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Florence’s eerie, unnerving, mysteriously disturbing, very scary Sweetwater Mansion

256 Today has teamed up with Southern Ghost Girls Tours to bring you four of North Alabama’s most notorious and proven haunted places for the Halloween season.

FLORENCE – Sweetwater Mansion is a forlorn place, sitting back off the main road, isolated and dilapidated to the point of being uninhabitable. Gaping holes in the leaking roof give way to busted floorboards on the ground floor you must walk around, lest you fall into the darkness below.

Behind the creaking staircase rising to the second floor, which beckons you like a dare upon opening the front door, is a boarded-up wall that leads to a cellar where legend has it, a grieving Civil War mother kept her son’s rotting corpse.

The mansion on Sweetwater Avenue in Florence was part of Sweetwater Plantation and built by Gen. John Brahan, a veteran of the War of 1812. It was completed in 1835 and first occupied by Brahan’s son-in-law, Robert Patton, who would later become governor of Alabama.

Lesley Ann Hyde and her investigative crew at Southern Ghost Girls Tours have recorded many paranormal activities inside and outside the house.

Despite their overarching commitment to help maintain and preserve historic places such as Sweetwater Mansion, the caretakers of the creepy old house dropped money-making tours because the property is too dangerous. However, they invited a Ghost Girls’ investigation with their assessment of the ghostly apparitions there.

“We have done two investigations there, one with a TV film crew from ‘Truth or Legends in Your Hometown’,” said Hyde who admits she does not care to visit the house again if she can help it.

“So much happened in that house from the time you approach the front door outside where my mom photographed orbs (balls of lighted energy) everywhere around that house,” she said. “To the staircase where many investigators, including our paranormal team, feel there is a portal; to several rooms upstairs where women and children were said to have been kept captive and a little boy died of snakebites.”

On the set Southern Ghost Girls on the set with the film crew from Truth or Legends in Your Hometown

Hyde said the hauntings they were asked to investigate were specific to the little boy who is said to be one of the spirits.

“The other is Billy, whose name was William,” said Hyde. “The story about Billy has been passed along for well over 100 years that his mother just could not let him go, so she kept his decomposing body in the cellar for a very long time.

“But we could not do any experiments there because it is boarded up and they will not allow anyone down there.”

Jackie Bearden, Lesley’s mother and the staff photographer, has recorded all kinds of misty, shadowy figures in and around the staircase, operating her “ghost detector” app on her phone.

“There was a table there with a hammer and a lamp sitting on it and on my app, it came up hammer,” she said. “Things started happening pretty quickly. Everyone else went upstairs and, as I often do, I hung around to snap pictures.

“I started getting all kinds of weird pictures through the stairwell, which is believed to be the portal or gateway. One of those images is of either an angel or a ghostly woman.

“In the dining area, one of the pictures shows what looks like a man’s profile and another ghoulish-looking profile. And there is another picture of the floor and some kind of crawly thing in the stairwell coming out of that door, I mean just weird and very strange!”

Tab Wilson, Jackie’s niece and a member of the paranormal investigative team, said she felt a stronger connection upstairs where children were said to have played.

“We also got response in the nursery where a six-year-old boy allegedly met his death while playing with what he thought were worms but were really baby copperheads,” she said. “We set up some trigger objects, toys and a teddy bear, to see if we could attract the children, but we did not get much on that.

“But we got more response in … a bedroom where a group of women were said to have been rounded up during the war, locked in and traumatized by Union soldiers. Children were also kept there for protection during the war.”

The ghost hunters said they spent a lot of time investigating that room.

Hyde was blindfolded in the dark with a spirit box in that room where she said they definitely heard the word “Billy,” “I’m here,” and the word “Bibb,” which was probably a reference to their relationship with Gov. (William Wyatt) Bibb, through the ghost box.

Read about the Ghost Girls’ investigative equipment here.

That was also where, on their first investigation of the house, the team heard the “Humming Lady,” sometimes called the “Singing Lady.” She was also heard again on the second visit with the film crew downstairs in the parlor.

“You could hear her as clear as day humming a perfectly happy tune,” Hyde said.

She said they sat down in a semi-circle in the back bedroom and the scariest thing they experienced was a loud, deep growl.

“It sounded like a freaking wolf about to come through the wall and several people from the film crew heard it,” said Hyde. “It was loud and someone said, ‘What was that?’”

The team, who are devout Christians, “shut down” negative energy if it tries to come through.

On location with the Southern Ghost Girls and the film crew in the parlor reviewing evidence

“It was so unnerving, we sort of broke the tension of the moment by snarking that surely that was someone’s stomach growling, but there was no denying it,” said Wilson.

“Yes, it was bad,” said Bearden. “We always say when something like that happens, it’s time to shut it down and get out. We left after that.”

Other stories about the house as recorded at Alabama Haunted Houses include one in which a caretaker came downstairs to find a casket laid out with a Confederate soldier inside. The phantom casket and body are said to have belonged to one of Patton’s sons, who died during the Civil War and whose funeral service was held within the mansion.

Reports of shadowy figures, women dressed in 19th century garb, disembodied whispers, objects moving on their own, and the sounds of nonexistent children laughing are among the legends passed down about Sweetwater Mansion.

“It takes a lot to scare us,” said Hyde. “But I don’t like that house.”

To click a Southern Ghost Girls Tour click here.

Next week: Athens’ original haunted McConnell Funeral Home, now known as Boneyard Antiques.

Check out last week’s story about Decatur’s Old State Bank.

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