WJTV News Channel 12 - MYSTERY MONDAY: Sifting Ashes of Petal's Checker Hall of Fame

It's founder is a 40-time Mississippi State checker champion. His next tournament is planned for Memorial Day weekend.

MYSTERY MONDAY: Sifting Ashes of Petal's Checker Hall of Fame

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Walker - who would go on to hold the 1994 Guinness World Record for most simultaneous checker games played - spared no expense to crown the town king of the checkerboard. Walker - who would go on to hold the 1994 Guinness World Record for most simultaneous checker games played - spared no expense to crown the town king of the checkerboard.
It was Walker's vision that brought the 32,000 square foot International Checker Hall of Fame to the city in the late 70's. It was Walker's vision that brought the 32,000 square foot International Checker Hall of Fame to the city in the late 70's.
The sprawling estate featured 24-foot high ceilings, one-of-a-kind checker memorabilia, and a seven story tower. The sprawling estate featured 24-foot high ceilings, one-of-a-kind checker memorabilia, and a seven story tower.
Then a mysterious fire that Petal firefighters report still has an unknown origin - but there are theories. The family says their suspicions turned to those hundreds of bats in their tower and their unhealthy tastes for electrical wiring. Then a mysterious fire that Petal firefighters report still has an unknown origin - but there are theories. The family says their suspicions turned to those hundreds of bats in their tower and their unhealthy tastes for electrical wiring.
Walker is also a 40-time Mississippi State checker champion. His next tournament is planned for Memorial Day weekend. Walker is also a 40-time Mississippi State checker champion. His next tournament is planned for Memorial Day weekend.
The mind sport of kings and ordinary men: checkers is the simple game of circles that surprisingly has it's International Hall of Fame in...

Get ready for this.

...Forrest County, Mississippi.

Or at least it was until one of the worst fires the city of Petal has ever seen engulfed that building in September, 2007.

Click here to watch last week's MYSTERY MONDAY: Turkey Vultures Swarm Vicksburg Cemetery

Put yourself at the peak of checker culture: sometime around 1987.

The internet basically didn't exist meaning games - like checkers - attracted a large following.

And the man pushing the checkers was millionaire Charles Walker of Petal, Mississippi.

It was Walker's vision that brought the 32,000 square foot International Checker Hall of Fame to the city in the late 70's.

The sprawling estate featured 24-foot high ceilings, one-of-a-kind checker memorabilia, and a seven story tower.

Walker - who would go on to hold the 1994 Guinness World Record for most simultaneous checker games played - spared no expense to crown the town king of the checkerboard.

Tournaments would attract hundreds and a library worth of books was written based on the games played at the hall of fame.

But after decades in business the tourist attraction (and Walker) wasn't without controversy.

According to court documents, in 2006 Walkers was sentenced to five years in federal prison for his involvement in money laundering.

Then Hurricane Katrina happened. Walker's family says the devastation along the coast drove half a state's worth of bats Northward.

They say hundreds started living in their tower.

Then a mysterious fire that Petal firefighters report still has an unknown origin - but there are theories. The family says their suspicions turned to those hundreds of bats in their tower and their unhealthy tastes for electrical wiring.

But in 2014, Walker - who's now out of prison - is talking about the future including a $2.5 million bid to rebuild what once stood on the property.

"They actually terminated our insurance 10 days before we had the fire. And we lost our coverage - 10 days. Well my wife was forced, while I was in another situation, my wife was forced to take an insurance plan with the group that held our mortgage," Walker said.

The plan did not cover contents meaning valuables were not paid for.

But more than 12-thousand square feet have already been rebuilt and three events are scheduled for this year.

It is, however, unlikely the space will ever return to it's former stature.

"From Russia, from England, from Scotland, from Wales, From Holland, from France, Germany. 40 countries at one time. That's the largest crowd we've had," Walker said.

"We did our best to promote the game because there was nobody really promoting it until I came along and started the checker hall of fame," Walker said.

Walker is also a 40-time Mississippi State checker champion. His next tournament is planned for Memorial Day weekend.

And if you have an idea for a "Mystery Monday" send it to mystery@wjtv.com

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