BRADENTON -- Do ghosts exist and are they watching people in downtown Bradenton?
The Bradenton Paranormal Society may have the answers you seek after launching downtown paranormal investigations a few weeks ago.
The society offers paranormal enthusiasts tours every Friday and Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. from the entrance of Pier 22.
Co-founder Liz Reed's experience with the departed is not untypical with those familiar with the paranormal.
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"I've had experiences since I was a child," said Reed, whose son passed away as a teenager.
That tragic event strengthened her desire to know more about life after death. She said she only feels love when her son is around her, but "ironically, I've never 'seen' my son, but I have felt his presence."
The tour begins at the old Manatee Players building on Old Main Street, where former actors told the society they often heard tiny footsteps in the costume room. Ghostly activity intensifies at a parking lot near the corner of Third Avenue West and 13th Street West.
Saturday's tour participants were introduced to a spirit, who through a variety of questions asked while using an electromagnetic-field detector, identified himself as "Greg." According to tour guide, Kenny Thompson, Greg is likely the spirit of a man who was murdered decades ago while harassing his ex-girlfriend over money. The woman's boyfriend subsequently beat the man to death in the parking lot.
Greg confirmed through questioning that he was the victim and answered multiple yes or no questions by making contact with the EMF, a device used to monitor sudden spikes in electromagnetic activity. The device spiked red at the end of each question to a "yes" answer and remained in the green when the answer was "no."
Participants gasped with each of Greg's responses.
Greg's conversation with the group was just the second stop on a tour that showcased some of downtown's darker history.
From the Manatee County Courthouse, where a spirit remains from a hanging gone bad, to the Hampton Inn hotel, which once was an assisted living facility where a resident leapt to his death from the roof, Bradenton appears to have a lot more "activity" taking place within the shadows of the living than most may realize or believe.
Reed said she began to professionally investigate the paranormal about five years ago. Asked why she picked downtown Bradenton for the tours, she said it wasn't a hard decision when the group began to look into the city's darker history, which includes multiple incidents of violence and tragedy over the years.
Reed said no tour is ever the same because you can't predict which spirit will interact with the group.`Greg was the liveliest of the spirits on Saturday, expressing happiness to be interacting with people. Reed said sometimes it can be other spirits making contact or showing themselves via digital cameras in the form of "orbs."
Brenna Enger, 8, took the Saturday tour with mom and grandma. Brenna captured more orb photos than any other participant and interacted with another young female spirit just a few yards from the Bradenton Herald's offices on Third Avenue West.. After interacting with Brenna, the spirit continued to follow her until Thompson conducted a short session, asking the young spirit to depart. The EMF immediately stopped spiking.
"That was scary and awesome," said Brenna, who said she was glad she took the tour.
She had one piece of advice for anyone interested in interacting with downtown Bradenton's ghostly spirits: "Bring an extra pair of underwear," she said.
The tour costs $15, $10 for children. To reserve a spot on a weekend tour or to learn more, call 941-704-0621 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.