The Cato-Thorn House – Barbour County

In Barbour County, the cream of southern aristocracy is on display, and one will find the kind of Greek Revival antebellum mansions that some might expect to exist only within the confines of a Hollywood film. Built just before the start of the Civil War, the Cato-Thorn House was the brainchild of Lewis Llewellyn Cato. Its most striking feature is the cupola rising from the center of the roof. Look closely, and it becomes apparent that the cupola is an almost exact replica, in miniature, of the house itself.

When Alabama voted to secede, a huge party was held at the home. William Lowndes Yancey, one of the leading secessionists in the state, is said to have given a rousing speech in support of independence. When the house was renovated in the 1970s, a trunk containing letters from Confederate president Jefferson Davis and other significant figures of the Civil War was found in the attic.

The Confederacy is strong in the Cato-Thorn House, and perhaps it’s no sur- prise that its spirits come from that era as well. Some speculate that it was the restoration that stirred them up. Several of the painters who worked on the house reported the uneasy feeling that they were being watched. It was only when one of them looked up to the landing above and saw a man standing there, clothed in the full dress uniform of a Confederate officer, that these suspicions were confirmed. The painter left that day and never returned.

And it’s not just the men of the era who have come back to visit the house. A previous owner named Victoria is said to also remain on the premises. She has been seen dressed in the full regalia of a woman of the antebellum age. Victoria herself had a ghost story she liked to tell visitors. She had a dog that lived with her in the house. It seemed that something she could not see was scaring the dog, and it would often run through the house until it was exhausted. Finally, Victoria went to the second floor of the house, where the activity seemed to be centered, and told the ghost that it was welcome to stay but that it had to quit chasing the dog. The chasing stopped, the dog quit running and all of them lived together without incident. To this day, the people who own the Cato-Thorn House have been known to say that the first floor belongs to them, while the second floor belongs to the ghost. An equitable arrangement, indeed.


Haunted Alabama Black Belt written by David Higdon and Brett Talley – Copyright © 2013 by David Higdon and Brett Talley – All rights reserved

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