2007 – 2008 – St. Petersburg
Editor’s note: This is one of the most extensive and longest running investigations we’d done. It also includes a ghost conference, inclusion of data sent to us by various people, and an article by the St. Petersburg Times.
Presentation slide show on the history of the Heritage Hotel: https://www.slideshare.net/bstark/hotel-presentation-2008-b
St. Petersburg Times, Neighborhood section.
Girls of ghost hunting
By CRISTINA SILVA, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2007
[Times photo: Edmund D. Fountain]
A thermometer used by the ghost hunting group takes air temperature readings in a section of the Heritage Inn currently under renovation on. According to the group, sudden changes in temperature can indicate spiritual activity.
On a steamy August night, four women dressed in purple shirts with the words “paranormal investigator” on their sleeves stood in a circle in a hotel hallway and debated whether the faint smell of perfume in the air indicated the presence of a ghost. It was hard to tell. Ghost hunting isn’t exactly a science. The rumors about ghosts at the Heritage Inn, an old-fashioned boutique hotel at 234 Third Ave. N downtown, have been around for years.
In that time, staffers have complained about odd noises. Guests have reported seeing an apparition of a little girl. Once, a couple were so spooked they checked out at 3 a.m.
Popular science would suggest there are no ghosts at the Heritage Inn, or in fact, anywhere. Ghosts do not exist.
Still, for whatever reason, the hotel staff said yes when they got a call from S.P.I.R.I.T.S. – a group of local ghostbusters – asking whether they could investigate reports of a haunting.
They had no way of knowing the investigation would challenge their beliefs on life and death.
* * *
The ghost hunt began in a hotel restaurant that was closed for renovations. Quiet and empty, it was the perfect locale.
Debra Shapiro set out her laptop on a table and turned on its audio recording device. She crossed her fingers for signs of EVPs, or electronic voice phenomena. EVPs are inaudible to the human ear but can allegedly be captured with the aid of technology.
Standing nearby, Brandy Stark used an infrared thermometer to gauge any changes in the atmosphere. Haunted places allegedly produce thermal anomalies such as cold spots, and Stark soon gleefully announced that the temperature had dropped about 7 degrees.
She set out an electromagnetic field meter on a table.
“If there is anyone here, can you please make the meter spike?” she asked.
The meter spiked. Stark smiled.
Ghost hunters believe paranormal entities emit an electromagnetic field. To Stark, this first spike was practically a greeting, a sort of “How do you do?” in paranormal lingo.
“Can you tell us if you are a male? If you are a male, can you make this meter spike?” she said.
The meter spiked. A hallway light flickered.
“Can you make the lights flash again, please,” Stark asked.
The lights flashed.
“You have had the lighting checked out, right?” Stark asked.
Lynda Rucker, manager of the Heritage Inn, initially along for a few good chuckles, nodded incredulously.
“Can you make the lights flash one more time, please?” Stark asked.
The meter did not move.
“Oh, please, it was so much fun,” Shapiro pleaded.
Later, a maintenance man walked by and asked about the investigation.
“You would never believe us,” Rucker said.
* * *
Ghost hunting is tedious business. It involves a lot of waiting, a lot of reviewing of audio recordings and photographs, a lot of defending your hobby to wisecracking friends and coworkers.
The 15 members of the S.P.I.R.I.T.S. all have different stories of how they got into investigating hauntings.
Mostly, they are a studious group. They have respectable, white-collar jobs. They are strict about not allowing outsiders to attend their investigations, and they encourage members to assume that all potential paranormal activity has some nonparanormal explanation.
An apparent apparition caught in a photo could just be a fleck of light. A light flickering could be faulty wiring.
Except, sometimes, there are no logical explanations. Then, even squeaky floors are potential clues.
* * *
In the hallway, the perfume debate continued. The women took turns smelling each other’s wrists and hair. No one was wearing lavender perfume, but the scent lingered softly in the air.
Stark attempted to settle it once and for all.
“If you are here,” she began, “can you make that lavender smell come back again?”
A faint whiff of perfume floated by, but the group still could not collectively agree on the evidence.
In the end, they decided the origin of the scent was too ambiguous.
They couldn’t reach a consensus on whether it was real or not.
Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified September 1, 2007, 23:56:33]
This investigation was quite invigorating. We did have abnormal conditions to begin with: two days worth of rain with lightning earlier in the day. I had wondered if that would have an impact upon this investigation.
