Richards DAR House – Mobile

The Richards DAR House was built by a steamboat captain from Maine. Charles G. Richards married Caroline Elizabeth Steele in 1842. Before long, the itinerant life of a steamboat captain became less and less attractive, so he decided to try his hand as a merchant in the port city of Mobile. In 1859, Charles and Caroline decided to begin construction on a house large enough to accommodate their growing family. They moved into their downtown mansion in 1860. After giving birth to her eleventh child, Caroline died in 1862. Captain Richards remained a widower for the rest of his life. He was never lonesome, though, because of all the children in the house. The mansion remained in the Richards family until 1946, when it was purchased by the Ideal Cement Company. Intent on preserving the historical integrity of the home, the owners spent thousands of dollars restoring it. In 1973, Ideal Cement donated the house to the city of Mobile. The Richards House eventually became the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which converted it into a museum. The DAR also rents out the mansion for wedding receptions and gives tours of the home daily.

People have been talking about the ghosts inside the Richards DAR House since it was opened to the public. Docents began sharing tales about hearing strange sounds, such as disembodied voices coming from upstairs room. Many people have reported hearing faint whispers and the boisterous laughter of children around the top of the stairs. Interestingly enough, this was the favourite play area for the Richardses’ children.

A docent named Mary Ruth Andrews talked to me about the experience another tour guide had inside the house around 2013. “The tour guide had just come in the house. She turned on the lights and was getting ready for the first tour of the day. She walked into one of the parlours on the first floor, and when she looked in the mirror, she saw a man sitting on a sofa where the chair is now. Now, she was confused because she had just opened the house. She hadn’t unlocked the front door—just the back door. By the time it sank in that there was a man in the house who didn’t belong there, she turned around to ask him who he was, and he wasn’t there. She said that she had seen him very clearly.”

Andrews has had only one experience in the house that might be considered paranormal. “One night, I was closing up. I walked into a room, and I heard a loud bang behind me. I thought, ‘What in the world was that?’ So I turned around, and there was a candle that had fallen over on top of a table. A candle does not make that kind of sound.”

Before long, visitors began having strange experiences as well. A docent named Debbie McShane told me that in 2015, a special event was held on the first floor. Suddenly, the guests heard beautiful piano music coming from the second floor. “One of the men went upstairs to find the source of the music. By the time he reached the top of the stairs, the music had stopped. At first, he thought it was coming from the antique piano in the hallway, but no one was upstairs, and there were no electric cords leading from the piano to an outlet in the wall.” One of the guests asked McShane if she could have a copy of the CD playing upstairs. With a confused look on her face, McShane said, “There is no CD player upstairs.”

One of the most haunted rooms in the house is a bedroom on the second floor. One morning, a docent pulled up the drive, and she saw a lady standing in an upstairs window. The docent thought it was the tour guide she was supposed to be working with that day, so she waved to her and walked inside. She called out, “I’m here.” When she got no reply, she went upstairs to see if her partner was O.K. No one was there, so she returned downstairs and looked out a window. There was her partner, walking up the driveway. The docent opened the door and said, “I could have sworn I saw you standing in the window.” Her partner replied, “It wasn’t me.” In 2007, a group of paranormal investigators came to the Richards DAR House to conduct an investigation. They brought with them a reporter from the Mobile Bay Monthly. The group began their investigation in the upstairs bedroom where the ghostly woman had appeared in the window. “The group began by asking the question, ‘If someone is here, give us a sign,’” McShane said. “A thunderstorm was building up. Every time they asked the question, there was a crash of thunder, and lightning flashed across the sky. One of the ladies on the team said, ‘Let’s move on. We’ll come back to this room later.’ So they picked up their gear and moved to another room. The guy from Mobile Bay Monthly set up a camera in the doorway. He set the timer so that the camera would go off every few seconds. He turned around to walk off, and lightning lit up the room again. He looked at the photos on the camera, and he saw a big glowing oval-shaped object in one of the pictures. He thought it could have been a reflection in the mirror, but he wasn’t sure. The reporter called his editor, and she said, ‘Let’s put it on the computer and blow it up.’ In the blowup, you can see a man with a long coat looking out the win- dow.” The group showed the photo to several other paranormal investigators, who theorized that one of the spirits in the house used the energy generated by the lightning to appear. A number of other paranormal groups have tried unsuccessfully to recreate the photograph.

One or two years after the photograph was published, McShane was standing in the doorway of the middle bedroom on the second floor when her sister began teasing her about being in the “ghost room.” “I finally got fed up with her picking on me,” McShane said. “I turned to her—she was standing in the doorway—and I said, ‘You know I don’t believe in ghosts!’ As soon as I got that out of my mouth, we heard a loud ‘boom!’ I turned around. There was a little book on that dresser, and that book had somehow fallen off and landed several feet away in the middle of the floor. One of the trains that come down to the dock could have shaken the dresser, I suppose. I could see the book falling off the dresser but not jumping all the way to the middle of the floor. So that freaked me out. My sister’s eyes were so big! I said, ‘I know what just happened, and all I’m going to say, Captain Richards, is that I’m sorry and I will never again say, “I don’t believe.”’”

Captain Richards is not the only spirit that walks the halls of the Richards DAR House. A small bedroom called the “Boys’ Room” is haunted by the ghosts of children who possibly died in the home. McShane told the story of a paranormal group who placed some marbles on the bed and began asking the children to move them. After a couple of minutes, nothing happened, so they put the red marble in the middle of the bed and promised to leave if the marble moved. “They waited a few minutes and, sure enough, the marble moved,” McShane said. “They left the house and returned a couple of hours later. The red marble was gone, and we have never found it.”

Nothing bad has ever happened to McShane in the Richards DAR House.

However, her experience with the book falling off the dresser taught her to show more respect for the home’s resident spirits. “I think the ghosts were trying to send me a message,” she said, “and that message was, ‘Be careful what you say.’”



Haunted Alabama written by Alan Brown – Copyright © 2021 by Alan Brown