You might find her a little creepy or kooky, maybe a bit mysterious or spooky, but one title it’s hard to deny Liz Reed is the queen of the local paranormal.
With her leadership of the Paranormal Society of Bradenton, a group which she founded with her husband, Ron, in 2013, a new book and a burgeoning ghost tour business, Reed is closer than ever to realizing her dream of studying the paranormal on a full-time basis.
“I love doing what I do,” she said. “I wish I could do it full time.”
In her new book, “Haunted Manatee County,” Reed explores the ghosts and history of what was historically Manatee County, including De Soto, Glades and Hardee counties. She said the book took about three years to research, including the research she did for The Original Downtown Bradenton Ghost Tour and it’s Bradenton Beach counterpart, and two years to write.
The hardest part, she said, was finding period-specific photographs of the places she and her team encountered paranormal activity for inclusion in the book. She said writing it and using many of her own photographs in the book helped realize two of her lifelong goals – to be a professional author and photographer.
Rather than reaching out herself, Reed said she was contacted by publishers Arcadia Publishing and The History Press to write the book based on her popular ghost tours. Soon she’ll have a second book published on the haunted history of Sarasota County.
In her Manatee County book, Reed uncovers the stories of the ghost of famous mobster Al Capone, who occasionally rides the elevators at the Hampton Inn, the history of the Cortez Village and the fishermen who lost their lives at sea, the ghosts of a woman and girl who play hostess at The Sign of the Mermaid and the shades seen frolicking on Bridge Street.
One of her most active Anna Maria Island ghosts, she says, is the spirit of George Bean Sr. whom she said likes to flirt with some of the ladies on the ghost tour, going so far as to mischievously take one lady’s glove, which was never recovered. Reed said Bean likes to follow along with the ghost tours, and she believes he roams the Island to keep a watchful eye on things.
On the downtown ghost tour, she said her favorite areas to explore are the Hampton Inn and the old location of the Manatee Players theater, now a construction site for a new hotel. She said that site is very active due partially to the Native American burial grounds that were used as fill in the area.
When the new hotel opens, Reed said she hopes to be one of the first to check in.
The information for Reed’s book and ghost tours comes from various sources including the spirits themselves. Her paranormal investigation team has several ways of communicating with the ghosts. While some members of her team are especially sensitive to the spirits and can see and communicate with them just like they’re talking with the living, others rely on the electronic equipment they bring with them on paranormal investigations including video cameras, digital voice recorders, voice boxes, K-2 meters and other devices.
Sometimes, she said they find nothing on these investigations. Other times they may think they haven’t found anything but get home and hear voices on recordings and see orbs of light and fully developed spirits walking past their cameras as they record. When they record evidence of spirits, Reed often posts the recordings on the group’s social media or website for the public to see for themselves.
When told a legend of a haunted place, encountering a new spirit or preparing for an investigation, Reed says she attempts to verify stories through historical documents. When the investigators know they’re going to a new place, Reed studies the history of the building to help better prepare for what might be found there.
Her fascination with the spirit world is born of her own experiences and attempting to find an answer to the age-old question of what happens when we die.
“We’re all made of energy so where does that energy go after we die?” she asked.
Reed said she believes that some of that energy stays here, some of it crosses over to whatever lies beyond this life and she’s fascinated by all of it.
“There’s no explanation for what we have found,” she said of the paranormal investigations, adding that she loves being able to explore the history of the area and verify stories from the past. For the naysayers, she offers guests on her ghost tours the opportunity to use some of the equipment that her paranormal group uses on investigations to allow them to experience the spirit activity for themselves.
“They just want to be known, that they’re still here,” she said of the ghosts she encounters.
As for the book, she said it was an interesting project and she hopes that readers will enjoy it.
“I want five ghosts, not five stars,” she said.
“Haunted Manatee County” is available through local retailers, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.