Riddle House's Haunted History
Death has been in and around the Riddle House since it was built in the early 1900s. First used as a funeral parlor, and later as a private residence, the home has seen its share of tragedy.
But what makes this haunt even more perplexing? In the 1980s, the house was moved across town and from many modern-day reports, the angry ghosts who dwelled there went with it.
In 1905, a Victorian "Painted Lady" house was constructed at 327 Acacia Street in downtown West Palm Beach. Originally called the Gatekeeper's Cottage, the building served as a home to the overseers of the Woodlawn Cemetery across the street.
A century ago, it wasn't uncommon for families to bury their loved ones with the expensive jewelry they owned in life. Grave robbing was an ongoing problem, and those who lived in the Gatekeeper's Cottage were expected to keep an eye out for would-be criminals.
Dark History and Ghostly Lore
The first ghostly legend attached to this seemingly-normal house is that of a big man named "Buck" who once worked for the cemetery. The local legend states that Buck was killed in town after an argument spun out of control. Buck's ghost has been seen walking the grounds around the house and on the porch of the Cottage where cemetery workers would often take their meals.
In the 1920s, Karl Riddle became the first City Manager and Superintendent of Public Works. The city of West Palm Beach offered the former Gatekeeper's Cottage as a residence for Riddle. In addition to his duties as City Manager, Riddle also had to oversee the cemetery.
During his tenure at the house, one of Riddle's employees encountered financial difficulties. He became despondent and withdrawn from his family. Seeing no other way out, Riddle's employee hung himself from the rafters of the attic. After the tragedy, the beam used to hold the rope was permanently removed from the top story of the house.
The suicide was a catalyst for the darker haunting that followed. Karl Riddle's personal diary recounts how the family had trouble keeping help in the home. The staff reported hearing chains rattling on the stairs and murmuring voices. Many quit, never to return.
Riddle House in Recent Years
After Riddle and his family moved out, several businesses came and went before the building was finally used by Palm Beach Atlantic College as a girl's dormitory. By 1980, the building was abandoned, fell into disrepair and was scheduled to be demolished by the city.
But fate had other plans for the house. The city donated the building to John Riddle, the nephew of Karl, and he donated the building for preservation. The house at 327 Acacia Street was dismantled and moved to Yesteryear Village to go on permanent display.
Paranormal Activity Reported
During the reassembling of the Riddle House, the dark haunting inside reared its head again. When returning to work in the mornings, carpenters would find their tools thrown from the attic and on the ground below. Third-floor windows would also be found mysteriously broken. At one point, reconstruction had to stop for six months because the workers were so shaken up by what they had experienced inside.
During the private unveiling of the Riddle House in Yesteryear Village, two unexpected guests showed up to the reception. Dressed in early twentieth century garb, many commented on how dashing the pair looked. Those in attendance assumed the couple to be actors. When an old photo showing the original Riddle House was unveiled, attendees were shocked to see the couple in the photo. The out-of-place guests could not be found.
The Riddle House is one of the most active haunts in southern Florida. One visitor who had arranged for a private tour was struck in the head by a piece of wood in the staircase. The wood seemed to appear from nowhere. A maintenance worker was attacked while cleaning the building and refuses to enter the house again. Other witnesses have spotted a hanging torso in the attic window but later learned that no such mannequin exists in the attic. Security personnel have seen lights going on and off in the building, and many avoid the house altogether.
Places can hold memories long after the inhabitants have moved on. Even when relocated entirely, some entities are bound to the structures around them. The reasons why may forever remain a riddle.