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Deering Estate Ghost Tour


The beautiful Stone House at the Deering Estate, by day.  The property may hold some ghostly secrets.

But whether or not you believe in ghosts, the Deering Estate is undeniably an enchanted place. The drive down historic Old Cutler Road sets the mood:  limestone walls, abundant tropical foliage and lush canopies of trees draped in Spanish moss make the passage from metropolitan Miami to the estate seem almost like a tropical twilight zone.  Time slows down in this journey south, revealing a rich past.


The boat basin, as seen from the main room of the Stone House.  The author took this photo on a day trip to the Deering Estate.  Note the fuzzy orb on the right top corner and the big white spot by the bay.

To the naked eye, the Deering Estate is a 444-acre property of serene, natural beauty.  Ample lawns, shady paths, rows of royal palm trees and a breathtaking view of the bay surround the Richmond Cottage and the Stone House. The former was the home of Charles Deering, a wealthy businessman and prodigious art collector who lived here regularly from 1916 until his death in 1927. The latter was the first hotel located between Coconut Grove and Key West in the late 19th to early 20th century, remodeled later by Deering to serve as a kitchen and servant quarters.

(An interest in fancy homes ran in the prosperous Deering family; Charles’ brother James built the palatial Vizcaya further north along Miami’s coastline.)

Though Deering has been dead for over 80 years, there’s nothing particularly old-fashioned about his family; they were relative newcomers in a long history dating back long before Ponce de Leon ever set foot in Florida. The estate is also an archeological preserve, offering evidence of human habitation as far back as 10,000 years and even fossils dating back 50,000 years.

It’s this ancient history, as well as the ghostly presence of more recent dwellers like the Deerings, that captured our imaginations the night of the ghost tour on October 28.

About 100 people gathered in the grand salon of the Stone House, where we received a brief orientation by estate staff and members of the League of Paranormal Investigators. This non-profit, volunteer group is dedicated to all things other worldly in South Florida.

During the orientation, we learned about previous investigations through a video loop.  Afterward, we split up in several groups that toured the estate separately.  All of us received a pen and notebook – apparently the best tool for recording impressions of the paranormal.  But many brought cameras and voice recorders, ready to catch a glimpse of that which cannot be seen or heard with our limited senses.


The League of Paranormal Investigators, who took this photo during one of their initial investigations of the estate, claims this is a ghost in Victorian dress, perhaps a woman helping a drowning victim.  Photo courtesy of LPI.

My group started the tour in the kitchen at Richmond Cottage.  Save for light coming in through the windows, and the occasional glow from my iPhone, I was in complete darkness as I sat cross-legged on the wooden floor planks.

Our first investigative task was to “speak” to spirits using pendulums made from necklaces that hung heavy with crystal pendants.

(Try this at home. It isn’t bogus:  hold a necklace steadily in one hand and run the index finger and thumb of the other hand down the chain until it becomes perfectly still. Then, notice how the pendant starts to sway side to side or in circular fashion.  The bottom-heavy pendant does in fact react to the invisible energy emanating from your hand.)

Our target ghost was Daniel, Deering’s grandchild.  The tour guide asked him questions.  If the pendulum swayed one way, the answer was “yes” and if it swung in the opposite direction, the answer was “no.”  Of course, the “yes” and “no” were relative to each person’s pendulum, so there really wasn’t any logic to it.

Little Daniel was said to be a happy but mischievous child who rode serving trays down a staircase into the kitchen.  Did I get to have a conversation with Daniel? Not that I could tell.  But I loved the idea of a little Casper running about the kitchen and could hear a child’s joyful giggles in my mind.

The staircase, our tour guide warned us, was another matter.  The energy there would be more negative than in the kitchen.

When we walked up the cramped staircase, some tour members experienced chills.  It’s this type of visceral experience that our tour guide suggested we become more aware of as we entered one room upstairs where a servant girl had apparently take her own life.

Mind you, I did notice a change in temperature, but that probably had to do more with the fact that the air conditioning was running stronger in the kitchen than in the tight stairwell.  One woman complained of chest tightness and shortness of breath, but maybe she was just really out of shape.


The mangrove trail turns into a spooky forest at night.

