Victorian House Ghost Tour

Let’s face it.  Ghosts are popular these days.  Just about every other channel on television hosts some kind of show on the paranormal.    And if we aren’t watching ghosts on TV, we are reading about them in newspapers, books and magazines.  What was once a taboo subject is now being embraced by society.  So, with all this fascination regarding ghosts, it’s no wonder we want more than anything to see them in person.  We, as believers and even skeptics, want to experience the paranormal up close.

A great way to do just that is by joining in on a ghost tour.  Nearly every city in America has one, and they come in all different varieties.  There are walking tours that run anywhere between an hour to nearly two hours, so be sure to wear a sensible pair of shoes.  And for those ghost enthusiasts that would rather rest their weary feet, a riding tour may be the better option.  Some cities offer horse and carriage rides, bus rides or even haunted hearse rides!  When it comes to ghost tours, there is something offered for everyone.

As a ghost researcher and writer, I have been in numerous cities throughout the U.S. and have been on many ghost tours.  I have been impressed by many, but have also been disappointed by some.  The 90-minute walking tour past the bewitching buildings of Salem, MA was memorable, however, being squeezed into the back of a hearse with seven other people (yes, they were alive) and no working air conditioning ,was not quite so entertaining.

Then, there was my favorite tour.  The one that I go back to over and over, and not just because it’s only an hour away from home.  This is a tour that has made its mark on my “must do” ghost tour list.  It is a place I can highly recommend to other researchers and those seriously interested in the field, and feel confident about.  For this tour is one unlike many others.  It’s one of the only tours that I’ve been on where I can almost be guaranteed to have an authentic ghost experience.  The May Stringer House in Brooksville, Florida is pretty much a sure thing when it comes to finding ghosts, and not just hearing about them.  The Victorian abode dating back to the 1800s, which now is a museum during the day, has so many ghosts that it was actually certified as haunted.  I once asked one of the May Stringer docents how many restless souls are residing at the house, and she answered at least nine.  That’s a pretty high number considering most haunted houses usually have between one to two lingering spirits.

The tour of the May Stringer House starts after the doors have been locked and the lights have been dimmed.  Once the atmosphere has been established, the museum’s docents who also volunteer as the nightly ghost guides, introduce the history of the house to the tour’s guests.  The historical lead-in to the ghost stories which follow, is very informative, thorough and interesting.  After the guests learn of the May Stringer House’s history, the foundation has been laid and the ghostly tales can be exposed.   Guests will be led by their guide through the various rooms and levels of the large Victorian home, and then can later wander about on their own (with supervision) to take pictures and perhaps capture some spooky EVPs.  That’s right, you are welcome and even encouraged to bring with you any kind of hand- held device such as digital voice recorders, cameras, EMF meters, etc.  for your ghost hunting needs.

Please note that you must be at least 16-years-old to take part on a tour at the May Stringer House.  Also, while on a tour, docents ask for respect of the house.  There are many antiques within the home, and some of the rooms and corridors are quite small, so please be careful when using equipment and just when walking.  And while respecting the fragility of the historical furnishings is crucial, it is also extremely important to kindly respect the resident ghosts.  Keep in mind you are guests in their home.  Disrespect and mockery are simply not tolerated by the docents and the non-living!

Overall, the tour is outstanding.  The guides have a plethora of information ranging from historical facts and ghost stories to ghost hunting advice. The house has seen its share of skilled ghost research groups, and also of visitors who would like to learn more about ghost investigation.  As a director of a ghost group myself, I must say it is a great place to train your new, less experienced members.  And as a skeptic, it is a definite must-see.  Granted, you can’t command a ghost to come out and show itself, but at the May Stringer House, it’s almost certain you will leave believing if you didn’t already.

The cost of the tour is $20.00, which is quite reasonable considering it is two hours and takes place inside a haunted house as opposed to being out on the street or sidewalk.  Heck, you even get to take part in spooky attic vigil with other guests and your guide…that is, if you are brave enough!  So while some might fret about spending the money, keep in mind it is well worth it and in comparison to some of the other tours out there, this one beats them all.  Why spend $15-17.00 a person on a simple walking tour, when you could spend only a few dollars more and get all the extras?!  Plus, the money you spend on a night of haunted fun goes straight to the May Stringer House museum as it is non-profit and strictly volunteer run.

So, if you are looking for a great way to spend a Saturday night and would prefer to have your very own paranormal experience rather than just watching Paranormal State or Ghost Hunters, then come out to one of the most haunted structures in the state.

To read more about this location and its ghost lore, please pick up a copy of my book titled, Haunted Florida:  A Guide to the Departed Soul, Vol. One. You can find it here on Beyond the Limits Magazine’s page.  Just go to the Store tab!

To book a tour and find out about tour times, please e-mail museum/ghost guide Ms. Bonnie LeTourneau at birdlandgrammy@aol.com.  Tours run on Saturday nights, and are $20.00.  Cash only please.

