Spooky stories surround UCF area, spirits spotted nearby
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 13:10
Although Orlando is constantly buzzing with construction, innovation and the influx of all things new, several pockets of the City Beautiful hold substantial history, some of which lend themselves to the gossip of paranormal legend.
Many paranormal stories surround different sites around Orlando. Popular haunted places near the UCF campus include Oviedo and the Drawdy-Rouse Cemetery. The infamous “Oviedo Lights” are a popular phenomenon off the Snow Hill Bridge that crosses the Econlockhatchee River. Lars White, president of the Oviedo Historical Society, moved to the area with his family in 1968. White remembers attempting to catch a glimpse of the lights as a high school student with friends.
“The old story was that someone was killed in a tragic car accident, and you could see the lights as reminiscent of those who perished,” White said. “It’s something I remember from my early days here. I can remember in high school going out to try and see the lights. We made two or three trips out there as juniors and seniors, but never saw anything.”
An investigation of the mysterious lights, conducted by the physics department at Florida Technological University, took place in 1969, before the school became known as UCF.
The department released a statement, concluding “there was insufficient information on which to base a concrete scientific opinion.” Some common explanations include that swamp gas forms from the surrounding cypress wilderness, reflecting the light of headlights too far down the road to be seen, but the theory has never been verified.
Another popular spot that holds paranormal potential is the Drawdy-Rouse Cemetery, which touts an established date of 1871 on its entrance sign. Tucked away off University Boulevard, the privately owned cemetery is overgrown with vines. Only family members and descendents of the Drawdy-Rouse family are buried there.
“I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s haunted and supposedly really scary,” senior art major Christina Rausch said.
According to Amanda Branham’s Orlando Ghosts, the cemetery is haunted by the vengeful ghost of Benjamin Miles, a Florida settler from the 1840s who is buried in the cemetery in an unmarked grave. In her book, Branham describes a visit to the cemetery in which she called out Miles’ name and heard a whisper in response to her inquiry. She left the cemetery immediately, not realizing she had somehow endured lacerations on her face.
UCF’s neighboring school, Rollins College, is said to hold the friendly ghost of actress Annie Russell, whom the theater on campus is named after. A collection of North American ghost stories asserts that Annie’s ghost makes herself seen on the Wednesday before a play opens between midnight and 1 a.m. The supposed haunting is widely known among students.
“It’s a Rollins tradition. [The theater] is haunted, and theatre majors see Annie from time to time,” Rollins sophomore David Matteson said.
Venturing further from the UCF area, those interested in the paranormal can find a plethora of historical legends to explore in downtown Orlando. A popular destination is the Church Street Station, where the company American Ghost Adventures begins its tours. The building, which now holds Ceviche restaurant, is at the corner of Garland Avenue and Church Street. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the owners of Amura Japanese restaurant, Christopher and Yoko Chung, were sued in 2005 for backing out of their lease at the renovated Church Street building because of numerous ghost sightings.
“There have been several documented reports from subcontractors and others of having seen ghosts or apparitions in the restaurant at night,” the Chungs’ attorney, Lynn Franklin, wrote to the building owner. Several construction workers and previous members of staff at the Strand Hotel, which used to exist above the restaurant, claimed to have seen apparitions as well as heard someone playing piano after hours. Franklin’s letter explained that the independent testimonies of the individuals are all “strikingly similar in content.” Other hot spots in the downtown area include the old Orange County Courthouse, which now houses the Orlando Historical Society at Magnolia Avenue and Central Boulevard, where in 1984, Thomas Provenzano opened fire on court officials, killing one bailiff and paralyzing two other men who later died from complications.
Despite the lore surrounding many of these locations, the history of these haunted sites has proven to be a draw for many locals and tourists alike.
For those interested in exploring these downtown sites, visit www.americanghostadventures.com/downtownorlando.html.