24 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine, FL 32084
The now upper-class Casablanca Inn - formerly the Matanzas Hotel - was once a hot spot for illegal activity. Despite Prohibition bearing down on St. Augustine, the resilient establishment kept liquor flowing throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Today, smuggled spirits have been replaced by restless spirits, earning the Casablanca Inn the title of most haunted hotel in St. Augustine.
When Prohibition (1920-1933) brought the party to a screeching halt, people began devising plans to import booze into the country. Bars became speakeasies, and even funeral homes began hosting vice-oriented customers.
The Casablanca Inn was no different.
Not all of the spirits in the Casablanca Inn came from the bottle.
At the time, the Matanzas Hotel was managed by an elderly widow by the name of Mrs. Bradshaw. Faced with financial hardships, Bradshaw began to assist the rum smugglers arriving at the nearby harbor.
Rumor has it, she even developed a romantic relationship with the head honcho, which secured a substantial compensation for her services. Given that she was of advanced age, this romance is highly unlikely, but stranger things have definitely happened.
Soon, the Matanzas Hotel became one of the best places to get booze and other contraband in St. Augustine. The inn was the perfect cover as no one questioned the unusual amount of people going in and out of the establishment.
But what can a senior possibly contribute to an illicit operation? Simple, she kept watch.
Mrs. Bradshaw kept a lookout from the roof of the hotel and waved a lantern if law enforcement was nearby. Upon seeing her signal, the incoming smugglers would turn their ships around, waiting for the right moment to approach the bay.
Mrs. Bradshaw's remains may be buried in St. Augustine's Huguenot Cemetery, but her spirit has remained in the old, ill-reputed hotel.
The "lantern lady," as she's often called, has been spotted by late-night boat trippers and fishermen arriving at the St. Augustine Bay. People describe the ghost sighting as a strange light on the Casablanca Inn’s roof. The light seemingly sways back and forth, promptly disappearing as soon as anyone gets too close.
But the rooftop isn't the only reported sighting of the lantern lady. She is also known to walk the halls of the Casablanca Inn and, on occasion, even enters guests' rooms.
According to Greg Jenkins, author of Florida's Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Mrs. Bradshaw is notorious for disliking table cloths and she often rips them off tables. This particular incident was so unsettling that hotel staff resorted to removing tablecloths from most rooms to keep guests at ease.
Another common event reported by Casablanca guests is the sweet smell of oranges in their rooms, which Mrs. Bradshaw is believed to be responsible for.
We're not sure why she dislikes tablecloths or why out of all the scents, orange is her favorite. We do know, however, that if your room smells like Tropicana, you should probably get out of there.
Another friendly yet terrifying ghost of the Casablanca Inn is known simply as Mr. Butler.
Mr. Butler was a local architect who built the Matanzas Hotel in 1914. Not much is known about this man, but the hotel's construction must've left a lasting impression on him, as his spirit has remained in the same room since his passing.
Said to haunt room 11 exclusively, Mr. Butler is notorious for manifesting fully in front of people's eyes. According to witnesses, the finely-dressed apparition likes to comfort the living. Those who have come face-to-face with this ghost claim he assured them they were safe and there was nothing to be afraid of.
Mr. Butler is believed to have something to say, unfinished business that has kept him from crossing over. But so far everyone he has encountered in room 11 has fled in panic.
Are you brave enough to stay and listen?
Throughout the years, staff have witnessed plenty of unsettling occurrences in the bay-side hotel. Some of which have not been attributed to any of the known Casablanca entities.
Given their position, housekeepers and room service staff seem to encounter ghosts most often.
Housekeepers have described cold spots and the sensation of being watched when they enter certain rooms. They've also witnessed unseen entities sitting on their freshly-made beds, making an imprint. Bizarrely, as they try to straighten out the sheets, they are unable to, as if someone is still there.
The sound of a child laughing can be heard in the halls, even when there are no children present. This occurrence can be explained by the fact that during the Great Depression (1929-1933), the hotel was turned into the Bayfront Boarding House which provided safe refuge to struggling families.
The Casablanca Inn is a 3-star Bed & Breakfast, open for reservations. The Inn is located within walking distance of historical sites, shops, and restaurants.
Visit the Casablanca Inn for a look into St. Augustine's fascinating, rum-smuggling past, and the ghosts that live on because of it. What secrets will you uncover in St. Augustine's most haunted inn?
For more information about booking a (potentially) haunted room at Casablanca Inn, please visit their website.