My True Adventure at the King House 1968

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

An old house in Mayport Florida where strange things have been happening for years, and young teenagers visit for a night of adventure.

There are many stories about things or places in the North Florida area that bring up the word legends or folk stories. Some even border on the bizarre and others are downright unnerving. This is a story that was spooky and fun for many young teenagers back in those more innocent days of the 1960's. But it served as something that became a learning experience for me. I will never forget this night, June 19th 1968.

Like all teenagers we were out looking for fun, we had heard about an old man telling ghost stories in his home at the beach. All you had to do was pay five dollars and he would tell you about the old house he lived in that was full of ghosts.

So off we went two boys and three girls on a spooky adventure on a Friday night. Coming from the northside of Jacksonville, we took the long way around and it was a long trip to Mayport, although it was filled with laughter and nervous macho bravado about what we would do at the haunted house.

When we pulled up at the house, it was dark. We parked beside the two-story white home in an open lot. There were a few cars already there and of course, we boys were playing up the cloudy night with the moon sporadically playing peek a boo causing shadows to appear and disappear, allowing us to let our braggadocio show by telling the girls not to worry we would protect them from the ghosts.

We walked up the sidewalk and looked at the house, it looked exactly like a haunted house should look except the windows were lit up on both floors that were surrounded on three sides by covered porches and if you were to guess what was going on, you might think we were headed to a Halloween party inside.

Up the stairs, we slowly walked until we faced the front door. No doorbell, just a knocker. I grabbed it and let it fall, once, twice, three times. We waited, it seemed like it took an abnormally long time. The girls squeezed tightly behind the boys and all of us not making a sound when suddenly the door swung open.

“Well hello”, said the older man with snow white hair and a big welcoming smile on his face. “Did you come for the ghost stories”? He asked.

I mumbled yes and everyone else just nodded.

“Come on in”, he said and bowed while he waved his arms as if he was introducing us to the queen of England.

We moved inside the door, all five of us as one organism keeping our distance from the older man. In the anteroom, we looked around there were stairs leading up to the second floor to the right and a hallway straight ahead leading to the back of the house and a parlor room off to the left where there were people sitting and standing, staring back at us. Most of them were young high school kids and two older college-aged couples sitting on the couch.

The door slammed behind us, we jumped and one of our girls yelped. The people in the room laughed at us.

“Come on, come on”, the man said as he passed us going into the room. “Find a place to sit or stand whichever you prefer.”

We shuffled into the room and moved to the side so we could stand together, boys in front and the girls behind.

“Boys, be gentlemen and let the girls in front so they can see,” he said to us.

The girls all said no thanks in unison and grabbed our arms as if we were protecting them. The old man smiled and said, “Well then, would one of you girls like to sit in this rocking chair, it's right here up front.” He pointed at a rocking chair in the center of the room that had a crocheted throw blanket covering it.

Someone said out loud, “Don't do it.”

The girls were shaking their heads no, like the little bobble-headed dogs in the back windows of cars. One of the college boys said, “I'll do it.” And walked to the center of the room and sat down in the chair.

“Well, we have a brave soul here tonight,” said the older man. The college boy crossed his arms, smiled and began to rock.

“Let us start, then, said the old man. My name is John King and this land has been in my family since 1881 when my father, William Joseph King married Clara “Polly” Arnau, she was sixteen years old, the granddaughter of Captain James Arnau, who built a house here after the Civil War. They lived here until old Captain James Arnau died and it passed on to Clara, his only living heir. Captain James was a Minorcan. Anybody know what a Minorcan is?”

The old man who we had found out was John King, walked slowly in a circle around the young college boy sitting in the rocking chair, he looked at everyone in the room looking for an answer to his question. No one said a word.

“Minorca is an island off the coast of Spain and Minorcans being from an island are very well acquainted with fishing and living off the sea. So they migrated to the mouth of the St. Johns River and Captain James Arnau built this home close to the river.

“What about the ghosts?” said the college boy in the rocking chair.

Mr. King smiled as he continued his story, “Now some say the old Captain chose a bad spot to build on. Some say the land was cursed because it was a Spanish cemetery during the time the Spanish Priests were building Missions and spreading their religion to the Indians. Many were wiped out by the Indians and those poor souls were buried right here under these floorboards.”

He turned to the boy in the chair and said, “They say that's what opened a...what did the professor call it...a vortex, a link between the present and the past, between the living and the dead.”

The college boy puffed himself up and grabbed the armrests of the rocking chair and said defiantly, “I don't believe in no ghosts.”

Mr. King stood straight up with a surprised look on his face, “Well, my goodness, then why are you here?”

The boy jerked his thumb back toward the other college kids and said, “My girl wanted to come because she likes to get scared.”

“So you're not scared, huh?”, asked Mr. King.

“Nope, I ain't scared of nothin.”

“Well, then let me ask you, are you afraid to die?” quizzed Mr. King.

“Huh, well yeah, nobody wants to die,” answered the boy.

“Okay then, there is a link or a connection between the two lives, the life on earth and the life after death. Death does not end life, but instead opens another door… another door to a higher form of life only for those who have not passed on through to the light,”

Mr. King quickly turned to the other college kids, “Do you believe in ghosts?” he asked, pointing to the girl who came with the boy.

She shook her head up and down, eyes wide with confusion and a touch of fear.

“Good, because every individual must live his life with the knowledge that he or she will someday face death, Mr. King went on walking, talking and making eye contact with everyone in the room.

Someone called out, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

He stopped and a great big smile spread across his face, “Oh yes, I do”. “But I've seen them with my own eyes and you all came here tonight to see them...didn't you?”

No one spoke but most nodded.

Mr. King continued his talk, “My father was a wise man and he used to say, “It's not the things one knows that get him or her in trouble, it’s the things one knows that just isn't so, that gets them in trouble.”

The college boy’s girlfriend spoke up, “Tell us about the ghosts.”

At that, the college boy jumped up from the rocking chair and walked over to his girlfriend and said, “There ain't no ghosts, it's just stories he makes up to scare people.”

The girl's face turned red and she looked down at the floor.

“But I haven't begun to tell you any stories”, interrupted Mr. King. “Would you like to hear the story behind that rocking chair you were sitting in?”

“Tell us,” came from the college girl.

“It's just a chair,” the college boy blurted out throwing his hands up in the air to express his exasperation.

“No, it's not just a chair”, interrupted Mr. King again. “You see that chair goes back to days before the Civil War, those days when this was a boarding house for Sea Captains. My Great Aunt Margarita Maria Andreu (Minorcan, pronounced Andrew) ran the boarding house. She was a beautiful woman with long flowing jet black hair, who had lost her fisherman husband in a storm at sea. She had opened this house to take in boarders to survive those hard times and it had become a favorite of the Captains who anchored just inside the sandbar at the mouth of the St. Johns River. One of the young captains had taken a liking to Margarita and he was determined to sweep her off her feet and ask her to marry him. But unbeknownst to him, she was in love with another local Mayport man.”

Mr. King walked around the room holding us all spellbound, “And as things sometimes happen, the very night that the captain chose to declare his love to Margarita, as he came up the steps onto the veranda, he saw through the open window into the parlor, his one true love in the arms of another man. As he looked unable to turn away, they kissed and declared their love for one another.”

“It was more than the captain could stand, he walked back down the stairs and around the back of the house where he found an open shed. He grabbed the first thing he saw, fully intending to do away with his competition for the love of the beautiful Margarita. He sneaked in the back door and quietly crept down the hall but by this time Margarita's lover had said goodnight and left. There was only Margarita in the room sitting in this very rocking chair looking out that window and humming a song with a happy smile upon her face.

The Captain was enraged, no one would have her if he couldn't have her.”

“Oh no,” one of the girls said and it broke the spell of the story, which caused some nervous giggling.

Mr. King's voice went lower and we leaned closer to hear the story, “He entered the room behind her and raised the weapon he had taken from the shed out back.

“It was a 4 pronged pitchfork,” bellowed King as he turned and pantomimed stabbing the imaginary pitchfork through the back of the rocking chair. “He killed her, right here in that very chair,” he shouted loudly for all to hear.

It invoked the response of a sharp intake of breaths, a step back from all the listeners in the room and the girls clinging tightly to their boyfriends.

John King straightened up and moved to the center of the room, “The young Captain took a rowboat to the center of the river and threw himself in, his body washed up on the beach three days later.”

The college boy who had been sitting in the chair said out loud, “Bunch of hooey if you ask me.”

Mr. King turned to him, “If you'd like to leave, I'm sure everyone wouldn't mind”.

His girlfriend grabbed on to him and shook her head no to Mr. King, whispering in his ear to shut up because she wanted to stay and hear more.

“No”? said, Mr. King. “Well, maybe I should show you a little something that may change your mind about this being hooey,” with that he reached over and grabbed the crocheted throw blanket and jerked it off the rocking chair.

He pointed to the Brentwood Rocking Chair, “Look for yourself, in the cane back rocker you can plainly see four holes just the size of a pitchfork prong... and there running down into the seat and down the legs those stains are from Margarita blood!”

The crowd of people surged forward trying to see the rocking chair and the proof of its gruesome past. Some girls covered their eyes and didn't look, most of the guests were here just for this sort of thing and eagerly worked around to see the chair.

Mr. King held his arms up, “Take your time, don't push. Everyone will get a chance to see.”

