ADAMS GROVE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
This pre-Civil War era church is known as "the most haunted church in Alabama."
Two of the ornate 19th century headstones at Adams Grove Presbyterian Church | Photo © 2019 Sugarbomb
A blonde and a witch walk into a haunted church in the deep south...this isn't the beginning of a joke, but rather the time we explored the Adam's Grove Presbyterian Church and its surrounding cemetery grounds.
On November 13, 1837, John Sorrel conveyed the land described as being on the south side of the Cahaba-Greenville Road, five miles southeast of Cahaba, Alabama to Thomas Watt and John Smith, deacons of the Shiloh Baptist Church. Included in this agreement was the stipulation that the ownership of the land would revert to Sorrel or his heirs if it ceased to be used as a church site.
In 1853, the Shiloh Baptist Church moved to a new location several miles away in Sardis and in accordance with the agreement made by Sorrel, the ownership of the land reverted back to Sorrel’s daughter and son-in-law Henry and Rebecca Adams. On October 11, 1853, Henry Adams sold two and a half acres of the reacquired land, including a graveyard and a spring, to William S. Smith and Philip Millrous for the purpose of erecting a Presbyterian Church. Adams Grove Presbyterian Church was constructed shortly after this transaction.
The Adams Grove Presbyterian Church is a single-story Greek Revival-style building featuring a gable roof and a distyle in antis type portico with box columns. Greek Revival style architecture is inspired by the symmetry, proportion, simplicity, and elegance of the ancient Greek temples. It became the dominant national style of architecture in the United States, reaching peak popularity from 1825 to 1860 and spreading across the country from the east coast to the west coast in the decades preceding the American Civil War.
The front of the church which displays features of Greek Revival style architecture | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
The gabled end facade features a formal pediment above a recessed entry porch, and a pair of square columns in the center of the porch support a complete entablature which surrounds the entire building. There are doorways on both ends of the porch, one of which contains a stairway leading up to the balcony inside the church, and the other leading into a storage area. Square pilasters, matching the two center columns, decorate the corners of each of the enclosed porch ends. Another pair of doors on the porch leads into the sanctuary, with shuttered sash windows above meant to provide light to the balcony inside. Square pilasters along the sides of the church divide the wall surfaces into sections that each have two 12-foot shuttered sash windows.
Dallas County boasts one of the highest concentrations of early 19th century churches in the state of Alabama. Among these, Adams Grove Presbyterian Church is notable as one of the least altered of these antebellum churches. Except for the removal of the pews, Adams Grove retains all of its original architectural elements, including a paneled pulpit dais and slave gallery. Slave galleries were small, largely hidden areas at the back of a church meant to be used as seating for enslaved African Americans. The four separate entryways of the church allowed men, women, and slaves to enter the sanctuary separately, with slaves using the side entrance that led up to the balcony.
The balcony inside the church | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
The interior of the church contains the original plastered walls and wide heart pine flooring. Heart pine is crafted with boards cut from the center, or heartwood, of Longleaf Yellow Pine trees, and known for its high quality and longevity. It’s not surprising that the floors inside this 170-year-old church are still stable enough to walk on today.
The solid balcony railing has narrow, vertical recessed panels matching the recessed paneled ceiling of the church and is supported by a pair of square columns. Though the pulpit itself is gone, a fine paneled wooden pulpit dais remains at the front of the sanctuary. All of the baseboards, window surrounds, and architraves are original.
The cemetery that surrounds the Adams Grove Presbyterian Church was established five years before the church itself was built. The cemetery contains over 50 graves marked by ornate headstones. The oldest of these graves dates as far back as 1843, and the most recent in 1955. The headstones in the churchyard are examples of both Greek Revival and Victorian style tombstones, and many are in such good condition that they can still be clearly read and retain their finer details.
Headstones from the 1850s in the cemetery | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
The last congregation at the church was held in 1974 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 5, 1986. Adams Grove Presbyterian Church is now privately owned, and the owners are working to preserve the historic property and surrounding cemetery.
Adam’s Grove Presbyterian Church is also known as “the most haunted church in Alabama.” Ever since its last congregation, strange experiences have been reported by residents, and paranormal investigators have also witnessed strange activity.
Some visitors to the abandoned church have reported seeing a shadowy man with fiery red eyes in both the church and the cemetery. This red eyed shadow man is said to sneak up on visitors and has been reported by numerous investigators and visitors, some of whom have been so terrified but their experiences that they stopped investigating the paranormal altogether.