May Stringer House is located in Brooksville, Florida at 601 Museum Court, 34601.

Please note that ghost tour guests need to be at least 16-years-old to take part, and that the utmost respect needs to be given while on the tour due to the fragility of the many antiques housed inside.

Brooksvillians Say, “Boo!”-Haunted House Event

MSLooking for some scary fun during the Halloween weekend this year?  Why not come out to the Hernando Heritage Museum, aka the May Stringer House, located at 601 Museum Court in Brooksville, FL.  The museum committee, along with help from the nearby Chinsegut Hill Manor House, will be hosting their annual haunted house at the Victorian landmark on Oct. 30th and 31st.  The event will run from 7 pm until 10 pm.

The May Stringer House, which dates back to the 1800s, has over 11,000 artifacts and antiques for show and is rich with history.  With all that history there is no surprise that the house, now museum, is very haunted.  So much so, museum docents host ghost tours on Saturday nights for those brave enough to venture inside.  The tours cost $20.00 a person, a great deal for a two hour walk-thru.  And if you are an avid ghosthunter, be sure to bring with you any kind of hand held device (EMF meter, camera, voice recorder, video, etc).  Just be sure to respect the fragility of the house and its decor, along with the resident ghosts.  They only make themselves known to visitors when treated with kindness!

So when you come out to the museum this year for their Halloween happenings, keep in mind that the ghosts you may be seeing could possibly be the “real deal.”  Museum docents claim there are more ghost sightings during this time due to the active nature of the haunted house event.

Come visit the museum and all of its ghoulish and ghostly residents this Halloween.  And if you are looking to learn more about ghost hunting, places to investigate in Florida or just want to have someone to tell your own ghostly experiences to, come meet paranormal researcher and author Kimberly Rebman on Oct. 31st.

For more information on the museum and their haunted house event, go to their website at www.hernandohistoricalmuseumassoc.com, or you can contact them directly at 352-799-0129.

Remember that donations are greatly appreciated as the museum is non-profit and strictly volunteer.  All proceeds go directly to the museum.

The Secrets of a Small Town Cemetery

Spring Hill Cemetery 5-9-09 075Every town has its secrets. People and places they would rather not talk about or just as soon forget. The sleepy town of Brooksville, Florida is no different. Brooksville is a slice of old Florida less than an hour from our trendy West coast beaches and clubs. Its history and its secrets go back centuries and where you find this intriguing combination, you often find paranormal activity. When my parents relocated to the Brooksville area several years ago, I had no idea I would soon experience this activity first hand. But I did, and the tale is nothing short of remarkable, especially to a former skeptic like myself! I think I can tell the story better if you come around the corner with me, where it’s dark…

Ahh, there you are. So let me share my experience with you, one of my first journeys into the world of the paranormal. The place was Spring Hill Cemetery in the spring of 2009. My partner Bill and I had recently begun taking an interest in ghost hunting and investigating paranormal activity. After some reading and online research, we found information on a cemetery in Brooksville that has a sordid past. Spring Hill Cemetery is located off a main thoroughfare in Brooksville, yet you could drive right by and never know it was there. There are many locals who do not even know it exists, and the residents who do know of it avoid talking about it. It is the final resting place of soldiers and slaves, paupers and pioneers. The cemetery is known as an old black cemetery, with the earliest known burials going back to the 1800s. However, there is no way to accurately determine burial dates because many of the plots have no headstone, or have been desecrated and are no longer readable. This out of the way graveyard and adjacent abandoned building have been used by Ku Klux Klan members as a site for some of their more sinister activities, and have been used by others for satanic rites and rituals. It is also a notorious hangout for the criminal element in town. The haunted history includes sightings of a man hanging from a tree, the sounds of a baby’s cry, and visions of groups of spirits huddled en masse around certain plots. Needless to say, we were interested and “dying” to know more about this place. During a weekend visit to my parents’ home in Spring Hill, we decided it was time to visit this place and see for ourselves what was so special about Spring Hill Cemetery.

spring-hill-cemetery-5-9-09-018Our first visit was a daytime drive to the graveyard to walk around and get a feel for the place. It was about 6 pm and Bill and I brought my father and brother along as “backup”. As we pulled off Ft. Dade Ave and headed down the dirt road towards the graveyard, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread. This place was unlike any cemetery I had been to before or since. There was litter and debris lining the sides of the road. Old tires, black garbage bags, and beer bottles paved the way to this sad little place. I could tell immediately that the place was not cared for. No one maintained the grounds here. No wonder it was being used as a location for such disturbing activities! We made plans to quickly tour the place, then return later that same evening to do some investigating using handheld recorders and digital cameras.

