Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Revenant-Lined Road to Halloween

Again, we’re nearing the season leading up to Halloween’s thinning of the veil, that moment when the separation between this world and the spirit world fades for a short time. In this season, we grow more cognizant of our spiritual visitors. This is a time celebrated in many religions and throughout the South. Here at Southern Spirit Guide, I’ll be highlighting hauntings throughout the region just as I do throughout the year, but with more frequency. Additionally, I’ll be noting haunted locations that are covered in the media throughout the season.

Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
813 South Atlantic Avenue
Ocean City, Maryland

On October 28th, Dead of Night Paranormal Investigations will host an investigation of Ocean City’s former Life-Saving Station. Constructed in 1891, this white, wood frame building housed a keeper and a team of “surfmen” who monitored the local coast for ships in distress. Once a distressed ship was spotted, the team would leap into action and attempt to rescue any souls aboard the vessel. It was dangerous work that sometimes claimed the lives of the rescuers as well as those who they tried to rescue.

The Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, 2014. Photo by Preservation
Maryland, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Life Saving Service—organized by the federal government in 1848—was merged into the Coast Guard in 1915 and this building was in service until 1964 when a new structure opened nearby. When the town considered demolishing the building in 1977, locals organized to save the structure and install a museum of local history. Today, packed with local artifacts and memorabilia, the building remains occupied by spirits who flit through the exhibition reminding visitors and staff of the lives that have been led and may have ended in this unassuming building.

Among the many relics is life-sizes rag doll with a grotesque gap-toothed grin known as “Laughing Sal.” Sal once greeted visitors to Jester’s Funhouse, one of the attractions located along the Ocean City Boardwalk. With a terrifying laugh and jerky animatronic movements, Laughing Sal invited visitors into the thrills of the funhouse. When the funhouse closed Sal was stored away, though vandals attempted to destroy the doll, she was restored and returned to greet visitors to the museum. Like Key West’s famous Robert the Doll, Sal continues to frighten visitors and staff alike. While the doll is no longer rigged to move, her disconcerting laugh can be heard by pressing a button in front of her display. However, Sal has been known to laugh when no one is around and when no one has pressed her button.

Laughing Sal’s creepy guffawing is not the only paranormal activity encountered in the old life-saving station. A little, blonde haired boy has been seen running and playing in the museum. Once, as the museum staff was closing, the little boy dashed through the front door into the museum. A staff member pursued the child into the museum, though he had apparently vanished. Despite checking every space a curious child might hide, the staff member could not locate him. The life-saving station has saved many a life and a few spirits as well.

Boardwalk Birdie. “Ghost hunting in Ocean City.”
     11 September 2017.
Burgoyne, Mindie. Haunted Ocean City and Berlin. Charleston,
     SC: History Press, 2014.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Florida Hauntings, County by County—Part II

This is part two of a project to examine a ghost story from every single county in Florida.

Broward County

Stranahan House
335 Southeast 6th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale
Stranahan House viewed from the New River, 2010. Photo by Ebyabe,
courtesy of Wikipedia.
When viewed from the New River, the Stranahan House is nestled among many large buildings, an apt context for the site from which this city sprang. Frank Stranahan moved to Florida in 1893 to operate the ferry across the New River here. He also built a trading post to encourage trade with the Seminole Indians who lived on the opposite shore. After marrying the local schoolteacher, Ivy Cromartie, Stranahan eventually constructed the current house in 1901 as a wedding gift. The house served as an office for Stranahan’s many business interests as well as a family home for many years until a series of events in the 1920s began to sap his business interests.

In 1926, Florida was struck by a massive hurricane that moved ashore near Miami resulting in hundreds of deaths and striking a tremendous blow to business interests throughout the state. Saddled with financial ruin and a diagnosis of prostate cancer—which was untreatable at the time—Frank Stranahan attempted suicide. As a result, Stranahan was confined to a local sanitarium. With his death being imminent, his wife wrote to the sanitarium pleading for her husband’s release so he could die at home. Once he was finally released, Stranahan could not find his way out of the abyss of depression and not long after his homecoming, he chained himself to a sewer grate and threw himself into the river. Despite valiant attempts to rescue him, Stranahan drowned.