The people eased up and moved at a more controlled orderly pace.

Mr. King waited until everyone had a chance to see the rocking chair and then began to speak again, “Margarita was buried in the Old Minorcan Cemetery just down the road and she was the first ghost I ever saw. You see, when I was a young boy, my grandfather first told me this story and showed me this rocking chair, just like I showed it to you. I have seen the apparition of Great Aunt Margarita Maria many many times when this rocking chair has begun rocking all by itself and there have been times when looking at one of the mirrors upstairs, I see her behind me but when I turn around she's not there. Sometimes when my father and I came into this room and the rocking chair was rocking only to have it slowly come to a stop. My father would say, “Bye Aunt Margarita”, I guess she's gone back to the cemetery.”

Mr. King smiled broadly, “Now we come to what I call the best part of the night.” He walked over to the fireplace, picked up an old milk can and brought it over to the center of the room, “I'm going to walk around this room and if you want to stay and hear the rest of the ghost stories, drop five dollars in the milk can. If you're here on a date, it's five dollars for the both of ya, cause I like having pretty ladies in the house. And if ya don't have five dollars just drop what you have in the can.

He began to slowly walk around the room as we pulled our money out and we all dropped money in the old metal milk can, “If you want to leave, now is the time to go but if you stay, I can't be responsible for what happens next,” Mr. King said with a serious look on his face.

No one left, not even the college boy, who had been strangely quiet after seeing the blood stains and the holes in the rocking chair.

End of Part One.

My True Adventure at the King House

Part Two How it started.

My best friend's brother had told us of an old man who gave tours of his house out in Mayport, not that architecture was an interest to either of us. But what did interest us was that his house was supposed to be haunted and he told stories about the ghost's that lived there as you walked around the spooky old place.

Now Mayport was on the other side of the world to us, it was a quaint little fishing village at the mouth of the St. Johns River, east of Jacksonville, Florida and we lived on what most people in Jacksonville called North Jacksonville or South Georgia, depending on which was worse to the person insulting our beloved wrong side of the tracks stomping ground.

So my buddy and I began to hatch a plan to get some of the girls from the neighborhood to go see the haunted house in Mayport with us, because when girls get scared they need a man to hold on to and we were planning on being those men.

We stayed up the weekend before the planned ghost trip, weighing the possibilities of who would be the right choice to take on the adventure. It came down to who my buddy and myself would most like to have a make-out session with. We considered the pluses and minuses of all the neighborhood girls. We made our choices and set the plan in motion to casually let it slip, we were going to a ghost house Friday night.

The plan went perfectly with my buddies girl, who jumped at the chance to go with us but there was one small hiccup with my choice. She couldn't go without taking her sister who was two years younger with her. Drat, the luck, I felt things were not going to work out...until my buddy reminded me, I'd be with two girls who would be scared and in need of someone to protect them and someone they could wrap their arms around. My chances of getting a make-out session just went up with the two sisters. Well, still iffy, but as Dale Carnegie says “Think positive”.

All day Friday in school my buddy and I watched the clock hands slowly inch around, it seemed like it took the minute hand an hour to complete its cycle and forever for the hour hand to move even a little bit. But we made it till the dismissal bell rang, my buddy because he had already reached the magical age of eighteen (I was still sixteen), and drove a car to school. We hurried to the parking lot and raced out the school gates and down the road we went. I had told my mother a small white lie that I needed extra lunch money because they were selling tickets to the pep rally and I wanted to go. She gave me two dollars, which added up to a total of eight dollars with the money I saved from my allowance.

Right down from the school was a Sinclair Gas Station, so we made our stop to fill up his Mercury Montclair before the trip that night. The car was a hand me down from his grandmother, who had given up driving and it had a V-8 under the hood but gas was only 35 cents a gallon. We had it planned out at 15 miles to the gallon, four dollars would be more than enough and maybe after the ghost stories we'd ride the ferry over to the Jetties and park on the beach to see the submarine races. If you know what I mean? Wink, wink.

It was dark already when we picked up the girls, last month at this time the sun was still up warming the last bit of those dog days of late summer. But now that big orange ball had taken to dropping out of site early and the coolness had arrived with the darkness.

The girls insisted on sitting in the back seat together, which didn't bother us because we knew the payoff would be after the spooky happenings later on. Teenage girls even today talk a mile a minute and these three were no different, they immediately started in on how they preferred listening to WPDQ Smooth and Sexy 600am, over what we listened to, which was WAPE, The Rock Station 690am.

“No problem,” I said. But my buddy insisted that his car meant his radio station.

WPDQ played more slow love songs than WAPE, so I talked the girls into we'd play WPDQ on the way home. Which would include our stop at the jetties and the real purpose of this night...well, us boys real purpose anyway? So, back to the story...

Mr. King began talking as he returned from setting the milk can back over the fireplace, “Some of you may remember me saying something about a professor and I would like to give you some background on the happenings here at my house.”

“Maybe you have heard of Duke University before, but have you heard of the Rhine Institute?” Mr. King asked.

Almost everybody shook their heads, but the other college boy that had come to the house with the now chastised college boy and his girlfriend raised his hand.

“Why, it seems someone has heard of this prestigious and very respected Institute connected to Duke University, exclaimed Mr. King. Please go on tell us what you know.”

“Well, began the new college boy, everybody has heard of Duke University and their basketball team, which are very good, but they can't play football worth a flip.”

“Is that all,” asked Mr. King.

“Yeah, that's all I know,” answered the college boy.

“I suppose we should thank you for enlightening us with that important information,” said Mr. King a bit sarcastically. “But my house was investigated by Professor Rhine and his folks from Duke University to see if they could scientifically find out if we had ghosts here or apparitions as they called them.”

Mr. King was back in the center of the room once again, “Do you want to hear what they found out?”

A staggered chorus of yes's came back from the young crowd eager to hear more.

“Okay,” Mr. King continued. “They sent a group of scientists with all kinds of equipment and spent three days recording all kinds of stuff, cameras, voice recorders and something called a Thermal Scanner.”

He pulled a letter out from inside his coat pocket and began to open it, “This is the official report sent to me by Dr. Rhine himself and this is what it says.”

He began to read, “After analyzing all reports, photographs, film, recordings and Thermal Scanner data, we have reached agreement on the scientific study of paranormal or ostensibly paranormal phenomena, that has occurred at your residence, we find that 27of the 33 studies produced statistically significant results and our team headed by Dr. William Joines, a professor of electrical engineering. Will release the results of this study for the purpose of its own psychic and paranormal research of the house at 4627 Ocean St, Mayport, Florida. And it will be published in the quarterly publication of the Psychical Research Foundation, which studies and documents supernatural phenomena.” He went on, “Our report concluded that the King house did indeed have both the right atmosphere for the classic haunting, as well as there being a definite presence in the house.” Mr. King looked around at the circle of faces as if saying see I told you so.

He continued, “Thank you for your assistance and allowing us access to your residence in helping us further our investigation into psi paranormal phenomena.” Here he stopped and took a breath, “Signed Dr. Joseph Rhine The Rhine Institute.”

For some reason, we all broke out in spontaneous applause, at the conclusion of Mr. King reading the letter, as if some award had been bestowed upon this house and Mr. King.

“Wait, wait,” Mr. King held up his hands to quiet the clapping. I have another correspondence here from a Mr. Douglas Johnson noted medium from England, who came all the way to Mayport to experience the aura given from the house. This is what his letter said...”

He pulled out another letter and began to read once again, “In December 1965, I, Douglas Johnson, a highly regarded and well-respected medium from London, England, made contact with spirits who have not crossed over into the eternal light at The King House in Mayport, Florida. I made contact with a man who was short, stubby, named William, who was a relative of Mr. King, he once lived in the house and had something to do with the sea. I was also put in contact with a weeping young girl and a dark-haired woman wearing a shawl. I heard voices and sounds of someone coming down the stairs and what seemed like women's shoes walking around on the second floor when no one was up there.”

It is my belief this house is being inhabited by spirits and/or multiple poltergeists, not of a harmful nature.” Once again, he paused and continued, “ Signed Douglas Johnson.”

He immediately held up his arms once again to silence the applause before it could start, “The man he described is my father, he was short and a sea captain, the weeping young girl is a ghost who lives here that we call her, the “Lady in White” and the dark-haired woman is, of course, Aunt Margarita.”

“So we're just supposed to believe those letters that you probably wrote yourself, to prove there are ghosts here?” Once again the sullen looking college boy blurted out some sarcastic comments.

Suddenly we heard, “Why don't you leave, man!” from out of the crowd.

Unbelievably, it came from my buddy next to me, he stepped out from where we were against the wall and said, “If you don't want to be here, just leave. Nobody wants you here anyway.”

There were others that voiced agreement to this and the three girls that were with us chimed in loudly, “Yeah, leave!” “Go away jerk!” “You need to just go somewhere else!”

“No, wait,” said Mr. King. “He's not the first skeptic we've had here in my house. And if he would like his money back, I'll be glad to give it to him.”

The college boy glared at us across the room and said, “Yeah, I want my money back and we're getting out of here.”

“NO!” said his girlfriend. “I'm staying.”

“Okay then,” he said. “Good luck finding a ride back home,” then he turned to Mr. King and said, “Oh, and keep my money old man, maybe you can fix up this dump,” the boy turned to his other friends and said, “Come on, let's go get some beer.”

