Every state has its spooky spots–add these 13 unexpected haunted attractions to your Florida itinerary this October.
Every year, Florida experiences an influx of tourists in October. Thrill-seekers flock to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream, which are undoubtedly worthy attractions for any Halloween junkie. But, Florida locals know that there are particularly special destinations that will truly rattle your nerves. Although the Sunshine State isn’t best known for being the most haunted location in America, there are plenty of eerie, historic sites that should please the paranormal hunters and the morbidly curious.
Don CeSar Hotel
WHERE: St.Petersburg, Florida
This is one of Florida’s most popular hotels—and the most haunted. This haunted tale begins in 1925 when Thomas Rowe, a heartbroken young man, dedicated three years to building a tribute to Lucinda, his long-lost love. The young couple was madly in love, but Lucinda’s parents forbade the relationship. Devastated, he built the hotel for Lucinda and spent years trying to reunite with her, only to have his letters unanswered. He later passed in 1940, and since then, tourists have reported seeing ghostly figures walking hand-in-hand on the Don CeSar hotel grounds. Hear an eerie noise or an odd sensation trickling through your bones? It’s likely Rowe and his secret lover watching over you.
The Cuban Club
WHERE: Ybor, Florida
This venue was a popular hangout for Cuban immigrants circa 1902. Guests enjoyed the ballroom, live music, and cantina complete with a stage and dance floor in Ybor City. The original club burned down in 1916 and then was rebuilt in 1917. Although the Cuban Club seems like a place for happy memories, over the years it has been a location for several unfortunate deaths. There was a young actor and playwright who took his life on the same stage where he forgot his own words. There was also Jimmy, a nine-year-old boy who drowned while swimming in the club’s pool unattended. Many have reported sightings of ghostly figures lurking the club, and the owner has even reported hearing elevators running by themselves and doors pushed hard against him as he has tried to close them.
WHERE: Tampa, Florida
If the dark statues and gargoyles at the Tampa Theatre weren’t enough to shake your nerves, the old tale of Foster “Fink” Finley just might. Finley spent 20 years as the theater’s projectionist and is said to have never left after he died. Staff at the theater have reported hearing footsteps and chains rattling in the hallways, doors slamming, and power shutting off when nobody is nearby. Others have heard the organ music in the middle of the night, which is attributed to another former employee, Rosa Rio. She was an organist who lived to be 107 years old, and according to bystanders, it seems she has never left the Tampa Theatre.
Plant Hall at the University of Tampa
WHERE: Tampa, Florida
This section of the university is generally safe, although things have been known to get a little questionable come nightfall. Students of the university have claimed to see ghostly images from the windows outside. One of these famous ghostly figures is known as “The Brown Man”, who is believed to be Henry Plant, the railroad tycoon built Plant Hall (which was originally a hotel to accommodate passengers coming into Florida). Professors and students know to avoid making eye contact with his hauntingly glowing red eyes—the tale goes that if you acknowledge his presence, he rushes right up to your face and then suddenly vanishes. Be wary of the hallways if you end up on this wing of the campus when night approaches.
Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
WHERE: St.Augustine, Florida
Just as the name implies, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse is the oldest surviving wooden structure in historic St.Augustine—so it comes to no surprise that there’s an interesting history to it. The building was originally used a guard house and was later purchased by Juan Genopoly. Over the course of his time at the house (which also served as a school), he was known to have wed three wives, all of whom died while living in the house. Paranormal investigators and psychics have reported strange occurrences, and there have been sightings of a woman in an old-timey dress—likely one of Genopoly’s three wives.
Ceviche Bar and Restaurant
WHERE: Orlando, Florida
This haunted building was first a church, then a hotel, and is now a popular restaurant—complete with a hearty side of hauntings. An original antique mirror hangs behind the bar, and it shows you more than just your reflection. Many guests have reported seeing a woman dressed in 19th-century clothing. Sometimes this ghostly woman will appear in the mirror standing right behind you, and sometimes you may feel tugging at your clothes by unseen hands. Bartenders have even reported objects at the bar mysteriously moving to odd places. Those who haven’t visited might blame it all on the alcohol, but the spooky encounters continue to stack up, making this venue one of the most haunted spots in Florida.
