Ghost Tours in St. Augustine: Fanciful Foray Into Fantasy and Fright
By Fyllis Hockman
At 450-plus years, St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the United States with a lot to recommend it -- history, ancient (for this country) architecture, Spanish culture and, of course, ghosts. A city that old has a lot of history to haunt -- a lot of death and despair to permeate the landscape -- and the spirits of St. Augustine are sufficient to keep a multitude of ghost-tour operators very busy. I tagged along on a couple.
Outing No. 1 was a Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour. My first ghost-hunting tip: Go for the stormy weather, alleged by dedicated ghost-hunters to provide more energy upon which the "manifestations" can draw. It was misty out: check.
As we hopped on a trolley, we were instructed on the basics of ghost-sightings: Look for little orbs with tails, a white light, a shadow, an apparition in white. At a cemetery fence, not surprisingly always a portal for the undead, cameras were flashing and phones lighting up one after the other.
"Why are they all taking pictures of the fence?" inquired my always-skeptical husband. "There's nothing there."
The 130-year-old Potter's Wax Museum building, we were told, was built over a cemetery, thereby explaining all the "energy." I was beginning to pick up on the idea that energy was just a euphemism for ghosts. Our guide talked of strange things happening, which by the end of the night had become a mantra -- footsteps heard, bottles falling, objects flying. As we walked through the museum, I suddenly felt a vibration on my arm -- a very intense vibration -- and I quickly looked around to see who or what "energy" might be near me. How disappointed was I to discover it was only my Fitbit!
At a visit to the Old Jail, known as the Hanging Jail from 1871-1953 for the eight criminals who hung from the gallows, a dramatic inmate told stories of the sadly deceased with great gusto, playing out all the gory details of the crimes. The impersonators were the best part of the tour, but they were all very much alive.
Someone claimed to get a picture of an orb -- allegedly a filmy white light with or without a tail -- on her cellphone. I looked through the bars into the same very dark cell and all I saw was, well, a very dark cell.
How to account for some of these specter sightings? Shadows, specks of dust, reflections, overactive imaginations? But many claim they capture images on their cameras that are unexplainable -- ghosts trying to present themselves in recognizable spirit forms. Who am I to argue?
Given my own penchant for spirits (of the drinking variety), it seemed a ghost-invaded pub crawl would be a good way to combine my spirits with theirs as part of my next phantom-filled adventure