Meet Debra Glass. Local author, historical lover, friend to cats, wife and mom. Thank you for being my guinea pig in my first interview. Barbara Walters I'm not.
Debra, you are a local author,... what got you into writing and did anyone inspire you?
I started writing books when I first learned how to write words. My
mother has a copy of the first "book" I published. It was about a
seahorse. I suppose I was a born story teller and as it turns out,
writing is a family trait. One of my relatives is buried in Poet's
Corner in Westminster Abbey! And another wrote a newsletter and
wrote for a newspaper. Terry Pace is a cousin who has several
writing credits to his name, including adapting some of Ray Bradbury's short stories for stage.
As the writer of the Skeletons In The Closet series, which covers four different books, how did you combine history and folklore into the books?
I majored in history at UNA and growing up, I thoroughly enjoyed Kathryn Windham Tucker's 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey so combining my two loves came easily for me. I used my skills as a researcher
to interview people and find out information about houses and the history of the Shoals. And then I employed my love of story telling to weave tales of the eerie and macabre.
Was William McDonald, the local Florence historian, an inspiration to you?
William McDonald was a huge inspiration. He generously gave of his time to steer me to people with fantastic stories and tremendous knowledge. We spend many hours on the phone discussing local history. It was an honor to know him. He fostered a love of regional history in so many of the Shoals citizens. I think Bill is
one reason why we have such a fantastic history wing in the Florence/Lauderdale public library. Lee Freeman and the volunteers there, including Mr. Marks and Mr. Clemmons do a great job helping people find out about their relatives and the history of our area.
I know this is probably a dumb question, but do you believe in ghosts?
Well, I've seen one or two. I tell all about my encounter with Mr. Ryan from Ryan Piano Company on my tour, the Haunted History of the Shoals Ghost Walk Tour, and like to say he indirectly introduced me
to my husband, Timm.
You do the Haunted History of The Shoals Ghost Walk,... have you had anything exceptional happen on a tour?
We certainly have! Just last year, the entire 6th grade of Leoma Elementary and I saw Mrs. O'Neal standing in the window of the O'Neal house on Court Street, in broad daylight. It was pretty amazing. Also last year, a grown man fainted during one story. He said he felt overwhelmed by the sadness of soldiers who'd suffered
at a local spot known to be a hospital during the Civil War.
Sweetwater has been on the televeision recently with Paranormal State. I saw it and was not impressed. Do you have any thoughts on the show featuring Sweetwater?
I saw that and was appalled at the lack of historical research that went into the show. John Brahan was a good Christian man who was certainly no occultist. One representative of Sweetwater stated that the upside down torches on his tombstone indicated he'd gone to hell. Funerary art is easily researched and upside down torches means a life extinguished. I'm not surprised because the same representative told me a story for my first book with many fantastical details about a home in Lauderdale County. She said the rooms were all designed in the shape of pentagrams and that the ghost of a wolf man inhabited the home. Such stories are doubtless exaggerated and take away from the credence of the story teller and the integrity of the home. This same person talked about bodies being buried under the cellar floor at Sweetwater. I have to wonder
how the Weeden and Patton families would respond to such nonsense.Miss Lettie Region told the most wonderful, detailed (and factually based) stories about Sweetwater and I was lucky to have her
permission to include them in my second ghost story collection, More True Ghost Stories of the Shoals Area. My story states that he property is privately owned and that trespassing laws are strictly enforced. Any stories by the people involved with the place stating that I have had anything to do with vandalism, etc. of the house is
outright slander. As a historian and member of the Tennessee Valley Historical Society, that would go against everything I hold dear, not to mention my own moral compass.
And speaking of Sweetwater, what do you think will happen with the old house?
I wish the City of Florence had bought the house when they had the chance. I'm thrilled to hear it is being restored and hope the restoration is being done by professionals who are well-versed in historic reclamation but have heard it is being done by local volunteers. The last time I went inside was when Miss Region
inhabited the home and I can't imagine the cost of renovations to the place. I have several friends who are involved with historic sites in Middle Tennessee and the costs to maintain these places is astronomical.
As long as the owner is depending on untrained volunteers, I fear for the integrity of the mansion and its history. (ie, Paranormal State) It seems to me these people have some other agenda than
preserving history and it would serve the owner well to hire someone who knows what they're doing.