Herlong Mansion started out as a humble farmhouse, built around 1845 by the Simonton family, who were among the earliest settlers of Micanopy in Florida. Decades later, Natalie Simonton married a man named Zeddy Herlong. The couple moved to the farmhouse, then set about its transformation.
By 1910, the house had undergone substantial changes, now standing proudly as a Greek-style mansion with grand Corinthian columns at the front. Inside were touches of Arts and Crafts, with leaded glass windows, wood panelling and finest quality hardwood floors.
Zeddy was the founding member of a mysterious club called Hoo-Hoo, which had a strong affinity for the number nine because of its similarity to the shape of a cat’s tail. Founded in 1892, the club’s membership fee was ninety-nine cents per year. Zeddy even built a secret room under Herlong Mansion, measuring nine feet cubed, where members of the club would hold their meetings.
Zeddy and Natalie lived in the house with their six children until Natalie’s death in 1950. After that, Zeddy re-married and moved away. But in her will, Natalie bequeathed the house to all six children equally, which caused far-reaching family disharmony.
Over the following eighteen years, the siblings fought tirelessly for their rights to the house. Ownership eventually fell to the eldest child Inez, by then aged 68. The day she took possession of Herlong Mansion, Inez came into the house and made her way to her childhood bedroom. But once there, she fell into a diabetic coma and died shortly afterwards.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Herlong Mansion still retains much of its Victorian elegance and eclectic charm. It was bought in 1990 by Sonny Howard, who turned it into bed and breakfast accommodation.
Herlong Mansion’s Ghosts and Hauntings
For many years before that, the house was uninhabited. In this time, it unsurprisingly gained a reputation for being haunted. Sonny only discovered this after he bought it, but he soon became aware of some of the ghostly stories that had surrounded the house for decades.
Before it was sold and still stood empty, caretakers were instructed to keep Herlong Mansion maintained. They reported strange occurrences, including locking one particular upstairs bedroom door that would then rattle loudly all night. If the door was closed but left unlocked, it would not make a sound.
Sonny extended the house in order to add more bedrooms for his business. Builders working on the project would sleep in the living room, but at night they would often hear footsteps and upstairs doors opening and closing. If they went to investigate, they would find nothing. They began carrying guns to defend themselves, but realised this was pointless. In the end, they chose to sleep elsewhere.
Florida’s Most Haunted Hotel?
There are stories of hauntings at Herlong Mansion from long ago. Decades before Sonny took on the house, visitors claimed to have seen furniture moving around by itself, and smoke floating mysteriously up the stairs.
According to one story, a former maid was cleaning a bathtub, then stepped out and slipped. She alleged someone caught her firmly enough to break her fall. She turned to thank the person – but of course, no-one was there. So she thanked Inez Herlong.
These days, Herlong Mansion is still run as a bed and breakfast. More recently, a housekeeper reported hearing footsteps upstairs while she was cleaning downstairs. She called up, but no-one replied. She heard a door opening and closing, so she called up again, but there was only the sound of the door rattling. She called out a third time, this time to Inez herself, and a door slammed violently in response.
Self-proclaimed ghost hunters have recorded high electromagnetic readings in Inez’s old bedroom, and on the landing outside. Despite rumours of hauntings, her room is offered to guests, just like any other room. Guests staying in there have reported seeing an apparition through the dressing table mirror, floating across the room. It has the impression of a woman’s form, with a red shawl over its head.
Other guests staying in Inez’s room have heard a woman’s gentle voice, smelt unfamiliar perfume, and even felt a mist of water sprayed on their faces during the night. There is a photo on the wall of a turn-of-the-century couple, looking unhappy. Guests have been known to take it down, because the eyes seem to be following them around the room.
Another reported ghostly experience seems even more real. While on a second-floor veranda before dawn one morning, a guest shivered with the sudden sensation of goose bumps. She spotted a mysterious figure of a woman in period dress, watching her from thirty feet away.
Startled, she ran back into her room. When she looked again the figure was gone, but there was no way anyone could possibly have left the veranda without passing her.