Spirits don't take vacations. At least that's what Bonnie LeTourneau thinks.
Although the May-Stringer Heritage Museum has been closed for the past month for its annual cleaning and maintenance, the woman who hosts the celebrated ghost tours at the museum says things inside the Victorian mansion remain as spooky as ever.
"I don't think it's possible to chase away the spirits that reside there," LeTourneau said. "They've been there too long."
As a weekend volunteer guide, LeTourneau leads groups of visitors in search of the many mysteries that surround the four-story, 12-room museum. Legend has it that the 151-year-old house, originally built by Brooksville pioneer John May, is inhabited by the spirits of long-deceased family members, including May's 3-year-old daughter, Jessie.
All of which, in the minds of LeTourneau and others, explains some of the strange occurrences that go on there. In addition to numerous odd noises, museum staffers have reported encountering images of people moving through darkened hallways, cold spots and mists that suddenly appear in areas of the house, and glowing orbs of light that hover over the house's tin roof.
LeTourneau said her own encounters with these "entities" have been fairly frequent. She has often heard footsteps coming from the upper floors of the house and has felt the touch of something or someone on her shoulder when no one else is around. And then there's the soft wail of a small child that LeTourneau and many others believe belongs to Jessie May.
"It sent shivers down my spine the first time I heard it," LeTourneau said. "It was very unsettling.
LeTourneau admits she was a skeptic when she first set foot inside the door of the house near downtown Brooksville 3 1/2 years ago. Nevertheless, she felt a strange attraction to the history of the edifice, which through the years also served as a boardinghouse and a doctor's office. At the behest of museum caretakers, she began conducting special group tours on weekend nights for those interested in exploring the home's deepest secrets.
Although the museum's paranormal activity can be somewhat inconsistent, LeTourneau claims there is enough going on that the house has earned "hot spot" status from such supernatural investigative groups as Paranormal Seekers and Florida Ghost Hunters.
The tours, which cost $20 and are offered by appointment on Friday and Saturday nights, last two hours. LeTourneau says that a limit of 15 people allows ample time to explore the entire house. Because the museum houses about 11,000 rare antique artifacts, tours are open only to persons 12 or older.
Those who don't have interests in ghostly activities may want to stick to the regular afternoon guided tours, which will resume beginning Tuesday.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.