Southern legends and lore tell of many amazing and spooky things, including the assertion that a human’s face can be forever etched in window pane by the phenomenal heat of a rogue bolt of lightning.
The concept of a lightning induced window portrait has caused much scientific debate over the years as to whether or not such a thing can happen. The validity of such a thing is subject to personal inspection and belief.
Despite the scientific debate, there are at least four alleged instances of such window portraits in the southern United States. The most famous of which is located in Carrollton, Alabama.
The Pickens County Courthouse
Imagine what it would be like as an imprisoned, southern black man in 1876 starring out from your makeshift cell at an angry, drunken mob that wants nothing more than to lynch you from the highest tree for your alleged crimes.
In addition to the angry mob, there is an equally irate sky. Though thunder and lightning are pummeling the mob, their tumultuous voices still rise over Mother Nature’s din.
If you can imagine such a thing, you will know what accused arsonist and burglar Henry Wells felt at the moment his frightened image was forever forged with Pickens County Courthouse history.
Mr. Wells was accused of breaking into the courthouse and setting it on fire on a cold November 16th in 1876. This was the second time that the courthouse had been burned to the ground so the town was feeling particularly contemptuous at the prospect of having to rebuild it once again.
The courthouse was eventually rebuilt and the residents of Carrollton took their long festering ire out on the unfortunate Henry Wells. He was arrested and officially charged with the crime in January of 1878.
Since no county jail was in existence at the time of Well’s arrest, the residents imprisoned him in the garret of the newly built courthouse.
As if imprisonment were not enough, the more hostile elements of Carrollton would gather daily under the courthouse garret and taunt Mr. Well’s mercilessly.
Legend has it that Henry Wells would yell back at the angry mob promising them that he would “haunt them forever” as penance for their cruelty.
During one evening’s mob melee, a bolt of lightning struck near the courthouse and permanently etched an image of Henry Well’s alarmed face into the garret window.
Henry Wells eventually left this mortal coil, succumbing to injuries he encountered during a failed escape attempt. He was, however, a man of his word and to this day his lightening etched image still haunts the residents of Carrollton.
Over the years the residents have attempted to wipe away Henry’s image but all efforts have failed. And perhaps what is even more curious is that the window with Henry’s immortal image was the only window to survive a massive hail storm that knocked out every courthouse window but Henry’s.
Today visitors to Pickens County can stand in the same area as that long ago angry mob and stare up at the ethereal image of Henry Wells; a permanent testament to the ravages of a bygone age.
There is no fee to see the image. In addition to viewing it from the ground, the image can also be examined with binoculars from across the street. The residents have set up binoculars in that location just for this purpose.
The Pickens County Courthouse
Carrollton, AL 35447
The second location of a lightning induced image is said to be in Russellville, Kentucky.
Russellville Kentucky is located in Logan County and has long been the site of numerous ghostly legends including the one surrounding the 1870 “Sexton House.”
The “Sexton House” is positioned next to the local cemetery and purportedly contains a window with the ghostly image of a young woman.
Supposedly this young woman was upstairs and bathing during a particularly bad thunderstorm. Her reason for undertaking this dangerous task was that she was scheduled to go on a date with her favorite beau and was adamant about getting all “gussied up.”
Unfortunately for her she allegedly made the mistake of cursing God for the rain and as such a bolt of lightning burst from the sky striking her dead and leaving her angry image forever burned onto the “Sexton House” window.
The validity of this story has been questioned throughout the years and is difficult to prove because in later years the offending window was painted over, allegedly to keep gawkers at bay. Nonetheless, it still remains one of the few purported permanent window ghost images created by lightening.
Additional information about Logan County, Kentucky can be found on the “Logan County Chamber of Commerce” website.
515 West 9th Street
Russellville, KY 42276
The Powell House
The third alleged location of a lightning induced window image is said to be in Chennuggee Ridge, Alabama at the former residence of Norbone B. Powell.
Norborne B. Powell was said to have been a quintessential circa 1873 lady who would frequently don the couture of the day.
One day, during a particularly vicious thunderstorm Mrs. Powell was looking out from one of the windows in her home when a bolt out of the blue struck the ground close to her homestead.
The heat from the lightning bolt permanently etched her perfectly coiffed image into the window pane. Not only was her facial expression preserved, so was her hat, cameo and hair pin.
After Powell died her family sent the glass image to the states “Department of Archives” were it was inadvertently dropped and destroyed. That is if you are to believe the legend.
Clays Ferry Slave House
The fourth and final location of a purported lightning induced ghost image is in Madison County, Kentucky.
Within the historic county is the city of Clays Ferry, which is said to contain a three story house that was once residence to slaves.
Supposedly an image of one of the home’s slaves in residence was permanently captured in one of the third story windows.
In addition to the slave peering out from the great beyond, the area of Clays Ferry is replete with other ghost stories, legends and UFO sightings.
All the eerie other worldly stuff make it a quaint little town to visit, especially during the Halloween season.
Those who want to learn more about the unusual area of Clays Ferry should log onto the State’s tourism website.
Whether you believe in lightening induced portraits or not, it is still at best entertaining to think of the possibility that a blot from the blue can create such a thing.
As such intrepid trekkers of the south lands are encouraged to take a moment out of their travel itineraries and explore the remaining window images for themselves. Doing so is worth it, if for nothing more than the purpose of making one’s own decision on the matter.