Built in 1853 as a plantation home in Selma, Alabama, the beautiful Sturdivant Hall is a prime example of the grand neoclassical architecture of the time, with two stories, six front columns, and a grand antebellum style that represented wealth and privilege. The grounds also contain a smaller 2-story house that contains the kitchen, as well as storage and modest lodging.
Sturdivant was sold to a new owner, one John Parkman, in 1864. He was the President of the First National bank of Selma, and his family only lived in the house until 1866. In 1870 it was sold to a new family who kept it until 1957, after which time it was bought and turned into a museum by the Sturdivant Museum Association.
Sturdivant Hall first saw tragedy during John Parkman’s ownership. He was a young man when he became bank President, and he made a young man’s mistake when he decided to illegally use bank funds to speculate in the cotton market. He was caught, and taken into federal custody by the Union general who was occupying Selma during the bloody postwar Reconstruction. He received a trial that some contend wasn’t entirely fair, and sentenced to prison.
At the ripe old age of 29, he was shot and killed, some say in an escape attempt, others say as retribution by his cohorts in crime. Parkman had bought Sturdivant Hall in 1864 for $65,000, but after his death in 1867 his widow and two daughters were forced to sell the plantation for $12,500.
As early as the sale of the house by the widow Parkman in 1870, the ghost of John Parkman has said to be haunting Sturdivant Hall, as well as the back house and surrounding orchard. He has been seen standing near the side portico and on top of the mansion in the cupola, apparently to take in the view of downtown Selma.
Mr. Parkman seems to be fond of the second floor, for heavy footsteps can often be heard up there when it is known to be unoccupied. The phantom steps often move from room to room, stopping at the head of the staircase.
The upstairs presence made itself known to an exterminator who was hired to spray for insects on the second floor. He said that while he was in the bedroom nearest the main staircase (where the ghost of John Parkman is said to be felt most often) he was pushed from behind by an unseen force.
Strangely, John Parkman doesn’t seem to be the only ghost making the plantation its home. Guests at the museum have reported seeing the apparitions of two little girls standing in an upstairs window. It is from this same window that a passerby saw a column of smoke rising into the air. The fire department was called, and no evidence of fire or smoke was found inside the house. There is no evidence as to the identities of these childres, but is generally assumed that they are the ghosts of John Parkman’s two daughters.
Paranormal phenomena is reported in both the main house and the house in back. Windows that are locked and shuttered at night will be found unlatched and opened the next morning, a feat that can only be achieved from inside the house. On top of this, doors often lock and unlock themselves, usually setting off the security alarm. All of the phenomena associated with the little girls seems to be of a playful nature, such as the hiding and movement of objects.