The local history of “old Bryce” Hospital as told by Lee Bains and the Dexateens.

The first of 3 videos in this series, all produced by Elliott McPherson.
Lee Bains narrates.

Growing up in Tuscaloosa has its unique rites of passage. One of them nvolves celebrating that newly-minted driver’s permit with a night-time visit to the ghosts and haints of Old Bryce.

The entire journey- from the borrowing of the parental gas-guzzling unit to the illegal trespassing on Bryce property to the conversing with the spirits of Bryce’s former residents- feels trangressive. And the intersection of local history with young adulthood requires the exploration of liminal spaces, unspeakable places only visible to those willing to venture out in the twilight.

I confess to having visited the “old Bryce” five times during my high school days.

The first time was all chills and thrills and rumors of blood on padded walls.

The second time involved a group of us who waited for the full moon to illuminate our way.

The third time involved the company of my high school “sweetheart” (we were anything but).

The fourth time I went alone- with only my journal and a few names gleaned from tombstones.

The fifth time was a solo act, this time equipped with tape cassette Walkman technology and the haunting voice of Margo Timmins.

The Dexateens did much better- they went there to tell the stories of Old Bryce. Perhaps they even hoped to spill its secrets. But the ghosts of the past are easier to conjure than to capture.

On Halloween 2008, they traveled out to “Old Bryce”, the abandoned Jemison Mental Hospital on the outskirts of their hometown, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in an attempt to conjure up whatever spirits might still lurk there. They took their guitars, recording equipment, and a handful of songs. Fortunately, “things did not go according to plan”. Any story seeking ghosts is much better when it deviates from the plan or script.

All three videos are worth watching- a great sampling of local history to share with middle schoolers and kids.

In Part 1, the Dexateens learn the history of the hospital, the band arrives at the hospital and performs, and plans go awry. In Part 2, a 2nd journey is proposed and carried out, another song is performed, and an unexplained encounter occurs. In Part 3, unexplained evidence is examined.

When I first got married, the King and I feasted in many a hidden local cemetery. Whenever the discussion got around to tombstones, I told him I want to be cremated, my ashes scattered over the village of Bran in Transylvania. But I also want an overgrown, weed-covered tombstone somewhere in Tuscaloosa- a tombstone that didn’t have a coffin beneath it, a tombstone inscribed only with my name and the words:

All of it ends with in a ghost story.

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