Top 20 Most Haunted Places in Florida

Posted on March 15, 2020

Tampa Theatre interior

Florida is one of the top vacation destinations in the country (and maybe the world). You could hang with Mickey, Minnie, and the entire gang at Walt Disney World or check out the miles of beaches while soaking in the sun in the place affectionately known as the Sunshine State. While the southernmost state in America has it’s share of beaches, theme parks, and tourist destinations it does have a little something else. It’s a state that has its share of haunted sites each with it’s equally sordid stories. If you’re planning on visiting Florida soon and have a knack for all things paranormal, you do not want to miss some of these really cool spots (no pun intended, of course). Let’s get right to it:

20. The Vinoy Renaissance Hotel

Image source: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/superstition-is-the-way-for-mlb-players-and-that-includes-haunted-hotels/

This luxury hotel in St. Petersburg is definitely the place worth checking out (whether you have the cash to book a room or not). Most of the guests will often complain about the various noises they have heard during their stay. Some have even said they have felt presences in the area the moment they’ve walked into the lobby. The spirits that are said to be walking around are a man who appears to be wearing clothes from the 1920s to a woman wearing white and appearing “misty”. This hotel was also a place where some of the baseball players in the Major Leagues stay during spring training. And some of them probably have ghost stories of their own about this place.

19. Castillo de San Marcos

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5c/Castillo_de_San_Marcos.jpg

This structure was constructed in the 17th century by the Spaniard colonists as a defense buffer against enemy attackers. It was also used as a prison for Native Americans during several wars between the Spanish, British, and Americans and the Seminole tribe. Fittingly enough, it is located in the oldest city in America. St. Augustine was founded in 1565, so it should come as no surprise that so many places in the city are haunted (this is the first we’ll be looking at, but won’t be the last). Visitors of Castillo de San Marcos have seen plenty of apparitions ranging from Spanish soldiers to Native Americans. Light orbs have been a common sighting inside the structure.

18. The Miami Biltmore Hotel

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During the height of organized crime in the United States, it was no secret that a lot of mobsters would often hang out in even some of the most luxurious hotels in the country. Believe it or not, Al Capone had a home in Miami (and died in nearby Palm Island). One such spirit that might have overstayed his welcome is said to belong to a mobster who was murdered over a gambling debt. This spirit seems to be quite mischievous as guests and staff of the hotel reported lights flickering on and off almost constantly. Other paranormal occurrences that may have happened were elevators stopping on the wrong floor and the kitchen doors somehow being held open for the servers coming in and out.

17. Tampa Theatre

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The Tampa Theatre was opened in 1926 and still remains one of the hot spots for catching an onstage show. At one point in time, it was a movie theatre during the Golden Age of film. While people seem to sit back and enjoy the show, there is one spirit that seems to have seen every show to date. It’s been said that the spirit belongs to a man who worked the film projector back during the days when it was a movie theatre. However, the man said to have died of a heart attack during a film showing up in the booth. Needless to say that in spirit, it seems like he still has the best seat in the house.

16. Arcadia Opera House

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If you’ve ever read the story of the “Phantom Of The Opera”, you’re about to hear some stories about some “phantom” happenings. This opera house now stands as a museum, but the sound of footsteps could be heard with no one coming toward anyone or any place. Random bursts of laughter have also been a regular occurrence. Legend has it that the spirit of a little girl may be wandering around in this century-old building. Her life was tragically cut short when she apparently fell out of a second-story window. But knowing that the spirits of children can be a bit mischievous, she seems relatively harmless.

15. Gilbert’s Bar-House Of Refuge

Image source: https://myfloridahistory.org/sites/myfloridahistory.org/files/styles/width800/public/field/image/articles/houseofrefugegilbertsbartoday.jpg?itok=dWjx5klX

Many ships have sailed the seas and had never reached landfall because of nasty storms and high roaring seas. But those who have survived shipwrecks near the Florida coast would often find a place where they could eat, drink, and relax after a stressful ordeal. That was the reputation of Gilbert’s. Located in the coastal town of Stuart, this bar was built in 1876 and also housed shipwrecked sailors. While the kitchen hadn’t been in operation for nearly 80 years, those who have visited the old bar reported smelling freshly cooked beef coming from there. If you’re feeling a bit hungry and smell something really good, chances are you might want to eat elsewhere. Beef cooked by a spirit may smell good, but good luck finding it.

