A Mel Meter, K-II Meter, thermal imager, and digital voice recorder are some of the tools of the trade paranormal investigator Tracey Rieker uses. She, along with the founders of Venice Florida Tours, Ronnie and Tiffany Fernandez, led a ghost walking tour of downtown Venice during a gorgeous spring evening. It seems like an odd time of year to learn about hauntings and spirits, but it is a spook-tacular experience.
The brief history of the walking tour company began when the Fernandezes relocated to Venice from Texas. Their first walking tour of downtown Venice, with an emphasis in history, was in June 2016. Last fall Tracey, who recently moved back to the area after spending time in Colorado, was a tour guest. Before moving to Colorado, she lived in Southwest Florida and the house she rented inspired her interest in paranormal investigation.
Since then, she has spent about 10 years as a paranormal investigator. After taking a historical walking tour with the Fernandez couple, the three agreed since there are many historical and paranormal tales to share and the Venice Ghost Walk was born.
The Venice Ghost Walk, offered at least once a month, is part history and part ghost-hunting 101. Although we did not enter any buildings, we stood outside to hear both warm-hearted and bone-chilling tales from some of Venice’s most spirited spots. Some were first-hand experiences from the guides, others were third-party accounts.
Looking at what is now T.J. Carney’s Pub & Grill, I learned it used to be a Rexall drugstore operated by James Dick and Jerry Meadows and commonly known as “Dick & Meadows Pharmacy.” Tenants upstairs have reported books and picture frames pushed off their shelves for no apparent reason. Did paranormal activity cause it or is there another explanation?
Our group heard about sightings of ghosts in Kentucky Military Institute uniforms seen in different buildings throughout downtown. Venice was the winter home for the school between 1932 and 1970. Do the spirits of some cadets still long for warm winters?
Built in 1896, the Lord-Higel House is the second-oldest house in Sarasota County. The home was originally built in an orange grove and relocated to its current location at Granada and De Parques avenues in 2005. Ronnie shared an experience from a contractor working on the house: He reported smelling oranges, which could be evidence of a residual haunting.
Tracey explained there are two types of hauntings. A residual haunting is the same thing over and over, such as a ghost acting out the same actions or lingering scents of perfumes or burning cigars from the past. The other is an intelligent haunting, in which the ghost is aware of its present surroundings.
Holding her digital voice recorder, the paranormal investigator explained how she uses it to capture electronic voice phenomena (EVP for short). During the tour, eight of us took turns holding the K-II Meter which has five colors: Green to the far left, lime green, yellow in the middle, orange, and red to the far right.
The device measures electromagnetic field (EMF) fluctuations. Green means there is little to no electrically charged object within range and red means you are possibly standing next to a ghost. Or you are standing next to a power source, such as an iPhone. The Mel Meter measures both EMF and temperature.
The 90-minute tour begins at the Downtown Venice Gazebo in Centennial Park before sunset and ends in the dark. It is a leisurely and information-packed 1.5-mile walk. The Venice Ghost Walk combines historical storytelling with paranormal knowledge and will be enjoyed by believers and those who think the paranormal is simple bahooka.
Ready to go? Before the tour, I recommend reading up on Venice’s spooky history by picking up the book Ghost Stories of Venice, written by Kim Cool, features editor of the Venice Gondolier Sun. It is one of several books she has written about ghost stories in communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Plan Your Visit
Venice Florida Tours
Venice Historic Walking Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays, and Venice Ghost Walk Tours are offered at least once a month. Reservations are required. $15 per person, cash. Tours for private groups are available.
Where to Eat
T.J. Carney’s Pub & Grille
231 W Venice Ave., Venice
Open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.