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Area author uncovers Sarasota spirits in ‘Ghost Stories’

Added October 18th, 2003

By DAN MEARNS, Englewood Editor
Reprinted from the Charlotte Sun

Ready to curl up with a juicy ghost story? There’s no time like the present, with Halloween less than two weeks
away.

There are thousands of ghost stories out there from

which to choose, ranging from the fanciful to the

far-fetched to the downright terrifying. But among the most

intriguing are those drawn from real life, involving real

people and places.

Venice Gondolier Sun features editor Kim Cool has

become an expert in uncovering and exploring such

stories. Her first book on the subject, “Ghost Stories of

Venice,” dealt with supernatural goings-on from Spanish

Point to Englewood.

In her most recent effort,”Ghost Stories of Sarasota: The

Heart of the Cultural Coast,” traces metaphysical

happenings at many Sarasota landmarks, including the

Ringling Museum, Players Theatre, Sarasota Opera

House, Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary, Lido Key and Anna

Maria Island.

The book is divided into eight chapters based on where

the spirits do their haunting. Cool visits Sarasota’s historic

theaters, its neighborhoods, educational institutions and,

of course, graveyards. Therein roam the ghosts of actors

and actresses, circus performers, animals, American

Indians and others.

“In Sarasota, it seemed as though every single theater

was haunted by at least one spirit,” Cool writes in telling

the tale of Theater Works “Warm and Fuzzy,” the tragic

Lauren Melville of Players Theatre, the dog who haunts

the Golden Apple Dinner Theater, and others.

The ghosts of Sarasota aren’t intent on mayhem or

murder, Cool notes. The most damage they do is likely to

be a scratch, a cold touch, a chill on the skin, a strange

crack in a floor, some pots and pans flying across a kitchen or a

falling object “accidentally” striking someone.

These Casperesque spirits enjoy playing the piano or

enjoying a cigarette while rocking in a rocking chair. Many

of them are “searching for a friend” who will help them

cross over into the light.

Cool also provides a healthy dose of Sarasota history

with her ghostly tales, tracing the evolution of Sarasota

through its cultural heritage. There are also numerous

photos in the book, some of them

containing mysterious orbs, shadows and lights that prove

ghosts can be photographed.

Like any good writer, Cool saves the best for last, taking

readers on an exclusive look inside the world of the late

John and Mable Ringling, who established a winter home

in Sarasota in the 1920s and helped make the city an

international center of art and society.

Cool makes the Ringling estate seem like Dana Barrett’s

townhouse in “Ghostbusters”—spook central. The

ghosts of John and Mable are on hand, of course, as are

those of famed showman Flo Zeigfeld, legendary

humorist Will Rogers and countless other folks both

famous and otherwise.

In the final chapters, Cool visits Ca d’Zan, the Ringlings’

restored mansion on Sarasota Bay, accompanied by a

pair of mediums and two television news people. They

were allowed access to the most private areas of the

massive house, areas off limits to tourists.

You’ll have to the read the book to find out what Cool

discovered. One sentence might give you an idea: “It was

almost as though we were each having the beginnings of

a heart attack.”

An award-winning journalist, Cool approaches her

stories as a reporter, but also a participant—and an

unapologetic believer. There’s no attempt to explain away

the mysterious happenings with science or logic. To Cool

and the real-life characters in her book, the spirits exist.

So, sit back, turn up your reading lamp—and turn out the

rest of the lights in the house—and prepare to be

educated, enlightened, amused and, yes, scared.

Priced at $12.95, “Ghost Stories of Sarasota” is 178 pages, with photos. It
is available at Barnes & Noble, Sarasota News & Books, Circle Books,
The Book Shop in Venice, Venice Stationers, Serenity Gardens, Ringling
Museum and on amazon.com.

You can e-mail Dan Mearns at dmearns@sun-herald.com

Topics: News & Reviews

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