POLK CITY – Fantasy of Flight, the aviation-themed attraction in Polk County that showcases vintage aircraft from the world’s largest private collection, is a place where guests can get plenty of details about the mechanics of an aircraft or the physics of flight.
These are technical, fairly concrete, easy-to-prove concepts, said Jennifer Montague, the director of events, sales and marketing at this tourist attraction in Polk City.
Harder to quantify, she added, are the rather bizarre experiences that some pilots have reported while they’ve been up in the air, soaring the dark night skies. More than a few pilots throughout history, she noted, have described sensing the presence of someone else in the aircraft with them – even though they started out flying all alone.
“Was that a hallucination — or a real presence to them?” she asked. “You be the judge.”
Just in time for the Halloween season, the aviation attraction that celebrates rare, vintage planes is inviting visitors to stop by this month and see if they can employ their own sixth sense as they explore the unexplained, unidentified and, in some cases, decidely unexpected aspects of the aviation mysteries recorded there.
Fantasy of Flight is now hosting a Haunted Hangar Walking Tour, and a second Halloween-themed event: nightFlight: Phase Three of the Paranormal Investigation, a late night experience that Montague said allows guests to celebrate Halloween in a rather unique way — with a team of ghost hunters in a place that’s been ranked as something of a hit spot for spirits from beyond the grave.
“The Haunted Hanger Walking Tour is a daily offering for our guests,” Montague said. “It’s through the attraction and the entertainers focus on some of the rare occurrences that happened in the aircrafts.”
The “ghoulie”-guided, half-hour Haunted Hangar Walking Tour is accessible to guests of all ages, and aims to engage them with little known-aviation tales that have a rather spooky twist. It also encourages them to take a crack at figuring out some unsolved mysteries, including the famous Lost Squadron, which disappeared on Dec. 5, 1945, during a training flight from the Naval Airbase in Fort Lauderdale. Their disappearance helped build the myth of the Bermuda Triangle — an area bounded by Bermuda, Miami, and Puerto Rico — where ships and planes seem to have mysteriously vanished over the years.
The Haunted Hangar Walking Tour is being offered daily now through Oct. 31 and is included free with the price of Fantasy of Flight’s general admission.
nightFlight was first introduced at Fantasy of Flight in 2010 – to sold-out audiences, Montague noted. It offers limited-attendance nighttime tours that are guided by Florida’s Apollo Paranormal Investigations, a non-profit team of paranormal investigators — also known as “ghost hunters.” Montague said these ghost hunters have rated Fantasy of Flight an “11″ on a paranormal activity scale of 1 to 10.
“We’re haunted all the time,” Montague said.
During this four-hour experience, visitors learn about the aircraft collection’s haunted history and explore the unexplained occurrences that have happened throughout the halls and hangars of Fantasy of Flight. They also visit locations where eerie, unexplained encounters have been recorded, and engage in the hands-on use of the tools of the ghost hunting trade.
“We have had a lot of experiences here at Fantasy of Flight with the paranormal,” Montague said. “You just sort of walk through here, and you experience it.”
In fact, it isn’t just the pilots who have reported creepy phenomenons, she said. Their patrons curiously have their own strange tales to tell.
“Our guests have experiences as well with ghosts,” she said.
The ghost hunter investigations being conducted this month will examine data collected by nightFlight participants during the initial programs in early 2011, and inspect unexplored areas and aspects of Fantasy of Flight’s operations, That includes an investigation into the mysterious female spirit known simply as ”M,” and often spotted in the Officers’ Club.
nightFlight: Phase Three runs now through Saturday, Oct. 29, with tours from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Cost for the tour is $75 per guest. Participants are encouraged to bring along a camera, voice recorder, video recorder and extra batteries.
They’re also encouraged to wear “quiet” clothing — that doesn’t have strings or glows in the dark.
“From the fearless to the faint of heart, there’s something new and mysterious awaiting all of our guests at Fantasy of Flight this Halloween season,” said Kim Long, the attraction’s general manager.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.nightflightexperience.com or call 863-984-3500.
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