Colonel Michael Swope Townhouse
Disturbing graves can cause restless spirits.
A grumpy master of the house still carries a grudge.
Another male spirit who is terribly disappointed finds some peace inside.
This is a 1784 three and a half story semi-detached Colonial townhouse that shares a wall with the townhouse on the right. It is classified as a 4,077 Sq Ft single family home, currently worth around 2 million, three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It has 8 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and an 825 sq ft basement. It also has a garden area. The Colonel Michael Swope Townhouse has been renovated throughout the eras to make it fit the plans of the property owner. At one point, it was divided into apartments, but has since been put back together as a single family home, probably with a modern kitchen. The last remodel was done in 1992. According to a 2010 report, the lovely decor is still there.
Being Colonel Michael Swope’s dream home, his townhouse has many lovely features. it is known for the wonderful, fine woodwork in the living room. Lovely crown molding flows throughout the house. The living room is described as being “grand” and the dining room as being “opulent.” As Colonel Swope loved music and books, he had a music room and a library on the first floor as well. The second and the third floor had the bedrooms.
Colonel Michael Swope was described in the book, GHOSTS OF ALEXANDRIA. “Swope was a true Patriot! Here is a man who as a real hero of his day, someone who was admired and revered.” (Quote taken from Wellington Watts of Alexandria Colonial tours.)
Originally from York, Philadelphia, Michael Swope rose in the ranks of the PA Continental Army because of his fighting spirit, battle-smarts, and courage to lead others. When the war broke out, his family was living in Pennsylvania. His wife and sons were there to greet him after his ordeal of being a prisoner of the British.
While some from Alexandria, like Patriot John Dixon, were caught by the British and executed for being spies, Colonel Swope was not though other sources have claimed that he was. Other sources claimed that Colonel Swope died soon after returning home from his ordeal, but this isn’t true either. He was a lot tougher in mind, body and spirit than that.
However, Colonel Michael Swope was captured along with his men during the Battle of Washington by the British, and spent some miserable years on a prison barge in New York City, developing a healthy dislike of his captors. They offered him his freedom if he would agree to terms that were not honorable or healthy for the Patriot cause, so he refused.
Finally, Colonel Michael Swope was exchanged for the Patriot’s prisoner, Governor William Franklin, who was the Loyalist son of Ben Franklin; a few years after the offer was accepted. Despite being in a weakened state from his captivity, the British forced him to walk hundreds of miles back to his home in Pennsylvania, probably abusing Colonel Michael Swope along the way. By the time he finally got home, Colonel Michael Swope had a burning anger against the British that he took to his grave in 1809, twenty-five years later.
After the end of the Revolutionary War, Colonel Swope “moved on” without finding a true release for all of his anger. Colonel Swope went to Alexandria and bought some property and built his dream townhouse, complete with a garden, and moved his family here in 1784. His dream home featured all the decor that pleased him, and had rooms that were used for activities close to his heart: music and books.
Colonel Swope went into business with his sons. Some say they were chandlers, defined as being dealers in supplies, and equipment for ships and boats. Or, perhaps they were dealers in household items such as oil, soap, paint, and groceries. Other historians claim that Swope and sons opened a riverfront shipping business. Perhaps they did both businesses. Colonel Swopes and family enjoyed success in business, and a wonderful life together while living in Alexandria. He was treated as a hero, and enjoyed the respect of all the folks in Alexandria.
When he died in 1809, his body was taken to the family vault in Philadelphia. In 1859, when a Yellow Fever epidemic overcame the city of Philadelphia, the officious health authorities made the Swope family unearth their family caskets probably to prove that family members had not died of the fever. Uh Oh!
His townhouse remained in his family for awhile but was eventually sold to other owners, and became a rental off and on between being the property of people who owned and lived in it too. Apparently, since 1859, residents have had a spirit or two staying with them as guardians of the townhouse.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
One or two male spirits seem to claim this house as their after-life home or place to visit.
Disturbing graves can cause restless spirits.
The brave Colonel Swope started haunting his home soon after his body was disturbed in Pennsylvania, and has continued to do so for two hundred plus years. Perhaps what had given him peace enough to rest was that his body was in his family tomb. He became angry at the stupid dolts who insisted that he be unearthed, showing disrespect to him and his family. Soon after the unearthing of the Colonel’s Michael Swope remains in Pennsylvania, his spirit was noticed being very front and center in his Alexandria townhouse.
Changes in this world’s environmental aura, can act as a trigger that draws spirits back into an active state in this world, if they can identify with it. Perhaps the chaos of this world can cause them to worry about the special structure they loved while alive. Sometimes when a favorite structure is being remodeled or there is a change that is started having to do with this favorite structure.
The rising strife between the North and the South before the Civil War could’ve acted like an environmental trigger; reminding Colonel Swope of the political/violent strife he and others had experienced with the British.
