Mystery and History at Ripleys
Learn about some St. Augustine history and visit one of the most haunted sites along the Eastern Seaboard, on the Ripley's Haunted Castle Tour, at the Ripley's Believe it Or Not! Museum. Tour the museum's oddity-filled rooms and seek the 18 different entities who now reside there.
Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum is housed in the old Warden Castle, a residence constructed in 1887 by William G. Warden of Philadelphia. Warden was a partner of Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller of the Standard Oil Company. He built this home as a winter escape for his family.
In 1941, wealthy hotelier Norton Baskin and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings purchased the home and converted it into upscale hotel accommodations. A fire erupted in the hotel on Sunday, April 23, 1944, and two women staying at the Castle Warden perished. The women were reportedly unknown to each other and the rumors still circulate as to how the fire began, who the man staying in Room 13 was, and what really happened on that fateful day.
April 23, 1944 is shrouded in mystery, and this mystery is the subject of the "Finding Mr. X Tour" at Ripley's. Guests enter the museum armed with an EMF (electromagnetic fields) meter as well as a laser light pointer, both of which are designed to detect energy around you.
A 3D movie introduces the tour group to the story of the Castle Warden Hotel and the suspicious fire. In the video, a paranormal team called Anomaly comes to the museum to see who or what is reportedly haunting the building. They set up devices to detect evidence of voices and apparitions in the museum. The team explains the story of the fire, who the two women were, and the man that is believed to have set the whole thing in motion, Mr. X.
They experience paranormal events in the hotel rooms that were once occupied by the victims. The first woman, Bette Richeson, daughter of a prominent Jacksonville, Florida family enjoyed accomodations in Room 17 which is now part of the Theatre Room. The second victim, Ruth Pickering, friend of hotel owners Baskin and Rawlings, was staying in the upstairs penthouse apartment which is now the attic.
Ripley's Museum Tour
After the movie, the guide takes us to the rooms that the ghost hunting team had previously visited and experienced paranormal events. The guide tells us the stories behind each room and what their relevance is to the suspicious events on April 23, 1944. She also shares her personal experiences with the paranormal while working in the museum. Some rooms the guide won't even stay in too long, fearing more paranormal activity will happen!
Multiple times during the tour the EMF meters go off, several members of our group attempt to speak to the spirits, and the guide encourages the ghosts to make themselves known.
The spooky setting of the Ripley's Museum, with oddities and creatures of all kinds surrounding us, creates the perfect backdrop for this ghost tour. We move from the Theatre Room where the guide says she has heard screams, to the Vortex Room where the Anomaly paranormal team, from the movie, experienced extreme activity from the spirits of Mr. X and Bette.
Learn what the connection is between these three people, Bette, Ruth and Mr. X, and why both women were found after the fire in dry bathtubs with towels around their necks. Maybe catch sight of the mysterious man or hear the cries of Bette who reportedly is still vocally afraid of the man in Room 13.
With Halloween just around the corner, the Mr. X tour will certainly get you into the paranormal mood! Explore the museum at night as well as during the day! Visit Ripley's profile page to learn more and book your tour today.
More Ghost Tours in Town
Ghost Tours of St. Augustine offers walking tours through the downtown district!
And look for our next blog on the Ghosts and Gravestones tour on the Monday before Halloween!