Voices in the dark. Things that go bump in the night. Floating apparitions. A scary movie? Or is it one of a few houses in St. Joseph’s Harris-Kemper Neighborhood District?
The neighborhood hosted its third annual haunted house tour Oct. 11th. Seven homes and businesses were visited by “spirits of the past.”
Homeowners and volunteers dressed in ghoulish costumes and make-up as visitors were led along a few blocks, reliving the past of the homes and businesses.
Starting at the house that is home to Luna’s Private Dining and Catering, we learned about “Miss Annie.” She apparently decided that she didn’t want to pass on to the next world, so she has been seen walking the hallways of the home.
The house itself is a two-story frame cottage with Italianate influence that was built in 1880, but altered in 1903. So, if in the mood for good dining and a possible “floor” show, this may be the house for you.
Across the street, a spirit is believed responsible for hiding eye glasses of one of the owners, as well as rearranging drawers, turning on and off electronics.
The “George M. Johnson” house was built in 1903 by an employee of the Wyeth hardware store. The Wyeths were major players in early St. Joe history. The house is a 2 ½-story brick veneer foursquare with Colonial Revival influence.
Quite possibly the scariest house to walk by any time of the year may be the R.T. Davis home, AKA “The Aunt Jemima House.” The house has the nickname because it was built for the owner of the Aunt Jemima Milling Companies.
The house has an eerie appearance, enhanced by dusk. The turret in the front of the house adds to the “scare” factor.
What struck me was the “ghost bride” sitting on a concrete slab on the front porch as we approached. It was quite conceivable that it could be a ghost. Later, as we walked by in darkness, the “bride” was walking across the front lawn, and it appeared as if she was floating.
As the current owner was discussing the history of the house, the woman portraying the bride stayed in character and checked out our group as we listened. She was convincing in her role as the dead bride.
The house – built in 1890 – is a style borrowed from Spanish and French design. It has wide semicircular arches in doorways and windows, with small columns on each side. The style is enhanced by brick patterns, decorative inlaid scrollwork and terracotta inlays of water fowl, owls and griffins. Also, at least on this night, there appeared to be a ghoul at the top of the turret.
The Westheimer House was a nice escape from the Jemima house. The two-story brick townhouse was built in 1891, based on the Victorian era. Morris Westheimer sold the house to his brother in 1907. Eugene renovated it to include Gothic and Tudor influences.
The owner of our next house visited described occurrences of the spirit inside the house locking people out if it was in the mood. The E.M. Ray House was built in 1900. The owner mentioned hearing voices and footsteps occasionally.
The two-story brick and wood house was built in the American Foursquare style.
We encountered a group of “ghosts” near the Dance Arts Center. The multi-use building has served as a school, grocery store and now a dance studio. The ghosts were encountered moved quickly, appearing to us a blurs.
Later, as we strolled back to our car, we saw a gaggle of the ghosts sitting near the sidewalk, possibly waiting for their next “performance.”
Our final stop on the tour was “The Whiskey Mansion.” The two-story brick home was built by Ferdinand Westheimer, father of the men involved with the Westheimer House. “Whiskey Mansion” was built in the Victorian style with Italianate influences. It was nicknamed “The Whiskey Mansion” because Ferdinand operated a whiskey business.
The current owners operate a bed and breakfast at the house.
“Whiskey Mansion” was also the site of psychic readings and a small flea market.
Fortunately, if residents of the Harris-Kemper Neighborhood want to get rid of their spirits, they know who they can call…Ghostbusters! A man dressed as a Ghostbuster entertained us during the tour with the theme song of the 1980s hit movie on loop and “chasing” ghosts around his property.
The tour was a blast! It was a fun way to spend about an hour of our evening. I recommend checking this out in 2015. You can always reach out to the visitors bureau as next October approaches at www.stjomo.com. But, plan early. The tours fill up quick.