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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #267  (Vol. 6, No. 18)  This edition is for the week of May 2--8, 2005.

Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida" Unleashed! Book Signing Party
 by William Moriaty
"House of Wax"
 by Mike Smith
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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith  by Mike Smith
Heading South....The Devil Rays....Infinite Crisis....Free Comic Book Day
 by John Lewis
Hold The Pickle, Hold The Lettuce....Straight Up....Jaws: The Story, Part 17
 by Mike Smith
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Charlie Carlson’s "Weird Florida" Unleashed! Book Signing Party

At approximately 6:50 P.M. on Saturday April 30, 2005, F-Bod Studios artist and proprietor Lisa Clardy and I pulled into a parking space on an old brick street in downtown Sanford, Florida to attend "Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida: Unleashed!" book signing party.

We walked northward along East First Street in the historic section of this Seminole County town searching for the Blue Dahlia, where the event was slated to be held at 7:00 P.M. There were several tables along the sidewalk where patrons were being served dinner, as well as an indoor portion in an old brick building that was a former department store.

I had noticed several dignified looking people sitting in groups inside a courtyard next to the Blue Dahlia building. I asked Jolene (sp?) a waitress at the Blue Dahlia where the book-signing event was being held, and sure enough, she pointed to the courtyard. Before Lisa could amble there, our dear friends Steve and Scotti met us at the front door of the Blue Dahlia. We then ambled toward the courtyard where the primary star of the show, Mr. Charlie Carlson, Florida's own Man-In-Black and a Florida Folk Hero extraordinaire was enjoying a scrumptious Blue Dahlia dinner with several friends.

I did not have the heart (or lack of courtesy) to barge in during Mr. Carlson's dinner in order to get a book signed or swap stories, so I went up to the table where Owen, a Spook Hunter superb was selling copies of Mr. Carlson's first book on the paranormal, "Strange Florida, the Unexplained and Unusual", amongst other items, such as another Carlson book "The True Story of Magician Harry Wise, A Wizard's Tux and Tales", as well as showcasing door prizes available later that evening. Copies of Charlie's three major books mentioned in this article can be found by simply logging on to the SpookHunters web site and ordering from their web store.

Then the Sanford paparazzi showed up, and before you can say "abra kadabra", Mister Carlson, magician supreme Harry Wise, and medium Susan Thompson were surrounded by photographers. It appeared that I'd have to wait just a little longer to converse with Mr. Carlson, so I began to talk to SpookHunters Owen and Greg, of "If I can't eat it, I can't believe it" fame. Their next investigation into the paranormal is slated for what I recall they referred to as the "Devil's School" in Jacksonville - - hmmmm, jump back Mr. Kotter this sounds like some serious stuff!

Finally Mr. Carlson had a free moment and we began to settle in to a most enjoyable conversation. A tall man, Charlie Carlson has a very warm and engaging personality which bespeaks of his long lineage in the South. A native of Sanford, Charlie is a tenth generation Floridian! He was in the Army for 26 years and retired at the rank of sergeant major. In addition to writing, Mr. Carlson is an artist and animal rights activist.

In addition to the books mentioned above, Carlson has also written "When Celery Was King", a history of celery farming in the Sanford area; "From Fort Mellon to Baghdad"; "The First Florida Cavalry Regiment, C.S.A."; "Swedish History of Seminole County, Florida"; "Curious Files of Seminole County, Florida"; "Bookertown, A journey to the past"; "I Got My Dress-Tail Wet in Soda Water Creek"; "History of Monroe"; "Sanford As You Never Knew It", and "Memories of Seminole County Families", along of course, with his most recent release "Weird Florida".

Charlie next introduced me to the elegant and gracious Susan Thompson, a medium extraordinaire who conducts ghost tours in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and is a member of the Volusia Investigators of the Paranormal (or V.I.P.), and we began to trade tales (foremost in the discussion was the "Hauntings at 3016 Villa Rosa Park" story in La Floridiana, PCR # 188, and my French Huguenot heritage).

