Kathryn Tucker Windham

Last updated
Kathryn Tucker Windham
Kathryn Tucker Windham.jpg
Windham on her balcony in Selma in 2007
Born(1918-06-02)June 2, 1918
Selma, Alabama
DiedJune 12, 2011(2011-06-12) (aged 93)
Selma, Alabama
Occupation Journalist, short story writer, storyteller, photographer
Nationality American
SubjectFiction, non-fiction

Kathryn Tucker Windham (June 2, 1918 – June 12, 2011) was an American storyteller, author, photographer, folklorist, and journalist. She was born in Selma, Alabama, and grew up in nearby Thomasville. [1] [2] [3]


Windham got her first writing job at the age of 12, reviewing movies for her cousin's small town newspaper, The Thomasville Times. She earned a B.A. degree from Huntingdon College in 1939. [4] Soon after graduating she became the first woman journalist for the Alabama Journal . [5] Starting in 1944, she worked for The Birmingham News . In 1946 she married Amasa Benjamin Windham with whom she had three children. In 1956 she went to work at the Selma Times-Journal where she won several Associated Press awards for her writing and photography. She died on June 12, 2011, ten days after her 93rd birthday. [2] [3] She was a longtime friend of Nall who introduced her works to the art world at large. [6]

Ghost stories

Kathryn Tucker Windham wrote a series of books of "true" ghost stories, based on local folklore, beginning with 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (1969). Other titles were Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts (1971), 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1973), 13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey (1974), 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey (1976), and Jeffrey's Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts (1982). In 2004, she wrote Jeffrey's Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, which was a collection of featured stories from the previous books.


Jeffrey is a purported ghost that took up residence in the Windham house in October 1966. [3] [7] According to a letter printed in the foreword to 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, Windham became interested in ghost stories after this ghost began to haunt her family. At first, the family heard footsteps in rooms that would later be found empty. Sometimes, objects had been moved. [8]

A photo allegedly of Jeffrey was accidentally taken when some young people visiting the Windham home decided to play with a Ouija board in an effort to contact the ghost. When photos from that night were developed, a dark shadowy blot with a vaguely human-like shape was found to be in one image. Soon after this picture was taken, Windham contacted Margaret Gillis Figh, who was a noted collector of ghost stories, to ask about Jeffrey. Out of that meeting, the idea for 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey was inspired. [8]


Following an invitation to speak at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Windham began to gain attention for storytelling. She often appeared at storytelling events, historical meetings and classrooms. Her stories about ghosts and growing up and living in the Southern United States have earned her a place on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, which brought her national attention and praise. She also performed stories and gave commentaries on Alabama Public Radio's Alabama Life. [9] Mrs. Windham's commentaries were recorded by APR producers Samuel Hendren, Jason Norton and Brett Tannehill. Her commentaries still air the first weekday of every month on 89.3 WLRH Huntsville Public Radio's Sundial Writers Corner. [10]

Windham is the founder of the Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival, which has been held annually in Selma since 1978. [11] Kathryn Tucker Windham appeared on stage in a one-woman play about Julia Tutwiler. Named They Call Me Julia,it was based on Windham's book of the same name.


The Thomasville campus of Coastal Alabama Community College is the site of the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum. [12] Her personal papers and manuscripts from 1939–2010 were donated to the special collections department of the Auburn University Libraries. [13]

Honors and awards


The 2004 documentary film, Kathryn: The Story of a Teller, directed by Norton Dill, chronicles Windham's life and varied careers. [23]


Related Research Articles

Newton, Alabama Town in Alabama, United States

Newton is a town in Dale County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census its population was 1,511. Once the county seat of Dale County, Newton lost this distinction to nearby Ozark in 1870, and is now a small farming community. It incorporated in 1887. The city currently forms a part of the Ozark micropolitan statistical area.

Huntingdon College

Huntingdon College is a private Methodist liberal arts college in Montgomery, Alabama. It was founded in 1854 as a women's college.

Cahaba, Alabama United States historic place

Cahaba, also spelled Cahawba, was the first permanent state capital of Alabama from 1820 to 1825, and the county seat of Dallas County, Alabama until 1866. Located at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers, it suffered regular seasonal flooding.

Auburn University Chapel United States historic place

The Auburn University Chapel is the second-oldest building and oldest building in its original location on the campus of Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.

<i>13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey</i>

13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey is a book first published in 1969 by folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh. The book contains thirteen ghost stories from the U.S. state of Alabama. The book was the first in a series of seven Jeffrey books, most featuring ghost stories from a Southern state. Jeffrey in the book's title refers to a ghost that allegedly haunts Windham's home.

