Beyond Tourism: America's Yesteryear

A blog of American History

Friday Finds- Haunted Florida October 29, 2010

In the spirit of October and Halloween I bring you links to Haunted Florida.

1. Haunted Florida– This site includes “the webs most comprehensive list of Florida Halloween Events,  Current Horror Movie Trailers, List with brief descriptions of reported Real Haunted Places in Florida, Links to active Ghost Hunter Groups, and Information and links to current Florida Ghost Tours.”

2. Florida’s Haunted History & Tours– This is an article listing ghost tours and haunted places throughout that you can visit with links to more articles to those specific tours or places.

3. Horrorfind: The Horror & Halloween search engine– Site has links of haunted houses to visit this Halloween located around Florida.

4. Haunted America Tours– This link brings you to their list of the top 10 most haunted cities in America. Florida is represented twice with Key West in spot number four and Miami in spot number nine.

5. Coastal Living– This article in Coastal Living is “Top 10 Haunted Lighthouses:  Even ghosts seem to love these majestic coastal beacons.” Florida is represented twice with Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, Gasparilla Island, Florida in spot number two and St. Augustine Light, St. Augustine, Florida in spot number 6.

6. Most Haunted Places in Florida– This site lists three places in Florida that are considered the most haunted in Florida. One in northern Florida, St. Augustine, one in central Florida, Spook Hill,  and one in south Florida, Key West. It also includes other resources if you are interested in other haunted places in Florida.


The Beatles visit Key West October 22, 2010

The Beatles at the Key Wester Motel

September 10, 1964 was an exciting day for Beatles fans in Key West. It was on this day that the Fab Four flew in from Montreal to take a rest stop.  They were originally supposed to stop in Jacksonville  but according to The Beatles Ultimate Experience due to Hurricane Dora off of the northeast coast of Florida the flight was detoured to Key West until Hurricane Dora passed.

At this time the South was still segregated and this included Florida. The Beatles refused to play the Gator Bowl if the audience was segregated on race. It was promised that the audience would be desegregated and the performance remained on the books. Their hotel in Jacksonville was another matter though. It seems that desegregating the hotel while The Beatles were present could not be worked out. It was rumored that this is the real reason their rest stop was moved to Key West.

While in Key West reporter Jean Morris was able to interview them. After some questions about Rolling Stones and who was married and who was single the subject came around to eating.

JEAN: “Do you always eat on the run like this?”

RINGO: “No, we sit down like this.”


JEAN: “No, I mean, with all these people don’t you get indigestion?”

RINGO: “Well, we usually eat in the room, but seeing the hotel’s got no room for us, we have to eat here, you see.”

JOHN: “That was unfortunate, that.”

RINGO: “Unfortunate.”

John and Ringo are referring to their canceled rooms in Jacksonville. Where in an earlier interview when asked

The Key Wester Motel

directly about it tried to not make a big deal about it by saying they had no control of booking rooms or the cancellation of them. Jean Morris does not ask them to elaborate.

The Key Wester Motel was demolished in 1999 and was replaced by the Hyatt Windward Pointe. The Hyatt Windward Pointe Hotel,  according to the Beatles Bible , an open-air structure named the Beatles Hut commemorates the place where the group stayed. While there they jammed with rhythm and blues singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry,  The Bill Black Combo, and  The Exciters, who are from New Orleans  and local musician Coffee Butler.

While their concert at the Gator Bowl was canceled due to Hurricane Dora the game was still played. It was Florida State v. Oklahoma. The final score was Florida State 36 Oklahoma 19. The details of the game can be found here and here.


Protecting Florida’s Coasts during times of War March 2, 2010

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was dismantled instead of destroyed because it was be too expensive to fix if destroyed

Florida is a peninsula that lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. According to State of it has 1,800 miles of coastline and of that 1,200 miles are sand beaches.  That’s a lot of shoreline to protect. How does Florida protect all it’s shoreline. While perusing Florida Memory I came across two original documents that the organization posted for public reading. The first one is from the Civil War and the second document is from World War II. Both documents speak about how attempts of Florida’s coastline was protected during these wars from the enemy.

Florida was the third state to secede from the Union on January 10, 1861.  While it was controlled by Yankees it’s civilian population was full of secessionists and southern sympathizers.

Report on the Dismantling of Florida Lighthouses Upon the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1861 is a four page letter signed by James Paine, A. Oswald Lang, and Francis A. Ivey who were southern sympathizers. It was written to the governor of Florida Madison Starke Perry. They tell him how they walked “a journey of about 140 miles. 90 of it on foot, being exposed to a burning Sun and drenching rains, and with a very scant allowance of food– ”

They did this because they felt it was their duty to the south to try and stop the north as much as they could and to do that they dismantled the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse and destroyed the Cape Florida lighthouse.  According to the letter A. Oswald Lang was the Assistant lighthouse keeper of the Jupiter Inlet light house and resigned when he found that the Keeper was a Yankee posing as a secessionist.

There are much more interesting bits to this short four page letter. While the handwriting is very clear there is no need to worry about being able to read the original document as a typed text is included along with it.

Blackout orders for Palm Beach, Florida

This is a short one page document issued by the governor of Florida, Spessard L. Holland, who was governor in 1942 and the commanding officer of Key West. They are blackout orders for Palm Beach so that the lights from the town, beach, and amusement parks do cause Allied merchant ships to become targets of German U-boats. It goes into detail that all lights within two miles of the beach were either to be turned off or screened so as not to be seen from off shore.

