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
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
"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
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
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
"...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
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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