It's that time of year. Pumpkins adorn neighborhood front porches, the air is getting colder, soon there will be masses of children parading the streets with bags searching for treats. That's right, Halloween! Of course, the scary movies on TV, haunted houses, and general evil folklore seem to arrive hand-in-hand with this holiday. Being a native of Opelika, I was born there in '75 and lived there until 10 years if age (I live in Auburn now), I grew up listening to Kathryn Tucker Windham's scary stories about our area. She wrote several books about a ghost named Jeffrey and penned a handful of stories about fictional ghosts haunting real Lee County landmarks. Everyone should check out her material.
One such landmark she wrote about was the legend of Spring Villa. I'll never forget the story of the hated slave-owner who lived there in the late 1800's and was killed by one of his slaves on the thirteenth step of the spiral staircase. Growing up in Opelika, I took several trips with either a church group or the Opelika Parks and Recreation, who now maintains Spring Villa, to this place to swim in the freezing-cold pool that is fed by an underground spring. (Thus the name, Spring Villa.) The City of Opelika holds picnics and events there year- round. Every Halloween the former plantation is transformed into a haunted house and they offer hayrides around the property.
According to local legend, a man named William Penn Yonge built the house for his family and owned many slaves who he treated horribly before being murdered by one of them on the thirteenth step inside. For many years, a red stain covered the supposed spot said to be where Yonge drew his final breath. Now, the steps have been refinished and the house remodeled but visitors are cautioned not to pause but to skip the step in question. If so, it has been said that one can hear or catch a glimpse of the doomed ghost of Mr. Yonge who floats past, forever imprisoned in the house he built. I get chills just thinking about it. As a kid, it was all matter-of-fact. I believed it to be true. But no one will confirm or deny the existence of any ghost or that Mr. Yonge was murdered there.
According to http://opelika.org/:
"Today, Spring Villa is 325-acre park that continues to attract large family and community gatherings and events. In addition to the historic house, Spring Villa Park contains a picnic shelter, spring-fed swimming pool, concession area, outdoor volleyball court, horseshoe pit, day camp compound, restrooms, walking trails and a well-maintained campground. The campground has electrical hook-ups, a dumping station and restrooms. The main house, shelter and campgrounds can be rented year-round through Opelika Parks and Recreation at 334-705-5560 for reunions, parties and other social functions. A full-time resident manager lives on the grounds."
I encourage any and all to visit Spring Villa Park especially this time of year. Who knows? You may see the ghost of William Yonge.