators.