Tag Archives: Ghosthunting Florida

No Need for Sleep in Miami

Dave Lapham, author of Ghosthunting Florida, puts the spotlight on the Miami River Inn

The Miami River Inn is a cozy little jewel nestled on the Miami Canal just south of I-395 and west of I-95. And it is a real hideaway—nothing fancy but very comfortable, close to downtown Miami, the beach, and dozens of great restaurants. In former times, it was the destination of presidents, celebrities, and dignitaries. Henry Flagler even stayed at the hotel in the early 1900s. It is not only a hostelry of note, but it is also haunted. The inn was built in 1910 and has seen several makeovers. Reportedly, it was once a funeral parlor. Maybe that’s why it’s haunted. Or maybe not.

Room 12 at the Miami River Inn becomes spooky at 11 p.m. sharp!

Knott House Museum
Ghosthunting Florida

In one of the rooms, there seems to be a residual haunting that replays itself every day at 11 p.m., which is very inconvenient if you’re not a night owl. First, precisely at eleven, a door opens and slams shut, very loudly. Then what sounds like feet being wiped on a doormat can be heard. Next there is silence, followed by the sound of running feet—and it sounds like a person is coming right into Room 12. Then the door of the room rattles and the knob actually shakes, followed by the sounds of crashing lamps, vases, and pictures. In Room 12, it sounds as if someone is ransacking the room above. Then there are the sounds of more running feet, someone bounding up the stairs, and the door of the room above Room 12 opening and slamming shut again.

After a moment of silence, it sounds like the furniture upstairs begins to move around, scraping, bumping, thumping, smashing against the walls and the floor. The vibrations can be felt in Room 12. After an hour, it finally stops. Now, if you can, you’re free to go to sleep. Nothing will happen again until 11 p.m. tomorrow. If you’re a morning person and like to go to bed early, perhaps you shouldn’t stay in this room. On the other hand, if you’re not there for the nightlife, why are you in Miami?

Spotlight on Chokoloskee

Dave Lapham, author of Ghosthunting Florida, puts the spotlight on the tiny village of Chokoloskee.

Nestled deep in the Everglades among the Ten Thousand Islands along the southwestern Gulf coast of Florida is the tiny village of Chokoloskee. It is at the end of the road—literally. You can’t get any farther south except by boat. And at the end of the one main road in Chokoloskee is the Smallwood General Store, sitting on stilts, the waters of the Gulf lapping against its pilings as they have for over a hundred years. It was here on the shore next to Smallwood’s that Ed Watson met his demise in 1910.

Ed Watson had come to the area several years before and was farming very successfully on forty acres a few miles south on the Chatham River. He was a quiet, angry man who kept to himself, but was often in trouble with the law because of his violent temper. He had many enemies in the neighborhood.

Because he was so standoffish, he was cloaked in mystery. No one knew much about him. Folks wondered how he was able to do so well with his farm in such a hostile environment, until disemboweled bodies began showing up in the waters around Watson’s farm.

Someone finally figured out that he had been hiring migrant workers and then killing them instead of paying them, disposing of their bodies by burying them on his farm or feeding them to the alligators.

The local sheriff formed a posse and proceeded to Watson’s place to arrest him. Watson wasn’t home, but the posse found a mass grave with dozen of bodies and body parts. Back at Smallwood’s, the posse waited for Watson to show up. Because of the gruesomeness of the apparent murders, they dispensed with normal legal proceedings and shot him dead as soon as he appeared.

Many of the locals think Smallwood’s is haunted by Ed Watson and that it’s not safe to go among the pilings under the store. Maybe  that’s true, but there is no doubt that Watson’s old place is filled with the ghosts of his murder victims. Many people have tried to make a go of the farm, but very little ever grew there after Watson died, and everyone has been overwhelmed by the ghosts. After many years, an old woman moved into Watson’s house. She, too, encountered the phantoms, and one night, while trying to fend them off with a lighted knot torch, burned the place to the ground. Since then, snakes and vegetation have reclaimed the farm and the house.

