Friday, August 11, 2000
Last October several friends and I saw The Blair Witch Project (like who didn't?). Kurt, my erstwhile high school English teacher of a friend, got the idea to investigate haunted houses. As a high school teacher he has the summer off so tramping through the forest won't be unbearably cold; unbearably hot yes, but not unbearably cold. And as the only other person who can take off the time as required I volunteered to join in the project.
Hello. This is Agent Conner. My partner, Agent Johnsen and I are assigned to the Paranormal Investigation Foundation.
The PI Foundation.
Our mission: to investigate reported hauntings in the northern part of Florida and make a determination as to their validity. Out planned itinnerary includes:
- Dorr House
- Lear House
- Old Christ Church
- Lighthouse on Pensacola Bay
- Milton - Arcadia Archeology Project
- Amelia Island - Fort Clinch
- Fort George
- Tabby House
- Kingsley Plantation
- St. Augustine
- Castillo De San Marcos
- St. Francis Inn
- 46 Ave Menendez
- Light Keeper's House
- Gainsville - Devil's Mill Hopper
This is a recording of our journey into the unknown. Wish us luck. We may need it.
Proceed north along I-95 to Ft. Pierce. Cut across to the Florida Turnpike North to I-75 and pick up I-10 West to Pensacola. Attempt to make trip in less than twelve hours.
At 6:00 am I was in the Computer Room finishing up some last minute email when I heard what I took to be a knock on the front door. I walked to my roommate's (Rob) room.
“Rob, did you hear anything?”
Rob turned around. “No,” he said and went back to reading his book.
I could have sworn I heard something, after all, I was expecting Agent Johnsen to show up around this time. I walked to the front door and opened it just as Agent Johnsen was raising his hand to knock. “Oh,” he said. “You must have seen me.”
“Uh, no. I heard a knock,” I said.
“Now don't you get started with me! There is nothing strange going on here!” he said, pacing about the living room. “This is not the Blair Witch Project!”
I decided to leave it at that. “Can you wait a few moments? I need to finish up some email,” I said. Agent Johnsen nodded. I walked back into the Computer Room and finished up the email.
We then proceeded to transfer Agent Johnsen's luggage to my vehicle whereupon we proceeded north to Boca Raton and ate breakfast at Tom Swayer's. By 7:00 am we were on I-95 north.
The trip, other than being about ten hours long, meeting our objective time frame, was rather dull. The only glitch happened around Ft. Pierce were I managed to miss the exit and we ended up driving two miles north to the next exit, turned around, two miles south and caught the appropriate exit to catch the Florida Turnpike North.
By noon we were on I-10 West when we stopped off for lunch. Five hours later we arrived in Pensacola were Agent Johnsen picked up a map of the local area. We drove around for about twenty minutes before deciding to stay at the Hampton Inn just south of I-10 off of 291.
So far we have not encountered any paranormal phenomenon, but along the way I informed Agent Johnsen that Pensacola is also a known hot spot for UFO activity, given the proximity of the Eglin Air Force Base. Agent Johnsen was thrilled at the prospect of seeing possible UFO activity during our stay but it's unsure of we will see any.
“We have both types!”
After checking into the hotel and resting a bit, Kurt (Agent Johnsen for those following at home) and I then left for dinner. We drove south along 291 until it was apparent there were no eating establishments in the general vicinity. We then took a side street east then cut north along the next major road we found.
Eventually we found ourselves outside a Lone Star and a twenty minute wait.
Pensacola is basically a naval base. Pensacola is basically a rural town. Pensacola is basically in the Deep South. Therefore they listen to both types of music, Country and Western. And the Lone Star Restaurant is a hip hop happening place (but not as hip hop happening as the Olive Garden). It's so hip hop happening that every so often the wait staff break out into dance.
I'm serious. Twice while we were there, the entire wait staff broke out into a country line dance.
Stuff like that does not happen in Lower Sheol. Nor have I observed such behavior in Boston, Palm Springs or even South Bend. Then again, Lower Sheol, Boston, Palm Springs and South Bend do not have naval bases near by.
I also had the longest hair of any guy in the Lone Star. And I don't have what I consider long hair. Unlike Mark.
Saturday, August 12, 2000
- Dorr House
- Lear House
- Old Christ Church
- Lighthouse on Pensacola Bay
- Milton - Arcadia Archeology Project
And if possible, head along I-10 back east towards Jacksonville.
