A PLEASANTLY HAUNTED HOUSE
Charles Segui, a Minorcan whose ancestors came here in the middle 1700s, built the house in 1910. He was not a wealthy man. He had a bookstore down on St. George Street and also raised carrier pigeons as a hobby. One day a friend of Henry Flagler stopped in Mr. Segui’s bookstore. He was a publisher from New York and had heard about Mr. Segui’s pigeons. Charles took him to his house and showed the man his pigeons. The publisher bought the entire lot of them and planned to ship them to Cuba to send messages back and forth. Sadly, the ship the pigeons were on sank and all the pigeons were lost. But, luckily for Charles, he had enough money to buy a piece of land in the new Abbott tract, just north of town, and to build the fine Victorian home now known as Ancient City Inn.
Apparently, Charles really loved his home because he’s still here. He was a very methodical and punctilious man and rode his bicycle back and forth from his store every day at the same time. And every day at two o’clock in the afternoon, he would rush home, run upstairs to change from his business suit in to his work clothes, and feed his pigeons. Then, he’d change back to his business suit, come downstairs to eat his lunch, and peddle back to the store. And to this day precisely at two o’clock often the front door will fly open, and a big gray mist will fly upstairs, stomping loudly on the steps. The noise is so loud that the first time it happened, Will, who was back in his workshop, came running out to see what happened. Carri was sitting open-mouthed in the parlor, hardly believing what she’d just seen and heard. The stairs are carpeted now, but when Charles owned the house the steps were bare wood, and the sound, of course, is his footfalls running up the wooden stairs.
Charles’s daughter, Martha Lee, lived in the house until 1989, when she sold it to a couple who turned it into a bed and breakfast. We bought it in 2000. During the negotiations, Carri asked about ghosts. The previous owners were evasive. After the closing they did admit that “jewelry occasionally gets played with. There is a playful ghost—but be careful who you tell that to!”
What the previous owners didn’t know was that Carri is a spiritualist medium. “I was born in the hospital and brought home to my grandmother’s séance parlor.” Will, too, is a practicing medium. We travel around the world studying and teaching. So we were both very aware of all the activity taking place in the house.
Our first experience occurred right after we took the over Inn and began renovating. Whenever we went into the back bedroom upstairs in the northeast corner of the house, sorrow would surround us. It was a nondescript room painted a drab green, and we both felt a great sadness when we were in the room. So we began calling it the Sad Room. Carri also felt what she described as a military feeling, a certain stiffness. In any case, the energy was sad and lonely. After some weeks the Sad Room became the Colonel’s Room, because of the military connection Carri felt. And so it remained for several months. Whenever Carri went into the room she began itching as if she was wearing a wool uniform with all the buttons buttoned.
One day Carri, in a whimsical mood, decided to paint the Colonel’s Room pink, a very feminine “foo-foo” pink, and we put a flower border around the walls. The sadness immediately went away. It became a happy room.
The year or so after, when the room had long been renamed the Colonel’s Room, we happened to be talking to a neighbor next door and Carri asked her about the people who had built the house. She had heard that the previous owners had bought the house from a spinster named Martha Lee.
“You’re right, Martha Lee was the daughter of the original owner, and she had been an old maid until the day she died. She was around eighty-nine, I think. She never married. But, Martha Lee had a sad story. When she was in her twenties, her father died, and she and her mother, Maude, had to take in boarders to make ends meet. Well, one of the boarders was this man who Martha Lee described as very handsome. They put him in the back corner bedroom, the one that opens onto the back porch right next to Martha Lee’s room. Martha Lee soon fell in love with him, and one day Maude caught them together in a compromising position in Martha Lee’s room, which also opens on the same back porch. Well, Puritanical old Maude was outraged. It was the 1940s, so you can imagine. She threw the man out of the house and told him never to come back. Apparently, he moved to California, and Martha Lee never saw him again. She mourned for him the rest of her life.”
Carri asked “What was the man’s name?" The neighbor replied, “You know, that’s funny. Martha Lee never called him by name. All she ever said was that the only true love of her life was ‘the Colonel.’”
Before this we had not known the story but, we had been calling that bedroom the Colonel’s Room for all most a year. Martha Lee’s room is the most haunted room in the Inn, and the most popular. There are all kinds of stories about this room. There is an oil painting at the head of the queen-sized canopy bed of a beautiful young woman wearing a Victorian dress and a huge Victorian hat. That’s in honor of Martha Lee. Well, some people actually call her the other lady of the house. They bring presents for her, and all the hats that are hanging in the room have been left by guests to honor Martha Lee. We keep Butterscotch candy (Martha Lee’s favorite) in a dish that belonged to her for guests to enjoy.
