"Miami is my hometown," Sandy Walker says with pride. "I've always known it to be haunted." For six years, Walker has led the Coconut Grove Ghost Tour, a two-hour walking survey of one of South Florida's most densely populated paranormal precincts.
Tour guides dressed in head-to-toe black, and donning Victorian society hats lead groups on journeys through a small--however highly supernatural--half-mile swath of the Grove that houses the spirits of a diverse and motley crew: pirates, rum smugglers, soldiers, mobsters, the victims of mobsters, and many more.
As Walker unpacks the Grove's secret history--including that of the Mutiny Hotel, Miami's oldest marked grave, and a Native American sacred spring--guests are treated to "mysterious faces that show up in photos" and "the touch of unseen hands."
Of course, October is the Ghost Tour's biggest month, though Walker is adamant about distancing herself from the commercial Halloween industry. Despite her high standards for paranormal authenticity, Walker also admitted that her most recent tours with big, Halloween-ready audiences have been some of her most active with regards to photographic evidence and high energy spectral atmospheres.
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"It's a real ghost tour," she says, "so I never know what to expect."
"All night, guests yelp, laugh, and otherwise declare they got a photo of orbs, misty shapes, or even faces and figures," she adds. "Others gather 'round to see."
Walker says she received her ghost training at The Original Key West Ghost Tour. "It's changed hands several times, been split into different tours. I learned my trade at The Original with the guy who did the research, went to the library archive, and put everything together."
Walker takes her charge as otherworldly storykeeper and tour guide seriously because of her aforementioned hometown pride. "I'm not 14 tours in nine cities. When I say I'm a Miami gal, I really am. I'm here telling these stories because they are important. I take it personally."
Though the Coconut Grove tour is Walker's most popular this year, it's part of a larger catalogue of tours and services offered by her Miami Ghost Tours. She conducts cemetery tours by appointment, and will even arrange a haunted location for your birthday or bachelor party, complete with tarot reading.
To schedule a ghost tour, visit ghostgrove.com.