We started the investigation at 7 p.m. in the bar area. I had heard the story of a piece of furniture in the bar that had once belonged to Jefferson Davis and was reputed to have a haunted mirror. We did start to set up in the bar area, and noted a temperature drop from 81 to 78 degrees. However, one of the doors to the outside had been opened, which negated the reading.
EMF was kept on the 0 – 3 scale with an average reading of 1.6 EMF. I did invite the entity to communicate with us through the meter, spiking once for “yes”. I then asked if anyone was in the room with us, and we did get spikes on the meter in answer. I repeated the question and we received another spike, and repeated the question again and got a spike. However, other questions were left unanswered. We were unable to determine gender (male or female), though it did appear to remember some of the staff that accompanied us on the investigation.
Suddenly, the lights in the narthex to the room we were in flashed three times. We asked if the entity was doing that and the lights came on and went off again. We asked the staff if there was any issue with the wiring (they confirmed today that the wiring was sound via a professional. The staffers had never witnessed this activity before in the area). We then tried to get the entity to work with us on turning the lights on and off again. There was no response. We did not capture the lights on film, though we did have 4 non-SPIRITS witnesses to the events. In my memory, this was one of the first time the lights have ever done that on an investigation. (Other equipment has been affected, but never have I had lights do this).
We tried to get it to answer questions with the lights but there was no result. EMF also died down considerably after this event.
We proceeded through the bar area and checked upstairs with no real results. (EMF dropped). The temperature ranged between 77 and 79 degrees, and the EMF had to be turned to the 0 – 100 scale.
We moved back into the main building. We went through a computer area where EMF spiked. However, a fuse box was also present.
We moved through the lobby. Mary sensed a female presence in the lobby area. She believed that the older woman was attached to the cabinet. We attempted to use the EMF meter to communicate, asking what the last year was that she remembered (1951). Debbie asked if she had been murdered (spike to that) but Mary isn’t certain.
We moved upstairs. In one area, there was a strong smell of lilac or lavender incense (my term). I did ask others if they could smell it, and of the 7 of us present, 5 could. We had another person come up a minute later and we asked her what she smelled. She told us “incense”. The smell seemed to strengthen as we waited, and we asked questions in the area. The odd thing is that various people smelled the aroma at different times; people who smelled it once may not have smelled it again. For one question, I did not smell any aroma. For another, I did. We went upstairs and downstairs to verify the aroma was not wafting into the area. However, a few feet from the area, the smell died down. Staff verified that the place was not occupied since 4 days before, and there were no cleaning chemicals used that smelled like that.
We ended our investigation. It was nearing 9:30 and we were getting hungry. The staffers and reporter had to leave. We started to review our notes.
Other phenomena reported by staff:
Feeing of being watched Feeling of being watched by the image over the fireplace.
Peripheral vision manifestations.
Manifestation of an entity: At 4 a.m. “I saw a young man, approximately 20 years old with dark hair and wearing blue jeans and a long sleeved blue shirt. As I looked at him, he just faded away.”
Yes, ice cold spot around bar area on side of bar in front of TV set (second bar area)
Ex employee spotted a little girl in bar area (main bar)
Crying of a woman on the second floor, end of hallway (where we had the aroma).
Structure built in 1926
Someone did die in the structure
In review of the images:
Video/IR: Nothing unusual.
Digital camera video: possible EVP.
Digital camera images: Orb images in bar area (right in the area of the lights that flashed), 1 orb captured on a camera that rarely captures orbs in the lobby area.
Overall impression of investigation:
We need to divide the area up some. I would like to focus on hotel and the bar area separately.
The lights and the aroma were the best part of the investigation. I truly hope that the entity (ies) will interact with us again.
When we return, I plan to have cameras in hand and already rolling to avoid another missed incident. I was impressed iwth Mary’s accuracy; she spotted the 30 year old male. We also went to the areas of the lobby (though may have had suggestion), bar (known area) and second floor where we had phenomena.
1.Brandy: This was a very interesting investigation, though very few results manifest for our group. I am not sure if it was the mixing of teams, the discomfort of being ill, or the lateness of the event, but the only thing that was observed was the fluctuation of the thermometer. This is fairly unusual for the thermometer, but the temperature flux was not enough (really ranging mostly between 1 degree; only twice did it drop down further to 3 – 4 degrees) for it to be of viable resources. The Natural EM meter went off only one time on the question “Did you travel with us?”. It was a short spike, barely registering. Otherwise, neither meter was very useful that night.
