Jimmy Reid and Agneta Ringstrom of St. Cloud-based Paranormal Seekers LLC formed Seven Sisters Getaways LLC to lease one of the two century-old homes that made up the former Seven Sisters Inn in the 800 block of Southeast Fort King Street in Ocala.
They are making moderate renovations to the 120-year-old Rheinauer House, filling it with traditional Victorian furniture and, Reid said, adding a baby grand piano in the parlor. Most notably, they hired former Seven Sisters Innkeeper Charlie Childes to manage the bed-and-breakfast.
"It's really Charlie's baby," Reid said.
"I have a very passionate love affair with this property. I have such a such spiritual connection with it," Childes said Tuesday from the Rheinauer House, where he detailed remodeling plans for the home, which closed one year ago today, hours before it was sold at a foreclosure auction.
Paranormal Seekers investigates paranormal activity, operates ghost tours (including one in St. Augustine) and has produced television shows about its investigations for the Telemundo network. Its second show was on the Seven Sisters Inn years ago, and Reid said the group has been fascinated by the property ever since.
The first order of business, Reid said Tuesday, is to bring the property back up as a B&B inn. Then, down the road, he wants to reserve one weekend a month for ghost-hunting packages, wherein guests would stay at the inn, get to know its ghost stories and then travel to other regional haunts during the day.
Before the bank foreclosed on the inn last year, Seven Sisters was an internationally acclaimed inn made up of two neighboring Victorian homes on the National Register of Historic Places. Ocala attorneys Richard Perry and Jim Richard purchased the buildings in an online liquidation auction last summer. Perry now operates his law office out of the Scott house, yet both have tried for months to find a tenant to retain the Rheinauer house as an inn.
Thus, Richard said Tuesday, they were thrilled to strike the deal with Reid and Ringstrom. The attorneys said people still drive up to the property and ask about renting rooms.
Childes said the Seven Sisters Inn sign, somewhat of a landmark in Ocala, should be moved from the Scott house to the Rheinauer soon this month.
In the year since losing the inn amid many tears and last-minutes attempts to save it, Childes said he has been unemployed and had to file for bankruptcy.
On the day of the foreclosure, he said, a paranormal medium told him the inn was simply going to sleep and would reawaken. Another medium, he said, later told him he would be going back to a place where he belonged.
So with Perry and Richard still searching for an inn-friendly tenant, Childes turned to Facebook, the social-networking Internet site. "I half-jokingly put a post on Facebook: 'Doesn't anybody want to buy the inn?'●" The inn's old friends from Paranormal Seekers replied. Now, Childes seems like a euphoric teen as he glides from room to room, describing the home's new positive energy and the subtle changes slated for its five guest rooms, parlor and dining room.
"It will have a very classic look from the streets," he said, noting the building's current exterior colors will be tamer.
On April 7, 2009, Fernandina-based First Coast Community Bank foreclosed on both homes and their high-end furnishings after inn owners Ken Oden and Bonnie Morehardt fell months behind in payments. The couple said the trouble started after a failed deal to sell the inn left them with months of piled-up mortgage bills.
In its later years under Oden and Bonnie Morehardt, the inn was known as much for its haunts as it was for its fine food, decor and Southern charm. It became a regular stop for ghost walks hosted by Ocala-based Southeastern Paranormal Investigations, which also hosted a candlelight vigil for the inn the night after the foreclosure auction.
bruce ackerman/staff photographer
Inn: Manager says he felt connected to the property
The Rheinauer House, known for its supposed paranormal activity, is shown on Southeast Fort King Street in Ocala on Tuesday. Manager Charlie Childes said he hopes the house will be open again as soon as May 1.