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Food Among the Flowers

As Covid-19 begins to diminish in our rear-view mirror, and the summer season begins to heat up, both literally and figuratively, SRI's team has had a relatively busy Spring and looks forward to a Fall filled with possibility.

Several months back I was approached by April of Charleston Ghost Tour Company, in the wake of the Beckley-based West Virginia Paranormal Tourism Conference, with an opportunity to investigate Charleston locations. Given the lack of teams in the area, and SRI's presence in the Metro-Valley region, it was a natural move for the development of the brand. One such location, a former funeral home in the west side of Charleston, drew immediate interest.

Food Among the Flowers, at 513 Tennessee Avenue in the Elk City Neighborhood of Charleston is a local business that operates as a Florist, Caterer, and Party Supplier. Historically, the structure dates back to the Great Depression, as the former Bartlett Funeral Home. Built by a prominent family of morticians from the Southside of Charleston, this location was nestled in the heart of the predominately African American neighborhoods of the "L", stretching across the Kanawha and Elk Rivers.

(Charleston Residents, 1938 - Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The Elk City Neighborhood, during the depression, represented communities struggling across West Virginia, and indeed the state and world. The neighborhood lie within the "shanty" district, representing the poorest classes in the capital city of all colors. Houseboats lined the Elk River where many of the poorest lived a mobile existence, often following work along the river valley.

(Charleston's West-side, circa 1938 - Courtesy of Library of Congress.)

(Riverboat homes along the Elk River, 1938 - Courtesy of Library of Congress)

(Charleston's West Side, 1938 - courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

According to Sanborn Fire Maps, dating back as far as 1907, there was originally a single family home on the property ((Figure 513 (39)). The two floor structure can be seen on what was, at that time, Virginia Avenue, on the map along with two smaller structures which can be reasonably be assumed to have been a carriage house and an outbuilding of some type. As of writing this blog, no owner has been identified for this property, though later trips to the Kanawha County Public Library may turn up necessary information.

(Sanborn Fire Maps - 1907 - Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Charleston Ghost Tour Company, under the guidance of tour guide and all-around All-Star April Richardson Morgan, approached SRI for help in possibly launching some investigations of this location back in mid-April. One evening, Theresa and I, along with April and owner Priscilla met at the location and did a walk-through of the building, discussed the logisticis and possibilities of an investigation, and set a date - May 29th.

Through historical research, little was actually uncovered about the current building, which underwent construction in 1931. This large, two-floor structure served as a full service mortuary. Bartlett-Burdette-Cox would offer funeral services, burial purchasing, embalming procedures. This structure is split into several major parts, including a basement where body coolers still remain in walls and coffin racks still adorn the walls, a ground floor where services were rendered, and an upper level where the grieving would be offered services include casket purchases, floral arrangements, and more. The upper floor also holds an apartment wing, and the embalming area.

This funeral home would go on to serve the community until 2017, when the final owners left the business. Throughout its functional years, this business amassed its fair share of stories, including that of "Baby Grace", a young girl who was, supposedly, found dead by workers on arrival one morning. The body, which remained unclaimed, was embalmed and placed in a coffin and shelved in the basement for years before being buried. While there is no defintive proof of this story, either way, it contributes to the overall lore of the location. On top of the typical services for the passed that occured on location, the funeral home also likely helped to deal with a wave of bodies discovered in the Elk and Kanawha Rivers under varying circumstances, including children, possibly forming the genesis of the "Baby Grace Story". It is unlikely this will ever be definitively known.

Other reports from owners include strange sounds, strange feelings in specific parts of the building, and other strange occurences including music turning itself on and off, and chairs that spin by themselves in the front room. Staff report strange elevator activity, feelings of being unwanted in the apartment area, strange start/stop activity by the on-premises elevator, and more.

On the night of the investigation SRI would be joined by guests Austin Stanley from Mountaineer Paranormal, April of Charleston Ghost Tour Company, and other special guests. Arrival began around 2 p.m., as investigators arrived to do a walkthrough of the locations, equipment setup, and more. By 7 P.M., the investigation would begin, and teams would attempt to uncover and unmask the mysteries of this brand new, never before investigated structure.

This location, and our large investigating crew, provided enormous potential to diversify strategy. Investigators divided into teams with Theresa and Brian, and began to work the location, having numerous experiences throughout the evening. Strange sounds were documented, and even recorded. Some strange interaction with trigger objects was noted on DVR, and several times during the night. A K-II Meter strategically placed in the body coolers also seemed to be a popular piece, and provided for some interesting film. Numerous times, while in the apartment wing, SRI team members heard sounds eminating from the embalming room area, trigger objects went off with no discernible cause, loud bangs came from nearbye rooms, and one very loud growl/voice was picked up on audio from multiple sources, including a directional mic and a phone recording video.

All in all, it was an interesting evening investigating this location. We look forward to unveiling our collective findings on July 30th, on location, with a special premier of SRI's "Locked In: Food Among the Flowers". Contact Charleston Ghost Tour Company for more information on the dinner/movie premier! SRI and Mountaineer will be on location that evening leading tours after the film ends! Come check out this new hotspot with us!

Stay tuned for more SRI Content. Video premier of Food Among the Flowers on Youtube should be on July 31st!

- Brian

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