And with that, the sultry group headed to the front door as Mr. King followed them. They went out onto the veranda slamming the door behind them and down the steps toward their car.

We all turned and looked at the girl who just got left behind, she was crying, head down. Once again, my buddy surprised me as he walked over and said, “Don't worry, I'll give you a ride home. Where do you live?”

Before the girl could answer Mr. King returned to the room, “Well, now let's continue the fun, shall we? We'll start the tour in the kitchen everybody, follow me,” he said and ushered us into the foyer and down the hall toward the back of the house.

We were near the back of the line because the girls had gone over to the girl left behind and asked her to join us. So as they all moved by my buddy and myself, she looked at us and said, “Thanks, I'm sorry.”

“No problem,” said my buddy. “That jerk didn't deserve to be with you anyway.”

She smiled and said, “I live in Springfield, 14th, and Liberty.”

“That’s not out of the way, is it?” she replied. “I could call my dad but he'd kill me because he hates Tommy and I lied by telling him I was going out with my friends.”

“Nope, we go right by there on the way home,” he kind of stretched the truth on that one a bit. “And you didn't lie to your dad because you're with friends now.”

She got a big smile on her face and the girls cautioned us to hurry, we were falling further behind the others, so we fast walked down the hall through the dining room and into the kitchen which was completely full of the tour group who were anxiously looking around.

“Seems like tonight I've got more ghost hunters than normal,” said Mr. King. “Let's all go back into the dining room where it won’t be so crowded and I'll tell the story of the Lady in White.”

So we all filtered back into the dining room, which was much bigger than the kitchen and surrounded the dining table and chairs.

Mr. King stood at the head of the table and began his story, “After World War 2 things began to quiet down here as the sailors went home to their families and Mayport got back to being a little fishing village.” “Of course with the ferry here, there were always people looking to cross the river instead of going all the way around through Jacksonville. “So late one night, it was cold and raining, it had to be the last run of the night for the ferry. “I plainly heard the ferry boat captain blow his horn, now let me explain something to you people, ferryboat captains on the river for a hundred years have used a distinctive docking signal so people would know the ferry is now on this side of the river, it's made up of a long blast on the boat’s whistle followed by two short ones. In maritime terms, this is called a warp and two woofs.”

He looked right at us as he said this. “It’s still in use today, anybody going back on the ferry?”

The girls raised their hands, except for the new girl, she kind of looked around strange like.

“Listen for the warp and two woofs as the ferry comes in, okay,” Mr. King said to the girls.

“We will,” the girls said in unison. “We're going to the North Jetties after this, they're having a Boone's Farm Bonfire tonight.”

“A what?” said Mr. King, who was looking a bit confused. Then he shook his head and rolled his eyes and said, “Nevermind, I don't want to know.” That caused some laughter from the group.

“Anyway, where was I?” “Oh, the “Lady in White.” “We had just gone up to bed. I looked out the front window facing the road, it was dark, wet and the fog was rolling in. I saw the headlights coming down the road, the car was traveling fast. I guess he was trying to make it to the ferry before the last run of the night. I could see he was going way too fast for the little two-lane road and I'm not sure if a cat or something may have run out in front of him but he swerved and lost control of the car. It slid sideways on the wet road and into a telephone pole, folded the car right around the pole, sounded like an explosion and the whole house shook.”

“I threw on my pants and shoes ran downstairs and told my father to call the police and tell them there had been an accident. But he couldn't call out, the crash had knocked the telephone lines right off the poles. I got there about the same time as some of the fishermen, who had been off-loading their catch at the docks. There wasn't anything we could do. The man had been thrown free of the car, but he was in bad shape and the woman was still inside, but there wasn't any way we could get to her, the car was wrapped around the pole. It would take a cutting torch to cut her out of that car.”

“One of the fishermen, Captain Andrew was at the car trying to see if the woman was breathing, but when I went to see if I could help, he told me to stay back there was nothing anybody could do for her. My father told us the phone was down, so someone radioed the Coast Guard, they called the police and an ambulance. The ambulance took the man to the Beaches Hospital, but we heard he didn't make it and it wasn't till the next morning before they could get the woman's body or what was left of it, out of the wrecked car.”

Mr. King looked around the table at everyone's shocked faces, he had a sad look and bowed his head and wiped his face with his right hand as he continued, “They had just been married that night down the road in Atlantic Beach and were going to Fernandina Beach for their honeymoon. She was still in her white wedding dress.”

You could hear the sharp intake of breaths and the girls sadly groaned as if they felt the pain just hearing that. No one said a word but we didn't take our eyes off Mr. King either.

“It was the next day when I heard it for the first time. I… I as you could understand, didn't get much sleep that night, so I laid down that afternoon. My father and mother were out picking up groceries and I thought I could maybe get a nap. But just before I nodded off, I heard what sounded like a woman crying.”

“At first, I thought it was a cat. It was coming from outside, so I thought maybe a couple of cats were fighting over some chum fish the fishermen tossed to them. But the more I listened the more it sounded like a woman.”

“I got up and walked out on the veranda, I listened real hard for the sound,” as he said this he cocked his head and put his hand behind his ear, cupping it to catch the sound.

“As I stood there, I looked across the street and there stood Captain Andrew. He was listening also.”

He hollered to me, “Do you hear it, John?”

“I nodded yes.”

“It's her, John,” he said. “She's still here.”

The girls were holding on to each other and I felt the older of the sisters reach out and loop her arm around mine, they were visibly shaken by this story. I began to smile...our plan was working. I looked over at my buddy and lo and behold, he had his arm around the college boy's girlfriend or ex-girlfriend and she had her arm around him. That was not part of the plan.

End of Part Two

My True Adventure at the King House Part Three “The Lady in White”.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray”, is a quote from Robert Burns poem, but few have read the entire poem. I had to memorize it in Mrs. Virginia Cheney's English class, I thought of this while I listened to Mr. John King tell us the story of the “Lady in White”, one of the ghosts that inhabit his home at Mayport, a fishing village at the mouth of the St. Johns River east of Jacksonville, Florida.

The “Lady in White” had planned to be married and go on her honeymoon, but her new husband had wrecked their car and she had died on the road in front of the King Home, on her wedding night. Mr. King had just told us that the day after the car wreck, he heard what sounded like a woman crying and it seemed like it was coming from outside the house.

I also thought it applied to my buddy and my plans for the night. We had asked a couple of neighborhood girls to go with us to hear the ghost stories, hoping that the girls would need a man to hold on to when they got scared and later we would go to the North Jetties and park on the beach for a make-out session.

But things took a big change when a college boy got mad and left his girlfriend at the ghost house and my buddy offered to give her a ride home later after the ghost tour. Only now, they had their arms around each other as the old man told his stories. I was with my neighborhood girl date and her younger sister and my buddy's neighborhood girl date was getting peeved at the new state of affairs on this strange, spooky, scary, fun night.

And now, back to the story;

“Is that all that happened Mr. King?” asked one of the girls with a perplexed look. She continued, “You just heard something that sounded like crying.”

“Oh, my goodness no,” corrected Mr. King. “The mysterious woman's crying stopped when I went back inside the house. But that night, I heard it again, this time it sounded like it was coming from inside the house, upstairs in the bonus room, which is our catch-all room.”

He shook his head slowly and continued on “I had not mentioned the crying to anyone, thinking it was just my imagination or maybe it was Captain Andrew just messing with me after all, everybody already said our house was haunted.”

“I was asleep and suddenly it sounded like there's some kind of noise coming from upstairs, I rolled out of bed, slipped on my shoes and headed up the stairs before it woke everybody in the house up. When I got to the bonus room door, which is at the top of the stairs on the second floor, I could hear that it sounded like someone was walking on the wooden floors in high-heels and crying inside, just like I heard before. Now I wasn't dreaming or having hearing problems, I was wide awake and could hear as good as I can hear you all tonight.”

“As I reached for the doorknob, the door opened all by itself and the crying stopped. It didn't open all the way, but about two feet, just enough for me to see there was no light in the room. “I jumped back and almost fell down the stairs.”

Someone nervously giggled.

He smiled a quick smile, “I leaned over close to the door and said softly, “Hello”... nothing, so I said it again a little louder, “Hello”...nothing. So I reached my arm inside and switched on the light. I pushed the door all the way open and I looked inside... no-one was there. Not a cat or a mouse and especially not a bride in a wedding dress crying.”

“Weren't you scared, Mr. King?” asked someone beside us.

“Oh,you better believe I was scared, answered Mr. King. I was scared this poor lady was going to wake everybody in the house up that night.”

Everybody busted out laughing, Mr. King had that big smile on his face again and he shook his head slowly back and forth and mock sadly said, “Don't laugh, you've never seen my father without his beauty sleep, I sure didn't need any monsters in the house... and ghosts too.”

More laughter all around,“But seriously, he went on. After that, it seemed like she knew that the crying was disturbing us and we never heard it again.”

“It just quit?” “ Nothing else happened?” “ That's all?” These questions came from the group.

“That night, nothing else happened,” he answered. “And for the next week or so, not a peep. Then one afternoon I was in the study when Mrs. Emily, she was a lady whose husband was a Shrimper and she cooked and stayed with us while he was at sea on a shrimp run,” He explained. “She was named after her grandmother, who died in this very house during childbirth. She was close friends with my grandmother, but that's another story.”