Check Out & Breakfast
I awoke this morning to Kurt watching old Thundercats cartoons on the Cartoon Network. This was a uniue episode—the Mutans had managed to nearly take out the Thundercats but due to the Thundercats superior intellect and physical prowness they were able to fend off the Mutants and restore peace back to their compound.
On second thought, that sounds like most Thundercat episodes.
After showering and packing, we checked out of the Hampton. Driving along the road looking for a restaurant for breakfast we found a place called the Golden Corral, a buffet style restaurant with a western theme to it. People pile in, pay their money and gorge out on a vast array of food, helping themselves to overly generous portions of food.
It certainly had an appropriate name: Corral everybody in and make the gold (a sentiment my Dad would probably make about the place). The food wasn't bad though; it certainly beat eating at McDonald's for breakfast.
Afterwards, he headed into downtown Pensacola for the first three of our objectives.
I drove us to the Pensacola Historic Village. It just so happened that the first parking space I found was in front of the main office of the Pensacola Historical Society. I loaded up with video camera, a digital camera and a more traditional 35mm camera, along with carrying cases. As Kurt quipped, I looked like quite the tourist.
We entered the office. There we met Bob, a tour guide. Medium hight with that slighty stocky middle-age build and an easy going personality, he welcomed us to the village. Kurt told him we were there to see the Dorr House, Lear House and the Old Christ Church. Bob informed us that those were on the tour he was giving in another hour. So Kurt and I bought the tickets.
With about an hour to kill, we decided to walk around the Historic District. Looking at the map I found the three sites we were interested in, less than a block away and grouped together. We approached the Dorr House and took a look from the sidewalk, as a wooden fence blocked access to the house. The gate was closed but not locked. Across the street was a woman dressed in period clothes sitting on the porch of another old house. Kurt introduced himself and asked if we could walk through the gate. She said that if we had purchased tickets to the tour we were free to walk anywhere on the grounds but not to enter any building as they were locked.
We then spent the next hour exploring the outside of each site, then went back to the main office to start the tour with Bob.
To Build a Fire
We started the tour with Bob telling us that Pensacola is the oldest placed city in the United States, unlike St. Augustine which is the oldest continuous city in the United States, but both were started by the Spanish.
Pensacola is also the only city to fly under five flags, the Spanish, French, Brittish, Confederate and American, since the bay was very important strategically. Bob also stated that the waterfront has been expanded outward by all the ships dumping their ballast overboard when being loaded.
But our tour started with the oldest house in the Historical District—a simple box structure with a few windows owned by a freed slave woman in the late 1700s/early 1800s.
Next up was a facinating demonstration of fire building. In Florida, most of the cooking was done outside, it being way to hot to actually cook indoors for most of the year. One of the employees, dressed in period, demonstrated how they used to light fires. A patch of flax, a dry stringy material, is placed on a flat surface. On top a small piece of charred cloth is added. Then a rod of iron, curled at the ends would be placed across the top of the fingers and struck with flint. The sparks are caught by the charred cloth and the person would blow on it, catching the flax. Once the flax is burning, the bundle is then placed under the kindling of the cooking fire. The demonstration had a fire going in under two minutes, albeit with lots of smoke from the burning flax.
“Two handles to serve soup.”
Next on the tour was a duplex built in the early 1800s. The ground floor had four rooms total, two for each family living in the building. Both rooms weren't much larger than 15' by 15' and both rooms were more or less used for bedrooms (remember, all the cooking was done outside in Florida).
He also showed us the bathroom. A small stand in the corner with a pitcher, a bowl and a chamber pot. “One tourist told me,” he said, “that his grandmother used to serve soup in such a pot. I told him he should ask his grandmother how many handles were on the pot. Two handles to serve soup.”
He then showed us a bar of soap. “Made of ash and animal fat. And smells just as good too.” He handed it around the room and everybody took a whiff. Yup, smells about as good as you would think it would.
It's amazing how far we've progressed in the past two hundred years. Especially in waffle iron technology.
Tour guides have reported moving items only to find them moved back to their original location when they return. It is speculated that it might be one of several Dorr children, some of whom died at a young age. It might also be Clara Dorr, who had the house built. It has also been reported that people have seen a woman like figure sitting in the chair at the top of the stairs and it's speculated that the figure is Clara Dorr.
