Alabama is filled with captivating ghost stories and legends, but none are as renowned as “The Face in the Courthouse Window”. The enigmatic appearance of this entity in the historic Pickens County Courthouse located in Carrollton has transformed it into a sought-after tourist attraction, symbolizing the essence of the city.
“The Face in the Courthouse Window” is a captivating tale that can be found in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s renowned book, “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.” It is quite surprising if you haven’t yet delved into this book, as it has long been considered a cultural milestone in Alabama. Reading it from cover to cover is almost a rite of passage for Alabamians. Hence, if you haven’t had the chance to experience it, I highly recommend doing so as soon as possible.
“The Face in the Courthouse Window” – Summarized
Henry Wells, a former slave who was freed at the conclusion of the Civil War, was accused of arson when the Pickens County Courthouse burnt to the ground on November 16, 1876. As the story goes, Henry fled to the attic of the courthouse while he was escaping the mob that was out to lynch him. As they continued their search, Henry peered out the famous window. He yelled to the crowd below, “I am innocent. If you kill me, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your lives!” At that very moment, lightning struck the window and the image of Henry’s face was etched into the glass. The mob finally made their way into the courthouse and forced Henry to go outside. They then lynched him. Today, the face in the window remains as a reminder of that eventful night. It’s been washed time and time again, but it won’t go away. Henry Wells warned the people he would haunt them forever if they killed him and it’s evident that he’s keeping his word.
The Face in the Courthouse Window as told by the author herself
“There are some strange things that happen here, but the big thing is the face in the window upstairs in our attic. It comes from Henry Wells being arrested and from him being put up there during a time where a mob wanted to come get him,” Gordo Mayor Craig Patterson said.
Patterson, who serves as the courthouse caretaker, believes that the ghost story has been beneficial for tourism in the area. In fact, a local group was inspired by the tale and turned it into a play, enlisting the help of actors from the community to bring the story to life on stage.
“It is a tourist effect, we have a lot of people stop and come through to see the face in the window and they will come into our gift shop here and look at some of the items from that time period. That window has been through basically gone through 142 years of tornadoes and rainstorms and his face is still up there. So that leads people to believe there’s something supernatural behind it,” he said.
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