Reflections of the Past

Henry, 'zat chu? | 300mm, f/8.8, 1/750 sec, ISO 1250

Mrs. House took Sandee and me on a quick tour of Carrollton, Alabama, a small town and county seat of Pickens County. Its claim to fame is the story of Henry Wells, a former slave whose visage is supposedly etched forever into the glass of the courthouse. The article below relates the story better than I can.

The corner across the courthouse even has one of those pay-a-quarter viewers so you can see the “face” better. Fortunately, I had my zoom lens with me, and I got a pretty good photo of it. Whether or not the tale is entirely true, it does make for a good campfire story.

The story below was lifted entirely from this site,, but you can find many variations on the story by googling “Face in the Window, Carrollton, AL.”

One of the more bizarre sights anywhere is the face on the courtroom window — a.k.a. the Lightning Portrait of Henry Wells.

Wells, a former slave, was accused of burning the original Pickens County Courthouse in 1876. He was finally arrested two years later. As there was no jail, Wells was placed in the garret of the new courthouse. A mob of locals gathered outside to lynch him.

As Wells peered out the garret window, a bolt of lightning struck nearby and permanently etched his terrified expression into the windowpane. Wells died less than two months later “of wounds received while attempting to escape.”

The courthouse.

The lightning photo is still visible today, and only from the outside. Up on the third floor, an arrow painted on the outside directs you to the miraculous face.

According to one RA tipster: “Through all the years, in spite of hail and storm, which has destroyed all the windows in the courthouse, this one pane has remained intact. It has been scrubbed with soap and rubbed with gasoline by those who doubt its permanence, but it has met every test and the face remains unchanged. At close range the pane looks clear and flawless, but viewed from the ground where once gathered an angry mob, the fear-distorted face of Henry Wells can be clearly seen!”

Another lightning portrait has been reported in Clay’s Ferry, Kentucky, of a slave’s faceburned into the upper window of a three story house. Also in Kentucky, the lightning portrait of an angry bather supposedly haunts the turret window of an old house on Hwy 79 in Russelville.

Update – January 2008: The 130th anniversary of the Face in the Window passed without fanfare in Carrollton. “I don’t think anybody took the time to realize that it’s been 130 years,” the town clerk told us. “We just know it’s there.” The clerk also said that the Courthouse was never threatened with demolition; Carrollton would never tear down its most famous building, even if it carries Henry Well’s curse. The Courthouse was just being restored to tip-top condition.

These ladies were scaring each other with tales of “The Face in the Window.”

"You go first..." "No, you go first!"

So, what do you think? Something supernatural? Do you believe in ghosts?

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