Michelle Davidson,
Florida's Haunted Hospitality
(Schiffer, 2013)

In Florida's Haunted Hospitality, author Michelle Davidson investigates the Sunshine State's local haunts from the historic to the little-known, large cities to small towns off the beaten path. The focus here is a bit different than other ghost-story books: Davidson herself stays in many of Florida's purportedly haunted inns, with interesting results, and also investigates some locations with professional paranormal investigators. Addresses, telephone numbers and websites for the inns and paranormal groups are provided. Also, she is a psychic intuitive, and we therefore gain a unique perspective into many of these spirits who seek to make contact with the living.

Davidson encounters plenty of innkeepers with lots of stories to share. Candlesticks fly off a fireplace in one location, specters are spotted in the hallways and on the grounds in many others, and Davidson herself has captured some splendid examples of orbs with her digital camera. There is one particular orb photograph on page 60 that is incredible -- it looks like a little crystal ball floating over the bed. She has even captured a fully materialized apparition in the doorway of one inn that is really quite amazing. In one case, a phantom voice even compliments the new owner of a historic house she was restoring. "I like your taste in books," the specter intoned. I'm sure the owner was glad the ghost approved.

One thing that strikes me again and again is how many of the people who bought these historic inns were inexplicably drawn to a particular building. A few people were in the market for a place, but many others experienced love at first sight when they first saw their inn, and just knew it was for them and they had to buy it. Most have had great success in their new endeavor. One has to wonder if the resident ghosts were also drawn to these particular people as much as the buyers were drawn to their inns.

Nevertheless, I must mention that there are also a lot of unsubstantiated rumors being tossed about here, many of vague origin. All speculation needs some basis in fact, and there are several instances where the book falls short. "It is rumored...," "People have speculated..." and the like are common, and I find this ambiguity a bit disappointing. In one instance, "A spirit of a young girl who died of yellow fever has been seen...." How do we know the unknown girl died of yellow fever? Are we guessing at who this spirit may be? It's unclear in some cases whether there is any substantiated fact that has birthed stories like this. However, folklore can be fun too, and there are enough eyewitness accounts included here that make the book as a whole satisfying, and it's a small distraction. The photos alone make this book worth checking out.

I usually wouldn't make mention of a book's author, but this case is an exception. I believe Davidson to be a true southerner, as I've never otherwise encountered people who use the expression "live oak." The gentle nature of this southern belle shines through her prose. Her kind nature and open mind -- and her own hospitality in taking us with her on her travels -- make this book a pleasure to read. Davidson leaves us with the thought, "so many spirits that linger, they just want to be heard and recognized." I would like to let them know we are listening.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

22 June 2013

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