Columbia Manor: Where Our Greatest Nightmares Came True

Columbia Manor

image courtesy of BIO channel

Columbia Manor:
Where Our Greatest Nightmares Came True

| published November 2, 2015 |

By Jennifer Walker-James,
Thursday Review features writer

In Stephen King’s IT, eliciting fear is likened to salting the children before the feast. If that’s true, then Columbia Manor is serving up one hellacious banquet of horror.

Nestled in the tiny riverside town of Columbia, Alabama, the Victorian house settled at 306 South Main Street has served many a haunting experience since its inception as “Columbia Manor” in 2009. Truth be told, however, it’s not the scare actors and volunteers offering the most frightful interactions to guests there. No, the real haunts lurk within the shadows of Columbia Manor’s copious winding hallways and vast parlors, just as they have done for well over a hundred years.
1st College
image courtesy of BIO channel

Since being constructed in 1864, this forgotten gem of southern history has been carried by the hands of time, first as a college before being reformed into a hospital. Then, in the late 1800’s, it became a quarantine/sanitarium for victims of pellagra, a disease of vitamin deficiency that causes severe dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and finally death.

Pellagra victim

Disease isn’t the only cause of death tainting these walls with an ominous history, however. One of the manor’s former residents, Dr. John Yarborough is said to have taken his own life in the living room after his wife unveiled the secret of his lustful affair with a nurse. Somewhere in this timeline of exposed infidelity and surreptitious behavior, the nurse mistress is said to have hung herself from the chandelier in the vestibule just inside the front entrance.

Where unwanted death has occurred, an unwanted presence remains, according to some. So it comes as no real surprise that when the home/sanitarium was purchased and renovated back to its original Victorian magnificence, that some of its former guests and residents made their presence known.

image courtesy of BIO channel

Initial accounts of paranormal events involve tools and accessories going missing, then reappearing in the spot from which they disappeared without explanation. There are also innumerable testimonies of strange feelings, sudden cold spots, and alien scents. And of course, no old building is complete without the inexplicable footsteps creeping up the rickety wooden stairs. At first, these were all dismissed as coincidence or figments of the imagination. But then there came the apparitions and the physical evidence of strange orbs among other supernatural activity caught on camera.

Activity event
image courtesy of BIO channel

Ever willing to pique the interest of the paranormal enthusiasts, Thursday Review decided to pay this haunted attraction a visit on October 30th. Having accurately deduced that the night before All Hallows’ Eve would see peak attendance for Columbia Manor, I arrived precisely one hour before the box office opened in the equally antiquated building next to the main house. After the sun went down, and as the crowd began to grow, the sights and sounds of Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit “Thriller” began flickering across the screen overlooking the stretch of lawn between the two buildings.

After catering to our inner cravings for a bit of Halloween nostalgia, we were then treated to a viewing of episode 29 of BIO Channel’s “My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera” featuring Columbia Manor. This intuitive tactic allotted the perfect setting for a brief, yet spine-tingling glimpse of the haunted history with which guests were about to become entangled. The crowd’s anticipation for hellacious fright became nearly palpable when the doors finally opened and the screams of the manor’s first tour became audible for those of us still waiting in line.

Freddy Krueger

Adding to the ominous foreboding was the sudden apparition of our worst nightmares. Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street), Bughuul (Sinister), demon clowns, and other ghoulish creatures paid unexpected visits to guests in queue, sending a rush of piercing screams echoing throughout the crowd. Then, to further build the anticipation of haunts to come, a quick detour took guests through a carnival of terror where Columbia Manor catered to our innermost coulrophobic tendencies. Sinister clowns lurked amidst whimsically designed sets, bellowing insidious laughter while guests scramble in fear.

clown phobia

After enduring what would be the first of many terrifying encounters, we rejoined the sea of people waiting to gain entry to the main house. Finally, after more than four hours of inching forward at a glacial pace, the chain-link rope was unhinged and we were granted access. Prior to entry, we decided to take photos of the crowd from our vantage point on the front porch. Judging from the photos, the guests weren’t the only images we captured. And no, there was no one smoking nearby, nor was the lens tainted by debris.


As soon as the front door swung open, a waft of stale air washed over us, carrying with it the heady scent of the manor’s antiquity. We were greeted by an “officer” and a “resident” of the sanitarium who offered us a brief overview of the rules to be followed—use of cell phones, cameras, and foul language were among the main acts prohibited. Once the manor’s delusional hostess was ready to receive us, we entered her parlor where she invited us to join in her game of “Ring Around the Manor,” which basically translated to “Find Your Own Way Out!” On even the sunniest of days, this task would seem daunting; now, factor in the harrowing sights and sounds at every corner and you are in for one hellacious journey. With the swift movement of a bookcase, a secret passage was revealed and we were on our way through a maze of dimly-lit hospital rooms, dining parlors, and bathrooms filled with scenes capturing our darkest of nightmares.

After crawling through passages laden with creepy kids and their sinister dolls, we thought we were well enough on our way to sanctuary when we found ourselves once again outdoors, embraced by the cool night air. Our false sense of security was ripped to shreds as soon as we saw the sign bearing “Crystal Lake” and realized whose territory we had encountered. The sudden roar of a chainsaw sent our panic into overdrive as we tore through the shadows in a frenzied attempt to outrun Jason Vorhees. The peak of terror came when we the wind of the chainsaw could be felt on the back of our neck as the masked madman himself inched closer on our heels. With cold terror rippling through our veins, we ran (and flailed) toward the white-gated exit. Finally, the buzzing din of chainsaw terror fell further back into the distance as we coursed our way back into the safety of the masses.

Alas! We survived! Breathless and relieved, yet salted with fear, we staggered away from Columbia Manor. And we can’t wait to return!

For more information or details on how to plan a fright-tastic trip next year, check out Columbia Manor’s Facebook page or visit their website at

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Children of the Night; Kevin Robbie;Thursday Review Archives; October 30, 2014.

WWII Bomber Wreckage Found in Rural Florida; Thursday Review staff;Thursday Review; March 2, 2015.