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A tour of the other side

Most students know St. Petersburg as a beach and concert locale, but what they don’t know about the city could haunt them on their next visit.

Several hotels in the area tell tales of tragic deaths and supernatural occurrences. Full Monty Cafe offers ghost tours of the eerie monuments and recounts the stories.

Tim Reeser, general manager of the St. Petersburg Ghost Tour, said they “have at least one tour a night, and weekends are generally busier.” A trained storyteller guides groups through the city.

Mike Palouian, known as storyteller Count Lur King has been with the company for about a year. He said he always wanted a profession where people would be able to appreciate his talent of storytelling.

“Our stories are based on real interviews that are also in our book, ‘Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg, Florida,'” he said.

Palouian told these stories Monday night:

The Detroit

The Detroit Hotel, the first hotel in St. Petersburg, was built in 1888. General John Williams, an owner of the property, named the hotel after his hometown.

In its history, the Detroit Hotel has had several famous guests, including Babe Ruth and Ringo Starr.

Before the hotel was built, Peter Demens, an immigrant who named St. Petersburg after his hometown in Russia, owned the Orange Railroad that extends from North Central Florida past the site of the Detroit. The hotel was built so that travelers would have a place to spend the night.

Railroad workers claimed that the eyes from a portrait in the attic of the Detroit followed them around a room. Williams’ ghost has been spotted up the road from the hotel.

The Pier Hotel

According to its Web site, the Pier Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in St. Petersburg, passing through many owners through the years. One of the owners is said to have lived and died in room 206.

While on a tour one night, Palouian’s group was approached by a woman who had her own frightening story about the Pier Hotel. She said that while she was staying in room 206 one night, she felt an overwhelming need to clean. She felt it was because of paranormal activity.

The Pier Hotel Web site boasts a more frightening story about a major, name unknown, who used to run the hotel and is sometimes seen wandering the halls.

The Indigo

This restored, 100-year-old hotel is under paranormal investigation. The Heldt family lived in the hotel when it was a children’s hospital, and sometimes a little girl, who is said to be a past patient, is seen sitting in the reception area.

Recently, a hotel guest named Audrey was staying in her room. At night, she set her alarm for 6 a.m., but it woke her at 1 a.m.

Some people told her it could be linked to the 92-year-old woman in a wheelchair who died in room 201, where Audrey was staying. Audrey didn’t believe in paranormal activity, but she told her friend Kelly, who did. Kelly decided to return to the room and have a slumber party, but nothing happened at 1 a.m.

At brunch, the girls went outside to the parking lot to find their car doors, hoods and trunks open, but everything inside was untouched.

Vinoy Hotel

The hotel is also under paranormal investigation.

In the ’20s, Gene Elliot proposed the idea for the hotel to Aymer Vinoy Laughner, an oilman from Pennsylvania, and it was built in 1925.

People claim to have seen a lady in white, Elliot’s wife who supposedly died while arguing with her husband.

USF alumna Lauren Hussey and her boyfriend were among the 14 on the ghost tour last weekend.

“I live in downtown Tampa, and we were looking for scary things to do this week and weekend,” she said. “This was my first ghost tour and I really liked it.”

Students can visit or call (727) 894-4678 to schedule reservations, which are required. The tours begin at 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday – including Halloween night – and can last up to 90 minutes. The cost is $15.