by Vanessa Anderson

Halloween may be long over, but don't try telling that to Michael Gavin. Clad in an undertaker's coat and top hat, he can often be found roaming downtown Orlando on Saturday nights, a lantern in his hand and a knot of attentive followers in tow.

A look around town

No, Gavin's not some spooky cult leader. He's the creator of Orlando Hauntings Ghost Tours. Part history class, part occult wonderland, this 90-minute walking tour winds through the avenues of downtown, telling the stories behind Orlando's oldest buildings--and in many cases, the ghosts that haunt them.

"Tabu" and "The Blue Room" are a couple of Orlando's "hot spots", where hauntings can be found.

It seems impossible to imagine Orlando before Disney World. However, according to Gavin, this city used to be more Wild West than Tomorrowland. He tells stories of shoot-outs and odd burial practices, killer swans and Orlando's strange connection to Shakespeare.

Orlando's other visitors

Gavin provides a glimpse into the past that's so entertaining, you won't even realize you're learning anything.
"You'll learn about shoot-outs and odd burial practices, killer swans and Orlando's strange connection to Shakespeare."

He also spins tales of supernatural phenomena, from office buildings with mysteriously moving elevators to a silent ghost woman who eternally throws herself off a staircase.

Some of Orlando's most popular nightclubs are said to be haunted. One of the tour's more interesting stories was that of Tabu. Decades before spinning Top 40 hits, the club was known as the Beacham Theater. Its owner, Roberta Holland Beacham, was found hanged there under mysterious circumstances. Some people think her ghost is responsible for the cold spots that performers often feel behind the stage.

The second floor of the Blue Room makes a few visitors so uncomfortable that they can't breathe. The ladies' room of the recently departed Kit Kat Club is allegedly residence to Chloe, a homeless girl who used to live in the alley behind the building.

"...Now I'm a believer."

A former skeptic, Gavin developed an interest in the occult after dating a woman whose apartment was haunted. He got the idea for Orlando Hauntings from similar tours in St. Augustine. His business partner worked at the Orange County Regional History Center, and they bounced the concept off the staff there.

The History Center staffers loved the idea so much that they offered some of the information that's given on the tours. Once he got started, Gavin also found support in the tourists themselves--some of whom have volunteered information on local haunts.

Satisfying Morbid Curiosities

According to Gavin, people have different motivations for taking the tours.

"A lot of folks come out to be entertained," he said. "some come for the history."

He says the 8 p.m. excursions are often filled to capacity, and they've even spun off a separate history tour. This popularity has also led to the formation of the Central Florida Ghost Society, which meets once a month at the Orlando Public Library.

The Orlando Hauntings Ghost Tours take place every Saturday at 6 and 8 p.m.. For tickets and information, call (407) 992-1200.

Page by Evan Morgenstern

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