Whether they admit it or not, most of those who live on Dauphin Island, Alabama have heard the tales. Some have actually experienced the chilling encounters first hand. It’s just common knowledge among the locals that anyone who ventures out after dark on this historical sliver of sand and charm may cross paths with one of the Island’s resident spirits. You see . . . Dauphin Island is haunted.
There is no doubt that the Lighthouse Bakery on Chaumont Avenue is the place for incredible pastries and made to order omelets every morning, but once the sun goes down on the 100-year-old structure, strange things start cooking in the kitchen.
“I might be working in the shop late at night and I’ll see a shadow from the corner of my eye pass bye,” said the bakery owner, Mary Scarcliff. “Things move around in the kitchen and fall off the shelves for no apparent reason . . . and we just think . . . whatever.”
Originally a simple country-style residence and even a one-time “cathouse”, the Lighthouse Bakery had been thought to be home to a single entity says Scarcliff, but another ghostly image was recently seen outside the house. “For the longest time we had seen the image of an older lady inside the bakery wearing a 1930s or ‘˜40s style dress and a kitchen apron,” said Mary. “Her presence is never threatening or mean-spirited.”
But, a group of paranormal investigators brought in by Scarcliff recently found possible evidence of more than one spirit. “The investigators had instrument readings inside the house that were especially strong in the middle dining room,” she said, “but, it was what they found outside in the yard and on the porch that surprised us.”
The investigators captured photos of a dark presence that Mary describes as “really, really weird.” “I don’t know what it was in those pictures, but it had a dark, almost skeletal appearance,” she said.
Does the existence of an extra night time “baker” in the kitchen creep out the employees of the Lighthouse Bakery? “Not really,” Mary said. “We know that she’s there and we just accept it.”
At the far eastern end of Cadillac Avenue is what’s come to be known as the Goat Trees, a large stand of ages-old oaks once used by the Island’s climbing wild goats as a treetop perch to escape marauding alligators that roamed below at night. But, as the story goes, throughout the years the alligators were not the only things to move quietly among the Spanish moss once darkness fell on Dauphin Island.
Islander Ursula Prince shared a tale told to her many years ago about young love gone tragically wrong among the Goat Trees. “I was told by one of the real old-timers, that in the years long, long before the Dauphin Island Bridge was built, when the Island was more secluded from the outside world, Islanders would hold their weddings beneath the giant Goat Trees for luck,” she said.
“One lovely day a young couple was to be married there, but for whatever reason the groom never showed up for the ceremony,” said Prince. “The jilted bride was devastated, so that night out of desperation and sadness she hanged herself from one of the branches of an old oak there.”
Feeling that the site was tainted and no longer appropriate for such happy occasions, no wedding was ever again held beneath the sprawling canopy of the Goat Trees. And, to this day when the moon is full and the gulf breeze blows, the rustling sounds heard coming from Goat Tree Park near Ursula Prince’s home are said to be the spirit of the young bride wandering the grounds and looking for the suitor who left her at the altar.
Local photographer and artist Joy Harper Russell believes that she may have captured the misty digital images of the departed at several locations on the Island including the Dauphin Island’s east end. “After downloading a series of photos from an outdoor concert one night, I noticed that some of the shots had weird ‘˜fog spots’ in them,” Russell said. “I had never considered that they might have been ghosts until a friend mentioned the stories of Civil War soldiers and others who still walked the grounds there.”
A professional photographer herself, Russell knew that the misty shapes were not the result of temperature change on the lens because she had been shooting outside for some time that evening. She also ruled out reflections and glare from other light sources, and dust on the camera’s internal sensor. So, what were these images that appeared randomly in some frames, but not others?
It was then that she remembered similar “fog spots” in other photos that she had taken . . . photos on the misty marshes on the Island’s north side and others snapped beneath the old oaks at the legendary Goat Trees. “I remember taking pictures at the Goat Trees early one evening,” she said. “In an otherwise clear series of shots the misty images had appeared near a bench under the moss draped Goat tree near Cadillac and Grant Street.”
Over time Russell has been told of similar “fog spots” captured by others both digitally and on film. “At the time I took these photos I didn’t even know that several places on the Island were thought to be haunted,” Russell said. “I may be trying too hard to convince myself that it was a ghost or spirit that I had photographed when it really wasn’t, but no one has given me a definitive explanation. Whatever it is, it’s definitely odd.”
Ghost hunters have taken other photos of an old home on Bienville Boulevard rumored for years to be haunted. Images of what are described by some to be both human and animal-like figures were captured on more than one occasion from the yard and through lower windows of the structure.
According to legend two identical houses once sat side by side for more than 110-years on the spirited east end of Dauphin island. Some years back the more structurally sound of the two was moved to its present location to be restored and made “livable”. That’s when the so called “bumps in the night” began. It has been reported that during restoration the owners had trouble keeping contractors on the job as the ghostly residents regularly scared them into leaving.
Today the home sits for sale just minutes from its original location with the spirited occupants at the ready to again “welcome” any new buyer or looky-loo.
Dauphin Islanders are well aware that their little piece of paradise has a reputation for having a “spirited” nightlife. From the Goat Trees, to other rumored haunts such as Cadillac Square Park, and the prehistoric Shell Mounds – a regular site for seances and paranormal investigations, the legendary Dauphin Island is like few other destinations along the Gulf coast whether in this life or the next.
Dauphin Island is just 33 miles south of Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf of Mexico. For more information visit www.dauphinislandcoc.com