Ghost Dog Attacks Skater, Film at Eleven

Southern sidewalk surfers have different obstacles to contend with than their northern cousins. While skate rats in New York try to avoid potholes, angry security guards and the occasional loony bum, us boys in the south are more likely to find ourselves skating around kudzu, cows, and the occasional loony in a 4 wheel drive pick up truck. But even regular doses of this southern madness failed to prepare one Alabama skater when he encountered a paranormal pooch waiting for him on the concrete of his favorite ramp.

Will Showden claims he was chased by the ghost of a police dog and has the broken arm to prove it.

Will Showden, or "Show and Tell" as he likes to be called, loves to skate the streets of his hometown Selma Alabama late at night. With little traffic after 10 pm, the downtown area that borders the Alabama River is a perfect place for a skater to try out new tricks and test the limits of his board and himself.

"It's dead around here," Will told me. "The police all know me and they don't care if I'm out cruising the streets cause they know I'm not up to anything. The front of the Goodwill store has got a perfect lip to it and its angle is the best thing to do ollies and heel kicks on anywhere in town."

Another favorite spot for Will is the infamous Edmund G. Pettus bridge where Selma civil right marchers clashed with police over 35 years ago.

"After midnight you can skate down that sucker without even thinking about cars," says Will. "There's nothing to stop you from boosting yourself all the way down to the highway from there. Late at night I love to coast down the streets from the bridge. Feels like I'm the King of the world."

But last week something a little out of the ordinary occurred while Will was skating over the bridge. Something so strange that he still seems a little spooked about it when he tells me what he saw.

"I was walking up to the middle of the bridge and I know it was just after midnight cause I heard the bank clock ring out," Will tells me. "It was a bright night cause the moon was out and I could see the water coming under the bridge. So I was watching the water, not thinking really about anything when I heard something that sounded like a low growl. Well I looked up at the top of the bridge and right under the steel girder there was what looked like a dog. But it wasn't just a regular dog cause it seemed like it was glowing. It's fur was all shiny and it kinda morphed in and out like that evil Terminator's skin did in T2. It was way strange and when it saw me looking at it; it started moving toward me and began to growl. I just turned around, got on my board and started skating off the bridge at that point. I could hear it growling at me and coming closer and I started smelling this weird smell. The smell made my eyes water and when I got to the bottom of the bridge I couldn't see real good and I got the angle wrong and fell. That's when I broke my arm. I heard my arm snap like a chicken bone. I thought I was dead meat but when I looked behind me the dog was gone. It had just disappeared."

Is the Edmund Pettis bridge haunted?

Will didn't stay to find out where the dog had gone but made it to the nearest public phone and called his mother. She drove downtown and carried Will to the hospital where doctors tended to his broken arm. Will didn't tell anyone about his strange run in with the glowing canine.

"I didn't think anyone would believe me," Will continues. "Mom was already pissed that I had broken my arm. I wasn't gonna make things worse by telling her I was being chased by some weird ghost dog or something. She'd just think I was on drugs or something."

But Will is convinced that what he saw wasn't a delusion. He thinks that the apparition is related to the violence that has been committed on the bridge. And some interesting facts help booster that claim.

On March 7, 1965, over 600 civil rights protesters, led by Doctor Martin Luther King Jr, attempted to cross the bridge on their way to Montgomery Alabama in protest of racist voting laws. They were met on the bridge by a group of Alabama state troopers and city police officers who ordered the crowd to disperse and then began to beat members of the protest. During the violent attack, numerous people were injured as the police assaulted the marchers with batons and tear gas. Police dogs were also unleashed on the crowd in an effort to stop the marchers from completing their peaceful demonstration. The day became known as "Bloody Sunday" and lead President Johnson to urge the passage of the voting rights act that same year.

After the nighttime event on the bridge, Will looked up the facts on the violence in 1965 and says that what he witnessed was a manifestation of that event.

"I think what I saw was one of those police dogs," says Will. "It must have been killed during the attack and its spirit stills haunts the bridge. That smell that made me break my arm had to have been the tear gas they used on the protesters. The dog's spirit still carried the stink of it with him and when it chased me I got a whiff of it. That has to be what happened."

City records and documents are vague on the action taken on the bridge. Although the police logs do state that both tear gas and dogs were used, it does not tell if any of the animals were killed in the attack. Long time Selma Mayor Joe Smitherman, who was Mayor at the time of the event, was recently defeated in his bid for reelection and refused to answer any questions concerning the incident.

But Will is adamant that the ghost dog did appear on the bridge. As proof he took me out to the center of the span and pointed to a mark on the concrete. Looking close I did see a blackened foot print of what looks like a dog's paw. Will swears that the print wasn't there before the attack.

Will claims this is a print made by the ghost dog.

"The ghost dog was here, dude," says Will. "I'm not making this up."


"Interview with Will Showden, December 6th, 2000

March to Selma

All photos by Derek Barnes

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