Is Panama City going to be haunted? Tony Simmons previews of walking ghost tour

PANAMA CITY — If there’s one thing I appreciate, it’s honesty in my ghost-hunting stories.

My wife and I recently visited Savannah, Georgia, which is touted as one of the “most haunted places” in the US – mostly by companies and individuals who provide city tours. And there is some truth hidden beneath the surface, as many of the plazas started out as cemeteries for some oppressed population. Large areas of the city were simply built over these cemeteries rather than moving the dead.

And everywhere you go there are ghost stories. A store we stopped at credited “our mind” for trying to slam the front door. I’m sure the wind had nothing to do with it. And a close relative of mine likes to tell a story about seeing a woman in a bright blue pantsuit walk into a store in front of her, only to disappear as soon as she walks in; a sales associate told her she had seen their ghost.

(Cue the organ crescendo.)

But during the ghost tour we went on in Monterey Square, some of the stories were so detailed, gory, and outrageous that I was tempted to look them up later – only to find that there was not a shred of truth in them. Perhaps the worst offender was the trio of stories told while standing on public land and instructed to investigate a private residence across the street. Three different ghost tours eventually shared that public square to talk about the same house, even as a hearse converted for public transport drove by, with the driver telling the stories to the passengers with blurry eyes.

I’m sure there are plenty of less grisly ghostly legends out there that can be shared, some of which even contain a grain of truth. (To be fair, one of the houses on the tour was the Mercer House, which was featured in the “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” book and movie. Its history is quite well documented.)

All of this is a prelude to the idea that the stories of haunted events that will be shared on the Downtown Panama City Haunted Walking Tour have been thoroughly vetted. The stories are based on true events or long-told tales of local homesickness, and it will take lucky cardholders to a number of downtown landmarks to learn about murders and mayhem and things that bump into at night.

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