It's not all sunshine in the Sunshine State. Florida's hot, humid southern state offers some of the spookiest haunts in the South. From possessed dolls to theatres with live-in ghosts, Florida is an excellent destination for anyone looking to expand their tourism with true crime sites and historical haunts. We've compiled a list of ten great haunted historical experiences in Florida to catch on your next trip south.
1 – St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine
St. Augustine maintains a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in Florida, and its guiding light serves as the most haunted structure in the ghost-populated city. Workers built the lighthouse in 1873, and during construction, a gaggle of kids (the lighthouse keepers' kids and their friends) designated a rail car near the light beam as their playground.
The rail car underwent technical difficulties and ejected the kids from their seats, launching all five into the ocean and killing three. Those three passed on spirits spook visitors daily. Staff admits they've spotted children's footprints on the staircases.
2 – Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables
Experiencing nightmares about elevators? Afraid to ride a lift from floor to floor, so you opt for the stairs? If so, there might be better choices than a stay at the Biltmore Hotel.
In the 1930s, a hotel employee named Theresa died in an elevator, and her spirit is said to have remained on the property. The Biltmore did not buy into the superstition of having a thirteenth floor, but maybe they should have. According to travelers, a woman in a white gown wanders through the halls, noises flow through the open space, and dread hovers over the floor. Some say previous guests who passed away during their stay never left.
3. Cassadaga Hotel and Spiritual Center, Cassadaga
Cassadaga Hotel became a meeting point for spiritualists, psychics, and mediums in the late 1800s. The original building burnt down in the '20s, but the community banded together and built a new structure for the prominent population. Cassadaga Hotel and Spiritual Center does not allow guests under 21, yet children's spirits seem to occupy the lobby. Patrons have noted a little boy and girl riding their tricycles and filling the hallways with laughter late into the night.
The hotel offers spiritual readings such as numerology, tarot, psychic, seances, palm readings, and more. Many spiritualists dwell in the Cassadaga area, often called the psychic capital of the world. If you're brave enough to book an overnight stay, look out for orbs, silhouettes of ghosts, and murmurings from the other side.
4 – The Tampa Theatre, Tampa
The Tampa Theatre survived recessions, scheduled demolitions and maintained its breathtaking architecture from the '20s. I watched Gremlins in the Tampa Theatre in elementary school. I sensed a presence behind the seat watching the film with us. I was not alone as other attendees reported shoulder taps from thin air and spooky whispers in the silence.
Four main guests frequently visit the theatre, lending to its bustling business. Fink Finley, a former projectionist at the theatre, unexpectedly had a stroke during a movie showing. He passed away later from cardiac damage. However, Finley remains a loyal employee; several people say they see Finley's shadow sitting in the booth, continuing to project moving pictures.
Another former employee, Robert Lanier, suffered his demise from a work incident. A coworker found him dead behind the ticket-taking booth the morning after Lanier's shift. His ghost supposedly floats through the theatre to this day.
A woman in white breezes through the enclosed space, favoring the balcony, but you need to keep your eyes peeled to spot her as she emerges and disappears quickly. While looking for the lady in white, glance over to seat 308. According to locals, a fedora-wearing former fan sits in the seat, attentive to the shows.
5 – Key West Cemetery, Key West
The idea of limbo, or the state between life and death, is a jumping-off point for numerous horror movies and spooky content. The deceased buried at the Key West Cemetery are also familiar with the idea of straddling life and death. The cemetery holds over 100,000 bodies, all complemented with hilarious or sentimental headstones.
Be careful how you treat the passed-on at the cemetery. Legend has it the spirit of a Bahamian woman protects those laid to rest. Avoid sitting on headstones or bad-mouthing the deceased. Orbs and shadows also find their way into the cemetery's grounds.
6 – Fort East Martello Museum, Key West
Tourists populate Key West for the gorgeous snorkeling and scuba diving experiences and a chance to visit the southernmost point in the United States. However, they may be unaware of something more sinister lurking nearby. He stands at three feet and four inches tall, clad in a spiffy sailor's outfit, and glares into the distance with beady, jet-black eyes. He is usually referred to as Robert the Doll.
Robert Eugene Otto, called Gene, was a young boy who was gifted the doll by his grandfather over 100 years ago. He ostensibly named the doll Robert. After Otto began blaming Robert for mishaps stringing his life, Otto grew upset with the doll and placed him in the attic. In 1974, Otto died, and his house was sold to Myrtle Rueter, who unknowingly assumed Robert's upkeep.
Friends and family who stopped by the house reported the unease felt in Robert's presence and shifting facial expressions when anyone spoke against Otto. After 20 years of dealing with shenanigans imparted by Robert, Rueter donated the soulless sailor to the Fort East Martello Museum, where he resides today.
Those who pay visits to the museum purportedly experience accidents, breakups, death, and other negative experiences after visiting the 117-year-old boy. The museum staff claims they hear footsteps overnight, and the doll warps his facial expressions based on his mood.
7 – The Cuban Club, Tampa
According to those who've been in The Cuban Club, the haunting possesses a benevolent tone as opposed to a dark one. A century ago, an actor took his own life during a performance after forgetting his lines. Today, the spirit's presence lingers through the theatre, orbs appear throughout the auditorium, and shadowy figures linger in photographs.
Years ago, The Cuban Club offered a large swimming pool in its list of endless entertainment. Unfortunately, one boy jumped in sans lifeguard and met his departure from the earthly realm. Supposedly the boy alerts tourists of his presence through flashlight flickers and elevator antics. He also sometimes refuses to let the elevator doors shut and sends the lift up and down with no passengers present.
8 – Casa Monica Resort and Spa, St. Augustine
Built in 1887, the Casa Monica Resort and Spa was originally named “The Cordova.” Patrons who stay at the hotel have experienced situations similar to those illustrated in horror movies. Figures, clad in attire from the 1920s, appear to float through the hallways and waltz in the main area, reminiscent of a scene from The Haunted Mansion. The hotel staff today attempts to downplay the eerie occurrences on the premises.
9 – Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine
Ghosts of wars past haunt the battlegrounds of Castillo de San Marcos. The first incident occurred in the 1560s when French Protestant Soldiers shipwrecked their boats and were attacked and killed by Pedro Menendez de Aviles from Spain.
Osceola, a Native American leader, escaped military capture in the 1800s, but a few years later, he and his men fell victim to a fake truce. It landed him at Castillo de San Marcos, where he befriended his physician. After Osceola passed away, the physician commemorated their friendship by cutting off his head, preserving it, and showcasing it in a glass jar in a drugstore. Some travelers believe they see a headless man walking through the grounds and feel chills, the presence of spirits, and voices.
10 – Bellamy Bridge, Marianna
The Bellamy Bridge covers the Chipola River in Marianna, Florida. Elizabeth Jane Banks, the wife of Dr. Samuel C. Bellamy, a politician, purportedly materializes throughout the environment. After the two exchanged vows, they shared a dance, and Elizabeth's dress caught on fire. She died from the burn wounds a few days later.
Elizabeth's husband buried her near the Chipola River, but apparently, her spirit couldn't ignore her immense love for her husband. She purportedly wanders through the wilderness, looking for him. The image of the ghost varies between sightings. Some report a flame, white lights, and a woman's silhouette wading through the water.
Haunted Experiences in Florida
Florida boasts many ghostly attractions for horror hounds and true crime fans, from haunted lighthouses to spooky theatres. Instead of planning a trip around amusement park entertainment, stop by St. Augustine and The Keys for unforgettable experiences and lifelong haunts.