Archive for the St. Augustine Category

PLAYMATES Part Two

Posted in Afterlife, Entities, Ghosts, Hauntings, Kids, Paranormal, Saturdays, St. Augustine, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2012 by Dave Lapham

For Alice Sue’s part she enjoyed every minute with Rose Marie. In addition to coming and going through the closet, she asked some funny questions, like “What is that thing on the table next to your bed?”

“You mean the lamp?”

“Lamp?”

“Yes. Here, I’ll turn it on.” Alice Sue pulled the lamp chain and the light came on.

“Oh,” Rose Marie exclaimed and jumped back.

And there were the shoes. Rose Marie wore what seemed to Alice Sue old-fashioned handmade slippers. And Rose Marie was astounded by Alice Sue’s Skecher Twinkle Toes with pink laces and leopard spots and which lit up with every step. Alice Sue let her try them on, and the girl was so enthralled with them, Alice Sue gave them to Rose Marie.

But the admiration wasn’t one-sided. Alice Sue loved Rose Marie’s clothes, which were so well-made and so different. One day she came out of the closet wearing what to Alice Sue was a beautiful pink dress, with ruffles all the way down to the hem, a wide pink ribbon at the waist, and little pink bows all around the scoop neck. She had to have a dress just like it.

Weeks later as Alice Sue’s birthday neared, Betsy asked her daughter what she wanted. Immediately, she said, “A dress, a pink, full-length dress.” And she described Rose Marie’s dress in minute detail. Betsy thought it odd, but she told her that’s what she’d get, and she wrote down the description Alice Sue had given her.

Finally, the day came. Alice Sue and her mother knew no one in St. Augustine, so the “birthday party” consisted of just the two of them. First, Alice Sue opened her gifts at home—and immediately put on her new dress. Then they walked up the street for lunch at the Casa Monica Hotel. At the end of the meal, a waitress came out with a piece of cake, a candle burning on it, and all the wait staff sang “Happy Birthday” to Alice Sue. She laughed as she blew out the candle and ate the cake but soon was anxious to rush home.

She ran down the street ahead of her mother and was waiting at the door when Betsy arrived. Then she bounded up to her room and closed the door. Shortly after, Betsy heard squeals and giggles coming from upstairs.

When Alice Sue turned toward the closet she saw Rose Marie standing there—in her pink dress. Rose Marie’s jaw dropped and she broke into a big smile. The two little girls stood looking at each other, eyes glistening. Rose Marie reached out her hand and took Alice Sue’s. She led her to the closet, and the two walked in, closing the door.

Alice Sue was never seen again, but to this day one can hear two little girls giggling and laughing in the bedroom upstairs at the end of the hall in the old coquina house on Marine Street.

PLAYMATES Part One

Posted in Afterlife, Entities, Ghosts, Hauntings, Kids, Paranormal, Saturdays, St. Augustine, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Betsy Slavin knew the house was haunted when she bought it. The previous owners were candid about it. They’d told her about the little girl, Rose Marie Slater, who had died in the back bedroom upstairs in 1837, during a typhoid epidemic. They’d told her she was still there, not menacing, but present. Betsy didn’t care. She didn’t believe in ghosts anyway. She wanted to live in St. Augustine.

As a single mom Betsy had struggled for several years, until a long-lost uncle left her with millions. Tired of living out in the sticks in Hastings, she turned her eye toward St. Augustine and quickly found this fine, old coquina house on Marine Street. The asking price was $950,000, a little steep perhaps, but Betsy had the money. Why not? She could afford it. The house had been built in 1794 by Don Hector Vitorio Montalvo de Sevilla, during Spain’s last possession of Florida. It was one of the oldest structures in the city. The history of St. Augustine fascinated Betsy, and she snapped up the house as soon as she saw it.

Seven-year old Alice Sue loved the house, too. She ran through all the rooms, laughing, inquisitive, and instantly was drawn to the back bedroom. “This is my room, Mommy,” she shouted to her mother out in the hall. Betsy, knowing the room had once supposedly belonged to Rose Marie Slater, smiled and said, “Of course, sweetie. You can have the room.”

