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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Haunted Alabama - John R. Drish House


Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

In 1837, Dr. John R. Drish built a 450-acre plantation with a brick mansion. Drish came to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1822 from Virginia. Drish was a widower, but he later married wealthy widow Sarah Owen McKinney in 1835. He was a successful physician and building contractor, and had many skilled slave artisans. These slaves helped build early Tuscaloosa. Prior to the Civil War, the home was remodeled in Italianate-style with a three-story brick tower, front columns, brackets being added to overhangs, and two-story cast iron side porches on each side. John Drish died in 1967 after reportedly falling down a stairway, and Sarah Drish died in 1884. After the death of Sarah, the mansion changed owners several time. The building later became the Jemison School in 1906, having been bought by the Tuscaloosa Board of Education. In 1925, the school was purchased to be used as a parts warehouse for Charles Turner's Tuscaloosa Wrecking Company. In 1940, the warehouse was purchased by the Southside Baptist Church, which added a Sunday School. The church owned it for the rest of the 20th century. Eventually, the building was threatened by proposed demolition in 1994, but was leased to the Heritage Commission of Tuscaloosa County instead of the church, as it closed in 1995. By 2006, the house was falling apart and was added to "Places in Peril" by the Alabama Historical Commission and Alabama Trust For Historic Preservation. In July, 2007, the deed was given to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society, and they have since made efforts to fix the structure. They hope to raise enough funding for its restoration. All of the church's additional buildings were demolished in 2009. Since the early 20th century, the house has been the site of rumored hauntings. It was featured in Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh's 13 Ghosts and Jeffrey, in the short story "Death Lights in the Tower". People have reported seeing the three-story tower on fire when no fire is present, and ghostly lights coming out of the house.

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