Ivy Stranahan continued living in the house and filled its rooms with borders to make ends meet. Continuing her husband’s community activism, Stranahan worked to build Fort Lauderdale into a modern and vibrant community. Eventually, she rented out the first floor of the house as a restaurant while continuing to live on the second floor. She died in 1971 and left the house to her church who eventually sold it to the local historical society. The house was restored as a house museum in the early 1980s and is open to the public.

The house remains the home of Frank and Ivy Stranahan who are still very much spiritually in residence along with several other spirits including a small Seminole girl who collapsed and died at the front door. The house has opened at various times for ghost tours. In 2003, an article in the local paper described the spooky experiences a group of schoolchildren had on a tour, “"Some smelled perfume, the eyes in Frank's portrait downstairs moved, laughter came from the vents in the dining room, and one child felt someone tap him on the shoulder when he was upstairs.” An article from later that year recounts that docents in the house have experienced doors opening and closing by themselves, beds being found in disarray moments after being made, and the odor of lilac perfume believed to be one of Ivy Stranahan’s favorite.

Carr, John Marc. Haunted Fort Lauderdale. Charleston, SC: History
    Press, 2008.
Kneale, Dennis. “Campaign planned to save historic Stranahan
     house.” Fort Lauderdale News. 13 August 1981.
LeClaire, Jennifer. “Stranahan House gets in the Halloween spirit.”
     Sun-Sentinel. 24 October 2003.
Wallaman, Brittany. “Putting tourists in good spirits.” Sun-Sentinel.
     1 September 2003.

Calhoun County

Due to the lack of information, I cannot include a haunted location for Calhoun County at this time. If you have information on haunted locations here, please send me a note.

Charlotte County

Indian Spring Cemetery
5400 Indian Spring Road
Punta Gorda

The resting place of the 20th governor of Florida and founder of Punta Gorda, Albert Gilchrist, Indian Spring Cemetery was laid out by him on land donated to the city by city councilman, James Sandlin. A nearby spring feeding into Alligator Creek may have been used by Native Americans, thus the name. Over its nearly 150 years of existence, more than 2000 souls have been laid to rest here under the moss-draped oaks.

Paranormal activity here consists of audio phenomena with sounds of weeping, wailing heard within the empty cemetery. Cemetery lights, a phenomenon where orbs of lights are scene around burial locations, have also been experienced here. Dave Lapham includes the experience of a local who, while walking with her mother and her dog, witnessed orbs of light floating about three to four feet above the ground. Fearing the lights, the group fled.

Charlotte County Government. “Indian Spring Cemetery.”
     Accessed 4 September 2017.
Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy
     Press, 2010.

Citrus County

Crystal River Archaeological State Park
3400 North Museum Point
Crystal River

The Crystal River on Florida’s west coast is one of many natural wonders in the state. Fed by warm waters from some 30 natural springs, the Crystal River is known for its large numbers of West Indian Manatees who luxuriate in the gently heated water. On the river banks, Native Americans built their own utopia, the remains of which are preserved in Crystal River Archaeological State Park.
Sunlight falls across one of the mounds at Crystal River Archaeological State
Park, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.
This state park encompasses a complex of six mounds that include burial mounds; middens, or refuse mounds; and platform mounds atop which high-status officials may have lived. Among the mounds are two remarkable steles, or stone monuments, one of which features the crude likeness of a human face. Steles are generally regarded as a feature found among the civilizations of Central America, and very rarely found among North American civilizations.

For her 2004 book, Finding Florida Phantoms, Kathleen Walls spoke with a ranger who reported that voices had been heard among the mounds when no one was present, and some apparitions have apparently been spotted here as well.

Cox, Dale. “Crystal River Archaeological State Park—Crystal River,
     Florida: Prehistory on the Crystal River.”
     Accessed 5 September 2017.
Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida’s Phantoms. Global Authors Publications,

Clay County

Old Clay County Jail
21 Gratio Place
Green Cove Springs

The Florida Times-Union has deemed the Old Clay County Jail to be a place where it is always Halloween. Paranormal investigators have deemed the building to be one of the most active that many of them have seen.
Old Clay County Jail, 2010. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Built by the Pauly Jail Company in 1894, the building saw its last inmate in 1972. The building now serves as home to the Clay County Archives. Like most corrections facilities, this building has seen the worst of society and a number of tragedies in its long history. Among the tragedies was the assassination of a sheriff, an inmate suicide, five executions and another suicide on the front lawn.

