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Casa Marina in Jacksonville, Florida, is full of spirits. There have been reports of a man in striped pajamas appearing in certain rooms, the sounds of children playing in the second-floor hallway are often reported, and many see ghostly apparitions staring out of the windows. Casa Marina is a step back to the days of the decadent roaring twenties.
Once considered the finest hotel to sit upon one of the finest beaches in the United States, it was a popular vacation destination for movie stars and mobsters. Some loved it so much that they never left.
By the 1920s, Jacksonville was considered the Hollywood of the South. The first silent film studio opened in 1908. Hollywood Titans MGM began in the “Winter Film Capital of The World” as Metro Pictures. Silent film superstars such as Oliver Hardy and Charlie Chaplin began their careers in Jacksonville, all before Hollywood’s rise to fame as the center of the film world. The city’s film industry boomed due to the warm weather and scenic backdrops.
As celebrities emerged in Jacksonville, the notoriety of “The Capital of South Georgia” exploded. The sun-soaked beaches drew America’s most wealthy and prominent citizens in droves. The premier beach for these premier people was Jacksonville Beach, or “Ruby” as it was fondly known.
Initially named after Ruby Scull, the daughter of the railroad surveyor W.E Scull, Jacksonville Beach is one of Florida’s oldest resort towns. Established in 1883, the town of Ruby was soon renamed San Pablo Beach after the nearby San Pablo River in 1886.
In 1925, shortly after the opening of Casa Marina, it was renamed yet again. While formally called Jacksonville Beach, many still referred to it as Ruby in testament to its beauty and individuality.
By the 1920s, Jacksonville Beach had become a major tourist destination, complete with an amusement park. Wealthier Americans came to Jacksonville Beach to enjoy the warm, sunny weather and break away from reality, if only for a brief moment. But they needed somewhere to stay and somewhere that lived up to their high standards.
Casa Marina was opened on June 6th, 1925, to much fanfare. The hotel quickly became the crown jewel of Jacksonville with its modern amenities and construction. Two stories of stucco and concrete were constructed in a Spanish-Mediterranean style with the occupant’s safety in mind. The fireproof building was the first of its kind in Jacksonville and came complete with an automatic sprinkler system.
Wealthy families such as the Rockefellers, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and the Roosevelts were some of the earliest clientele of the hotel. The burgeoning film industry brought many aspiring and established thespians to Casa Marina’s doors. Charlie Chaplin, Jean Harlow, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Fatty Arbuckle, and many others spent the night at Casa Marina.
Even though prohibition was in full effect, this did not stop anyone from drinking the night away in the 1920s. Mobsters Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly both made Casa Marina their home base and brought their criminal lifestyle along. This could explain the unusual amount of spiritual activity reported at Casa Marina.
Some say that Al Capone, a notorious regular at Casa Marina, still haunts the hotel. While that may just be wishful thinking, quite a bit of activity is occurring at the old hotel.
The glory days ended during World War 2 when the hotel became military housing. Afterward, it transitioned into a tea room, a clothing store, and apartment buildings until 1991, when it was reopened as the 23-bedroom Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant.
Upon opening, many guests noticed odd occurrences around the hotel. The second floor has the highest concentration of activity. A man in striped pajamas often appears in various rooms. The sounds of children playing can be heard echoing throughout the second-story hallway.
Allen G. Brown, the Atlanta businessman who renovated the historic hotel in 1991, passed away in 2005. After his funeral, all the electronic locks on the second floor began flashing red and green. The spirits of his beloved hotel welcomed him into the afterlife.
One curious blogger was unable to explain her hotel room phone ringing throughout the night after she had unplugged it! The next morning, long scratch marks on the hardwood floor were not visible upon check-in.
Some say Fatty Arbuckle still roams around this palace of the stars. While there is no proof to that, there is certainly proof that someone, or something, is haunting Casa Marina!
Casa Marina’s beachside view is unbeatable, but to enjoy you have to share it with the guests that never left. Jacksonville is full of haunted places, just like Casa Marina. To understand the depth of the spiritual activity in this coastal city, check out our blog. We unwrap the top ten haunted locations in Jacksonville in great detail.
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