In August 2012, African-American Terrance McNeil was traveling from Greenville, South Carolina to Orlando, Florida. Before reaching Orlando, he stopped in the small town of Celery City, Florida. On the Internet, he had read about Celery City’s friendly residents and sunsets over Lake Jackson.
Driving on Lake Jackson’s riverfront, he ran across Monroe Hotel. McNeil later reported a middle-aged white man checked him in for two nights. The man wore glasses. Also, he owned short grey hair.
“Nice to have you, Mr. McNeil,” the man said. “My name is Walter.”
After checking in, McNeil walked to a nearby picnic pavilion located on the riverfront.
Sitting on top of a picnic table, McNeil watched the sunset over the lake. Fish jumped out of the water and plopped back down below the surface. A few sailboats glided across the water. McNeil also spotted a lone alligator.
He later reported that as he watched the sunset, he heard a voice behind him.
“Hey, boy, what are you doing out here?”
McNeil turned his head. He later claimed seeing a white man wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. A brown fedora rested on top of the man’s head. Also, the man was chewing tobacco.
“I said what are you doing out here?” the man said.
Burning with rage, McNeil turned his whole body around and faced the man.
“Minding my own business,” McNeil said. “And watch who you’re calling ‘boy’.”
“Listen here, boy,” the man said.
“Didn’t I tell you stop calling me ‘boy’?!”
“In this section of the riverfront? Coloreds aren’t allowed.”
“You best get going. Or else your uppity black ass is gonna live to regret it.”
McNeil later reported the man spat towards him. Brown liquid splashed on the concrete in front of the picnic table.
McNeil also later claimed the man completely vanished into thin air.
“I did not see that,” McNeil said he told himself. “Ghosts are not real.”
Later that night, McNeil was walking from nearby Manatee’s Bar and Grill back to Monroe Hotel.
He later claimed hearing an infant crying. He looked around. Nothing. He didn’t see anything. The crying continued.
Next, he heard the infant screaming as if in pain.
Then, a familiar voice said, “I thought I told you coloreds aren’t allowed here.”
McNeil turned around. Standing in front of him and holding a shotgun was the man he saw earlier.
Again, the man was chewing tobacco. He spat on the ground. Next, he aimed his gun at McNeil.
Then, he said, “Run, nigger.”
Quickly, McNeil turned around and ran. He heard a gunshot. Then, he heard the man laughing.
McNeil ran all the way to Monroe Hotel and started pounding on a room’s door.
“Help me!” he yelled. “Somebody help me. A man out here is trying to kill me!”
He continued pounding, but the door never opened.
Another gunshot ranged out.
McNeil ran towards the hotel stairs and ran up to his room located on the second floor. As soon as he opened the door, he saw a bull alligator waiting for him. Suddenly with speed, the alligator moved towards McNeil.
McNeil turned and ran.
Yet, coming up the steps was the gun toting man. When he reached the floor, the man looked at McNeil and smiled an evil grin.
Then, he said, “Well, if it isn’t uppity Little Black Sambo.”
The man aimed his gun at McNeil.
McNeil turned to run but he saw the alligator was out of the hotel room. And he was moving towards McNeil.
Then, McNeil looked at the hotel’s railing. He ran towards it and moved over it. Then, from the ledge, he jumped.
After landing on the ground, McNeil started running again.
Yet, he bumped into Walter the hotel clerk.
“Man, what kind of place is this?” McNeil said.
With a calm face, the clerk said, “Let’s go back to your room.”
“I’m not going back there! Fuck that!”
“They’re not going to hurt you. They just scare people. Now, let’s go back to your room. I’ll help you pack. Then, you can check out.”
“You damned right, I’m checking out!”
McNeil followed Walter back to the room. The alligator was gone.
Like he promised, the hotel clerk helped McNeil.
Next, they headed to checkout. As he stood behind the desk, Walter reached down and pulled out a greetings card. He handed the card to McNeil.
On the card, a black baby was sitting on a riverfront’s coast. Behind the baby, an open-mouthed alligator was moving in.
“What the hell is this?!” McNeil said.
Then, Walter said, “On the riverfront, there was a time when black babies were used as alligator bait. The guy you saw with the gun? That was Harry Roberts. He ran the whole thing. Spectators from all over Florida would come and watch those alligator events. Of course, things like that don’t happen here anymore. Yet, the ghosts live on. ”
McNeil started handing the card back over to Walter.
“No,” Walter said. “You keep that as a souvenir.”
“Thanks, man,” McNeil said.
Soon, McNeil was on the road to Orlando.
After telling his story, interesting facts were found. In Celery City’s nasty past, the alligator events involving black babies actually happened. Yet, during the time McNeal claimed he visited the town, Monroe Hotel was closed for almost a year. Also, before the hotel’s closing, longtime hotel clerk Walter Rinehart had already died. Due to ghost rumors at the time, no one wanted to buy Monroe Hotel.
Terrance McNeil still claims his story is true.