It has stood strong through Florida’s many tropical storms and hurricanes, including the most recent, Hurricane Charley, in 2004. It also withstood Hurricane Donna, a Category 4 storm, in 1960, which destroyed much of the southwest coast of Florida.
Every town has its stories of ghosts and haunted houses, and Englewood is no different. As young children we would make up stories about ghosts and hauntings that happened there. Every time we would ride our bikes past the old house at night, the attic light would be on.
Since no one has lived in the house for years, we tried to explain the lighted window by making up stories about a ghost that lived upstairs: Maybe it was the old lady who ran the boarding school, or maybe a student, or who-knows-what. Anything to get a thrill out of the old part of town we grew up in.In 1990 my family got to purchase a piece of Rinkard House history. When the previous owner passed away there was an estate sale and my parents purchased an antique dresser. That dresser still stands in my mother’s formal living room. When we moved the old dresser, my dad removed the back cover and discovered old newspapers from the early 1900s, and in the drawers there were antique picture frames, which only added to the “haunted” image of the guest house.
The haunting of Rinkard’s has long been a folk story on the old downtown streets of Englewood. But on Sunday, Oct. 16, a fire engulfed the old house. An eerie picture taken at the scene has now confirmed some people’s long-held suspicions of the famed ghost in the attic. With Halloween coming, one can’t help but ask themselves the question that has plagued us forever: Are there such things as ghosts?
When I was younger we lived just off of Old Englewood Road in the “old” part of town, and swapped ghost stories about this and that. My best friend’s house, which was built by hand by her grandfather in the 1940s, and the Rinkard Guest House were our main focal points. Strange noises were heard in the night and picture frames and miscellaneous items moved out of place. As a little child I refused to stay overnight there, in fear of encountering just what some people pursue for a lifetime.
Though I have never had an actual encounter with a ghost, I can say I am a believer and that picture of a figure in the burning window gives me the chills. The photo of the historic, beautiful house going up in flames is eerie, and definitely sad at the same time.
An icon of old Florida and Old Englewood has been destroyed. It has not been said what caused the fire, or if the building will be restored or demolished. Either way it is the end of an era for the Rinkard Guest House. The original roof and structure are compromised and will never be the same, and the spirit of whoever stands in the window will be locked inside with all the history and stories of the oldest house in Englewood.
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