The property was narrow but ran from Marine Street all the way over to Avenida Menendez with a wall surrounding it. The previous owners had done a wonderful job of landscaping the back garden with little nooks and crannies, vine-covered pergolas, and hideaways. Betsy thought her daughter would be enthralled by it all, but from the very first Alice Sue preferred her own room overlooking the beautiful garden.

Alice Sue loved her room, because she had found a playmate there, another little girl about her age who arrived and left through the closet. Alice Sue thought that a bit odd, but the little girl was otherwise a wonderful friend. Her name was Rose Marie. She said her father was an American and her mother Spanish. Her black hair and dark complexion contrasted nicely with Alice Sue’s light skin and blond hair. And she didn’t come just to play. Sometimes she came at night and slept with Alice Sue, because she missed her parents.

Betsy often passed by her daughter’s door to hear giggling and laughing. She might have been concerned at least enough to look in on Alice Sue, but the child had always had imaginary playmates. Betsy thought this was the case again, just an imaginary playmate. She did think about Rose Marie Slater but quickly dismissed the thought. Besides, if Rose Marie was the “imaginary” playmate, what harm was there.

GHOST HUNTERS FACE NEW PHENOMENA

Posted in Afterlife, Ghost Hunting, Ghosts, Hauntings, Investigating, Paranormal, St. Augustine, Updates, Wednesdays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Got out of Dodge this week. I’m holed up in the Best Western in New Smyrna, writing. Let me know who won the election. I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal recently. (I take the Journal because it actually has news and not tons of advertisements, and I pay less for it than the Orlando Sentinel.) Anyway, the article. It was written by Matthew Dalton, who wrote about Steve Parsons, a ghost hunter in Wales.

Mr. Parsons has 35 years experience and uses high-tech equipment with a big “dose of skepticism.” His problem is that he feels we’ve been taken over by “TV cameras and tabloid headlines.” There are so many “ghost shows” on TV that paranormal investigating has become entertainment and, according to Mr. Parsons, the “trend has spawned hundreds of amateur ‘ghost clubs’ whose members head out on weekends to scare up a few spirits.”

He points out that as a result of the television exposure there are now about 500 ghost “clubs” in Britain. Ten years ago only some 15 existed. And although many of these groups use the latest technology, many also use worthless gadgets that have flooded the market.

The sad thing is that often TV “investigations” are nothing more than show. I’ve talked to several very competent ghost hunters who’ve been involved with some of them in the U.S., and they agree that in many cases the presentations have nothing to do with reality. Events are often staged for entertainment value and have little to do with serious research.

And due to the popularity of ghost hunting, sites in Britain as well as in the United States that used to allow groups access now either charge or don’t let anyone in at all. Mr. Parsons gave an example of the Carew Castle in Wales, which purportedly houses the non-human ghost of a Barbary ape. The Castle used to charge paranormal groups $240 for investigations; it now charges $560.

We see that here in Florida. The Spanish Military Hospital in St. Augustine, which is listed in my Ghosthunting Florida, became overwhelmed with requests from paranormal groups. It now doesn’t let in any groups. Instead, they conduct in-house investigations and allow individuals to tag along for a price.

The reason I bring this up is because when I read the article, I began thinking about our situation in Florida. How many groups do we now have in the state? Forty? Fifty? I don’t know. I do know that I can count at least 20 I’ve come in contact with. I believe that the majority of the groups I’ve encountered are serious ghost hunters who either desire to help people understand unexplained activity in their homes and businesses or who want to further paranormal science. But how many groups are out there with their flashlights, digital cameras, audio recorders, and K2s banging around cemeteries, historical sites, and abandoned buildings just trying to scare up a little excitement? I would venture quite a few.

And then there are sites to investigate. Mr. Parsons reports that requests for investigations of both homes and businesses in Britain have significantly dropped off because people would rather have “Most Haunted” or “Ghost Adventures” in to do a TV show. I don’t think we have that problem here, but I do think we’re running out of places to investigate. How many times has the Italian Club in Ybor City been investigated? How about Ripley’s in St. Augustine or the Lake Worth Playhouse?

So why am I rambling on about this? I guess I want to emphasize how important it is to be as professional as possible during investigations. And how vital it is to do them for the right reasons, not because it’s more fun to hunt ghosts than to bar hop on Saturday night. We are interested in the paranormal because we believe in an afterlife and that the veil between our life and the next is very thin. So, think about it the next time you’re out on an investigation. Why are you there?

THE MOORISH HOUSE ON CHARLOTTE STREET – Part 3

Posted in Afterlife, Ghost Hunting, Ghosts, Investigating, Paranormal, Saturdays, St. Augustine, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by Dave Lapham

She thought about the Baroque music she had first heard and in an “aha” moment realized that it was the obscure little Francesco Molino concerto she had played for a recital when she was a senior in high school. She blushed at the thought of her ghost playing the piece for her. One day shortly after her revelation she took her guitar to the house. She entered through the loggia, sat in the living room, and began playing. The guitarist appeared immediately. He smiled, sat down, and began playing with her. They played well together, she on the Paraguayan Berlucci her parents had given her as a graduation present, and the ghost on his ancient Spanish guitar.

As time passed she found excuses to visit the house on more and more occasions, always taking her guitar with her. Matt knew she wanted the house to be perfect and didn’t begrudge Sara her passion for it. He did think it a bit peculiar that she always took her guitar, but he passed that off as her equal passion for music. He couldn’t see she was drawing away.

After four months, the renovations were complete. Sara proudly opened the door and led Matt inside. It was exquisite. The tile floor had been repaired, windows replaced, period wallpaper added to the dining room and living room, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves added to the little library off the loggia. The wood floor upstairs, too, had been refinished and glistened. A second bathroom had been added to the spare bedroom. Everything had been freshly painted.

Next they went into the kitchen, where Sara had replaced all the appliances, cabinetry, and floor. She had had existing windows enlarged and new ones built into the wall looking out on her garden.

In the old carriage house, now a three car garage, she had had a work bench installed and cabinets added along one wall. Best of all, as far as Matt was concerned, were the servants’ quarters, which Sara had converted to a “playroom” for Matt, his own private man cave, with a huge desk, an even larger HDTV, a pool table, and all of his “I love me” framed diplomas, awards, and pictures hung on the walls. Matt was speechless.

The next day was moving day, so they didn’t remain long at the house. Sara had a vague sense of wanting to stay in the house, but she knew she needed to get back to the apartment to box up everything and get ready for the movers. They left the garage and returned through the kitchen to the house. Just as Sara entered she saw her ghost on the landing across the living room. He was walking up the stairs. She smiled. Matt was oblivious.

He had a shift in the ER the following day, so Sara agreed to stay and supervise the moving company. As soon as Matt finished he would come to the house to help her unpack.

In the morning he hurried off to the hospital, and Sara waited for the movers, who arrived promptly at eight. It wasn’t going to take long to load their furnishings and boxes and get them to the house. By noon Sara was alone in her new home, ready to unpack when the phone rang. It was Matt. “Hey, how is it going?”

“Well, I’m here. The movers just finished unloading everything. I’m going up to A1A for a quick bite and then start unpacking.”

“Good. I’ll be there by three.”

Sara flipped her cell phone closed and walked into the living room. There sat her guitar player. Their eyes met for a moment, and then he looked away and began playing. Sara hesitated before walking into the dining room where she’d left her guitar.

Shortly after three, Matt drove up. The driveway gate was open, but Sara’s car wasn’t parked in front. Matt went in and drove around to the garage. Her car wasn’t there either. Odd, he thought. Perhaps she had left her car somewhere else out of the way. He got out of his car and walked over to the kitchen. The door was unlocked. He entered. Silence. Sara wasn’t anywhere on the property. Mildly concerned, he called the hospital, his parents, her parents, and three of her friends. No one had seen her. As the day wore on without any word from her, his concern turned to panic. As dusk settled, he called the police.

Matt couldn’t sleep. His parents and Sara’s came over to join him in his vigil. About every hour, Matt called the police. Exasperated, the dispatcher told him he would be called when they had any information. At seven the next morning, the phone rang. It was the Florida Highway Patrol. They had located Sara’s little red Miata outside a restaurant in Hastings. It was unlocked. Her purse was on the front seat, and the keys were in the ignition. Nothing appeared to have been stolen, and there was no sign of a struggle. Forensic experts were later to pour over the car, but found nothing unusual.

Police had discovered a woman’s foot prints in the sand leading from the driver’s side of the car into the restaurant and back again. There were no prints from the passenger side, but one of the waitresses remembered seeing a pretty, black-haired woman and a tall, slender man around six that morning. “It was real busy in here then, but I remember them ‘cause he was dressed kinda funny.”

For several weeks Sara’s disappearance was front-page news, but not one substantial clue or sighting was ever made. After a time, it slid to the bottom of the pile and eventually became an unsolved, cold case. Sara was never seen again.

THE MOORISH HOUSE ON CHARLOTTE STREET (Part 2)

Posted in Afterlife, Ghosts, Paranormal, Saturdays, St. Augustine, Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Zamora had been able to acquire more land around the house, because it was south of the main part of town. That made room for a detached kitchen, a sizeable garden, and a carriage house. Although the property had passed from the Zamora family’s hands, subsequent owners had been able to keep it intact. Through the years there had been modifications, although the original Moorish atmosphere had been maintained. The kitchen had been connected to the main house by an enclosed walkway. Servants’ quarters were built above the carriage house. The garden had long since been abandoned, but Sara was already making plans to grow her own vegetables.

She knew the history of the house but, oddly, had never been in it until she and Matt had looked at it with the realtor a few weeks before. When she was growing up, it had been owned by the English couple, who were there only a few months out of the year. Later, it had sat empty and deteriorating. No one seemed to want it, partly, she supposed, because restoring the house was going to cost a good bit and partly because of the stringent requirements of restoration enforced by the city and its Preservation Board—St. Augustine was the only city in the United States with an archeologist on staff.

Matt fumbled with the keys as he unlocked the pedestrian gate which led to the loggia. Sara kept pushing him, she was so excited. “Hold on just a second, Sara, let me get the gate open.” The handle finally turned. “There.” He stepped back to let her enter first.

Sara rushed in, grabbing the keys from Matt as she went. She had the front door unlocked and was inside before Matt had taken three steps. Breathless, she stood in the middle of the large living room and turned slowly, trying to take it all in. A wide, deep fireplace anchored the far wall. To the left stairs led to a landing and then up to the second floor. Also on the left another room tucked in between the outside wall and the loggia. She planned to make it a small library and office. To the right the dining room extended from the front wall next to the loggia almost to the back wall. A hallway led from the living room behind the dining room to the kitchen. The inside, like the exterior featured Moorish accents with an intricately-tiled floor and elaborate filigree covering the arched doorways. An ornate mirror hung over the fireplace.

Matt walked up behind Sara and put his arms around her. They stood there staring at their reflections in the mirror, neither saying anything. After a few moments she turned quickly and hugged him. As she looked over his right shoulder she thought she saw something move on the far side of the room. When she looked again, she saw nothing.

“Let’s go check out the rest of the house,” she finally said, grabbing his hand and pulling him toward the stairs.

The upstairs was just as enchanting as the first floor. The floors were wood, but the Moorish motif had been carried throughout the house. Even the bathroom had a Moorish flavor to it. They walked quickly around the rooms, deciding that they’d use the corner room as the master bedroom and considering the possibility of adding a second bath to the other bedroom. Then they went downstairs to inspect the kitchen and the rest of the property.

The ensuing weeks were busy for Sara and Matt. Sara was taking days off to spend time with the architect, the contractor, and the city archeologist, and Matt worked extra hours at the hospital to cover for her.

One Saturday Sara was in the house alone checking on the many details of the renovation. She was standing in the dining room, when she heard guitar music again. It was coming from the living room.

She stepped through the doorway—and there, sitting in a chair, was a dark-haired man bent over what looked like a very old guitar and playing the piece she had heard a few weeks earlier. He was dressed in what she thought was 18th or 19th Century clothing: brown, tight-fitting trousers with a long waist; a short cream-colored waistcoat with wide lapels; and a white, high-collared shirt with ruffles down the front and hanging from the cuffs of his waistcoat. He didn’t acknowledge her presence but continued to pick out the music with long, slender, and very supple fingers. Sara stood just outside the dining room and listened. After several moments, she cleared her voice. Slowly turning his head, his face expressionless, gazed at her for four or five seconds. Then he disappeared.

Her knees were shaking. She wasn’t exactly afraid. She was stunned. She had never seen a ghost before, but she was certain that’s what the man was. Still, it wasn’t a frightening experience. And she had been enthralled the music.

For weeks she came to the house as often as possible, and every time she was alone, the guitarist appeared. After several visits, he stopped disappearing when she made her presence known, evaporating only when someone else came or when he finished what he was playing, always the same piece.

Sara was fascinated by the apparition. She didn’t tell Matt or anyone else about it. She didn’t know exactly why. Did she believe he would think her insane? Did she feel guilty for some reason? She should have said something, but she didn’t. TO BE CONTINUED…

THE MOORISH HOUSE ON CHARLOTTE STREET

Posted in Afterlife, Ghost Hunting, Ghosts, Paranormal, Saturdays, St. Augustine, Stories with tags , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Night descended on the Moorish house on Charlotte Street. Sara stood on the cobblestones in front of the loggia, the recessed portico common in Mediterranean-style homes, absorbing the three-plus centuries of this house. She felt happy in spite of the descending evening and the ominous feeling cast by the huge, old oak bearded with Spanish moss swaying in the cold, January breeze. Empty and forbidding the house might seem to others. To Sara it was the fulfillment of a dream. She and Matt were closing on it in the morning. It would finally be theirs—well, theirs and the bank’s. A gust of icy breeze tousled her hair and she pulled the collar of her coat up higher, wrapping her arms around herself.

She stood admiring the Moorish-style architecture, the horseshoe arches, the geometric and arabesque shapes, the complex designs of the tile borders, the intricate, latticed privacy screen covering the balcony above the loggia. It reminded her of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. She imagined the exotic eyes of Arab harem beauties gazing down upon her.

Suddenly, she saw movement. A face in the window to the left of the balcony? Maybe she was imagining things. It was deathly quiet. When the sun went down, St. Augustine rolled up its streets. No one was about, especially in this residential area south of the Plaza on this cold evening.

There it was again. Movement in the second floor window. Just a glimpse. Less than half a second. But she did see something—or someone. She shivered and turned to leave, but just as quickly froze.

Music, the sound of a classical guitar, came from inside the house. It sounded like someone playing in the main room just inside the loggia. Whoever the guitarist, he played exquisitely. She tried to remember the piece; it was vaguely familiar. Baroque, perhaps Molino? Whatever. It was melancholy, haunting, beautiful, and she knew she had heard it before. She hesitantly walked to the loggia and peered in the window. The room was empty. Not one piece of furniture. Nothing—and no one. She turned and hurried out to the street, climbed into her Miata, and drove home, the music still in her head.

When Matt arrived from the hospital a little after eight, Sara was sitting on the couch plucking the strings of her guitar. He parked himself beside her and leaned back.

She stopped playing and smiled. “How was your day, sweetheart? Anything hot in the ER?”

“Kinda slow, actually. No major emergencies. How about you? What’s that you’re playing?”

Sara began strumming her guitar again. “I don’t really know. I’m trying to remember something.”

Matt watched as she played. She was enthralling, he thought. He loved her passion for the guitar and for medicine. He loved her black hair, her brown eyes. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. They had grown up together, been high school sweethearts, gone to college and medical school together. He had never considered marrying anyone else. Now they were doctors, working together in the Flagler Hospital Emergency Room. Matt couldn’t have been more content. He listened to her play for several minutes and finally sat up. “Hey, let’s have some supper, Mrs. Segovia,” and he walked into the kitchen.

Precisely at ten the next morning, Sara and Matt stepped out of their apartment to go to the closing. They purposely hadn’t scheduled any other appointments for the day so they could focus on the house. The closing went quickly. The last occupants, an English couple, had left it to a son who had never even seen the place. Apparently, he just wanted to get rid of it. And both her dad and her Uncle Bill had helped them with a healthy down payment. By eleven-thirty, keys in hand, they were hurrying down Charlotte Street!

Sara had been steeped in the lore of St. Augustine and of her family by her father, a history professor at Flagler College. She knew everything about the house. One of her ancestors, Gabriel Zamora, had come from a Moorish background in Granada. He had been driven out of Spain in 1612 by the Spanish Inquisition and had sailed to St. Augustine, where he had become a successful rancher. When the British wrested Florida from Spain in 1763, Zamora’s heirs remained, and Antonio Zamora built this house in 1793. To be continued…