News Section: Community
Sunday Favorites: Haunted Houses
Part Four of our Florida-Themed Halloween Series
This Sunday we will end our Halloween series with the most traditional of hauntings; haunted houses. There are several local hauntings that occurred over the years in Manatee County. From clothes that mysteriously appear in a bedroom closet, to a poltergeist that haunted an area family to the smell of a sea captain’s cigar, Manatee County residents are filled with tales of their haunted homes.
Haunted Curry Mansion of Bradenton Beach
This Old House
Photo: Merab Favorite
Built in 1922, the Haunted Mansion of Bradenton Beach was an 18-room, three story home built by the Curry family in 1922. When Glenn and Romaine Thomasson bought the home, their dogs refused to enter. Romaine found turn of the century dresses in the closet the first day. When she called to ask the previous owners about them, they didn’t know what she was talking about.
Other strange happenings occurred during their first week of living in the mansion. The Thomassons would wake up to find their furniture rearranged, their mail in different places and some of their antique collectables broken.
The couple decided to hold a séance to find out who or what was wreaking havoc in their home during the night. When they asked the ghost to identify herself, she appeared at the foot of the staircase wearing a navy blue dress and carrying a bouquet of flowers. She said her name was Estralita and she was on her way to Bradenton to be married when her ship sunk and she drowned along with the rest of the passengers and crew. The Thomassons' house was the one she was set to live in when she arrived.
The couple struck a deal with the apparition and dedicated the third floor of their home as a space strictly for Estralita. Their generous contribution didn’t go unnoticed; not only did Estrailita stop breaking things, but another ghost from the ship moved in. Captain Curry had also drowned in the disaster. The Thomassons knew it was him by the smell of his signature Cuban cigar, which lingered on the third floor.
The Captain would pace back and fourth on the third floor on stormy nights, as though he was still aboard the bridge of his ship, worrying about the weather.
The Thomassons eventually regarded their guests as a part of the family, even delighting in the lingering smell of Estralita’s orange blossom perfume and smoke of the Captain’s cigar.
The Graham House Poltergeist
The Graham House being floated to Snead Island
Photo: Manatee County Historic Archives
In the 1970’s, the Kafkas, a family of six, decided to rent a picturesque riverfront mansion overlooking the Manatee. The house had been uninhabited for some time and when the electrician couldn’t seem to get the electricity turned on – the couple’s enthusiastic four children asked if they could camp-out in the house by candlelight. They laid their sleeping bags on the dining room floor, read Sherlock Holmes and ate junk food. A huge wrought-iron chandelier hung above them and iron sconces on the walls amplified the suspenseful mood. After their eyelids grew heavy from reading, they fell fast asleep.
In the early hours of the morning they awoke to find the room "bathed in blood-red light" coming from the chandeliers and sconces – they had all awoken at the exact same moment. Every light was on in the room, but when they looked closely the switch was in the off position. That day the electrician reported that the electricity had been mysteriously fixed.
The next night, the brave children decided they’d all sleep in the living room. After reading their mystery novel they began to hear strange music that they believed to be coming from next door. It was the sound of bongo drums and a harmonica-- only it was coming from a room above the garage – one that was uninhabited. A dog was barking from inside the room and the next day they found old hardened dog feces on the floor.
The family lived in the house for a year and during that time all sorts of mysterious things happened. There was always audible noise from the room above the garage, and they continued to find old dog feces. Even though they cleaned it on a regular basis, it would mysteriously reappear. There would always be light above the garage that was viewable from the river. Footsteps belonging to no one, cold spots, shadowy figures and an abnormal anger that seemed to possess family members were just a few of the happenings that went on during their stay.
Shortly after they moved out, the house was floated to Snead Island on a barge where it still stands today. A condo was erected on the original property. Though the new inhabitants have claimed to never experience anything paranormal, Tamera, one of the Kafka children, walked the original property as an adult and claimed she felt a familiar sense of eeriness and anger that had consumed the family in their short stay at the Graham House. (More information on this story can be found in an article "Ghosts Won't Cross Water" by Nan Russell - donated to the Eaton Collection at the Manatee County Library).
One St. Petersburg haunting had every realtor within a fifty-mile radius up in arms after the owners decided to place a telling ad in an area newspaper.
“For Sale – Cheap, Owner Desperate. Lovely NE St. Petersburg 2 story home, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, fireplace, haunted by quiet elderly woman’s ghost,” appeared in the classified ads one Sunday.
Suddenly one of the most sought after areas in town now came with an exception. “Is the house haunted? ”Would be the first question anyone looking to purchase a home in the old NE, would ask.
But the ad was the last straw in a family's struggle to share their home with an unwanted guest.
An elderly woman in a long, grey nightgown and a red plaid wrap would wander around the home aimlessly during the night, standing over the children as they slept or following the mother around the kitchen. Experts referred to the haunting as a “quiet possession” - one where the ghost does no physical damage nor emit audible sound.
Despite the fact that she didn’t necessarily harm anyone or seem threatening, her lonely spirit was enough to creep out the family so bad they couldn’t sleep; instead, they huddled together on the living room floor all night long.
Perhaps there was another resident that wouldn’t mind sharing their home with the lonely woman.
So the next time you hear a bump in the night, don't attribute it to a noisy pipe or creeky floor wihout first considering that your home could also be haunted! Happy Halloween!
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