We eventually made it to the Dorr House where Bob lead us inside. Normally he isn't allowed to tell the tour group about the ghost stories in the Historical District, but since Kurt and I brought it up earlier before the tour, he threw all caution to the wind and brought up all the ghost stories.
Ms. Dorr is said to appear in the fainting chair at the top of the stairs. The fainting chair is named because at the time, women would wear corsettes and walking up a flight of stairs would leave them a bit short of breath, hence a chair for the lady to resume breathing. I took several pictures of it using both the 35mm and digital camera. I'll see if anything shows up.
It was upstairs in the daughter's room that an odd event happened. On the bed was an old book opened to this incredibly detailed illustration. I decided to take a picture of the illustration using the 35mm camera. I adjusted the camera and pressed the button, but the shutter snapped open and remained that way for nearly a minute; nothing I did would cause it to close.
I suppose it could have been a malfunction. Normally the shutter speed is adjusted automatically depending upon the apature, but quite possibly the apature was such that the shutter speed fluctuated between two choices and the electronics messed up.
Yea, that's what happened.
Old Christ Church
Three rectors (reverends) of the Church were buried beneath the church during the 1800s. During later renovation work, their graves were dug up and the three were hastily reburied just outside the church in unmarked graves. Even later, an extention of the church was built over their graves and it was only in 1988 during an archeological dig to find the missing bodies were they found.
The three bodies were then reburied beneath the church in an elaborate ceremony. There are two accounts of three men wearing white robes, carrying a black book and were barefoot also attending the ceremony.
The three rectors were buried in white robes, barefoot and each had a Bible placed with them in their grave.
We then went across the street to Old Christ Church. We couldn't go inside as there was a wedding in progress (it seems that the church is rather popular for weddings). Bob told us that the church, throughout its history, has been a church, hospital, abandoned, a library and finally a church again. Both the State of Florida and the City of Pensacola funded a restoration effort a few years ago and it was re-dedicated as a church.
Bob, again against the regulations of his post, told us about the story behind the ghosts but it wasn't much we didn't already know about and furthermore, since a wedding was in progress we couldn't investigate the inside of the building.
The reports are mostly items being moved about with no explanation and an unknown female apparition has been sighted. No one knows who or what could be responsible for the odd occurences.
Located behind the Old Christ Church, the Lear-Rocheblave House was the last stop on the tour. It was also the last site to visit in the Pensacola Historical Village. The Pensacola Historical Society has just recently come into ownership of the house and the upstairs, where all the paranormal manifestations occur, was off limits due to restoration work. We were, however, shown about the ground floor, showing us the most modern house on the tour as of yet—around the turn of the century.
As soon as the tour was over, Kurt and I left the Historic Pensacola Village for our next planned site, the Lighthouse at Pensacola Bay.
The next site is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, south of Pensacola along the coastline. We arrived at the front gate but Kurt felt that it might be better to arrive via the Back Gate as per the instructions we had to the lighthouse. That meant turning around and driving several miles around to the west and south.
We arrived at the Back Gate were we checked in, the Pensacola Naval Air Station being an open base we were allowed in with no problems. Within a few minutes we were at the Lighthouse but tours are only given on Sundays. It was quickly decided to inquire at the Naval Aviation Museum just down the road.
This museum gives the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum a run for its money. Mounted outside the front entrance is an F-14 Tomcat. Not a model mind you, a real F-14 Tomcat. Walk inside and hanging from the ceiling are four Blue Angel jet aircraft. Model aircraft carriers, several feet long, dot the front entrance hall. Walk into the main exhibit hall and you'll see various forms of prop and jet airplanes, along with helicopters. The first airplane to cross the Atlantic is housed here. A hideously ugly bi-plane, with a wingspan of 120' commands center stage.
Kurt made the inquiry and its okay to walk around the grounds of the Lighthouse but not to enter it. We decided to spend a few minutes looking around the museum and noting how several of our friends would really enjoy visiting it.
Unfortunately, not being an aviation nut like my friend Greg, I can't even remember what we saw, other than the displays being impressive.
Lighthouse at Pensacola Bay
The original lighthouse keeper, Jeremiah Ingraham (who may have been killed by his wife), is said to haunt the place. There are also reports of mysterious blood stains that can't be removed, and unexplained items being moved without cause have also been reported.
There are also locals who state that three separate ghosts haunt the lighthouse, one being Jeremiah Ingraham, and the other two being lighthouse keepers who died a normal death.