6. What sensitive observations did you note during the investigation? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
Brandy: None. Again, I felt very uncomfortable that night and was not really with the investigation. Had we started on time, without the 2 hour delay, I might have had more observations. The only other information that was new that night was the “US soldier”, though that is going to be hard to verify and really could be just suggestion or guesswork. At that time, I think the whole group was rather on edge and tired. The fluctuations of temperature were the only real sensation. At one point, I felt as if I were sitting in an a/c draft. Even after another participant turned off the a/c, the sensation continued so that I had to ask again if they had turned off the a/c. Another participant suggested that I was feeling air from the door. That was most certainly not the case. I know the difference between a breeze coming from a door crack and feeling as if I were sitting in a full blown breeze from the a/c. I did get up to test air currents by the door (nothing) and climbed upon a chair to test the a/c coming from the vents. Neither were emitting air. When I returned to my section of the bed, however, the cold breeze sensation was gone.
Recheck with pug:
*Strange writing under basement stairs noted by two seperate teams. Words quoted a Biblical passage, asked for help, then had the word “no” written by them.
*Two members (one on each team) felt very ill on the third floor. One passed out, one had extreme vertigo.
*Odyssey the pug, who has been on other investigations, travelled, and stayed at hotels, seemed very uncomfortable at the hotel. He was restless in the Ballroom and the third floor.
*The third floor had a “moving soda can”. One team observed it on the window sill; when the group returned, it had been moved to a displaced toilet. Several doors had also been closed on the 3rd floor between team visits as well.
*As we passed through the Ballroom, Odyssey would not stop even when I called to him. He went straight through the room and sat outside. The room seemed hot and stuffy. One investigator felt uncomfortable there. I took this image and, though I lightened this slightly, the orb over the door almost appears self illuminating.
1. What was your role in this investigation? (Please check one)
2. What equipment did you use on this investigation?
Audio recording devices
Electro Magnetic Field Meter (EMF meter)
Other (please specify)
Comment: Pug, Paranormal Puck
3. What phenomena did you experience on this investigation? (Please check all that apply)
Sensation of energy
Odd behavior of equipment
Observed odd behavior of animals
Other (please specify below)
Comment: Completely dizzy on 3rd floor
4. In review of the footage, recording, or photographs taken at the location, which of the following did you find? (Please check all that apply)
Orb images (digital)
5. What technical observations did you note during the investigation? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
Brandy: Attempted the Paranormal Puck. It did pick up a church-themed series of words throughout the hotel. On the second trip to the third floor a soda can on the window sill that was observed by the first team was found moved to a toilet seat by the entire group. Two doors that were open were also found to be locked. I do not remember seeing the soda can when my team went through. There was a small lapse of time between the first and second teams, and the second team and the entire team going to the third floor. I do not feel as if we can say for certain that there was no one else up on the floor. The rooms can be closed and opened from the inside. Someone could have slipped upstairs between team visits and moved the can. However, that needs to be counter-balanced where on investigator nearly collapsed, Odyssey was uncomfortable and I felt miserable on the third floor. The physical affects were quite obviously present.
6. What sensitive observations did you note during the investigation? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
Odyssey the pug was very very uneasy with parts of the hotel. He would not listen to me as we walked through the Ballroom C area and only stopped on the other side of the room. He was restless upstairs and in the basement area. I was also quite dizzy on the third floor, to the extent that I almost felt as if I was going to fall. I do not believe that it was the state of construction or any of the aromas associated with the construction area. I have no real idea as to why I felt as strangely as I did on the third floor.
7. What researched/historical information did you learn about this location? For purposes of categorizing data, please post your first name, followed by your response.
At this time, the hotel was undergoing massive construction.
8. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the haunting of this location? Note on scale: 1 represents “no haunting”, 5 “moderate haunting” and 10 “extremely haunted”?
As reported on 5-28-08 for our investigation:
“Gary (night auditor) heard a little girl crying when he was working in conference room C.”
Serated knife was put into holder; came out of holder and fell to the floor. Was picked up and placed back in the holder and it came out again. Staff simply left it behind.
Bar stools that were placed up on tables were found the next morning knocked down all over the floor. Building was locked and manager was last one out and first one in — he noted the phenomena.
On the night of 5 – 31- -08:
Guest reported to front desk clerk that everything in the bathroom was put on the floor; she reported that she was feeling very uncomfortable in the room.
The hotel is undergoing potential rennovation and new management. Could this be altering the ghostly behavior? (As asked by hotel staff).
