Monday, June 3, 2013

Florida: Cedar Key’s Haunted Hotel

Just off Florida’s Gulf Coast sits a small barrier reef island. Over the years, several
hurricanes and fires have devastated the community of Cedar Key on this island. But this small town has always managed to bounce back. 

One structure in Cedar Key, in particular, survived both natural disasters and human tragedy. This structure’s history has left its mark in the shape of several ghosts that have been seen many times.

Today “The Island Hotel” is one of Florida’s most beautiful Bed and Breakfasts and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This structure formerly housed a general store and post office in 1859. Its walls are 12 inches thick which allowed it to weather many storms. One hurricane that hit Cedar key in 1896 flattened the whole town except for this building.

During the Civil War, the island played a vital role. Confederate Blockade Runners used Cedar Key to export cotton and lumber, and import badly needed food and supplies for their troops. 

As a result, Union troop burned down the town. This structure was the only one to survive. Confederate troops managed to take back the town, and they used this building to billet officers. After the war, the structure was used again as a general store.

One ghost that is spotted from this era is that of a young black boy who did odd jobs in the general store for the manager, after the Civil War. One day the boss spotted this boy putting something in his pocket, assuming he had stolen something he chased him out the back door. The boy was never seen again. 

A year later, when the water cistern located in the basement was being cleaned, workers found a skeleton of a child. The boy had evidently hidden in this large cistern to avoid capture and drowned. This area is accessed by a trap door at the back of the building, and it is stated that this boy’s ghost still haunts this very dark low-beamed room.

Yet another ghost from this era appears quite often at the hotel. A Confederate soldier is seen early in the morning standing at attention just inside the second-floor balcony doors. Once spotted, this apparition disappears quickly.

By the 1880s this building was being used as a boardinghouse and restaurant. It is rumored, President
Grover Cleveland stayed the night. 

In 1914, the building was renovated, and a second-floor balcony was added to the structure. 

A man by the name of Markham re-opened it as the “Bay Hotel.” One of the town’s citizens, Simon Feinberg objected to the fact that Markham had an illegal still in his attic. 

Markham denied its existence and Feinberg mysteriously died of food poisoning. 

A ghost that is spotted fits the description of Simon Feinberg. His apparition is seen mostly at night wandering the halls and rooms. He disappears quickly as well.

Credit: Ebyabe

During the Great Depression, the hotel was run as a speak-easy and brothel. At this time the structure was saved from a fire because several of the town’s firemen were visiting the hotel when this fire broke out. 

A female ghost haunts Room 27 and Room 28 in the hotel. It is said that she was a prostitute that worked in the hotel when it was a speak-easy. 

She was murdered in the hotel. She is known as the” friendly ghost” because guests who stay in these two rooms are awakened when she approaches their beds. She kisses them on the cheek and then disappears in a smoky haze.

By World War ll, the structure was so run down it was basically condemned. But in 1946 a couple, Bessie and Loyal Gibbs bought the building and brought it back to life. 

They renamed it “The Island Hotel” and its first-floor bar became well known. Regular patrons included: Pearl Buck, Vaughan Monroe, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Francis Langford, Myrna Loy, Richard Boone and John MacDonald. 

Yet another hurricane hit Cedar Key in 1950, this time the structure lost its roof, but it was quickly repaired. Since the Gibb’s passing several new owners have made even more improvements to the hotel.

Bessie Gibbs, who lived at the hotel for twenty-six years, until she became too ill to run it, is also often seen. Late at night, she is spotted walking through walls, and she likes to slam doors. 

Others have witnessed the result of her handy work. It is said she likes to move pictures and furniture around the hotel. 

Some state The Island Hotel hosts more than ten ghosts. Other ghosts at the hotel include two Native American Indians, a fisherman and a tall, thin man that has not been identified. 

Bessie’s old room is considered to have a "portal" that brings many ghosts into the hotel.

Bessie Gibbs
Florida State Archives

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I visit the island hotel the new owner was very pleasantwe went upstairs to the hotel rooms and we got to look at all the rooms it's a little eerie but I didn't see any ghosts it's a great place to visit it's charming