Pickens County Courthouse (the Face of Henry Wells) – Carrollton, Alabama

History is what makes a cities character and government buildings are a major part of history.  Almost every city features sculptures and monuments but Carrollton’s courthouse has something really special to add to it’s character.  The Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton has an unforgettable monument of freedom thanks to “The Lightning Portrait of Henry Wells.”

Front Side of the Pickens County Courthouse
Front Side of the Pickens County Courthouse

All locals know the story of Wells.  Wells was a former slave and was accused of burning the old original Pickens County Courthouse to the ground.  Wells was arrested two-years later.  At the time of Well’s arrest the courthouse had no jail cells and Wells was locked in the garret of the new courthouse.  A group of locals had caught wind that Wells had been arrested and created a mob just outside the courthouse.  The mob’s intent was to lynch Wells but little did they know,  god had another plan in store for Mr. Wells.
Wells heard the mob outside and peered out the garret window to see what was going on.  As Wells was peering out the window a bolt of lightning struck nearby and permanently etched the terrified expression of his face into a windowpane.  The spine-tingling bolt of lightning also broke up the lynch mob, saving Wells from immediate death. However, Wells met his death less than a couple of months later due to “wounds received while attempting to escape”.  You don’t have to be too smart to figure out what really happened there.

The photo etched by lightning can still be seen today but only from the outside. There is an arrow now bolted to the brick wall, three floors up, which directs you to the phenomenon of his face.

The Ghost of Henry Wells - The face in the window
Henry Wells, a ghost face sketched into an old window pane

One local was quoted in saying that  “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!”.

Pickens County Courthouse Historic Marker for the Ghost of Henry Wells
Pickens County Courthouse Historic Marker for the Ghost of Henry Wells


The face is now over a century old and on the 130th anniversary of the “Face in the Window”,  it passed without any type of recognition by the locals, apparenlty they don’t find the face to be too flattering to their city, however others think it is indeed a remarkable phenomenon.  A clerk town said, “I don’t think anybody took the time to realize that it’s been 130 years”.  “We just know it’s there.” The clerk also said that, regardless of reports they’d received from nervous tipsters, the Courthouse was never threatened with condemnation or demolition. As a matter of fact it was actually being renovated.  Carrollton would never demolish its most famous building, even if it is haunted by the curse of Henry Wells.

Local News Story of the historic window: