Fort Myers Haunted History Tour

I’ve gone on over a dozen ghost tours all around the country, and even Canada, but for some reason I never thought to review one until now. The Haunted History Tour of Fort Myers, Florida was one of the best. Our tour guide, Lauri, was upbeat and enthusiastic. I learned a lot about the history of Fort Myers as well as its legends.

I had the opportunity to go to Fort Myers around Christmas last year and decided to do something fun one evening. From talking with locals, I learned downtown Fort Myers has gone through a renaissance in recent years. In 1985, it served as a shooting location for George Romero’s Day of the Dead. The abandoned downtown seemed like the perfect locale for a zombie film. Today, it is beautiful, with brick streets, plenty of lighting, bars, shops, and restaurants. I spent some time at a trendy art bar, Space 39, and a cool 1920s themed bar called The 86 Room.

The Haunted History Tour is part of Fort Myers’ True Tours. It’s easy to see their commitment to quality. Its founder, Gina Taylor, was the first director of the Murphy-Burroughs Home, former director of the Southwest Florida Museum of History, a founding member and vice president of the Lee County Trust for Historic Preservation, Board member of the River District Alliance and of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Southwest Florida Attractions Association.

Continue reading “Fort Myers Haunted History Tour”

Hotel Alex Johnson’s Enigmatic 8th Floor

A broken heart led to a tragic wedding night suicide. Does the ghost of this jilted bride still linger in Room 812?

  • The Hotel Alex Johnson opened in 1928 and was described as the “showplace of the West.”
  • It was built by and named after Alex Carlton Johnson, Vice President of the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad.
  • Room 812 is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a bride-to-be who jumped from the window on her wedding night.

The Hotel Alex Johnson sits at the heart of beautiful downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. It is a luxury hotel with stores, a coffee shop, and a bar and restaurant on the first floor and a swanky rooftop club on the tenth floor. Prices are reasonable in the off season, so when a friend and I visited South Dakota in early April, we jumped at the opportunity to stay here. It helped, of course, that this hotel is rumored to be haunted.

Alex Carlton Johnson was Vice President of the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad. As construction began on Mount Rushmore, he knew tourists would need somewhere to stay, so he invested his fortune in a hotel. The Hotel Alex Johnson opened in 1928 and was described as the “showplace of the West.” Its famous guests included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Alex Johnson died in 1938, but according to some hotel employees, part of him never left.

There are two rooms on the eighth floor that are widely believed to be haunted, so much so that the Hotel Alex Johnson offers a special “ghost adventure” guest package to stay there. The rooms are 802 and 812. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, a young couple staying in Room 802 had several hair-raising encounters. They described hearing music that did not seem to have a source, and both said they awoke to feel like they were being choked. Their pets also appeared agitated and behaved strangely.

Continue reading “Hotel Alex Johnson’s Enigmatic 8th Floor”

Squire’s Castle and its Phantasmal Light Show

A fairy tale gatehouse has become a charming addition to a public park in suburban Cleveland, but some visitors claim otherworldly residents flicker through its empty halls.

  • Standard Oil co-founder Feargus B. Squire began construction on the property in the 1890s.
  • Squire’s wife, Louisa, died of pneumonia in 1927.
  • After years of vandalism, the “castle” has been heavily renovated.
  • Visitors claim to see a red light shining in the darkened windows.

The hollowed out shell of Squire’s Castle sits deep in the woods off River Road in the northeastern suburbs of Cleveland. This romantic, Medieval-looking stone edifice once served as a carriage or gate house for Standard Oil co-founder Feargus B. Squire. Squire intended to build a mansion at the site, but never finished his project. Since opening to the public, visitors claim to see mysterious lights flashing in the darkened windows. The light, they say, is the spectral remnants of Squire’s wife, “Rebecca”.

Feargus O’Conner Bowden Squire, or simply Feargus B. Squire, was born on February 12, 1850 in Devon, England. His family emigrated to the Cleveland area in 1860. Squire rose to prominence in the burgeoning petroleum industry, and served as Mayor of Wickliffe in 1923.

Squire built the small Romanesque Revival gatehouse northeast of Cleveland in the 1890s and intended it to be part of a larger estate, but never finished the project. The finished gatehouse included several bedrooms, living areas, a large kitchen, library, a breakfast porch, and hunting room. Squire spent time there with his daughter, Irma, but his wife never enjoyed the rustic getaway.

Continue reading “Squire’s Castle and its Phantasmal Light Show”

Deadwood’s Bullock Hotel

The ghost of famed Western lawman Seth Bullock is believed to wander the halls of this historic hotel.