Lots of times when no one else is in the house and Will and I are downstairs, we’ll hear the bed squeaking. We always laugh. We tell each other that old Maude isn’t around anymore, so Martha Lee and the Colonel are up there together again. And there are people who believe that Martha Lee casts love spells on couples in this room. They say when they’re in this bed, they feel someone pushing them together and lovingly tucking them in at night. They say if you’re having marital problems, just come and stay in Martha Lee’s room! Then, there’re the doors that open and shut, and the doorknobs that turn. People are always seeing stuff like that
We had some really weird guests, complete with spiked hair, came to spend the night. They were in St. Augustine for a wedding and were running late. We checked them in and took them up to Martha Lee’s Room, where they just dropped their bags and left for the wedding. They didn’t return until about eleven that night and had to be in Jacksonville at seven the next morning to catch a plane. So they were only in the room from eleven until five. When Will went up to clean the room the next morning the heavy oil painting of Martha Lee was turned upside down. The couple could have played a little joke on us, but we don’t think so. They were only in the room a short time, and they had to have been tired. No, we think Martha Lee felt a little upside down having such “weird” guests staying in her room.
Because the Inn is so pleasantly haunted, many paranormal research groups come through. In fact, not long ago, a big group came in to do research on several locations and stayed with us. One man in the team was rather skeptical. He had heard stories about the Inn and wanted Martha to scare him. Carri told him to be careful about what he wished for, then checked him in and showed him up to Martha Lee’s Room.
A few minutes after Carri got downstairs, she heard a crash, and the man came storming down. He was upset. He had sat on the bed and it collapsed. “What kind of beds do you have in this place, anyway?” he asked. Will assured him that the beds were fine. Hundreds of people had slept in the bed in that room, and it had never before fallen apart. Carri warned him again about not wishing for things he wasn’t prepared to handle. Then, Will went up and put the bed back together, tightened everything and straightened the slats under the box springs. Not five minutes later, the bed crashed down again.
This time when the man came down he was even more upset. “Scared yet?” Carri asked him.
“I’m not scared; I’m mad. I’m not sleeping on that broken bed. I want another room.”
They moved him over to the Colonel’s Room, and everything went well the rest of the afternoon. Later that night, long after we had gone to bed, someone started pounding on the front door. Will got up and answered it. It was the skeptical guy from the Colonel’s Room. He was in his pajamas, and his feet were bare. And he wasn’t so skeptical anymore.
“Now, I’m scared,” he said. “I just went out on the back porch to have a cigarette before going to bed, and the door slammed shut. It locked on me. I couldn’t get back in.”
That door doesn’t lock without a key. The key was in the room, and no one else was there. Carri again chided the man about wishing for supernatural experiences. He began apologizing to her, but she said, “Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to Martha Lee. Tell her you’re sorry and now you know she’s there. Be a little more respectful and she will welcome you.” He did, and the rest of the weekend went without incident.
Here’s another story about Martha Lee. Martha Lee had a cat, a big orange tabby named Toby. She had him for eighteen years. He died before Martha Lee sold the house, but his Spirit is still around. He’s the most frequently seen ghost here. We see him out of the corner of our eyes in several different places in the house. He wanders all over the neighborhood, and neighbors still see him. There was an elderly lady who lived in the house right behind the Inn who reported seeing him at her house all the time. Guests will hear a cat purring inside the house, and we no longer have a cat.
The daybed in Martha Lee’s Room seems to be Toby’s favorite resting spot. Well, we like things nice and tidy and like the bedspreads to be tight and smooth. When I come up to clean this room, I’ll always smooth that daybed out. When we first got the place I’d come in here, make the beds and clean up, and I would always smooth the daybed out. Then, if I came back up in the middle of the day, I’d always find an indentation right in the middle of it, and I’d say, ‘Will, stop playing jokes,’ because I thought that he came in and made those indentations. One Monday I was cleaning up, making beds, and such. Will had gone to the grocery store, and no one else was in the house. I had made the bed—and straightened the daybed—and had gone out to get fresh towels. When I came back in, there was the indentation. We later found out about Toby from the neighbors. He still comes in here a lot to sleep on his favorite bed.
Recently, a paranormal research groups came to the Inn to study voice phenomena and take orb photos. The group started photos and recording sounds, asking for confirmation, saying things like, “If there are any spirits in here please make your presence known.” We followed them around but didn’t hear or sense a thing. Carri is clairvoyant and is usually aware of all the paranormal activity that goes on around the Inn. Neither of us sensed anything during the group’s tour of the house.
When the research group finally finished, they all went into the parlor to listen to what they had captured on the tape recorder. Carri was quite sure they weren’t going to hear anything. Well, she was shocked.
