Palm Beach is Florida’s premier ghost city, unique for its multitude of transient spirits. Many of these are commuter or snowbird ghosts. They flock to Palm Beach to escape the cold winter up north, and then migrate back up north to resume their haunting when springtime rolls around. Palm Beach, once the glittering jewel in the crown of the East Coast’s social set a century ago, is the party that is destined to go on forever, as spectral revelers mingle at an eternal soiree. The Palm Beach ghosts are like its people, valuing discretion and privacy over publicity. In NYC and Los Angeles, the jet set craves publicity whereas here in Palm Beach, the celebrated and the well-to-do value their privacy, whether in life or in the astral plane. According to Ghosts of Palm Beach, these are the five most haunted places on the island of Palm Beach.
1. The Henry Flagers of Whitehall, the Flager Museum, 1 Whitehall Way, Palm Beach
Henry Flagler, the founder of Palm Beach built Whitehall, a 55-room mansion, as a wedding for his wife, Mary Lily Kenan, to serve as a winter residence and as a wedding gift for his wife. They moved in on February 6, 1902 and have never left. As snowbirds, they would travel to Palm Beach each year in one of their own private railcars. The building designed in the Beaux Arts style by architects Carrère and Hastings was praised by the newspapers of the day as one of the most beautiful over-the-top homes ever constructed. Henry Flagler died in 1913 at the age of 83, after realizing his dream of building a railroad to Key West. His wife died four years later. They have both been reported as ghosts ever since then. They like to entertain their ghostly friends as unexplained damage to the pottery has occurred, doors won’t open, and one cleaning woman claimed someone slapped her rear end.
2. The Phantoms of the Beaches
The Beaches of Palm Beach Island are haunted with phantom pirates, Indian spirits, and haunted drowning victims. In the mid-90s, an audio engineer was assigned to record the ocean breezes of the mid-90s encountered as part of an audio compilation for people to go to sleep by. Although the winds were gentle, his hat kept on blowing off as if caught in a whirlwind generated by a hurricane. When he played back his recordings, he heard the sound of scratching, wrapping, and hammering of natural material as well as running, yammering, dancing and chanting instead of the calming winds he expected. Bewildered, he went to bar of his hotel to find comfort in a drink. In commiserating with the bar tender, he played a segment of what he had recorded. The bartender smiled in happy recognition as explained that he interpreted what he listened to. Being of Seminole Indian heritage, these were his people from a long time ago. They were Seminole Indians setting up for the Green Corn Festival which was celebrated to inaugurate of the summer growing season and to celebrate the Seminole New Year. “If you stay around for the festival, you might be able to observe them.”
3. Animal Spirits at 14 Via Mizner, Palm Beach
Addison Miziner, the great architect of Worth Avenue, received permission from the town of Palm to erect a gravestone and to inter his favorite pet, Johnnie Brown, a monkey adjacent to mansion, in 1927. Wherever Mziner went, Johnnie Brown was sure to go, especially to parties, where the hosts were happy to feed them both. The next owner of Mizner’s mansion was also able to secure permission to add the graver of her dog, a Scottish terrier, named Laddie. Ever since then, they have become good friends in the afterlife, who play together. Their antics over the years have viewed especially by children. When that happens, Johnnie Brown and Laddie go inside the former Mizner mansion to escape curious eyes.
4. The Colony Hotel at 155 Hammon Avenue, Palm Beach
Night workers periodically encounter other ghosts who have returned to the Colony, but they will not disclose the identities of their beloved patrons. It seems these spirits are generous tippers. And even today, a generous tip will buy you discretion. Guests are rumored to include Judy Garland warbling, Winston Churchill painting, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor shopping.
5. The Poltergeist of Gucci at 150 Worth Avenue, Palm Beach
On 15 February 2015 our guide Evan Cohen reported: “Last night an employee of the Island Company formerly at Gucci spoke to my guests to confirm the story of the poltergeist. He also showed my guests how a small clear bottle sometimes floats off the shelf and floats in the air by itself. until it drops to the ground. The guests were quite entertained and made more the tale more believable and valid.”
Former Mayor Paul Ilyinsky’s decision to stay in Palm Beach when offered the opportunity to rule in Russia exemplifies the town’s eternal appeal to the living and dead who call the island home. He still haunts the Town Hall where he continues his ethereal service. While it seems that many spirits cannot quench their thirst for high end merchandise, others embrace their new form as an opportunity to enact positive change in the community.