Spectral Selfies in the News

In the past few weeks, several people visiting haunted places here in the South have been photobombed in a spectral fashion. Visitors to St. Francisville, Louisiana’s The Myrtles Plantation and Homestead, Florida’s Hotel Redland have captured images of someone in their photographs, someone who wasn’t physically present when the photos were taken.

Six friends visiting The Myrtles decided to take a group selfie just outside of the house. Upon closer inspection, the photographer noticed the face of a seventh woman peering from behind a window pane behind the group. While all the women in the group are smiling, the women in the window pane appears to be scowling. Photographs of the this nature are easy to fake, so I cannot say this photograph is authentic. Surely, this is not the first photograph taken at The Myrtles to possibly show something spectral. In 2015, I published a photograph taken by an acquaintance that appears to show someone sitting on the staircase.

The Myrtles, 2005, by Bnet504. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Perhaps the most famous haunted places in the country, The Myrtles (7747 US-61, St. Francisville, Louisiana) is a late 18th-century plantation with a tragic history. Of course, much of that tragic history has literally come back to haunt the home. The house is preserved as a museum, bed & breakfast, and haunted attraction. In my opinion, at least some of that tragic history has been created to make the haunting more interesting. I looked into these stories in a blog entry several years ago.

It’s interesting that the other selfie that has been published in the news is from a place that also has a doubtful history. The history of the Hotel Redland (5 South Flagler Avenue, Homestead, Florida) is not as long or as varied as The Myrtles, though it has also left spectral impressions. Those spectral impressions led a friend of a hotel staff member to investigate the hotel recently. During the investigation, the visitor snapped a selfie standing in the lobby. In the selfie, a face appears which the British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, described as resembling the horror movie villain, Michael Myers, from John Carpernter’s movie franchise, Halloween.

My opinion on the photograph is that this is a case of pareidolia, when the brain tries to make sense of something chaotic by finding patterns in it. In this case, light reflected in the window pane creates a “face,” within the reflection.

The first building on this site was constructed in 1904 as a boarding house for railroad employees called the Homestead Inn. This building’s history was rather quiet until the fateful day of November 10, 1913. I’ll allow the Miami Metropolis to take over the story from here:

A few minutes before 2 o’clock in the afternoon the large steam roller, being used in rolling the streets, puffed down in front of the Homestead Inn, and it was only a few seconds later that the roof of the hotel was discovered on fire, having caught from a flying spark from the engine. Soon the entire fire-fighting population of the town was on the scene, and all efforts were brought to bear to save the burning building, but to no avail. However, the furnishings were carried to safety and the loss of the building is just about covered by insurance.

Flames spread to five adjoining buildings destroying several other businesses. The paper ends the article by mentioning that a fire caused by sparks from the same steamroller had damaged the city’s other hotel across the street that morning. “It is likely that some action will be taken to curb the chances of another such conflagration starting from the same cause.”

Hotel Redland, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

While the damage to the structure led to much of it being rebuilt, the story of this dramatic fire continued to be told and expanded. The story of the fire as told now sets the scene late at night where the fire takes the lives of a number of guests soundly asleep in their rooms. These same guests now haunt the hotel.

An article in the August 16th Miami New Times detailed a paranormal investigation of the hotel by the South Florida team of PRISM Miami, lead by investigator David Rodriguez. That article hints at the hotel actually being haunted, though the details are somewhat vague.

Sources

Did you enjoy this article?
Help support Southern Spirit Guide
by leaving a few dollars in my tip jar.

A haunt in Hamilton County, Florida

Old Hamilton County Jail
501 Northeast 1st Avenue
Jasper, Florida

When it closed in 1984, Jasper, Florida’s Hamilton County Jail was the oldest operating jail in the state. In the 91 years it was operational, this building witnessed tremendous tragedy and sadness, such emotion that imprinted itself on the walls of the structure. Even before its closure, ghost stories about the jail circulated throughout Hamilton County, in fact, the National Register for Historic Places nomination form mentions that the building has a haunted reputation within the local folklore

Old Hamilton County Jail, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built by the Pauly Jail Company, a St. Louis-based company that constructed jails throughout the country, the jail in Jasper includes a tower suitable for carrying out justice. The historians who wrote the National Register nomination weren’t sure if executions had actually been conducted within the building, though local rumors insist to that fact. Local historian Johnny Bullard stated in a 2014 article that three people met their fates here. He further notes that one or two of these executions were among the last hangings east of the Mississippi.

