Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Newport Ghosts: Anatomy of a Ghost Legend

Newport, Alabama is just across the Black Warrior River from downtown Tuscaloosa. A very popular ghost story was told in in this area in the mid 1980s. The catalyst for this story was residents began to see two ghostly figures, on foggy nights as they drove around a corner on Highway 171.

So many people witnessed this phenomenon that cars literally lined up down each side of this highway in order to see these large white figures that looked like two human heads. 

Before this unusual sight was first reported a local resident had two ten-foot tall white pillars on brick bases built on either side of the entrance to his driveway. Atop these two pillars were large white balls. 

So what people were seeing was just an optical illusion.

Like most good legends these two Newport Ghosts needed a good backstory so several were created to make these sightings even more exciting.

One story said these two floating figures were actually the ghosts of two war widows. It is stated their husbands died in the Civil War and that these two women waited impatiently for their husband’s bodies to be returned to them.

It seems these two ghosts mistook modern car headlights for lanterns on a wagon--which would carry their husband’s remains home. Hence they were seen floating near cars looking for this wagon.

Another story involves two Southern sisters. They both fell in love with Union soldiers. Knowing their father wouldn’t approve they arranged to secretly elope. It was decided that they would sneak out of their home one night and meet up with these two soldiers who would hold lanterns to light their way.

But tragically their father found out and killed these two men. It is said the ghosts of these two sisters move to car lights thinking they are their soldiers.

These two stories enhanced the “fright” people anticipated at the sight of these two floating ghosts.

At the height of this legend neighbors in the area often-encountered traffic jams at night--especially around Halloween--cars filled with people waiting their turn to see the ghosts.

A University of Alabama student newspaper even listed the Newport Ghosts as a must-see for students before graduation.

Unlike many ghost legends, this one has lost its “draw” in recent years. The local golf course across the street from this home’s entrance put in a street light that illuminates these two large pillars. The result--the illusion that two ghosts float across this highway is no longer seen.

But the ghost stories created to enhance this haunting are now firmly entrenched in local lore.

No comments: