Monday, November 11, 2013

Spirits on the Bay of the Holy Spirit—Richards DAR House

Richards DAR House
256 North Joachim Street
Mobile, Alabama

The figure appears to me to be a man wearing a frock coat. An image (see here) was captured during a recent investigation of the Richards DAR House in Mobile. It was taken in one of the bedrooms and includes the image of a man with his back to the camera. The figure is only partial, definitely a head, shoulder, arm and torso are visible, but not much else is visible. It could be a woman, for all we know.

The Richards DAR House is one of those fascinating places where the paranormal appears to be very much in evidence. The Daughters of the American Revolution chapter who operates the home has recently begun allowing investigators to scour the house for evidence of the paranormal and they have found a great deal.

“Every time we end up going into that location, we end up with evidence of some sort,” says one of the investigators from the Alabama chapter of the Delta Paranormal Project who sponsored a public investigation of the house.

As it came into being, the city of Mobile endured very violent labor pains. The area was originally occupied by native people who called themselves the Mauvila. It was these people who met the Spanish who first explored the area in 1519 under Alonzo Alvarez Pineda naming Mobile Bay the “Bay of the Holy Spirit” or “Bahia Espirito Sancto.” While the first Spanish approached the natives peacefully, the second encounter under Henando de Soto a few decades later, was wracked with violence.

Often, places like this that produce a plethora of evidence tend to be the scene of tragedy, the Richards DAR House goes against the grain: it appears to have been a very happy home. The house has quite a cheerful appearance from the street.
 
The Richards DAR House, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith.
Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division.
Ralph Hammond in his 1951 Ante-Bellum Mansions of Alabama, notes that the home has the some of the finest ironwork in the city of Mobile. Lacey grillwork surrounds the first floor porch with a similarly decadent iron fence running along the sidewalk in front. The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the De Tonti Square Historic District, of which the Richards House is a contributing structure, notes that the ironwork depicts the four seasons and is the most elaborate in the city. The rest of the house is far simpler: it’s a brick townhouse with a few fanciful, Italianate decorative touches.

The home was completed around 1860 for Charles G. Richards as a family home for his wife, Caroline Elizabeth Steele, and their many children. In total, the couple had twelve children, though a few did not make it past childhood as was common in the era. Caroline Richards lived in the home for seven years before dying in childbirth. Her husband did not remarry, which, according to the president’s of the home’s executive board, indicates that “there was a lot of love in that family.”

The home remained in the family for a few further generations until passing into the hands of the owners of a cement company. Luckily, the cement company owners were dedicated to preserving the house that served as their offices. When the building outlived its usage as an office, it was turned over to the city in excellent condition.

Quickly, the DAR members became aware of the spirits in residence. “There are times when you hear—when you first go in, after opening up—you’ll hear young children. It sounds like children playing on the stairs or right at the top of the stairs,” one of the ladies told author Elizabeth Parker.

In an effort to contact the children, a recent investigation introduced marbles with the promise that if they were moved, the children could keep them. Later in the investigation, the marbles were found to have moved.

Apparently, there are adults watching over the children. Definitely the person who appeared in the photograph, but also the woman who is seen staring out the window of the red bedroom may be watching over the children. In fact, one guide entered the home one morning and she and the guests with her clearly heard the sound of a woman scolding children.

According to the president of the home’s board, “We just feel like it might be Captain Richards and his wife and children. They’re just happy that we’re taking care of the house so well, and letting others enjoy the house.”

Sources
Floyd, W. Warner & Thomas St. John, Jr. National Register of Historic Places
     Nomination Form for De Tonti Square Historic District. 29 December 1971.
Hammond, Ralph. Ante-Bellum Mansions of Alabama. NYC: Bonanza Books,
     1951.
Kirkland, Scotty. “Mobile.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 25 September 2008.
Paker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston,
     SC: History Press, 2009.
     House.” AL.com. 10 September 2013.
Vargas, Lauren. “Ghost Hunting at Richards DAR House.” WKRG News 5.

     22 February 2012. 

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