February 2004 - Orange County History Center - Orlando, Florida



Orlando's old Courthouse, currently the Orange County History Center, is haunted by many spirits. One of witch is a little girl by the name of Emily who seeks out father figures. Another is a man named frank who walks the halls nightly. There is one very dangerous spirit of a convicted criminal who will become very violent if you come near him or enter the room he was captured in.

Orange County, and Orlando, grew rapidly around the turn of the century and was already on it's fifth courthouses since 1856. In the mid 1920s, Orange County needed a sixth, more modern courthouse as well as a new jail. So between 1925 and 1927, a new courthouse was built adjacent to the current courthouse that was built in 1892 . Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, the five-story limestone structure included a jail on the top floor.
This courthouse was used for seventy-one years. There were additions and annexes added throughout those years, one in particular in 1959 that more than doubled the size of the courthouse, but by the mid 1980's it was clear that Orange County had yet again out grew their facilities. So plans were made to build a four building complex with a 24-story tower to become the new home of the Orange County judicial system. This new courthouse, the eighth in Orlando’s history, was completed in 1998. The old courthouse was then restored to it's original appearance and re-opened in 2000 as the Orange County History Center.

  • 1856 Courthouse - an abandoned log cabin
  • 1863 Courthouse - two-story log structure
  • 1869 Courthouse - two-story frame structure
  • 1875 Courthouse - three-story structure
  • 1892 Courthouse - three-story structure
  • 1927 Courthouse - five-story structure
  • 1959 Courthouse Annex - six-story structure
  • 1998 Courthouse - twenty-four-story structure
  • 2000 Orange County History Center

Ted Bundy, one of the most well known serial killers in modern day history, was also tried in this very courthouse. On January 7, 1980 the Kimberly Leach Trial began. Ted Bundy was convicted less than a year earlier in a Miami courthouse for the murder and brutal attacks on some Chi Omega sorority sisters, where he represented himself. However in this trial he turned over the responsibilities to a defense attorney. Their strategy was to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Ted Bundy became increasingly agitated throughout the trial, and even went as far as to carve his name into the defendant table during the trial, trying to give credence to his plea. However, exactly one month after the trial began, on February 7th, after less than seven hours of deliberation the jury returned the verdict, "GUILTY." The verdict was immediately followed by jubilation from the prosecution team and their supporters.

While very interesting, Ted Bundy is not stated in the legend to be haunting this courthouse. However, a little girl named Emily is. Although I can not find anything solid on this little girl I did find out that Emily had apparently met a sad end in the city’s foster care system years ago, and haunts the courthouse due to the fact it was the last place she saw her family intact. This could be why the legend says she seeks out father figures.

Likewise, nothing solid could be found about frank, other than he was a guard at one time, or about the criminal that escaped from the jail. It's a known fact that there was a jail on the fifth floor and inmates did manage to escape from time to time, but as legends are, it is very unspecific as to who, what, when, where, why, or how. If there is a violent spirit I want to find him...maybe we'll arm wrestle.

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Friday, February 13, 2004:

As part of the Orlando Ghost Tour, we were granted access to this old courthouse where many ghost stories abound from. I asked the guide about the few stated in the legend and he confirmed all of them, and even added a few himself.


We started out on the first floor where we were given some real ghost detecting equipment. The first piece of equipment we were given was a laser temperature sensor. The two guides instructed us to point the sensor in four different directions and observe the temperature changes, if any. The temperature did vary many times, but only by 2 or 3 degrees. While they were ecstatic about this, I knew from my experience of temperature and humidity monitoring in Cleanrooms, a temperature variation is normal. Especially only 2 or 3 degrees. This piece of equipment offered no proof of a haunting or of spirits.
The other piece of equipment we were given was an electromagnetic energy detector. They said to hold down a button and walk around with it. When we happened upon a ghost, the normally green LED light would start to turn to yellow, then red. Oh, but wait! They warned us not to go too close to outlets because the electrical wires behind the walls would give us a false reading. We found out quickly that cell phones and cameras would also make the meter read red. This piece of equipment is very unreliable. I think you'd have better luck finding a ghost using a $9 stud finder from Wal-mart.

