By: Jamie Roush Pearce June 1st, 2013
Have you ever seen a mermaid? If you’ve visited Ginger’s Place at 304 Third St. S. in Jacksonville Beach, it’s a real possibility.
In this case the mermaid would be Darlene Edith Payson, known as “Ginger” Payson to many who knew her. Pictures of Ginger in her prime adorn the walls of
this popular Beaches bar. During her younger days, before opening the bar, she was also known as “Ginger Lani” or as “Tiza, The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl.”
Ginger not only did mermaid and underwater shows in a portable tank, but was also a star of vaudeville burlesque shows. She traveled up and down the East Coast performing and gaining notoriety for her unique talents. When she retired, she and her husband, Ziggy, bought the building now known as Ginger’s Place.
Ginger ran it almost until her death, but some people think she never really left. Some believe the place is haunted, and that one of the spirits at Ginger’s Place is, of course, Ginger.
Like its owner, Ginger’s Place had an interesting past prior to her purchase
of it in 1976 and the opening of the bar. It reportedly was built sometime
around 1950 and over the years has housed several different businesses. Many of
these businesses came and went as quickly as Ginger’s traveling shows. Among
them are a fast-food store, a glass bar, a grocery store and a dress shop. Oddly
enough, the provocative silhouettes of the dress shop mannequins helped draw
interest to this casual Beaches bar when they were thought to be “looking” from
the upstairs windows.
One other successful business of note that occupied the space during the
1960s was Ossi’s Grocery Store. Ossi’s eventually sought easier access and
parking and had a new building built just next door. This building would
eventually become another Jacksonville Beach fixture, 33 Star (featured in the
last Ghostly Shores column in the April 6 Shorelines).
Still, despite the many incarnations, my research unearthed only a few tales
of paranormal activity in Ginger’s Place until after her death from a stroke in
2003 at age 79.
Ironically, Ginger never believed in ghosts and actually had friendly
arguments with her granddaughter, Amanda Sams, about the topic. But after
talking to members of Ginger’s family and the bar’s staff, and researching
stories from visitors and bar patrons, it seems Ginger’s spirit might be
present. She seems to not only make paranormal appearances to her public at 33
Star, but even more frequently at the bar that bears her name.
The April piece on 33 Star detailed reports about Ginger’s ghost and the
appearance of dimes throughout the store. The sudden and unexplained appearance
of dimes and spare change is thought by many in the paranormal field to be a
means of communication, a way for many spirits to say hello. As at 33 Star,
dimes often appear at Ginger’s Place typically under many of the same
unexplained circumstances. However, after talking to Ginger’s family, I learned
they may have discovered an even more pleasant reason for the ghostly spare
Sams, who is a manager and bartender at Ginger’s, said she finds the dimes at
work and home. She told me that, when they were renovating the building, they
found an old price sign from the bar when drinks were 10 cents each.
“I wonder if maybe Ginger is buying drinks for people she likes,” said Sams.
“She did used to do that when she was alive.”
Ginger seems to have other means besides dimes to make her presence known.
Samantha Robenolt, another of Ginger’s granddaughters and a fellow
manager/bartender at the bar, has experienced some of the same things as her
sister, Amanda. Robenolt said her grandmother would often tap her on the leg to
get her attention. She did this to her family and friends, and Sams and Robenolt
have both experienced this sensation at the bar multiple times, with no visible source.
Robenolt and Sams have other reasons why they believe their grandmother’s
spirit is present at Ginger’s Place. There is a calendar on the wall with an
adjustable area to enter “today’s date” and the year, so the bartenders know
drinkers are of age when checking ID. The calendar has a tendency to change the
date on its own. Not to a random date, but to Sept. 27, Ginger’s birthday.
Further, both women have seen a beer sign on the back of the register flip up in
the air and over the tip jar. A new employee also witnessed the flip, then had
a strange feeling of a hand being run through his hair.
It isn’t just Ginger’s family that encounters her ghost. Another bartender
shared an interesting experience with a new patron to the bar.
“This woman I had never seen before came into the bar and ordered a drink,”
he said. “I poured it for her, and she asked about the woman behind the bar in
the doorway who was staring at me. I turned around and saw a woman who I knew
was Ginger. She floated from the doorway to the back and vanished. I turned back around to the woman at the bar. The money for her tab was on the counter and
she was leaving. She was as white as a ghost.”
Others have claimed to see a female apparition the same height and size as
Ginger sometimes floating on air or walking through doors. When they catch a
glimpse of her out of the corner of their eyes, and go to investigate, she’s
While working on this story, Robenolt sent me a message that a friend of hers
had recently gone to the cigarette machine in the bar and bought a pack of
cigarettes. If you put only bills in the machine, it gives fifty cents change.
In this particular case, Samantha’s friend didn’t get her two quarters change
and never heard the change drop, so she checked the machine anyway. She found
three dimes, a pretty neat trick since Robenolt told me this particular machine
isn’t capable of giving dimes as change. Was someone playing a trick, or was
Ginger making her presence known again?
Whether tapping legs, flipping signs or dispensing dimes, Ginger’s ghost and
stories of other spirits at Ginger’s Place have drawn interest from many,
including some ghostly research groups. Fortunately, there is nothing malicious
about the reports of Ginger, or other alleged spirits. A medium visited the bar,
and claims that there are 13 different spirits residing there. Whether this is
true or not, I don’t know, but I do know that a bar can certainly serve up some
My paranormal team, Historic Haunts Investigations, plans to investigate the
building. After so generously sharing their stories, Ginger’s granddaughters
have graciously allowed us to set up an investigation. I am anxious to see what
we turn up, and find out more about Ginger and some of the other spirits. Maybe
I should empty my change purse first?