The Lighthouse at Pensacola Bay is an imposing structure, painted for the most part black. Attached to the structure on the side opposite the ocean is the keeper's house, a wooden two story structure. The Lighthouse is now fully automated so the keeper's house is no longer in use.
Kurt and I walked around the structure for a few minutes but because we could not enter the structure, we did not stay for very long.
Nor did we see any paranormal activity to investigate.
The Arcadia Project
Unexplained noises and two ghosts, possibly the orginal partners of the saw mill built on the site.
“Two men. One video camera. No map. No compass. Welcome to the Arcadia Project.”
Me, on video tape at the start of our visit to the Arcadia Archeological Project.
Several miles east of Pensacola is Milton, the location of the next site, the Arcadia Archeological Project. Looking at a local map we were able to make sense of the directions given and in the late afternoon found ourselves driving through an upscale neighborhood to a deadend.
The information given stated that appointments were required before visiting the site but both Kurt and I laughed—nothing could keep us from our appointed rounds, neither rain, nor sleet nor dark of night (well, actually, dark of night might have kept us from our appointed rounds). I parked the car next to two others there.
We walked down a trail to a T-intersection. Off to the left we could hear several people so we did something you're never supposed to do in such situations—we split the group. Kurt headed off towards the left down the path, and I headed down a boardwalk towards the right.
The boardwalk appeared to be more of a nature trail than something that leads off to an acheological dig of a potentially haunted site. Several hundred yards later the boardwalk ended, but a trail carried on. I stepped off the boardwalk, stepped around the barricade at the end and carried on. A dozen yards later I came to a set of wooden stairs, obviously older than the boardwalk behind me. I carefully made my way down the stairs, along a short walk and up some stairs leading to a ridge. From the ridge two trails snaked off through the woods and I started walking down the one to the right for a few yards before thinking better of it.
Walking back I ran into Kurt. He talked to the other people down his path and they informed him that the mill we were seeking was the other direction; the direction I picked. So we crossed back to the ridge and picked one of the paths. Each time I mentioned the current situation is similar to the Blair Witch Project Kurt would have nothing of it. Eventually we ended up on the street we came in on. Instead of walking back through the forest we walked down the street back to my car.
At the car we finally noticed a mill-like structure off to one side. Upon investigation it seemed too new—too recent to be the actual mill. We figured it must be a recreation of the mill. We then went back along the nature path to see if we could find the archeological site. We were headed towards the end of the boardwalk.
“Wait a second!” Kurt said.
“We're looking for a mill! It won't be back in the forest. It'll be along the creek here.” He slapped his forhead. “I should have realized that.”
“Oh,” I said. “You're right.” I didn't think of that either.
Then we examined the ridge just past the end of the boardwalk. There were several stone formations that looked manmade but weathered, and covered in dirt and moss. Kurt was certain we found the foundation of the mill and the evidence was pretty compelling.
I took extensive photographs of the rock formations to bring back to our friend Tom the architect. We'll see what he has to say about them.
We then walked back along the boardwalk and took the path Kurt took earlier. This was a path, not a boardwalk but it lead to a suspention bridge made of wood planks suspended by rope strung across the creek. There were three people, two men and one girl, swimming in the stream. We exchanged hellos as we crossed and it became apparent that this was simply a nature walk as the trail lead away from the creek into the forest. We doubled back, crossed the bridge, took a side path that parelleled the creek for a score of yards then turned back towards the car.
Again, no paranormal phenomenon manefested itself in the area.
Since it was still fairly early, we decided to drive to Jacksonville on the east coast of Florida that night.
For dinner we stopped off at the Cracker Barrel, a predominately eastern chain of restaurants with a country theme to both the architecture and style of food and found mostly along interstates (and featured in my friend Hoade's book Ain't That America). The food is very good, if you like heavy southern cooking, which I do.
Anyway, while waiting for our food we played with the small puzzle that every table has—the Jump All Till One puzzle. A triangular piece of wood with fifteen holes drilled into it. It is populated with fourteen golf tees, leaving one hole empty. The puzzle is to leave one golf tee in the puzzle. To remove a tee you jump over it with another tee, removing the tee just jumped. I can usually get two tees left, although by “cheating” I was able to solve the puzzle. By “cheating” I started with one tee, then jumped holes and filled the puzzle in backwards.
I did that technique as well, and usually ended up with two tees I can't place.
Kurt did not fare any better.
One of these days I'll get around to writing a program to solve the puzzle once and for all.
