Spooky Florida

 

Florida has always had its fair share of strange and unusual history. In honor of Halloween, “Learning from Miami” invites you to come and explore some of the dark and macabre places and people of Florida. Our scary tour includes a visit to a warlock’s house, a town where spiritual mediums live, and some retro trick-or-treaters.

 

 

The Warlock Vandercar

Lewis Vandercar’s spooky home was located in Miami’s Morningside neighborhood on NW 18th Street where he lived with his wife and two children. Vandercar had an open door policy where anyone could drop in for a visit. His garden was filled with eerie cement busts of monsters and other menacing creatures.

Vandercar was a cement sculptor who claimed to be an ancient warlock. He called himself “Magus Supreme, of the Supreme Order of Magi” and claimed to have mysterious powers – specifically ESP and the power to levitate. He hinted about incarnations and said an alien entered his body as a young man.

Vandercar made his living as a paid artist and sculpted faux landscapes for various resorts and amusement parks. One of his more notable works was a “Gorilla’s lair” built for Monkey Jungle in South Miami-Dade county’s Redlands. In 1971 he built “Annie,” a giant dragon, 65 feet long and 35 feet high for Merritt Island Park in Melbourne, Florida. Sadly, the 100-foot concrete Anne collapsed during an August 2002 storm.

Vandercar left Miami in 1973 and bought a 14 acre parcel of land in Zephyrhills in central Florida where he built a dome house of his own design and continued to sculpt and paint. In 1984, he returned to Miami for a short while to repaint a reconstructed limestone bridge at Arch Creek Park. He painted the concrete and iron used to rebuild the bridge so it would look like limestone. He continued to paint until he returned to the underworld in 1988. Now known as “The Warlock House,” Vandercar’s former home and studio in Zephyrhills still operates today as an event venue.

 

Cassadaga

Cassadaga, located less than an hour north of Orlando off of Interstate 4, was founded in 1875 by George P. Colby, a famous trance medium from Pike, New York. During a séance in Lake Mills, Iowa, he spoke to Seneca, the spirit of a Native American, whom he referred to as one of his spirit guides.  Seneca told Colby he was destined to found a spiritualist community in the South, a prophecy that came true when Seneca led him into the Florida wilderness to a spring, where Colby founded the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association. Colby named Cassadaga after an established spiritualist town in New York.

When Colby arrived at the spring in 1875, he was suffering from tuberculosis and claimed the spring’s water healed him. This was just the beginning of the camp’s history of strange occurrences. When Colby died, the spring started to dry up, which many saw as a bad omen.

Today, there are about 55 homes on the 57-acre camp. About half of those belong to various mediums who offer consultations in their homes. The camp was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, and a surge in popularity for the New Age movement has kept the camp alive. Today, Cassadaga still remains a tourist attraction, where anyone can have a healing or consultation with a medium, take a historic tour, join a drum circle, learn how to meditate, or just tour the energy hot spots around the camp.

Trick and Treats from 1962

Last but not least, enjoy this macabre montage of Halloween hijinks in Miami from 1962.

 

-Ursa Gil

Sources:

Schudel, M. (2018, October 7). THE WIZARD OF ZEPHYRHILLS IS HE REALLY A PRINCE OF THE ROYAL ORDER OF WARLOCKS AND WITCHES? OR JUST A CLEVER MAGICIAN WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR? Retrieved from https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1987-12-13-8702110211-story.html.

Balogh, C. (2013, January 29). Inside Cassadaga, the Psychic Capital of the World. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/nn4g87/inside-cassadaga.

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