An interesting note about both of these documents is that it doesn’t mention the west coast of Florida at all. In fact in the Blackout orders for Palm Beach, Florida it says,

It is requested that you immediately take steps to have extin- guished all street lights on water front streets and highways at once, and those actually on the ocean front, not those on the west side.

I’m not sure if this is talking about the west coast or just the west side of Palm Beach. No matter with the east coast facing the Atlantic it is much more vulnerable to attack and hurricanes than the west coast which faces the Gulf of Mexico and is much more sheltered.

Perhaps this is why there is a difference in cultures between the east coast and the west coast. Do you readers who have visited Florida or live in Florida think that the culture differences between the east coast and west coast is partly due to the west coast being more sheltered against storms and naval attack than the east coast?


The Dry Tortugas and the Lincoln Assassination July 30, 2009

Mudd, OLaughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned here after being found guilty of taking part in the Lincoln assassination.

Mudd, O'Laughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned here after being found guilty of taking part in the Lincoln assassination.

Ft. Jefferson located on the Dry Tortugas islands 70 miles west of Key West Florida. Construction began in 1846 but was ultimately abandoned 28 years later in 1874. The fort was never completed due to difficulties with numerous construction problems,  bouts of yellow fever and the invention  of the rifled cannon. The Dry Tortugas was discovered by conquistador Ponce de Leon 1513 and was given the name Las Tortugas for the abundance of turtles found on the islands. Due to the absence of fresh drinking water it got the name of Dry Tortugas. In 1935 Franklin D. Roosevelt set aside the Dry Tortugas Islands as a National monument and it was made into a national park in 1992

Just because the fort construction was never completed does not mean that it was not used. During the Civil War it was used as a prison for Yankee deserters. Union forces were able to use this fort because they were able to control Florida’s large coastline rather quickly with their superior naval fleet. While Florida did secede from the Union it had a large population of Union sympathizers. Check out my earlier blog post Today in Florida to learn a little more about Florida’s role in the Civil War.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenters shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenter's shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson.

Ft. Jefferson’s most famous prisoner wasn’t even a soldier. He was Dr. Samuel Mudd. Dr. Samuel Mudd was accused and found guilty of  conspiracy to murder President Lincoln. He met with John Wilkes Booth in his home and Washington before the assassination of Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre. He was considered part of the conspiracy after setting Booth’s broken leg and giving him crutches to aid him in his movement. He did not report Booth until the next day after Booth left his home in southern Maryland. Mudd at first was considered just a witness until he lied about meeting Booth before the assassination. He was sentenced to life in prison at Ft. Jefferson. On September 25, 1865 he attempted escape when he learned that control of the fort was being transferred to a colored. He was quickly captured and put to hard labor building the fort in leg irons. In 1867 an outbreak of yellow fever occured and Mudd used his skills as a doctor to help end the epidemic. It was this work during the yellow fever outbreak that earned him his pardon by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. He was in prison for four years. After his release he returned home and restarted his practice.

Ft. Jefferson was made into an official National Park in 1992. People can visit the park and even camp on the grounds. For more information please visit the Dry Tortugas National Park (U.S. National Park Service).


Trains, Trains, Trains June 30, 2009

Flagler with his first wife Mary (back) and her sister Isabelle in the 1850s

Flagler with his first wife Mary (back) and her sister Isabelle in the 1850's

In my previous post I wrote a little bit about the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and how it destroyed the Miami/Key West line of his railroad.

December 31, 1885: Flagler purchased railroad between Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

1892: Charter from the State of Florida to allow building of railroad to Miami

May 28, 1892: Incorporated the Florida Coast and Gulf Railway

March 22, 1894: Railroad reaches Lake Worth

April 2, 1894: Railroad completed to West Palm Beach

September 13, 1895: Railroad name changed to Florida East Coast Railway

April 16, 1896: Railroad completed to Miami

January 22, 1912: First official train arrives in Key West Florida

September 2, 1935: Labor Day category 5 hurricane rips through the keys destroying the Miami/Key West line of the Florida East Coast Railway.

1935: Florida East Coast Railway sells railway to state in order recoup losses from the  unrepairable  rail line. It was later converted to a bridge for car travel and then shut down when the Overland Highway was built.

Flagler died a year after the Miami/Key West was completed and so never learned of the destruction the hurricane caused and the subsequent selling off of his company to the state. If you want to learn more about Henry Morrison Flagler beyond the railroad you can go here.

Now you can take a tour of Flagler’s Florida by visiting Sarasota History Alive. They have a postcard slide show which follows the Florida East Coast Railway from Jacksonville, Florida all the way to Key West. It ends with a map of the railway. Each postcard slide has a short but informative captions explaining what is in each postcard and the view it is taken from.

Want to ride a real train? Check out these places to take a tour and ride a real train:

*1. Seminole Gulf Railway: Home of Florida’s Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Ft. Myers, Florida

2. Inland Lakes Railway Florida in Eustis, Florida

3. Conch Tour Train in Key West, Florida while it’s not an actual train it is a nice way to tour the island.

Not interested in taking a train ride. Try visiting a railroad museum:

1. Boca Express Train Museum in Boca Raton, Florida

2. Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, Florida

3. South Florida Railway Museum in Deerfield Beach, Florida

4. Whitehall Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida.

*With the exception of the Conch Tour Train I have never been on any on any of these tours or museums. The last time I was on the Conch Tour Train I was around 6 years old. Drop a line if you’ve been on any of these tours and if they are worth it or if you know of any other Florida train tours. This is not an exhaustive list of museums or tours just a little something to get you interested. If you do go or have been on any of these tours or visited any of these museums drop a line and let me know if you enjoyed it.