Scares abound in Safety Harbor

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by Bryce Dixon

 

Incorporated in 1917, the humble little town of Safety Harbor may appear quaint, but it’s got enough purported paranormal activity to warrant a pretty spooky ghost tour. Day and night, curious ghost hunters can join Laura Dent, owner of Safety Harbor Ghost and History Tours, for a ghostly walk on along and around Main Street.

The day strolls focus on the local history: the Tocobaga Native Americans, the Spanish Conquistadors, Odet Philippe and his introduction of grapefruit, the celebrities, the mafia, past 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, but there’s no guarantee that pale, wispy non-paying 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 often approach her and share up-close-and-personal tales of strange occurrences around town.

This inspired her to research books, newspapers and the Safety Harbor Museum uncovering information about the Tocobaga Tribe as well as the murder, fire and flood victims from the area. With that, she created a narrative about why the spirits may still be hanging around.

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

She said she and tour goers have felt strange sensations and sudden drops in temperatures. Ghostly orbs have shown up in photographs, which some consider to be concentrations of spiritual energy, while others say brush it off as merely 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, everything from a black hooded figure that roams City Hall to a YouTube video showing surveillance footage of a book flying off a shelf at the Safety Harbor Library when no one was there. There’s even talk of eerie voices requesting service at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa from vacant rooms and the ghost of a “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 living oak in Pinellas County. And some of the knots in nearby trees do look quite a bit like human faces.

So will Safety Harbor soon become a top destination for ghost lovers, who flock to the humble little town known for 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.”

Safety Harbor History & Ghost Tours
Pet-friendly, child-friendly and ghost-friendly 1.5 to 2 hour walks down Main Street Tickets: History Walking Tours are $15; Ghost Walking Tours are $20. Children 8 to 12 are $5 and $10 respectively. Reservations required. For more information,call (727) 687-8785 or learn more online at safetyharbortours.com.

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