Exploring the haunted, historic Punta Gorda

Unexplained history of city's oldest neighborhood
Posted at 9:27 AM, Oct 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-17 15:29:26-04

There are parts of Punta Gorda's historic district, where the past never goes away.

Rick Bissonette learned that the hard way.

"A lot of unexplained things happen in Punta Gorda," Bissonette says.

Bissonette owns Bisous Salon. Several years ago, he based his business out of a building on Taylor St. One day, a customer noticed something strange.

"There was this face on the wall," he says. Bissonette came to call it, his "Man on the Wall."

"It looked like his face was pressed against something. And his hands were pressed against something. Kind of like looking through a window."

"So that night I painted it. And the next morning it was back again. And I painted it again, and it came back again."

But that's not all. When he first moved into the building, he says he was talking to his wife about making changes to the building, when a plate flew off the wall, across the room and crashed into another wall. He didn't make the changes.

Two different times, one of his employees says she saw a man in a police officers uniform in the building. Bissonette says the building used to be a doctor's office, one of the first in the city, and that a murdered officer died there.

History backs up part of the story. According to the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, Punta Gorda City Marshal, John H Bowman was assassinated in 1903, when a gunman shot into his home on Taylor St. It's not clear where Bowman died.

"This whole town is so old and a lot of people don't know the history of the town," Bissonette says.

History still lives at the Punta Gorda History Park. Several historic homes were moved to the park and are now art galleries and gift shops. Gussie Baker, with the Punta Gorda Historical Society, says it's not usual for things in the houses to mysteriously move at night, once the workers have gone home.

She also says, a box with human bones was found in the attic of one of the houses. She says a note in the box said, the bones were found in the soil, near the home on Gilchrist St. Baker says the bones were sent to a lab at the University of Florida, where they were found to belong to Calusa Indians. Baker says that area of town may have been built on an ancient burial ground.

But that might not explain everything.

Take the Sandlin family, who lived on W. Retta Esplanade. They were one of the first families in Punta Gorda. According to a 1909 obituary, 16-year-old Mary Leah Sandlin, daughter of James and Mary, died in the home when her dress caught fire while she was ironing.

People who have lived in the home say Mary still roams the hall.

James Sandlin donated the land that became the Indian Spring Cemetery. His family and many other prominent early Punta Gorda families are buried there. Ghost hunters, paranormal researchers, and others have reported seeing shadows, voices, and lights in the cemetery.

Baker says many people who live in the historic part of town have experienced the same things in the homes, but are reluctant to talk about it.

"There are a couple other houses in town that you walk in, that you don't want to be in, because the hair on your neck sticks up and you can tell it's evil," Bissonette says.

Taste & See Southwest Florida

Follow us (#tasteseeSWFL): FacebookInstagram | Twitter