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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #551  (Vol. 11, No. 42)  This edition is for the week of October 11--17, 2010.

"RED"  by Mike Smith
It's Halloween In Florida, Part One  by William Moriaty
Spooky Empire 2010  by ED Tucker
The Weekend that was Spooky Empire 2010  by Chris Woods
Japanese Pizza: Merry Misadventures in Gastronomy  by Jason Fetters
Oklahoma Is O.k. .... One Off The Bucket List .... Another Great Tribute .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

It's Halloween In Florida, Part One

Normandy Nessie
What weird creature has been seen slithering through the canals of Madeira Beach? According to Madeira Beach resident Russel Sittloh who lives on one of the canals on a street bearing the first name of the creature, he swears that in the fall of 2007 he saw a 20' to 25' long "snake-like animal" sloshing around the waters behind his home.

In the summer of this year a family from Ohio were startled when they saw what they described as a 30' long "serpent-like creature" seen swimming 30' from the shoreline of Sand Key. Could this have also been the creature that Sittloh saw several years earlier frolicking not far from his back yard? And if it was, just what is this creature now known as "Normandy Nessie?"

Strange Days at the Bayou Castle
If there was ever an authentic house of horrors in the Tampa Bay area, that "honor" would likely go to the Bayou Castle in the Pinellas Point section of St. Petersburg.

Located within steps of Little Bayou Park where your intrepid author has planted many a tree along with Pinellas Point native Ray Wunderlich III, the Bayou Castle is currently an unassuming yet unique house built in 1906 by settler Edward John Branch. It is not to be confused with the nearby Castle de'Argenteau, a large Mediterranean Revival house on the shores of Tampa Bay several miles to the south that in ts early years acted as a museum for a Belgium princess.

The strangeness at the Bayou Castle started in 1970 after a woman originally from Great Barrington Massachusetts named Lucille Crissey relocated there along with her tenants from the Burlington Hotel in St. Petersburg after it was condemned by the city. In 1972 she had ten 2,000 pound columns moved from a hotel she owned in Great Barrington moved to the Bayou Castle property. Rumors began to circulate in the neighborhood that the bones of missing cats were interred in the growing numbers of statuary filling the Bayou Castle grounds. Crissey could be seen driving around south St. Petersburg in her black Fleetwood which looked like a death procession car.

Then there the weird living animals. For "protection", Crissey let roam in her yard a perpetually angry cocker spaniel and a large black snake. She also had three Siamese cats that were tethered to a picnic table with one rope.

Next there were the weirdest animals - - some of her tenants.

In August 1974 one of the Castle's boarders, Vernice Brown, was abducted from the Castle and found drowned by Mirror Lake near downtown St. Petersburg. It took years for police to solve the homicide.

If that wasn't scary enough, one month later boarder Charles Fears was stabbed to death at the Castle by John Holden over a bottle of booze! Police found the body but never the murder weapon. There was a good reason for that. One fine day Crissey "discovered" the murder weapon under a loaf of bread in the refrigerator. What would any sane or rational person do with such state's evidence? Why of course, lay it on the window sill of your bedroom which is just what Crissey did.

I'm surprised that after all of this high strangeness the locals didn't storm the Castle with torches and pitch forks to run Crissey and her crazy crew out of Dodge on a rail, but neighborhood vigilantes may have taken a more insidious route to get across their point - - if indeed the sick acts I'm about to describe were carried out by the locals and not the Castle's inhabitants.

In 1976 some wack job bludgeoned her perpetually angry cocker spaniel and threw out out of their car into the path of another car. Too mean to die, the poor beast somehow survived the ordeal. The three tethered Siamese cats were not as lucky as they were found bludgeoned and decapitated. Stranger yet, and I mean stranger yet, when police investigated the scene of the animal carnage they also found a live penguin nailed to a nearby tree!

In 1979 a seance was held at the Castle to contact the spirit of Charles Fears who was murdered there five years earlier. a spiritualist organization expressed interest in buying the Castle and converting it into a church but Crissey wasn't selling.

Finally, in 1980, Crissey moved from the property and things there have been relatively quiet and serene since. In December 1991 Crissey passed away at age 87 and with her died all of the Castle's sick and sordid secrets from the decade long span that Crissey and her boarders lived there.

Were Crissey and her boarders some type of a Satanic cult or dark type of witch's coven, or were they simply eccentrics mixed in with a few short fused drifters?

Undoubtedly the true story of Tampa Bay's most genuine haunted house died in December 1991 with one Lucille Crissey.

A Fond Photographic Farewell to Florida's "Mister Magic" Harry Wise
This will be the first Halloween without my dear friend the late Harry Wise to be here to celebrate it. Not surprisingly, Halloween was his absolute favorite holiday and time of year, so as these are the last artifacts that he gave me, I thought this would be a great way to honor and remember him. Harry can be found in up to ten La Floridiana articles that can be found by linking to my eulogy to the man in PCR #506.

An ad for an August 21, 1962 ghost show in Milford, Delaware that featured Harry in costume as the Teenage Frankenstein and also as The Fly.

An ad for a Friday October 16, 1964 ghost show at the Ritz Theater in Sanford, Florida featuring Harry in his ghost master persona as Dr. Jekyl and His Weird Show.

Harry (Right) with Roscoe Evans in Sanford, Florida in 1952 on Magnolia Avenue in front of Touchton's Drugs.

Harry (Right) shown with ghost show magician, filmmaker and Duncan Yo-Yo champion Donn Davison and "friend" in Louisville, Kentucky in 1966. Davison went on to film such low-budget gems as "Moonshiner's Woman" in 1968, "Honey Britches" (alternative title, "Demented Death Farm Massacre") in 1971 and "Blood Beast of Monster Mountain" in 1976 where he is credited as being a "World Traveler, Lecturer and Psychic Investigator".

Left: Harry as he appeared in his final public performance on July 25, 2009 in Sanford, Florida.

Above: "I've Had A Good Run!" No truer words uttered from the soul of a unicorn who brought joy and enlightenment to untold thousands. Harry passed away one day after his 75th birthday on November 19, 2009. This larger than life giant of a legend will be dearly missed.

What better animal symbolizes Halloween better than a bat? In our next article we will look into efforts by a Temple Terrace architect to recreate a bat tower built there in the 1920's along with other Florida Halloween fun!

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "La Floridiana" is ©2010 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.