With the introduction to the equipment done with, we headed upstairs to the haunted courtroom on the third floor. The courthouse is exactly as it was when it was in use. Immediately we were all drawn to the defense table where Ted Bundy's name was carved. While we were in there the guide told the story of Emily, and he mentioned Frank the guard. He told us to be quiet and listen closely. He encouraged us to close our eyes and just take in our surroundings. We tried. I tried. Nothing.

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There was also mention of a woman who sits in the back of the courtroom in the corner and she is apparently sad and people can hear when she cries. I sat back in the corner for a while and I listened. I never heard anything. Some people came over with the Energy detectors and sure enough they detected something, but keep in mind anything electrical seems to set these things off and in a corner you have two walls coming together with a lot of wires running behind a thin sheet of drywall.

We were then taken to the jury deliberation room that is located just down the hall from the courtroom. Again were were encouraged to be quiet and listen. Emily apparently likes to hang out here the best. We had a blind man in our group named Gary. Gary at one point was being led around by the guide asking him questions. I walked next to them for a moment and at the same time Gary and myself felt a rush of air. However the guide said he didn't. Now, there were many people walking around the room, but this was a rush of air, and had far greater velocity than that of someone walking. I couldn't tell if it was something from an air conditioner vent or not. It was dark and no way of telling if the air had just turned on or shut off. I did go back to the spot and we used some of the ghost equipment, but nothing was detected or felt again.

While waiting in this room for something to happen, I asked about the convicted criminal that had escaped from the jail on the fifth floor and then later put to death. I was informed that adjacent to the Jury room was somebody's old office. There is a door to this room from the Jury room that the guide said people have seen a hand reaching through it grabbing for something. This room was were the criminal fled to where he hide beneath a desk for quite some time before he was captured. This room, now some type of children's activity room, is apparently so dangerous that the guide refuses to go in there. He said when he goes in there he feels sick due to the evil presence. In the past when he had taken a few people in there stuffed animals apparently were flung across the room. So in true SpookHunter fashion I went in there, and others followed. We sat quietly at first. Then I guess the thought that we were all sitting in a children's activity room waiting for an evil spirit to harass us just became too ridiculous to bare any longer. After taunting the apparent evil spirit by calling him names and saying how stupid he was for hiding under a desk, we started trickling out of the room. I myself was in this room for around 30 minutes. I never felt scared, sick, or threatened.
The night was getting close to wrapping up when someone found something interesting in the jury room. There was a dry erase board on wheels over in a corner of the room. Behind this board was a mirror. On this mirror was a little imprint of a hand. Possible a child's hand print. Immediately the guide as well as some over the top believers said it was proof of Emily. I couldn't help myself. I had to point out the fact that in a room no more than 20 feet away was were they have many children daily. Then the guide admitted that they also use the jury room as another larger activity room where children can draw and paint. With that said the few of us that remained packed up and headed out.
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Upon completion of this hunt I am willing to say that this old courthouse is 100% not haunted. We were there for a few hours and challenged many of the stories. We, and the group with us, took probably close to 1,000 pictures and countless hours of video as a whole. NOTHING supporting or even hinting to a ghost presence or a haunting was found. If that isn't good enough for you radicals out there and think I'm just bias in my conclusion, on the way out I ask the security guard what he has experienced and/or seen since he spends almost every night in this building alone, performing many walk through's throughout the night. This guard said he has seen absolutely nothing! After laying this legend to rest, this statement from the security guard, in my opinion, is the nail that seals the coffin on this legend.

Rating: Average rating: Ratings
HAUNTEDMaybeWho CaresDoubtfulHell No!