Swift-Coles Home’s haunting allure

Reporter joins paranormal team for a night

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 10/29/21

BON SECOUR – It was a bright summer day when the light surrounding the Swift-Coles Home suddenly turned dark.

Two men moving a bookshelf on the home’s first floor noticed the change …

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Swift-Coles Home’s haunting allure

Reporter joins paranormal team for a night

Jessica Vaughn / Gulf Coast Media

BON SECOUR – It was a bright summer day when the light surrounding the Swift-Coles Home suddenly turned dark.

Two men moving a bookshelf on the home’s first floor noticed the change and then saw a black skirt descend the staircase. A woman appeared, looked at them and demanded in a stern voice, “What are you doing to my bookcase?”

She hustled into the office, ruffled some papers on the desk and was gone.

Turns out, that type of ghostly interaction is not unusual at the historic mansion.

Kathryn Nicole Leiterman Graham had been managing the Swift-Coles Home for a matter of weeks when she began experiencing the same phenomena that others had spoken of.

“There have been some weird and interesting things that have happened, not just to myself but to others,” she says.

Doors swing shut by an unseen hand. Other doors lock without human help. There are footsteps and bumps upstairs when the home is empty. Lights flicker. Rooms fill with a heavy blanket of air the moment you step inside. It takes your breath away. A sudden chill overtakes passersby on a single spot on the staircase.

Graham says she has even been pushed.

“I know it sounds crazy,” she says.

But then again, does it?

Spirits or tricks of the mind?

Situated off the beaten path amidst towering oak trees in Bon Secour, the Swift-Coles Home was built in 1882 as a four-room cabin by Thomas Gavin, a local fisherman. In 1898, the property was purchased by Charles Augustus Swift and his wife Susan Platt Roberts Swift, who along with their seven children, moved into the home and expanded it.

By 1908, the family and the house had grown. The house remained in the Swift family until 1976, when local entrepreneur Norman Nicholas Coles purchased it.

It’s said that Coles loved the house dearly, and he filled it with a collection of antiques and artifacts. In fact, some would say Coles and members of the Swift family loved the house so much, that they never left.

Graham has only been on staff several months and already, she’s experienced a fair share of unexplainable incidents. To seek answers, she enlisted the help of The Seekers Paranormal Society, who spent an evening in the home early last month and allowed media to tag along.

The group, Barbara Ladnier, Karen Havens Miller, and Sherri Kennedy, come from all walks of life and locations.

Miller says she has a sensitivity towards the paranormal, a trait found through several generations of her family. Kennedy also says she has felt a spiritual connection to the paranormal since an early age.

Ladnier is the newest to this work, beginning her journey 12 years ago. Together and individually, they’ve held paranormal investigations around the nation. Locally they have investigated the Fairhope Fire Station, the Mobile Public Library, Fort Morgan and the Holmes Medical Museum.

Their goal is answers.

“We want to know the truth, we don’t want to just go in and say, ‘Oh, this place is haunted,’ and put on an act, there’s too much of that going on,” Kennedy says. “If there’s something to debunk, we’ll debunk it. But, if there’s something credible, we’re going to let you know.”

Contact from beyond?

The evening at Swift-Coles Home begins with a quick search for electromagnetic fields, emitted by ordinary objects like refrigerators. It is widely accepted by paranormal investigators that spirits also create electromagnetic fields. Knowing where this energy already exists in a house can mean the difference between answers and false reads.

Creeping up the stairs alone, it’s difficult to ignore the sudden drop in pressure in one of the bedroom suites. No EMF measurements register here. The feeling is unshakeable.

In Graham’s upstairs office, as the sun slowly sinks behind the trees in the distance, shadows are cast on the house. The group gathers on the floor, recorders on, EMF devices out. It’s time for an EVP, Electronic Voice Phenomena, session. Miller uses dowsing rods to focus spiritual energy. The group begins to ask the spirits questions.

Those who have seen and heard the ghostly presences believe Coles and Susan Swift are still present within the home’s walls. Many believe some of the Swift children remain as well.

When paranormal investigators work with recorders they won’t know until later if they caught an answer from beyond.

Often a noise or even a voice cannot be heard by those gathered. Instead, these EVPs are heard only when the recorded audio is played later.

What you can see immediately is the swaying and movement of the dowsing rods as the team asks the spirits direct questions. As they do, the EMF monitoring devices that lay untouched on the floor suddenly light up. They are picking up an energy that wasn’t present minutes before.

This group has done two previous investigations at Swift-Coles Home, which helped them form questions for the spirits tonight.  

The crew says Coles is rumored to be shy around reporters, but tonight it doesn’t seem to be an issue. The spirits are responding. The lights on the EMF devices are sparkling and glowing. Has contact been made?

Once the sun sets, the team visits two more areas of the house. As before, the EMF devices begin to pick up energy in an upstairs bedroom that previously showed no signs.

Then, a door refuses to close as the team exits a room, though nothing physically seems to prevent it from moving.

The night is almost at an end. A few final questions are asked. Have the spirits appreciated the company? Would they enjoy future visits from the team, reporter included?

Signals from the equipment seem to indicate, yes.

“If you love history, and I do, I study it and absolutely love it, then you can’t help but be drawn to the past and what’s going on, and I think it all just goes with the territory when you get into the paranormal,” Kennedy said. “The three of us have had so many experiences, I don’t think any of us could ever even begin to doubt the credibility of what we’ve found.”

As the team prepares to leave, they exit the house and head to their cars.

In the parking lot the porch lights suddenly flicker on and then off again.

Was it a goodbye from the beyond? Or a random coincidence?

Visit Swift-Coles Home and decide for yourself.