Monday, May 28, 2018
Human Interest

Site of Ma Barker's last stand on sale at a discount

OCKLAWAHA — Maybe $1 million was too much.

Sure, the house is historic: Here, Ma Barker and her gangster son Freddie made their last stand in January 1935, while a dozen FBI agents peppered the two-story home with machine guns. Bullet holes from the four-hour shootout still pock the walls. Some say blood money is buried beneath the live oaks.

The Tampa Bay Times wrote about the house in September. Sotheby's agent, Mark Arnold, who is selling the four-bedroom home on almost 10 acres, had hoped media coverage would lure would-be buyers. And it did. "I got calls from Germany, England, several from Canada," he said. "Dozens and dozens of people asking all kinds of questions."

Someone wanted to turn the house into a bed and breakfast. Someone else wanted to make it a Ma Barker museum. But the property is in a rural corner of Marion County, two hours from Tampa, and it is zoned for residential use.

No one offered the minimum bid of $1 million.

So last week, after talking to the family who had rented the house to Ma Barker, a clan that has owned the land for more than 75 years, Arnold decided to drop the price — to $889,000.

And instead of playing up the gangster angle, he wants everyone to know that the house sits "on beautiful Lake Weir, near the Villages, with 342 feet of sandy beach."

Arnold wouldn't say how many potential purchasers actually toured the home since it went on the market in August. He refused to divulge the best offer. He hopes the eventual buyer treasures the history as well as the view — and doesn't just tear down the old to build something new.

A second house, built in 1974, also comes with the deal, as well as a two-car garage, boathouse and dock. All the furnishings — from the bed beside which Ma Barker died to the chair with a bullet still lodged in its back — are included. Along with the stories.

"I know the idea of haunting interested some people," said Arnold, who had heard about sightings and a seance. "But I don't think the ghosts drove anyone away."

Lane DeGregory can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8825.

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