|Old store building in Franklin, Ala.|
(The following story about the Bradley House in Franklin, Ala. was originally published in the Aug. 15, 1991 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville, Ala. Published under the title “Things that go ‘bump’ in the night: Do noisy ghosts haunt the Bradley house?,” the story was written by Journal staff writer Anna Thibodeaux.)
Bedtime came early at the Bradley house at Franklin as family members eased out of telling ghost stories and into bed.
Lee Kirkland, who went to the first room on the left side of the hallway, awoke to the sound of footsteps on the wooden floor in his room just before daylight. Moments later he sensed someone staring at him.
Half asleep, he dismissed the visitor as a relative and nodded back off, whispering, “Go to sleep, go to sleep,” not opening his eyes once. At breakfast, the family denied entering Kirkland’s room. Later that day, with thoughts of the mystery still weighing on his mind, he realized the visitor had entered his room without opening the door.
“I didn’t believe in ghosts until it happened to me,” Kirkland told a Journal reporter, recounting the first of two experiences that convinced him ghosts haunt the house where his mother-in-law lives. He will not sleep in the house again.
Kirkland’s tale is one of several reports from relatives who claim mysterious visitors have walked the hallway or visited their rooms during the night (usually early in the morning). Generations of families have lived in the house, and it seems likely spirits of some kind would frequent a house built sometime in the 1800s.
Franklin, one of several communities dotting Alabama Highway 41 from Monroeville, is a place that appears to have been bypassed by the progress that has consumed many other historic landmarks in Monroe County.
The Bradley house is among several 1800s buildings there, offering a rare glimpse of country life that is disappearing in rural Alabama. The house rests in a secluded area just past the Franklin General Store on County Road 17.
Rapping, knocking, door chains rattling, footsteps and sometimes stomping have been reportedly heard in the dark hallway. The hall was built east to west to invite the cooler “gentle winds” of all, Kirkland said.
Necessity has kept the hall at the center of family activity throughout the years. Occupants must enter the hallway to enter or exit the house’s five rooms. But now the passage has seemingly become the place for the lingering spirits of those who may have once walked the hall in life.
Four generations of the Bradley, Dubose, Wiggins, Nettles and Bohannon families have made their mark on the house. Their names are carved in the tombstones of the Bradley cemetery, a small burial site surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and concealed in a grove of magnolia trees behind the house. Some of the headstones date back to the late 1700s.
The Bradleys built the house, which has changed hands several times, and the most recent owner is Dr. Charles Rutherford of Mobile. Mrs. Barbara Boothe’s brother leases the property behind the house to farm, and she leases the house.
When entering the dwelling, eyes are immediately drawn upward, up 14 feet where the ceilings tower above the room. The walls cradle nine-foot-high windows, another telling sign of the house’s age, according to Kirkland. The oldest part is constructed of heart pine and bound with wooden pegs. The kitchen and indoor bathroom are later additions.
The house’s longevity attests to the workmanship of its time, and the ghost stories add to its charm.
Mrs. Boothe, who still lives in the house, says the spirits have calmed down some in recent years – and she welcomes the quiet.
“This is the only place I’ve ever known,” she said. “This is home to me.”
Rappings and footsteps
She has never seen the ghosts that walk the Bradley house, while she concedes they have spooked many overnight visitors by walking into rooms and rapping on the walls. Mrs. Boothe keeps a close eye on the buzzer in the hallway in case she has to summon her son-in-law and daughter, Donna, who live in a mobile home nearby.
“I have heard knockings,” she said, adding that she leaves the television on loud to drown out ghost noises. “I don’t play around the hall much after dark. I wait until the next morning.”
Several years ago, on at least three mornings when Mrs. Boothe was helping her daughter prepare for school just before daylight, she noticed lights floating above the cemetery. She observed, “It really looked like a big flashlight moving around the trees.”
Mrs. Boothe and her late husband, Levy, first moved into the house about 45 years ago to care for her ailing parents. Neither parent ever mentioned ghosts to her, but she did not hear footsteps in the hallway while she was there.
Another story recounted by Kirkland is about an aunt who stayed with Mrs. Boothe’s parents overnight. Late at night, the aunt heard someone stomping down the hallway, rattling door chains and banging on the walls. She looked out and saw the chains swinging back and forth on a windless night.
“She was absolutely terrified,” Kirkland said, adding that the aunt and her husband were too scared to call for help. “She was crying. They [she and her husband] were too scared to ring the ball in the hallway.”
So many deaths have occurred and wakes held in the house that identifying the ghosts have proven difficult, Kirkland said. Many general activities have been held there over the years, as well, including prayer meetings through the mid-1900s.
He recounted the story of Dan Bradley, who died of old age in the room where Kirkland spent his first night in the house. Bradley was laid out on the bench on the back porch while family members sought a coffin. That bench is still there today.
“I believe there is another dimension – another side we don’t see,” Kirkland said, glancing back at the hallway. “Very rarely we get a peek at the other side – only by chance.”