Ghost Touring and the Dud

History is a funny, messy story. It’s not always clear or straightforward, but it’s interesting. Part of  the reason why I love to traveling is I love history. Ask my friends; they had to watch me geek out over a pile of dirt in Hilton Head. I am a history buff. I love watching British documentaries about history, love Horrible History, and growing up I read the romance novels for the history. Okay, some of them were less history and more ripping off the bodice.

    So here is a hint for all you history buffs out there when traveling to a new city, take the ghost tour. Even if you don’t believe in things going bump in the night, or not too sure, the ghost tours give you a  history of the city, that the local tour guides stay away from during the day.

    I have been on some great ones. In Key West, we took one that not only did we get to doom everyone who “Boo” us, but we found out just how fascinating Key West really was. Our tour guy would bring us to a spot, tell us the history and legend, and then kept repeating that he wasn’t making this up. It turns out Key West’s past is very, very, very colorful…Like an acid trip meets a rainbow kind of color.

    Savanna, we did a haunted bar crawl as part of a bachelorette party. We were pirates; our tour guy was a flaming Confederate soldier, need I say anything else. The more he drank, the better the stories got. Sighting became flaming heads of doom and hearing noise became full blown conversations.  As he led us down different alleyways, basements and through the buildings, we got a taste that this Southern city wasn’t as proper as it should have been.

    But sometime in the ghost touring business, you hit the dud.

  dscn3901  And we hit one in Mount Dora. As much as I love this city (see last week’s post), this one just fell short of any expectations that we had. Mount Dora has a very colorful past, especially around the time of prohibition, since it was a favor of some very famous gangsters and movie stars. So, with all this booze, sex and jazz in the air, crime is going to happen, people are going to get killed and ghost are going to come into being. On an October evening, we were ready to hear all the juicy details of sex, drugs, and jazz.

    Trying to get a hold of the guy who runs the ghost tours was impossible. After a couple of calls and a trip to the Chamber of Commerce, we finally got a number.

HINT: In my opinion a good ghost tour will be sponsored by the Chamber. Look for that, when selecting your ghost tour.

    At 7:00 PM we meet at the Lakeside Inn. The walking tour (which turned out to be a half a mile up the road and back) started at sundown because according to our guide is when the spirits make themselves known. Dressed as in Victorian clothing, he explained the manifestation of ghost in old Victorian English speak, which was hard for a bunch of American from Florida to figure out.

    The first story he told was about two lovers dying of a broken heart, which would have been great, but nothing about them being a ghost. No sightings, no strange noises, nothing falling off. They just died. Kind of a letdown.

    Usually, while we are walking, the tour guy is giving us a dark history of the area. He did none of that, just drank.

    Our first stop was one of the stores, where we got a little bit of the history (finally!). It turns out that this building was once a hotel of modern means (the 1920s version of a Motel 6) and a couple got into a fight and the women jumped off the railing, followed by her husband.  Again, no sightings or a kind of haunts. This was the second crime of passion, but no ghost. Was there something in the area that allowed the unrest spirits not want to stay?

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    So our next journey was down an alley, where he showed us one of the speakeasies. The man who was said to haunt this place was a bootlegger who used to mix in a little bit of poison into his moonshine. He made the mistake of killing the wrong person (a mother), and her sons killed him as revenge. He then pointed down the alley and said on a clear, moonless night you could see the ghost of the bootlegger coming down the lane, and into the speakeasy to deliver his booze. Finally, we have a ghost!

dscn3929Next journey was to the Donnelly House to hear about the tragic (if not somewhat funny death) of one of the Donnellys. Turns out one of them accidently mistaken a puppet for her son and died of a heart attack. There is strange light coming out of the house, but then again it could be partying Masons.

We went back onto a street with a strange feature. It was a box about the same sizes as a human; that was completely tiled over. I am not sure if he made this one up, but according to him, there is a body of women who fell to her death in there. He dared each of us to lay on it.dscn3927

The last stop was the hanging tree, and I still have no idea what he was talking about. But according to him on moonless nights, the tree opens up, and there is a pathway to hell.dscn3948

Then we returned to the Inn where he quizzed us on what we learn.

I hate giving bad reviews, but this one had really no saving grace. The guy’s stories made no sense, nor can I say they were believable.

