Abbeville, Alabama, the home of Huggin Molly, lies twelve miles from the Chattahoochee River. It is also the home of approximately 2,688 residents, many of whom can regale you with stories of their own personal encounters with the ghost. Recent visitors of the small town say empty buildings line the streets giving it an air of abandonment and only lending to the eerie atmosphere of Huggin Molly’s long time home.
Huggin Molly is Abbeville, Alabama’s very own urban boogeyman. Abbeville residents admonish their children that Huggin Molly lays in wait for the disobedient child out after dark. She is depicted as a very large woman, 7 feet tall and just as big around. She dwells in the shadows and is known to walk the streets of Abbeville late at night, long black dress swaying in the breeze. If you should happen upon her, she gives chase hugging, sometimes crushing, her catch while screaming in their ear.
The tale of Huggin Molly began in the early 1900’s instilling terror in the children of Abbeville. In those days, no light was found on the town’s side streets making the night darker and leaving Huggin Molly to roam where she pleased. The stray child or teenager caught out after dark might find themselves being followed by a large dark figure whose footsteps keep pace and echo their own, until finally leaping upon the night-time prey. However, some stories say the town’s children weren’t the only victims of Huggin Molly.
One story told by an Abbeville native, Marian Glover Leonard, suggested Huggin Molly also pursued the town’s adults after dark. She describes how her neighbor, James Robert Shell, found himself followed home by a large black-robed figure late one night. As the terrified man began running for the lighted windows of home only a few hundred yards away, his mother appeared at the door yelling encouragement, “Run, Robert, run!” as she held the doorway open for him.
Who Huggin Molly was, remains a mystery, but the most prominent stories suggest she’s the ghost of a woman who began hugging the town’s youngsters while searching for her own lost child. She screams when she realizes the child she has in her grasp is not her own. Others suggest the myth began with a local professor who, in an attempt to keep her students off the streets at night, and in class the next day, donned a black robe and terrorized those she found out after dark.
Regardless of where the real tale began, most of the townsfolk agree the lore is based in fact, although today’s tale is intertwined with personal encounters and stories passed down from generation to generation.
To revisit the memory of the woman shrouded in tragedy and terror, the remaining town residents visit Huggin Molly’s café, located in downtown Abbeville. The café offers such delicacies as “sandwitches” and “Molly fingers” to locals and travelers alike. So if you’re seeking a good ghost town and story, you just might find Abbeville a worthwhile stop in search of your own personal encounter.