Thursday, October 14, 2021

HGB Ep. 406 - Haunted Fellsmere

Moment in Oddity - Giant Octopuses of the Narrows Bridge Ruins (Suggested by: John Michaels)

Octopuses are amazing creatures and we must admit that we have a soft spot for the legendary Kraken. There was a legend about a Kraken connected to Tacoma, Washington and while that really is just a legend, there is a fascinatingly weird thing going on here with octopuses at the Tacoma Narrows. The giant pacific octopus is the largest known species of octopus and they can get up to 50 pounds. They are highly intelligent and recognize human faces. They can even taste you and identify you with their tentacles. A legend claimed that a King Octopus weighing 600 pounds lived under the Galloping Gertie Bridge in Tacoma. This was actually the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but people gave it this nickname because the suspension bridge would move when the wind blew. Those winds finally took the bridge down on November 7, 1940. Those ruins still are down in the water and they provide hiding places for the Pacific Octopus because octopuses can squeeze themselves through any opening at least the size of their beak and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Reno Brothers Conduct First Moving Train Robbery

In the month of October, on the 6th, in 1866, the Reno Brothers carry out the first train robbery of a moving train in U.S. history. Previous train robberies had been of stationary trains. Trains often times were carrying very valuable things. Not only were there people on board with money and valuables, but trains transported precious minerals, cash and sometimes even gold and silver. The Reno Brothers started a bad thing when they figured out that if they stopped a moving train in a sparsely polulated area, they wouldn't have to worry about the authorities interfering. When word got out that the Reno Brothers got away with $13,000, this method got very popular. The brothers hit an Ohio and Mississippi Railroad train while it was traveling through Jackson County, Indiana. Soon the railroads got smart and started putting valuables in massive safes with armed guards watching over them and they even sometimes carried a boxcar of guards and horses. By the late 19th century, train robberies were a thing of the past.

Haunted Fellsmere

Larry Lawson is the founder of The Florida Bureau of Paranormal Investigation and runs Indian River Hauntings, which hosted this event. He introduced himself and his team: Mark, who is Vice President of the Indian River Historical Society, and his wife Val; Candace and Tina and her husband Spanky, who is Larry's right-hand man. We spent most of our evening investigating with Spanky. The thing we really liked about Larry is that he is a retired cop, which gives more credence to his investigations. He was a detective in Fellsmere before he retired, so he knows this city. And like us, he understands the importance of knowing the history in order to understand the hauntings. He comes at this from a scientific and open-minded skeptic base and he investigates with respect. Larry shares some of his personal experiences. (Fellsmere 1)

The town of Fellsmere is named for Nelson Fell who founded the town in 1911. The "smere" part means watery, swampy place. He had come up from New Zealand during the first Florida land boom of the 1880s. He had been educated in England as a mining engineer. Fell bought a large parcel of land known as Cinncinatus that had been owed by a newspaper magnet. His goal was to make Fellsmere a county seat and a hub for farming. This was to be the gateway to the south. Fellsmere was officially incorporated in 1915 and two years later, Fell left and never returned to his namesake town. This was the first town in the area to have a power plant, electricity and phone service. And fun fact, this was the first town in the south to allow a woman to vote, which happened in 1915. There were some men who heard about it and demanded that her vote be nullified, but the townspeople took up for her and the vote remained. And even with that, Fellsmere slid backward in prosperity after huge rains in 1915 flooded the whole area. Muck farming and growing sugar cane were the main industries with the first sugar refinery in Florida being built in Fellsmere around 1932. Citrus would become the main form of agriculture here though.

Since Fellsmere was down and out and yet a stop on the way to the south, this became a place for never-do-wells and it was a rough place for a while. The town of Fellsmere is today around 80% Hispanic and they brought many of their customs with them. This is a very spiritual town. With many haunted locations. We got to investigate two locations on this evening, but before that, Larry shared some of the haunted places with us. 

Ditch 13 Gallery and Gifts

Nikki Rouge owns this business at 46 N. Broadway Street, which looks like a cute little building next door to the restaurant where we met up for the event. This is a local Artisan's gift shop featuring offerings by talented locals such as Homemade jellies and jams, Ceramics, Intarsia Wood Crafting, Stained Glass, Carvings, Jewelry, fine art and more. The owner claims to have paranormal activity here with things moving around.

Larry's son seems to be sensitive and he tells a story about a property where the oldest house in Fellsmere once stood. (Fellsmere 2)

Fellsmere Inn

Fellsmere Inn, located at 107 N. Broadway Street, is the oldest hotel in town and was built by Fell in 1910 and has 11 bedrooms, six full baths and three half baths. The barons of industry in the local area would meet here and enjoy drinks and cigars while discussing business. And Sunday nights would find cars lined up down the street with folks coming for Sunday dinner. Fred Vandeveer bought the property in 2005 and he restored and renovated it. I found many listings through the years for the inn being up for sale. Right now it appears to be a private residence. The owner has experienced some strange things here and he had wanted Larry to come investigate, but his wife put the kibosh on that. 

Marian Fell Library

The Marian Fell Library was started by Nelson Fell's daughter Marian. The building was constructed in 1915 and is a quaint little place. Activity reported includes orbs appearing in photographs, temperature drops and disembodied footsteps in empty rooms. Larry used to be able to investigate here and one night they saw something pretty creepy. There was this homemade crafty cloth doll thing that people put over brooms or mops in the library. One night while investigating someone saw it move and they ran out of the building. Paranormal investigator Brian Cano has also investigated here and he tried a tulpa experiment inside where he had everybody focus on a word. That word was banana. They thought about the smell of bananas and the taste of bananas and the word banana. They did an EVP session after that and they all heard the word banana. *Seven Sisters Inn and the word bird.*

Fellsmere Cemetery

Fellsmere Cemetery is host to the spirits of a woman and child. One evening a police officer was there about fifteen years ago to lock it up. He saw a woman and a child walking in the cemetery. He starts to walk towards them and they disappear. A deputy sheriff pulled up and upon seeing the look on the other officer's face he said, "You've seen them haven't you?" A medium that was part of Larry's team had been in the cemetery and she said she felt that there was a woman there with a child who was not her's, but she was taking care of the child.

