3 Birmingham ghost walks bring a haunted past to life

St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown Birmingham is where Father Coyle was murdered in 1921. Photo provided by Wolfgang Poe

Despite the fact that we still have boiling temperatures here in Birmingham, it’s getting to be that time of year again where we all want to carve pumpkins, light a cozy-scented candle and watch a few spooky movies. 

But what if you could not only watch the spooks from afar but take part in them too, and have them be Birmingham’s own home-brew of ghastly tales?

If you’re a fan of mystery, true-crime and scares like I am, then the Birmingham Historic Touring Company is the place to go this Halloween season. Wolfgang Poe, Owner and Chief Storyteller at BHTC, will guide you through Birmingham, uncovering secrets of the city’s haunting and disturbing past

My favorite part of doing these tours is teaching people the bizarre history of Birmingham that is all right under their nose.

Wolfgang Poe

A chef and history buff, Poe decided to create the ghost tours after moving to Birmingham ten years ago and realizing that no one else in the city provided them.

Currently, BHTC offers three tours: 

1- Hotels, Churches and Riots Tour

Father Coyle
Just after marrying a white woman to a Puerto Rican man, Father Coyle was murdered by her father. Photo provided by Wolfgang Poe

Poe recommends this tour to first-timers and says it’s his favorite.

The tour delves into all of the biggest stories of Birmingham’s haunted past, including the murder of Father Coyle at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Hawes family ax murders and the Redmont Hotel, the location Hank Williams Sr.’s ghost is said to haunt.

It’s hard to pick a favorite story from the tours, but the Father Coyle one always stands out. I mean, who goes out, murders a priest in the middle of the day in front of a dozen people and then just walks next door to the courthouse to turn themselves in?

Wolfgang Poe
  • Date: Open availability- schedule online
  • Location: Meeting place disclosed after ticket purchase
  • Length: Two hours
  • Price: Adult (13 and up) $30, Child (12 and under) $20

2- Theatres, Freemans and Bodysnatchers Tour

Man Poses
Richard Hawes’ victims are said to haunt the Federal Courthouse. Photo provided by Wolfgang Poe

While Poe considers the Hotels, Churches and Riots tour to be more historical, he claims that this tour is where things get downright creepy.

We talk about the hauntings of the Alabama Theatre, including some fairly recent ones that were encountered. We talk about the fact that someone is actually buried in the theater.

Wolfgang Poe

Covering topics in Victorian funeral practices, body-snatching, ghosts of the Hawes Murder that haunt the Federal Courthouse and even a vampire tale, this is the tour that definitely kicks things up a notch.

  • Date: Open availability- schedule online
  • Location: Meeting place disclosed after ticket purchase
  • Length: Two hours
  • Price: Adult (13 and over) $30, Child (12 and under) $15

3- The Witches Tour

Witch Smurks
The Witches Tour is a fan-favorite. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Historic Touring Company website

This tour is a modified version of the Theatre, Freemans and Bodysnachers tour where everyone in attendance dresses as a witch! Only available on Oct. 22nd and 24th, this tour is a fan-favorite that Poe has brought back by popular demand.

The Witches Tour is just a hoot. I mean, those women have a lot of fun, and it seems like it’s just going to continue to grow from year to year.

Wolfgang Poe

Poe said that he also has a few surprise stories up his sleeve for this witchy event.

  • Date: Oct 22nd and 24th
  • Location: Meeting place disclosed after ticket purchase
  • Length: Two hours
  • Price: Adult (13 and up) $30, Child (12 and under) $15, Wee One (7 and under) FREE

Poe is constantly researching and adding updates to his tours, so that, every couple of years, aspects of them change.

In addition to his ghost tours, Poe has also given civil rights tours, led expeditions to find unmarked cemeteries and given presentations and keynote speeches on the stories covered in his tours.

While Autumn is peak season for ghost tours, BHTC has them available year-round to take a walk through Birmingham’s past. 

Do you have a favorite scary or downright horrifying story involving the history of B’ham? Let us know @bhamnow on social!

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Lauren Moore
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