“Well, Emily came in and asked if she should set another plate for supper that night. I looked up from my afternoon newspaper and asked her what did she mean?”

“Why Mr. King, the lady came through the dining room to the kitchen and looked around, she didn't say anything to me but I thought she might be visiting and staying for dinner.”

“I told her I didn't know of anyone visiting, but sometimes we had family stop by. So I asked her what the lady looked like.”

“She told me, the lady was wearing a white dress with dark hair and she walked in the kitchen from the dining room, stopped and put her hands on her hips and shook her head with a frown like she saw something she didn't like. She then walked on out into the Scullery room, where we wash up the clothes and store our kitchen utensils. But when I followed her out there, she was gone. So I thought I should come ask if we're having guests for dinner.”

“Well, I was perplexed at this explanation,” said Mr. King, “I told her that I had better come with her to take a look because I didn't know of anyone expected for dinner.”

“We walked into the kitchen and Mrs. Emily pointed to the stove and told me that someone had been in the kitchen. When I asked her what she meant, she told me she had set out the pots and pans to cook dinner with and now they're not there.” He went on, “She hurriedly went to the stove and opened the oven, she turned to me and excitedly said, “Mr. King the big roaster is gone also.”

“I was thinking maybe she just forgot them and I asked her, “Emily, are you sure?”

“Well, let me tell you, she hustled out of the kitchen and around the corner into the Scullery room. I heard her gasp and say, “Oh my goodness, Mr. King, come quick.” So I came around the corner and there she stood pointing at the pots, pans, and the big roaster sitting right where they should, in the cabinets.”

“Mr. King,” she exclaimed, “I had those in the kitchen. I was preparing to start dinner. How did they get back in here?”

“I don't know Emily,” I told her. “Are you sure you had these things in the kitchen?”

“Of course I'm sure,” she said angrily to me. “It had to be that woman, she looked like she was mad that I was in the kitchen.”

“This was so unlike Emily, that I told her I would check outside just to be sure there wasn't any woman out there. And of course, I saw nothing. But Emily was still shaking about it, so I told her to go on home and we'd get something from Singleton's for dinner.”

The young boy beside us spoke up again, “Mr. King, was that the woman that was killed in the car wreck?”

Mr. King responded with a smile and said, “Very good question, young man. We didn't know at the time but after many other strange things that happened when the “Lady in White” showed up and after I myself saw her sitting on the bed in the master bedroom crying, I tried to talk to her then, but she wouldn't say anything to me. We put two and two together and there is no doubt that the young woman killed in the car wreck just outside the house is the “Lady in White”.”

“How do you know that,” asked the ex-girlfriend of the college boy or should I say, my buddies, new girlfriend.

Mr. King scratched his head and looked quizzical, “Well, the way the professor explained it was..., there is energy stored up in an area or place where a vortex or a gateway to the afterlife has occurred before, even if it's no longer open. And apparently, this property and this house, being over an ancient cemetery fit that description.”

“I don't understand,” the young boy said.

“I'm not sure I do either, young man,” said Mr. King shaking his head in agreement with the boy. But he went on, “when someone passes on, their spirit must enter a gateway, to go from this maternal life to the afterlife. And they are attracted to those places where the energy is stored from past gateways. Like a light bulb is to the moths, but this vortex or gateway is closed, so they can't pass on through.”

“The professor said they are waiting for the gateway to open again and until that happens or until someone shows them the way to another vortex, they'll stay here.”

My date, the older sister raised her hand, Mr. King acknowledged her with a nod, she asked, “So the “Lady in white” and your Great Aunt, will never leave here?”

“I don't think we can never, say never about anything,” Mr. King said with a serious look on his face. “And in my lifetime, I have seen a total of twenty-five different spirits in this house.”

That brought out a lot of expressions of surprise from the group.

“But I think I know where a gateway or vortex is today. And if and when I die, I'll do my best to show them the way to get to it and we'll all pass through together to the promised life.”

“Heaven!” said the young boy, his face beaming.

“Heaven,” agreed Mr. King.

“Where is the other vortex, Mr. King,” asked the boy.

“I'm going to keep that my little secret for now, but it's where most people would expect it to be,” said Mr. King. “For now, the “Lady in White” and all the others are stuck between the material life and the afterlife and she never got to have her own home or kitchen, so she kind of adopted our kitchen as hers. Sometimes she likes to do things like move things around so you can't find them.” Mr. King smiled again, “At least I think that's her and not me being absent minded.”

We all chuckled at that.

He went on, “But one thing she takes seriously is what Emily said, she does not take kindly to other women in her kitchen. Poor Emily could not ever bake a cake after this incident, she always said the “Lady in White” would cause something to make the cake fall. Sometimes the stove would mysteriously switch off, the baking soda would disappear or a loud noise like a door would slam or a pot would fall to the floor.”

“So I really didn't blame her when she decided to move to Fernandina.”

“So who did the cooking then?”, asked another girl at the table.

“Why do you ask, little lady, do you want the job?” said Mr. King with an inquisitive look.

“No way,” she replied, appalled at the thought.

“That's okay,” said Mr. King patting his belly. “I seem to have found enough groceries to keep me from starving.”

The group laughed once again. We were all having fun but heedful that there was something to this haunted house thing, especially while listening to Mr. King spin his tales. It was hard not to marvel at the way he could make us feel his stories and the spookiness of them. Of course, the fact the house was old and kind of spooky to begin with, sure helped.

“Okay, let's go back to the stairs and go up to the second floor where most of the sightings have been,” said Mr. King as he waved his hands in a follow me gesture.

We all eased out of the dining room, some in single file and some couples holding on to each other. I had my arm around my date, the older sister, my buddy had his arm around his new girlfriend, and the little sister and the other neighborhood girl who was now alone brought up the rear.

We made it out of the dining room, into the hall and to the stairs, when suddenly behind us both little sister and neighborhood girl started screaming and running toward the front of the line. This caused the other girls to scream and some of the boys also.

I only let out a small scream, I swear.

Mr. King stopped, turned around and held his arms up saying, “Hold up, hold up there. What happened?”

The whole group was bunched up at the foot of the stairs, the little sister was hugging her sister next to me and the other neighborhood girl was now hugging me. I normally would have been thrilled to have two cute girls hanging all over me, but honestly, I was just trying to look behind us to see what was after them.

Both girls were crying, tears rolling down both their faces. They were breathing so hard, we couldn't understand them. It sounded like...”(inhale) “something” (exhale), (inhale) “something touch” (exhale), (inhale) “something touched” (exhale), (big inhale) “SOMETHING TOUCHED MY HAIR!” (exhale)”.

Mr. King started laughing, “Oh, I'm sorry for laughing girls but I'll bet it was “the little man in red.”

“Who?” came from just about everybody.

“I'm not sure who,” responded Mr. King. “And I'm not sure what either.”

“My father said he thought he was a salesman. He wore a dark red suit with spats on his shoes and a derby hat and apparently he rented a room from Grandmother from time to time. Father remembered him as a jovial, happy-go-lucky little man, who enjoyed a good joke.”

“That joke wasn't funny,” said the scared neighborhood girl who was looking at Mr. King and then behind us towards the empty dining room.

“Oh, and that might not be the last you see of “the little man in red,” said Mr. King.

“You see, he has been known to sneak into the backseat of cars as people leave here. So when people are driving away and they look in their rear view mirror… there he sits in their back seat. Naturally, people are scared out of their minds and pull over and jump out of their cars, only to find out there is now, nothing there.”

“I would drive right into the river if I looked in my mirror and saw a little man in a red suit in my back seat,” said my buddy. “And if I stopped and he was gone, I'd be headed for the loony bin.”

The neighborhood girl that was mad at him said with a sneer, “The loony bin sounds about right for you.”

“Hey, watch your mouth,” said my buddies new girlfriend huffy like.

Mr. King cut in at the right time, “I think we should head on up to the second floor. Everybody follow me, hold on to the banisters now and watch that step at the top.”

We all started up the first flight of stairs, Mr. King was at the top directing people to turn left at the landing and stand to the side, so we could all be together and see what’s on the second-floor landing.

“There are five rooms here on the second floor, plus a bonus room and six rooms on the first. The attic is really what you would call a great room, just one big room,” explained Mr. King. “And just in case you want to know, there were no bathrooms in the home until about 1913. But there was a nice three seater out back.”

The boys laughed out loud and the girls giggled.

“A THREE SEATER! What's that?” asked a young girl with short blond hair, who was immediately attacked with comments of, “It's an outhouse, dummy”, “You never heard of an outhouse?” and “Girl, where have you been all your life?”

Mr. King cut in again by holding his hands up, we were getting used to his signals by this time, “Hold on there now, my mother never called it an outhouse. She said you could tell the class of people by their toilets and their language. She always called it our “Backhouse” and it was three separate stalls, nothing like you see in the pictures.”

“Where did you take a bath? Mr. King?” asked someone else in the group.

“Now baths were taken in the house, the scullery room had a porcelain claw-footed tub and we heated water on the stove so we wouldn't freeze in the winter time,” he laughed.“While I was away in the service, during World War One, they got hooked up to plumbing and electricity. We had a well out back, it was sulfur water but mother said it would make us healthier than that water in the city lines.”