  • The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896.
  • A mysterious “tall man” matching Bullock’s description has been seen strolling down the hall on several occasions.
  • Seth’s Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of the Bullock Hotel, is supposed to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel.

The historic Bullock Hotel, located at 633 Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota, is one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries. It is reportedly haunted by none other than the ghost of its namesake, Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, as well as a host of other spirits. A friend and I recently stayed at the Bullock Hotel on a trip through South Dakota, and although we didn’t experience anything unusual, we did learn a lot about this historic place.

When you enter Deadwood at night, down the brick street lined with softly glowing lamps, it is easy to feel transported back in time. The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896 and contained 60 luxury rooms. In 1976, the Aryes family purchased the hotel and turned it into a hardware store. Unfortunately, they auctioned off all the antique furnishings. 15 years later, a company called Bullock Properties purchased the building, began reconverting it into a hotel, and tried to restore its former glory.

Continue reading “Deadwood’s Bullock Hotel”

Split Rock Quarry’s Terrifying Crusher

The site of a tragic and deadly accident at a quarry in central New York has become a popular destination for legend trippers and outdoor enthusiasts.

  • The Solvay Process Company built Split Rock Quarry to mine limestone west of Syracuse in the 1880s.
  • A massive explosion at the quarry in 1918 killed upwards of 50 workers.
  • Since the accident, some visitors have reported strange encounters in the abandoned quarry at night.

On July 2, 1918, a terrible explosion at a munitions factory outside Syracuse, New York claimed the lives of more than 50 workers, injuring dozens more. 15 men were incinerated beyond recognition and over 20 reported missing and presumed dead. Today, Split Rock Quarry is largely abandoned, taken over by hikers, urban explorers, curiosity seekers, and partiers.

Evidence of late night excursions abound, and some of these nocturnal visitors have brought back stories of strange sights and sounds around the old rock crusher. Dark, graffiti covered tunnels excite the imagination. This sinister reputation led the site to be featured on the Travel Channel’s Destination Fear in October 2012.

Split Rock Quarry was originally built by the Solvay Process Company, which was founded in 1880 by Belgian chemists Ernest and Alfred Solvay, American engineer William B. Cogswell, and businessman Rowland Hazard II. The Solvay Process Company manufactured soda ash (sodium carbonate) through the Solvay Process, which combines salt brine and limestone. The limestone was quarried at Split Rock near Onondaga, New York and pulverized in a giant rock crusher.

Continue reading “Split Rock Quarry’s Terrifying Crusher”

A Christmas Story House Offers Holiday Spirits

The filming location of A Christmas Story has attracted tens of thousands of nostalgic tourists, and at least one paranormal investigation team believes it may be home to restless spirits.

Largely overlooked upon its release in 1983, A Christmas Story has since become a beloved holiday classic. Set in the fictional Indiana town of Hohman during the 1950s, the film is based on stories from the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. This simple tale of a boy who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas was filmed at several locations, including a single-family home in south Cleveland, Ohio.

This 1895 Victorian home is located at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood and is open to the public year round  for tours. In 2004, Brian Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur purchased the home on Ebay and restored to appear as it did in A Christmas Story.

Jones, a fan of the movie, had already created a profitable company selling replica “leg lamps,” also from the film. Directly across the street from the house is the official A Christmas Story House Museum, which features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos.

In January 2014, a team of paranormal investigators sought to determine whether the famous house was haunted. According to Cleveland.com and Fearnet, paranormal investigators filming a new TV series called American Haunts investigated the house and claimed it would appear on the seventh episode of the series. Co-hosts and lead investigators Dave Rhode and Craig Gozzetti formed their paranormal team, Investigating American Haunts, in 2012.

Continue reading “A Christmas Story House Offers Holiday Spirits”

The Witch: A New-England Folktale

The Witch: A New-England Folktale (2015) is an entertaining, wonderfully atmospheric and historically accurate take on witch mythology in colonial New England. Plenty of films claim historic accuracy, but you rarely see it. Mel Gibson is notorious for his pseudo historical (but highly entertaining) historical fiction movies. The Witch, though a semi-low budget horror film, puts those to shame. Listen to what the director says about his attention to detail.

“I am positive it is the most accurate portrayal of this period in American history on screen. We went to such lengths to make it so,” writer-director Robert Eggers told the LA Times earlier this year. “Everything with the farmstead that we built, everything that you see on-screen is made from the correct building materials that would have been used at the time. Most often we used the traditional tools and techniques to create these objects. And the clothing is hand stitched based on extant clothing.”

Ok, except the nails, which are round and not square like they would have been in the seventeenth century.

Continue reading “The Witch: A New-England Folktale”