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October 12, 2009

New book tells of local haunts

The reason ghost stories endure for generations is that folks enjoy being scared.

The willing suspension of disbelief for a few moments carries the promise of a delicious chill.

Local attorney and author Shane Black says this is especially true of Athens and Limestone County, from which he draws the tales that make up his book “Spirits of Athens.”

Black is awaiting a printer copy of his book, due in this week.

“Hopefully, if it looks good, if there are no corrections to be made, then it’s ready to go and can be here by the end of next week,” said Black.

All of the author’s profits will go to the local downtown rejuvenation group, Spirit of Athens. It’s a group close to his heart. His wife, Tricia, is the group’s director.

Black said the idea for a collection of local ghost stories arose from organizing the haunted tours for the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce about four years ago.

“Jeannette Dunnavant (chamber tourism director) and I put out the call for local ghost stories and we were just overcome by the numbers that came in,” said Black. “We had to prune them down when we did the ghost walks. And what we found is that you can’t tell the stories without telling the history of Athens.”

Mining the rich vein of Athens’ history turns up many ghosts.

“For instance, the Houston house, it has a ghost,” said Black.

George S. Houston served from 1874-78 as Alabama’s 24th governor. His home today at, Houston and Market streets, houses the Houston Memorial Public Library. Then, there’s the ghost of Founders Hall. You can’t tell about that ghost without telling something of Athens State University’s history.

“One of the stories relates to a terrible fire on the east side of Athens. It was because of that fire that the city installed water pumps, which led to our modern utilities.”

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