On Tuesday, Aug. 25, the lights were put out and the locks were bolted in College Hall, but the building was not vacant. As the sun disappeared from the horizon, the “Pink Mansion” became dotted with cameras, traversed with wires and filled with high-tech equipment. Buzzing with anticipation, the Paranormal Society of Bradenton Florida (PSOBFL) was preparing for their investigation of the Ringling and Caples family homes.
Liz and Ron Reed started PSOBFL five years ago after having personal paranormal experiences. The team has traveled throughout Tampa Bay and various locations around the nation. PSOBFL currently has nine members.
“It’s kinda like a little family,” Liz Reed said in an email interview. “We will do an investigation for anyone who we find needs it.”
The society offers a Bradenton Ghost Walk in addition to conducting investigations.
“I started just chatting with [Liz Reed], and she told me about their investigation of Crosley [Powel Estate] and how interesting that was,” New College Internship Coordinator Andrea Knies said about her Bradenton Ghost Walk experience. “She knew several of us on the tour were from New College.”
“Personally, I just like historic buildings. So when I first started working here, I started talking to Jodi [Johnson, admissions coordinator] about it because she knew more out of her interest,” Knies said. “It’s just become kind of a side hobby of mine.”
The investigation began at 9:00 p.m. A group of 10 PSOBFL crewmembers and Novocollegians was present. To cover the most ground possible, half the group members took a golf cart to the Caples mansion. The other half stayed at College Hall. After 90 minutes, the groups switched.
The K2 meter, which detects electromagnetic fields and has traditionally been known to indicate the presence of the paranormal, activated at multiple points in Caples, including the bottom floor classroom, originally a dining room, and the sitting room upstairs. Thinking that the device could interrupt the electrical current, crewmembers tried and failed to debunk the experience with a cell phone.
“It’s funny to see when you mention it to people, people do start sharing more stories,” Knies said. “[When] the security guard came in when we were in College Hall, […] I said ‘Well, do you have any stories?’ and he said, ‘Well, not here, but I definitely know people talk about Caples, seeing figures in the windows.’”
The strip on Tamiami that stretches from the Crosley Estate, past the two Ringling mansions and down to Caples has been designated as a “historic corridor.”
The PSOBL did not charge New College for conducting the investigation. In fact, PSOBFL has hopes to investigate each of the historic estates, so the society was eager to enter College Hall and Caples.
“We have done only Crosley in that area and have found it to have activity,” Liz Reed said. “We are hoping to be able to say we have done all four homes in a row, especially since they all were friends.”
Powel Crosley, Jr., a pioneer in consumer products and broadcasting, owned Crosley Estate with his wife Gwendolyn. The bayfront estate was completed in 1929 and has since been restored. Charles Ringling built College Hall for his wife Edith and Cook Hall for his daughter Hester in the mid-1920s. Next door, inspired by their extensive travels through Europe, Charles’ brother John and his wife built Ca’d’Zan, now part of the Ringling Museum of Art. A stone’s throw away, Ralph and Ellen Caples, who spent much of their lives propelling the city of Sarasota to its highest potential, built their estate in 1913. All the homes served as winter retreats.
“Ralph and Ellen Caples were here first, and then they invited their friends the Ringlings down, who fell in love with the place and bought the next plots of land,” Knies said. “They were also friends with Crosley.”
Unfortunately, to investigate Ca’d’Zan, PSOBFL would need to rent the entire space for an “event,” something they cannot afford at the moment.
“We really enjoyed the investigation,” Liz Reed said. “We had some great EVP [electronic voice phenomenon] sessions at the Caples house and hit a few cold spots at Charles’ s house.”
Knies described an experience in the Caples’ sitting room. “I felt this – I couldn’t really explain what it felt like – but like someone taking a finger up my arm, and I got this chill down the back of my spine,” she said. “At this point, I was totally creeped out by this.”
“I’ve never felt something like that before,” she said. “That truly felt like somebody was touching me.”
Entering through each room, the investigators asked questions such as, “Is there somebody in this den right now?” and, “Can you show us proof of your presence by touching one of these devices in front of me?” recording EVPs all along the way.
“Caples was really fun. College Hall we didn’t get a lot,” Knies said.
PSOBFL will be returning to the college in the next two weeks to follow up the investigation with an evidence summary, complete with a DVD to display what was found and a certificate if they do in fact find at least one of the sites to be haunted.
Information for this article was gathered from https://paranormalsocietyofbradenton.wordpress.com, https://www.ringling.org/, http://www.ncf.edu, and http://wikipedia.com.