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Interview with Glendon Guttenfelder, of Florida Fringe Tourism

Originally from Missouri, Glendon moved to Florida when he and Monica became engaged in 2011. He has lived in many other places throughout his life, but Florida has quickly become his favorite. You could say he has fallen under the charm of this beautiful and mysterious state, and this interest has culminated in the creation of Florida Fringe Tourism. Glendon is the marketing director for FFT, as well as the designer and builder of the website itself. Putting together a website of this magnitude was no easy task, but he has thoroughly enjoyed watching the immense amount of support the site has already garnered from fans.

How was the concept for “Florida Fringe Tourism” developed, and why did you choose that particular name? Was it a conscious effort to set yourselves apart from “paranormal” themed websites?

I am a web designer, and I had created a website for a client in Joplin, Missouri, which showcased coupons for local businesses. Basically the online equivalent to the “sale bill” in the Sunday paper. Since my wife and I live in Florida and our town’s economy is tourist-driven, I began thinking of a way to adapt my client’s idea into a viable project for us. I thought that having local tourist businesses offer coupons on a site that was viewed by people planning Florida vacations would benefit everyone involved.

When I shared my idea with my wife, she reminded me that we would basically be trying to compete with Groupon … and that would be like opening up a discount store across the street from Wal-Mart. However, she suggested that if we carve out a niche, we might be able to set ourselves apart from other coupon sites.

Now, as it happens, my wife’s mother is a paranormal investigator, and the two of them are very interested in all things haunted and strange. So naturally, the niche she suggested we go after was businesses and attractions that are off-beat, strange, weird, haunted, etc. After a little research, we discovered there really wasn’t anything online that catered to this in Florida, so that is what we set out to do.

The name was actually suggested by a friend of ours who owns a metaphysical shop in Naples, Florida. Since I am a huge fan of the TV show Fringe (and it was in its final season at the time) I immediately loved the name she suggested. I designed the logo with my wife’s help, and then began putting together the website itself while my wife and her mother (Toni Land) began compiling articles. Toni’s experience as a paranormal investigator gave us a wealth of knowledge of myths and legends of haunted places all over the state.

We made no real conscious effort to set ourselves apart from paranormal websites. Most of the sites I found were little “do it yourself” projects people had put together, but nothing impressive. I wanted to create something that not only provided information, but was cool and unique and interesting. I also did not want to exclusively display hauntings and paranormal stuff — because I wanted to also appeal to people like MYSELF, who aren’t necessarily all that interested in ghosts… but like mysterious and unexplained phenomena. Along the way, another friend of ours explained her interest in abandoned places, and we discovered there are a ton of people interested in that. So, as we went along, we expanded and grew into what we are today.

At Mysterious Heartland, we are impressed with your website’s grungy, yet clean and professional design. What did you sent out to accomplish with your webdesign and why did you choose that particular theme?

As I mentioned above, most of what I found online when researching were poor quality sites with little to no real design. Mostly projects people threw together with free “do it yourself” platforms. Not to say ALL paranormal sites in Florida are like that — but sadly, the vast majority just aren’t very good. I am a perfectionist, so if I was going to spend the time doing this, I wanted ours to be unique, memorable and professional. I wanted people to see our site and know they had found something special.

Given our subject matter, I wanted the site to be dark and grungy– but not campy or cliche. The logo I built includes bats (which everyone knows are creepy) but also my wife LOVES bats, so I wanted to include them for her. The actual look of the site was inspired by a website that was online at the time selling a CD box set of Danny Elfman music from Tim Burton movies. (I love Danny Elfman music, and my wife is a huge fan of Tim Burton, so it just seemed fitting to borrow ideas from their website).

The original version of Florida Fringe Tourism was not on a content management system — I actually set up my own database and wrote all the code. Once I decided to start having guest authors submit articles, I realized I needed a more extensive platform … so I converted the site to WordPress.

The website is actually set up to do MUCH MORE than it currently is doing. As I mentioned above, we wanted to include not only tourist attractions that are FREE to see… but also businesses willing to pay a minimal amount for advertising so that tourists planning their trips would see their coupons. If someone is using our site to plan their Florida vacation, and they find a cool place they’d love to visit AND it offers a 10% coupon on admission … of course they are going to add that to their itinerary. But we just have not had the time to invest in promoting or selling this concept to Florida businesses.

What kinds of places do you include in your website and how did you find them? What destination has been the most popular with your readers?

Our most popular CATEGORY has been “Abandoned Places” … with over 3 times as many views as the 2nd most popular, which is “Legends & Myths”. As far as the most popular destinations… The Harden House and Turnbull Ruins are both extremely popular on the site. Also, the Grave of the Wiccademous and Rosewood Massacre get a lot of exposure.

We include anything on our site that is off-beat, weird, strange, unique, paranormal, or odd in any way — as long as it offers either a place for people to visit, or some sort of historical knowledge to be gained. We also offer more mainstream things (such as museums and restaurants) as long as they offer people a unique experience. Such as the Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale, a bar/restaurant where you can watch live mermaids put on a swim show.

What destination is your favorite, which is your least favorite, and why?

I am a personal fan of the geological phenomena and the historical ruins. There is one set of ruins very close to where we live called Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking the kids to see it. We also enjoy having picnics at the Koreshan State Park (home of a former religious cult). We even had a photo shoot there for last year’s Christmas cards.

Also, the locations we include in St. Augustine are some of my favorite. St. Augustine was one of the first places my wife and I ever visited as a couple — and it is such a charming and unique place. I find the history and mythology of that town to be the most interesting of anything we include on the website.

Have you ever had any problems regarding any of your listings (angry property owners, unintentionally inaccurate information, controversy over the validity of the location, etc.)?

I haven’t heard any reports of angry property owners – however, there have been some inaccuracies in information brought to our attention. One of our favorite abandoned locations was a failed theme park that offered replicas of many of the great architecture of China. It went belly up, and they never tore it down — and people could actually go see this abandoned theme park overgrown with weeds and decay. Unfortunately, the site was purchased, tore down, and new construction is going on. So, our listing was inaccurate, and it was brought to our attention by a fan.

Every once in a while, we get people writing us to inform us that a certain place is NOT haunted. Of course, we don’t assert that ANYTHING is haunted … I have personally never seen a ghost at any of the places on our site. But many people have, and there are legends and stories handed down for generations, and that is what our site is about — telling people these stories. If you don’t believe in them, that’s perfectly fine with us — we realize our site is not going to appeal to everyone.

Some of the articles present details that we feel pretty sure is NOT true — but it is part of the myth, nonetheless. People get so upset sometimes over these details — not able to comprehend that it’s part of the STORY, not something we are presenting as proven fact. Our site is not geared to be a research tool for scientists. Just a fun place to learn about the legends of hauntings in Florida.

How can our readers get in touch with you if they would like to know more about Florida Fringe Tourism and your webdesign business?

My email address is info@floridafringetourism.com. They can contact us via the contact form on our site. If someone is interested in researching and writing for us, there is a form on the site for that, as well. And if you have any readers who own businesses or attractions in Florida, we would LOVE to have them on our site. Especially if they would be interested in offering our users discounts via coupon.

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Comments

  1. This is awesome.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] interred there, as well as to the identity of those individuals buried there today. According to Glendon Guttenfelder of Florida Fringe Tourism, “Some people still believe the burials belong to the original […]

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  2. […] interred there, as well as to the identity of those individuals buried there today. According to Glendon Guttenfelder of Florida Fringe Tourism, “Some people still believe the burials belong to the original Naples […]

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