Monday, September 24, 2018
Events

Spooky tours get into the spirit of Safety Harbor

SAFETY HARBOR

This quaint little town, incorporated in 1917, isn't known for eerie pre-Civil War mansions or creepy moss-covered cemeteries, but it does have enough purported paranormal activity to warrant a ghost tour.

That according to Laura Dent, owner of Safety Harbor Ghost and History Tours, a business that offers day and nighttime walks along and around Main Street.

The day strolls focus on local history: the Tocobaga Indians, the Spanish Conquistadors, Odet Philippe and his introduction of grapefruit, the celebrities, the mafia, hurricanes, fires, and the healing mineral springs.

As the sun sets, the ghost tour turns to one of mystical intrigue. Your guide will unearth lore about the Tocobaga, pirates and pioneers. There will be talk of murders, UFO sightings, swamp apes and modern-day accounts of apparitions and other paranormal activity.

The tours are designed to educate, entertain and enlighten. There is no guarantee that pale, wispy nonpaying guests will show up for the tour.

"It's not a dolphin tour," said Dent, a 32-year resident of the city. "We can't guarantee any ghosts."

Dent said that although she attended Catholic schools for 12 years where such ideas were shunned, she's always been fascinated with the supernatural.

When she began giving history tours three years ago, residents and business owners would come up and share their tales of strange occurrences around town.

Dent began researching books, newspapers and the Safety Harbor Museum, uncovering information about the Tocobaga Tribe as well as the murder, fire and flood victims who once lived in the area. With that, she created a narrative about why their spirits may still be hanging around.

In the two years she's been conducting the tours, Dent hasn't personally seen any spectres, but a few on the tour have reported seeing angels and spirits along the way.

She said she and tourgoers have felt strange sensations and sudden drops in temperature. Ghostly orbs have shown up in photographs, which some consider to be concentrations of spiritual energy, while others say it's refractions of dust or lint.

"Paranormal investigators have been here and their equipment went crazy," she said.

Other ghostly encounters have been reported by locals: A black hooded figure that roams City Hall. A YouTube video showing surveillance footage of a book flying off a shelf at the Safety Harbor Library when no one was there. Eerie voices requesting service at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa from vacant rooms. The "farmer" that hangs out at the Chamber of Commerce.

To add interest and excitement, Dent starts each tour by encouraging people to download a ghost app on their phone to help detect activity along the tour. She uses the free Ghost Radar Classic, which allegedly senses fields of energy in the area.

During a preview of her tour, several "ghosts" were picked up by the app under the grand Baranoff Oak, reportedly the oldest oak in Pinellas County. And some of the knots in nearby trees do look quite a bit like human faces.

So will Safety Harbor become known as a place of mystery, intrigue and haunts?

"I don't consider Safety Harbor haunted," Dent said. "In my opinion we just have spirits roaming here. It's a vortex for spiritual energy."

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