Reports of activity from the jail include voices, apparitions, and hair-pulling. Activity has become so well known that the Clay County Historical Archives website features a page describing the haunted conditions of the building.

Buehn, Debra W. “Old Clay County Jail stars in Local Haunts’ TV show
     Sunday.” Florida Times-Union. 1 April 2010.
Clay County Historical Archives. Ghosts in the Old Jail. Accessed 9 October

Friday, September 1, 2017

The something near Sale Creek—Tennessee

Railroad tracks through Sale Creek not far from Shipley Hollow. Photo by Brian
Stansberry, 2015, courtesy of Wikipedia.

North from the hubbub of Chattanooga lies the community of Sale Creek. Just north of Sale Creek Daugherty Ferry Road guides travelers into the Tennessee backwoods through to a place called Shipley Hollow. After Shipley Hollow Road forks from Daugherty Ferry, travelers enter the domain of something that the locals have nicknamed the “Pitty Pat.”  

For roughly two centuries travelers through Shipley Hollow have had run-ins with an entity or creature. The horrors of the first encounter are still whispered about, though many of the details have been lost through this inter-generational telephone game. Some iterations of the legend place the first encounter in the 1770s, while the primary source for the written version provides the date as during the 1860s. The 18th century setting is not likely as the area was occupied almost exclusively by the Cherokee people and the legend states definitively that the characters were settlers.

The basic version of the legend tells us of a settler woman and several small children traveling in a wagon at night through Shipley Hollow. From out of the darkness, something startles the horse causing the wagon to overturn on top of the mother killing her. The children disappear into the night, possibly taken by the entity, never to be seen again. Residents and travelers soon began to hear a strange sound pursuing them after dark a strange pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat, led many to sprint towards their destination.  

Over the next century, hapless travelers after dark, doctors on house-calls, and local residents were all frightened of the entity that sometimes climbed onto the backs of horses or buggies. In the 1950s, two residents driving down the road late one night had something crash into the side of their car. The impact caused the driver to step on the gas until the pair reached the safety of a nearby house. Expecting to find evidence of the terrible collision, the gentlemen found nothing. The side of the car was intact with nary a scratch or dent. The men returned to the road seeking the remains of what hit their car, but again, the search was fruitless.

These stories have filtered down to today, and the legend was documented in historian Curtis Coulter’s 1990 book, A Sentimental Journey Down Country Roads: Stories of Sale Creek, Tennessee. Coulter included the original legend and the 1950s collision described above. Georgiana Kotarski included information from Coulter’s book, but she also adds a story from November 2004. Early one morning a pair of deer hunters took up in two deer stands they had set up near Shipley Hollow. Using walkie-talkies to communicate, the pair arrived in the early morning darkness. One of the hunters noticed that the deer seemed to be moving about earlier than expected.

Communication between the hunters was interrupted by static over the walkie-talkies. Peering into the darkness of the woods, one of the hunters heard something moving in the forest. His eyes, having adjusted to the light, soon saw something blocking out the small slivers of light that filtered through the trees. The inky shadow surrounded him, and he felt it breathing on his neck. The feeling lifted after five fearful minutes. After this frightening incident, the hunter began asking around about ghost stories from the area and discovered Coulter’s book.

In 2010, curious teenagers were attracted to the area by tales of ghosts, but they found a gun-toting local who held them until the police arrived. Since the curious teens had not stepped out of their cars, nor had they entered the cemetery, the police arrested the man who held them for false imprisonment. While this incident is not terribly important, the articles do provide a picture of the things that people are still encountering in Shipley Hollow. One of the articles states that “those who visit the cemetery drive around a loop three times, then stop and listen.” One of the teens said, You are supposed to hear weird sounds and sometimes you can even see a light." The loop is Shipley Cemetery Road, which branches off Shipley Hollow Road to the Shipley Cemetery and loops around to the main road.

Another article about the 2010 incident includes another brief story from the area. That story speaks of a woman being kidnapped, murdered, with her body tossed into a well near the cemetery.