14. Coral Castle

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/12/Coral_Castle_1.jpg/1200px-Coral_Castle_1.jpg

This site is probably one of the most interesting places you can find in Florida. Located in Miami, the Coral Castle was said to be designed to mimic the Egyptian pyramids. But the entire design seems intriguing enough to trigger some conversations. While the place isn’t really haunted per se, rumors have floated for many years that Edward Leedskalnin, the architect of the Coral Castle, was said to some kind of magical superpower. Others have gone quite a bit far to say that Leedskalnin had a bit of help during the construction process. Let’s just say they were “visitors” of the intergalactic variety. The mystery remains to this day of how this place was constructed or the story behind it. All we know is that good old’ Ed was one of those mysterious guys that would appear and vanish like a ghost.

13.  Koreshan State Historic Site

Image source: https://www.floridastateparks.org/sites/default/files/styles/gallery/public/media/image/Plantary.Court_.jpeg?itok=h1M0tPPJ

If there is a place where you know it will be haunted, it’s likely a place where a possible “cult” started. It was here where people lived with a man who claimed to be some kind of Messiah. The man turned out to be a doctor named Cyrus Teed (and would eventually rename himself as Koresh). Koresh was the namesake of the religion of “Koreshanity”. Most of his followers decided to pack everything up from their homes in New York and settle deep into a wooded area of Estero, Florida. More than 250 of these followers were said to have resided here. After Koresh’s death in 1908, his body wasn’t buried. In fact, it was propped up for three weeks until it had to be disposed of. Koresh’s body was interred in a mausoleum soon after and has since been washed away by a brutal hurricane. While the last Koreshan follower passed away 40 years ago, the spirits of these followers were reportedly sighted on the grounds. People who had visited the site would report hearing footsteps and people appearing and quickly disappearing after appearing to take a second look back.

12. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

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The St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach is the sight of a famous ghost story that locals never get tired of telling. It is said that the ashes belonging to Amelia Duryee, the wife of a deceased military officer. One of the church employees had placed the ashes in front of a mirror (which was donated to the church by Duryee’s husband before his passing). Having forgotten about the ashes, the same church employee retrieved the urn the following day but found a large crack in the mirror itself. No one knows what may have caused it. But a lot of stories and theories have long been part of the conversation between the locals and those who visit the town.

11. The Palace Saloon

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Not far from the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach is a bar where the spirit of a longtime employee is still paying his dues. Except these days, he’s just walking around. A man named Charlie not only worked at the Palace Saloon but also lived in a back room. Charlie passed away years later in that same room. Some have reported seeing the back room’s door open and shut for no apparent reason. When a fire broke out at the Palace Saloon, every room except for one was badly burned. You can easily guess which room was spared. There is a picture of Charlie hanging outside the doorway of the Palace Saloon. If you see a man that looks just like him, you may have just seen his spirit.

10. I-4 “Dead Zone”

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If you ever travel on I-4 between Daytona Beach and Orlando, you’ll find a spot on the St. Johns River Bridge that can be only known as the “Dead Zone”. So much traffic flows through the lanes of this roadway and plenty of motorists have seen it all. Bad accidents, hitchhikers appearing and quickly disappearing, and a series of brutal storms whipping through this part of the Interstate. Before the bridge was even built, this was close to a small settlement where German immigrants resided. Many of them died from the Yellow Fever and are said to be buried in graves located near one of the ends of the St. Johns River bridge. If you ever travel on this roadway, you might find yourself with a lot of phantom paranormal activity. Just be sure to keep your eyes on the road at the same time. Driving on I-4 or anywhere in Florida seems like no picnic.

