A massive stone castle once stood in Florida. It was deemed the “House of Tragedy.” This virtual Hill House stood for a hundred years, and might still be standing, if anyone could’ve resided within its walls. Even the most astute historians have overlooked this location, once a fixture in Florida folklore.
In 1803, a man known only as Marquis Lamier came to Spanish Florida. The dark and dashing stranger was said to have fled his native France due to the many crimes he committed. Rumors claimed he achieved his sizable wealth through theft and murder during the Revolution. Florida was then a wild country. It would be another seventeen years before it became a part of America, but none of the home’s inhabitants would live to see it.
The Marquis built a stone castle on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The ideal area was close to the sea, but still private enough for his associates. He obtained a great deal of land and created a magnificent stone manor with a matching gate. Twenty slave cabins, also made of stone, were built around a quarter of a mile from the main house.
The only nearby civilization was a tiny village that would one day be known as Samville. He purchased a quantity of slaves and set about farming his plantation. Locals grew suspicious. It was obvious Lamier knew nothing of farming or agriculture, but he had an enormous amount of money. He imported fine wines and exquisite liquors from all over Europe. When the house was complete, he brought two more residents to the castle.
The girl was Antoinette Breezac, and he claimed she was his “ward.” Mrs. Pierre, the second inhabitant, claimed to be the housekeeper. The two ladies settled into their quarters and life went on as normal as possible.
Most of the home’s early history would’ve been lost, were it not for the whisperings of his slaves to the locals. Strange, brutal men often visited the castle. Lamier and his associates held wild parties nightly and every visitor gambled with the Marquis. Card games often lasted for days at a time.
The two were inseparable when allowed. Aunt Cleo stood outside the hall at night, where Antoinette could see her, and remained while the drunken guests harassed and groped the girl. Antoinette was not allowed to anger the Marquis’s guests.Poor Antoinette was subjected to daily ridicule and raucous comments from the Marquis’s guests. She didn’t speak English or Spanish, so her communication with the guests and staff was limited. The Marquis kept her in a corner of the grand room so he could always keep an eye on her. The only tolerable periods in her life were spent with a slave named Aunt Cleo. Antoinette was fifteen at the time, but she looked up to Aunt Cleo like a mother. Aunt Cleo had the same affection for the girl. Both of them were trapped in a place they didn’t want to be.
A Year Later
Antoinette quietly endured the daily torture for a year. She longed for her native France and to be reunited with her family. They were separated by the horrors of the Revolution, and the Marquis promised her father he would return her as soon as it was safe. That had been years earlier.
Before long, both the Marquis and Mrs. Pierre came for her. They physically carried the girl back to the house. Aunt Cleo remained in her cabin, terrified. She knew that if she interfered, they would punish the girl.On the morning of Christmas Eve, Antoinette fled to Aunt Cleo’s cabin in her nightdress. She sobbed and gasped for breath. It took a few minutes for even Aunt Cleo calm her. She begged Aunt Cleo not to let the Marquis touch her. He’d told her he could do what he wanted with her because she was his ward. He said he wouldn’t return her to France because he’d killed her father, himself. He said he would kill her, too, if she didn’t let him do as he wished.
Her worst fears were confirmed by noon. Someone sent for a local sheriff in the village. Aunt Cleo felt sick as she approached the home, and could barely move as she neared the main stairway. Antoinette’s body was doubled up on the third step landing. Her head was almost severed from her body. Blood had poured down the steps and created a pool on the floor.
She bit her tongue until the authorities arrived. She couldn’t keep silent. She accused the Marquis in front of the lawmen. She said he’d done it to Antoinette because she wouldn’t let him touch her. Cleo didn’t see him do it, but she wanted the Marquis to pay for her murder. She told the authorities she’d watched him cut the girl’s throat.
The Marquis had Cleo forcibly removed from the premises and escorted to her cabin. He said he would discuss the matter with her later. He and Mrs. Pierre discussed Antoinette’s deteriorating mental state since learning of her father’s death. A large sum of cash, along with a few bottles of fine wine, encouraged the official to rule her death a suicide. Aunt Cleo fell victim to the same “despondency” and was found the next morning. She’d hanged herself, or so Lamier said.
They got rid of Antoinette and Cleo, but their trouble had just started. Six months later, Pierre was in the latter stages of delirium tremens. The slaves had endured her cruelty long enough. They decided to strike while she was weak. They chased her around the upper floor. She descended the main stairway, where Antoinette died, and slipped. She fell down the steps and her neck snapped upon impact with the floor.
He and Lamier stood with their pistols drawn. Both men fired. Letoure died instantly, while the Marquis survived only a few minutes before he expired. The original owners were gone, but many later discovered the party didn’t end. One year after the girl’s murder, Lamier played cards with a new guest. Alphonse Letoure visited the castle and suggested they play a game of cards to see who would lose everything. The game stretched out for three days. By Christmas morning, Letoure was ruined. Instead of taking his losses, he made the bold accusation that Lamier cheated.
He and Lamier stood with pistols drawn. Both men fired. Letoure died instantly, while the Marquis survived only a few minutes before he expired. The original owners were gone, but many later discovered the party didn’t end.
Locals were unsure of what to do with the house. Lamier hadn’t used a legitimate name, so they had no hope of finding any next-of-kin. The few associates who straggled in after his death had fled when they learned of his demise. Purchasers came and went as fast as the house was sold. It was a gorgeous home, and in a prime location on the river, but no one could deal with the spirits. It sat empty for many decades before someone decided to give it another try.