“I hate sulfur water,” said the young boy who spoke before. It tastes like rotten eggs. Did you smell like rotten eggs after your bath, Mr. King?”

“No son, well at least, I sure hope I didn't.” He smiled at that statement and then got a serious look on his face, “I told you about the rooms in the house for a reason. As you see here at the second-floor landing, there's a door to the right, a door to the left and a door straight in front of you. If you want to go on up to the attic, you turn left and go up another flight of stairs. The attic is the second most haunted room in this house.”

“Before you ask, the most haunted room is...anybody want to guess?” He asked, leaning toward us and making his eyebrows jump like Groucho Marx.

He looked around at all of us, but nobody said a word, “No takers, huh. Well, then I'll just have to show it to you.”

He reached out and grabbed the knob of the door straight in front of us and said, “Don't be in a hurry, everybody take your time till we get away from these stairs.”

He turned the knob and pushed the door open, we strained our necks trying to see into the room, and what we saw was... a small mostly empty room.

End of Part Three

Part Four The Most Haunted Room in the House

Now I don't know if you believe in ghosts, I didn't believe in ghosts. My grandmother always told me, “you got nothing to fear from the dead, it's the living you got to worry about.” But when you're in an old spooky house and listening to stories about strange things that happened there, and surrounded by other people who are beginning to feel fear bubbling up from inside their minds. Well, fear is contagious, it feeds off that doubt, that little question you begin to ask yourself, “maybe there is something here in this place, maybe there are ghosts.”

We were all gathered around the door to a small room at the top of the stairs on the second-floor landing. There were about two dozen of us, a mixed group of teenagers and young adults. Some with dates and some with friends, all of us here at the King House in Mayport looking to find fun and adventure on a Friday night. It had been fun but we didn't count on the adventure involving the amount of apprehension we were experiencing.

The tour Mr. John King was hosting of his home that had been built back in the 1880's, combined with his gift of spinning what some would call, yarns, myths, fables, and what others would call family histories, tragedies, legends, into a powerful all-encompassing extraordinary stories that captured your imagination and emotions. In short, we were all scared or very close to it.

At this point, Mr. King had just opened the door of the room at the top of the stairs that he told us this was the most haunted room in the house. We were all trying to look inside as the door swung open.

Mr. King stepped aside, “This is the most active room in the house according to the Rhine Institute's machines and Professor Joines."

"The professor said the readings were off the scale for their EMF meters and Thermal Scanners.”

“What's an EMF meter, Mr. King,” asked a young boy who had squirmed his way to the front to see into the room.

“Somebody always asked me that every time," said Mr. King, smiling at the boy. "Professor Joines said it stands for ElectroMagnetic Field. The way he explained it was that the human brain has an electromagnetic field that sends signals, he called them impulses, to the parts of our bodies to make them work or move. It sends a signal and our heart beats or it sends a signal and you breathe. It is part of our unconscious mind; that means we do it without thinking about it," he looked at the boy to see if he understood.

The boy was scratching his head, so Mr. King went on, "They have measured people when they die and there is a minuscule, a very small weight loss at the time of death. The Professor believes it's the soul leaving the body and with the soul, the electromagnetic field goes too. There is no reading from an EMF meter from a dead body."

"Oh, and the Thermal Scanners, those are used to find cold spots in the rooms. Because apparitions draw in the heat that surrounds them to take form or exist in this world and the area around them could be as much as 10 degrees colder at times. I believe I got that right, at least I hope I did.”

“So you see, to sum it up, if they get what they called a hit with those EMF meters or Thermal scanner, they believe it's an apparition or what we call a ghost."

"Come on, let's see what's in this room,” said Mr. King.

He walked further back into the small room, the young boy backed up and lingered outside as we filed into the room.

"Come on in and back up against the walls if you can and stay away from the center of the room,” Mr. King advised us and we complied and stayed away for the center of the room, we had no idea why it was important but we weren't going to take any chances.

The young boy, who had waited till he was last, stepped just inside the door and hugged the wall. I looked at him and wondered who was with him and why'd they let him be by himself. I looked around at my little group and I don't believe you could pry us apart with a crowbar. We looked like we'd been glued together at the hip and had our arms around each other holding on tight as if we were riding the roller coaster at the fair.

“Okay, are we all inside now,” asked Mr. King.

We all kind of nodded our heads, not because we knew if we were all inside but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Mr. King looked over at the young boy beside the door, “Would you close the door young man.”

The boy's eyes went from wide open to a squint, like you do when you don't quite understand something and he shook his head no. Obviously, he was planning on not being caught in the room without a way to escape.

Mr. King seemed to understand, so he took a few steps toward the door saying, “That's okay son, I'll get the door.”

As he grabbed the doorknob to shut the door the boy sidestepped into the doorway.

“Make up your mind son," said Mr. King. "Inside with us or outside by yourself, and if I was you, I'd stay with the group.”

Mr. King leaned down and spoke these words softly to the boy, “Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to you.”

The boy looked up, clearly scared, bottom lip trembling, “Promise?” he asked.

Mr. King held out his hand and said, “I promise.”

The boy took his hand and Mr. King led him inside as he shut the door behind him.

He walked over to our little group of four girls and two guys, smiled and said, “Do you think you could handle one more member of your crew?”

We just looked at him our hearts skipping a beat, unexpectedly, my date's little sister spoke up, “I think he could help me cause I don't have anyone to protect me and I am a little bit scared.”

“Awwwwww, went all the girls in the group.

My buddy spoke up, “Come on and join us, we could use your help here with all these girls.”

The neighborhood girl who was mad at my buddy took another shot at him, “You ain't helping nobody but that little leftover you got next to you.”

“Hey, you better watch your mouth, honey,” shot back the girl my buddy was with.

“Okay, listen up”, Mr. King took back over the conversation.

“This room is in the exact center of the house. That's why it has the most documented activity, and the center of the room is what the professor called, the hot spot. It's where the vortex or gateway was.”

“So this is the entrance to heaven,” asked the young boy.”

Little sister was holding his arm or he was holding her arm, I couldn’t tell but they were both holding each other and staring at the center of the room.

“No, it used to be here”, explained Mr. King. “But there is a strong residue of the frequency, that's the term the professor used, it's still here. It's like fine-tuning a radio, you can begin to hear the station coming in and it gets better and louder when you get right on it."

Everybody nodded their heads, understanding those terms, "But now the residue attracts the apparitions to this point, only it's not here anymore.”

“So what happens to the ghosts?” asked someone in the group.

Mr. King shook his head and opened his hands, “They get confused and most of them just wait right here in the house. Sometimes they get mad and things have been tossed around, sometimes things got broken and a lot of people have got scared and refuse to come in the house.”

“Has anyone got hurt, Mr. King?” asked the young boy.

Little sister and the boy looked like they were ready to run if he said yes. I had the feeling they wouldn't be the only ones if they broke toward the door.

“Well, I never saw it, but my father told me the story about the “little man in red” and what happened back then.

"Let's go on up to the attic and I'll tell you that story,” said Mr. King. He edged around the center of the room and opened the door. We all followed suit and avoided the center as we passed to and through the open door out to the second-floor landing.

As we came out of the room, I could feel the difference in the air. It had a metallic taste to it as you breathed inside the small room and outside it was gone and you could definitely tell you were near the ocean by the salt smell. I was going to ask about it, but Mr. King began talking, “Okay, we're going up to the attic. Hold on to the banisters be careful of the stairs. When we get to the top, it's a big room, so turn to the right, then take another right and find a place to sit or stand.”

We once again trudged up a flight of stairs, but at the top, it widens out into a large room. We turned to the right, then another right and there was an old Saratoga trunk against the wall so we let the girls and the young boy sit down on it. My buddy and I flanked both sides.

Most of the other people were spread out on stools or boxes, some leaning against the walls, Mr. King waited until everyone was in and situated. Then he began his story, “Here we are in the second most haunted room in the house. Why do you think that is?” he asked, looking around at everyone.

No one spoke up, it seemed obvious to me so I blurted out, “We're on top of the first most haunted room on the second floor.”

He cocked his head, quickly pointed at me and said, “Right you are, give that man a Kewpie doll.”

More nervous laughter from the group. I did my best, aw shucks and my girl date smiled up at me and squeezed my arm.

“Remember my great aunt Margarita was murdered on the first floor in the parlor. The cook, Emily's great-grandmother died in childbirth in one of the second-floor bedrooms and the “little man in red”, well he died right here in this room,” began Mr. King.

“Today, he's known as a joker or a prankster, he does things like pulling the sheets down on your bed while you’re sleeping, so you get cold and go to pull them up, but they're off the bed and in the corner of the room and you have no idea how they got there. He's the one who likes to open the doors as you reach for the doorknob.”

Mr. King was doing his circling walk looking at people's faces, “In fact, it was recorded on film by the Rhine Institute's cameras, as one of their investigators went to open the door to the room on the second floor at the top of the stairs...it opened by itself. They were all excited by this and said it was a Poltergeist. And from what they told me things like that are common in poltergeist cases, the most common is the movement of objects, items simply disappear and are found in odd places, like before what happened in the kitchen to Emily, also knocks, footsteps, sounds unaccounted for, smells, and one of the investigators reported a metal like smell in the small room.”

End of Part Four.