9. Villa Paula

Image source: https://images1.miaminewtimes.com/imager/u/745xauto/10382953/street_view_1_preview.jpeg

This building located in Miami’s “Little Haiti” once served as the Cuban Consulate. The first consulate to the island nation was Domingo Milord. He lived in the residence along with his wife Paula. While the architecture was exquisite, the story of its haunting is quite gruesome. Paula died at the house after a leg amputation gone wrong. But her spirit to this day is known for making her rounds throughout the halls. Visitors have heard footsteps and saw the spirit of a woman who appeared to have one leg. If you are a fan of Cuban coffee, you might even get to smell quite a bit of it if you find yourself wandering the halls. Today, Villa Paula serves as an art gallery that showcases art from various Latin American artists and even some Picasso paintings.

8. Blue Anchor

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The Blue Anchor is an English-style pub in Palm Beach that has been a mainstay in South Florida for decades. The bar was built as a replica of a London pub with the same name. But the stories of the many who walked through the doors of the original location just have to be told. One such frequent guest was a young man who appreciated a French-made cognac. That man would eventually become one of Britain’s most famous historical figures. He was none other than Winston Churchill. Some of the patrons included the legendary “Jack The Ripper”. When the bar was built, it was said that the spirits that haunted the century old London pub may also find themselves in the American location of the Blue Anchor. One such ghost that you might see belongs to a woman who was murdered by her husband in Britain many decades ago. Ghosts can haunt just about anyplace, anywhere no matter what side of the pond they’re on.

7. Pensacola Lighthouse

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Considering that Florida has a lot of coastline from one end of the state to the next, there is never a short supply of lighthouses (let alone haunted ones). If you ever find yourself in the Florida Panhandle area, you’d be crazy not to take on the opportunity to check out the Pensacola Lighthouse. The original keeper of the lighthouse was believed to be murdered by his wife. Both the spirits of Jeremiah and Michaela Penalber are said to still live in the same lighthouse that they took care of in their mortal lifetime. Visitors reported several paranormal activities including hearing a child’s voice, whispers, footsteps, and small objects being thrown at them.

6. Apollo I Launch Complex 34

Image source: https://www.outerplaces.com/media/k2/items/cache/a994012531a064cee191b71c491599f4_L.jpg

Florida is home to some of NASA’s space exploration facilities in Cape Kennedy and nearby Cape Canaveral. It also beared witness to two of the worst space exploration tragedies in American history: the Apollo I incident and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The Apollo I Launch Complex was the sight of an unfortunate accident that claimed the lives of three astronauts on January 27, 1967. Those killed were Gus Grissom, Edward White II, and Roger Chaffee. The crew had planned to become part of history as the first Americans to explore the moon. Today, the complex serves as a memorial. But the spirits of the three brave astronauts that dared to take the risk to explore space might be still around. Visitors have reported feeling “uneasy” the moment they set foot on the grounds. Also heard were the sound of pained screams. Word has it that a pained scream was last heard on a transmission between the astronauts and mission control.

5. Ybor City

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If you thought Miami was a hotbed for mobster activity, then you probably haven’t heard the stories about Ybor City. This Tampa Bay area city was also a place where you were bound to see a mobster or two. And there was plenty of violence to go along with it. In the span of nearly 30 years, Ybor City saw more than two dozen killings related to prominent mob bosses. The ghosts of “Lucky” Luciano and “Saturday” Zarate might be spotted in some of the buildings where there were casinos and speakeasies during the Prohibition era.  If you ever go to the Don Vicente Hotel, don’t be surprised if you see some well-dressed, bad looking dudes. The good news is they’re likely just specters. But if they look like they’re among the living, you might want to steer clear anyway.

4. Key West Cemetery

Image source: https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/key-west-cemetery.png

As you might expect, any cemetery could be teeming with ghosts. But there are some cemeteries that have a unique ghost story tied to it. More than 100,000 are buried here in the cemetery. The original cemetery was destroyed and many coffins were washed out to see after a major storm battered the Keys in 1846. Other bodies were washed up on the city streets both in and out of their coffins. However, the new cemetery now sits higher above sea level to prevent future washups. Notable persons interred here were among some of Key West’s prominent and wealthier citizens. Others included the sailors who perished in the USS Maine tragedy during the Spanish-American war. There is a story of a woman who is known to walk the grounds of the cemetery in an angry mood if someone were to disrespect the dead (like walking on graves or leaning on gravestones). The timing of her appearance may be at anytime during the day or night. If you explore this cemetery during the day, you might just get lucky and see her. Just don’t come any closer to her.