Drivers and Computers
Kurt's driving the car and I'm in the passenger seat (weird feeling, being a passenger in my own car) typing away on the laptop, which is getting power from a transformer plugged into the cigarette lighter. It feels weird.
Just a few minutes ago we came across a small traffic jam—and it's nearly 11:30 pm. Rubberneckers, have to check out anything involving cars and flashing lights. Kurt almost ran into the car in front of us.
Our plan for tonight is to make it to Jacksonville, which is only about half an hour away.
Sunday, August 13, 2000
- Amelia Island - Fort Clinch
- Fort George
- Tabby House
- Kingsley Plantation
I still had not managed to write about the previous day's activities and at the hotel (a Holiday Inn) the lines were busy for the BellSouth dialup lines so I couldn't update what I had to the journal. By 2:00 I still hadn't finished updating the journal but I decided I should head off to bed anyway.
In the morning we packed, checked out and after breakfast at the buffet at the hotel, we headed off towards Amelia Island.
The fort, used by both Union and Confederate soldiers, is said to be haunted by ghosts of soldiers who haven't left the fort. There is also a report of a woman ghost who may have been a nurse at the fort. And reports of the wailings of a baby who died at the fort in the 1920s.
We drive along A1A through Fernandina Beach to the 14th St. North Extention which looks like it leads into Ft. Clinch State Park, but it turns out to be the back entrance to the park and is closed to traffic. We turn around, head back through Fernandina Beach to Ft. Clinch Road which is the main entrance.
Once through the gate, we drive along the road, lined along both sides by a deep forest of towering trees. It goes back about two miles, a dark road where one can easily imagine being chased by the Headless Horseman. It then opens up into a parking lot for the fort. I park the car and again, load up on the camera equipment and we head off towards the fort.
The fort was never finished—you can still see the foundation for the officer quarters, although the other buildings, enlisted quarters, main office, jail and guard houses, were finished, along with the outside walls and bastions. One of the bastions still had access to the top via a small twisty staircase in the wall. If you aren't careful it's easy to stumble and that's one staircase you don't want to tumble down—all stone and brick work.
Nearby the stairwell ws a window opening, a web spanning the space with a large spider sitting in the middle. I think they're known as banana spiders, a large arachnid some five inches across. Not something you want to meet in a dark alley, much less in bright daylight.
Walking around the fort we encountered, get this, no paranormal manefestations of any form.
Tabby House was under contruction by a local planter when he died a violent and unexpected death. His ghost is still said to haunt the house, which is just a shell. Accounts of the haunting go back to 1877.
South of Jacksonville is Ft. George, the location of the next two sites. We took A1A south, over Little Talbot Island, acorss Ft. George Inlet to Ft. George Road, just up the road from the Mayport Ferry (which crosses the St. Johns River were you pick up A1A south). A short drive up Ft. George Rd is Tabby House.
The house gets its name from the construction method. Tabby is a mixture of lime, made by burning oyster shells, sand and water. It is mixed with whole shells and poured into forms, much like concrete.
Tabby House is about 15' by 30', with two rooms, a larger room which would probably be the main living area and a smaller area that looks to be a cooking area. Throughout the walls are small holes which is a rement of the construction method—a form in which the tabby is poured and when dried, the form is extended up another foot or so and the next layer is poured. The holes are part of the frame for the forms.
We spend about half an hour investigating the site but again, no paranormal manefestations appeared.
But I guess you could guess that by now.
Strange feelings, poltergeist and actual sightings have been reported on the plantation. One of the apparitions appears to be the wife of the owner of the plantation, Anna Jai Kingsley, an African princess.
If I thought that the road to Ft. Clinch was looming with dark trees, then that was nothing compared to the road from Tabby House to the Kingsley Plantation. The Ft. Clinch road was paved, this wasn't; I swear the car nearly shook itself apart on the road. It was also longer than the Ft. Clinch access road. On the rare breaks in the dense forest you could see wetlands and swamp. It then finally breaks and you end up at the slave quarters.
The two dozen ruins are arranged in a semcircle. One building has been restored, but the rest are in various states of ruin, from full height to about a foot high. Each building is not much larger than 15' x 15' and most are constructed of two rooms each. The buildings themselves were all made of tabby.
While walking around the slave quarters I came across another banana spider in a web spanning two trees some ten feet apart. In my twenty years of living in South Florida I've only seen one, yet in North Florida I've seen two so far. I guess they're more common up here.
