Huggin’ Molly is part of that grand tradition of boogeyman, or boogeywoman if you will, stories.
The deep south is chock full of spooky stories, and our specter is no exception. Kids growing up in Abbeville, Alabama, knew something most of us didn’t. Going out at night can scare the pants off you!
But, these days, Huggin’ Molly has more to offer than just a good scare. So join us as we dig into the legend of Huggin’ Molly and more reasons to visit this gem of the south.
The Legend of Huggin’ Molly
Local son Jimmy Rane recalls hearing the legend from his childhood friend Tommy Murphy’s father growing up. But the story goes back even further, back generations. Before electricity or gas lamps took some fear out of the night, Huggin’ Molly lurked in the dark, catching wayward children unawares.
The tale goes that children out after dark ran the risk of being accosted by Huggin’ Molly. The seven-foot creature is terrifying, dressed in black and as round as a bale of cotton. If you hear running behind you in Abbeville at night, you’d better get moving! If she catches you, she gives you a giant bear hug and screams in your ear before letting you go.
For over a hundred years, parents in Abbeville used the story to keep kids home at night. Some say that Huggin’ Molly was a woman who lost her child and is looking for another. Others say it was just an anecdote from a Southeast Alabama Agricultural School professor.
Either way, the account was real enough for Jimmy Rane and Tommy Murphy to keep them off the streets at night.
Rane loved the story so much that he decided to memorialize it with Huggin’ Molly’s restaurant. Located in downtown Abbeville, the malt shop and soda fountain ooze nostalgia.
With a tagline “frozen in the fifties,” the spot features milkshakes, malts, burgers, steaks, and other favorites from another time. And just like Huggin’ Molly, friendly hugs are free.
Where Is Huggin’ Molly’s Hometown of Abbeville?
In the southeast part of Henry County, Abbeville is the oldest city in Alabama. First occupied by the Creek Indians, people have lived in Yatta Abba since then. When Europeans colonized the area, they established a trading post in the community. In 1819 when Alabama became a state, the city grew again. Henry County named the city as its seat in 1833.
Abbeville comes from the Creek name for the area, Yatta Abba, which means “the grove of dogwoods.” After a long agricultural history, it’s now a classic retirement community, with over 33% of the population over 65. It’s no surprise that folks retire to the area; there are plenty of things to see and do.
And, of course, Huggin’ Molly’s in central Abbeville is a big draw. They’re located at 129 Kirkland Street and open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner Friday and Saturday only.
Pro Tip: Make sure to visit these 5 Cool Places in Alabama while on your road trip through the Heart of Dixie.
What Else Is Abbeville Famous For?
For a town of less than three thousand, Abbeville is known for many things. More than five historic churches dot the area. Along the tree-lined streets, the steeples poke out and give a sense of the culture. The Yatta Abba festival is held annually on the first Saturday in May. If you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss it.
The Yatta Abba festival brings folks from all over to enjoy the late spring weather. A classic small-town fair, the day is full of music, gardening, arts and crafts, and local food. Jimmy Rane pulls out all his classic cars, and businesses open their doors and spill out onto the streets. This celebration of local culture also includes a dance, trivia contests, and prizes.
Just don’t stay out after dark.
What Is There to Do in Abbeville?
The better question might be, “What isn’t there to do in Abbeville?” In the last thirty years, the downtown area’s revival made it one of the best in the region. Jimmy Rane, CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, invested much time and money toward making it stand out.
Vintage signs and movie posters make it a throwback to another time. Rane also fixed up the old Standard Oil Station for extra office space. It’s gorgeous.
Of course, Huggin’ Molly’s is one of the top attractions. With their 1950s charm and a dish named to the top 100 in Alabama, make sure to stop in. Molly’s Fingers, the chicken finger dish on the menu, caught the eye and palate of the Alabama News Center and made the restaurant a must. That and the classic posters and 1950s music round out the experience.
The town is also full of history. The Bethune-Kennedy house is the oldest in the county, built in 1840. It features the Gulf Coast quirk of two front doors and, in 1978, was added to the National Register for Historic Places.
You can also visit the home of Rosa Parks. The civil rights icon briefly lived in Abbeville with her parents, and a historical marker points out the spot.
Pro Tip: While exploring Alabama, you must check out these 10 Unusual Things To Do in Alabama.
Best Hikes Near Huggin’ Molly
Like just about every small town in Alabama, nature surrounds Abbeville. For the outdoor lover, there are many fantastic options to get out and enjoy the forest. These are a few of our favorite hikes in the area.
Lake Eufaula Trail
Located about twenty minutes from Abbeville, the Lake Eufaula Trail meanders through the wetlands. Perfect for a slow walk through the trees or fishing, the 1.7-mile loop has excellent lake views. You aren’t likely to run into other folks, but they’re missing out. You can bring your four-legged friend, but keep them on a leash.
Blue Springs State Park Loop
Just fifteen minutes away, outside of Clopton, the Blue Springs State Park Loop is one to see. The two-mile loop features bridges and boardwalks and is a favorite of local runners, walkers, and campers. During quieter parts of the day, you can still enjoy some solitude. If you bring your dog, make sure it’s on a leash.
The state park charges $4 for adults, $1 for children, and $1 for seniors.
Best Camping Near Huggin’ Molly
Camping is your best bet to get closer to nature. There are several spots close to Abbeville, and these are our favorites.
White Oak Creek – US Army Corps of Engineers
On the shores of Walter F. George Lake, the White Oak Creek campground is beautiful. Easy access to the lake means great fishing, and the forests nearby provide excellent hikes. With 129 sites featuring electricity and water, you can park and stay for as long as you’d like. Other amenities include bathroom facilities, laundry, and three dump stations.
This campground is especially well-suited for folks planning boating adventures.
Blue Springs State Park
Blue Springs State Park draws people from all over the state for its spring-fed pools. Perfect for a summer trip, the park’s pools stay at 68 degrees year-round. There are 47 modern campsites at the park; seven have sewer hookups.
The campground is a nature lover’s dream, with plenty of bike trails, picnic tables, and pavilions. The park charges gate fees ranging from $5 for adults to $3 for children four and up.
Is a Road Trip to Find Huggin’ Molly Worth It?
If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing trip to the deep south, look no further than Abbeville. You’ll surely enjoy the town and surrounding areas with its rich history and spooky stories. There’s a little something for everyone in the nearby state parks, and Lake Eufaula provides the perfect backdrop to summer adventures.
But if you’re downtown at night, steer clear of Huggin’ Molly, or she’ll make sure you never forget Abbeville.
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