I encourage you to visit Mount Dora, but do not take the ghost tour. Instead, save your money and take the Segway tour, at least that looked like they were learning about this history, with a few ghosts thrown in.

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My Mount Dora Pictures
Can’t Watch This

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I Climbed A Mountain … In Florida?

lantern-press-mount-dora-florida-climbing-mount-doraWhen you think of Florida, scaling  a mountain doesn’t come to mind. But a journey inward towards center Florida will yield the one and only mountain in the state which even the most out of shape person can climb.

An elevation of 2,208 feet above sea level, Mount Dora barely makes it at what is considered a mountain. And no, a hike to the top will not yield all inspiring views of Florida. But it’s still worth checking out.

The city of Mount Dora was founded in the early part of the 1800s, and with the abundance of natural fresh water lakes and crystal clear springs, it became a famous playground for the rich and notorious. During the Prohibition Area (1920 -1933), bootlegging, moonshining, and speakeasy were all the ragged, and most of the older buildings have a not so clean history to them. A favorite playground and resting stop for Al Capone and others, this little city had a wild side that is hidden. For those who didn’t want to journey all the way to West Palm Beach, and through the swamps, found a great couple week of vacation there.

The city sits on the Lake Dora, and a journey here was a trip to a century ago.

dscn3803I have been to this city a couple of times; my parents had originally thought of moving here after retirement (and before they discovered The Villages) because of its quaint feel and old homes. There are tons of Bed and breakfast here, but to truly get the feel of Edwardian vacationing, the Lakeside Inn is where you want to stay. Built in 1883, this hotel has placed hosted too many famous and notorious people throughout the years that it has been open.

Most of the time, we just wander around the town, checking out the local business. There is a feel of an era gone by, with many of these shops in the old building (some of them hunted). We were planning on staying later to check out a ghost walk (I will have more on it later), so it made for a nice day trip.

After a quick stop a KaDee Kay, a gourmet kitchen store for those of you who love kitchen gadgets, we head to a local favorite, Maggie’s Attic.

29582788873_5c73eacf4c_oThis little shop, which is down an alley, is probably one of the best wine and beer stores I have ever been. Locally owned, it is an excellent place to stop and have a sip of wine before continuing with the shopping. The inside reminds you of someone basements, with its dark woods, leather couch and fantastic selections of wines and beers.

Another favorite of mine is Under the Cherry Blossom, a handicraft store that sells local artist. Look up, and you will see hundreds of pink tissue papers glued to the ceiling, to give the illusion of being under a cherry tree.

In one of the old hotels, local artist Amy Seller sells her paintings. She is usually there and loves to talk about her artwork.

dscn3811Another point of interest is the Chamber of Commerce, which is in the old train stations. Along with brochures about nearby attractions and what’s going on. They are relics of the past, including a train schedule (trains coming from New York once a week). Next to the Chamber is a small park. While we were visiting, there were hundreds of plastic flamingos around the park in celebration of Breast Cancer Month. Each Flamingo had a name of someone who had breast cancer for the community.

30097657912_1715f70d6c_oAn old Victorian House sits on Donnelly Street. Once upon a time, it belonged to the Donnelly’s (one of the big shot families of Mount Dora), but now it serves as a Masonic Lodge. Unless you are a Mason, the chances of you going in there are slim.

30097647852_aa0d3888f8_oWe usually eat at The Goblin Market, off of Dora Drive, down one of the many alleys in Mount Dora. This restaurant is one of those hidden gems that you don’t know where it is you will miss it. Hidden in an old house, this restaurant has been around for about 20 years and own by the same couple who started. The inside looks like a cross between Harry Potter and Edger Allen Poe and is usually decorated for the holidays. We were there; the house had been decorated for Halloween. Before dinner head upstairs to the lounge and enjoy a cocktail as you ponder over many forgotten lore.

At night, the bars and restaurants have live music, and people are wondering around. After the ghost tour, we headed back to Maggie Attic for one last glass of wine before heading home.

Mount Dora is one of these hidden gems that not many Floridians know about. But if you are searching for the real Florida or a history buff, this is one of the places you need to check out.