Up the road another hundred yards or so was the main plantation house, a large imposing wooden structure. It used to be two buildings, the main house and behind it a smaller kitchen house but now there was a covered walkway between the two, home to yet another banana spider. That made three.
But yet again, no paranormal manefestations.
After leaving the Kingsley Plantation we then drove about an hour south to St. Augustine. We checked into the hotel (a Quality Inn this time) and then had dinner at a local restaurant, Schooner's. The food was good but the man at the table next to us was very annoying, mainly complaining and presenting a poor role model to his son as Kurt mentioned afterwards.
We then retired to our room to catch up on our respective journals.
This was the first time I saw the Sci-Fi Channel. Kurt wanted to watch a particular show, Exposure. He thought the show was the one honoring George Lucas, but that was still over a week away.
But the shorts we did see where intriging, including a ten minute Die Hard in a car trunk.
Monday, August 14, 2000
- St. Augustine
- Castillo De San Marcos
- St. Francis Inn
- 46 Ave Menendez
- Light Keeper's House
And if possible, head over to Gainsville for the last scheduled site.
A change of plans
“We made a mistake!” Kurt yelled this morning.
“What?” I was still slightly groggy from just being awakened.
“We made a mistake! One of the sites we're visiting is an inn! We should have stayed there last night,” he said.
“What do you say we stay one more night in St. Augustine. We stay at the St. Francis Inn. What do you think?” Kurt asked.
We were doing well time wise; it wasn't taking the week I expected it to take. One more day wouldn't hurt us. “Why not? But better call first to see if they have any rooms available,” I said.
Kurt picked up the phone and called. He talked to the owner, Tom, for a few minutes then asked about the rooms. Then he turned to me. “They only have two rooms available,” he said to me. “But the two rooms are the haunted ones!”
“Get them,” I said, getting interested.
“Okay.” He then made arrangements for one of the rooms. I guess we'll be staying another night in St. Augustine.
We then made plans for the day. Check out of the hotel, then hit Castillo De San Marcos, the main fort in St. Augustine. Then lunch at 46 Ave Menendez, which is also known locally as Harry's Seafood Bar Grille. After lunch, check into the St. Francis Inn, then hit the Light Keeper's House.
Then, off to Castillo De San Marcos.
Castillo De San Marcos
In 1833 a sealed off section of the fort was opened up and two skeletons were found, as well as the smell of perfume. It was thought that the skeletons were the wife of one of the commanders of the fort from the 18th century and the other was her illicit lover.
Since then, reports of a glowing and the smell of perfume from that part of the fort have been numerous.
Castillo De San Marcos was easy to find—off the main street in St. Augustine; you can't miss it. It was interesting going back to the fort, for I had been there once before twelve years earlier. I remember not paying to enter the fort, nor were all the exhibits there twelve years ago.
We paid our money, and entered the fort. Kurt was worried that we might not see the part of the fort where the paranormal manefestations occured but in going through the fort we came across the site.
You enter a room from the outside, enter another room and through a doorway is a long room that was used to store munitions—this was the room, barely lit by the light of a low-wattage bulb (of course, such luxuries didn't exist back in the 1700 or 1800s). I recorded the room, but I won't know the results until I get back to Lower Sheol for a thoural examination, but while we were there, we didn't notice any paranormal manefestations.
We spent some more time examing the fort but we got what we came for.
46 Avenida Menendez
One story is that the ghost, known as Bridgette, was a victim of an earlier fire. Another story is that Bridgette hung herself in her room, years before it was a restaurant. She still manefests at times in her room, which is upstairs.
Kurt and I arrived for lunch. Seated, we discussed when we should ask the staff about the ghost; after some discussion it was felt we should order and pay for lunch first, then ask in case we were escourted off the premises.
After lunch, we approached the bar tender and Kurt asked about the haunting. We were then informed that indeed there were stories and that the ghost was floating around upstairs in her old room.
Of course, Bridgette's room is now the ladies room for the upstairs portion of the restaurant.
Kurt asked if we could check it out, and the bartender said we were free to check it out, provided we knocked on the door first. We headed up stairs and made our way back to the restrooms. Kurt knocked on the door and asked if anyone was inside. A voice from inside indicated it was being used so we backed off and waited a few minutes.
Once the restroom was vacated, we entered. It was easy to see it as a bedroom; it was big enough to be a room. But I did not bring any photographic equipment with me, and again, there were no paranormal manefestations to be seen or felt. A minute later we left.
