Disclaimer: these experiences were not emf-ed, evp-ed or in any way investigated. Florida is hot and perhaps lends to hallucinations. So I tell these stories without the benefit of a Hans Holzer type, James Randi or the three sillies from Ghost Adventures to debunk my claims or give me a million dollars. They happened and that is all I can say about them.
P and I traveled through central Florida and found many delightful things. We also found many things not so easy to explain. When in Lake Wales we found an old hotel. A hotel that made P call the proper people and we had an hour to explore its decay. We both raced around trying to make the most of the hour and often we found ourselves on different floors of the hotel.
The first floor level should be, according to plan, restored with store fronts by now. Everything seemed to be signed and ready to restore this decaying Grand Hotel. I haven’t been back so there is no way of me knowing. Google has kept those secrets from me. They were still excavating last June. I’m sure it will be amazing as the people in charge seem to want to keep as much of the original building as possible. Go if you can it is worth a long drive. And eat at Norby’s and thank me later.
On one floor I saw what I can only describe as a shadow man. He was blacker than the darkness that surrounded me and solid figure. He was among the rubble. “We” both seemed surprised to run into to each other and I watched him lean over and dissolve into the debris. I regained my composure and took an uneventful picture. Skunked again! I wonder if I hadn’t been rendered senseless if a picture would have captured his shape.
The elevator was not working in fact the shaft was empty so we took the stairs. On the staircase there was a bible open to the book of revelations and an A and O in the basement. Alpha and Omega indeed followed us here. We wondered what it meant if anything at all. I wish I went to the top floor but I didn’t want to over stay my welcome. I became increasingly uneasy the higher I climbed. I commented to one of the men who let us in that the hotel felt weirder and weirder the higher the floor. He said, “Doesn’t it though!” I left it at that but I wish I pressed him for stories.
I’m sure it is all cleared by now and the remains of the last attempted renovations are history. A local woman told P and me that the hotel was cursed. It always lost money, was built by a ne’er do well and no one wanted it. It had stayed empty as long as she could remember. She was young so may not have remember it had been operating in the 80’s. True it has failed time and again since the 20’s but I’d take it. After I evicted shadow men of course.
P and I often have at least one guilty pleasure on our travels in the form of Cracker Barrel. It is a long-standing tradition ever since I kept accidentally taking us to Arkansas when driving in Memphis. There was a Cracker Barrel on the border where we had dinner on our last night in Tennessee.
We hunt them down and it took us from the area of the hotel to Brooksville where a Cracker Barrel waited with fried delights and inspirational calendars. As we were looking through the shop for presents for our peeps I saw a something slide from a mounted hook suspend a moment and fall to the floor. It startled me and I said to P, “This place is haunted.” This lead the Cracker Barrel floor walker to say, “I’m sure it is!” He went on to tell us about how all the old farm equipment over head must bring ghosts with it and about Brooksville’s ghostly history. There is a court-house with a hanging tree and a cemetery with a ghost ridden lynching tree as well. We went to both.
The courthouse made us both very queasy. It really frightened P and it was the mid-day. Not that I blame him as the seemingly picturesque courthouse knots your stomach and tightens your throat. The hanging tree was still there-which one? Not sure but the Cracker Barrel fellow assured us you could see someone stalking around the grounds. It has an infamous and permanent blood spot on the second floor from an inmate who tried, unsuccessfully, to escape and was sadly shot instead. Innocent blood? Cheap primer? I don’t know as we didn’t go inside.
One of the most profound places we visited was Spring Hill Cemetery. It is an old slave cemetery that belonged the Lykes family and may still be actively used today or at least into the 90’s. It is also where kids go to drink and hang out after dark. Understandable too as it is remote. It is set far back from the road and has a very narrow crooked lane that barely accommodated my tiny ECHO. On my birthday that year there was a grave robbery. Two very drunk teens stole a skull from a broken tomb. It happened just days before we arrived but mimicked a similar occurrence from 1982 grave desecration. Which must mean Brooksville needs more movie theaters.
There were lynchings, unofficially, on the bough of an old tree in the cemetery. They say at night you can still see a body hanging from a noose with dark figures gathering around the base of the tree. A baby cries at a certain hour every night and specters roam through the tombstones. Faces peek from behind trees and some people are poked and even kicked. There is a meat grinder in the woods where the KKK took their victims. That is on private property and the woods are rumored to be filled with demons. So we skipped that part of the adventure. Though I felt something follow me right around the fence line as I took pictures of the woods. Even the Cracker Barrel employee, who admitted to go drinking in the cemetery, said he’d never go near the place out of fear of the both the living and the dead.
Hernando county did have the disgrace of “having the most lynchings per capita than any other in the state” well into the last century. So the lynchings there seem much more fact than fiction. No one will ever really know who died or how many lives were taken at that place. The sadness is palpable.
When we drove in it was more than a little eerie. We both promised to stay close to the car just in case we needed to leave very quickly. The heaviness of anger seemed to surround us and oppress us. We looked at each unsure if we wanted to stay. We moved to the trunk of the car to get the cameras out and talked out loud to whatever was there. And we assured respect and prayer. Still the feeling of anger remained and we stayed close together. Once we started taking pictures the heavy angry feeling lifted and became almost joyous and embracing. I have to say P took some beautiful and moving pictures that day and we even promised to return. It turned into a shared supernatural experience.
On leaving this place for the first time we drove down the narrow road and saw a large sedan coming towards us. I thought, “Drat! Now I have to back-up.” There was no room for this car to pass or me to pull aside. The lane is fortified on both sides with thick trees that grow out from sizable ditches. I’m not at all confident in my back-up on winding narrow lanes skills. Still the car was heading towards us and may be a relative coming to pay their respects to a loved one. This huge maroon sedan straight out of Starsky and Hutch would not be denied. So I braced myself for an embarrassing bit of driving. But before I could gear into reverse the oncoming car swerved into the trees and disappeared. We drove to the spot but could see no opening and the lights, which were blazing with a yellow glow, were nowhere to be seen. P and I have since talked about it and neither one of us understand quite what happened. So if you know of a turn off down that winding lane or of ghost car . . . drop me a line.
Then there is the best house EVER the Frank Saxon house. P and I fell in love-it is absolutely enchanted but now officially abandoned since Rogers’ Christmas House Village closed its doors in 2010. It wasn’t used in the village but was part of the property. The feeling of love is ingrained even in the crumbling walls of this glorious home. The village is haunted too but that’s for another time.