By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
Picture this: you’re a student at Alabama Girls’ Industrial School in 1908 living in Main Hall. You’re up late with your roommate one February night making hot chocolate over a chafing dish when the nightly curfew bell rings, marking that it’s time for you to be back in your room and fast asleep. You and your roommate rush to clean up your supplies, but in your haste, you spill the alcohol fuel for the chafing dish on your nightgown, which then catches flame.
You begin to panic along with your roommate. Screaming, you draw the attention of other students as the flames begin to eat away at your nightgown. A few come to your aid, trying to put the fire out with a rug, but it’s no use. You continue to panic, running down the halls—not thinking, just trying to get away from the flames that are now consuming your skin, your whole body.
Eventually, the flames get extinguished and you’re taken to the infirmary. But it’s no use, you’ve been too severely burned, and you die from your injuries two days later.
This was the fate of Condie Cunningham, a figure whose name precedes her in Montevallo lore. More than 100 years later, Montevallo students are still talking about her screams which are said to still echo through Main’s halls.
But screams can be written off, right? It could be someone outside being too loud. It could be a trick of the imagination—paranoia tinting your perceptions.
What’s harder to write off is the image of a woman’s face, engulfed in flames, appearing in the wood grain of the door to what used to be Condie’s room. Try as you might to ignore it, you can’t escape Condie’s eyes, staring out lifelessly from the door—forever stuck in the limbo of her final, horrific moments.
Residents of Main, already unnerved, became further offput by the image in the door, prompting the university to replace it. But, even after the door was replaced, Condie remained—appearing again and again as the door was replaced several more times.
Eventually, the door was removed entirely and Condie’s room was sealed off, perhaps in hopes that sealing the room would seal her spirit off from the living realm as well.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.