St. Francis Inn I
At least one ghost, Lilly, possibly a young black girl dressed in white, is said to haunt room 3-A of the Inn. Multiple people have claimed to have seen a female presence in the room. There are also reports of poltergeist activity, as well as unexplained noises and voices throughout the building.
And guess what room we're staying in tonight?
When we arrived right after lunch, Tom, the current owner/manager, said the room wasn't quite ready for us but if we were to come back an hour or so later, it should be ready. We thanked him and decided to check out the last site on our list, the Lightkeeper's House.
Many bizarre and unexplained accidents have happened around the lighthouse. Also a ghost has been reported by several people but it's unclear if it's a man who hanged himself in the lighthouse in the 1930s or one of the earlier lighthouse keepers who died while painting the lighthouse in the 1850s.
The lighthouse can be seen from quite a distance away, but actually finding it was a bit tricky. Parking was also a bit difficult, the parking lot in front of the lighthouse being way too small.
We arrived and purchased the tickets required to climb up the lighthouse—219 steps up 165 feet. Kurt and I then started the climb. There are eight landings within the lighthouse, the stairs making a half-circle to the landing, which almost fills half the width of the lighthouse. I video taped our ascent up the stairs, pausing on each landing to take a picture downward, marking our progress upwards.
But I have a fear of hights, and at the last landing before the top had to stop. I could not make the final ascent, my vertigo nearly overtaking me. I gave Kurt the digital camera and spend the next few hellish eternities making the descent down the stairs and rushing out the entrance to sit down and spend another few hellish minutes calming down.
Ghosts, I can handle. Heights—that got to me.
I didn't stick around to experience any paranormal manefestations, but given the number of people around, I doubt there would be any and as usual at all the sites, the staff are relunctant or not allowed to talk about the hauntings unless asked first.
On the ground, I listened to a small girl, under age seven, ask her mother repeatedly why she couldn't climb the lighthouse. The mother kept telling her that she was too young to climb the stairs, seven years being the minimum age. A few minutes later her son, not much older than seven, appeared at the entrance, sweating. Like myself, he was named Sean, and he too, didn't make it to the top, it being way to high for him.
Several minutes after that, Kurt walked out, having made it to the top and taken several pictures from there that I've yet to see.
We then headed back to the St. Francis Inn.
St. Francis Inn II
We arrived back at the St. Francis Inn and were able to check in. Tom informed us that the price of the room included breakfast in the dining room, breakfast being served from 7:30 to 10:00 am. He also held a informal gathering in the dining room between 5:30 and 6:30 pm for guests to meet each other and converse. Also available to the guests are complementary coffee, tea (both hot and iced) and water. Guests can simply walk downstairs and partake of any aformentioned beverage anytime, provided they are available.
He then showed us to room 3-A, Lilly's Room.
We walked up two flights of stairs. The stairs have this odd perspective that is best not dwelled upon least you miss a step. It's more noticible going downstairs than up. Our room is at the top of the stairs.
One of the first impressions of the room is the lack of square corners. In fact, looking at the building as a whole you realize there is not one right angle corner in the building at all. Even the doors are trapezoidal in shape, but not enough to give it a true Alice in Wonderland appearence, but enough to give it an odd feeling. The room itself is trapezoidal in shape, white walls with green trim and deep red carpeting.
Kurt and I spend an hour or so relaxing in the room before going downstairs for the social.
Around 6:00 pm Kurt and I walk downstairs and enter the dining room for the social gathering. Provided for the guests are orderves and beer (American). There were two couples already in conversation; Kurt grabbed a bear, I an iced tea and we sit down at a nearby table to listen in.
Perhaps fifteen minutes later, the younger of the two couples excuse themselves and leave for dinner. Kurt then engages in conversation with the remaining couple, a pair of retirees on their second visit to St. Augustine from their home in Jupiter, Florida. The gentleman used to work in a television studio but it's never made clear in what capacity. I think his wife was a teacher and the talk soon turned to our themed vacation of haunted house hunting and later, to Kurt's career as a high school English Teacher.
Perhaps a half our later the older couple decided it was time for dinner and we left for dinner.
Kurt and I went to the Columbia, a Spanish restaurant that is a central/northern Florida chain of about six restaurants, headquartered in Ybor, Florida. The food is excellent, abundant and a bit pricey but well worth it. The restaurant in St. Augustine is in the Spanish Quarter, several blocks long running parellel to the ocean, one end starting across the street from the Castillo De San Marcos.