Conference EVP from Hammerhead’s
This was taken at the Florida Ghost Gathering Conference. We had about 30 members of various ghost groups sitting in the darkened Hammerhead’s haunted restaurant. This is about 44 minutes into a 1 hour recording. Everyone is sitting quietly; there is no whispering (I made note of voices when people were talking, or times of talking were announced). I cannot make out what it says…. 6-7-08
June 6 – 8:
The conference was a lot of fun. Hammerhead’s only produced the one EVP for me (Brandy) — see link above. I am not sure what is being said.
I did lead the psychic round table. A group of psy-oriented folks went to rooms 205, where they sensed a male entity. He had bad breath or teeth issues (an odor). He was well dressed and was looking for or waiting for someone. He was in an affiar or a relationship with a woman and they spent time in the hotel. He planned to marry her, but was too heavy-handed and she left him.
At the end of the hall, the group ran into “Elizabeth”, who is waiting for her family to cross over. Elizabeth likes Patrick Burns (in ghost shirt). He did reveal that the first night he was there he felt someone moving the bedcovers while he was lying on them, alone, in his room.
During the stairwell session, I did have the sensation of someone touching my hair, but I was so tired at that point that it’s hard to say what was going on for certain.
There were numerous reports of phenomena in the hotel and I hope that others will report them to us to record on this page.
Post investigation contacts:
cameras. I give the Heritage Inn a 5-Star Dust Free rating!!
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 12:19 pm
I stayed at the Heritage inn last week and my family and I had a really interesting experience. I have always felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up at some places that I have not been able to explain and the moment I walked in the front door of the Heritage I felt this way and my wife was able to tell and asked me about it.
I did not see anything that would be considered a ghost this weekend but my family and I did hear things throughout the weekend and had the lights turning on and off on the second floor hallway late on Saturday evening 1-19. My son even recorded on his cell phone what sounded like the elevator and door opening and closing at around 3:30am Saturday morning after not being able to sleep. When I opened the door nothing was there. We were in room 223.
In addition while I was looking at your website I saw the pictures that you have taken and spots labeled as Orbs and in a few of my pictures I have the same images. However on pictures taken in the same room with the same camera at the same time the images are not there.
I would be willing to e-mail you a few of these pictures and discuss my experiences with you if you like. Just let me know if you are interested. I have never written or talked to anyone outside of my family about the feelings I get when I am in a building that has had strange experiences and had NO ideal about the history of this hotel but from the moment I walked in I could tell there was something there and only later did I hear the stories of this hotel.
Reported from the Ghost Tour, Oct. 25, 2009:
In the Sunrise (maybe Sunshine) meeting room, one of the guests had taken a photo in the far right corner which showed an orb and a strange marking, like an arrow tip, pointing into a nook in the wall. He zoomed into the orb with his camera, and showed me a definite, leering face of a man within the orb. The strange marking had shown up on three photos in a row, moving position every time. The “arrow” was in close proximity to the orb. We decided to enter the room to inspect the wall to see if there was a physical explanation for the marking. There was only the two of us in the room, the young man who took the picture standing to my right, when I ran my hand along the wall to check for undulations. Finding nothing unusual, I said, “There’s nothing here.” The moment I finished speaking, I felt my hair being gently pulled back from the left side of my neck. There was no one standing to my left (that I could see). I stood transfixed, when suddenly something grabbed the left side of my neck, a little roughly. I jumped, very startled, and became angry, stomping out of the room telling the ghost that what it did was not very nice, and to not do that to me or my guests.
When I entered the lobby, most of the guests were huddled around a young woman who had visited the same meeting room shortly before my encounter. She said that something brushed her cheek, but not roughly. Where she had been touched, her cheek was bright red, and there were visible finger marks. I asked for someone to inspect my neck, where a red welt was discovered in the spot where I, too, had been touched. The welt was gone by the next day.
There was something else I didn’t mention to you, Tim. One of the guests showed me a picture of what he thought was a paranormal occurrence in the meeting room next to the Sunrise room, but all I could see was a vacuum cleaner up against the wall. One group who had been in that room earlier mentioned that when they were in that room, the vacuum was in the center of the room. We asked the desk clerk where the vacuum cleaner normally would be, and she said that the hotel never leaves that vacuum in the meeting room. She wondered what it was doing in there, at all.
Below – sent in from ghost tour. The shots before and after have no orb. The orb that appears is octagonal. This is the haunted couch where people report seeing the back and head of a man, who vanishes.