Created By: SW Florida Walking Tours
Now you'll come upon the Morgan and Sandlin family plots. There is a lot to say about these founding families of Punta Gorda, but we're focused on Mary Leah. The 14-year-old daugther of Jim and Lula Sandlin has left the greatest impression on Punta Gorda than any of her entrepreneurial family!
You may have noticed the Sandlin home on West Retta Esplanade. It's one block west of Carmelo's restaurant and catty-corner from the heritage banyan tree. It's yellow with a crow's nest on the roof, wrap-around porch and white picket fence.
Leah, at 14-years-old, helped with the ironing, which in those days was an endless chore. Everything had to be ironed, even bedsheets and underwear. Because of their past good fortune, the family possessed a state-of-the-art gasoline-heated iron. It took just a split second of teen distraction for the gasoline to spill out of the iron and ignite Leah’s cotton dress. Leah jumped off the porch and ran down the street, completely engulfed in propellant-fueled flames. Neighbors put out the fire but Leah succumbed to her massive injuries within three hours.
The Sandlin home is ranked as one of the most haunted houses in the United States. The burned part of the porch was only recently replaced because no matter how many times it was painted, the scorch marks still showed through. The families who’ve lived in the house since then (Smoaks, Hollanders, Wyns) all have reported ongoing paranormal activity within the home.
Much of the paranormal occurrences, not surprisingly, have involved irons and laundry.
It seems as though Leah is trying to warn people to be careful. Other manifestations of Leah are foot steps on the stairs all the way up to the crow's nest, rattling doors, pressure on the bed as if someone is sitting there, and fires that have started under mysterious circumstances.
New additions to the house bring the total square footage to 5,600 feet. The family currently inhabiting the home spends most of their time in the elevated, hurricane-resistant addition behind the original house, a place Leah doesn’t seem comfortable visiting.
Some local residents tell that through the years, Punta Gorda’s fire department has received calls from tourists about a frantic young lady in vintage costume asking them to report a fire.
For more about Mary Leah Sandlin and gasoline-heated irons: https://southwestfloridawalkingtours.com/punta-gordas-most-famous-ghost-is-a-teen-age-girl/
The story Scary Mary in the book Ghost Stories of Punta Gorda is based on this true story. Available locally at Sandman Book Company, Copperfish Books and online at Amazon.com
This point of interest is part of the tour: Indian Spring Cemetery