“Are there ghosts there, mommy?” one girl asked in response to her father’s comment about Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in St. Augustine, FL, that he was “haunted.” “Of course not, honey, there are no ghosts!” The reality is that many people agree with her father’s comment about the haunted place, believe it or not!

In fact, it is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. There are numerous reports of credible people who have visited or worked at the museum. There are cold spots; there are things that move and various places where people become extremely nauseous. Music has been heard, things have been moved, and a huge Buddha is found lying on its side. From time to time, visitors report the smell of a smoky fire and hear crying and moaning.

To understand the haunting, a little history is in order. This spectacular construction with its unique Moorish Revival design was built in 1887 by William G. Warden. Business partner of Henry Flagler and John D Rockefeller in Standard Oil, Mr. Warden was enamored with St. Augustine and, although he was not involved in Henry Flagler’s ventures, he built this remarkable structure as a summer home for his family. . The house was used by the family until 1925, after which it lay dormant for almost 16 years.

In 1941, it was purchased by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her second husband, a hotelier named Norton Baskin. Mrs. Rawlings was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and well-established author from Florida who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek (both considered classics today). They converted the house into a hotel called the Castle Warden Inn.

So where is the ghostly connection? Many believe that the persecution began in April 1944 with a fire that brought a horrible end to the lives of two beautiful women: Ruth Hopkins Pickerman, 49, and Betty Neville Richardson, a young woman in her twenties.

Mrs. Richardson had just checked into the Castle Warden Inn. Apparently she had driven from Jacksonville, where she owned a clothing store. She was in her room for less than two hours when she called the bellman, Bernard Young, around 11:00 am and reported a fire in her room. Bernard and the maid, Ann McGill, attempted to put out the fire; but, after using a second fire extinguisher, they were unable to put out the flames or get Ms. Richardson out of the room. The fire department was called at 11:25 AM. By the time they arrived, it was too late for Mrs. Richardson.

Mrs. Pickerman’s screams could be heard from the fourth floor attic, but the fire blocked any way to reach her: she retreated from the window and was never heard from again. Both women were found in her bathroom; their bodies indicate exposure to heat. The fire had spread rapidly and the coroner’s inquest concluded that the two women suffocated to death as a result of a fire of unknown cause.

Rumors abound to this day about the women and the fire. Some say that Mrs. Pickerman was hiding from an abusive husband. According to my research, she was divorced from Jack Pickering, a journalist she met in Paris when he was working for the Chicago Sun. I couldn’t figure out why she was staying at the Castle Warden Inn. She was obviously good friends with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. However, she also had a house on the corner of Nelmar and Magnolia. She maybe she was staying there while they built her house. I found information about her house in a National Geographic article on houses in St. Augustine. The house was designed by a famous architect she met in California, who gave it a unique look for St. Augustine. Architect Wallace Neff also designed houses for Darryl Zanuck, Mary Pickford, Cary Grant, and three of the Marx Brothers.

Before the fire, Marjory Rawlings and Norton Baskin used the penthouse as a residence until Marjorie moved back to Central Florida and Norton went to Burma. Rumors persist that the fire was started to cover up a double murder, although no charges were ever filed.

During the 1940s, Robert Ripley was a frequent guest of the Inn. He really enjoyed the place and was really looking forward to buying it. He thought it would be the perfect place to create a museum for his collection of rarities gathered from his travels around the world. He was never able to close the deal in his lifetime. After his death in 1949, his heirs bought it in his memory and fulfilled his dream. St. Augustine, Florida is home to The Original Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, where it still functions as a major attraction today. is it haunted Maybe Mr. Ripley is finally enjoying his museum. Come and see for yourself. We recommend the museum’s Ghost Train Adventure, then you can decide, believe it or not!

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