Kim Cool,
Ghost Stories of Sarasota
(Historic Venice Press, 2003)

Sarasota is more conducive to Kim Cool's kind of storytelling than Venice proved to be.

Cool, a fledgling teller of ghostly tales in sunny Florida, has better luck up the road in Sarasota than she did in her previous book. Ghostless Venice, alas, provided Cool with little grist for her storytelling mill.

Ghost Stories of Sarasota retains Cool's pleasant, conversational style of writing. It does away with the space-filling clip art and third-person references. And, most importantly, it has ghosts.

Many of them are associated with Sarasota's art and theater houses. Is there a connection between one's artistic tendencies and one's tendency to hang around after death? Cool's book might make you wonder.

My favorite tale is about Dale Shields, Sarasota's "pelican man," whose work to preserve the birds seems intimately bound with his life and afterlife.

Winter headquarters to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, as well as numerous smaller circuses, Sarasota seems rife with possibilities for colorful hauntings. Alas, Cool writes, circus folk are superstitious and are reluctant to talk about ghosts. (Except for one, a dog.) The grand estate of John Ringling and his wife, Mable, may be a different story, however, as Cool relates her own observations during a tour of the premises with a pair of mediums. That tour, which uncovers many different stories along the way, takes up a large chunk of the book.

You won't read Ghost Stories of Sarasota with a shudder and a chill, nor will it give you sleepless nights afterwards. But the book is a fun, entertaining look at a community's haunts; Cool provides a peek into a different kind of Florida retirement!

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 6 November 2004

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