It’s almost fall in Florida! Leaves will soon amaze us with their brilliant hues of … green. Pumpkins will begin to appear on doorsteps, though they’ll rot well before Hallowe’en arrives. Cool breezes will soon be in the air.
True, Florida fall can be disappointing. But whatever the Sunshine State lacks in autumnal graces, we more than make up for in a wealth of spooky stories and talented tale-spinners. And one person who knows them all is Nancy Alloy, owner of Books at Park Place (located at Pasadena Shopping Center). The Local Authors shelf in her store brims with books on all that is fearsome, foreboding, or just plain freaky in Florida.
With more than 40 years in the book biz, Alloy says her favorite part of owning a bookstore is her customers.
“I love matching people with books,” she grins. With her expert help, The Gabber assembled a cavalcade of Spooky Florida reads to enjoy with your pumpkin spice latte (or pumpkin beer) – if not with a change in the weather.
“Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Pinellas County” by Deborah Frethem (Haunted America, 2007). Local raconteuse Deborah Frethem is the undisputed master of Tampa Bay ghost stories, with two other books covering haunted Tampa and Ybor City. Her storytelling voice has been honed by years of leading local ghost tours. “Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg” is packed with spine-tingling lore about local landmarks and personalities including The Peninsula, Morris the Casino Cat, The Gulfport Trolley, and the dearly departed Cote de Basque Winehouse. It’s a must read for any Gulfportian (and also the basis for the Gulfport Historical Society’s haunted history tours)!
“The Ghostly Tales of Tampa” by Stacia Deustch (Arcadia Children’s Books, 2022). This just-published volume adapts Frethem’s classic Tampa tales for a middle grade reading level – part of a larger series that features paranormal parables from locales across the United States. Scary, but not too scary, it’s a great read for the junior ghost hunters in your life.
Haunted Haven mysteries by Carol Perry (Kensington Cozies) . This cozy mystery series by Carol Perry takes place in a quaint beachside town that is eerily (in more than one sense) like Gulfport. In “Be My Ghost” (2021) we meet Maureen Doherty, who struggles to revive the aging Haven House Inn full of old-fashioned charm – and meddling ghosts. In “High Spirits” (November 2022), the action moves to the Paramount Theater, where spirits sabotage her plans to hold a “Twelve Days of Christmas” spectacular. A native of Salem, Massachusetts, Perry has experienced more than her share of hauntings, and this shows in her ghosts. Charming, brooding, or quirky, they are vivid personalities that may just turn you into a believer.
Eerie Florida: Chilling Tales from the Panhandle to the Keys by Mark Muncy and Kari Schultz (The History Press, 2017) . Don’t let the sunshine fool you, folks: Florida is as full of dark corners and unsolved mysteries as any state – and Mark Muncy and Kari Schultz have been to them all! Their trilogy, which also includes “Freaky Florida” (2018) and “Creepy Florida” (2019) is a veritable travel guide to all places paranormal in Florida. Even if you can’t visit in person, their funny and fresh take on these sites, enriched by plentiful photographs, will make you feel like you’ve already taken the tour.
Freaky Florida mysteries by Margaret Lashley (Zazzy Ideas, Inc.). St. Pete author Margaret Lashley likes protagonists who are “snarky underdogs,” but this Florida-based series, featuring paranormal explorer Bobbie Drex, features some far weirder critters. Opening title “Moth Busters” features close encounters with the infamous Mothman, and Bobbie goes on to wrangle with the Skunk Ape, aliens, and lineup of human characters drawn from the legendary chronicles of Florida Man. Lashley’s tongue-in-cheek titles (“Ape Shift,” “Weevil Spirits,” and others) reflect her raucous sense of humor and love of all the bizarre Florida things lurking just off the beaten path.
There’s so much more to check out: Alloy also recommends “Beast” (Square Fish, 2021) by Watt Key, a young adult thriller about a teen’s search for his missing parents in a Florida swamp; “Brimstone” (Ace, 2017) by Cherie Priest, in which a clairvoyant from the legendary Cassadaga spiritualist community descends into the nightmares of a WWI veteran; and, if you are interested in trying your own paranormal investigation, “Ghosthunting” Florida (Clerisy Press, 2010) by Dave Lapham.
There you have it, ghouls and boys! Read on – if you dare!