My True Adventures in the King House

Part Five. The Little Man in Red

I froze when he said that, but I said nothing. I cut my eyes right and left looking to see if anyone else was reacting to that bit of information. No one was, they were looking at Mr. King, who jerked my attention back to him by his next words.

“I never knew that anyone died because of a ghost or apparition here in the house. But there are occasions where things became dangerous...”

You could hear some sharp intakes of a breath and some low whispers. You could see the group physically squeeze closer together from the sudden chill of those words.

“Although as the professor said, they are rare… he continued, “Well, let me tell you the story of the “little man in red”, just like my father told it to me.”

“The little man came every year just before the change of the seasons, from Summer into Fall. He always stayed here, on the second floor, front room, southside of the house. He had a northern accent from somewhere, New York, my father guessed. He was a salesman, no one remembers what exactly he sold, but when it started getting cold up north, he came down here to hawk his wares…”, Mr. King looked at the young boy and all of us, “that means to sell his stuff.”

Mr. King continued his story, “He enjoyed talking with my grandmother and aunt Margarita, he had a gift of gab, but I suppose all salesmen have that. My father could not remember his name, he said it was Irish..., O'Shanasee or something like that. He always wore a red suit, father always called it maroon, because it was a dark red and he had a derby hat with spats on his shoes, which were old style shoe covers to keep dust and mud off. He was a very peculiar eater, he had a habit of eating all of one thing before he would eat another.”

“I do that,” came out of my mouth before I knew it. I could feel the blood rushing to my face, everybody was just looking at me like I said I ate dirt. “I mean, I eat my vegetables that way,” I explained, hoping Mr. King would go on with his story. He didn't.

“Oh really,” he said. “What's your name?” (I panicked, sweat popping out on my forehead) “Your last name,” he clarified.

I looked down at my friends, they were looking at me too. And my buddy was motioning with his hands for me to tell him. I swallowed and opened my mouth to speak… “It's...it's...it's not O'Shanasee.”

The whole room erupted in laughter. Even Mr. King was having a belly laugh and slapping his knees in the hilarity of my answer. I had no idea my answer was that funny, I didn’t want to say my name, so I didn't know what to say. So I said the first thing that came to me.

My buddy was cracking up, he looked over and said, “That's the funniest thing I ever heard you say. I can't wait to get to school and tell this story.”

And my date, the neighborhood girl, put her arm around my neck and pulled me down and gave me a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “You are so funny, I'm glad I'm with you.”

If my face turned red before, this time it turned redder than that little man's suit in the story, I whispered, “Thanks”, back to her.

“Alright, alright now,” said Mr. King getting the group to hush by holding his hands up. “I think this is the best group I've ever had here in the house. I'm really enjoying myself and I hope you are too. But let's get back to the story about the “little man in red”.

“He had just come from the docks, he had traveled on a cargo ship, it was cheaper than a passenger ship. He carried a small valise and had a trunk that would be delivered by one of the crewmen later. My grandmother noticed he looked rather tired, so she told him she would bring his supper up to his room later, so he could rest from the long trip.”

“When she took his meal up, he told her he really wasn't hungry and he was just going to bed. He apologized for her trouble, thanked her and said he would be getting an early start in the morning. He then asked what time the train would be leaving for Jacksonville in the morning. She told him, the JP&M (Jacksonville, Pablo, and Mayport) Railroad, leaves at 7:15 am and returns around 5:00 pm. Hearing that he remarked, “That gives me plenty of time to visit my best customers and show them my newest implements to relieve them of the drudgery of domestic slavery.”

“Grandmother laughed and said she would be sure to have plenty of bacon and eggs ready bright and early for him. He then asked about his trunk and she informed him it was in the trunk room under the stairs on the first floor, right where it always was.”

“He again thanked her and said, he had brought a little something for her and Margarita in his trunk and he would present it to them at tomorrow's dinner. She thanked him and bid him Goodnight.”

“Well, the next morning, the little man in red didn't show up for breakfast, grandmother thought he had gotten up early. But just in case he overslept, she went up and knocked lightly on his door… no answer. So she thought he had gone on to the train station.”

“That afternoon, after the JP&M Railroad had made its last run of the day to Mayport and the little man in red still hadn't shown up, my grandmother asked grandfather to check his room. He did, it was locked. So he went down to the trunk room and looked for the little man in red's trunk and it had not been touched. That was curious because a salesman needed his sale items to sell them. Grandfather got the passkey, also known as a skeleton key and opened the door to the little man in red’s room. And there he was.”

Mr. King stopped talking and made a little circle looking at us all, he stopped and said, “I know what you're thinking, you think he was dead...and you remember I said he died right here in this room. Well, he wasn't dead, but damn near it, excuse my french. He was burning up with fever, sweating a puddle in grandmothers old feather bed. Kind of moaning and tossing about.”

“Grandfather ran back down to the kitchen where the rest of the family was putting the evening's dinner on the dining room table. He told my grandmother and Margarita that the little man in red...oh, sorry folks”, Mr. King stammered and cleared his throat. “He probably called him O'Shanasee or whatever his name was, he glanced over at me, but he told them that O'Shanasee was sick with the fever.”

We all stood motionless and silent, Mr. King paused for just a short moment in time, and then he continued, “What you don't know is this was just after the Yellow Fever epidemic in Jacksonville and Fernandina and it killed about half the people in those towns. So fever was a scary thing back in those days, they quickly sent for a doctor and grandmother and Margarita went to his room and checked on him. He was very obviously sick with something, so they decided to move him into the attic away from the other guests and family. Grandfather got a couple of the boys and they took the whole mattress off the bed and up the stairs and laid him down in front of the window, that very window over there, and he pointed at the windows overlooking the river. I guess he thought it would be better for him to get some of the fresh beach breezes and maybe it would cool him down.”

“What was wrong with him, Mr. King,” asked one of the girls across the room.

“Let me tell you this, little lady. I am sure everybody in this house spent a torturous night and most of the next day, waiting for the doctor and afraid it was some terrible disease,” he said continuing the story. But by the time the doctor came, in the late afternoon of the next day, the little man in red was dead. The doctor told them it wasn't Yellow Fever but most likely Malarial Fever, that's what they called Malaria back then.”

“But how did the doctor know?” the same girl asked.

“Well, that's easy to tell, no one that ever saw someone die of Yellow Fever, wanted to die that way. You run a high fever with a lot of pain and finally, you vomit black blood and die. He didn't have Yellow Fever, if he did, there might not be a Mayport anymore, and in turn, I wouldn't be here either. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, which Yellow Fever is also but they didn't know this back then. Apparently, he had been bitten by an infected mosquito somewhere probably on the way down from New York on the cargo ship and his tiredness, sweats, and fever are the signs of Malarial Fever.”

“The doctor quarantined this boarding house for twenty days”, said Mr. King. “That was to be sure there were no more signs of the fever spreading. But it was during those twenty days that strange things started happening. Some said they could hear someone moving around in the attic and when they went to check, no one would be there. He used to love to tease aunt Margarita about her hair, he would sneak up behind her and give her a tug on her hair…” He turned toward us and pointed at the little sister and the neighborhood girl, “Just like he tugged on your hair.”

Little sister jumped and threw her arms around the young boy, who got a big smile on his face. We all cracked up about that.

“Okay folks, let's make our way back down to the parlor, be careful going down the stairs and hold on to the banisters or as the little lady is doing, the gentleman beside you.”

We all giggled, and my date, the big sister said, “Be careful there young man, I'm watching you, keep your hands off my little sister.”

The young boy began to protest, but the little sister grabbed his arm and stuck her tongue out at her bigger sister and pranced on over to the stairs. We laughed some more. My date grabbed my arm and copied her sister, as did my buddy and his new date. The neighborhood girl who didn't have anyone kind of hung her head and walked behind us all.

We filed down the stairs and back into the parlor, most choose the same place we had before to stand or sit, except my buddy, the new girl dragged him over to the couch where she sat before with the college boy. We reluctantly followed and all three of the couples squeezed into the couch, the boys sitting back and the girls sitting between their legs on the edge. And the sullen, morose neighborhood girl stood to the side against the wall alone.

End of Part Five.

My True Adventures in the King House

Part Six. Emily's Grandmother

Mr. King stood in the center of the room beside the rocking chair with the four holes in the back and the bloodstains holding his hands up to get everybody's attention, “Well, we're back where we started from, he said. Did you enjoy yourself?”

A loud, yeah, and a round of applause started up, again, he used his hands to silence the group, “Thank you all very much, and I meant it when I said you were my best group I ever showed my house to. I hope you come back another time because I have lots more stories to tell.

Remember I said I've seen twenty-five different ghosts or apparitions in this house.”

He once again cocked his head, flashed that mischievous smile and said, “I've saved the best story for last.”

We all hushed and tried to squeeze together tighter. He began his story, “Remember when I told you about the lady who died here in childbirth?”

“Emily's grandmother,” said the little sister from the end of the couch.

“Right you are, little lady," answered Mr. King. "She, unfortunately, didn't move on into the afterlife either and like any mother who was taken away from her child. She has been searching for her ever since her death. And by searching, I mean there were times when she violently caused things to be thrown about the house and occasionally physically attacked my grandmother. I saw scratches on my grandmothers back and arms as a little boy and I heard the stories of the woman with red hair wearing a long cream-colored dress, which was what she died in, here in the house. In the room she died in, I saw her vanity with the mirror broken, and her cosmetics scattered across her room and I saw grandfather bring the Priest here to bless this house hoping to make her stop. But she didn't.”

