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It could only happen in Alabama – anywhere else someone would have pitched a fit by now. The legend of Mortimer, the 7-foot-tall human skeleton who graces a place of honor at The Restaurant on Grumbles Alley has grown wildly over the years.
Long believed to be the remains of an unusually tall person of mysterious origin and identity, Mortimer has sat on top of an old wooden barrel for decades. He has silently watched over the patrons, first inside a bar, and then later at the restaurant for the past 40 or so years.
His rickety presence behind a set of iron doors, which are believed to have imprisoned slaves long ago when the building was an auction house, has become a welcome fixture with locals and visitors alike. The dusty skeleton has sat there, prompting laughs, horror, conversation and speculation for years, occasionally wearing the Confederate battle flag and other times wearing a jolly red and white Santa hat.
The existence of a 7-foot-tall skeleton on display at the restaurant certainly unleashes ones imagination. The unusual height of the relic coupled with the rumors that the remains are hundreds of years old trigger thoughts of interesting possibilities – such as the remains of Chief Tuscaloosa, the unusually tall Native American who fought the Spanish conquistador Hernandode Soto during his explorations in Alabama, have never been found.
While the skeleton has no name, he has had several non-specific identities. One story is that a farmer dug up the remains on his property, although the story doesn’t specify where that property was, and held on to them until a doctor took the remains in exchange for an unpaid medical bill and used the skeleton as an educational tool at his office.
Another story says it is the skeleton of a Confederate officer who ran through the town alerting everyone that Union troops were approaching before skipping town. When he died elsewhere, the remains were brought back to Selma – where the townspeople thought he belonged.
That’s just one of the many tales.
Our waitress, who has worked alongside Mortimer for 17 years at the restaurant, said it’s not often that people even notice the skeleton, much less complain. But she is ready with a quip when they do express concern or displeasure.
“I always tell them I’m not feeding them what I’m feeding him,”
Now I’m sure it’s mostly the out- of-towners who get a thrill out of the sight of a human skeleton on display at the restaurant, which could lead to a catchy T-shirt idea that the owner may want to try out:
“The Restaurant on Grumbles Alley … It’s worth the wait.”
1 Grumbles Alley,Selma,AL
The Restaurant at Grumbles Alley. Along the river, at the corner of Water Avenue and Franklin Street. Two blocks east of US 80/Broad St. and the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
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These Eyes by The Guess Who
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