If you live on Long Island, eventually you will pass the Pilgrim State Hospital site and wonder what the heck this huge building is. There’s really no escaping it. Opened October 1, 1931 (we just missed its 80th Anniversary), it was at one time listed in the Guinness Book of records as the largest mental institution in the world. At its highest capacity, just after World War II, Pilgrim State housed over fourteen thousand patients. The massive property had its own Long Island Railroad station, post office (with its own postmark), power plant, agriculture and livestock farms, cemetery, police and fire stations and water tower. The complex was made up of many different buildings on over a thousand acres.
During the month of January 2011 a few of my friends came to town to visit me. While they visited, we chatted about a topic that’s fairly common as far as it concerns me– ghosts. It turns out that my friends weren’t without their own stories.
My friend B. worked, at one time, as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for an ambulance service for a Phoenix-Metro Area hospital. (I’m leaving out the hospital’s name because this isn’t a commonly known story and I’m not sure if the hospital would like this story to be directly associated with their facility.)
B. said he had a co-worker at the time who claimed to have the ability to see ghosts. The co-worker was fairly trustworthy, but B. remains a skeptic so he didn’t really think anything about it at the time. The co-worker would occasionally share stories with him about some of her experiences. One of the stories was about the ghost of a friendly nurse who stood by the entrance to the hospital and waved at people who entered and exited the hospital. Though the co-worker attempted to point out the ghostly nurse to B., he never did see her ghostly visage. Though, one particular story she told B. did have an impact on him.
When you see the Don Cesar for the first time, whether from land or sea, the first thought that comes to mind is that this is a fairy castle…an edifice constructed of fantasy. The towering pink walls meet alabaster sand and turquoise seas while billowing clouds scuttle across an azure sky. It is the ultimate tropical getaway….a place where you could spend many happy hours recumbent on the beach, sipping piña coladas. Could it get any better than that? Yes! Because not only is this exotic destination perfect for a weekend of pampering, but it also has a mysterious, intriguing side that makes the hotel even more attractive.
In 1897 the beautiful Belleview Biltmore Hotel was erected overlooking Old Clearwater Bay by the famous Florida developer, Henry Plant. Mr. Plant’s influence is still felt throughout Florida; Plant City was named to honor him, the onion-domed, riverfront University of Tampa was originally built by Henry Plant as another grand hotel, and Morton Plant Hospital (named for Henry’s son) still provides state of the art healthcare for Florida residents. But of all Henry Plant’s contributions to Florida history, the one that holds a special place in my heart is the Belleview Biltmore.