A PLEASANTLY HAUNTED HOUSE
Welcome to Ancient City Inn. Our story begins with Charles Segui, a Minorcan whose ancestors came here in the middle 1700s, built the house starting in 1910 built by Minorcan ship builders and completed in 1915.. 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 carrier 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/Edwardian home now known today as Ancient City Inn.
Apparently, Charles really loved his home because he’s still visits here. Often showing himself as still being the protector of the place. 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 footsteps 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. That makes us only the third owner of this historic home. We keep everything as original as possible. 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 Jamestown, NY 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 and these energies welcomed us.
Our first experience occurred right after we took over the 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 late teens, 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. 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 active 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 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 she often returns the favor by leaving her favorite butterscotch candy for them. We keep Butterscotch candy 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 footsteps and 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 often see things like that. While little of Sequi's original furniture is still in the Inn, Martha Lee somehow managed for us to buy her Victorian needle point chair to bring back home. One day we were visiting an antique shop near Hastings and this chair seemed to say take me home. Once home an old friend of Martha's stopped by. Her eyes grew big "where did you get Martha's chair I would know it anywhere. To prove it was Martha's chair she even showed me where a tack had been put in to help hold the edging. Such a thoughtful gift that Martha made sure we were in the right place and right place to bring it back home. It now resides back in Marth's room where it belongs.
Back a few years ago, we had some really way out 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 “way out” 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.”
We 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. Often guests get pictures of Toby sitting on the window sill . 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 only have dogs.
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 often 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. 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. 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. We was quite sure they weren’t going to hear anything. Well, we were surprised.
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.’ We almost fainted. We recognized the voice from a recording at the historical society of the voice of Martha Lee,
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. Clusters of orbs have been photographed through out the Inn and garden.
Much of the garden was started by Marth Lee. She was an active member of our local garden club and appreciated nature and we do. Know that you will be welcomed here by us all. Please come visit often.