A 2016 article quotes the president of the Hamilton County Historical Society as saying that no executions took place within the walls of the buildings, but that gallows were constructed for that purpose outside the building. Notice of a 1916 execution at the jail appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. Interestingly, the paper did not use the name of the criminal, only addressing him as “the murderer of Deputy Raiford Royals,” “the condemned,” and “black man.” While noting that the execution took place on a specially constructed scaffold outside the jail, the article remarks that there was some joy during this most somber of occasions: “As the fatal moment drew near he [Walter Durham, the condemned] laughed and joked with his executioners—smiling even in the very face of death. He claimed he was ‘right with God,’ and was ‘going yonder’—pointing upward. He then asked the negroes present to sing a hymn, himself joining in, and the large crowd was curiously quiet while the mournful dirge floated on the passing breeze.”

After being allowed to pen a brief letter to his parents in Hahira, Georgia, the noose was adjusted around his neck and Mr. Durham called for one of his ministers to pray with him. That minister had departed, but a white minister, the Reverend W. B. Tresca of the local Methodist church stepped forward to offer a prayer. The sheriff stepped forward and “launched the soul of the murderer into eternity.” The National Register form offers that Durham’s execution may have been swift and public because of the local outcry over Deputy Royals’ death.

In addition to executions, it is also noted that several other deaths occurred here including a suicide. However, the wife of a deputy sheriff who lived here gave birth to both of her sons in the building, adding some moments of levity to the building’s dark history.

Old Hamilton County Jail, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Investigators have been combing the jail for years looking for evidence of paranormal activity. Newspapers have documented some of the encounters that have occurred here. In 2010, a female investigator entered a bedroom that had once housed members of the warden’s family and sensed a spirit. She told the Gainesville Sun that she felt “a strong pressure on my shoulders and chest. And then my stomach starts to turn and I get this tingling feeling in my legs.”

Historian Johnny Bullard demurred when asked if he had personally had any experiences within the jail. He visited the old jail once with a friend late at night. He told the Suwannee Democrat, “I heard something. I saw something that moved…like a shadow, and I didn’t stick around. It was frightening enough to me that I did not stay around.” He continued, saying that others have heard some frightening sounds including voices and footsteps in the empty building.

Sources

  • Arteaga, Allison. “Paranormal investigators help North Florida.” Gainesville Sun. 16 October 2010.
  • Bulger, Peggy & Larry Paarlberg. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Old Hamilton County Jail. 16 May 1983.
  • Northeastern Florida Paranormal Investigators. Investigation Report for Old Hamilton County Jail. September 2010.
  • “Public execution of a negro at Jasper.” Tallahassee Democrat. 17 September 1916.
  • Taylor, Joyce Marie. “A spooky time at the haunted old jail in Jasper.” Suwannee Democrat. 23 October 2014.

Did you enjoy this article?
Help support Southern Spirit Guide
by leaving a few dollars in my tip jar.

A Calhoun County haunt, finally!

Old Calhoun County Jail
20830 Northeast W.C. Reeder Drive
Blountstown, Florida

When I was working on part two of my series on Florida Hauntings, County by County—Part II, I ran into a problem that has persistently plagued me: I had information on a haunting, but it was far too little. For several years, the sheriff of Calhoun County, Florida has opened the old jail in Blountstown as a haunted attraction to raise money for charity. Articles covering the event have hinted at actual paranormal activity in the jail, but none have specifically discussed the activity, until this Halloween.

Old Calhoun County Jail, by Forrest Granger, circa 1940. From the Forrest Granger Collection, www.floridamemory.com.

In a November 1st article for the Panama City ABC affiliate, WMBB, a former jail chief reported that the jail is “haunted by trouble.” The jail chief began working at the facility in 1984 and during her tenure the sheriff shot and killed an inmate in the building. “The sheriff shot him, and the place [the bullet hole, presumably] is still in the wall. He got to the top of the steps and he died,” the retired jailer noted.

After that incident, the jailer began to see “mysterious movements” while on her rounds through the building. One evening, she reached the top of the steps and heard the sound of a door slamming. Calling another officer, he investigated but was not able to locate the source of the sound.

Old Calhoun County Jail, 2015, by Jimmy Emerson. Courtesy of Flickr.

The old jail was constructed in 1920 and served the local sheriff until 2007. A few years ago, the sheriff came up with the idea of taking people through the building for a few scares as the “old jail is scary on a regular day.” According to the sheriff, this haunted jail event will open the building to visitors for future Halloween.

Sources