Who Ya Gonna Call?

The Deering Estate Ghost Tour may Turn you Into a Believer

By Lizzie Wilcox

December 2018

Few people today realize that Christmas once held a tradition of sharing spooky stories. Perhaps it had to do with the dark days of winter, and ancient tales of goblins climbing down chimneys. That has all changed – though it’s still remembered in Charles Dickens’ 19th century tale “A Christmas Carol,” which had more ghosts than gifts. 

If you’d like to get your spook on this holiday, there’s no better place than Deering Estate on the south tip of town. The compound housed the family of Charles Deering, who died there in 1927. But the property is still home to certain members of the family – their spirits, that is.  

Deering Estate offers weekly ghost tours led by Paranormal Research and Investigative Studies (PRISM) founder David Pierce Rodriguez. Now an international organization with 16 teams in places as far off as Australia, Rodriquez founded the ghost hunting group in 2004, having been obsessed with ghosts since his childhood in Ohio. There, he began communicating with spirits in the house his grandfather built in the 1920s. His form of communicating? He would knock on doors or walls and dead residents would knock back.  

Now a Gables resident and graphic designer, Rodriguez became the estate’s official ghost guide three years ago. He’s turned an upstairs room in Richmond Cottage – one of the houses on the 444-acre property – into a lab of sorts, littered with machines that can pick up paranormal activity. If you’re brave enough to join him on a ghost excursion, you’ll be given a handheld device that picks up electromagnetic frequencies. If it lights up, a ghost is present. Rodriguez is equipped with his own devices to both see and hear the “residents.” 

“I like voices and I like evidence,” he says of the tour that starts in the main ballroom of the estate but quickly descends into the cold, dark wine cellar, haunted presumably by the spirits of two people who used to work for Mr. Deering. Other rooms in the tour include Mr. and Mrs. Deering’s bedrooms. Back then husband and wife slept in different rooms. Regardless, they’re both haunted. 

The equipment is what made ghost tourist Erin Regan believe in spirits. “I thought they would tell me ghost stories about weird stuff that happened in [the estate]. I didn’t think about the technology part of it,” says Regan, who admitted to being completely skeptical” prior to the tour. Afterwards she wasn’t so sure, especially after one of the devices picked up a “presence” in a child’s rocking chair in the playroom of Richmond Cottage.  

That could have been a boy named Peter, one of the “friends” that Rodriguez has formed a relationship with during his investigation of the property. “It’s kind of like being a cat person; the cats know,” he explains. “But if you don’t like cats, they’ll stay away from you. Ghosts are kind of the same.” 

The houses on the property aren’t the only spots where hauntings have occurred. People have claimed to see a ball of light or the apparition of a woman in a white dress down by the waterfront.  

Do you see dead people? Maybe in your Gables home or office? If so, Rodriguez wants to hear from you at www.DoYouSeeDeadPeople.org. Or call 305.235.16678 to reserve your 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. tour for $30 a person.  

Apparition of a woman in a white dress, commonly seen at the boardwalk