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Is New Port Richey a truly ghostly town? Or is it myth?

NEW PORT RICHEY

Call it urban legend, or spooky folklore. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, Pasco is chock-full of places that haunted history buffs say harbor ghostly apparitions. Many are located in New Port Richey, said Susan Ostrom, who runs Haunted History tours of New Port Richey. Their proof? Visions of the dead and voices from beyond. In honor of the scariest day of the year, here's a rundown of rumored hot spots:

Willard Clark, former theater president, died of a heart attack in 1981, just hours after leaving the Richey Suncoast. But his ghost is rumored to linger around Clark's favorite seat in the house, BB1. Some patrons who sat in that balcony seat — not knowing it was Clark's — said they felt extremely cold, Ostrom said. After awhile, patrons of the theatre at 6237 Grand Blvd. were told the seat was broken, and no one was allowed to sit there, Ostrom said. The seat is no longer off limits, current theatre board president Charlie Skelton said, but sometimes patrons still spot Clark's ghost wearing a tuxedo, sitting in his seat. "He's a benevolent spirit, and he just observes," Skelton said. "Nobody seems to be afraid of him."

Built in 1927, the swanky Mediterranean-style hotel once hosted the likes of actor Gloria Swanson and baseball legend Babe Ruth. It later served as a residential facility for mentally disabled people. During one of Ostrom's tours, people spotted a man in his 50s standing in the back window of the hotel at 5621 Main St. wearing a dress shirt. At first, she said, he appeared to be a night security worker — but the building has been vacant for years. The man faded away as those who saw him got closer. Another time, Ostrom said, someone was seen walking on the rear second-floor balcony.

Decades ago, a woman named Meg and her son Scott rented a room in the upstairs portion of the bar at 6229 Grand Blvd. Meg was murdered upstairs, Ostrom said, although it's unclear who killed her or why. Sometimes, Ostrom said, Meg appears in a window wearing early '20s era clothing, or emerges from a bathroom area toward the front of the bar.

Legend has it that the quaint white building at 6431 Circle Blvd. is home to a host of unexplainable encounters with the dead. Museum volunteers have smelled the strong scent of cigar smoke near a desk once owned by William Barber, a Union soldier. A group of ghost hunters say they captured an audio encounter earlier this year with Barber's ghost; a whispered voice on the tape tells the ghost hunters to "Come back." But David Pace, president of the society, isn't afraid of any lurking spirits. "We were happy when people sensed something. It's intriguing."

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

Is New Port Richey a truly ghostly town? Or is it myth? 10/30/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 12:37pm]
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