Friday, January 16, 2015

The Ghosts of Prohibition

On this day, January 16th, in 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified making the sale and production of alcohol illegal.  The Prohition Era had begun!  A temperance movement that had been spreading since 1820 steamrolled legislation in several states and the wave finally hit the federal government.  President Woodrow Wilson originally vetoed the measure, but his veto was overturned.  On October 28th of that same year, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which gave the government power to implement the 18th Amendment.  Nationwide prohibition began in 1920.

It was not illegal to drink alcohol and thus bootlegging, speakeasies and gang activity surrounding the distribution of alcohol blossomed.  The level of supernatural activity resulting from things that went on during Prohibition is far too great for a single blog post, but let us focus on just a couple of places.

The Casablanca Inn

This bed and breakfast located in St. Augustine, Florida was once a boarding house.  It was built in 1914 in the Revival architectural style and named The Matanzas Hotel.  A couple years later, the hotel was turned into a boarding house and the name was changed to Bayfront Boarding House.  The woman who ran the boarding house decided that the place was better off as a hotel and so she changed the name to the Casablanca Inn.  This woman was an intelligent businesswoman and she saw a great opportunity when Prohibition began.  She knew that providing alcohol for her customers would make her money.  She also knew that helping the bootleggers would have financial reward as well.

She was well positioned to help the bootleggers because government agents would stay at the Casablanca Inn in hopes of catching illegal rum coming into port.  Whenever the agents were in town, the woman would notify the bootleggers with a special warning they had worked out together.  She would use a lantern to signal to the bootleggers whenever the agents were in town.  She would wave the lantern from the second floor.  The woman eventually died and was buried at Huguenot Cemetery and Prohibition was repealed.  But this has not stopped the lantern warnings.  To this day, people out on the water claim that they still see a lantern light waving back and forth from the second floor of the Casabalnca Inn.  Wispy fog like apparitions are seen inside the inn as well.

Children's Center in Ohio

The following is a true story as told by a journeyman working in a building that was a former speakeasy.
"As a young Journeyman in a construction union I had been waiting to finish my apprenticeship so I would be able to run my own jobs and in a way be my own boss but when I finally got the opportunity to work on a job by myself, I was wishing that I would have been working with someone else.

First off I was given a key to walk into my project that was located down a shady brick stairwell from the outside of the building. This stairwell led to a door that you most commonly see in old prohibition movies about Elliot Ness and the mob. Thinking nothing of it, excited to finally work alone I was shown my project and I worked my first day there aware that it was eerie inside of what is now a Children's Center but nothing happened.

The next day I went in to work earlier than I usually did so I could get a better idea of what kind of material I needed for the work week. I used my key and quickly turned the lights on. I walked down a brick hallway further into the basement. The whole area that was once a speakeasy had motion activated lights set up, again I didn't think anything of it. There was one dark room in the whole basement that didn't have any motion lights at all. When I reached the bottom of the stair well I peeked my head in the dark room and waived my arms thinking it would turn the lights on. At that moment a wooden chair slid across the floor. I remember the sound of it echoing as I started screaming and running in the other direction but I was the only one there.

Eventually I found the maintenance man and told him the story. He told me that he knew about the ghost he was the one that painted the religious picture down there and that one time he saw someone walking through the building when he was the only one there. He said "I don't mess with them and they don't mess with me"...

True story."
Bell's Jewelry Store

Bell's Jewelry Store in Decatur, Illinois was a former speakeasy that hosted drinking and gambling.  The building was built in 1865.  During Prohibition it became the most popular spot in town serving its own brand of homemade beer and whiskey.  When Prohibition was overturned, the place became a brothel as well.  The police force in Decatur was known to be lazy and corrupt and crime flourished in the city.  People were killed at the speakeasy due to fights and most probably gang activity.

Utility workers have heard noises coming through the walls reminiscent of those one would associate with a bar.  Heavy objects moving around and footsteps have been heard coming from upper floors.  Employees have expressed feeling weird when they enter the area that use to be the old speakeasy.  Much of this space has never been touched and has some pieces still left from a bygone era like pin-up pictures.  A chill can be felt in this area as well.

Have you heard of any former speakeasies that are haunted?  Let us know in the comments!

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