LaGrange College site offering haunted hayrides


Photo courtesy of LaGrange College

In the early 1820’s, around 400 people inhabited Leighton, Ala. During the Civil War, most of the historic buildings were burned down. Now, the site is used for historical reinactments and events year long. ants settled on the mountain near Leighton, AL. The settlement was later burned during the Civil War, but each year, the site offers a plethora of historical events.

Ellen McDonald , News Editor

This October, COVID-19 does not have to be the only terrifying thing within everyone’s lives. Since the LaGrange College site is offering haunted hayrides for the third year in a row, scare seekers can now scream behind their cloth face coverings.

“In the early 1820s, LaGrange was established on the crest of a mountain near Leighton, Ala.,” said the LaGrange College and Military Academy website. “Initially there were about 400 inhabitants.”

Following the relocation of LaGrange College to Florence in January 1854. In hopes to increase patronage for the now vacant buildings, Major J.W. Robertson brought a military academy to the area.

Since then, a post office, a bed and breakfast inn and an observatory have been constructed. Furthermore, the LaGrange College Site Park, LaGrange Cemetery and the LaGrange Rock Shelter are all on the property.

It is estimated that there are nearly 200 burial sites, the remainder unknown.

“It was the forerunner of UNA,” said Amanda Skipworth, the full-time caretaker of nine years. “It’s a historical site.”

When it opened in 1830, LaGrange College was the first chartered college in Alabama. During the Civil War, the military academy and most of the community was burned by the Union Army in 1863.

Since then, many visitors of the LaGrange College Site Park and the LaGrange Cemetery have had paranormal encounters.

“Nobody really knows how many ghosts are supposed to walk this mountain,” said Louise Lenz, an organizer of the hayrides on their website. “Come see how haunted this mountain is. If you dare.”

Tickets are $5 and children under six get in free. All of the proceeds go to the maintenance and upkeep of the park.

“We ask that you wear a mask and that during the hayride you do as well,” said Skipworth. “Social distancing is near impossible on a trailer, but we can’t enforce the masks.”

Back in May of this year, the LaGrange College Site had to cancel their “Recall LaGrange” event due to COVID-19 precautionary measures. They were concerned the hayrides would face the same fate, but the health department said that as long as masks are worn, everyone will be okay, Skipworth explained.

“Recall LaGrange” portrays a living history of Civil War Daily Life Encampment, ladies dressed in period clothing demonstrating early life conditions inside the numerous log cabins on the site, as explained on their website.

There are also hay rides to the historic LaGrange Cemetery.

Tours are available to a nearby Rock Shelter that was once home to the Paleo Indians. The site has been determined to be the oldest archaeological site in North Alabama. The families of early settlers in North Alabama will be honored during the event and the observatory opens for star gazers.

Furthermore, the LaGrange Christmas in the Country event is held each year on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Today, the Open House Event has turned into much more: folks come early to purchase homemade baked goods for their Thanksgiving table, enjoy hay rides to the old LaGrange Cemetery, make family pictures for their Christmas cards, purchase craft items and talk with Santa and it is all free.

“We [the LaGrange Historical Society] start preparing two to three months in advance [for the haunted hayrides],” said Skipworth. “We ask for volunteers throughout the year and we have a volunteer meeting about a month before the start of the hayrides.”

Behind the scenes of the hayride, there is a president and a treasurer of the park. Skipworth and her husband are over the hayride itself and there can be anywhere from 20 to 50 plus volunteers on a yearly basis.

All of these individuals are essential to the success of the haunted hayrides.

If anyone is interested in volunteering for the 2021 year, they can call Skipworth at 256-856-0927.

“We will get together and tell them what it [volunteering] consists of,” said Skipworth. “There’s opportunities to volunteer with parking, dressing up for scaring, or taking up money.”

The ride itself takes about 25 minutes and Skipworth suggests that those wanting to be spooked arrive early, because there can be up to a three hour wait.