A creepy photo of a church in Key West, Florida, USA. Image by Jody Davis from Pixabay
It may not be Halloween or even October yet, so a scary ghost story may not be appreciated right now. But hauntings and ghosts don’t take vacations or breaks. Florida is ripe with places that are haunted, and to this day carry on that legacy in the state’s history. If you find yourself in Florida at any time and are in the mood to hear a good, scary story, then read on to find out what are the most haunted places in Florida you can visit to get your fix.
The Biltmore Hotel (Miami, FL)
The Biltmore Hotel is a luxury hotel that sits deep in the heart of the Miami area known as Coral Gables. The Hotel was designed by Schultze and Weaver and was built in 1926 by John McEntee Bowman and George Merrick (founder of Coral Gables) as part of the Biltmore hotel chain. The tower is inspired by the Giralda, the medieval tower of the cathedral of Seville.
It served as a hospital during World War II and as a VA Hospital and campus of the University of Miami medical school until 1968. It became a hotel again in 1987 after being abandoned for many years. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.
There have been a lot of goings-on at this historic location. Mobster Thomas “Fatty” Walsh was killed while staying at the hotel in 1929. He was attending a loud party on the 13th floor of the hotel when he was shot and killed by another gangster. That murder yielded a lot of ghost rumors over the years.
Guests, hotel staff and even neighborhood kids have all reported seeing ghosts and having experienced strange encounters at the Biltmore Hotel.
One such encounter with the paranormal involved a former hotel employee who used to work at the Biltmore in the 1990s. The employee said the hotel was VERY haunted and that she used to have all kinds of strange things happen to her all the time. The 7th floor had the most activity, according to the employee.
The former employee designated Room 436 or 412 on the fourth floor as the “poltergeist room” due to “lots of activity in that room.” The former employee said of her time working there, “A friend of mine was the 7th-floor concierge and quit due to all the creepy happenings on this floor. It’s the nicest floor in the hotel, but back then, they wouldn’t rent out those rooms unless they absolutely had to do so. Back then, the Security staff had lots of their own stories to tell & many of them quit due to their encounters. The cleaning staff would wear sprigs of basil in their lapels to ward off evil spirits. It’s a gorgeous hotel – I was very proud to work there & the staff is fantastic.”
St. Augustine Lighthouse (St. Augustine, FL)
The St. Augustine Lighthouse was built from 1871 to 1874. The Lighthouse has 219 steps in its 165-foot tower. It provides for breathtaking views of historic downtown St. Augustine, the beaches, and America’s Oldest Port. The current lighthouse tower is 145 years old as of October 2019. It is one part of an aid-to-navigation system here supporting military defense, travel, trade, fishing, boat building and pleasure boating since the 16th century.
The most famous ghost story about the Lighthouse is that of its former keeper. Or keepers. The first one was a man named Peter Rasmussen. Peter loved cigars and had a meticulous eye and a watchful manner in the way he maintained the lighthouse. He was one of the first ghost people reported coming in contact with over the years.
Another keeper, Joseph Andreu, fell to his death while painting the outside of the tower. To this day, people say you can see his spirit looking out from the top.
Then there are the ghosts of two young sisters who died on the property. Their father, Hezekiah Pity, was hired to renovate the tower in the late 1800s. The girls, Eliza and Mary, were playing inside a cart that was being used to carry materials back and forth to the lighthouse. When the cart broke loose, they were unable to jump out in time, and the two girls fell with the cart to the bay and drowned.
Researcher Joe Nickell, who investigated, has written that there is no credible evidence the lighthouse is haunted. He noted that supposed spooky noises or sounds from the tower have mundane explanations such as seagulls or the wind.
Key West Cemetery (Key West, FL)
A cemetery on its own is already a spooky place to go to. Imagine the place at night. The most famous cemetery in Florida has to be Key West Cemetery.
The Key West City Cemetery was established in 1847 following the disastrous hurricane of October 11, 1846, where the then-beachside cemetery was unearthed due to the winds and seas. This continues to be an active cemetery with about 100 interments a year. Within the fenced 19 acres lies between 80,000 -100,000 people.Key West has some of the most intriguing and oddest ghost stories in American history. Plenty of happenings and goings-on have transpired here at the Cemetery. One such famous tale is that of Carl Tanzler and Maria Elena Hoyos. Elena had been buried at Key West Cemetery for two years before Carl Tanzler dug her out. You can read more about the story in our own Freaky Friday: The Corpse Bride of Key West post.
A prominent monument is to the U.S.S. Maine, which was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898 killing 260 American sailors. Two dozen of those dead are buried here along with other veterans of the Spanish-American war. An iron fence and gate brought from Washington D.C. protects a neat grassy yard.
The grave for Manual Cabeza, who died in 1921, is evidence of Key West’s Southern history. The World War I vet had a relationship with a mixed-race woman and was tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan for it. In retaliation, he shot and killed one of his persecutors on Duval Street on Christmas Eve 1921. The next day, an angry mob removed Cabeza from jail and lynched and shot him.
Enter here if you dare, but only do so during the day. For the night is long and full of terrors. (Game of Thrones pun intended.) Especially in a cemetery.
The May-Stringer House (Brooksville, FL)
The May-Stringer House comprises a 14-room “Painted Lady” Victorian-era home overlooking the City of Brooksville. It is four-stories tall and has seven gables and gingerbread trim. John May bought the property in 1855 and built a four-room house. When Mr. May died in 1858, his wife Marena remained living in the house and she ran a plantation in 1866. Marena later married Frank Saxon, a confederate soldier. Marena died in 1869 during childbirth.
When Frank Saxon remarried, he sold the house to Dr. Sheldon Stringer. Dr. Stringer expanded the house to fourteen rooms and practiced medicine from one of the rooms on the ground floor. Three generations of the Stringer family lived in the home until it was sold yet again to Dr. Earl Hensley and his wife Helen. The house was sold for the last time to Hernando County Historical Museum Association in 1981 to become the May-Stringer House.
There are at least 4 unmarked graves on the property- John May, Marena May Saxon and the two young children of Marena and Frank Saxon (Frankland and Jesse May). Many who visit the home have reported the presence of apparitions: the voice of a young child crying out for her mother, the appearance of a soldier staring out of an upstairs window.
The home is certified “haunted” by Brooksville’s own PIT (Paranormal Investigation Team). The team has investigated the house several times and even have live cameras set up inside different areas of the home to catch any and all possible paranormal activity. Learn more about the May-Stringer House at the Hernando County Museum website.
Bellamy Bridge (Marianna, FL)
Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail. Photo: www.bellamybridge.org
Florida’s most haunted bridge is the Bellamy Bridge. Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail is a one-half mile long multi-use trail that offers access to the historic Bellamy Bridge. Located off State Road 162 just west of the Chipola River, the trail passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Florida. Rare and endangered plant species have been identified along the path which also provides access to part of the Upper Chipola WMA, a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge has been called “Florida’s best-known ghost story.” The legend centers around Elizabeth Jane Croom Bellamy, a young woman who died nearby in 1837. Her restless spirit is said to appear at and around Bellamy Bridge. Eyewitness accounts of strange manifestations at the site date back to the 1800s and there are many variations of the legend. Learn more about the story at the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail website.