Old School House/City Hall

The Old School House was built in the early 1900s and opened in 1917. This is the oldest masonry building in all of Indian River County. School closed in 1980. Stayed empty for a while and then became city hall and then the police department. The police department moved out into another building, so this is now just city hall. They offer classes there and the Boys and Girls Club is in the basement.

Larry said of the hauntings here, "We don’t know why ghosts of children seem to inhabit the school. There were no deaths or tragedies documented in this building. One of the theories is that when people die, they go back to where they were happiest. One night when I was locking up here, in front of me I saw an arm in a flannel shirt. Just the arm. I can’t explain it but I know that it happened." They have seen lights coming out of the walls and they've seen shadows.   

So Larry brought us into the Old School and explained the layout. Our first stop was going to be in the small theater auditorium, but we ended up with our first unexplained experience. (Fellsmere 3) A police officer unlocked everything before we got there and Larry had to call him back. Larry shares some of the experiences from their previous investigations here. (Fellsmere 4) You here me mention in there that a woman's EMF was going off. It did several times, as did the meter of the woman behind her. And Larry heard a loud bang in the elevator and no one was in the elevator. Here is the EVP he mentioned. (Fellsmere EVP) (Fellsmere EVP 2) Larry left and Spanky handed out dowsing rods. We've never used the rods as a large group with one question being asked and several sets of rods answering. It seemed to work okay with the rods all answering the same, including pointing in the same directions when we asked where the spirit was located. 

Then Spanky fired up a spirit box. (Fellsmere 5) I heard a yes after he asked if there were any kids there. Sounded like an older kid. Larry joined us again as we headed to the basement and he told us another quick story about the building. (Fellsmere 6) The basement has a lot of activity relating to children. The elevator is fairly active. (Fellsmere 7) We haven't ever had much luck with Rem Pods on any investigation we've been a part of, but here in the basement, the Rem Pod went crazy. Larry checked the batteries just to make sure they were fresh because it was so crazy it seemed to be spazzing out. And then it went off again. (Fellsmere 8) It felt like the kids left. Later, Larry would tell us that there is an adult - maybe a teacher - who seems to have some control over the kids. The Rem Pod went crazy again when we went up to the first floor and we were envisioning the kids playing and running to touch the Rem Pod before the teacher would stop them and things would go silent. (Fellsmere 9)

Larry then told us a story about using a DR60. For those of who listen to Astonshing Legends and heard their series on the Sallie House in Kansas, you heard them play an EVP of a creepy scream. DR60s are notorious for playing back really creepy things. Some in the field don't think they are reliable for that reason, but others swear by them and think they are more able to pick up stuff. We've never used one. Here's what happened here at the Old School. (Fellsmere 10) Kelly and I didn't hear anything above us, but Larry and another guest did apparently. There were 5 of us that went into the council chambers and it would be in here that two of the women would get a small scent of lilac and it was like it blew in their faces. And then Kelly and Sparky smelled it too. I didn't smell anything, but I was off in a farther part of the room that was dark and I was focusing on a closet. (Fellsmere 11) We didn't find any kind of air freshener dispenser.

Marsh Landing Restaurant

We met up with the group at the Marsh Landing Restaurant. Originally built in 1926 for the Fellsmere Estates Corporation and then it became the headquarters for the Florida Crystal Sugar Company, which was here through the early 1960’s. City Council meetings were held in the large main room and the police department occupied the North end of the building and some prisoners were held here awaiting transportation to the jail. A concrete vault held important documents for the corporation. The building was sold, boarded up and given to the city back in the 1980’s and sat empty until October 1995, when Fran Adams bought the building at public auction. She refurbished and opened Marsh Landing Restaurant in November of 2002. Much of the building is still original. The wood windows and door frames were made from cypress trees that were logged locally and cut in nearby lumber camps. The wainscot around the interior walls has a nice golden hue and is the original tongue and groove ceiling. Most of the doors are original. 

Staff have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wearing a white dress walking across the restaurant in a residual manner and they have also seen her staring into the street when they close up for the night. They have also seen shadow figures and watched chairs move on their own. The blinds have rolled up and down by themselves. The owner of the restaurant, Fran, saw some weird stuff when they were renovating. She witnessed the woman in white float from one wall to another wall and then disappear. Fran has tried to talk to the woman with no luck, which is why they think this is residual. Larry himself saw the woman in white. He said, "A deputy sheriff was here taking a photo in the same spot, and I looked up and saw a woman in white standing in the doorway. The sheriff did not see the woman I saw. I know what I saw – I saw a woman standing there and then she was gone. I went and got the security camera footage and there was no sign of the woman." A woman in purple was snapped standing in the doorway of the women's restroom.

We would end our evening of investigating here. A small group of us headed to the bar area where the holding cell had once been and did a spirit box session. (Fellsmere 12) Then we just let the box go for a while without asking anything and we got this. (Fellsmere 13) Sounded like, "There's a monster." Then we went into another room where three Spanish women are reputedly hanging out in the afterlife. One of the women with us spoke Spanish so she asked some questions. (Fellsmere 14)

We had a lot of fun and met some more interesting people in this field. Are these locations in Fellsmere haunted? That is for you to decide!

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