EATONVILLE, Fla. – A once thriving local landmark to one community is now overrun with vandals, ghost hunters and thieves.
Eatonville police said that during the past several months, they have seen a spike in the number of people trespassing on the site of the old Robert Hungerford Preparatory High School on East Kennedy Boulevard.
As a result, windows have been broken, graffiti litters the walls and the school's main power wires have been cut, prompting the building to be shut down completely.
"Once a place we had food drives, community fairs, all types of events so it's kind of heartbreaking," Eatonville recreation coordinator Perisha Johnson said.
The school closed in 2010, and was being used as a community center for Eatonville. Detective Brodrick Lampkin, with Eatonville Police, said internet rumors and websites showcasing the school as a haunted and abandoned building prompted the mischief.
"They made believe there were ghosts and goblins inside the building, at which point, there were groups of people that wanted to make this an experience," Lampkin said.
"There is no ghosts here," Johnson said. "There has never been any foul play done on the property. It's all a hoax."
Lampkin estimates it will be difficult for the building to recover and reopen.
"This is hundreds of thousands of dollars (in damage) done to the building," he said. "Just the wiring alone was recently estimated to be over $52,000."
The city has installed new surveillance cameras, which are hidden on the property, as has increased patrols to help protect and salvage what's left of the building.
Eatonville police said they've already made more than a half-dozen arrests of people found trespassing on the property.