Have you ever heard about the ghost six miles from Tuscaloosa?
A Folklore Tale
Many times the question has been asked as to why such a name as “Shakerag” should have been given to a place of worship, – such a place is an abandoned century-old Methodist Church six miles from Tuscaloosa. The place has about it an air of spookiness created by legend and folklore tales.
Wooden church building in rural Tuscaloosa County, Alabama – 1920 – 1930 The back of the photograph appears to say “Shakerag Church”. Clements Studio, Tuscaloosa, Alabama Q8877 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
A Door Flew Open
A tale was told of a man named Phi Cribbs, a most emphatic unbeliever in ghosts, who in his tall silk hat and knee breeches entered the place of worship one night seeking protection from a heavy thunder and rainstorm. The night was dark but he fastened his horse to a hitching post in the cemetery, adjoining the church. Guided by lightning flashes, he opened a front door and to prove his fearlessness walked to the pulpit and stood facing the empty pews.
Suddenly the darkness was relieved by a brilliant flash during which he saw an apparition in white. A door blew open and the next flash showed what seemed to be white wings flashing before him and coming in his direction. The third flash proved to Mr. Cribbs beyond all question of doubt that this was the ghost about which the country folk had spoken.
Interior of a church building in rural Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.- Back appears to say Shakerag Church ca. 1920 – 1930, photographer Clements Studio Q8876 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Reaching for him
It was reaching long arms toward him. Mr. Cribbs moved. Down the aisle he ran at full speed with the thing close behind; down the steps and losing no time broke the trace holding his horse and leaped to the saddle feeling momentarily safe until the horrible thing, also leaped and seated itself behind him clinging to his velvet waistcoat.
The faithful horse needed no urging and in as much terror as his master, broke into a wild run leaping over stumps and fallen trees in mad haste to reach safety. In the haste, the “ghost” was swept away, and Phi Cribbs went home convinced that the stories told by the folks there were true.
African-American man sitting in front of a wooden church – ca. 1920 -1930 – on the back appears to say Shakerag Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Q8878 Photographer Clements (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Shakerag is defined as an unkempt disreputable person. Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Tuscaloosa is also known as Shakerag Cemetery. (findagrave.com/cemetery/26180).
The following information is from the excellent blog written by for the Tuscaloosa News librarian, Betty Slowe on April 22, 2012. It provides additional information about the cemetery.
“Shake Rag Cemetery, also known as Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church Cemetery, is on Jug Factory Road in Tuscaloosa. It is, according to late historian Marvin Harper, the oldest Tuscaloosa County cemetery. It formed near a small church built around 1819, around the time that Alabama became a state and Tuscaloosa became a city. The settlement around the church was one of the oldest settlements in an area that provided fertile ground on which to grow cotton and other crops. Confederate soldiers and even Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the cemetery.
The little church long ago collapsed, but its pulpit was said to have been saved and stored.
Nellie Bosclair, chairperson of the membership committee of the Shake Rag Association in 1987, said that the name “Shake Rag” stemmed from the earliest days of the small church when the congregation is said to have responded to the preaching by dancing and shouting. “Once,” she said, “they responded so enthusiastically that by the end of the singing, the church members were in rags and tatters.”
Prior to 1976, the cemetery was used for dumping trash. Since then, the cemetery association formed to maintain and preserve the historic cemetery.”
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