Walking Downtown: Montgomery Ghost Tour

Regular readers of MML know that we’re interested in all things Halloween. So we were immediately interested to learn about Haunted Montgomery Tours, a relatively new entry to the city’s growing set of Halloween offerings. Although they normally offer tours on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 8:30, the staff were nice enough to set up a weekday preview for us so we could get the word out to our readers. The tour began at the Village Gallery, where our guide Jeremy arrived soberly attired in black with a large staff.

As we strolled along during the downtown tour of hauntings and ghosts, we had a genuinely spooky moment. Up until the point of our disorienting revelation, the tour had been delightful, but also about what you might expect of such a tour, especially if you have seen the various ghost and vampire tours of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Our excellent guide took us along a route, pointing out selected historic buildings (most of them beautiful gems of downtown), and telling us about various tragedies that had occurred therein.

We were thrilled to be walking around on a lovely October night, talking history and architecture with our guide, Jeremy, who works for Haunted Montgomery Tours, a local company offering the tours. Some of the stories we knew. We were familiar with the horror of the Dale’s Penthouse fire, so instead of talking about the lingering paranormal effects of that tragedy, our conversation steered into the lasting effects on municipal fire codes across the nation. We knew about the WAPX madness, soon to be the subject of two documentary films.

But many of the tales we didn’t know (the saga of a cursed painting is a real doozy), and the overall atmosphere of talking about death, trauma and unexplained mysteries was really setting a fun mood that was mingling with an overall joy to live in a town with so much history being passed down in the form of oral storytelling. We were awash in the fun thrill of morbid lore and the outstanding presentation and narrative skill of our guide.

It was somewhere at this point in the tour that we experienced that weird and uncanny folding of worlds, as if we had stepped through a dimensional warp. It was probably because we were feeling so confident in our knowledge of downtown. Sure, we didn’t know all of these stories, but these were our familiar downtown streets. Until we were walking along Perry Street towards Irish Bred Pub and Dexter.

Our guide gestured towards a sign for a psychic … that we had never seen before. And it was situated next to an abandoned (but not empty) storefront for a (allegedly) local Voodoo priestess … that we had never seen before.

It’s hard to properly state how freaked out we were. We had been up and down these streets countless times. We’ve had several meals at Irish Bred. We had never seen two adjacent occult-themed businesses right next to each other. If we had, we probably would have blogged about it before. We felt completely disoriented and amazed … and giddy with excitement.

Our guide knew a bit about the establishments (and told us a bit about some unexplained paranormal activity across the street in the building housing Mama’s Sack Lunch too). But this revelation about the heretofore unseen mystics-for-hire was both jarring and also a cool metaphor for Montgomery as a whole. As if the message of the tour couldn’t be any clearer: You don’t know Montgomery as well as you think you do.

Every stop on the tour gave us fodder for subsequent conversations. The history of Montgomery’s tolerant attitude towards prostitution provoked us to want to do more reading about the “famous madam” who brazenly ran multiple brothels in our city. The murder of Abraham Lincoln is a part of our city’s narrative, as are unspeakable horrors associated with our infamous slave markets.

Whether you are willing to believe that Confederate specters still appear, you’ll still learn a lot on the tour. The “haunted” details that accentuate the stories may give you shivers, but the main takeaway for us was that we live in a beautiful city, a very old city, and that comes with baggage. And some of that baggage is fairly grizzly.

Ultimately, what’s really scary is that idea that people will stop learning the stories that surround the amazing buildings we have. It’s far more frightening to imagine a downtown where old buildings are not preserved, and loft-dwelling residents spend more time on the Internet than they do learning about the history surrounding them.

We considered the tour well worth the money and hope you’ll make a reservation. It’s an excellent addition to Montgomery’s Halloween offerings, and a great way to experience the history of the city.

Tours last about an hour and go through downtown – we advise wearing comfortable shoes. They meet at the Village Gallery at 107 S. Court Street. To schedule a tour, call 334-595-9243 or email hauntedmontgomerytours@gmail.com.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, nine fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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