“Eighty percent of what you will hear tonight are facts,” began Mike Yost, the jovial “Ghost Host” of the Fort Myers Beach Haunted Pub Crawl! “Ten percent are well-known island stories I cannot prove,” he continued to our group of nine, from places like Chicago, Kentucky, Michigan and Fort Myers on a drizzly Monday evening. “The final 10 percent is BS! I leave it up to you to figure out which is which!”
We began our mystical journey at the Shamrock Irish Pub. Most of the group – Ben, Michelle, Steve, Michelle, Jim & Sue – are one family visiting for the Holidays. Jay, a Fort Myers native who is a prominent Southwest Florida restauranteur, brought Nicole to start the celebration of her birthday the next day! Mike cheerfully greeted us, bedecked in a red-and-black stripped shirt that featured a skull with top hat, while wearing a straw top hat on his head that had a snowflake motif with greenery and working Christmas lights! “On the Haunted Pub Crawl, I talk a little bit about myself, but mostly about the history of the beach, each place we visit, and ghostly tales, as well as doing a magic trick at each location.”
Packers Score & Old Pete!
Mike explained that a near death experience in his own life led to his belief in the spirit world, including an apparition of his Father. “Since then, I have seen my share of weird things, including here on the beach.”
As for the Shamrock Irish Pub, “I like to begin here,” Mike related, “because it is one of the oldest buildings on Fort Myers Beach. This island does not have many old structures due to hurricanes and redevelopment. This property dates back to the 1920s, with the original owner directly responsible for our island being a tourist destination! He gave away part of the land to another man, with the stipulation he build a house and bring his family, but the second gentleman insisted on a bridge, to make travel to the mainland easier, so in 1921 came the lift bridge and the start of our area’s tourism.”
The new owners of the Shamrock are big Green Bay Packer fans, as was a former bartender, Robin, who recently passed away. “I was here during a Green Bay game,” recollected Mike, “when someone yelled out, ‘Packers Stink!’ Suddenly all the lights in the bar went out! Another time, when the Packers scored, without anyone touching it, the brand new cash register drawer swung open. The next time the Packers scored, it swung open again and we all knew it was Robin!” Mike then performed his first magic trick, eliciting a loud “WOW” and long “OHHHH!”
At Pete’s Time Out, Mike pointed across the pedestrian mall to the Dairy Queen roof, where an old rusted satellite dish seems to bear the shape of a human face. Mike then showed us a photograph over the bar of ‘Old Pete,’ the father of the current owner and namesake of the restaurant, and they look identical! “John, the owner today, tells me when his Dad was alive, he would go across the way and keep an eye on everyone, to ensure they were all working hard, and with his face up there now, he still does. Pete would walk back-&-forth across the bar, and on a previous tour, when I told this story, someone videoed me and caught something surreal that they later sent me.” With that, Mike shows us the footage and, sure enough, a mysterious black presence moves right across the path of the bar!
Haunted Pub Crawls
Mike began the Haunted Pub Crawls last summer, hosting them Monday through Saturday. Each lasts 3 to 4 hours, starting at 6:15 p.m. “I cap them at 20 people,” he explained, “because anything bigger than that, unless it is for a corporate event, loses the intimacy of a small group. I initiated them because I have been on many a Pub Crawl, so no one knows more about them than me!”
He brings a unique set of talents to the Haunted Pub Crawl: “I am a lifetime member of the ‘Estero Island Historical Society,’ so that is where I obtain most of the Fort Myers Beach lore, not only in researching their historic files but in many conversations with longtime Estero Island residents. On top of that, I am a professional magician with over 30 years of experience, so that is a talent you do not find on any other type of Pub Crawl. I am hesitant to say there is not another Pub Crawl anywhere that combines ghost tales, history and magic in a beach setting, but if there is, I have yet to hear of it.”
We visited six locations throughout the Crawl: The Shamrock Irish Pub, Pete’s Time Out, SOB’s, Nervous Nellie’s and The Lighthouse Tiki Bar, concluding at The Whale, so park accordingly. You walk roughly two miles during the “Haunted Pub Crawl” but since you spend 20 to 30 minutes at each location, it is an easy pace. You are responsible for the purchase of your own drinks and food, with extra time devoted to Pete’s Time Out that offers a 15% food discount to Haunted Pub Crawl revelers. Since most folks tend to have an adult beverage at each destination, the group may begin the evening as strangers, but after several rounds of “Conversation Lubrication,” you become fast friends!
“I Still Enjoy That!”
Mike is the perfect Crawl Ghost Host! His affable personality sets a fun tone, and he mixes the right amount of stories, conversation and magic, while knowing when to step back to allow his guests to talk amongst themselves to make new buddies. His magic tricks are truly extraordinary, with everyone gasping and shouting “WHOA” at each one. Perhaps his greatest feat of the night is, after walking a good distance on a muggy evening, he turns over his top hat to produce a round of ice-cold Jell-O Shots for us all to share – truly amazing!
Since their beginning in July, Mike said he is happy with their success. He recommends making reservations with him directly by calling 239-440-2805. Reservations can also be made online at www.fmbhauntedpubcrawl.com or through Trip Advisor. Online prices for the Haunted Pub Crawl begin at $25/person or $40/couple. He can offer group or individual discounts if reservations are made with him directly. “I ask everyone to arrive 15 minutes early, to fill out a little paperwork, and please do not show up intoxicated, as we visit enough bars and restaurants along the route. I encourage people to register at least 48 hours before the date they hope to attend, and even earlier now that we are getting into tourist season, though if we have openings, you can call that day up to 2 p.m.” Those hoping to get a Haunted Pub Crawl in during January should call soon as several dates are already full.
As for what Mike most enjoys about the Haunted Pub Crawls, “it is when people tell me they actually feel and experience chills, and that happens at least several times each week! No matter how often I hear it, I still enjoy that!”