“Not until my mother brought her daughter back into this house. You see, the baby lived. She was a young woman now and pregnant with her own child. My grandmother asked the Priest to bring the girl to her house. When the girl came to the house and entered the room where her mother died, I was told a mournful sobbing was heard as if it came from everywhere inside the house...and then it just stopped.

The younger sister with us spoke up again, “Mr. King, did she just go away and that was it?”

“Oh my heavens, no”, he replied. “Nothing in this house just goes away”

He looked at the little sister, “How old are you”?

She shyly put her head down and softly said, “I'm sixteen, just turned sixteen last month.”

He once again shook his head saying, “sixteen, sweet sixteen, my mother was sixteen when she married my father in 1881. They weren't married six months when the first house built by my great-grandfather in 1857, burned to the ground. A friend of my grandfather, a master carpenter rowed across the river from his house on Fort George Island to work with my great-grandfather and my grandfather on rebuilding the house.”

“It took them six years to rebuild this home but it burnt down twice more and they just kept rebuilding it because this home you're in now, from the little shack before the first fire to this magnificent three-story classic Victorian home, this place is where I was raised and where I grew up hearing about the ghosts who lived here. Grandfather told me about seeing priests that you could see through at night during a full moon and when they cleared a patch of ground for grandmother's garden, they had to uproot an old dead tree and when it toppled over the roots brought up bones...human bones... and a crucifix.”

He had us under his spell again, nobody moved and most barely breathed and if you had brought a girl with you, she was holding on to you tight.

“Well, sir, when I turned twenty-one I joined the Navy, it was during World War One that Grandfather gave me that crucifix to protect me”, he kind of laughed. It didn't seem to help protect the old priest, but it worked for me. I came home after the war with not a scratch on me.”

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a small gold cross with the figure of Jesus on it, “This is the crucifix he gave me, it's at least four hundred years old.”

We all leaned in to see the old relic he held in his hand, it was small, no bigger than a postage stamp and kind of beat up, but you could make out what it was.

The young boy held his hand up like he was in school.

Mr. King looked at him and said, “Don't even bother asking, nobody gets to hold it. It ain't leaving my possession even when I'm dead”. And he put it back into his pocket.

The young boy sheepishly lowered his arm.

“Now I know you all are wondering why I told you this story, he flashed a slight smile again. It's to let you know I've been living with these...what did the professor call them again...apparitions...almost all my life. It's my home, my great-grandfather built the first home on this property, my grandfather built the second and my grandfather helped my father to rebuild the third after the fires and now it's my home. And it came with all these...I'm not going to call them apparitions anymore, they're people to me, I grew up with them. They were once alive, just like me and you.”

As he said that he pointed to each one of us, turning in a circle to include us all, “And when the time comes for me to leave this physical world, I'm going to lead these unfortunate souls to the Gateway or vortex…or whatever you want to call it because I have the key right here in my pocket.”

He reached back into his pocket and pulled out the crucifix, “This will reopen the Gates of Heaven and allow us to enter the promised land.”

We all stood up and broke into applause for the third time that night.

Mr. King held his hands up one last time to quiet us, “There is one thing that is kind of a tradition with me, when I have a group as good as you guys, I like to give a little something to one of the guests who I thought expresses this quote my mother always said to me. He walked over to the mantel over the fireplace and picked up a paperweight and returned to the center of the room and showed everyone the quote written on the paperweight… it said, “It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.”

He looked right at us and walked toward the couch, as he walked he said, I would like you to have this, one day you may want to pass it on to someone else,” and with that, he gave it to...

End of Part Six

My True Adventures at the King House

Part Seven The Beautiful Paperweight

Although these stories occurred in 1968 when I was at the age of sixteen, the memories don't seem to be from forty-seven years in the past. And that's because of the oratory skills of Mr. John King. Forty-seven years ago, he held a group of young people in the palm of his hand and took us on a ride of a lifetime. What started out as a typical Friday night by two teenage boys looking for fun, excitement, and girls, became an adventure spoken of in a legendary fashion that took on mythological proportions. As he did all those many years ago, John King has once again completely mesmerized me, controlled me, intrigued me and thoroughly entertained me.

Let me remind you of where we left off.

We had completed the ghost house tour and returned to the parlor from which we had started, my best buddy, his new girlfriend, as in just met her here in the ghost house, my date from our neighborhood with her little sister and her young male friend, the girl from the neighborhood my buddy was supposed to be with but isn't and me. If it sounds complicated, that's because it was.

Mr. King had just told us we were his best group he had ever had on one of his tours and because of that, he was going to present a gift to the person who had been the catalyst for our occurrences and had been chosen as the one who expresses the qualities to understand his mother's favorite quote. With that, he retrieved a beautiful paperweight from the mantel over the fireplace. He returned to the center of the room, showed it to us all and read the quote, “It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.”

He then turned to us and walked toward where we were sitting as he walked he said, “I would like you to have this, one day you may want to pass it on to someone else,” and with that he turned slightly and held it out to the sullen neighborhood girl who stood alone beside where we sat. Her eyes widened and we could see she immediately had a most confused look on her face. She opened her mouth but nothing came out.

Mr. King reassured her, “Here my dear, you may take it...it's yours.” He held it up before her so she could see it clearly.

Her hands were shaking as she reached out to take it carefully as if it were a tiny kitten, she gathered it in, not handling, but cradling the delicate prize. Looking up into Mr. King's face she asked, “What did I do?”

Others in the group also asked, “Why her?” Why does she get that?” “What did she do to get that?”

All of a sudden from among our little group, my buddy's new girlfriend said with haughtiness in her voice, “Yeah, what did she do, except whine and complain all night anyway.”

“Quiet, she's a friend”, shot back my buddy giving her a look of disdain.

His new girlfriend was shocked and she started to say something again, but he gave her the hard stare and she just looked away and pouted as some in the group snickered.

“Well well well,” said Mr. King as he smiled at my buddy and ever so slyly winked.

I saw the wink but didn't say anything about it because I didn't understand what it was all about.

Neither did my date, she leaned over and asked, “What was that all about and why IS she getting a gift or prize?”

I whispered back, “I have no earthly idea what's going on.”

Mr. King stood up straight and put his hands on his hips and looked at the girl holding the paperweight, “You didn't do anything.” he explained. “In fact, I told you that you were chosen.”

She looked like she was going to cry, but said, “By who?”

He went on, “Remember when you and the young lady here were coming out of the dining room and something touched or pulled your hair?”

She began to nod her head up and down and said, “Yes, something touched both of our hair.”

“Actually," declared Mr. King."I was turned around and watching everyone walk toward me at the stairs, you were the last one to leave the dining room. The young lady was in front of you, what I think happened was when you felt someone or something pull your hair, you screamed and jumped. Inadvertently, as you began to run, your hand got tangled in the young ladies hair which made her think someone or something had her too.”

“Wow, Mr. King, '' said the young boy with little sister. How do you know that?”

“It's no supernatural secret that I have, '' he explained. I was just looking when she screamed and saw them start running, simple really, the rest of you were facing the wrong way.”

“So because my hair was pulled, I am chosen?” the bewildered girl asked.

“The simple answer is, yes,” said Mr. King. “But as with everything in this house, there is much more to it.”

“Tell us, Mr. King.” Came from one side of the room. “Please, explain.” came from another. Soon they all...I mean, we all were asking to hear the story.

He was just that amazing with his uncanny ability to know just how to control us with his words and make us want...no, need to hear his story.

Okay, remember when at the time her hair got pulled, I said it was the little man in red?” said Mr. King. He began to walk around in his, by this time, familiar circle. So he could look into all our eyes, and he began to charm us one more time.

Everybody's heads moved up and down signifying, they did. And a few yes’s were thrown in to encourage him to continue.

“I told you a couple of hours ago, that the first ghost I ever saw was my Great Aunt Margarita. And that's true, but the ghost that I have known the longest and the one that has found a way to communicate with me is the little man in red.”

“How does he communicate with you, Mr. King?” asked the young boy with us on the couch.

“Well, it's not with words. It's more of what he does to people and to whom he does it too,” answered Mr. King.

A low, “Wooooo, and “Tell us what he does to people,” came from the group.

“I'm not sure that came out like I wanted it to,” said a smiling Mr. King. “What I meant to say was, he only plays jokes or tricks on people he likes.”

“And if he doesn't like you, what happens?” asked my buddy from the other end of the couch.

Mr. King turned to my buddy and said, “If he doesn't like you...he can be really annoying.”

He went on, “Remember, I told you he would pull the sheets and blankets off the bed and throw them in a corner on cold nights. That gets a bit annoying after a while. But the one thing he did to one of the men who carried him up to the attic the night he died was perhaps the meanest. It was during those twenty days the people in the house were under quarantine, that means no one in or no one out.

Old Billy Black was a salty old cuss and he just didn't like the little man in red. No one knew why Old Billy didn't like him, my grandfather said it was cause he was too happy all the time and talked too much. “Old Billy was a curmudgeon, as they called them back in that day, and a faultfinder.” “Well, when they sat the mattress down under the window in the attic, Old Billy said out loud, “I guess he ain't joking now, but at least it shut him up. Perhaps not the most cordial thing to say at that particular time.”

