Tales of ‘hauntings’ at the Verbena Turnaround House
By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Freelance writer
Every haunted house has a deep historical background to tell. One local home in Verbena, commonly referred to as the “Turnaround House” or “Taber Home” has its own wealth of history. The Taber Home was built around 1910 for wealthy land owners, Edmund Rhett Taber Sr. and his wife Mathilde. The Taber’s lovingly dubbed the house “Totness.” Mr. Taber was descended from some of the earliest and most influential settlers of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He came to Alabama in 1890 for the sole purpose of bringing the fertilizer industry to Alabama. Within a few years the fertilizer industry had reached enormous proportions. During his success, financers from Wall Street took interest, and he was recognized as one of the top four, most influential fertilizer companies within the United States. He became President of Bigbee Fertilizer Company of Montgomery and held other high offices within local businesses. During the peak of his success in 1904, he organized Flaketown Graphite Company in Verbena. The area at the time was known as Mountain Creek. Before the Taber’s arrival the graphite mine had been in use since the 1700s and was a well-established town of over 90 miner cabins, grist mill, store and hospital.
Today, besides Totness, only one of the miner cabins is still in existence. Older local residents can recall some of the tragic stories and hauntings that inhabit the Mountain Creek village. The glamourous lifestyle lived by the Tabers was short-lived. Mr. Taber’s wife, Mathilde died in 1920, followed by Mr. Taber’s death in 1926. Two of the Tabers’ sons, Brock and Rhett, took ownership of the graphite mine. However, at that time, the United States began purchasing graphite from Madagascar, which was less expensive because of the cost of labor. The Taber sons were left in financial ruin. A few years later, two of the sons died in a car accident. Although none of the Taber deaths occurred at Totness, strange, unexplained occurrences have happened at the home since. Local residents speculate that some of the unsettled spirits that once worked at the mine might be the unnamed phantoms. Besides miners in need of work, the mine once housed prisoners and slaves that worked for less money. Sometime in the early 1900s, the mine began filling up with water. The quarry is vast in size and is said to house the remains of countless mules, train tracks and possibly the remains of miners that died during work and were lost inside the bottomless pit.
Modern-day homeowner of Totness, Bobby Brown has witnessed some of the unexplainable occurrences. Brown purchased the home in 2014. He had heard rumors that the home was haunted. Friends, family and townspeople gave him warning that the property was spirit filled and that he should not buy it. However, Brown always dreamt of restoring an old home, and he felt drawn to restoring Totness. Brown has found several burial sites on the property (presumably of old miners). Most of the graves have a blank headstone, without a description of who is buried there. Brown has also witnessed the paranormal with family members present, including electrical phenomenon. On multiple occasions, floating basketball-shaped orbs have floated across his dining room into the living area, as well as wood sanders turning themselves on. Brown is a licensed electrician by profession which makes the electrical phenomenon that much more unexplainable.
“One night, I heard someone on the porch,” said Brown. “I didn’t turn the light on inside of the house because I knew it would scare off the intruder, but when I sat up, the bed squeaked and the noise scared them off. I heard the screen door slam as the person exited.”
The next day, Brown’s father recommended that he check his game cameras located around the property. To Brown’s surprise, the camera had captured an orb moving across his porch. No porchlights or yard lights are present to produce a reflection. Brown describes seeing the orb light as similar to a welder’s arc, nearly blinding.
Brown also had difficulty when installing the new electrical lines within the house. Trying to resolve a dangerous electrical issue, he called Alabama Power and requested a new transformer. However, when the power company came out, a new transformer did not resolve the problem. Upon further investigation of the completely new wiring that Brown installed, the power company employee could not reach a solution of what source produced the dangerous electrical levels throughout the house. Even though it is unexplainable, both men agree that the ground is electrified and that there is an imbalance between hot and neutral electricity on the property. Brown has since mostly disconnected the house from the power transformer, but the electricity still fully functions and operates as normal.
Residents that grew up near Totness claim to have witnessed the silhouette of a woman walking around above the house in the widow’s walk. Some speculate that it might be Mathilde Taber looking out across the valley waiting for her husband to come home from the mine.
The house is fashioned with architectural oddities not commonly found such as an underground escape tunnel that leads outside. There is also a secret compartment built in the wooden floor of Totness to safeguard the old ledgers and payroll of the mine.
Brown painted the porch ceiling Haint Blue, which is believed to ward off evil spirits, as the lost spirits are afraid of crossing water. However, Brown believes that the spirits might be trapped inside of his home and unable to leave the home for fear of crossing the blue porch.
“When you were little and your parents told you that there wasn’t anything under your bed, that wasn’t necessarily true,” said Brown. “There are spirits in our world that exist. Even Jesus drove out the spirits in the Bible. Spirits didn’t leave this earth just because Jesus went to Heaven.”