Strange Stories From Alabama

Strange Stories From Alabama

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

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Every state has its weird side, and Alabama is no exception. A dive into Alabama history and lore can be like going down a rabbit hole into a strange and wild world. From real monsters to a fish that got a full funeral, here are five crazy, interesting stories from the Heart of Dixie.

The Choccolocco Monster

While cruising down a dark road between Choccolocco and Iron City one night in May of 1969, a driver caught something in his headlights that would make the bravest turn white. A monster, about the size of a cow, raised up on the side of the highway and threatened to jump out in front of his car.

People began calling the local sheriff and newspaper to report a "booger" with a big head and teeth and shaggy fur that could raise up on its hind legs. At least eight people reported seeing the beast along the Iron City Cutoff. People flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of the monster, but soon sightings of the monster stopped and the Choccolocco Monster became a distant memory.

Then on Halloween 2001, a man named Neal Williamson told the Anniston Star, a local newspaper, that he had been the trickster behind the Choccolocco monster. When he was fifteen, he had stolen his family's car and donned a bedsheet or a long black coat and held a cow skull over his head and danced on the side of the road when cars came near. His shenanigans continued for several nights until a driver stopped and fired a rifle at him. Williamson himself became a brief celebrity for a little while and even appeared on the Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Alabama: First in Flight?

North Carolina's "First in Flight" motto may actually belong to Alabama. In 1869, Long before the Wright Brothers went to Kitty Hawk, Dr. Lewis Archer Boswell moved to Alabama with his new bride to her family's plantation in Talladega. The doctor had already published some papers on aeronautics and had even built a miniature version of a plane. After he moved, He built a full scale one, and much to the amazement of some witnesses made many flights in it. Many of the people who saw it lived well into the twentieth century and told how he used the barn roof as a launch pad and flew over the cotton fields on the farm.

Unfortunately, Boswell did not have the foresight to take pictures or leave any other kind of hard evidence behind, so the Wright Brothers, who flew in 1903, get the credit of building the first successful airplane since it could not be definitively proven Dr. Boswell really did fly. Boswell's other work did not go unrecognized, however. He had patents for a propeller and a steering mechanism. He also invented a tricycle-like undercarriage which was the predecessor for the one used today. Talladega Municipal Airport has been renamed Boswell Field in his honor and a marker in Oak Hill Cemetery where he is buried states "Invented a flying machine in the 1800s. Recorded witnesses stated they saw it airborne."

A fish named Leroy Brown

Tom Mann was sort of a celebrity in the fishing world. He invented the jelly worm along with several other types of lures and the Hummingbird depth finder and was a member of the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, but what he is probably most famous for is his fish, Leroy Brown. Mann caught the bass in Lake Eufaula in 1973 and took him home and put him in a tank with other fish. He named him after the song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce, and although he was smaller than the other fish, he quickly took charge of the tank. Mann later moved him to a larger aquarium at his bait shop, Tom Mann's Fish World, where Leroy became a celebrity. Mann taught him how to jump through a hoop and eat out of his hand. Tom Mann would often try out new bait in the tank which the other fish would bite, but Leroy, too smart to fall for the same trick twice, swatted at the lures with his tail. When the fish died in 1981, famous people such as Hank Williams Jr. and Alabama Governor Fob James sent their condolences, and Mann decided to have a funeral for the bass.

At the funeral, the Eufaula High School marching band played "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and the pallbearers were famous bass fishermen. But, the story gets stranger. Leroy was not buried the day of the funeral because the ground was too wet, and Mann stored him in a casket in a freezer until he could be buried. The night after the funeral, someone stole the fish's body, and Tom Mann offered $10,000 for its return. Three weeks later, a phone call was received from the Tulsa, Oklahoma airport demanding a ransom, and police alerted a baggage handler who followed his nose to an unclaimed bag that held Leroy's body. Mann erected a $4,000 marble monument to Leroy Brown at his bait shop that has since been moved to the median on Broad St in Eufaula after spending some time in the possession of a private owner after the bait shop closed.

The inscription on the monument reads, "Most bass are just fish but Leroy Brown was something special."

Tecumseh's mighty foot

In 1808, Tecumseh, a Shawnee warrior, began to try to recruit other tribes to join him in an uprising against the American government, settlers, and assimilation. He eventually made his way into Alabama in October of 1811, where he met with the Creek Nation at the the town of Tukabachi along the Tallapoosa River. The Creeks wanted no part in the uprising, and Tecumseh became angry with them. According to legend, he told them that, when he returned home, he would stomp his foot and "shake down every house in Tukabachi." The town actually was shaken on December 16, when the New Madrid earthquake shook the Mississippi Valley. The quake was measured as a 7.5 on the Richter scale and caused large waves on the Mississippi that capsized boats and washed ashore others. There was no way for Tecumseh to know that the earthquake would happen, but it did make for an eerie coincidence.