By far the creepiest part of our tour was the walk past the boat basin into the mangrove trail, which, by day, is far from menacing.  At night, however, the creaking of mangrove tree branches and the sinewy shadows of trees made even the most serious of skeptics look over their shoulders.

The trail, which is a sturdy wooden boardwalk above the tidal waters of the mangrove, is home to Cutler Creek, an important water route during the pioneer days.  Our tour guide told us that the area had also been a military trail where soldiers trudged between Fort Zachary Taylor in the Keys and Fort Dallas by the Miami River. Quite an epic journey, if you think about it, obviously not all of it done by foot.

After a while, our group settled in a section of the boardwalk with benches.  The guide pulled out a voice recorder, asked us to hush and then tried to summon the spirits with some questions.

The would-be presence of toughened, dead soldiers didn’t scare me, but the bugs that eventually started nipping at my neck were definitely annoying.  No word on whether the sound of marching was a message from the spiritual realm or our own feet stomping on the wooden boardwalk.

Our two-hour experience ended at the Stone House, where we toured all of the rooms.  When I entered Deering’s office, I smelled cigar smoke, at which point I was told that yes, the man had indeed smoked in his lifetime.  Nonetheless, the long-dead philanthropist raised no hairs on the back of my neck, though I surely would’ve loved to share a glass of fine wine with him.  He collected amazing art works during his lifetime.  Imagine that conversation!


Maybe the ghost of Charles Deering needs to settle some accounts?  Photo of the desk in his office.  Deering died in an adjacent bedroom in 1927.

Although he was a worldly, well-traveled and cultured man, Deering was a bit paranoid, having survived two fires in Chicago.  It’s not called the Stone House for nothing – quarried Florida limestone is more fireproof than wood.  And all the doors there are made of solid copper.

By far, the best door is in the basement.  It’s several inches thick, leading to a vault that served well during Prohibition.  Empty vintage bottles line every inch of this claustrophobic room, but it’s the door that intrigues.  It’s almost impossible to open it without summoning brute strength, yet our tour guide claimed that some unknown hand had slammed it quickly behind her when she had been alone down in the basement.


A ghost seems to have had a good handle on this extremely heavy door, which is very difficult for humans to open.

By now you’ve probably guessed that I’m not a believer in ghosts, but that’s not exactly true.  Our tour guide was keen on mentioning that the water flow through the limestone of the Atlantic coastal ridge, on which the property is situated, made this an easy place for energy to gather and move.  While that may sound far-fetched to some, there really is something special here that I can’t quite put my finger on – something that speaks beyond the mundane.

I once visited the estate during the day, and sat quietly on one of the rocking chairs facing the bay for almost an hour. I didn’t see any ghosts, but I let my imagination roam and could sense the amazing history of this place.  Mammoths, Tequesta Indians, rogue outlaws, sailors, drunk soldiers, ladies in petticoats, socialites with bobbed hair playing croquet on the lawn and the sound of 1920’s jazz – all came before my mind’s eye.

It doesn’t matter if the house is really haunted or not. Believers, debunkers and everyone else in between should love this ghost hunting adventure equally.


According to the League of Paranormal Investigators, the case file on the Deering Estate is still wide open. Try your own ghost hunting during the next tour, which takes place on November 19.  Additional ghost tours will kick off in January and are scheduled for the spring. Call 305-235-1668 for details and reservations. 

But don’t stop there.  The Deering Estate is certainly a Florida heritage site worth exploring.  There’s plenty to do at the Deering Estate year-round, day or night.  Activities range from regularly scheduled daytime property tours, to canoe trips, nature trail hikes, art workshops, ballroom dance classes, evening concerts, science programs for kids and more.  The location is perfect for a romantic daytime picnic during the cooler months.

Check the Deering Estate website for more information on admission fees and programs,

Deering Estate at Cutler
16701 SW 72 Avenue
Miami, FL 33157


The League of Paranormal Investigators is Miami-based and available to help with ghost hauntings, poltergeist activities, alien abductions and more.  The group has a special interest in historic and residential locations.  Visit them at

Related Categories: Miami: Things to Do,

About the Author: Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith who loves to write about all things travel in Florida and the Caribbean. She is also the author of the award-winning blog Sex and the Beach.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles

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