Wow, haunted hearses and a haunted gift shop as well!
Once located at 121 St. George Street was a grand opera house by the name of Genovar Opera House. The area is once stood is now 123 St. George Street where the GhoSt Augustine gift shop is located.
The three story structure was built in the 1880s and served many purposes. When Bartola Genovar built his second opera house he knew how to take advantage of space. He lost his first building on Charlotte Street to fire so he wanted to make up for lost time and money with the new one.
The 1st floor was to house many shops and boutiques, the 3rd was for a spectacular shoe gallery, and the 2nd was for an opera house and theatre. It was designed to handle traveling shows which meant less work for him and more money in his pocket.
A highly respected English born Shakespearean actor by the name of Tyrone Power Jr. made his debut here at the age of 17 in 1886.
In 1889 an African Methodist Episcopal Zion preacher, fugitive slave, and controversial man and friend of Abraham Lincoln, by the name of Frederick Douglas, made an astounding speech in front of a crowd of over 700 people (black & white) speaks of freedom and equality for his race. There is a marker in front of the current building.
Boxer, Gentleman Jim Corbett, performed here as well along with so many others before that dreadful day in April 1914.
On April 2nd a fire broke out next door at the Florida House which was a grand hotel. Some say rats chewing on matches were the cause of the fire but lanterns were still in use at the time and could very well have been the cause of this devastating fire. By the time the fire was exhausted, the Florida House, Genovar Opera House, The Magnolia, and so many others were turned to piles of burnt ruble.
The current building, which is a hallway of stores featuring one in particular, GhoSt Augustine Ghost Tours & Shop. Many believe the spirits from the Opera House and surrounding buildings are still here. No one knows how many lives were lost during that fire but we do know their energy lives on here.
In 2011 I had an experience while in the hallway alone before any of the businesses were open. I had locked myself in the hallway and as I turned around I saw a reflection of a woman in an inside window. I turned around quickly thinking someone had snuck in when I wasn’t looking, and there was no one there. I turned back toward the inside window and saw her image again; she had a high collard blouse with ruffles and her hair neatly piled atop her head. She smiled and nodded then vanished.
Many times while managing GhoSt Augustine, myself and former coworker Megan heard humming sounds and whistling coming from the empty halls. We both investigated the sounds numerous sounds and found no one.
There is a suit of armor in the hallway and it has been known to move on its own. When you arrive to work it is in one spot and a few hours later is has moved 6 feet. If someone had been messing with it or tried to move it it would have taken a lot of effort and would have made a lot of noise and would have drawn our attention.
The other night (August 2013) we decided to try a different approach on investigating. We have done this once or twice before with great success. Normally on an investigation we would go in, set up equipment and do our thing. Well, this time we decided to wait till the stores and hallway were closed and the streets were quiet. We set a full spectrum camera up on a tripod filming through the front glass door. We had everything set up were there were no reflections from the glass etc. and we were good to go. I was very excited to use this brand new camera in our arsenal of paranormal equipment. I had tested it earlier in the day and evening and it captured amazing video.
Everything looked great. The camera was filming and the counter was ticking. We thought trying this method yet again, would be good so it wouldn’t disturb the atmosphere and the spirits would not detect us. At one point we thought we saw movement in the hallway and couldn’t wait to get home to review the evidence.
As we packed up the camera in preparation to head home we thought we heard humming from inside the hallway. We both looked up and saw no one there but we both heard the exact same thing!
When we arrived home to review about 2 hours of film we were a bit surprised. Even those we saw everything on the camera screen and saw the counter ticking, there was absolutely nothing on the screen! Spirits are known to interfere with recording devices and have done so to us, Historic Haunts Investigations, several times. It is interesting how the ghosts at the old opera house are camera shy.
~Jamie Roush Pearce
Historic Haunts Investigations