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The Madison Record

Madison County has its own haunted house history

By By Mary Jo Deaver
Special to the Record
Residents of the Monrovia area in Madison County declare the old house on Jeff Road is haunted.
Strange tales of the old house – dubbed "The Murder House" – are a part of every local teen's repertoire of ghost stories, enhanced by the usual screams, moans, and specters lurking in the shadows.
Those who pass by the old house can see the gradual decline of the century-old structure. Age, weather, vagrants and vandals have taken its toll on the place. Staunch, upright posts that once welcomed visitors with dignity, now lean tiredly. The screened-in porch droops like a sleepy eyelid.
The open second floor window, half-blinded by shattered glass, is lashed with spider webs. Shutters on the downstairs window are falling apart. Other windows are boarded up. A blue tarp unsuccessfully covers part of the roof at the back of the house.
A weary tree stands in the middle of the yard that is defined by a crumbling rock wall. Cold-blooded creatures slither through the tall, uncut grass. Maple trees planted long ago by the first inhabitants are choked by overgrowth. Baseball-sized green orbs scatter sacrificially on the ground.
In the broken upstairs window, there appears to be someone holding a child with its feet dangling. Maybe it's a skeleton or reflections on broken glass.
Who really knows what secrets lie hidden inside the old house on Jeff Road?
Richard B. Pettus knows. He was born in the house more than 80 years ago. Pettus was the youngest of five children born to Dr. Claude and Hattie Seay Pettus.
The Pettus family traces its ancestral roots 500 years ago to England.
A no trespassing sign is the only marker at the Pettus house. Yet, the house was once a place of importance in the Monrovia area. Pettus practiced medicine in the front room that is now darkened and empty behind plywood and decaying shutters.
Pettus was born in Elkmont in 1871. He was the son and grandson of physicians. Following in their footsteps, he attended medical school and moved to Monrovia as an apprentice.
George Vaughn was a Monrovia plantation owner and friend. He built his first office next to the Vaughn house.
In 1901, several families in Monrovia decided to build a small schoolhouse. Hattie Seay of Huntsville became the teacher. She and Pettus met and became engaged.
On Halloween 1903, they were married.
Pettus started building his house on Jeff Road in 1902. It was not completed until after the wedding.
When finished, the house was large. Its front room was used as an office, with Hattie serving as a receptionist. Pettus never had a nurse.
Today, Richard Pettus said he looks with sadness at the decline of his boyhood home. He said he feels it has not been given the respect it deserves.
"People have done damage to the house over the years. It breaks my heart," Pettus said.
Claude Pettus died in 1931. Hattie Pettus died in the house in 1962.
Anyone who even thinks of visiting the Pettus house on Halloween should respectfully remember it's the anniversary of Dr. Claude and Hattie Pettus.
They may not take kindly to trespassers.

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