For the history buff who is not afraid of a bump in the night, a hidden gem in the heart of the South Florida Fairgrounds has a haunted mystery in store for you. By day, Yesteryear Village is a quaint replica of a turn-of-the-century Florida town. But by night, those same buildings that seem so chipper in the light of day have an eerie calm and stillness by moonlight, where the whispers of tenants long past linger.
Twenty historic buildings dot the 10-acre parcel of land. Some are replicas, while others are originals, saved from demolition, restored and moved to the fairgrounds to act as a link to South Florida’s history. As most old buildings do, there is a story to each, some more PG-13 then others. For years, staff and tour members have spoke of mysterious happenings in the buildings—apparitions, chills and cold corridors, the sense of being watched—to the point that the Travel Channel’s television show Ghost Adventures caught wind, and filmed an episode in the Riddle House. Their conclusion: Haunted.
Say what you may about these television shows, the media attention perked an interest in the community and tourists to the tune that Yesteryear Village now holds an “Evening in the Dark: A Ghostly Affair Walking Tour" of the premises each month, giving doubters and believers a chance to experience the haunted history. Scheduled for the first Friday of every month, the tour take guests through the town, highlighting certain buildings while giving an oral history of the people who once lived there. The tour highlights three historic buildings: The Riddle House, the Corbett Shack and the Pineapple Processing Plant. Since these buildings were relocated to the village, unexplained sounds and ghostly sightings have been the norm, and staff, volunteers and visitors all vouch for the mysterious activity.
The Riddle House is perhaps the tour’s star, the onus of the Ghost Adventures crew in 2008, and one of the more peculiar stories. No stranger to death, the quaint three-story house was built in 1905 in downtown West Palm Beach. Known as the Gatekeeper’s Cottage, it was first used as a funeral parlor and home of the Woodlawn Cemetery overseer—a job not only steeped in death but also protector of the deceased; grave robbing was quite common in the early 1900s.
The home eventually took on the Riddle name when Karl Riddle, West Palm Beach’s first city manager and superintendent of public works, took up residence in the home in the 1920s. Legend has it that one of Riddle’s workers committed suicide in the building—hung himself from a roof beam since removed—spurring what many believe to be the ongoing hauntings today.
The Corbett Shack, an old hunter’s ramshackle moved from the JW Corbett Wildlife Management Area, was once a lone refuge in a wild, primordial landscape of western Palm Beach County. After the move to Yesteryear, long buried bodies were found at the shack’s old location, with some believing their restless spirits moved with the building to its new village setup.
The third stop on the ghost tour is the old Pineapple Processing Plant. Once a bustling business in Martin County, it now holds relics from the Civil War and both Seminole Wars. Mysterious sounds and sights are often witnessed at the processing plant, most notably a clock that had stopped working at midnight years ago, was once found on the floor reading 3 a.m., the hour a soldier was murdered more than 100 years ago.
- Guides dress in period clothing, conveying the mysterious history of each building, from origin to ghostly encounters at Yesteryear Village. Admission is $18 per person. Tours run from 8-10 p.m. 2015's remaining schedule is as follows: September 4, October 2, November 6, and December 4. Space is limited and reservations are required. Click here to RSVP. For more information, visit southfloridafair.com/GhostTours.