Returning later that same night, the intensity was multiplied tenfold. It was a full moon and there was an eerie still over the entire area. It was almost as if the spirits were anticipating our return. They had been waiting for us. The energy in the air was electric. We again brought my father and brother as backup. We joined hands and prayed, asking God to protect us and protect the souls who were at rest here. Honestly, I was more afraid of the living people who might cause trouble for us then I was of the paranormal activity we might encounter. Skeptical by nature, I was certain that we wouldn’t find anything paranormal. I was pretty sure, however, that we might run into some unsavory living characters while we were out there. I would soon be proven wrong. Very wrong!

Right after we got out of the car, Bill looked up and saw a floating ball of light. He told us all to look and we did, watching a pinpoint of blue light dance among the limbs of the tree we had parked under. It was not a firefly or any other explainable phenomenon. After several seconds, it vanished. I tried to photograph the anomaly but it did not show up in any of my pictures. At this point my dad elected not to go any further into the cemetery. Instead, he remained by the car while the three of us walked the grounds with our voice recorders and cameras, trying to capture evidence of paranormal activity. As we split up and ventured around the grounds, the full moon illuminated the headstones and above ground vaults and I felt a sadness and dread overwhelm me again.

The three of us made our way to the back of the cemetery where we met up in front of a small grave, obviously that of a child. Old weathered dolls and toys were laid where a headstone should be, and the area was surrounded by white picket fence about twelve inches high. The dolls transfixed us; their blank stares were unnerving. As Bill, my brother and I pondered the existence of such a sad little tribute we heard a rustling behind us, followed by the unmistakable sound of footsteps through the fallen leaves and brush in the middle of the cemetery. We all turned to look, and Bill shone his flashlight at the area, but there was nothing there. No explanation for the clear sound of footfalls. As the three of us inched forward, the sounds faded away as quickly as they had began. There was no question that something or someone had been moving through the area, but the coast was seemingly clear. This unsettling development convinced us to stay together for the remainder of our exploration, and we began moving around the dirt road toward the location of the abandoned building some have said is an old slaughterhouse. As I continued to snap photos and Bill took audio recordings, we came to a fork in the dirt road. To the left was the path to the slaughterhouse. To the right was the way back to the car. As Bill and my brother stepped toward the road that led to the abandoned building, I began to feel nauseated and I had the irresistible urge to run back to the car. Breaking out in a cold sweat, I convinced my brother and Bill that tonight was not the night to explore that area. Something was not right and I knew that we should go. We agreed to head back to the car and leave.

As we approached the car, my dad walked up to us and we asked him if he had walked into the middle of the cemetery where we heard the footsteps. He assured us he hadn’t, and proceeded to tell us he saw the blue dancing light above the car again. The light seemed to travel the same path it did when we saw it the first time and then disappeared. We were all shaken, and Bill and I prayed, asking God to watch over us and keep the spirits from following us home. We left and headed home for the night.

The following morning, we awoke to find my father in a state of turmoil. His baby turkey, a small chick he had rescued a week earlier, was found dead in its cage. He was certain that it was because of the trip to the cemetery. The healthy skepticism I normally carry with me was wearing thin. What was I to make of the strange events that surrounded the trip to this angry place? Bill and I decided to take another trip out, this time in daylight, to try and debunk the events that took place the night before. After reassuring my dad, we left and drove in silence to the site of so much sadness and unrest. We came to the dirt road and saw a car coming the other direction. Because the road is so narrow, we were forced to put the car in reverse to let the others pass us. Once they passed we moved forward and saw something lying in the road, blocking our path. As we moved closer, we realized it was a snake! There was no way the snake had been there when the other car come down the road because it was still alive. We pulled up within inches of it, trying to scare it away, but it did not move. It only laid there staring at us, daring us to pass. Its black, forked tongue flickered back and forth and I was overcome with a feeling of extreme sadness and panic. I told Bill that we had to leave RIGHT NOW! He began to rationalize, saying we could try to get around the snake or wait for it to move. I told him if he wanted to cross that snake’s path he could, but that I would be waiting out by the main road. As I began to cry, he realized I was serious and agreed to leave. I immediately grabbed the small Bible we carry on all our investigations and began to read the 23rd Psalm. I continued reading as we backed out of the cemetery and headed back home. Finally, I felt a calm and peace pass over me. I slowly closed the Bible and looked at Bill. I told him I believed the snake was an omen. Someone or something was warning us not to tempt fate again in that place. We had proven to ourselves that there was an angry presence in the cemetery and it was not to be taken lightly.

We haven’t returned to Spring Hill Cemetery since our encounter with the snake. We have toyed with the idea, but every time we consider it I get that same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach warning me to tread carefully. Recently, there have been reports of more desecration. A group of teenagers broke into an above ground vault and stole the skull from a badly decomposing body. There is heavy drug activity in the area. And rogue KKK members still use the area for their meetings. Rather than return, I think I will keep the restless spirits in my thoughts and prayers. I hope they will someday find peace, as I try to make peace with that eerie little place that holds so many secrets.

 

Written by:  Sarah Jordan, paranormal investigator