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.
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?
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!
Next 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.
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.
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.