Flight of fantasy or fright in Florida
As America’s oldest city, 450-plus-year-old St. Augustine has a multitude of ghosts to haunt our memories.
Dedicated ghost hunters recommend a ghost tour during stormy weather. It provides more energy for the “manifestations” to draw on. Our day was misty.
As we hopped on a tour trolley with about a dozen other eager seekers, we were instructed on the basics of ghost sightings: look for little orbs with tails, a white light, a shadow, an apparition in white.
At a cemetery fence -- always a portal for the undead -- cameras were flashing and phones lighting up, prompting my everskeptical husband to ask: “Why are they all taking pictures of the fence? There’s nothing there.”
At the 130-year old Potter’s Wax Museum building, we were told it was built over a cemetery, thereby explaining all the energy. I was beginning to pick up on the idea that “energy” was just a euphemism for “ghosts.”
Our guide talked of strange happenings -- footsteps heard, bottles falling, objects flying. As we walked through the museum, I suddenly felt a vibration on my arm -- a very intense vibration -- and I looked around quickly to see who or what “energy” might be near me. It was my Fitbit.
A re-enactment of an old pirate being felled by an executioner -- one of our tour compatriots assumed the role of the condemned -- was great theater. Then it was on to the Old Jail, known as the Hanging Jail from 1871-1953, for the eight criminals who were hanged from the gallows. A dramatic inmate impersonator told stories of the deceased, playing out the gory details of their crimes with great gusto.
Since I’m more familiar with the bottled variety of spirits than the disappearing ones, it seemed a ghostly pub crawl was a good way to combine interests as connected with more uplifting spirits we on our next phantom-filled adventure. I pictured us sipping zombies as we joined Ghost Tours of St. Augustine Creepy Crawley Pub Crawl.
Brian, our tour guide and historic-haunted-site veteran, passed out Electromagnetic Field Transmitters to aid in our search for specters. Their energy supposedly is recorded on the readers that tend to beep loudly in response.
Claiming that the theory of ghosts can be as polarizing as politics, he said the spectrum tilts 60-40 in favour of believers.
As we walked past archeological digs on streets built over cemeteries, he assured us that residual energies remain. Rarely, though, is a ghost going to come up and say, “Hello, my name is Ralph and I’m going to haunt you tonight.” Instead, he admonished, you have to acquaint yourself with a place and know what to look for – or, more accurately, “share the presence of.”
My creepy-crawl comrades kept checking their transmitters to see if they connected with any external energies and snapping their cameras hoping to catch one on film.
A rash of squeals emitted from several transmitters at the corner of Charlotte and Hypolito streets caught everyone’s attention, which prompted Brian’s briefing of the Nov. 20, 1785, murder of William Delaney by a jealous rival at that intersection.
At Meehan’s Irish Pub, the liquor bottles were held in place by wires because, as rumor has it, they have more than once flown off the shelves inexplicably. Kaiser, who had been behind the bar there for four years, claimed he’s heard voices, seen lights flicker, had the bathroom door stick for no apparent reason, and sighted a man in overalls.
Barista Sara at Scarlett O’Hara’s proclaimed, “Oh yeah, I’ve experienced everything,” from erratic lights to moving dishes to unseen voices and apparitions of a woman in white and a man in a uniform.
We left the ghost gallery the next day for more traditional tourism. But when I mentioned to a curator at a small museum that we were staying at the St. Francis Inn, the oldest in St. Augustine, he asked in what room. I told him. “Ah then, you’re safe,” he said, “as long as you’re not in Lily’s room.”
When I returned to the Inn, I found stories that abound around Lily, a most playful ghost who wanders the third floor wreaking havoc – the usual lights going on and off, bathroom locks getting jammed, and objects fl ying across the room – as she searches for her lost love.
I was beginning to feel right at home, so I nodded toward Lily, just in case she could see me.