If you head out to Shipley Hollow, you may want to run if you hear a pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat sound, though also be on the lookout for gun-toting locals. Bear in mind that while this area is lightly populated, please respect the area, residents, and the cemetery. 

“Case bound to grand jury against teacher who held ‘ghostbusters’
     with a rifle.” The Chattanoogan. 17 November 2010.
Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-
     Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
Stone, Michael. “Popular haunt.” Chattanooga Times-Free Press. 11
     September 2010.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Florida Hauntings, County by County--Part I

This is part one of a project to examine a ghost story from every single county in Florida.

Alachua County

Beaty Towers
University of Florida
Beaty Towers, 2011, by Porsche997SBS. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Built in 1967, this modern student dormitory building is supposedly the domain of the spirit of a young woman who committed suicide. Local lore relates that this young woman, distraught over a failed relationship or a pregnancy leaped to her death from her dorm room window. The spirit has been heard sobbing and seen walking the halls. She also gets the blame when student’s things go missing. When pressed, most university officials have denied that anyone has died in this building, though Tom Ogden notes that a university historian spoke of a suicide here.

Dailey, Erin. “Feeling brave? Gainesville’s greatest haunts.”
     Gainesville Scene. 30 October 2013.
Enkerud, Mark. “UF campus holds decades of legends, ghost
     stories.” Independent Florida Alligator. 16 August 2009.
Ogden, Tom. Haunted Colleges and Universities. Guilford, CT:
     Globe Pequot Press, 2014.
Williamson, Amanda. “Gainesville and surrounding areas
     boast a collection of haunted tales.” Gainesville Sun. 28
     October 2012.

Baker County

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
Olustee Battlefield entrance sign, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
In February of 1864, Union forces set out from occupied Jacksonville, Florida with the intent of making inroads into the state to cut supply lines, free slaves, and possibly recruit African-Americans for service in the Union army. Heading west towards Lake City, the Union forces under Brigadier General Truman Seymour encountered entrenched Confederates under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan at Olustee Station near Ocean Pond. Among the union forces involved in this battle was the 54thMassachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first and most well-known African-American units.

Fighting through the thick forest of palmetto and pine, the almost equally pitted troops (5,000 Confederates versus 5,500 Union troops) fought throughout the afternoon of February 20. The Confederates repulsed the Union troops and inflicted heavy casualties, causing the Union to lose some 40% of their forces (203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing, a total of 1,861 men) while the Confederates lost about 20% of their forces (93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing, a total of 946 casualties in all). Union forces retreated to Jacksonville after being beaten back.

The battlefield, created as Florida’s first state park in 1912, is home to an annual reenactment during which re-enactors have had a number of odd experiences primarily involving full-bodied apparitions. One of the more interesting of these was an encounter between a re-enactor on a horse and a spectral Union soldier. The specter appeared and tripped the horse throwing the rider. Before the re-enactor could recover, he was smacked in the face by a rifle butt. Looking around, the shaken re-enactor searched for evidence of the soldier who tripped him, no footprints or any evidence was found. While no other documented encounters have been as violent, many have seen apparitions of soldiers.

Other tales recall the spectral sounds of war frequently heard here including the sounds of men shouting and gunfire. Investigators here have also captured some very interesting EVPs including a voice that responded, “Damn, I’m dead” when told that the spirit died in battle here.

Battle of OlusteeWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27
     November 2010.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Lapham, Dave. Ghosthunting Florida. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy
     Press, 2010.
Messick, Bonnie. “’Local Haunts’ TV show features Jacksonville
     ghost hunters.” Examiner. 29 September 2010.

Bay County

Holiday Inn Resort
11127 Front Beach Road
Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach is often associated with the rowdy Spring Break activities of high school and college students. Over the past few decades as Spring Break has become more and more a riotous celebration, young men, feeling invincible thanks to youth and fortified by alcohol, have engaged in “balcony diving.” Climbing up buildings Spiderman-like, despite state laws banning the practice, some have fallen and been seriously injured or killed. The spirit that has been seen on the upper floors of this modern resort is reportedly decked out in typical Spring Break attire—a white t-shirt, colorful shorts, and sunglasses on a cord around his neck—but the figure is missing his head. Perhaps this spirit remains to warn others to not engage in the same dangerous behavior.

