The Pickens County Courthouse is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the State of Alabama.
Located in Carrollton Alabama, it is about 35 miles west of Tuscaloosa, and it is the actual courthouse for the county.
It was originally built in the year 1878, and was the third courthouse in that city, and it has a very interesting story.
The reason for this story is quite simple; it has a ghostly image of a man in its upper window.
The Ghost story of Pickens County Courthouse all centers on a “freedman” name Henry Wells and the burning of the second courthouse.
To set the stage for the story, it helps to understand some of the conditions and minds sets that existed in Carrollton Alabama at the time.
This time frame was full of social as well as racial tensions in the South, and the town of Carrollton was no different.
The Civil War was over and the Federal Government had ended Reconstruction and pulled all of its troops out of the South.
In the State of Alabama, the Democrats had regained full control of the state Government, and one of the first things they did was to pass laws to impose “white supremacy”.
Lynching was a very popular way for these groups to impose their own form of laws.
From the years 1877 through 1917, a total of 15 African Americans were reported to have been lynched in the county.
In fact, it has been reported that all of them were lynched in the courtyard of the Pickens County Courthouse, which adds some intrigue to the story.
Henry Wells was a “freedman”, meaning he was a former slave that was released from slavery as a result of the war.
The common theme to this entire story goes like this.
The second courthouse was set on fire in the year 1876, and it was so bad, it destroyed the entire building.
This really upset that people in Carrollton, as the Union troops had ravaged their town and burned down the original Pickens County Courthouse in 1865, the last year of the war.
So they were mad as hell and seeking revenge for whoever did this.
As the citizens started to build the third courthouse in less than 12 years, they were looking for someone to blame.
Their frustrations soon turned toward Mr. Henry Wells.
Henry Wells was a former slave that was living at a time and in a place that had very little regard for ex-slaves.
However, he also had a history of getting into a lot of fights and according to the legend; he had just recently been on a series of burglaries.
Because of these facts, the white population naturally assumed that he was the one that had burned down the courthouse.
They came up with this reasoning because of two major facts.
The first was that he broke into the courthouse to rob it like he had other places, and then burned it down to cover his tracks.
The second reason was that he burned it down to hide any of the previous evidence against him, so he could not be charged with anything.
However, there was one major flaw with these two reasons; there was absolutely no evidence to back any of it up.
Regardless of these missing facts, Mr. Henry Wells was arrested and was taken to the newly finished courthouse to wait for his trial.
This is where this legend starts to get very interesting.
The Sheriff of the town at the time knew the history of the mob lynching’s and tried to hide Henry Wells in the upper part of the Courthouse.
This is an important fact to this legend, as this is where the “haunted window” is located to this day.
The Sheriff was correct; the mob did show up just as he anticipated.
They began to scream and shout for the Sheriff to give Wells to them, and at this point, Henry Wells became absolutely terrified.
He went to this upper window and yelled out to the crowd the following: “I am innocent and if you hang me, I will always be here with you”.
At that exact time, according to the legend, lightening stuck the courthouse.
The next day Henry Wells was found guilty of burning down the courthouse and was hung by the neck until he died.
The legend says that the moment he died, his face immediately surfaced in the new window in the upper part of the courthouse.
This image is still there to this day and can very easily be seen from certain angles.
However, the image can only be seen from the “outside of the building”, not from the inside.
If you are on the inside looking out, there is nothing there.
The Alabama Historical Association erected a historic marker in 1974, that tells the story of Henry Wells and the Pickens County Courthouse.
There are also a set of permanent binoculars that have been installed directly across the street, for visitors that want to take a closer look at this image.
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