Ed Watson may or may not be around, but the ghosts of his many victims still certainly occupy that forty acres on the Chatham River a few miles south of the Smallwood General Store in Chokoloskee.

In his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham visits more than 30 legendary haunted places in the Sunshine State, all of which are open to the public so visitors can test their own ghost hunting skills.

Spotlight on the Cedar Key Island Hotel

Dave Lapham, author of Ghosthunting Florida, puts the spotlight on the Island Hotel at Cedar Key.

Cedar Key is a really cool place. Old Crackers say that Cedar Key is like Key West was fifty years ago. I don’t know, but I do know that, although I really love Key West, I’m always enchanted by Cedar Key, where Sue and I go often to rejuvenate. No laptops. No cell phones. We don’t even watch TV when we’re there. Just the two of us on a laidback island where time doesn’t mean much, and what is happening in Washington or Wall Street doesn’t have much relevance.

My friend Rosemary Norman and her husband feel the same way. Maybe we should have a “Pencil Head” thing like Key West enthusiasts have their “Parrot Head,” since not so long ago Cedar Key was a major producer of pencils. Anyway, Rosemary, who is the founder of West Florida Ghost Researchers and an unusually sensitive person, has been to Cedar Key so many times and has had so many experiences, that she deserves to be named “Chief Ticonderoga.”

On her first visit to Cedar Key—she and her husband had just discovered the island—Rosemary woke early on Sunday morning and decided to go for a walk. The weather was balmy with a gentle breeze blowing off the Gulf. Few people were about, and she was enjoying the morning. She walked down Second Street intending to turn right on A Street and walk around the pier. As she strolled along, she saw an attractive couple seated at a table across the street at the Island Hotel. The woman was wearing a beautiful, lavender dress and hat, the man a suit with a high celluloid collar. Both were nicely attired, but Rosemary thought it odd that their clothes looked as if they were from the Gay Nineties. Oh well, perhaps they were here dressed for a period event.

She waved to the couple. The lady smiled at her and raised her tea cup. Rosemary went on. After swinging around the pier, she decided that she’d go back up Second Street and down Third Street just to see the sights.

This time as she passed the Island Hotel, she saw no one. There was no table in front or any room for one, only dirt and broken concrete. Curious, she crossed the street and went into the hotel. No breakfast was being served; the dining room was closed. The receptionist sat half asleep at the desk. There was no activity at all. It was then that she realized she’d seen ghosts.

Rosemary and her husband have been back many times, and she has yet to see the lady in lavender. Still, she has always been satisfied. The island is so haunted, she has no problem running into spirits.

In his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham visits more than 30 legendary haunted places in the Sunshine State, all of which are open to the public so visitors can test their own ghost hunting skills.

The Mystery of Coral Castle

How did Edward Leedskalnin build Coral Castle?

Coral CastleIn the late 1800s, Edward Leedskalnin left his Latvian home and came to North America. The love of his life, 16-year-old Hermine Lusis, had jilted him on the eve of their wedding because she had decided that, at 26, he was too old for her and too weird. Brokenhearted and dejected, he turned his back on Latvia to build a new life across the Atlantic.

After several years of wandering across Canada and the United States, he contracted tuberculosis and came to Florida for his health, buying a small acreage in Florida City, a few miles south of Homestead. There, in 1923, he began building Rock Gate Park, using massive blocks of coral to fashion huge tables, chairs, couches, fountains, and pillars. Coral weighs 125 pounds per cubic foot and is difficult to work with. Leedskalnin was 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds, and yet he was able to extract coral from the ground, carve it into a myriad of shapes—like a 3-ton table in the shape of Florida—and move the objects around the grounds of the park. He worked at night, in secrecy, with no help, using the most fundamental of tools.

