110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Oct 14, 2013 - 3:52:59pm
Mist curls around the headstones as the daylight fades. Spirits take shape and address the hardy souls who wander among the graves.
That's the setting for the ghosts of DeLand past. They have stories to tell, and they are eager for an audience. Be part of that audience 7-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18-19, during the West Volusia Historical Society's 15th annual Cemetery Walk.
Tours will begin at 7 p.m. and leave the Historical Society's Conrad Center at 137 W. Michigan Ave. every 20 minutes, Historical Society member and Cemetery Walk coordinator Billy de Silva said. Visitors will be met at the Conrad Center by a tour guide, given a program, and will be taken to Oakdale Cemetery by bus.
They will be guided to 10 stops in the cemetery, meeting a ghost at each stop who will tell the visitors about his or her time in DeLand past. This year, five male and five female spirits will be encountered.
"They're all interesting characters in society," Silva said.
The spirits include Arthur Jones and E.E. Ropes.
Jones, who developed the Nautilus and MedX exercise systems, changed how the nation exercises. He produced a line of Nautilus equipment, designed to trigger maximal muscular growth, in Lake Helen in 1968. He also owned a 14-foot alligator named One-Eyed Jack that lived in the Nautilus building, and "had a lot of animals," de Silva said. Jones later moved his operation to Ocala, where he died in 2007. He's buried at Oakdale Cemetery.
Ropes was a Union Army veteran of the Civil War who moved to the area from Massachusetts, and served as postmaster of Volusia from 1868 to 1870.
"He was a very eccentric person, and very well known. He had a lot of money, but he went around barefooted," de Silva said.
On the Cemetery Tour, visitors will learn about 10 interesting lives that helped shape the community.
Other characters to meet during the stroll are Rowena Dean, Virginia Kurtz Kremer, Erskine Landis, Frances Mercer, E.O. Painter, Alice Van Cleef and Cyrenius Wright. Who else might appear? Take the tour and find out.
"It's a wonderful way to learn about DeLand's history," de Silva said.
While the tour will not be overly scary, de Silva doesn't recommend it for children, who might not find it interesting.
A bus will return tour-takers to the Historical Society after the walk.
The cost is $10 per person, and tickets are on sale now. De Silva recommends reservations, which can be made by calling the West Volusia Historical Society at 386-740-6813. Payment can be made by phone or at the door.
Proceeds benefit the Historical Society.
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