by Tim Gilmore, 6/26/2012
Because the city is unknowable in its entirety, because the city contains corners and niches and non-places and secrets, knowledge of the city becomes occult. Such knowledge is secret knowledge, and the walkers and wanderers and flaneurs of the city become practitioners of arcane rites. The psychogeographer must be a ghost-landscapist, a legend tripper, a detective.
For Megan’s Ghost Landscape, she visited the Carriage House Apartments in Arlington, a 1964 semi-Georgian Revival / “colonial”-style apartment complex whose Apartment 40 has been reported in books and other national publications to be haunted.
Chaseville Highway became University Boulevard in 1961, when Jacksonville University requested improvements to the main road passing its campus. Merrill Road stretched Arlington to the east from its own neighborhood “heart.” With Merrill Road came several apartment complexes, including the Carriage House Apartments in the mid-1960s. “The Carriage House Apartments first appeared in the 1965 edition of Polk’s Jacksonville Suburban Directory with 66 rental units, eight of which were listed as ‘vacant,’” Megan writes. “The 1966 edition of the directory shows the addition of 97 rental units to the complex with 22 vacancies.”
When 27 year-old Tracy Moss held a plastic bag over his 26 year-old wife’s head until she suffocated to death in the Carriage House Apartments on February 1, 2000, Mitzi Moss became the second of the four people her husband killed that day. That morning, he had suffocated his girlfriend, Kenyatta Shantell Mines, in her nearby Justina Road apartment. Kenyatta had been raising the two year-old son she had had with Tracy. Later that afternoon, Tracy called his boss over to his parked car in the Diversified Products Manufacturing parking lot at 8330 Atlantic Boulevard, shook his hand, and shot him in the side. When an off-duty detective spotted Tracy driving his red BMW over the Dames Point Bridge on the Northside, he began chasing him, called for backup, and watched as five police cars surrounded Moss’s car near Pritchard Road, as a cop shot out Moss’s tires, and as Moss shot himself in the face with his shotgun. No one ever came up with a motive.
In Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Greg Jenkins writes that Apartment 40, presumably the apartment in which Mitzi Moss was murdered, frequently exhibits “frightening” and “life-threatening” paranormal activity. Megan asked Christina Quinon, a receptionist at Chelsea Courtyard Apartments, the new name of Carriage House, about Apartment 40. Christina told Megan there never had been any such activity, that the apartment in question had been rented as frequently as any other, and that it was presently occupied. Christina Quinon and property manager Desiree Colombo knew very little about the building and next to nothing about its history. They had no actual knowledge of the murder or of a fire that occurred in the Carriage House and left one tenant dead in 2009. Though the entire staff had read Jenkins’s piece on Apartment 40, the receptionist and the property manager asked Megan if the story of the homicide were true. Ironic, but Megan, the ghost-landscapist, was more like the Peter Falk 1970s TV homicide detective, Lieutenant Colombo, than Colombo the property manager.
Megan writes, “I was reluctantly granted permission to take photographs of the grounds so long as I didn’t photograph into people’s windows, etc. The place was barren, save a few cars sporadically placed outside of buildings. It was shabby and run down. Paint was peeling, doors and windows cracked. It was odd, but as the apartment buildings drew nearer to the river, the architecture changed. The buildings began to take on a ‘colonial’ aesthetic that was not very much in keeping with the generic look of the rest of the complex.
“As I walked back to the front of the complex, through the courtyard, I noticed the windows of an end unit were open, the blinds pulled taut against the frames. The apartment was empty, with no sign of human inhabitance. The walls and floors were bare and interior doors were left wide open. It was the shell of an apartment, seen through the open windows, the open windows, I later discovered, of Apartment 40. Contrary to Ms. Quinon’s word, Apartment 40 was vacant.”
At the street, mortared brick frames “Chelsea Courtyards” in cursive signage.
A small footbridge with black iron railing connects ground over a small waterway in front of oak trees and green-blue apartment blocks. On one wall, apartment numbers have been torn out of the signage. Against slate blue exterior walls, a black paneled door bears a small “40,” top central. Perhaps it was behind this door that a young woman struggled for breath and life against her husband with a plastic bag 10 years ago. Oddly, though, for all the talk of haunting, verification of the actual room number is hard to find. Maybe Tracy Moss murdered his wife here, or maybe he murdered her behind any of these doors.
The first building of the complex is missing. Don’t ask the property manager where it went or when. Small blue flags now mark the ground where it once stood. A sidewalk leads out from the complex and stops abruptly at the absent first building, from the oak trees and through the grass, a dead-end sidewalk.