The Haunted May-Stringer House

may stringer house brooksville

This post was originally published on February 3, 2013. I’m sharing it again as my team, Florida Suncoast Paranormal Investigations, will return to the May-Stringer House tomorrow.

The 158-year-old May-Stringer House in Brooksville, FL is one of the oldest homes in the area, not to mention the most haunted. Legend has it up to eight ghosts roam the property which today serves as a historical museum. The most famous ghost, however, is that of Jessie Mae, a lonely little girl longing for her mother’s touch.

may stringer houseHistory of the May-Stringer House
In 1855, a contractor named John L. May purchased the Brooksville property and built a home for his family. John lived in the simple four-room house with his wife, Marena, and their daughters, Matilda and Annie, until tuberculosis took his life three years later.

Marena remained in the home throughout the Civil War and eventually married Confederate hero Frank Saxon. She died giving birth to the couple’s child, a girl named Jessie Mae, in 1869. Jessie survived her birth but died of unknown causes three years later. Marena and Jessie were buried on the property, as were John May and the infant son of Frank and Marena, a detail which fuels many rumors about the May-Stringer haunting.

After Marena died, Frank Saxon sold the home, and the property eventually made its way to Dr. Sheldon Stringer. The doctor added ten rooms to the house which he shared with his wife and three children. The estate also served as the doctor’s practice, and, some say, a sanatorium catering to victims of smallpox and yellow fever. After the death of the Stringers, the house passed from one owner to another until The Hernando Historical Museum Association acquired the mansion in 1980 and began extensive restoration work. Today, the May-Stringer House is a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

may stringer house museumHaunted May-Stringer House
According to docent Bonnie LeTourneau, weird things started happening at the home right away. Restoration volunteers heard footsteps and voices in empty rooms. Workers noticed cold spots, mists, and eerie shadows. On more than one occasion, the sound of children’s laughter rang throughout the home, though kids weren’t allowed at the work site. The strange events persist today, with guides reporting moving shadows, glowing orbs of light, and the sound of a wailing child. Many believe the child is Jessie Mae, a lost spirit calling out for the mother she never knew. LeTourneau has heard the wails herself, a sound she describes as chilling.

A doll on display at the May-Stringer House is rumored to be little Jessie’s. One day, volunteers removed the doll from its cradle for review by an appraiser. When they went to return the antique they were shocked to see the disassembled cradle scattered across the floor. The docents quickly reassembled the bed and returned the doll to its place of honor. There have been no other incidents since that day. Was Jessie behind the mysterious event?

The May-Stringer House is a popular site for paranormal investigators, and many believe its one of Florida’s most haunted homes. Other ghosts rumored to haunt the historic structure include Marena May, Dr. Stringer’s patients, a shooting victim, and an angry spirit known as Mr. Nasty. Though there’s no proof of Mr. Nasty’s existence, he’s said to be a soldier who hanged himself in the attic after learning of his fiance’s infidelity. This betrayal reportedly caused Mr. Nasty to hate women, and one team of ghost hunters had to cut their investigation short after women in the group became violently ill.

Is the May-Stringer House truly haunted? Or does the old home with a tragic past merely cause imaginations to run wild?

Historical Source:  St. Petersburg Times