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LEGENDS HAS IT

Kissimmee's Old Town ghosts haunt new tour

Dewayne Bevil on Attractions

Theme Park Ranger

8:50 AM EST, February 13, 2014

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Kissimmee is no Cassadaga — or is it?

Legends: A Haunting at Old Town, the year-round haunted house that opened last fall, has added ghost tours to introduce folks to the spirits surrounding the entertainment complex on U.S. Highway 192. Although Old Town doesn't have the otherworldly rep of Volusia County's Cassadaga, there's enough spookiness around to entertain, says Dan Carro, Legends co-owner.

A medium told Carro that the spirits might not be restricted to one business. They could be roaming up and down the complex, including his establishment, she theorized.

That sounds familiar to Carro, who says multiple workers described eerie experiences at Legends, even when it was under construction.

"It's a very strange place with its own kind of energy," Carro says. "Some of it's good, and some of it's bad, but we really do feel like something's here."

The tour, available Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, starts on Old Town's main drag near Legends' faux graveyard. There is no guarantee of ghost sightings during the 90-minute experience, Carro explains.

"As hard as we've tried, we can't get any ghosts on payroll," he jokes.

Carro leads the group to other Old Town merchants, including a store that creates vintage photographs. Employees there say the owner checks in occasionally — even though he died in 1995. Mysterious stories of hats moving, cardholders flung across the room and disappearing scissors are shared.

The walk continues to a restaurant that has a spirit named Hank, who slides pots and pans across counters, and an ice-cream shop, where a worker says someone who wasn't visible whispered her name into her ear.

The bulk of the tour takes place inside the Legends haunted house. The spooky special effects are turned off during the tour, though lighting remains low. It's not all about scaring the wits out of you. There are bits of history scattered about, including tales from two former Orlando haunts, Terror on Church Street and Skull Kingdom, which had issues with what workers called "the three-fingered ghost."

On the stairway, post-mortem photography is on display, and then the fear of being buried alive is explored.

The eeriest section, for my money, is a narrow backstage hallway where actors lurk to spook guests. It's dark, cramped and secretive, and those factors were enhanced by Carro's retelling of nearby otherworldly action featuring his personal nightmare and a dark fuzzy being that's anti-Christmas, according to the medium.

From this hidden hallway, tour guests can see the spot where a child in distress has been spotted — but never found — over the years, dating back to the previous occupant of the space, Haunted Grimm House, which closed early last year.

"The employees would constantly be telling us that things would happen there or they were afraid to work upstairs," Carro says. "So definitely there's something here. I believe that 100 percent."

The owners acknowledge that some reports aren't especially trustworthy.

"We let you know when we think it's just a story," Carro says. Sometimes haunted attractions have legends that double as initiation rites for new employees, he says.

The tour wraps up in Legends' chapel scene, where guests share stories about what they've seen, either on the tour or before.

"That's one of the things we try to do here — not make it so it's just a guide talking," Carro says.

"We're just telling you this happened to us. This is what we think happened. We don't have an explanation for some things."

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477

Legends: Ghosts of Old Town Haunted History Tour

Where: 5770 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee

When: 9 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday nights

Cost: $20

Phone: 407-883-0859 for reservations

Online: legendsoldtown.com