The Old Jail
WHERE: St. Augustine, Florida
Picture this: an old structure with walls that tower 20 feet tall, built thick with the intention for sound (screams and cries of terror) to stay totally confined inside those walls. The prisoners of the old jail endured unbearable conditions, which included sleeping atop mattresses stuffed with bug-infested moss, and living in a cloud of stench that results from zero bathing or sanitation facilities in the jail. When souls endure such torturous conditions, it comes to no surprise that they may linger, trying to ensure they are heard. Visitors of the jail have experienced the horrendous stench of sewage (even though the space is rigorously sanitized today), sudden skin-prickling chills, and the sounds of wails and sinister laughter.
St. Augustine Lighthouse
WHERE: St. Augustine, Florida
Built in 1874, the lighthouse stands as the oldest brick structure in the city. By day, the lighthouse is open to tours, and nothing jumps out as being too eerie. But when night approaches, the lighthouse is open for ghost tours, opening up the opportunity for the curious to experience the chilling hauntings. This lighthouse has been subject to many paranormal experts, including the cast of the show Ghost Hunters. Unsettling voices and laughter can be heard at the lighthouse, which is speculated to be of the two young girls, daughters of the lighthouse keeper, who fell to their watery graves when playing by the property in the late 1800s.
Key West Cemetery
WHERE: Key West, Florida
What makes this cemetery such a spooky excursion is that travelers have witnessed ghostly apparitions both day and night. One of the most well-known ghosts to haunt this graveyard is a woman who appears to be of Bahamian descent. Those who see her have reported that she becomes angry, to the point of throwing out threats, when she sees the living disrespecting the dead. This means sitting on gravestones, or walking directly across graves…so be on your best behavior when you visit this site. You don’t want to mess with the spirits that loom over this graveyard that dates all the way back to 1829.
Spanish Military Hospital
WHERE: St. Augustine, Florida
Even though the original building was torn down and reconstructed, visitors still report strange sightings and the feeling of an evil presence lurking as they tour the building at the Spanish Military Hospital. One of the most common beliefs is that these supernatural occurrences can be traced back to the pain, suffering, and trauma of former hospital patients. A lesser known, but even more compelling theory, is that the supernatural occurrences are a result of the hospital having been built over a burial ground of the Timucuan tribe. Regardless of what you believe it may be attributed to, be prepared for ghastly moans, screams, and cries tunneling down the corridors on your hospital tour.
The I-4 Dead Zone
WHERE: Lake Monroe, Florida
Who would have that a quarter-mile stretch of a highway could be so haunted? Since 1993, nearly 2,000 accidents have been reported on this small section of the highway. The higher-than-average number on such a compact stretch of road is hard evidence you can’t dispute. Supernatural occurrences have also been reported, oddly enough, within the exact quarter-mile section of I-4. Some of these occurrences include sightings of glowing orbs and ghostly figures. Some have even claimed to hear other-worldly voices on the phone as they drive past the stretch while on a phone call. Before the highway was built, many tragedies occurred over this section of land, and buried underneath are the graves of victims that fell to Yellow Fever and various horrific accidents.
The Riddle House
WHERE: West Palm Beach, Florida
The Riddle House was originally built as a funeral parlor in the early 1900s, was later converted to a private residence, and lastly used as a college dormitory for girls. The home had seen its fair share of deaths and tragedies, and the paranormal oddities that occurred made it loud and clear. When the home was undergoing a restoration project, construction had to come to a six-month halt due to workers becoming so shaken up by strange incidents. They reported tools flying across the room, eerie voices, and mysteriously broken windows. Even when the home was relocated on the other side of the city, visitors and passerby still can’t shake the undeniably eerie feeling that is eternally bound to the house.