Lewis, Chad and Terry Fisk. The Florida Road Guide to Haunted
     Locations. Eau Claire, WI: Unexplained Research Publishing
     Company, 2010.

Bradford County

Florida State Prison
7819 Northwest 228th Street

When they find me they must kill me,
Oh Jesus, save my soul!
I can't go back down to Raiford,
I can't take that anymore.
--Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Four Walls of Raiford” (1987)

Shortly before his execution in the electric chair here, serial killer Ted Bundy confessed that he was afraid to die. Despite his personal fear, Bundy led more than 30 victims to face death throughout the west and in Florida. It was at the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1978 where Bundy attacked four sisters killing two of them and disappeared into the night. A few weeks later, Bundy abducted and killed a 12-year-old girl from her junior high school in Lake City. After being found guilty of these murders, Bundy was incarcerated here while he awaited his appointment with the electric chair, January 24, 1989.

A former guard reported in 2001 that several guards witnessed the apparition of Bundy “sitting casually on the electric chair,” smirking at them. So many staff members encountered the spirit that the warden could not find anyone willing to enter the execution chamber alone. Others saw Bundy in his former holding cell on death row. Blogger Lon Strikler of the blog, Phantoms and Monsters, published two emails he received regarding the spirit of Bundy. One email was from a local construction worker who saw a spirit resembling Bundy walk past him accompanied by the form of a young woman. Another email from an inmate reveals that inmates have frequently seen Bundy’s smirking spirit strolling through one of the housing units.

Ramsland, Katherine. “Ted Bundy’s Ghost.” Psychology Today. 27
     October 2012
Strikler, Lon. “Recent ‘Ted Bundy’ Ghost Sighting.” Phantoms and
     Monsters Blog. 17 August 2015.
Word, Ron. “Survivors are haunted by memory of Ted Bundy 10
     years after execution.” Seattle Times. 24 January 1999.

Brevard County

Ashley’s of Rockledge
1609 US 1
Ashley's, 2010, by Leonard J. DeFrancisci. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Some believe that Ethel Allen’s rough road to her grave included a stop at Jack’s Tavern, her favorite local hangout. Several years ago, I wrote about paranormal investigators conducting an EVP session at Ms. Allen’s grave in the Crooked Mile or Georgiana Cemetery on Merritt Island. After asking if she was present, investigators received a reply, “yes.”

On November 21, 1934, Ethel Allen’s mutilated body was found on the banks of the Indian River in Eau Gallie, some 16 miles away. The nineteen-year-old had been seen just a few days before when she stopped at a local packing house to say goodbye to a friend. Ethel was leaving to visit her mother, accompanied by a male acquaintance and she may have also stopped by her favorite local hangout, Jack’s Tavern, now Ashley’s of Rockledge. The Tudor-style restaurant has paranormal activity, some of which has been attributed to Ethel Allen.

A variety of sources state that Ethel may have been murdered within the walls of the restaurant in a storeroom (possibly near the famously haunted ladies restroom) or just outside the building. A local genealogy blog makes no mention of where Ethel may have met her end, but I get the feeling it probably was not in or around the busy tavern. The stories of the restaurant’s haunting are readily available though they seem to perpetuate different variations of the murder.

The activity runs the gamut from simple, cold breezes to voices and screams to full apparitions being seen and captured on film. Some sources also note that the activity does not seem to be limited to just the possible shade of Ethel Allen. There are other possible spirits including a child and an adult male. It seems that Ashley’s may be one of the most paranormally active restaurants in the state.

Boonstra, Michael. “1934 Murder of Cocoa’s Ethel Allen.” Michael’s Genealogy and
     Brevard County History Blog. 9 April 2011.
History. Ashley’s of Rockledge. Accessed 3 November 2014.
Jenkins, Greg. Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: Vol. 1 South and
     Central Florida. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.
Neale, Rick. Brevard’s spookiest spots are dead center for teams of specter-
     spotters.” Florida Today. 27 October 2013.
Thumas, Cynthia and Catherine Lower. Haunted Florida. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole, 2008.
Walls, Kathleen. Finding Florida Phantoms. Global Authors Publications, 2004.