My 29-year-old nephew, Ardon Anderson, my sister Mary’s oldest son, got married on April 5, on Jekyll Island, Georgia, a slice of paradise off the east coast between Jacksonville, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. This three day extravaganza was held at the Jekyll Island Club Resort, where the past whispers through the very air you breathe.
The Jekyll Island Club was born in 1885, when a group of wealthy individuals invested in the ambitious plans of Newton Finney and his brother-in-law to create the most exclusive hunting club and vacation site for the very wealthy. The original 53 investors/members, who worked in Manhattan, became part of the incorporated Jekyll Island Club, which bought the entire island.
This group of business and financial luminaries included J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, George Baker and James Stillman. These men spent summers on the island with their families. Some of them also built winter homes on Jekyll, which were large enough to house their families and servants. J.P. Morgan and William Rockefeller built Sans Souci in 1896. It had six units and was one of the first condominiums built in the country.
The club flourished into the 1930s, but with the Great Depression casting a pall over everything, half of the members dropped out. During WWII, the federal government was afraid that enemy subs might sneak in just off the shoes of Jekyll and evacuated the island. It remained closed for the duration of the war.
In 1947, the state of Georgia bought the entire island for $675,000, and turned it into a public state park. The hotel is now owned by the Radisson Hotel Chain, and has 134 rooms and suites that are located in the main building, the annex, and three restored cottages – the Sans Souci, Cherokee Cottage, and Crane Cottage, which is where Ardon’s wedding took place.
When we first drove onto the property and I saw the hotel and Crane Cottage, I remarked to Rob and Megan that it reminded me of the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. Even though it isn’t as large as the Overlook, it has that same ancient, spooky feel to it. “This place has got to be haunted.”
Here’s a photo of the Jekyll River and the salt marsh as the sun was setting – the view from Crane Cottage. The second photo was inadvertently taken with some sort of filter app on my iPhone:
As I found out after the fact, the hotel apparently is haunted.
JP Morgan supposedly still hangs out in the Sans Souci, where he continues to enjoy sitting out on the third floor balcony, sipping coffee and smoking his favorite cigar. Guests who stay in this condo unit and are early risers have reported the scent of cigar smoke – and smoking isn’t permitted. General Lloyd Aspinwall, one of the original investors, has allegedly been seen in a room named after him. The Aspinwall Room was originally called the Riverfront Veranda and the general has been spotted strolling the veranda, still enjoying the magnificent view. Here’s more about the apparitions, which include a mysterious bellboy who leaves gifts for newlyweds.
Now that I’ve discovered that the place is haunted, I wonder if it helps to explain an odd event that happened Saturday night after the wedding and dinner, when Crane Cottage rocked with music, dancing, and a lot of celebrating by the nearly 200 guests. The entire house had been reserved for the wedding. My youngest nephew, Ashton, made his way through the crowd and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Aunt Trish, the weirdest thing just happened. I found a baby bird in mom’s room. I think it’s a baby hawk.”
“Is it still in the room?”
“Yeah, I wrapped it in a towel.”
“We should release it.”
“C’mon, I’ll show you.”
Rob, Megan, and I followed Ashton up to the room on the second floor. Interestingly, the door to the balcony was shut and so was the door to the bathroom, which had an open window that overlooked the grounds and the Jekyll River beyond it. Ashton said he’d found the bird near the bed and took us over to it. He carefully folded back the edges of the towel and, sure enough, there was the baby bird.
“It’s a swallow,” Rob said.
And what came immediately to mind was a synchro we experienced with a pair of swallows in 2009. Ashton picked up the towel, cradling it gently in his hands, and we hurried back downstairs and out onto the property and found a spot near a bush where we left the swallow.
“So what’s it mean, Aunt Trish?” Ashton asked. “It must mean something, right?”
“Birds often act as messengers. So yes, I think it means something. We’ll have to wait and see what unfolds.”
A little while later, I realized I had misplaced my iPhone and was running around, trying to find it, when Ashton hurried over to me again. “You aren’t going to believe this. I just found a second baby swallow in the bedroom.”
We hurried back upstairs to Mary’s room. It was just Ashton and I this time and later on, Rob questioned whether this was the same bird, maybe it had flown back into Mary’s room after we’d released it. But the windows and balcony doors were still shut, Ashton said, and no, there were definitely two birds. Ashton said he had come back to the room to get something and had heard fluttering under the bed. When he got down on his knees and looked under the bed, he’d seen the second bird. He had caught it, wrapped it in a towel, and set it in a corner of the room, where he now picked it up.
The little thing didn’t move, yet when I touched it, I felt the rapid, frantic beating of its heart. It seemed to be stunned. I suggested we take it outside to the same spot where we’d left the first swallow. So we did. The towel that had held the first swallow was now empty. Ashton and I looked at each other and grinned. We hoped that meant the first baby had flown off.
By the next morning when we returned, the second swallow was nowhere around, either.
Rob’s interpretation of this discovery of two baby swallows is connected to its meaning as a verb – that there was a lot of “swallowing” going on at the festivities – i.e., the open bar, the copious amounts of wine that flowed after the bar had shut down for the night. Or perhaps Ashton must swallow the fact that his older brother is now married, a big change in the sibling dynamics. And while those interps may be part of it, there could be something deeper here.
Two baby swallows. The incubation period for swallow eggs is from eleven to twenty days, more twos. Perhaps within this time frame, Ashton, a tattoo artist seeking to expand his creative venue, will be offered a new opportunity of some kind. But since the birds were in Mary’s room, maybe something comes her way in eleven to twenty days. Or perhaps in eleven to twenty days, something new occurs for Ardon and his new wife. No telling. Stay tuned.
The wedding and the discovery of the two swallows occurred on April 5. So the time frame may be from April 16 (11 days) to April 25 (20 days).
None of us saw or sensed a ghost at any time during our time at the resort. Nothing strange showed up in any of my photos – and I took a lot of pictures. No orbs, no questionable shadowy shapes.We did take a nine-mile bike ride to the north end of the island, a place called Driftwood Beach, but the only ghosts here were the majestic pieces of driftwood.
Perhaps the haunting, for us, was that Mary’s ex-husband, the father of all three boys, died several years ago. Yet, his 85-year-old step grandfather attended and so did his 38-year-old son from his first marriage.
We didn’t sleep at the resort. Our rooms were at a hotel up the road. I think I would like to go back to the resort and actually book one of their ultra expensive rooms for a night and see what, if anything, puts in an appearance. If nothing else, I would enjoy falling asleep to the sound of the wind moving through these ancient, majestic live oaks, many of which were infants when JP Morgan and Rockefeller and the other bankster boys bought the place more than a century ago.