Flickr Photo Album of Mount Dora

Nothin’ But A Good Time 

   

Craziness, an Election and then More Craziness

f2ca8b75f3ea313e4c20ada0ed2a500eEveryone has one month that no matter what, it’s just crazy. Most people would say it is December. The holidays are just crazy, and there is never enough time. Maybe that is why it gets started earlier each year. Some would say around August at the beginning of the school year.

Me it has always been October. I have no idea why. I think it must do with the moon being in alignment with the consolations, but no matter how much I prepare for it, the month always catches me off guard and throws me for a lope.

This year I was determined not to allow it to get to me. I had it all planned. October was going to be a blog Ghost Tours month. I had already written and scheduled the posts leading up to that month so I can write about some of the ghost tours I had been on earlier

I had decorated the house a week early for Halloween. We weren’t planning on doing a Halloween party because the windows were still being redone and nothing was going to get in the way of having a nice, relaxing October.

I was going to have October beat!

Then the best friend called with the surprising news; she was coming to town for a funeral. Great, so there goes my first weekend. Not that I don’t love Aimee, but Aimee is usually a hurricane of actives that blows in from the island of Hawaii and well when we get together it isn’t pretty. Fun, yes, but I am usually exhausted and realizing I am getting too old for this. Luckily for Florida, she was only there until Tuesday, so not too much damage couldn’t be done. 

But the post had already been planned and ready to go, so I am safe.

Until Hurricane Matthew announced his arrival on October 6th, a day before I was leaving on vacation. Hurricanes are funny things, either it is the end of civilization for the next several weeks, or nothing happens. Lucky for me, nothing happened. Other than two days off from work (someone got to start their vacation early) and on the eve of this hurricane, our blinds got installed, it was a lackluster hurricane.

We didn’t have to unplug anything, so I was able to write a post and schedule it.  And off we went (we drove up while the tail end of Matthew was happening to mid-Florida). The vacation went great and came back. I had written a couple of things and couldn’t wait until I get a chance to post them…

The week after vacation followed by the city’s first Concert in the Park, the Obon festival (I go every year) and a Sunday I decided reading was more important than writing (I was tired to say the less).

Work started to pick up as we prep for the Halloween Costume Contest (we take it very seriously at Coconut Creek) and OJ decision to go to his high school reunion (Downtown Ft. Lauderdale here we come).

High School Reunion week was good. We stayed at a hotel that was about 30 minutes from our home. My dog made friends with the whole housekeeping crew, and I found out how boring it is to go to when you didn’t go to that school. I got a couple of great ideas for another post, but by the time we got back on Sunday, I was tired. So, no posting.

Not to mention I have a side job (I work at a farmer’s market by my house) and that Sunday was dec-10-post-2one of them. Lucky for me, one of the vendors makes coffee, so I was good.

Election fever hit. I was kind of caught up in the drama that was sweeping the nation and forgot to blog. Bad excuse, but it sounded right when I was thinking to myself, who has time to blog when there is a major election going on.

Halloween weekend found me with one event for the city, one party that we threw together, finally cleaning the house (I haven’t touched it in a whole month). And on Halloween day, my supervisor’s wife decided to have the baby; he would be MIA for the next two weeks.

By the way, my department won the costume contest (I’ll post a link to the video) and I realized that the City of Coconut Creek has one of our biggest events two and half weeks away and boss man was on maternity leave.

So, after two weeks of trying to figure out the whole permitting, contracting, supervising, stuff… let me say weekends weren’t looking so hot for blogging.

Then on November 8th, we voted. For those who don’t know it, my workplace is also a polling place, so for some reason we had to be on high alert. They were talking about bring in armor guards and everything (just kidding – the only fight we witness between a Hillary supporter and a Trump support was where the closest Starbuck was).

So, halfway through November, I had realized I haven’t blogged once. I am the worst blogger there is. I went from almost every week to this. Shame on me!

But it takes me a good month to get over October. Plus, between having to prep the city for a big special event, with the boss man out, trying not to call the boss man to worry him more, having to deal with that Thanksgiving will be at my house because the boyfriend is working that night, and everything else, the blog was not happening.

So now that December has started, I am determined I am going to get myself caught up. I am going to get more readers and next year; October will not leave me gasping for breath….

I hope.

Imperfection