The Inspiration for the Spirits of Belleview Novels
Each novel I’m writing for the series “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” takes place at the historic and, according to many, ‘haunted’ Belleview Biltmore Resort, located in the small, affluent town of Belleair, Florida.
Originally called the Hotel Belleview, the resort was built by railroad, shipping and hotel magnate, Henry Plant. She opened for her first winter season on January 4, 1897. Over one hundred years later, I walked down the main corridor of the hotel, finding it difficult not to gawk.
The hallways were built to be wide enough that two ladies wearing hoopskirts could pass one another comfortably. High, carved arches line the primary walkway like regal sentries; standing guard over historic artifacts and photographs, depicting the evolution of hotel, its amenities and pastime diversions. Other photographs immortalize a few of the hotels’ more famous guests – a diverse list that includes notables from every generation and runs the gamut from the Rockefeller, DuPont and Vanderbilt families, to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Al Capone, to Sam Snead, Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, to Charlie Daniels, Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley, to the Duke of Windsor, Margaret Thatcher and United States Presidents Carter, Ford, Bush Sr. and Obama.
As I walked further down the corridor, each room I passed beckoned me to stop and admire its unique features. One ballroom boasts an elegant ceiling of Tiffany glass and matching interior windows, while another features a twenty foot high ceiling covered with twinkling ‘stars’, and still another shows off incredible white, wrought-iron-gates at its entrance. At both ends of the corridor, awe-inspiring, wide spiral staircases wind their way out of sight, leading to the guestrooms above. In contrast, several narrow employee-access doors reveal worn, wooden steps and hidden passages leading down to the basement work areas. I stopped to admire three tiny phone booths, installed by the military in 1941, when the hotel briefly joined the war effort, and could easily visualize hundreds of men standing in line to use these phones to call loved ones during WWII. I marveled at the way each generation seemed to have made its own mark on this elegant hotel.
And that’s when it hit me.
Past generations not only made physical changes to the hotel, but thousands left echoes of themselves here as well. I could actually feel some of them there with me. Soon after my first visit, I decided to write novels that would combine the actual history of the Belleview Biltmore Resort with fictional spirits (ghosts.)
My stories are based on the premise that some spirits remain in this realm with their personalities and memories intact, and are able to share some of their memories with guests of the hotel – whenever a special connection exists between the two. Interaction with the spirits eventually alters the course of the guests’ lives for the better, but getting to that point won’t be easy!
Each story will feature spirits from a specific decade of the Resort’s unique and glorious history. Only one character will appear throughout the entire series – the spirit of Margaret Plant (a largely fictionalized characterization of Henry Plant’s second wife.)As the strongest spirit occupying the Belleview Biltmore Resort, Margaret is a wise, no-nonsense, but good-hearted busybody, who likes to be involved in everything and enjoys influencing lives with her motto: “An intelligent and motivated woman with allies can accomplish anything!”