Church Street Graveyard

Church Street Graveyard is a historic city cemetery located in Mobile, Alabama. The cemetery is situated on 4 acres (1.6 ha) and is surrounded by a brick wall that dates to 1830. At the time that the cemetery was established it lay about a half mile away from most development, but it is now considered to be in downtown.

Kenworthy Hall United States historic place

Kenworthy Hall, also known as the Carlisle-Martin House, Carlisle Hall and Edward Kenworthy Carlisle House, is a plantation house located on the north side of Alabama Highway 14, two miles west of the Marion courthouse square. It was built from 1858 to 1860 and is one of the best preserved examples of Richard Upjohn's distinctive asymmetrical Italian villa style. It is the only surviving residential example of Upjohn's Italian villa style that was especially designed to suit the Southern climate and the plantation lifestyle. It has a massive four-story tower, windows of variable size and shape with brownstone trim, and a distinctly Southern division of family and public spaces. The building was designed and constructed for Edward Kenworthy Carlisle as his primary family residence and the centerpiece of his 440-acre (1.8 km2) estate. It, along with some of its surrounding ancillary structures, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2004. The house and a purported ghost are featured as a short story in Kathryn Tucker Windham's 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

Grancer Harrison

William "Grancer" Harrison (1789–1860), aka The Dancing Ghost of Grancer Harrison, is the subject of several ghost stories about his alleged spirit seen dancing at his grave-site near Kinston, Alabama. The story was featured in the book 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey and is the subject of a song by country band Granville Automatic. Originally covered by a large wood-frame grave shelter, the tomb has been vandalized and rebuilt several times in the last 50 years, with the most recent vandalism at the cemetery in 2010. The tomb itself was last reconstructed in 2005.

Bill Sketoe

William Sketoe, Sr. was a Methodist minister from the south Alabama town of Newton, whose lynching there on December 3, 1864 gave birth to one of Alabama's best-known ghost stories. While locally-told stories of his life usually say that he was hanged on trumped-up charges of desertion from the Confederate Army, other sources show that he was killed for allegedly aiding pro-Union renegades in the area. Whatever the reason for his murder, a shallow hole dug beneath Sketoe's feet during the hanging ultimately led to stories about "the hole that won't stay filled." According to witnesses, this hole never disappeared—even after being filled numerous times—retaining its original dimensions for the next 125 years.

Barnsley Gardens

Barnsley Resort is situated on the grounds of a historic former manor house near Adairsville, Georgia, United States. Originally known as Woodlands, the estate was established by Godfrey Barnsley, originally of Liverpool, England. He built the Italianate manor in the late 1840s.

Sturdivant Hall United States historic place

Sturdivant Hall, also known as the Watts-Parkman-Gillman Home, is a historic Greek Revival mansion and house museum in Selma, Alabama, United States. Completed in 1856, it was designed by Thomas Helm Lee for Colonel Edward T. Watts. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 18, 1973, due to its architectural significance. Edward Vason Jones, known for his architectural work on the interiors at the White House during the 1960s and 70s, called it one of the finest Greek Revival antebellum mansions in the Southeast.

Chapel of the Cross (Mannsdale, Mississippi) United States historic place

The Chapel of the Cross is a historic Episcopal church in the Mannsdale area of Madison, Mississippi. The brick structure was built circa 1850–52. It is noted for its Gothic Revival architecture, which draws heavily from 14th-century English country churches. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Red Lady of Huntingdon College

The Red Lady of Huntingdon College is a ghost said to haunt the former Pratt Hall dormitory at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. Her story is told in Huntingdon alumnus Kathryn Tucker Windham's book 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

The Eliza Battle was a Tombigbee River steamboat that ran a route between Columbus, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama in the United States during the 1850s. She was destroyed in a fire on the river near modern Pennington, Alabama on March 1, 1858. It was the greatest maritime disaster in Tombigbee River history, with an estimated thirty-three people killed, out of roughly sixty passengers and a crew of forty-five. The disaster and its aftermath saw the Eliza Battle enter southwestern Alabama folklore as a ghost ship, with numerous purported sightings of the burning ship from just north of Pennington to Nanafalia downriver. The story of the disaster and associated folklore has been fictionalized in several published short stories, most notably in “The Phantom Steamboat of the Tombigbee” in 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

