1934, October 17th, this time in the „Coral Gables Courier”: “The White Lady is Back!” spotted by a couple from Germany, Else and Erich Siehstenix from Heiligendamm.
1935, March 12th, the „Miami Sundowner”, the „Orlando Observer” and the „Coral Gables Courier” report the next sighting of the phantom, this time by a group of nine navy officers from Paraguay.
And so on and so on. Time and again reports about the Lady in White, strolling smoking through the aisles of the hotel. Even international media took the Biltmore’s house-phantom on their pages. „Florida Ghost” was the heading of the „Wiener Kronen Zeitung”; “Miami Spook” the „Ostsee Anzeiger” wrote; even the „Nassau Guardian” on the Bahamas had a headline left: „Crazy Floridians host Ghost at Coral Gables.”
Reason enough, to have a closer look into the phantom’s story. For this I went some years ago to Erie, where Chuck Checker lived. Who is Chuck Checker, you might ask now and you are right to ask. Chuck Checker was bellboy in the newly opened Biltmore Hotel in 1926, then 16 years of age. When I visited him, he just had celebrated his 100st birthday on March 4th, 2010.
At a table with coffee and cake – covered apple pie with cherries in this case, what I basically don’t like at all, but well, what do you not do for a good story – Chuck Checker told me about an event in the hotel’s first year 1926. Despite his biblical age, the tall, skinny gentleman with the white hair remembered very well on his training then in the hotel in Coral Gables.
He then was responsible for the guests in the tower part of the newly built Mediterranean styled hotel. Among them was a wealthy German couple, who owned a brewery in south Germany’s city of Sigmaringen. The director „of the Zollersche Hofbrauhaus”, Gernot Zoller and his wife Sieglinde – twenty years younger than her spouse – spent their holidays in fall 1926 in Miami.
What Chuck Checker remembers still today as if it would have happened yesterday: The never ending arguments of the couple, always because of the wife smoking her tobacco. One cigarette after the other she put in her golden cigarette holder, always accompanied by the more or less pronounced expressions of displeasure.
Again and again during their stay, which was planned for three weeks, there were hard fights of the couple, which became tougher and tougher. It escalated on a Saturday evening, when originally a ball should bring pleasure to the people. While most of the people went to the ballroom for this purpose, some guests outside witnessed Sieglinde Zoller falling from the tower of the hotel. Wearing her white ball-dress, the cigarette holder in her left hand.
First there was nothing to see of her husband, until he was found some minutes later in the staircases of the tower, while his wife’s blood already had soaked not just her ball dress, but also the tiles on the floor outside of the tower in dark red color.
Was Chuck Checker telling a fairy tale? Obviously not, proven by a view in the local edition for Sigmaringen of the „Suebian Newspaper” from October 6th 1926: „Sieglinde Zoller, wife of the owner of the Hofbrauhaus, Gernot Zoller, died two days ago due to a tragic accident while vacationing in Florida.”
The state attorney in Miami started investigations targeting the husband, but due to the lack of evidence these were cancelled soon. But until today the rumors stay alive, that Gernot Zoller in an argument because of the cigarettes pushed his wife down from their room’s balcony – and she is haunting the tower of the hotel since.
But now back to recent events. Until now the phantom was always seen in the aisles of the house – but never again since 2006. No more sightings in the aisles. But therefore outside of the house! Since January 2006 there have been at least seventeen encounters with the Lady in White at the entrance of the main building.
And another change to the appearances before: While she before always walked smoking, but saying nothing, through the aisles, now she just stands outside, silently murmuring curses about some of the directors of the hotel. Nobody knows about the meaning of this scaring change of behavior. Mockers blame it on the prohibiting of smoking inside of the house from 2006 on…
© Mig Phoenix 2008