I had trouble finding a close parking spot so we ended up parked on a residential street several blocks west of the Spanish Quarter. A fifteen minute walk brought us to the restaurant. Afterwards, we walked back to the car, finding it quite easily, but I got turned around driving back to the Inn, finding myself driving south along US-1 for about five minutes before getting my bearings and turning around.
Fifteen minutes later we were back at the Inn.
An American Experiment
While catching up with documenting the trip, Kurt and I came across an episode of Behind the Music on VH1 about the Monkeys. “Stop it here,” I told Kurt so we left it there. Afterwards was a VH1 movie about the Monkeys and we figured it was as good as anything and watched that as well.
After the segment were the Monkeys meet the Beatles in London, Kurt turned to me. “The Beatles invited the Monkeys in order to feel them out,” he said.
“The Beatles biggest competition at the time were the Monkeys. So they invited them to feel them out, see what their strengths and weaknesses are. If they come across as unsure of themselves, then there is no competition.” Made sense, even if the Monkeys themselves didn't see that.
Later on when the segment about the Monkeys' movie Head and how Jack Nicholson was involved, Kurt turned to me again. “They were an experiment.”
“In what way?”
“To see how far they could go in making a psychadelic movie. How far they can go, to see what the limites are. Later on, Easy Rider comes out,” he said.
“Ah,” I said. “So that explains why Jack Nicholson was there.”
Tuesday, August 15, 2000
- Gainsville - Devil's Mill Hopper
Afterwards, head back to South Florida for analysis of accumulated data.
Before going to bed, I set up the video camera to record the room in case any manefestations happened. I had three extra tapes, each two hours so we could have a potential of six hours of recorded material but we both neglected to change the tapes after the first one so we only have two hours, between 1:30 and 3:30 am. But I didn't experience any paranormal manefestations. I asked Kurt.
“Sleeplessness. People were banging doors, opening and closing them. I didn't investigate though,” he said. But other than that, he didn't experience any paranormal manefestations either.
We checked out and headed back to Gainsville for our last site.
Cracker's Swamp Dirt Road
From St. Augustine we drove south alone I-95 to State 207 west, a two lane rural highway that lead us through such metropolitan areas like Elkton, Armstrong, Spuds and Palatka. And roads such as Cracker Swamp Dirt Road, not to be confused with Cracker Swamp Road.
Kurt has an account with BellSouth.Net, an ISP. In Jacksonville all the lines were busy and in St. Augustine … well … BellSouth has no point of presence in St. Augustine.
But Palatka! There's a POP in Palatka of all places. Spuds! You could hook up to the Internet in Spuds! Downtown Spuds consists of a gas station. I think. I don't know, we passed through Spuds in under a minute.
We also passed through Putnam Hall, where there is neither a hall, nor a putnam. Orange Hights was a busling megaopolis of a town—several buildings making up an obvious downtown area.
But no Internet service from BellSouth.Net in St. Augustine. Kurt's theory: “They're trying to preserve their heritage.”
The Devil's Millhopper is a large sinkhole, 117 feet deep and about 500 feet across. The name comes from the shape of the hole, resembling the funnels used in mills to feed the grain into the millstone, and the fact that numermous bones and skeletons of animals have been found along the sides and bottom, leading many people to think that the Devil opened up a hole to suck all down to Hell.
Other than that, that's it.
The Devil's Millhopper is located in northern Gainsville and as haunts go, there are none. But as a nature walk, it's impressive. There's a boardwalk leading down about 100 feet to the bottom and halfway across. It's a large deep bowl like formation.
Sinkholes are caused by rainwater seeping through the ground, where it filters through old rotten vegetation where it turns into a very weak acid. The bedrock of Florida is primarily limestone, a rather porus rock that reacts with acid readily. The limestone is eaten away, leaving a large cavity underground that will eventually collapse under the weight of the ground above.
And that's what happened with the Devil's Millhopper. The primary sink hole was made approximately 15,000 years ago, but recent openings have happened in the last millenium, one possibly a hundred years ago.
After lunch at a nearby cafe (The Millhopper Cafe) we started on our way home, with Kurt driving the first leg. So I'm currently updating the journal on my laptop as we drive along Florida's Turnpike.
We're about three to four hours from home at this point.