Eventually, Richard Martin Smith toured the house. He was impressed. He’d worked hard in an Alaskan gold field and had amassed enough to retire. He wanted to go somewhere warm and comfortable, and he decided that place was Castle Lamier.
Locals warned him about the home’s reputation, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He dismissed their claims as nonsense. The house was fine, structurally. It was stone, so its skeleton was impervious even to Florida’s humidity. All it really needed was some renovation. He’d spent years surviving harsh Alaskan winters. A few “spooks” were the least of his worries.
He renovated the whole house, installed electricity, and modernized the plumbing. He brought in new furnishings and had the entire home redecorated. He then moved his family in. The first day passed fine. He thought the locals were ignorant and he’d gotten a bargain… then night came.
All through the first night, the family heard wine glasses clinking, champagne bottles popping, and the constant back-and-forth of poker chips and card dealing. They heard people talking and laughing. Strange lights came and went in the halls, as if tens of people were in the home. Disembodied footfall was everywhere in the house. After several hours of the phantom party, more ominous sounds began.
Suddenly, footfall rushed by the bedroom doors on the upper floor. A young woman screamed and pleaded for her life. A man swore and angrily shouted. After another scream, a body thudded down the main steps. The entire family heard liquid dripping down the main steps onto the floor. Whispers came from all directions. They heard drunken laugher and sounds of slaps and punches. The noise escalated with the sounds of someone being violently punched, as if someone was beaten to death.
The exhausted family emerged from their bedrooms after a restless night. Smith had second thoughts about his grand house. Even in daylight, something about the stairway landing now prompted everyone to step over an unseen object.
The family knew nothing of the home’s history, and didn’t want to. They agreed it was not the house for them. Smith put the house on the market for a ridiculously low price, where a real estate man named Phillips promptly picked it up.
Phillips the Showman
Real estate mogul John Phillips was next. He bought the newly renovated house for much less than he imagined. He was convinced he could make a fortune off the old place, regardless of whatever the Smith family claimed. It would’ve made a fine resort or a spa and health retreat for the wealthy. He went as far as authoring several articles for Florida newspapers on how superstitions ruined promising properties, such as Castle Lamier.
Phillips decided he had to prove the stories false. He invited twelve distinguished men to stay in the house for a week. He chose well-educated, successful individuals to give his experiment credibility. The group included both a minister and a priest. To prove his confidence the haunting was superstition, he brought his 4-year-old daughter, Mary, to stay with them.
The men arrived before lunch. His first order of business was to debunk the stairway story. Legend said no one could cross the landing without instinctively stepping across something unseen. He knew nothing was there and planned to use his daughter to prove it. He said Mary couldn’t understand the stories, so she certainly couldn’t believe them. She was a baby. He placed a dish of candy on a table at the top of the steps and instructed her to go get a piece.
The child slowly made her way towards the candy bowl. To Phillips’s dismay, the child hesitated on the landing. She calculated her way around whatever was there. She then returned to her journey up the steps. The visitors were ready to leave. Every man in attendance begged Phillips to take his daughter from the house, even if he had to stay. The entire group stated they had a bad feeling about the place and just wanted to leave.
Phillips was genuinely surprised by their reluctance. He said they must’ve influenced his daughter. She probably heard them discuss the stairway amongst themselves. The men weren’t convinced. They immediately left. Phillips couldn’t be reasoned with, and they couldn’t force him to leave his own house, even if it put his daughter’s life at risk.
In those first few minutes of daylight the next day, Phillips’s screams were heard all the way in Samville. He ran to the village with his little girl’s lifeless body in his arms. His hair had turned white. Physicians said the child’s heart stopped due to shock, and Phillips’s had come close. Phillips withered into a shell of his former self, and he never told anyone what happened that night at Castle Lamier. He let the property go, as Smith did, to anyone who would take it.
The death knell resounded for Castle Lamier in 1906. The historic property was demolished on January 1, 1907. The community decided to level the home and construct a resort atop its land.
History did not keep a documented account of the castle’s demolition. What was later constructed on the land remains unknown.
Marquis Lamier was not a real Marquis. French peerages do not include Lamier or any similar name. As a matter of fact, “Lamier” when translated into English means “knife.” It can also mean nettle or bramble. Lamier was believed to be an associate of pirates, for Spanish Florida was rife with pirates who waited on the ships to enter the Gulf of Mexico on the way to New Orleans.
The house had national notoriety, but many in Florida knew nothing of its history. Several late Nineteenth Century Florida histories discuss several old stone houses that had stood for over 50 years, even then. Many assumed the structures belonged to the colonists under Turnbull.
As to Lamier’s great fortune, history recorded numerous cases of treasures stolen during the atrocities of the French Revolution. Lamier could’ve been a thief, or a decadent noble who fled the frenzied mobs. In September of 1792, revolutionary thieves discovered a way into the royal treasury. The items stolen included the French Crown Jewels, among them the Sancy and Royal French Blue diamonds. Several historians suspect the infamous Hope Diamond is none other than the Royal French Blue.
The fact that Antoinette was a “Breezac” is another intriguing aspect of the story. “Brissac” is the correct spelling for a family of French nobles, who were associates of the King, and supporters of the monarchy. Duke de Cossé-Brissac was one casualty during the 1792 Massacre of September. After the mob killed the Duke, the revolutionaries severed his head and threw it through a window, into mistress’s home.
Florida land records prior to 1821 were all lost. Spain stored Florida’s land records in Cuba, for reasons unknown. When America assumed ownership, the records were gone. Despite three separate government attempts, they were never located. Their ultimate fate remains a mystery.