Ghost Hunter

It's Halloween. Get thee to a cemetery.

As we continue past an old couple enjoying an evening walk, Roesch recounts an event that happened in 1993, when he was employed at Wells Fargo Bank and a coworker shot himself in the break room. "A lot of people there claimed they saw him after that," Roesch says. "I never did. But one night when I was clocking out, it felt like someone ran up right behind me and was breathing on my neck. I turned around, and no one was there. That's the only encounter I've had where I was genuinely scared."

Years later, Roesch's experience with the unknown was revisited. "My interest was sparked when I worked at the Hollywood Beach Resort Hotel back in 2000," he recalls. "I would see shadows out of the corner of my eye, experience strange scents, and feel temperatures drop inexplicably. People I worked with had stories too, stories of things they'd seen or experienced. This piqued my curiosity, and I decided to investigate on my own. I was always satisfied that there was something there, especially on the seventh floor."

The Hollywood Beach Resort Hotel sits tucked away from A1A. The front of the hotel has been remodeled, but the west side of the building, partially covered by peeling orange paint, appears to be the side time forgot. The resort opened in 1926, and mobster Al Capone often stayed in the penthouse. At one point, the hotel became a hospital, then a Bible college, and now it is a condo/hotel, which, in some strange way, makes sense. We walk into the front lobby, and Roesch gets nervous. "I hope this guy doesn't give us any trouble," he says, avoiding the prying eyes of a scrawny front-desk clerk. "We're not really supposed to be going up there."

Brian Roesch hangs with the dead.
Colby Katz
Brian Roesch hangs with the dead.

Roesch leads me to the seventh floor via the elevator. As the doors open, we immediately encounter the odd smell of mildew and gardenia. The hallways are an unsettling mixture of old plumbing, which protrudes from the walls like veins, fluorescent lighting, and tacky '80s carpeting. The ghost of Christopher Lowell should be haunting this place. Not Capone. "A few scenes from The Shining were shot here back in the '70s," Roesch says as he snaps digital photos of the area. We're standing in an eerily quiet portion of the peach-colored corridor, right next to an out-of-order vending machine. It's uncomfortably warm.

As we round the corner to take the elevator to the penthouse, a quick motion catches my eye. I immediately tense up, expecting to see the ghosts of creepy Bible thumpers, but breathe a sigh of relief when it's just two blond Euro-tourists with matching Speedos and Ralph Lauren T-shirts.

"I'll tell you where I'd like to go," Roesch says. "The Sunrise Hall Dormitories are supposed to be haunted." Back in the '50s, the future dorms of the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute on North Federal Highway were a "house of ill repute," Roesch says. Multiple murders allegedly occurred in that house, and a few years later, it burned down. A hotel was built there in the '70s, and that became the dorms in 1992. "There have been reports from the second floor that the sound of moans comes from the third floor around 1 a.m.," Roesch explains. "And the sound of metal pipes being dropped and rolling across the floor has also been heard in the ceilings." A visit to Sunrise Hall on a recent Saturday night didn't yield any noticeable paranormal activity, but a few abnormally pale students did wander aimlessly down the halls, and a curious smell emanated from one room. Fer Christ sakes, it is a college dorm. I think we all know what the "pipes" and "moans" are. Zoinks.

"I would stop pursuing this if I could find proof that ghosts exist," Roesch says. "Electrical energy is contained in all living species; it can't be destroyed. If the electrical energy grounds after death, then that's it: Ghosts can't exist. But if the electrical energy does not ground, then it must have an extended purpose." But are most people who claim to have seen ghosts lying? "No," he says, shaking his head, "I believe most people are telling the truth but that they're just misinformed about what they've experienced."

A few days later, I'm drawn back to Evergreen. Trudging through the maze of headstones, I think that whatever was spooking us nights before was most likely the product of an overactive imagination, a collective anxiety.

Then the small wind chimes tied to a tree branch above me start moving even though there hasn't been a breeze for a few minutes.

Or maybe it wasn't moving.

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