Several Christmases ago I was at my parents’ house with my sister and then-wife. My dad made an offhand comment about a place called the Skeleton Hotel. Apparently construction started on a hotel back in the ‘20s during one of Florida’s periodic land booms. After the inevitable bust there was no money left to complete the hotel, so it sat unfinished for years, earning the nickname “The Skeleton Hotel.”
One of us commented that with a name like The Skeleton Hotel there should really be more skeletons or ghosts running around that story.
“No, never saw any skeletons,” he said. “But I did find a mummified hand and a coffee can full of coins there once.”
So my dad and some friends were playing at the old hotel and started digging under the front stairs. That’s when they unearthed the mummified hand and can full of coins. We asked him what the coins were like, were they regular U.S. money? Doubloons? Whatever money leprechauns hide? He wasn’t really sure, or couldn't remember, or tried to throw us off the trail. They took the hand and the coins to the police, then never heard anything else about them.
|He did manage to save a photo of his find, however.|
We were awestruck by this story. Not only did little kid dad find actual buried treasure, an obsession that took up like 40% of my brain when I was a kid, but he also unearthed a mummy hand, with all the weird, unholy powers that was sure to bring him.
My sister and I were doubly struck by the fact that he didn’t feel this story was interesting enough to drop on us until we were in our 30s.
I can understand that a bit now – had he told me that story when I was a kid, our yard would have looked like the surface of the moon after my frantic searches for treasure.
Couple weeks ago I mentioned this story to my mom. She said she didn’t remember anything about it. She also pointed out that my dad would regularly, let’s say exaggerate stories for comedic effect, and that my sister and I could be somewhat gullible about this. For example, he got pins in his shoulder when a car slipped a jack and fell on him right before I was born. When I asked him about the scar he told me a kid at a campfire had thrown a flaming marshmallow at him, leaving a (rather large) permanent scar.
I don’t know if this was supposed to be a joke or a lie turned into a teaching moment, but it did the trick. While I’m a fan of both shenanigans and fires, ifI felt things were getting too rowdy around an open flame, I had a vision of my dad’s marshmallow scar. “This could get dangerous,” I’d think. “I better get out of here before people start flinging flaming marshmallows.”
So in the spirit of the investigative journalism that The Goo Goo Muck is renowned for, I decided to see how true the Skeleton Hotel story was. My mom didn't offer much hope, but she could just be part of the conspiracy. The first step was to see if the Skeleton Hotel even existed. Holy crap! While I was picturing a much more Addams Family skeleton, it looks like the Skeleton Hotel was a fairly well-known landmark in Lake Meade, and stayed up until the mid-'60s.
|If you listen carefully, you can hear the mummy's hand howling for his can of coins.|
I have no idea who my dad's friends were as a kid, so there's no way to track them down without, actual, you know, effort. However, through a half-assed Google search I found a Fort Meade Historical Museum which mentions a 1957 bank robbery where two dudes used an airplane and kidnapped a policeman. Maybe the coins were hidden then? I'm not saying the sky robbers were cursed by the unearthly mummy hand, but I think that anyone with a scientific mind can infer that they 100 percent were.
Based on this evidence, I decree that not only was Polk County a pretty strange place in the old days, but I declare my dad's story to be True. I will be contacting the sheriff soon to claim the can of coins as my dad's rightful heir. They can keep the mummy hand. I've got a hard enough life trying to stay away from flaming marshmallows without getting mummy curses on me.