Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium
St. Augustine, FL
Nearly everyone has heard of the Ripley’s Odditoriums! They are established attractions in 10 different countries and all over the US. The building in St. Augustine is the original permanent display. Founded by Robert Ripley, the first display was at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. The building in St. Augustine was built as a 23 room family winter home by William Warden, a high powered Philadelphia executive. It was fashioned like an old English castle. Later, in 1941, wealthy hotelier Norton Baskin and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling) purchased the home and converted it into a luxurious hotel. The rich and famous of the time stayed there, and no one asked for proof of identity. Rawlings and Baskin lived in the penthouse. In 1944 there was a fire, and two women were killed. They were staying in separate rooms, didn’t know each other, and a mysterious guest in Room 13 was suspected of foul play. He is known as Mr. X. The fire seemed to be contained in just the two rooms. There has been an air of the paranormal in the building since the Wardens lived there. The children reported seeing Spanish soldiers on the first floor play room. The building is virtually next door to Fort Marcos, the site of numerous pirate attacks, soldiers’ deaths, and mysterious happenings.
OPI joined with Thinh Rappa’s American Ghost Adventures for a memorable, very rare after hours investigation! Reports have included noises, apparitions, feelings of being watched, and a sense of an angry presence. The OPI team consisted this time of Greg, TJ, Paula, Leah, and I. We were joined by Sherri Cox of American Ghost Adventures. In the lobby, we began. This was once the playroom of the Warden children, we were told. We used the SB11 for an EVP session. When we asked, “Do you have anything to tell us?” a voice replied, “Can you hear us?” We asked about the soldiers, since the children had told of them. “We’re not!” was our answer. We heard the names Alice and Curtis. They may have been family members, servants, or linked to the hotel. In research we were not able to find them as part of the Warden family.
On the stairway, within the lobby, we continued. “Ruth and Bette were the two women who perished in the fire in 1944. “Is Ruth here?” we asked.
“Not here,” was the brief reply. “Did you know Mr. X?” we queried. “We did,” a male voice responded. Relating to a rumor about Marjorie Rawlings, we asked if she had something to do with the fire. “I don’t want to believe it!” a female voice declared. Sherri, who is quite sensitive, felt an energy on the stairs.
The “Vortex Room” is allegedly the room where Mr. X stayed when the fire occurred. It killed both Bette and Ruth and no one else. This room has a mummified cat in a pyramid and several other displays. It still has the original mantel and fireplace. Sherri, Paula and Leah all felt nauseous in this room. Leah actually left for a few minutes. There was a high EMF reading near Paula’s leg, and she had said she felt a chill on her leg. When we asked about Ruth and Bette, a voice replied, “Hey, woman, he pushed us!” and “Mom, I’m so sorry!” A voice also spoke, “Divorce me!” Bette was getting divorced. A voice warned, “Get out! Better run!” Was this one of the women? When I asked, “Would you rather we left you alone?” A voice answered, “Don’t do that!” Someone wanted us to stay. At least one of the spirits was curious about us. A voice with a Latin accent queried, “What are you doing?” The name Emily appeared on the ovilus. Greg took a picture, but we only had a black image, even though he used a flash. We were able to use a flashlight to converse a short while, asking spirit to turn the light on and off. We asked to take a photo, and the light went on, in agreement. We also were told it was a woman we were speaking to.
In the newer section is The Hall of Mirrors. The ovilus gave us the words, Spaniards, cried, baby and helpful. We consider these words relevant. We employed the flashlight again and learned that one of the spirits was English. Florida was an English colony between 1763 and 1783. It was also plagued by English pirates many times before 1763. The spirit manipulating the flashlight may have been having fun with us. He (?) indicated that he was a soldier, cowboy, and sailor. We doubt he could be all these! While I was panning around the room with the camera, I saw the shrunken head on the wall. “Creepy!” exclaimed a voice.
In the theater, we all felt a presence, especially Sherri. There were some high meter readings. This was where the fire occurred. It was a room that held anger and sadness, we thought.
We at OPI believe that the building does indeed have paranormal activity. The Spanish colonists, the Native Americans, The English, the slaves, American settlers, the Warden family, and the hotel guests certainly provide a full pool! We all had our personal experiences, which although not documentable, do provide results. We would go back again! Ripley’s is an amazing place on various levels!