Meet two local authors who are putting their passion in print.
Steve Barrett - Hiding in Plain Sight
The fascination people have with finding a hidden word or object, or even Waldo, transcends generations. And it’s no different with a decades-long game being played out at Disney parks and cruise ships daily. It’s the Hidden Mickeys phenomenon, and one man made it his life’s journey. It’s Lake Mary’s Steve Barrett, author of the Hidden Mickeys trilogy of books.
Raised in Beaumont, Texas, Steve began his career as a medical writer working for the University of Oklahoma. In 1989, he came to Orlando for a medical conference and fell in love with what Walt had created in Reedy Creek.
“I was immediately enamored of all things Disney,” Steve says. “I started reading everything I could about Disney.”
That’s when Steve discovered the Hidden Mickeys trend, which was in its infancy.
According to Steve, Disney Imagineers first began subtly hiding the iconic shape of Mickey Mouse’s head and ears during construction of EPCOT because the powers-that-be wanted it to be an adult park void of the cartoon mouse. It didn’t take long, though, for die-hard Disney fans to find the cleverly Hidden Mickeys.
“It was an underground thing at Disney,” Steve recalls. “I started keeping a file on Hidden Mickeys. I would ask cast members where to find them, and I would find some on my own.”
Steve eventually moved to Florida full-time in 1998 and published a guide book to Walt Disney World. With the Hidden Mickeys idea still looming large in his head, and his publisher looking for a fresh idea, Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets debuted in 2003.
From there, Steve published the Disneyland version in 2005, followed by the Disney Cruises edition. Sixteen years later, Steve is still going at it, updating the books every other year. When attractions close, some Hidden Mickeys are gone forever, only to be replaced by a new wave when the next Disney development is complete. Steve is looking forward to his hunt when Star Wars Galaxy Edge opens this summer.
After his publisher retired, Steve took over his entire operation. His wife, Vickie, stays busy managing the social media aspect of their little empire. Not surprising, there is now an app to help parkgoers find the elusive Mickey shapes. It’s called the Hidden Mickey Guide.
“In the early days, I was finding all the Hidden Mickeys myself,” says Steve. “Now, 99.9 percent of them are found by the public. There are so many people looking for them, and most of them are adults. There are some people who are Hidden Mickey hunters and spend a week looking for them. I enjoy the fans so much.”
The current edition of Steve’s book features six scavenger hunts that cover the four Orlando theme parks, resort hotels, and other areas around Walt Disney World. There are more than 1,100 Hidden Mickeys to locate. In the Disneyland version of the book, now in its sixth edition, 460-plus Hidden Mickeys can be found. An additional 300 can be discovered at sea on the ships of the Disney Cruise Line.
And while Walt Disney World may not have embraced this phenomenon at first, Steve says the theme park giant has come around and is now part of the game.
“Disney is going to do what the guests want,” Steve says. “So the game goes on, and I hope it goes on forever.”
Andrew Fink- Unsolved Mysteries
Attorney Andrew Fink, who goes by Andy, always wanted to write a book, but life had a knack of getting in the way. He started a novel, but that never came to fruition. However, his perseverance eventually paid off. The Sanford resident and father of two finally made his dream come true last year
“I waited until I was 50,” Andy laughs. “Finding time to write was the biggest challenge.”
What drove him in the end was the discovery of a never-before-published topic – a juicy, true-life, 140-year-old murder mystery set in Sanford, complete with a gruesome beheading. Andy stumbled on the story, thanks to a suggestion from Alicia Clarke, curator at the Sanford Historical Museum. His interest was piqued. Andy dove into his research, wrote an outline of a potential nonfiction retelling of the tale, and sent it to publisher Arcadia Press. The proposal was accepted. By last October, the manuscript was complete and published by The History Press. The book even includes pictures from 1880s Sanford.
The premise of the 163-page Murder on the Florida Frontier: The True Story Behind Sanford’s Headless Miser Legend focuses on the plight of Archie Newton, who in 1882 was accused of killing and beheading Sam McMillian, a well-to-do Sanford businessman.
What makes this read ultra-fascinating is that Andy was able to unearth the original trial transcript from 1883, written in longhand, at the State Library and Archives of Florida in Tallahassee. He used his phone to photograph each and every page. Being an attorney, the legal aspect of writing the book was indeed intriguing, coupled with the fact it is a true story.
“With the transcript, history comes to life,” Andy says. “There are a number of colorful characters. This book allows these people to talk again.”
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