VILLAS, JAMAICAHISTORYIn 1944, the noted British playwright, actor and songwriter Noel Coward was vacationing in Jamaica and was taken by its beauty and serenity. Vowing to return to the place he called "dream island, Coward remained true to his word by returning four years later. This time he rented James Bond author Ian Fleming's estate - Goldeneye - and his six-week stay in this paradise firmly convinced him that he must search for a piece of property to make his own. (Note: Goldeneye was a wartime operation Fleming was involved with in Spain.) The spot he chose was located on a slope that led to a rocky beach and offered a spectacular view of the ocean and the surrounding landscape. Initially the 8-acre property was said to be susceptible to landslides, but further assessment of its geology found it to be situated on solid rock. Coward subsequently purchased the property at a nominal price, hired an architect and plans began in earnest for his dream house, to be called "Coward's Folly". With this in place, he left the island with plans to return when the project was completed. One year later he returned to the island and found a two-story villa constructed that included two guest houses. Using the spectacular ocean view as further inspiration, he renamed the retreat "Blue Harbor". Proud of his new haven, Coward extended invitations to and hosted many of his friends and associates at Blue Harbor, which in time was completely staffed by cooks, maids, chauffeurs and landscapers. Some of the celebrities and dignitaries that came to Jamaica to romp and relax in paradise bliss were: Errol Flynn, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Vivian Leigh, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich to name but a few. Ironically, Coward soon needed a place to get away from his now-teeming hideaway and purchased a spot on the hill that overlooked the Blue Harbor that he dubbed "Lookout". The land was once owned by Sir Henry Morgan, the first Governor of Jamaica who had previously constructed a fortress-type home on the hill that afforded him a clear view of any ship that wandered into the Bay of Port Maria, which he considered his personal property. These ships were subsequently seized and plundered. The property was re-named "Firefly" after the swarms of insects bearing the same name that showed themselves when darkness fell. Here he built a home (below) that would be inhabited by one person - himself. This began his sanctuary where he could write, paint and reflect upon the idyllic world around him. The 1960s saw another influx of British jet-setters into Jamaica and particularly, Blue Harbor. It was at this time that Ian Fleming, who had created a fictional super-spy named James Bond (named after the author of an ornithological book called Birds of the West Indies) loaned his Goldeneye retreat to a film crew who would be shooting the first installment of the theatrical versions of his thrillers. It was called Dr. No and featured a little-known actor named Sean Connery (pictured right with Coward) in the lead role. Coward himself was asked by Fleming to portray the villainous Dr. No, but politely declined. The ultimate high-profile guests who would grace Coward's sanctuary came in the form of Queen Elizabeth, who would one day come for lunch and the great statesman Winston Churchill, who would visit several times over the years. Noel Coward was knighted in 1971 and died on March 26, 1973 and was buried at Firefly and his grave now -as he did in life - oversees the Blue Harbor and the majesty of the Jamaican waters below.THE HAUNTINGS OF BLUE HARBOUR Perhaps because upon his death, much of Coward’s belongings remained at Blue Harbor, his spirit is said to still roam the property. Visitors often claim to be able to smell cigarettes when there is no one smoking and feel a presence in and around the resort. Many have told the same story about a gentleman walking on the veranda, smoking a cigarette in a holder. The sounds of piano music are often heard emanating from the inn and man seen planting flowers who would suddenly vanish into thin air. Author of the book, Duppy Talk, Gerald Hausman (r.), who is something of an expert on Jamaican folklore tells the story of students hosted at Blue Harbor every three weeks over a summer semester. They would number sometimes over 40 at a time and over a 7-year period, he estimates that at least half of them would claim to see a ghost on the premises. Houseman’s wife, Loretta tells the story of being awakened at around 3am one morning by the sounds of a party being held downstairs. She came down to find the door locked as they left it and not a soul to be found anywhere. Perhaps another reason for the ghostly goings-on at Blue Harbor, originates from the pirate legends that surround the area, mainly those related to the infamous 17th century pirate Henry Morgan. Morgan was a brilliant naval tactician but had a sadistic side as well. Upon first laying eyes on Blue Harbor, Morgan knew this was the perfect location for a “home base”. When Spanish galleons from Cuba would be blown off course or show signs of distress, Morgan would take advantage of their vulnerability and sink them in order to plunder their cargo. Legend has it that treasures would be hidden in many of the caves dotting the coastline and a crew member from the seized ship would be decapitated and his head mounted on a spike at the spot of the stolen booty to act as a “ghostly guardian” that would scare off potential poachers. Houseman claims to hear the sounds of pick axes in the distance. The residual sounds of pirates burying their plundered treasures. There are some who say there is still undiscovered treasure where the buildings like Lookout and Firefly now exist. He claims he has seen a ghost in one of the guest rooms and even more remarkably, suffered an attack by one. He sat on the bed and then just laid down for a brief rest. He awoke to find the face of what he claims was clearly a pirate whose face was just inches from his own. He claims to have felt the icy fingers of the apparition around his throat, but soon a noise resonated somewhere else on the property and the vision disappeared. Thia sighting has all the earmarks of sleep paralysis or lucid dreaming, but Houseman says he is certain of what he saw and felt. His wife would soon join him and while she did not witness what her husband did, there were odd smells she described as stale rum and old tobacco as well as a certain feeling that came over her that suggested something was not quite right and that they were not alone.