Rocky Hill Castle

Rocky Hill Castle, also known simply as Rocky Hill, was a historic plantation and plantation house between Town Creek and Courtland, Alabama, United States. Once famed in Alabama for its architecture, it was an unusual mixing of neoclassical and picturesque aesthetics in one plantation complex. The house and tower suffered from neglect during much of the 20th century and were subsequently demolished in the 1960s. Much folklore surrounds the site, with Rocky Hill Castle being the subject of numerous ghost stories. The most notable story, "The Ghost of the Angry Architect", was published in Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh's 1969 work 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

Dr. John R. Drish House United States historic place

The Dr. John R. Drish House, also known simply as the Drish House, is a historic plantation house in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States. It is considered by state preservationists to be one of the most distinctive mixes of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles in Alabama. First recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1934, it was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on July 31, 1975, and subsequently to the state's "Places in Peril" listing in 2006. It was listed as Jemison School-Drish House on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

<i>Selma Times-Journal</i>

The Selma Times-Journal is a five-day-a-week newspaper located in Selma, Alabama. It publishes every day of the week except Sunday and Monday. The Saturday paper is called the "Weekend Edition". It is owned by Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based Boone Newspapers Inc.

Annandale Plantation

Annandale Plantation was a forced-labor cotton farm with an Italianate-style plantation house in what is now the Mannsdale neighborhood of Madison, Mississippi.

<i>James T. Staples</i>

James T. Staples, officially registered as the Jas. T. Staples and also known as the Big Jim, was a Tombigbee River sternwheel paddle steamer that ran a route between Mobile and Demopolis, Alabama, during the early 20th century. She was destroyed during 1913 in an explosion while docked on the Tombigbee roughly six miles (10 km) north of the current Coffeeville Lock and Dam. It was the last major maritime disaster involving a steamboat in Tombigbee River history. The disaster saw the ship enter southwestern Alabama folklore, with tales that its sinking had been foretold by supernatural occurrences.

Boyington Oak Historic oak tree in Mobile, Alabama

The Boyington Oak is a historic Southern live oak in Mobile, Alabama. In a city with many live oaks that are famous for their age and size, the Boyington Oak stands out as a singular example of one famous for the folklore surrounding its origin.


  1. "Alabama legend Kathryn Tucker Windham dies". Montgomery Advertiser.
  2. 1 2 Frances Osborn Robb (June 30, 2008). "Kathryn Tucker Windham". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Auburn University. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 Dennis Hevesi (June 15, 2008). "Kathryn T. Windham, a Storyteller of the South, Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  4. 1 2 "Alabama Academy of Honor: Kathryn Tucker Windham". State of Alabama. March 15, 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  5. 1 2 "Four Distinguished Communication Leaders to be Inducted into C&IS Hall of Fame at UA". UA News. University of Alabama. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  6. "The artist known simply as Nall".
  7. "A Southern Treasure". Expression. Archived from the original on February 5, 2006. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  8. 1 2 Windham, Kathryn Tucker; Margaret Gillis Figh (1969). 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Huntsville, Alabama: Strode Publishers. pp. VII–IX. ISBN   978-0-8173-0376-1.
  9. "Kathryn Tucker Windham's commentaries on Alabama Public Radio". Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  10. "Kathryn Tucker Windham's commentaries in WLRH's Sundial Writers Corner" . Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  11. "Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival October 8–9, 2010". Archived from the original on April 16, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  12. "Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum". Archived from the original on 2006-06-23. Retrieved 2006-08-25.
  13. "Manuscript and Archival Collections". Auburn University Libraries. Auburn University. Archived from the original on August 17, 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  14. "Storytellers Kathryn Tucker Windham and Joseph Sobol to Present Curtis Endowed Lecture March 30". UA News. University of Alabama. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  15. McFerrin, Alison. "Windham a pioneer on many levels". The Selma Times-Journal. The Selma Times-Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  16. "Governor's Arts Awards - 1995 Recipients". Alabama State Council on the Arts. Alabama State Council on the Arts. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  17. "Circle of Excellence Award Recipients". National Storytelling Network. National Storytelling Network. Archived from the original on 23 May 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  18. "Governor, First Lady To Receive UA Art Patron Award". UA News. University of Alabama. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  19. "Nominations for 2014 Alabama Humanities Award". Alabama Humanities Foundation. Alabama Humanities Foundation. 2014-01-14. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  20. Windham, Ben, "Ben Windham: An Encounter with Harper Lee," The Tuscaloosa News 24 August 2003.
  21. "ABA Citizen of the Year". Alabama Broadcasters Association.
  22. Benn, Alvin (2009). "Kathryn Tucker Windham: Supreme Storyteller" (PDF). Alabama Arts. XXIII (1): 34–39. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  23. "Kathryn: The Story of a Teller". Allmusic (AMG). Fandango. Retrieved June 17, 2011.