By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA – When Andrea Spring, chef/owner of the Sign of the Mermaid restaurant came to work one day recently, she found something unusual in the door – a business card from Rob Fennessy, of the Gulf Coast Paranormal Society.
"A customer told them about our ghosts and unusual happenings and he came by and left his card," Spring explained. "I called him and he came out and did a preliminary investigation and will return in December to do a full investigation. I’m so excited."
The Mermaid’s ghosts include a bearded man wearing a uniform, a mother, a young boy and a cat. Spring said she has also felt what she thinks is the presence of a woman who died in the house in the 1930s.
"I think she’s the one who inhabits these two rooms (the kitchen and entry)," Spring said. "One time I felt a presence and I felt deafened. There was pressure around me, and the hair on my neck stood up.
"Then I heard someone banging on the back door and there was a man from Waste Management there. He said he’d been knocking for 10 minutes and I didn’t hear a thing."
Customers have felt the presence of the spirits, especially at Table 4, called the haunted table by servers, and have reported feeling a cat rub against their legs. Servers have reported seeing a man and a cat.
Rob Fennessy, of the Gulf Coast Paranormal Society, said he was investigating paranormal activity in a house in Anna Maria when the owner told him about the activity at the restaurant. He left his card in the door and Spring called him.
"During the pre-investigation I walked around to get the feel of the place," Fennessy explained. "I took photos and got an idea of what the team will do in December. The restaurant is a wonderful place with perfect character."
He said when he returns in December, he’ll bring a team of investigators who will set up a command post and equipment inside the restaurant. Equipment includes infrared video cameras (IR), DVD camcorders, thermal imagers and electromagnetic field (EMF) detection meters.
"We’ll walk around and try to explain any disturbances in the EMF," he said. "If something starts to manifest itself, the IR allows us to catch it on camera.
"In order to back up any story, you need multiple pieces of evidence to prove something is happening. We’ll either debunk of confirm that activity is taking place."
He said after the investigation is complete, he will return to go over the evidence that was collected and explain the results to Spring. He also will share the information with The Sun.
Fennessy said he has been interested in the paranormal for many years, and in December 2006 had the Gulf Coast Paranormal Society registered with the state. He has a team of 15 certified investigators. They do not charge for their work, but accept donations.
"We do high profile places and residential homes," he said. ‘We have found all kinds of things, some of which are confidential because the people don’t want their neighbors to know.
"One of our best was an apparition of a woman in Victorian dress at the Powel Crosley Mansion. We’ve also done the Gamble Plantation for the state of Florida, Robards Arena for Sarasota County and the Golden Apple Dinner Theater and the Gator Club in Sarasota."
Fennessy said he knows of other locations on the Island where activity has been reported and hopes to hear from their owners. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 722-2233. His Web site is www.gulfcoastparanormal.net.