The name alone conjures a sense of mystery. The Riddle House in Palm Beach, Florida has captured the imagination of paranormal believers around the country and has even been featured on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures in 2008. A former funeral parlor turned private residence and now a tourist attraction, the Riddle House has a long and sinister history from changing owners to mysterious deaths on the property. All of which give it the makings of a seriously haunted location.
In fact, the spirits that are said to haunt the property are so attached they refused to abandon their home. When the house was dismantled and rebuilt in a new location at the end of the 20th century, the ghosts came too, angrier and more active than ever before.
The house was commissioned and built by Henry Flagler in 1905 in addition to the construction of his hotel in West Palm Beach. Parts of the house were built using cast-offs from the hotel, and as a result had quite an interesting outside decor. Nicknamed by locals as “the painted lady” due to the bright colors splashed across its facade, the cheery exterior didn’t match the intended purpose of the house. Located just outside of Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach, it was initially used as a funeral parlor. Serving the community as a mortuary and a house for cemetery workers, while it functioned in this capacity, it was renamed as “the Gatekeeper’s Cottage” to help deter would-be vandals and any grave robbers hoping to relieve bodies of the recently passed of any valuables they’d been buried with.
It was during this time that the house saw its first death, and in turn earned its first ghost story. A cemetery groundskeeper, whom history has identified only as Buck, reportedly got into an altercation with a visitor to the cemetery one day and was killed during the fight. Shortly after, workers and locals alike began to speak of sightings of Buck walking through the grounds, continuing his work and the upkeep of the cemetery even after death.
In 1920 the house was purchased by Karl Riddle, the first city manager and superintendent of public works in West Palm Beach. Additionally taking on the role of overseer at Woodlawn Cemetery, Riddle and his family moved into the house converting it into a private residence. But it wasn’t long before Riddle came to suspect that all was not well in his new abode. In his private diaries, he noted down strange and supernatural incidents he and his family had begun to experience. Then with the onset of the economic Depression of the late 1920s, tragedy struck the Riddle household.
A cemetery worker deep in financial debt entered the house and made his way to the attic where he hung himself from the rafters. His ghost has since become the most famous of all the supernatural residents to call the Riddle House home. From strange sightings of shadowy apparitions to eerie whispers and murmurings from seemingly empty rooms, the house soon gained a haunting reputation, leading to many of Riddle’s remaining employees to abruptly quit and seek work elsewhere.
The house’s paranormal phenomenon continued throughout the 20th century, even after the Riddle family moved out and new families moved in. Finally unable to serve as a home several businesses tried their hand, with owners trying to find a niche for the strange building, all without success. In the 1980s a local university in Palm Beach attempted to utilize the structure as a dorm for female students but the general heavy atmosphere of the home and the strange noises made this an impossible task and the house was left abandoned.
In 1995 after Karl Riddle’s death, the house, which was scheduled for demolition, passed into the ownership of his nephew, John. Unable to see the historic house torn down, John petitioned the city council for the house to be dismantled and moved to Yesteryear Village where he worked as chairman. His request was granted and the house was reassembled in the tourist attraction and remains there to this day. But so do the legends that follow the house.
Despite the dismantling and relocation of the house, this didn’t dissuade the spirits from coming along too. Many construction workers noted their tools would go missing along with some more violent incidents of breaking windows. As a result, many left the project and construction was halted for a time until new workers were found and work eventually resumed.
After the house was rebuilt, an open invitation social gathering was held for the community to help welcome the newest addition to Yesteryear Village. During the event, several guests witnessed a strange couple dressed in out of date clothes wandering around the house before abruptly vanishing. Since then, residual and intelligent hauntings have both been experienced in the house and on the property.
Regular ghost tours continue in the house to this day and it remains a popular spot for ghost hunters and enthusiasts in the hopes of catching proof of the paranormal. Perhaps the name Riddle House is fitting after all, as it continues to capture the imagination of historians and paranormal believers alike.
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