The book was first published in 1969, but it didn’t become widely known until several years later. I remember my Daddy sitting with his Daddy and brothers beneath the pecan trees, passing it around, each reading for a few minutes, then with exasperated looks, shaking their heads and passing it on to the next person in the circle of webbed lawn chairs.
Kathryn Tucker Windham’s popular, “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery” was great reading for most in the South who loved a good scary story, but my family had a different take on the book, since our great (repeat it a few more times) Granddaddy was one of the ghosts.
That’s right, I’m a direct descendent of William “Grancer” Harrison, the ghost from Kinston, Alabama who supposedly dances on his grave. A successful plantation owner, Grancer (a common nickname for “Grand Sir, or Grandpa back in his native South Carolina), loved to spend his cotton earnings on lavish parties. He built a pavilion for his friends and played the fiddle while wearing an expensive suit and shoes made specifically for nighttime Southern soirees. (It’s nice to know the origin of my love of a good party and fancy shoes.)
After Grancer died, instructions were carried out to bury him in his dancing clothes, close to the pavilion, to be near the music. Over the years, the parties faded away, but locals claimed when they passed the Harrison Cemetery on moonlit nights, they could see and hear Grancer dancing on his grave.
If the story ended there, it would have been easily ignored, which is exactly what we’d always done, since we were raised to believe strongly in angels and demons, but not the ne’er-do-well haints. Dancing fiddle players were not polite conversation in our family and flew in the face of our British-Scottish-Protestant practical common sense. (And no seances, horoscopes or Rocky Horror Picture Show at slumber parties, young lady!).
The big trouble came from a few of the local folks who insisted there was buried treasure in Great-Grancer’s grave, and took to the commonplace redneck plan of using dynamite to blast the grave to smithereens. The family paid to have the bones gathered and the tomb repaired, but the low-life scamps insist on returning every few years with shovels, sledgehammers and other tools to break apart the above ground burial site of Grancer and other family members surrounding him.
I wonder how ole’ Bubba, who sits with his girlfriend, dangling their legs off Great (four more times) Granddaddy’s tomb would feel if I went and knocked the plastic blossoms off his Granny’s grave? Not that I would ever be so common as to consider graveyard retaliation tactics, but I don’t think he’d be too happy if he found Mee-Maw’s mums scattered in the grass much less found her petals blown to heck and back.
Grancer’s grave continues to be a popular hang-out for the local South Alabama ghoul-seekers on Halloween, but according to the next day’s evidence of left-over empty beer cans, the only thing that haunts them these days is a down-home, non-imagined hangover caused by spirits of the cheap kind.
Windham died in 2011, and I know several people who personally knew and adored the popular storyteller. I’m sure she intended no malice by turning real people’s kin into haunted tourist attractions, for she was only repeating the decades old local folklore.
But as my second cousin, once removed said, “Grancer may have lived with spirit, but in death, he ain’t no haint.” And that’s the true story of this frightening tale.
Grancer Harrison was my great, great, great grandfather. So cool to find this out after tracing my family tree.
We’re definitely related.
My Mother was a Harrison, her father was Huey Harrison. As kids all of us cousins would
play scavenger hunt and you always had to go to the back of the cemetary and get a plastic flower.
I have lots of relatives buried there. Coons and Davis
I don’t know Huey Harrison, so perhaps it’s a different branch. Where did he grow up?
[…] You may also remember one of our direct ancestors is an “official” ghost of Alabama (HERE). Since the family is thick with ministers, deacons, and faithful choir members, we don’t […]
You are going to write a book aren’t you Leslie Anne??? This would make such a good one!! Hilarious stories, and I love the origin of Grancer, too funny! And if your ancestor had the sense of fun that you do, he is definitely still dancing in his party suit somewhere! More please!
Oh Jenna, if you were only a publisher! Thanks a heap!
Hi Little Bitty Pretty One! Ooooo, a ghost! I do think this is exciting! You really know how to turn a tale. I love a good ghosty story sometimes. At least your Great is a happy ghost! 🙂 Thanks for popping in to see me and have a good week.