On the recording as one of the team was asking for any spirits to make their presence known, a lady with a Southern drawl cut in and said, ‘Git outa here, dad burn it!’ Just as loud as you please. ‘Git outa here, dad burn it.’ Carri almost fainted, because neither of us had heard or even sensed anything. Carri thought it was Martha Lee and that she was displeased with all equipment there. She just wanted them to git that equipment ‘outa here, dad burn it!’ We got quite a laugh out of that.
Many researchers have gotten some excellent orb shots. Orbs are those little balls of light you sometimes see in photos. We think they may be places that spirit energy enters and exits from. In the far corner of Carri’s reading room, the photographs captured a cluster of orbs that ran up through the ceiling into the Maxfield Parrish Suite and we experienced all kinds of interesting phenomena in that area. It’s a very active.
We had six women from a paranormal society staying here not long ago. They had been out ghost hunting around town and on their way back to the Inn around midnight, they passed the Huguenot Cemetery, and as they passed one of them said, ‘If there’s anyone there, come on home with us.’ They came back, went upstairs. They were just sitting there talking, when this shadow figure appeared out of nowhere. He was a small man dressed in a Victorian era suit. He seemed to be pleasant and polite and tipped his hat. You can imagine the ladies were a little shocked. He stayed there for a few minutes. A small man dressed in a business suit, it sure sounds like it could have been Charles?
I have to tell you about our beloved Eleanor.” She was our sweet old dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback. We named her Eleanor after Carri’s aunt Eleanor who had raised Rhodesian Ridgebacks. And Carri’s aunt was named after Eleanor Roosevelt, so indirectly our dog Eleanor was named after Mrs. Roosevelt. We had her for years, but age got the best of her and tumors were all over her body. All she could do was sit in the big old chair in the dining room. Finally, one day around Christmas, we decided that she was suffering too much and took her to the vet to be put to sleep.
We were devastated. Carri cried and cried while Will was gone, but when he came home and opened the door, her spirits brightened. She could just feel Elie with him. And Eleanor didn’t feel old. She was young and full of energy, and her tail was wagging. It was very comforting. And her energy remains. Elie went nuts over chicken, just loved it. Even now, when Carri cooks chicken, Elie’s right there, thumping her tail on the floor. And she loved to go to the beach. When they go to the beach now, Carri feels Elie getting into the car. Her presence is very reassuring.
Now we had this client, Gary, who came in to get an aura photo. (I’ll tell you about aura photos in a minute.) Anyway, he seemed a bit skeptical. When I read his photo, I could see a spirit face in it, and I told him that I saw the face of a man who been a prisoner of war with him, but he had died in the POW camp. Well, Gary was floored. ‘How did you know that I was a POW?’ Carri said you came in for a Psychic Reading, didn’t you? After that he started coming over often, although he was still borderline skeptical. He came over one day and started to sit in Eleanor’s chair. I said, ‘Wait a minute, Gary, Eleanor is in that chair. Ask her to get out first.’ He gave me this sheepish grin and said, ‘Yeah, right. Sure she is.’ So I said, ‘Come on, Elie, Gary wants to sit in the chair.’ And immediately the cushion, which had been compressed, came back up. Gary jumped back and stared at that chair. I think that’s when he became a believer.”
Now I will explain about Aura Photos. All living things have an electromagnetic energy surrounding them. It is a representation of their Spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental energy. At the turn of the 20th century, the Russians developed “Krilian photography”. It captures this energy on film, and the Japanese have created a more sophisticated adaptation. The method involves high frequency electric currents, and energy vibrating at different frequencies shows up on film as different colors, so an aura photo will show the colors of whomever or whatever is being photographed. Will takes the photo, and Carri interprets it.
One day a couple women came in wanting an aura photo. Will took the picture and when I sat down with them to interpret the colors I got this message to tell them Lily was here. Well, when I said that, they started giggling. I asked if any of them knew a Lily, because there was a Spirit energy in the photo and she kept telling me to tell them that Lily was here. Finally, they asked if someone had called and told me about their coming over. I said no, one had, and they then told me they were staying at the St. Francis Inn. I still didn’t get it, so one woman said, ‘You know, the St. Francis Inn has a ghost named Lily, and just before we came over here, we were talking to some of the other guests and were saying that it would be funny if Lily came with us and got her picture taken, too.’ And I said, ‘Well, there she is.’”
Recently, we had a couple staying in Martha Lee’s Room. In the middle of the night the woman woke her husband up and complained that the people upstairs were making too much noise. The husband smiled, ‘Go back to sleep, love. There is no upstairs.’ Things like that happen often, but, except for the guy who wanted to be scared, no one has ever had any bad experiences. In fact, all our guests say they feel protected and surrounded by love, like they were being watched over.”
And who wouldn’t feel that way with Martha Lee tucking you in at night?
Latest news has it that the "Colonel and martha Lee" have cast yet another love spell and there has been another proposal here at the Inn. wedding date set for June!!!