Autumn is here, and with it comes changes in the vegetation, a shift towards colder weather, and pumpkin spice as far as the eye can see. It’s also a time to celebrate our spooky history, and Florida is full of paranormal encounters. Here are five haunted spots in Florida that you can visit and maybe experience a creepy encounter for yourself.
Ghost Hunting Sites in Florida
St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine
Located at the north end of Anastasia Island, the St. Augustine Lighthouse was originally built in 1824 and owned by Dr. Alan Ballard. The lighthouse replaced a watchtower that was built in the same location by the Spanish. In 1865, Dr. Ballard tried to sell the lighthouse to Florida because he feared the ocean would swallow the location. However, the state of Florida was financially insolvent from the Civil War. Their offer to Dr. Ballard was incredibly low, and when he refused, the state threatened to take the lighthouse without paying him anything at all. As the story goes, Dr. Ballard was so angry that he vowed to never leave the lighthouse. According to the keepers of the lighthouse and numerous guests, that’s precisely what happened.
Dr. Ballard isn’t the only spirit rumored to haunt the lighthouse. A lighthouse keeper named Peter Rasmussen is rumored to haunt the tower. Visitors claim to smell the smoke from his cigars. Visitors have also claim to hear the laughter of two young girls, which is attributed to the two teenage daughters of Hezekiah Pity. Pity was commissioned to renovate the tower, and his two daughters drowned when the cart they were playing on slid into the ocean. Visitors also claim to have seen the elder Pity girl wandering the grounds, wearing her favorite blue velvet dress and blue hair bow.
The Cuban Club, Ybor City, Tampa
At the turn of the 20th Century, Cuban immigrants formed El Circulo Cubano as a society to “bind all Cuban residents to Tampa into a fraternal group, to offer assistance and help to the sick.” The club unified the Cuban presence in the city and offered a site for members to gather. The Neoclassical building currently standing was built in 1917 following a fire that burned the original club to the ground. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building contained a two-story theater, pharmacy, library, ballroom, and Cantina. It also featured a gymnasium, swimming pool, and bowling lanes. The courtyard has hosted famous boxing matches and musical performances. The grand ballroom continues to be booked for lavish weddings and parties.
There have been so many paranormal events reported by visitors that the Cuban Club is considered one of the most haunted places in the country. Common sightings include:
- An actor who committed suicide onstage.
- A board member who was murdered during an argument.
- A lady in a misty dress.
- A young boy who drowned in the Cantina’s pool. Visitors often claim to hear his voice, see him playing with a ball on the steps of the theater, and opening doors.
The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables
Opened in 1926, the Biltmore Hotel has hosted famous and infamous guests alike, including Al Capone and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In World War II, the hotel was converted into an army hospital, and following the war became the site of the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. It remained a veteran’s hospital until 1968. In 1973, the city acquired the site through the Historic Monuments Act and Legacy of Parks program. Next, the Biltmore reopened as a four-star hotel and resort 1987. In 1996, the National Register of Historic Places designated the Biltmore as a Historic Landmark.
Due to its incredible, varied history, it should be no surprise that many visitors report paranormal sightings at the Biltmore. Probably the most famous spirit is the ghost of Thomas “Fatty” Walsh, who was murdered on the 13th floor. The gentleman mobster has been said to hold open doors of the restaurant for waitresses carrying trays out of the kitchen to tables. Guests have also reported messages written on mirrors, lights to turn off and on independent of their switches, and elevator buttons sending guests to the wrong floor.
The Riddle House, West Palm Beach
Originally a funeral parlor built in 1905, Karl Riddle bought the Edwardian-style home in the 1920s to serve as his private residence. Riddle was the first city manager of West Palm Beach. In 1972, the house was converted into the Flagler Arts Center art school. Palm Beach Atlantic University purchased the house in the early 1980s to use as a dormitory. In 1995, Palm Beach Atlantic, headed by Karl’s nephew John Riddle, who served as chairman, donated the house to Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
One spirit reportedly very active at the Riddle house is a man named Joseph, who committed suicide in the attic rather than face his financial troubles. He supposedly has a particular dislike for men and will attack any who enter the attic. Guides at Yesteryear Village, dressed in period costume, will tell guests many of their own paranormal experiences in the building.
Villa Casa Casuarina aka the Versace Mansion, Miami
Known famously as the Versace mansion—the building where fashion designer Gianni Versace lived and was murdered—Villa Casa Casuarina was built in 1930 by an heir to the Standard Oil fortune. When Gianni purchased the home in 1992, he renovated the property with his signature, opulent touch.
The property now operates as a luxury hotel. Villa Casa Casuarina is considered both haunted and cursed due the many tragedies that have occurred there. The building is also said to have secret passageways, trap doors, and other hidden spooky touches.
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