Lastly I introduced myself to a dashing-looking gentleman seated at one of the courtyard tables. He had a shocking white beard and hair to match. He was decked out in a seamless black and white tuxedo. He was none other than Mr. Harry Wise, a native of Sanford who practiced parlor magic at the Ritz Theater in Sanford as a teenager, and went on to perform throughout the nation with ghost shows, circuses, armories, public schools, theaters and night clubs. He did ghost shows as "Dr. Jekyl And His Weird Show", and was television magician "Mr. Magic" for Orlando, Florida's WDBO afternoon feature, "Uncle Walt's Adventures" from 1960 to 1965.

In his fifty-plus years as a magician and showman superb he was also "The Amazing Darkvale (or Darkveil)" and "Voglar" the mentalist. Charlie Carlson's book "The True Story of Magician Harry Wise, A Wizard's Tux and Tales", details a superb accounting of Wise's professional life, complete with incredible promotional advertisements that Wise saved of "Dr. Jekyll And His Weird Show", and that of other ghost shows from the 1950s. It is a heart-warming and enchanting read and comes highly recommended.

After a rather heady exchange at the book signing, Lisa and Steve and Scotti and I went nearby to Sanford's classic car show held near the marina on Lake Monroe. Along the way we passed a 5' 5" Florida Skunk Ape being brought through the alley to the party in chains. Two young men told me they found the creature down by the banks of Lake Monroe. I'm interested to know if Mr. Carlson gave these two good ol boys the $10,000 reward, but I kinda doubt it. That Skunk Ape didn't look no 8' tall to me! From the car show we went back to the Blue Dahlia where we had a delicious dinner in an incredibly historic downtown Sanford atmosphere - - it reminded me of a visit a quarter of a century earlier to a warehouse nearby that Lake Helen resident Mark Shuttleworth used to amass parts from old victorian houses - - it was sooooo cool!

It was a delightful and memorable evening thanks to Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida: Unleashed!"

Loss of a Florida Folk Hero - - Auggie Hiscano
Auggie Hiscano, father of Florida Folk Hero 'Miami " Mike Hiscano, passed away on Thursday April 21, 2005. Auggie was one of the most colorful characters in Miami, helping to manage its premiere hobby shop, "Orange Blossom Hobbies" on N.W. 36th Street for several decades.

Like his son, Auggie was a walking encyclopedia on Miami's aviation history and popular culture. His gentle demeanor, vast knowledge and incredible abilities at building award-winning models will be missed by all who knew him and whose lives he touched.

I am nevertheless, so honored and blessed to have known him, albeit for such a brief period, and am so glad he will be recognized in my book derived from my 2003 article "Will's Too-Short Trip to Miami - - And Life Is Good".

When Auggie Hiscano was with us, life wasn't just good; it was worth the livin'…

Test Copy of "William Moriaty's Florida" Printed
At eight chapters, 285 pages and a suggested retail price of $19.99, "William Moriaty's Florida" test book was received by graphic artist Lisa Clardy who prepared the document for printing on Thursday April 28, 2005.

My wife, Karen Cashon and I have already decided to go with the Café Press edition of the book rather than [rival publisher] Lulu. Those who have seen it have very well received it, and the ISBN was ordered for it this evening.

Once the ISBN is slapped on to it, a copy will be sent to the Library of Congress for copyright registration, and complimentary copies will be distributed to Florida newspapers for review shortly afterward.

As an added bonus, Nolan presents the original images of the front and back covers for your viewing pleasure, below. The book should become available by the third week of May or first week of June. Hopefully you will enjoy it and recommend it to a friend!

The quote from me on the back cover reads, "Will's personal and generous observations and anecdotes on growing up in Florida and taking in all its wonders in his travels are simply things many people can relate to even if they never set foot in Florida. The readers of his column were along for the ride and enjoying it because Will was, too." ---Nolan

"La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.