Mr. King continued on with his story, moving slowly making us all feel he was talking just to us, “The doctor instructed that all the people who had come in contact with the little man in red in any way, would be restricted to the house for the full length of the quarantine.”

“Now Old Billy didn't like that and he sure didn't like that the only room that wasn't taken was the little man in Red's room. He told my grandmother that he wasn't going to sleep on that bed. What he didn't know at the time was, he wouldn't sleep anywhere in this house for the next twenty days. Any place he tried to sleep or catch a few winks, he would be kept awake by taps on the walls, faint laughter, the sound of someone in the room with him or the feeling of being choked by someone.”

“Do you think the little man in red was trying to kill him?” asked the blond girl by the fireplace.

“Well, I don't rightly know, but I asked my father that very question and he said grandfather thought he was trying to punish him. Because if he was trying to kill him, Old Billy would be dead."

"Every morning, when Old Billy would come down for breakfast, he looked like he had been up all night fighting with the devil. Which maybe he was or fighting with his own conscience about what he said. But either way, by the time the twenty days were up and the doctor lifted the quarantine because no one else got the fever, Old Billy looked twenty years older. He had aged from lack of sleep and what I suspect was a guilty conscience. You see, Old Billy believed in evil spirits, as he called them and he believed the little man in red was causing evil spirits to attack him whenever he went to sleep. My grandmother said,”Old Billy was never the same after that and he never stepped foot inside this house ever again.”

“Wow”, “That's amazing” and “I would be scared to death to stay in here” came from the group.

Again the young boy spoke up, “But how did the little man in red communicate with you, tonight and how did he pick the girl who got the paperweight?”

Mr. King looked around at all the group and crooked his thumb back at the young boy and said, “I'm beginning to like this young man more and more.

“Over time and by that, I mean many years, I have seen or heard or experienced all the ghosts and observed how, when, what and this one is the hardest...the why they reacted to people in and if you didn't know, outside the house,” Mr. King recounted for us.

“Outside?” quizzed the blond girl.

End of Part Seven.

My True Adventures in the King House

Part Eight. The End and The Rest of the Story

“Yes, outside, answered Mr. King. Many of our ghosts have been seen walking the streets of Mayport, but the most reported as being seen are the little man in red and the “Lady in White”. In fact, when I started giving these tours here in my home, many times as I came down from my room upstairs, there would be people that I had never seen before sitting in this very parlor. When I asked them how they got in here, they would tell me they met a little man in red on the sidewalk and he told them to go right in and sit in the room to the left... the funny thing is they thought he was my butler."

"I have also heard from many of the other native Mayport families what they describe as seeing this lady in a long white gown late at night, come down off my porch and walk along the street until she disappears at the spot of the car wreck.”

You could hear the murmuring from the group, Mr. King raised his right arm and put his index finger to his lips and said, “Shhhh, one more thing, what happened tonight with this young lady, who had her hair pulled, doesn't happen very often...well, hardly at all anymore. He used to play that joke almost every time there was a woman in the house who had never been here before. But over time, it has slowed down to a point that when it happens, like tonight, I know that the person he did it too, is somehow special.”

Our neighborhood girlfriend, who had her hair pulled and was holding the paperweight had big tears and a frightened look on her face. She spoke between sobs, “I...I'm...not... special.”

My date and her little sister got up from the couch and went to her and put their arms around her, they were telling her it'll be okay and that she was special to them. And in another surprise from my buddy, he got up from the couch and went over and gave her a hug and said, “You are special and you always have been special. I'm sorry if I've hurt you,” and he kissed her on the cheek.

I didn't know what to do, so I got up and joined them by wrapping my arms around all of them. We looked like a football huddle of love.

Surprisingly, my buddy's new girlfriend got up and joined us. She spoke, but sounded all choked up, “I'm sorry if I've been a ...well, I don't know any way to say it but a ...,”

Mr. King interrupted her, “Well, all's well that ends well, right? And I'd say the little man in red made the right choice again.

The whole group began to clap and soon the room was filled with applause for us and Mr. King. He smiled and held his arms up and said, “Thank you all for coming, this has been the best group I've ever had and please come back and tell your friends all about the fun and the adventures we had here tonight. With that, he escorted us to the front door, and watched us cross the veranda, go down the steps and head to our parked cars. We heard the door close behind us.

Well, that ended our ghost tour of the King House in Mayport. We had run the range of emotions, joy, sorrow, fear, hate and love and some of them more than once, over the last two or three hours. We had been held spellbound by one of the most amazing storytellers, I have ever heard. We all had experienced a journey into the wonderful, incredible world of John King and his house. Forty-seven years later, it is still a remarkable memory that I will always cherish.

The King house still stands but for how much longer is in doubt. It is a historical legacy in Mayport, Florida and should be preserved and treasured, along with the Ferry, the Cemeteries, and the wonderful seafood restaurants that have attracted so many to the little fishing village.

John King moved out of the King House in 1974 and into an assisted living home. Dr. G. W. (Bill) Reynolds was preparing to interview Mr. King in 1977. He planned to record his stories for the Beaches Historical Society but two weeks before the planned date, sadly Mr. King passed away.

I have done my very best to recreate the feeling of being on a tour given by Mr. King at the King House. This is a compilation of many visits by myself and many other accounts by visitors to the King House and of the many stories told by Mr. King. Which over the years, sometimes did change and take on different denotations but the mystery and excitement mixed with his oratory skill, made a visit to the King House one of the most memorable events in many a North Florida's young person's life.

Perhaps you're asking, What happened to the young people in the story?

Well, as we headed to our car, the young boy who was with my date’s little sister, confessed he had come with the blond girl who asked many questions. She was his sister and he exchanged phone numbers with the little sister. He left us to ride home with his sister. I do not know if they ever talked to each other again though.

As we made the corner ready to cross the street to our car, we saw the college boy who started the trouble in the house and left his girlfriend. He and his buddy, along with his buddy's girl, were crossing the street toward us. We stopped expecting trouble, but he stopped and apologized to us and his girlfriend. He then asked her if she would let him take her home. My buddy was in shock, but he took it well as she turned to him and said that she really appreciated him, offering to take her home, but the college boy is her boyfriend and she came with him, so she was going home with him.

We all made it to the car and piled in, me and my date with her little sister in the back and my buddy and the neighborhood girl with the paperweight in the front. We did cross the ferry, of course listening for the ferry's long blast on the boat’s whistle followed by two short ones or the warp and two woofs as Mr. King called it.

We did go to the North Jetties and the bonfire. I'd like to tell you my date and I watched the submarine races all night. But the truth is, we walked on the beach and talked, but little sister stayed right with us, so other than a few quick kisses. We just ended up good friends with an amazing story to tell about the King House.

My buddy and the other neighborhood girl with the paperweight bonded together at the bonfire and he asked me to drive home with my date and her little sister in the front, so he could be with his new/old girlfriend in the backseat alone. From what I could see in the rearview mirror, they enjoyed each other's company.

Incredibly, they began a relationship and after high school, they got married and soon had four kids, three girls and a boy. He opened a car repair shop on the north side of town and built a home out Lem Turner Road. On holiday's and cookouts, when I visited their home, on the mantel over the fireplace, sat the paperweight and I never failed to read the quote, “It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.”

I think back to what Mr. King said, that after he passed away, he would lead the others to the vortex or gateway because he had the key and they would pass on through to heaven. I had no doubt he did just that because he loved that old house and all the “friends” of his that dwelt in it. I believe his love was stronger than death.

It's been thirty-eight years since Mr. King passed away and there have been no reports of haunting in the house.

The Conclusion.

Information on the King House:

It was sold on April 18, 1978, for $33,000 to Gene Nordan, the famous pianist who had played at LeChateau Restaurant until it closed. He removed the old Arnau house behind the main house and the watchtower in preparation for converting the house into a restaurant. The restaurant was never built, so the house was sold to an attorney for $36,000. In 1982, then a corporation bought the King House from the attorney and planned to spend $100,000 on the building and the lot to convert it into corporate offices. The owners decided to sandblast the home because there were so many coats of paint. The workers finally got down to the heart pine. Five coats of wood wax were then applied. Removing the interior paint was not as difficult but six coats of wood wax had to be used on the walls to preserve the beauty of the wood grain. There were many challenges in renovating the old house and bringing it up to code, with many changes and a large cost. In 1994, the corporation sold the home. The value had increased to $85,000, reflecting the work that had been done. It was used for a law office. What the law office was able to do was obtain a Historic Designation for the property, thereby reducing the taxes on it, and hopefully helping to save the home forever.

The property was given up after sixteen years in exchange for the unpaid balance on the mortgage owed and in two separate transactions, the north half of the lot on which the house sits and the south half were bought. The King House's value has risen in the last five years. In 2014, it was $161,876 and it was projected to be $160,850 in 2015. But when I went by the King House in August this year the property seems to be deteriorating, I stopped and took some pictures of the old home, the front door was open and it looked vacant. I do not like the natural wood look and I prefer to remember her as she was the first night I walked onto her veranda and raised that knocker at the front door, a grand lady with a sordid past but beautiful in an ageless wonder, full of mystery and romance.

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Submitted: January 29, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Hal Lee. All rights reserved.

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