St. Augustine, Florida is not only the oldest city in the United States, it is considered one of the most haunted because of the amount of haunted locations found within the city limits. A colorful and rich history, blending Spanish and English traditions dating back to 1565, gives the city plenty of depth where unexplained phenomenon is concerned, and the Casablanca Inn at the Bay is no exception. It is listed as one of St. Augustine’s most haunted establishments and for good reason, the ghosts are more then evident to all who stay at the elegant boarding house. Built in 1914 and restored in 1941, the Mediterranean revival style bed and breakfast inn today offers twenty-three romantic suites and panoramic views, including the magical sight of newlyweds coming and going on the horse and carriage tours.
The luxury bed & breakfast wasn’t always known as the Casablanca Inn, and it wasn’t always an upscale establishment, despite it’s elegant appearance today. In fact it was once a popular hotel amongst a select group of alcohol smugglers who used it as a hot spot for illegal activity during prohibition. Known as the Matanzas Hotel during the roaring twenties, the ease of access from the surrounding shorelines allowed rum-runners from Cuba to frequent the hotel, set up shop and sell liquor to anyone who was in need of libation. A romantic liaison between the beautiful hotel manager and the head of the illegal operations guaranteed a steady flow of customers for both parties, and she quickly became a trusted ally that watched and listened for outside trouble, waving a lantern from the roof if impending danger was lurking nearby. The rum-runners heading into the bay-front in their boats loaded with liquor would see the lantern and know not to proceed any further until the danger of government officials on the premises had left the property. The romance ended abruptly when her bootlegging love interest failed to show one night as planned, never to be seen or heard from again. Despite the obvious, she waited and waited, growing more heart broken as the night’s grew into a blur and she was forced to admit that he was never coming back.
Children eventually became a part of the scene when the business changed directions and became a boarding home. The Bayfront Boarding House served as a safe haven for families that had no where else to turn. Eventually a declining need for housing due to a booming economy once again brought changes to the establishment with the opening of the Casablanca Inn on the Bay. Tourists flocked to the beautiful structure if only just to sample a piece of paradise. The ornate design with beautiful sundecks and elegant old world charm drips of romance, making it the perfect location for lovers, dead or alive, and this is perhaps why the ghost lady dubbed by the name “Mrs. Bradshaw” chooses to hang around and wait for her bootlegging lover. The lady ghost has long been a mystery and her name has remained just as big a secret, but this doesn’t change the fact that guests at the inn have reported seeing her spirit along with an illuminating light that accompanies the sight of her. Another darker spirit is often seen on the roof of the Casablanca during certain nights when a ghost filled with suspicion may feel the need to lay low, away from the dangers of the government boys looking to take down their operation. From the nearby water, boat captains and ships carrying crew members have all at one time or another spotted the lady ghost carrying her lantern as if on a mission.
The ghosts have never harmed anyone, but they like for you to know that they are there. Several members of the housekeeping staff deal with their share of paranormal experiences daily while carrying out their duties. A few of the inn’s rooms are particular hot spots for ghosts and the spirits like to remind the workers that they are there by leaving their ghostly imprint in beds that are freshly made-up. The staff works tediously to freshen up the rooms only to discover that when they turn their back that someone has messed up the bed by lying on top of the comforter, leaving an imprint of a body. Attempts to straighten the bed covers out only lead to more bone-chilling supernatural events that creep them out enough that they feel the need to temporarily leave the room. The sound of children’s laughter in the halls has been heard at the inn by several guests, and upon inquiring they have discovered that no children were staying at the inn at that particular time. Pictures taken inside of the Casablanca Inn often come back with the image of an elderly transparent woman standing next to the group being snapped, and the smell of sweet oranges is evident when Mrs. Bradshaw is nearby.
Room 11 offers you the ghost of the inn’s architect, Mr. Butler, who feels the need to tell you not to be afraid, even though common sense tells you to be very scared. A young boy once told the front desk clerk about his run-in with Mr. Butler, and she immediately realized that there was no way that he could have known unless the ghost actually materialized for the boy in person. Other rooms offer guests the visual effects of flying objects projecting across the room. Tablecloths were never a favorite item of Mrs. Bradshaw’s, and she has never hesitated to yank them off of a table, even though she is merely a ghost, she is an extremely passionate one, and her distaste of the cloth table covers has become more then obvious throughout her stay at the inn. Because of this, the staff has since removed them from several of the rooms as not to scare the guests. The employees at the Casablanca Inn all joke about the ghosts, but after seeing the paranormal activity taking place for years they have been forced to admit that there is something very unexplainable going on and bigger then all of us. Despite the supernatural activity, the inn possesses a heavenly atmosphere, comfortable feel, and luxurious setting that will make you forget all about the dead and make you remember why you are happy to be alive.
The Travel Channel places the Casablanca Inn on the Top 10 list of the most haunted hotels in the nation and for good reason, the ghostly reviews of the inn just keep coming in. During an interview with The Fine Living Channel, “We Live Here in Fear”, Casablanca Inn innkeeper Jayne James claimed that she sometimes feels like she is not alone when in certain rooms. Guests are also encouraged to plan an evening ghost tour, presented by “Ghost Tours of St. Augustine” while staying at the inn. The walking and riding tours offered invite you to explore the darker side of America’s oldest city. For more information go to: http://www.aghostlyexperience.com/home.html
Casablanca Inn, Bed and Breakfast Location: 24 Avenida Menendez Street, St. Augustine, Florida. Phone: 1-800-826-2626