Victor, my terrier cross, is frantically turning circles while digging the grass. We’re standing in front of the Howard Weeden House built in 1819, allegedly the most haunted building in Huntsville, Alabama. Victor is intense and determined, pawing on the ground like there’s mice beneath the sod.
We’re on the dog-friendly Haunted Huntsville Ghost Walk. Our guide and Avalon Tours company founder, Jacquelyn Procter Reeves, is telling us 200 years of stories that unfolded within this structure’s walls.
For instance, for years a young female artist lived here. Slowly she went mad from lead poisoning because each time she swept paint across her canvass, she wet her brushes with her tongue. Her ghost is said to haunt the property today.
A veteran of ghost tours, Victor is doing ok. He loves moving in a pack (check out our adventures in Toronto and Caledonia) and tolerates standing for short moments, although he prefers moving and can get a bit antsy when the stories get long – like a kid.
Today he’s really reacting to the Weeden House and Museum. So is the seeing-eye guide dog with us on the walk, although not as dramatically. Clearly, something creepy clouds this place.
We move on.
For most of the two-hour tour, Victor is chill walking along and sniffing… until we get to the Governor’s House.
Victor dislikes this vine-covered stone mansion surrounded by a tall iron gate, pulling me into traffic to get away. He doesn’t want to stand on the front sidewalk at all – maybe because the tour is getting long or maybe because this was the home of an unsavory cad. The story goes the wealthy but dishonest owner of this grand property lost it in a poker game in the 1800s. He’s still bitter to this day, haunting the property refusing to leave.
Victor hates angry men, dead or alive.
“I love having animals on the walk,” Reeves tells me at the beginning of the tour. “They react in interesting ways.”
Huntsville, Alabama’s downtown is easily walkable punctuated by historic buildings on every corner, some Victorian mansions dating back to pre-abolition days. Ornate almost gothic churches are the exclamation points of some blocks, and other buildings are undergoing restoration.
(Downtown Huntsville is also very dog-friendly place – check out our experience here.)
Several years ago, someone suggest Reeves start a walking tour focused on ghost stories – it’s a natural fit in this southern setting.
“’Just make something up,” they told Reeves.
“As a historian, I couldn’t do that,” she says. Instead, she thoroughly researched Huntsville history and hired a medium who provided information that corresponded to historic facts. Reeves also wrote 12 books, including When Spirits Walk and Wicked North Alabama. (affiliate links)
The first night she offered the tour, she hoped ten people would show up. Forty people arrived. The third night, 300. Reeves and her husband Robert Reeves knew they had a viable business and now employ 13 people, offering three different walking tours including the ‘Murder and Mayhem’ theme (popular with children), one bike tour and a historic trolley tour.
Ghosts, however, get the most attention. Who doesn’t love a good paranormal tale? Plus, they give participants a glimpse into life during the 18th and 19th centuries and an introduction to architecture.
“We’ve had pets on our tours and even encourage it… usually,” Reeves says. On one tour, a woman brought a stroller. Half way through the walk, she pulled back the cover and revealed a hedgehog was her fur baby.
“The guide lost the group’s attention,” Reeves says. He was upstaged by a hedgehog.
Otherwise, the Huntsville Ghost Walk is eerie and entertaining exercise for both the two and four legged.
Tonight, though, only Victor saw a ghost. I think.
TRAVEL GUIDE: All tours begin at Harrison Brothers Hardware Store, located at 124 South Side Square in Huntsville promptly at 6 p.m. In October, Avalon Tours also have walking tours on Saturday at 8:30 p.m..Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under.
The 90-minute trolley runs every Friday and Saturday in October at 6 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for kids twelve and under.