3. Ashley’s

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All that ghost hunting can make anyone hungry. If you are ever in coastal city of Rockledge, you might want to check out Ashley’s. It is a cafe and lounge with plenty of ghostly activity. It was here that a young woman named Ethel Allen was last seen here until her disappearance. She was later found with her throat slit and her skull completely fractured. Some of the patrons had reported seeing a woman dressed in 1930s clothing sitting at a table or at one end of the bar. Even staff members have told stories about all kinds of paranormal activity ranging from lights flickering on and off to dishes falling onto the floor and breaking without any explanation.

2. St. Augustine Lighthouse

Image source: https://www.visitstaugustine.com/sites/default/files/styles/cover/public/tower_in_the_sky1.jpg

This is considered to be one of the most haunted lighthouses in the United States. If you’re a history buff, you know that it isn’t shocking since it’s situated in St. Augustine of all places. Though built in 1874, the city of St. Augustine had already been in existence for over 300 years. But since it’s construction, many people have died near or inside the lighthouse itself. One such tragic story involved the daughters of a lighthouse worker. The teenage girls hopped onto a cart that suddenly began to roll towards the bay. They never made it out and had drowned. Their bodies were never recovered. Many paranormal activities have happened here including visitors hearing the sounds of laughter and plenty of footsteps that sound like either someone is ascending or descending the stairs.

1.  The Devil Tree

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Kind of sounds like an old horror movie, doesn’t it? This large oak tree looks pretty terrifying. But the story of what happened close to it is enough to give you a chill (and enough curiosity to check it out yourself). About a decade ago, a hunter was in the area and had discovered human remains. Upon further investigation, more remains were unearthed. As it turned out, it belonged to two teenage girls from Iowa that went missing in the early 1970s. It was said that the two were hitchhiking to Florida and were never seen again after that. One of the reasons why the “Devil Tree” got its name was that it became an apparent sight for some dark exorcist style ceremonies. People wearing dark hooded robes and a priest were allegedly seen performing some kind of ceremony over thirty years ago. It is unclear if there were any other ceremonies performed since then.

Sources:

  1. http://www.weirdus.com/states/florida/ghosts/midnight_in_the_castillo/index.php
  2. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/superstition-is-the-way-for-mlb-players-and-that-includes-haunted-hotels/
  3. https://www.wlrn.org/post/history-biltmore-miamis-best-known-creepy-hotel#stream/0
  4. https://www.wfla.com/news/local-news/tampa-theater-claims-to-be-most-haunted-place-in-tampa-bay-area/
  5. https://www.fox4now.com/lifestyle/holiday/halloween/ghost-hunting-at-the-arcadia-opera-house
  6. https://www.palmbeachpost.com/article/20151125/NEWS/812069790
  7. https://www.liveabout.com/the-secrets-of-coral-castle-2594640
  8. https://news.wgcu.org/post/koreshan-ghosts-tell-tale-their-utopian-community
  9. https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM4GH4_St_Peters_Episcopal_Church_Cemetery_Fernandina_Beach_FL
  10. https://floridatraveler.org/2014/05/25/uncle-charlies-ghost-still-working-for-floridas-oldest-saloon/
  11. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/i-4-dead-zone
  12. https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/is-miamis-former-cuban-consulate-villa-paula-really-haunted-11297543
  13. https://www.wptv.com/lifestyle/taste-and-see/blue-anchor-pub-in-delray-beach-is-haunted-by-a-ghost-named-bertha-starkey
  14. https://www.wkrg.com/haunted-history/pensacola-lighthouse-considered-one-of-most-haunted-in-america/
  15. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/abandoned-places_b_4097586
  16. https://patch.com/florida/southtampa/visit-these-sites-if-you-dare-tampas-most-haunted-places
  17. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/key-west-cemetery
  18. http://www.ashleysofrockledge.com/Home/History
  19. https://www.wheretraveler.com/st-augustine/play/st-augustines-haunted-history
  20. https://urbanlegendsonline.com/the-devil-tree-in-oak-hammock-park-port-saint-lucie-fl/