If you’re like me, you love a good ghost story. Most of us have probably heard the one about the escaped asylum patient with a hook for an arm who terrorizes young amorous couples parked on the local lovers’ lane. For the more literate among us, there are always tales by Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allen Poe.
There have long been rumors of paranormal happenings at Capt’n Con’s Fish House at the northern tip of the Island. The stories were fueled by rumors of a hanging tree located behind the restaurant and the unfortunate — and unconfirmed — drowning death of the daughter of an early settler in the nearby water. People have reported seeing ghosts out of the corners of their eyes or having feelings of being physically pushed.
I can’t say I know much about that, but a ghost hunting group investigated a few years ago and couldn’t confirm the haunting.
The Adams Estate is supposedly another haunted Island location. The Estate sits atop the Adams Mound, a Calusa Indian mound that would been constructed starting after about 800 AD, when the native population began growing dramatically and they began engineering the landscape by building mounds and digging canals.
The site was part of a Calusa Indian village for more than 1,500 years and archaeologists believe the mound could have been used as a ceremonial location and that its pond was possibly a portion of the original moat that would have surrounded the mound.
Coal Magnate Frank Adams had the main house constructed in 1911 and he planted many species of plants and trees on the property that he had collected during his travels. In the 1970s, the Adams Mound property became a religious retreat and then became rental homes and a single-family residence.
Having lived next door to it back in the 1970s, I can honestly say I never put much stock in any of the talk about “weird” feelings associated with the area. I always just enjoyed the beauty of the property.
But there is one story that will always stick with me about the Ruby Gill House — which today you might recognize as home to the Randell Research Center. Ruby and her husband Percy Gill moved to Pine Island back in the 1920s. In 1924, Ruby became the postmaster (the post office was next door, after all) and she served in that role until 1957. During her life, Ruby was instrumental in helping to bring electricity to Pineland and was very active in the community. Ruby died in the 1960s.
Eventually, the house was bought by Jean Jones Mitchell, who lived in it for a time then rented it out. Back in the 1980s, one of those renters was a young man named Dave Holmes, who some of you might know as the former editor of the Pine Island Eagle.
According to Dave, within the first month that he and a friend moved in, he started having some weird experiences. While he was in bed one night, he heard what sounded like an old woman weeping and shuffling around the room in her slippers. That happened two or three times during that month and o at least one occasion, he said he could feel hot breath on his face — as if someone was in the room with him. Of course, as these things go, when he turned on the light, nothing was there.
In another instance, Dave said he was inside the house and all of a sudden the outside shutters started banging away against the house, making it sound like there was a heck of a storm raging outside. But when he went outside to take a look, it was dead flat calm — no breeze, no storm, no nothing. He also said he found a mysterious splattering of blood on the floor and wall in a bathroom that could not be explained away.
Later that year, Dave and his buddy hosted a Christmas party at the house. Jean Mitchell was there and she and Dave got to talking about the house. Dave didn’t mention his experiences but did he get a surprise when Jean started recounting her experience in the same bedroom Dave was using of an old woman weeping and shuffling around the room in her slippers! Jean also told him she had found blood on the floor and wall in the bathroom.
Eerie, right? So is Ruby Gill still weeping her way around the house? I doubt we’ll ever know for sure, but it is fun to scare up some old Island ghosts once in a while.
Speaking of ghosts and ghouls: Don’t forget about the Greater Pine Island Kiwanis Club Fall Festival and Trunk & Treat from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at the Pine Island Elementary School, 5360 Ridgewood Drive. The event is free for all Pine Island Elementary School students and their families and includes bounce houses & plenty of treats. And don’t forget to turn your porch light on to welcome trick-or-treaters on Saturday night and, if you’re out and about, keep an eye out for the kids.