Part 1 - Warehouse 31
Located off of Norcross Drive in St. Augustine, there resides a complex of several large warehouses used for business interests and storage. Everyday, trucks and trains make their way through this area, shipments are sent and delivered, and the houses are filled with goods, but one warehouse sits alone and abandoned with a simple sign that reads STORAGE 3-1. This building is known as Warehouse 31.
It wasn't always so lonely. Over its history, it has had a number of tenants. Wal-Mart used it to assemble and store furniture until employees complained of constantly feeling ill. Mayflower, Inc. stayed only 6 months, because furniture kept disappearing, blaming it on theft even though there was and still remains tight security.
Warehouse 31 was even a sound studio at one point (Skul/Bonz Studio), where hip-hop and local music tracks for an independent label were recorded, but studio engineers kept discovering strange hissing noises and static during playback—with equipment that was in perfect working order. The studio closed because they were unable to get clean recordings.
The other warehouses thrive and are filled to the seams, but Warehouse 31 never seems to hold on to any business for more than a few months. Some even go so far as to say it is damned and cursed by its original tenants—a strange cult known as the Church of the Light Bearer or (CLB).
Part 2 - Church of the Light Bearer
Very little is known about this strange sect. Original members of the church remain anonymous, and the history is sketchy at best. What is known is that in 2001 a charismatic preacher, Parson Al Whist, made his way through the United States preaching a message of hope to followers. His sermons became extremely popular, and his small group of followers began to grow.
Joyce Morrison, who attended one of Parson Whist's "meetings" in Norcross, Georgia remembers the preacher as "Thin, young, but with this beautiful voice. It was strange to hear a preacher like that, but it made everything he was saying seem more important."
Morrison also remembered a strange compulsion of Whist's—"He was always chewing a fresh stick of gum. He'd shove one into his mouth only to politely remove it with a tissue a few moments later."
Morrison, who only attended one meeting of CLB, didn't go back.
"There was something that wasn't right. I have been to many sermons, and there was something wrong with what he was saying. He sounded like he was preaching from the Bible, he kept saying, 'the Father loves you' or 'give up yourself to the Father,' and people were all shouting amen and all, but he never said the name Jesus. Not once. I guess now we know why, don't we?"
In 2006, Parson Whist, along with a group of his most loyal followers moved to St. Augustine, Florida to break ground and build a new permanent home for the Church of the Light Bearer. The plan was to create the church on donated land.
Part 3 - Parson Al Whist
Whist secured the deed to the land from Ms. Joy Cofield, a window who became a follower of Whist in 2004 when his group was visiting the St. Augustine area. With the land in hand, the group began a fundraising campaign to complete the cost of building this new sanctuary.
Determined to raise the funds needed for this church, Whist rented out space in a nearby warehouse to store the groups' possessions, as well as using the space as a small office. At least, that is what was explained to the property management company when he signed a lease for one of the newly built units—Storage 3-1.
Within months, workers at other units began to talk about the strange group.
"You would sometimes see them outside sitting in a circle, doing whatever, and you just wanted to keep walking,' explained Jimmy Zellner, a worker at Storage 3-2. "If you made any sort of eye contact they would come over as a group and start asking you if you were happy and try to get you to come join them for lunch, or a meeting. It was really creepy—the way they didn't talk about anything else. Me and the rest of the guys just stopped going near that place."
One incident involved two boys who were riding their bikes in the area. They claimed they were screamed at and chased by a man wearing what looked like a Halloween costume. "It was this really dark robe with a hood, with blood all over it. We thought it was fake, but then he kept screaming at us in this weird way, and when he wouldn't stop, we got out of there as fast as we could."
Part 4 - The Warehouse is Raided
In February 2007, a story broke in the St. Augustine press that Parson Al Whist was not only renting Warehouse 31, but he and his followers were conducting bizarre worship services in the space. Dark rituals, including sacrifice, were discovered, along with living quarters for Whist and his followers.
By the time authorities were notified to evict the cult, Whist and his followers could not be found. They left behind some truly disturbing writings, graffiti, and evidence of dark masses and occult activity.
Although Whist's group is still active, they are difficult to locate, and their leader, Whist, seems to have disappeared completely.
Authorities are hard-pressed to find any crime to convict the group. Sgt. Graham Averdick explains "It is a group protected by the Constitution. The only charge we may be able to press upon them is trespassing or vandalism. Neither of which are considered Federal crimes. They can just go anywhere and do this again."
Since the incident, Warehouse 31 has had a string of bad luck. Businesses renting this peculiar property have complained of missing items, increased illness among workers, power outages, even a small fire. As one prior customer stated, "It costs us a lot of money to move out of that warehouse to the one across the street—but nobody complained. If you spent anytime there, you would know what I was talking about."
Part 5 - What the Cult Left Behind
It seems that whatever resides in Warehouse 31 does not affect everyone—only those with a deep, religious faith tend to feel agitated or unwelcome in the gloomy storehouse.
In early 2009, a youth prayer group visited the warehouse in the hope of cleansing the area. They ran into difficulty when two of their team passed out during a prayer circle, and several encountered spontaneous bleeding.
"We want to go back and try it again with more of us," said Glen Ainsworth, leader of the group. "But, the owners told us that they aren't covered for that sort of liability. It's a place that needs the healing light of the Lord real badly." Ainsworth said that he and his followers saw and felt some, "mighty strange things" while they were on the premises. He told of finding dozens of tissues around the site, "Some of them just had chewed gum in 'em, like someone had just been there."
In addition, animal carcasses, mostly dogs, have been found around the area appearing to be eaten by a large bear or other animal. Some people have even claimed to see a large "beast" around the Warehouse.
"It didn't look like any animal I had ever seen," stated Jose Guerra, manager of Warehouse 3-3. "It looked like some kind of an alligator, but it had wings. I know that sounds crazy, but I know what I saw. "
As sightings of this "beast" continue to increase, some people wonder if Parson Al Whist has, in fact, returned to the St. Augustine area.
Part 6 - A Haunted House Moves In
There is at least one business that's not afraid of Warehouse 31 and its less than stellar reputation. This October, this courageous, or crazy, depending how you look at the situation, business is converting the warehouse into a Halloween Haunted House.
"We were looking to open a world-class Halloween attraction in St. Augustine because of its reputation," stated the manager of the event. "When we heard about Warehouse 31, we came to investigate and knew it would be perfect. The place is creepy even when the sun is shining. We've heard stories of people hearing chanting, having anxiety attacks and passing out."
This manager has gone as far as leaving food out for the "beast" but says, "So far, nothing has happened."
Good luck to you, your staff and visitors.