Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Florida’s Boston House

The Boston House, located in Fort Pierce, Florida, is not the stereotypical haunted house. It is an elegant 3-story red-brick mansion that was built in 1909. With 5 bedrooms and 4,300 square feet, it was considered an architectural marvel when it was first built.

William T. Jones, an engineer for the Florida East Coast railroad, was seriously injured in a dynamite explosion that was placed on the track by a careless workman. He received $6,000 in a settlement. He used this money to have his new home, which he originally called Cresthaven built on a high ridge overlooking the Indian River.

Indian River
Jones and his wife had five children. He retired from the railroad and grew pineapples and sold real estate. Later he became the third sheriff of St. Lucie County. During the time the family lived at Cresthaven, they experienced several tragedies.

His youngest son aged 9 accidentally shot and killed a playmate with his father’s gun. Another son was killed in a motorcycle accident. His daughter died of a heart attack.

Yet another son at the age of 17 while riding on a motorcycle collided with a friends' vehicle when they were out riding with their girlfriends. He and two others were seriously injured. His friend’s girlfriend was killed. He broke up with his girlfriend and later committed suicide.

During the Great Depression Jones experienced some drastic financial troubles. He borrowed money from a friend, Irving C. Whitney. But when Whitney died his sister, Rose Whitney inherited his estate. She called in the note on the loan that her brother had given to Jones. In 1949 she gave the Jones family a week to vacate the property.

Rose, a retired schoolteacher, and spinster, then moved into the home with her older sister Isabelle. It was at this point the home’s name was changed to Boston House--most likely because Rose had moved from Massachusetts to Florida.

In 1954 when Whitney died the home was put up for auction, but it didn't sell. From 1954 to 1975 the records are unclear, so it is not known for sure who owned the property during these years. 

In 1975, Boston House was sold to an engineering firm, Wood, Beard, and Associates. This firm then sold the property to Leonard Cottern and his wife Dianne in 1976. This couple was rumored to hold séances in the home’s attic.

In 1983, Cottern sold the home to Kendall Phillips and his law partners. Phillips owned the Boston House for the next 25 years. Cottern mentioned to Phillips at the time of the purchase that the structure had paranormal activity. He told him the engineers that had worked there before he bought the house had refused to work on the 3rd floor after 5:00 p.m.

So when odd things began to happen, it didn’t surprise Phillips. During renovations for his law firm, he noticed that paint and other materials that were put away at night would be found missing the next morning. Workers noted quick changes in temperature and heard noises that had no apparent cause.

One attorney that had a 2nd-floor office that was accessible only by key asked Phillip one morning if someone had been in his office. Phillips told him no. The day before he had left a draft overlay open on a table but when he had entered his office that morning, he found it rolled up and back in its carrying tube.

Another time when Phillips’ daughter was in the office she saw a word processor on a computer screen type random letters--this computer was turned off. Phillips at first dismissed this, but as he and his daughter left the building, a co-worker came running to tell him that the same thing happened to her.

One legal assistant that worked for the firm watched in horror as her computer keyboard lifted off her desk, and an office plant bent over. Other workers heard books crashing down to the floor above them when no one was upstairs.

Over the years most of the activity has centered in the mansions upper floors--especially the 3rd floor--the attic, which Phillips remodeled into five offices. These occurrences are most pronounced in the northeast corner office.

Phillips intrigued by all the unexplained activity invited two psychics to come to the firm one night. They told him there was “ a strong presence of a woman.” When they asked her to appear, she refused.

Later that night as Phillips and eight others stood outside the firm on the sidewalk seven of them saw the silhouette of a woman standing at one of the attics gabled windows. They then saw her shadow as she moved from one window to the next.

Phillips on several occasions received phone calls from residents at night who told him as they had passed the mansion they saw lights on--more often than not on the 3rd floor. When he returned to work, there were no lights on.

A copy repairman that was called in to fix a machine was working on the 3rd floor when he saw an apparition of a woman dressed in Victorian clothing vanish through one wall.

The present owner, a partner of Phillips, Steve Ziskinder, has not experienced anything unusual, but he states that others have smelled the aroma of strong coffee when none is around.

One lawyer reported that he left 10 stacks of neatly organized and sorted papers in his office one afternoon. The next morning when he returned, he found these documents had been rearranged in random order.

A friend who is in law enforcement visited the building 4 times in hopes of capturing evidence of this ghost. He recorded the distinct sounds of a woman’s laughter.

He and another visitor saw a door open and shut on its own. When one of them stood near this door and placed his hand on it, he was surprised to feel it pull away and shut. They also heard footsteps with no apparent source.

Kendall Phillips enjoyed his association with the Boston House --at one point he even had “Ghostbusters” T-shirts” made for the firm.

But he is most proud of the work his firm did to have the Boston House placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985--preserving the property for future generations.

A popular legend states the ghost is a lady by the name of Aleaceon Perkins, who lost her husband and young son when they went fishing and never returned. It is said she is the one that stands in the attic keeping a lookout for their return. But this legend does not fit in with the real history of the home.

One version of this legend is on the St. Lucie Historical Society site, here.

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