The Haunting History of the University of Alabama

On the surface, the University of Alabama located in Tuscaloosa looks like a normal institute of higher education. But like many other institutions that have seen many years of human activity – often violent – this university puts a new twist on “school spirit.”

The Civil War Era Hauntings

The University of Alabama opened its doors in 1831 with the admittance of about 100 students. However, the social order of the day made gunfights and other disciplinary problems common from the very beginning. Early presidents banned drinking, swearing, and gambling in an attempt to control matters. In 1860, the President of the university, Landon Garland, lobbied for and received legislative approval to transform the university into a military academy and began training soldiers for the Civil War. Legend has it that as the war commenced, three Union soldiers were sent to the academy to burn it to the ground. Two Confederate cadets stayed on campus to purportedly “kill a few Yankees.” The Union soldiers found one of the cadets and demanded to know where the whiskey was kept. The young cadet directed the soldiers to a guardhouse called the Roundhouse. There, the other Confederate violently ambushed the soldiers and killed them. Since then, ghostly apparitions of soldiers have regularly been seen in the Quad area marching in formation to an undetermined destination.

The Ghostly Geology Professor

Eventually, the University of Alabama was completely destroyed by Union troops. It reopened in 1871 after having been restored. At that time, Dr. Eugene Allen Smith who was a talented geology and mineral professor began teaching at the university where he taught until his death in 1927. Dr. Smith was devoted to the welfare of the school, as well as to the state of Alabama. Today, Dr. Smith’s carriage is proudly displayed in Smith Hall. Today also, those interested in the paranormal can take a candlelit walking tours that are occasionally hosted free to the public. Although spectral sightings are not guaranteed, some people have reported hearing the sound of galloping horses and carriage wheels careening throughout the hall.

Ghost of the Gorgas Library

It is said that the Gorgas Library is still the residence of its namesake, Amelia Gale Gorgas. Ms. Gorgas was librarian at the university for 25 years until retiring in 1907 at the age of 80. During her tenure, she managed to expand the war-torn library from 6,000 to 20,000 volumes. Gorgas was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1977. For this and many other reasons, the primary library at the university bears her name. Like Dr. Smith, Gorgas was a dedicated individual who took her job seriously. In fact, many say that she still oversees the operations of this library. In the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, the elevators can be programmed to bypass the fourth floor which contains the special collections.

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It seems, however, that one elevator bypasses the programming on occasion. Fourth-floor employees and students have witnessed the elevator door opening to disclose an empty car. It then reportedly closes suddenly and moves to another floor.

The University of Alabama started off as a wild frontier college, transitioned into a military academy, was destroyed in the Civil War, and then was completely restored. After much violence and destruction that took place on campus, the university became an acclaimed institute of higher education because of some very dedicated employees – some of which are believed to still haunt the campus even today. If you go to the University of Alabama today, you might experience “school spirit” in a whole new way.

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