Be a sweetie,
Exactly! A dancing, partying, musical ancestor? I’ll take that any day over one who rattles chains!
Thanks for reading, Sheila!
I cannot fathom anyone trying to disturb a grave. But what good history you have to be passed down!
Each year about this time I get out my old tapes where I recorded Christmas music back in the 1980s and 90s, and there is always one I love to come across where I taped Kathryn Tucker Wyndham talking about the Christmas season when she was young. What a sweet voice.
I think she would have approved of the way you tell a good old Southern story!
Thanks Dewena. I’d love to hear that recording. Maybe I’ll try to google it and see what pops up! Thanks for the tip!
From a very young age I visited cemetaries…mostly because my parents were in their 40’s when I was born thus the circle of life meant we had a lot of dead relatives by the time I was 4. I have always felt that some of them follow me around…not in a scary way, but a protective way. You tell a good story.
Thanks Beemie. There’s definitely a different sort of feeling in a cemetery that you don’t find anywhere else!
WOW! I’m a Kinston girl. I know all about Harrison graveyard. I’ve heard all those stories too. As a kids I was scared to death when we’d go by there. You stirred up some long ago haint fears.
Thanks for the memories.
How amazing! I love that area of South Alabama/ North Florida. It’s still so simple and pretty. We’ll have to figure out if we’re related somehow!
You are a darn good storyteller yourself Leslie Anne! I love the KTW AL Ghosts and Jeffery book, one of my favorites. Yes, southern stories are the best, maybe that’s the “very southern” coming out in me but I’m not the only one that thinks that. Fun to talk “haints!
It’s such a fun story to tell. Not many people have ancestors with their own Wikipedia pages for being haints!
Leslie Anne, you’re the best storyteller I know! I’m still laughing about Me-Maw’s mums. It’s a long time since I thought of it, but this story reminded me that Ouija boards weren’t allowed in our family, I think because they were associated with the Devil himself 🙂
I’d never touch a ouija board, ever, ever ever, after Miss. B. in church told us what can happen to your soul if you do! I’m so glad there’s not a ghost in your house!
I love Kathryn Tucker Windham and I miss hearing her tell stories on our NPR station. A good friend, Susan, purchased some of her CDs for me. That voice is the voice of the Old South…that accent is going away with many charming Southern customs. I am sure Mrs Tucker meant no harm to your ancestor…she just knew a good story when she heard one.:) In my home town there is a monument that the dead man’s likeness appeared in the granite. The family took down one monument to stop people from gawking but the likeness appeared on the new stone as well. True? It does look sort of like a man with a beard but then our minds can play tricks on us!!
I also love the lilt of KTW’s voice! She could read the phone book and I’d be captivated. So many of the older people I knew at church when I was a little girl sounded like her.
Love your story about the face in the granite. Spooooky!
Great story. I have the book. I will have to look back for that one.
Be careful, it will scare the bejibbers out of you!
You know I have to say something about this! My late cousin who lived in Montevallo and KTW were good friends and took a number of trips together. She loved this book.
My paternal Grandfather, the one known as the fiddler and the diddler, was also reputedly buried in his own dancing clothes.
The “haint” in our family was Elizabeth Carradine who fell off the footlog while fording the stream over there in Beat 10, Walker County. A couple hundred years ago, the Thompsons and the Carradines related and inter-married and whatever. The movie actor family are part of this clan, as are we. In Alabama they call it CarraDYNE instead of CarraDEEN.
It’s fun to be Southern, isn’t it? I love your cousin’s quote: “…he ain’t no haint!”
You and I have to have a ghost in common somewhere down the line!
And as for the word, “haint,” my husband had never heard it before. I always use it to say, “Oh! I look like a haint!” He was so confused, and actually, my computer considers it to be incorrect. If you look it up, it most certainly means a Southern term for a ghost or spirit. Duh! Where have these people been?
Love your way with words. Made me laugh out loud.
I enjoyed this post so much. I am a Southern lady and I have always enjoyed the ability of a southerner to tell a good story or yarn, as many say. You tell a good story. Most enjoyable.
Thanks Maxine. Stories about haints whether true or not always seem to fascinate us.