The Free State of Winston

When the Civil War broke out, many of the people living in north Alabama did not agree with the state's decision to secede from the Union. Most of the people living in this hilly area had a hard time farming and did not own big plantations that used slave labor like their neighbors in the more flatter parts of the state. On July 4, 1861, 3,000 Union supporters gathered at Looney's Tavern in Winston County to decide what they should do. Some citizens argued that they should secede and join other counties from Alabama and Tennessee and form their own state. Others said they should just secede from Alabama like it had from the Union, and one man jokingly said that they should call it the" Free State of Winston." This meeting and declaration of the name have given way to stories that Winston County actually did secede from Alabama when, in fact, it did not. Many men, however, did go to Union states and join the army to fight the Confederacy, and others took part in resistance movements. Bill Looney, who owned the tavern, helped lead raids to free Unionists from Confederate prisons.

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.
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Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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14 Kentucky Destinations To Visit This Summer

I'm in love with the history and beauty encompassing my old Kentucky home.

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Kentucky has got to be one of the most notable states in the U.S. While it is most known for bourbon, horse races, and basketball, you can't deny the beauty of the history and nature that surrounds the state.

Kentucky natives often take for granted the importance of the locations that surround them. These destinations are easily accessible and should be noted a 'must visit' on your next day off.

For those who are travelers and are looking to tour the land of the "Bluegrass state," you won't regret making these KY places your next summer vacation destination.

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

mammoth cave

This park is open year-round with guided tours through the world's longest cave system. This cave is filled with tremendous caverns which are super cool to see, but the stories that are told about the cave through the tour make it an even more interesting experience.

Even if you decided to skip out on the cave tour, this national park is filled with other things to do. There are trails for hiking and biking, and they even have areas for various water activities.

2. Keeneland

keeneland racetrack

Keeneland is beautifully landscaped and located in the horse capital of the world.

While the best time to go is during racing season, I'd still recommend a tour of this famous horseracing arena.

3. Red River Gorge

red river gorge

Red River Gorge is home of the sandstone rock bridge known as the 'Natural Bridge,' and is also the perfect site for a camping experience. At the gorge, you are able to hike, bike, ride, and partake in a variety of other activities.

4. National Corvette Museum

corvette museum

Home to more than 80 models of America's sports car: the Corvette.

5. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls

A huge waterfall that falls 60-feet before tumbling over sandstone bedding. It is truly a sight to see.

6. Ark Encounter

noah's ark

Located in Williamstown, KY is the massive, life-size ship made to resemble Noah's Ark. It is 3-stories tall with interactive exhibits to illustrate the biblical tale.

7. Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum

louisville slugger museum

Baseball, also known as America's favorite pastime.

Kentucky, also home of the Lousiville Slugger Baseball Museum and Factory.

8. Lincoln's childhood home

abraham lincoln's childhood home

Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th U.S. president. He was an important figure for many reasons, but most remembered for his Emancipation Proclamation speech that helped push toward the end of slavery, and his leadership of our nation through the Civil War.

9. Churchill Downs

churchill downs

Churchill Downs is another thoroughbred racetrack in Kentucky, most famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby. Tours are conducted by the Kentucky Derby Museum.

10.  Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

bernheim forest

Every year, Kentucky loses 50,000 acres due to land development. There are estimated to be over 3 million trees in Bernheim Forest, all of which are protected from development.

Today, Bernheim Forest is over 16,000 acres and will soon be celebrating its 90th "birthday" by revealing a new exhibit entitled "Forest Giants in a Giant Forest." These three massive sculptures, made of recycled wood are expected to withstand for at least 3 years.

11.  Berea Pinnacles

berea pinnacles

A hiking trail with a variety of difficulty levels, and a beautiful view at the end no matter how far you decided to travel.

12.  Woodford Reserve Distillery

woodford reserve distillery

Kentucky is famous for bourbon. So, why not take a tour of the oldest and smallest distillery in the state?

13.  The Kentucky State Capitol

ky state capitol

The KY state capitol is located in Frankfort, KY and is open to visitors/tours. Observe the areas where our chamber of the senate and house of representatives come together for the legislative process.

14.  My Old Kentucky Home State Park

federal hill mansion

Stephen Collins Foster wrote the famous composition 'My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!' which is now known as our state song. Foster's imagery throughout the song was inspired by the house and the land surrounding what was once known as "Federal Hill." It was referred to as "My Old Kentucky Home" once the U.S. entered the Civil War.

Today, you can tour the home that was host to many famous individuals (Stephen Collins Foster, Henry Clay, Aaron Burr, and more) and the inspiration to a monumental tribute to Kentucky history.

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