Many people have also reported seeing the ghost of a Confederate soldier that will order trespassers off the property if they enter the cemetery. This spirit has been seen at all times of the day and is often so corporeal that the witnesses first believed him to be a real, living person dressed up as a Confederate soldier. A group that was investigating the property claimed the soldier appeared carrying a rifle and chased them off the property. They too believed he was a living person until he vanished into thin air in front of the group.
The headstone of an unnamed infant child | Photo © 2019 Sugarbomb
Sounds of a crying baby have also been heard inside of the church. Locals say when they walk toward the church to investigate, the crying would stop, only to begin again as they walked away.
The ghost of a minister has been seen inside of the church as well, usually right before a major thunderstorm. It is unknown who this mysterious minister is. An account of an experience with this particular spirit said that the minister was seen on the porch of the church with his arm raised in the air, seemingly yelling or praying out loud, followed by a loud clap of thunder and pouring rain. After the rain began, the minister would vanish.
These dramatic accounts of the spirits at the most haunted church in Alabama make for good campfire ghost stories, but is any of it true? As they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire – while the many stories may seem exaggerated for effect or a result of repeated retellings over the years, I wouldn’t be so quick to disregard them entirely.
Some of the headstones that surround the church | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
On an extremely hot late afternoon in September, Lunarbomb and I pulled the car up in front of Adams Grove Presbyterian Church. We walked through and photographed the cemetery flanking the old church, taking our time, appreciating the shade of the surrounding trees, and admiring the intricate detail of the old headstones. It was peaceful. No uniformed Confederate soldiers or anyone – living or dead – came out and chastised us for trespassing or tried to chase us off the property.
This peaceful atmosphere persisted as we entered the sanctuary of the church, pleasantly surprised at how structurally sound the old wooden building was. As we approached the dais at the front of the church, Lunarbomb said there was “a preacher” standing to our left. I had already done a bit of research and knew about the history and hauntings, but Lunarbomb wasn’t aware of any of this.
The dais inside Adams Grove Presbyterian Church | Photo © 2019 Sugarbomb
My interest was piqued because I knew that the minister is one of the spirits commonly sighted at the church, but I didn’t recount this to Lunarbomb quite yet, curious what he would say or do. She’s naturally sensitive to the paranormal, so she often purposely avoids finding out too much about places ahead of time to confirm anything she sees or senses while we are there. That day she didn't know much more about where we were headed beyond "old church" and "cool gravestones."
She said he wasn’t upset or threatening, merely observing us as we wandered about inside of the old church, snapping photos. After we took our pictures and were back in the car on our way to our next stop, I told Lunarbomb about the minister and how he is one of the most common spirits seen at Adams Grove Presbyterian Church. I explained to her that his presence typically heralds inclement weather as I pulled up the weather app on my phone, checking the radar and forecast for that area. Contrary to the stories, however, the radar was completely clear. Not a cloud was in the sky, in fact. The forecast was for similar weather through the next several days in that area – sunny and hot – with a zero percent chance of rain.
Fast forward to the next afternoon when Lunarbomb and I were at my Great Aunt’s house two hours away from Adams Grove. She had her tv on in the background and a weather alert came on suddenly, grabbing our attention. “I hope you’re not headed back down south,” Aunt Pete said. A severe thunderstorm warning as well as a tornado warning had been issued for Dallas County, triggered by a storm that had seemed to pop up out of nowhere. The intense storm seemed to have developed right over where Adams Grove was located, and I couldn’t help but remember the minister’s presence in the church the day before.
Skeptics will say it’s all a coincidence. Maybe it is. But it’s an interesting experience nonetheless, and one can’t deny how our experience at the old church shares similarities with the stories told by many others.
Headstones outside of the church | Photo © 2019 Sugarbomb
In addition to the ghostly sightings at the church and the surrounding property, there are reports of UFO sightings as well. A local man named Terrence Carter claimed that around 11pm on July 17, 1978, he saw seven yellow disc-shaped objects flying in a V formation in the area. The objects eventually split up and five of them vanished. The two remaining objects came closer to the Adams Grove Presbyterian Church and a beam of light could be seen near the church. The mysterious objects then flew away at a high speed.
During my first visit to Adams Grove Church, I came across a black butterfly on the front porch of the church near the entrance. The butterfly didn’t fly away as I approached, just slowly moving its wings, staying in place long enough that I could take several photos before fluttering up. It circled around me a few times before flitting off.
Black butterflies have been associated with death in many cultures throughout history. In China, a black butterfly represents life after death. In Japanese culture, black butterflies are believed to be messengers of the souls of dead ancestors. In Central and South America, black butterflies represent those who have died, and the appearance of one is seen as a sign that they are watching or looking after you. All in all, I’d say that black butterfly is an appropriate occupant of “most haunted church in Alabama.”