Coral Castle is built using 235 tons of coral

Coral CastleIn 1937, with development threatening the peace and quiet of Rock Gate Park, he moved his creations north to a 10-acre plot of ground near Homestead. Neighbors saw him transporting his sculptures on a heavy trailer pulled by a borrowed tractor, but no one ever saw how he loaded them. In this new location, Edward built what he called the Coral Castle, a two-story tower house using 235 tons of coral. The gate to his sanctuary was made of 9 tons of coral and was so perfectly balanced that it could be opened with one finger.

As he had earlier, he worked at night, in secrecy, and no one ever saw how he managed to extract the gigantic blocks of coral from the ground, carve them, and lift them into position. Some believed he had supernatural help. Some thought he used witchcraft. The fact is that, even though he had only a fourth-grade education, he studied physics, astronomy, and geology throughout his life and was an outstanding engineer.

He died in 1951 from cancer, but some believe that Edward stayed on at his beloved Coral Castle. Several psychics claim to have conversed with him; many feel the powerful energy that exudes from the place. One visitor took pictures, which, when developed, showed figures that were not there when he snapped the photos. Whether or not Coral Castle is haunted may still be open to question, but its construction will forever be shrouded in mystery.

Knott House Museum
Ghosthunting Florida

Ready to visit Coral Castle?  Check out the website for information.

You may think that Florida is all about Mickey Mouse; however, in his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham proves that the state is fertile ground for entities even more fantastic than a talking mouse. The book is a spine-tingling trip through Florida’s small towns and lively cities, its historic sites and fun spots, all of them haunted.

Picture by Christina Rutz [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Cassadaga Hotel

Haunted Cassadaga Hotel and the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp

Cassadaga HotelCassadaga, Florida, is like no other small town in America. There are no banks, no drugstores, no laundries, no gas stations. There are few people wandering about and no children playing in the streets. It is almost unearthly quiet, and that’s the way the townspeople like it.

George Colby, a New York medium, was led by his spirit guides to Florida to establish a spiritualist camp at Cassadaga in 1875. Mr. Colby, suffering from tuberculosis when he arrived, found the waters at the site he chose to be soothing. He later was completely cured. The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp quickly became an educational center where Spiritualism could be taught unhindered by outside interference. The oldest active religious community in the United States, Cassadaga is now a mecca for spiritualists, mediums, astrologers, and psychics.

The humdrum activities, sounds, and sights of a normal small town may be missing in Cassadaga, but spirits are here. The air in this tiny town off I-4 between Orlando and Daytona fairly shimmers with energy. Visitors can find almost any sort of spiritual counseling they want. Black magic and witchcraft are not used.

Arthur, an Irish tenor haunts Cassadaga Hotel

Of course, Cassadaga has its hauntings. The most famous are found at the old Spanish-style Cassadaga Hotel. Arthur, an Irish tenor, lived at the hotel for a time and died there in the 1930s. He is occasionally seen in the hallways by guests, and he will answer questions by flipping lights on and off. Arthur lived there in the days before air conditioning, and his room, number 22, smells of body odor. It also smells of cigars and gin, which Arthur apparently enjoyed.

Or did those aromas come from Gentleman Jack, another entity whose presence is often reported? No one seems to know now where he came from or very much about him, but he also supposedly haunts the hotel along with two little girls, Sarah and Katlin, who frolic up and down the halls.

Knott House Museum
Ghosthunting Florida

Whether you stay in the hotel or come only for the day, Cassadaga is worth a visit just to enjoy the quiet and feel the incredible energy of the town.

The Cassadaga Spiritual Camp offers guided tours. If you are interested in a stay at the Cassadaga Hotel, check the website for availability.

People may think that Florida is all about Mickey Mouse; however,  in his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham proves that the state is fertile ground for entities even more fantastic than a talking mouse. The book is a spine-tingling trip through Florida’s small towns and lively cities, its historic sites and fun spots, all of them haunted.