Monday, November 4, 2013

Alabama's Haunted and Historic Drish House


1911
Around 1822 Dr. John Drish moved to Tuscaloosa area, where he set up a successful physician's practice as well as construction company.  By 1835, he married the wealthy widow, Sarah Owen McKinney, and began construction on a palatial Greek Revival mansion.  It would be the center piece of his plantation, located just outside of town.  It was completed in 1837.

Originally named Malone Place, the Drish Mansion underwent drastic renovations in the late 1850s which turned the Greek Revival styled home into an Italianate paradise, complete with 3-storey tower.  It is a local legend that these changes were the direct result of a healthy competition between Dr. Drish and Robert Jemison, a founding citizen of Tuscaloosa who at the time was building his own Italianate home.  Unfortunately, the doctor would not be around much longer.  He took a nasty fall down the staircase of his home and died in 1867.  Again, local legend has an interesting explanation for these events...

Allegedly, Dr. Drish was somewhat of a gambler and an alcoholic and after a night of drinking, the doctor began hallucinating in bed.  He jumped up out of bed, took off running, and fell right over the banister to his death.  His will stipulated that upon his death, his body should be laid out in the upstairs area of his own home and his body surrounded by candles.

Sarah remained in the home until her own death in 1884 and by some accounts, she became increasingly maddened and distraught over the death of her husband.  She even went as far as preserving the candles from his funeral to be used in the same manner during hers.  Unfortunately, she hid them away and they could not be located after her death.

Over the years, the home has been used in a variety of capacities.  In 1906, the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education established the Jemison School in the home, which surely was a blow to Dr. Drish, who was in direct competition with Robert Jemison in life.  By 1925 it was a car parts warehouse for Charles Turner's Tuscaloosa Wrecker Company and in 1940 it was purchased by the Southside Baptist Church.
2010

Membership in the church dwindled by 1995 and for awhile the property was leased to the local Heritage Committee.  However, it wouldn't be until 2007 when several of the former church members turned the deed over to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society.  Since then, the organization has been busy trying to clean out and stabilize the structure, as well as demolishing several wings added onto the original homestead.  The group also opened the home up to paranormal investigations for the first time, and with very good reason!

The ghosts of the Drish Mansion made their public debut with the 1969 book, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, by Kathryn Tucker Windham.  According to stories found within the book and elsewhere in popular ghost lore, it seems that there are at least three ghosts that still reside within the home.  The apparition of Dr. Drish himself has been seen, and there are stories that his daughter, Katherine, who was also said to have gone insane due to her relationship with a young man being forbidden by her father, makes an appearance.  However, the most prolific haunting is possibly connected with Sarah.

After Sarah's death, passersby would often note that lights would be on in the third story tower.  Many times, this visible candlelight was so overpowering that people assumed the home was on fire!  The fire department would be called, and when they arrived, found no evidence of a fire burning anywhere in the home.  It is believed that Sarah is lighting the candles that she so desperately obsessed over for her own funeral.

More information on the history of the house and its ghosts, as well as the results of an investigation by the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group can be found in the article below:

Tuscaloosa News: Drish House Finally Gets a Chance to Yield its Secrets

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