People who were wrongfully disrespected, hurt and mistreated when they were alive in this world sometimes cannot find peace to be able to rest. Sometimes they try to continue in their life, often staying in a favorite place they had while alive where they had peace and respect. This act of defiance is their effort to make themselves feel better.
Colonel Michael Swope – Still has a huge grudge against the British, fueled by the anger he couldn’t let go of completely while alive.
Colonel Michael Swope was disrespected as a war hero when the health officials made his descendants dig up his grave and show his remains to the annoying, health officials, who should’ve been able to tell that his gravesite wasn’t disturbed; if a family body had been put inside his coffin. This also caused hurt and resentment to develop in his family members.
People who suffer a death at the hands of another unexpectedly, sometimes feel cheated out of their goal or purpose, and like to stay in a structure that they admired, or a structure that was owned by someone they admired.
Fellow Alexandrian, James Dixon, was caught by the British and accused of being a spy. He had no trial, but was executed quickly. James Dixon, possibly was terribly disappointed to have such an end before accomplishing his mission or goal for being in the Patriot’s fight. Perhaps it makes him feel better to be in the home of such a great Revolutionary hero and Patriot, Colonel Michael Swope. He may just visit a lot.
The Entity of Colonel Michael Swope
The brave Colonel Swope started haunting his home soon after his body was disturbed in Pennsylvania, and has continued to do so for two hundred plus years.
At first, his presence became strongly felt by the living as a hostile, bone-chilling cold spot. It was as if he was saying; “I’m back!! This was my dream home. Deal with it.”
He mellowed over the years, grudgingly began to like some of the owners and tenants who lived in his home.
Residents/owners who the good Colonel Swope has liked, have felt his company as he watches them without anger, living in his home. Perhaps he enjoys his own memories with his family, watching them.
Other residents/owners whom he has liked have seen him standing in his Revolutionary War uniform. Sometimes, he appears to the living standing on his staircase. He also has been seen walking through the first floor and hallway.
The good Colonel Swope likes to play the house piano. Neighbors have heard him play when the townhouse is empty. Even when there is no piano, he makes do anyway and still makes his music.
However, apparently the entity of Michael Swope still holds a grudge against the British.
When a British lady toured his home in the 1930’s as a possible property to purchase, she experienced a strong incident with him. The realtor and the owner had no trouble going up to the third floor; the floor that was always Colonel Swope’s favorite. However, as the British lady tried to go up the staircase to the third floor, she was physically stopped by a cold presence, not willing to let her pass. She told the realtor that she had psychic abilities, and the entity of Swope told her he didn’t like her because of her British roots and didn’t want her to buy his townhouse.
Entity of James Dixon
There are claims that the entity of James Dixon has been seen here also. His apparition may have appeared in front of the residents in his uniform, probably proud to be in such a brave man’s dream home.
Colonel William Swope: Yes Indeed! So many personal experiences for so many years point to a spirit not willing to leave his dream home to just anyone; and needs to guard against anyone British from buying it. Colonel Michael Swope still has anger issues that he can’t let go of; the incompetent Pennsylvania officials who should’ve honored his service by leaving his grave alone, and the British who treated him so badly.
The lack of public evidence may be because the owners don’t want to let in paranormal investigators who would aggravate the already annoyed Colonel not pleased by the way he has been treated by the living while alive, and while he was at peace. Colonel Michael Swope may be content to be the volunteer security officer and all around helper for owners he approves of; anyone not British, and willing to keep it basically the way he designed it artistically.
John Dixon: Perhaps so. I’m not sure that the spirit of Colonel Michael Swope wasn’t mistaken for the spirit of John Dixon. It would take some research; looking at the old written down paranormal experiences that are in the Alexandria’s archives. It is possible that people who knew John while he was alive, saw him in Colonel Swope’s townhouse at some point. Perhaps someone was able to communicate through a medium or their own psychic abilities with the spirt of John Dixon, who may have been of a different temperament. He may just visit the spirit of Colonel Swope.
For over 200 years, people who have lived or visited Colonel Michael Swope’s Townhouse have experienced his spirit and perhaps the spirit of John Dixon. The Alexandria Library has quite a boatload of ghostly personal experiences in their archives, starting around 1859.
I looked around and couldn’t find any hard evidence that has been made public which backs up all the years of sightings and experiences of so many people.
210 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Colonel Michael Swope Town House can be found in the heart of Alexandria’s historical residential section, within walking distance from the downtown area. It is on the very end of a row of townhouses, and sits on Prince St. with S. Fairfax and S. Lee being its cross streets. It is about one block south of King St. and north of Duke Street.
- HAUNTED PLACES: The National Directory
by Dennis William Hauck
- The Ghosts of Alexandria
By Michael Lee Pope
- The Ghosts of Virginia, Vol. 1
By L.B. Taylor, Jr.
Progress Printing Co., Inc.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr