In Part 1 I answered one reader’s question about best south Florida haunted places in the Treasure Coast region between Palm Beach and Vero Beach. Another reader had the same question about Florida, except Jim wanted to know about best haunted places in the Tampa and Cocoa Beach areas. That’s what this post will focus on.
My first stop was to see what kind of ghost tours the Tampa area has to offer, which meant I headed to my favorite site to check such things: Ghost Tour Directory. Sure enough, they had a listing for Ghost Tour company in Tampa. The company offers walking tours of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and John’s Pass. They also offer a Full Moon Ghost Tour of Gulfport as well as a tour of St. Pete Beach which concludes at the Don Cesar Hotel with a complimentary beverage and caesar salad at Don Cesar’s Sea Porch Cafe. (Food, drinks, and ghosts? Now they’re talking my language!)
The places featured in the ghost tours were the places that popped up most when I looked in my books and did some web searching. The Don Cesar Hotel in St. Pete Beach is perhaps one of the most famous spooky stays in that part of Florida.
Thomas Rowe built the hotel as a tribute to his lost love, Lucinda, whom he met while studying in London. They fell in love but weren’t allowed to marry because her parents disapproved. She ended up dying, he ended up marrying someone else. Then he built his dream hotel on the beach, where he lived in quarters on the fifth floor until he died in 1940.
Rowe often interacted with guests. Some say he still does. People have reported seeing his apparition in a variety of places, including mirrors on the fifth floor, in the elevator, or in the dining room and lobby. But there’s also a rumor about how a manager saw Rowe one time and told him his presence was problematic. Rowe allegedly agreed to confine himself to a suite of rooms on the fifth floor, and he was not to appear if guests were booked there.
But the story the hotel likes to circulate (and does on its website) is more romantic. It’s about how a couple appears in the lobby where a fountain used to stand. It was a replica of the one Rowe and his lost love, Lucinda, used to meet at in Europe. The ghost couple at the phantom fountain walk hand-in-hand before disappearing. It’s thought they’re Rowe and Lucinda, finally joined together in the afterlife.
If Jim’s up for seeing a show in a haunted theater, he might want to check out the Tampa Theatre. The grand movie palace initially opened in 1926. Its Baroque-inspired with Spanish and Italian Renaissance architectural influences have been lovingly maintained and preserved ever since, which is why it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It still shows films, but also hosts concerts and other special events. It’s quite the experience seeing a movie here. It’s showpiece has to be the Mighty Wurlitzer, which is played before most films by members of the Central Florida Theater Organ Society.
Perhaps that’s why Foster “Fink” Finley’s ghost still hangs around. He was one of the theater’s projectionists and was dedicated to his job. One day while at work he fell seriously ill and was taken away. He died two months later. But it’s thought his spirit remained at his place of work that he was so dedicated to.
Treasure Island, which is just a short bridge excursion from Tampa, has turned into a tourist hotspot. Bordering its southern fringe is St. Pete Beach. John’s Pass Village sits at the north end. The village is a replica of an early 20th century fishing village and houses shops and restaurants. It’s also a great place to find marine activities, from parasailing to fishing charters and other boat rentals. Oh, and if you’re looking for ghosts, you might see the Whitus brothers.
In 1862, they were ambushed at Johns Pass and were murdered by Southern sympathizers. They were considered Federal sympathizers, which their Confederate neighbors didn’t appreciate. The neighbors turned on them in a most unfortunate way.
Nowadays fisherman and boardwalk visitors alike report seeing the brothers in the bay. Sometimes they’re described as “phosphorescent bubbles or neon light reflections.”
One of the Tampa/St. Pete area’s most chilling and bizarre ghost stories involves the tale of the Skyway Bridge Hitchhiker. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge connects Tampa and St. Petersburg. It was built when a portion of the bridge over Tampa Bay collapsed in 1980 and several cars and a Greyhound bus plunged into the water. 35 people died.
Many drivers have reported picking up a young, attractive, blond woman who says she’s trying to cross the bridge but is afraid of getting to the other side. No matter how much they try to comfort her, she always vanishes by the time the car reaches the bridge’s midpoint. And not by jumping out of the car. We’re talking she vanishes into thin air.
I’d advise Jim not to stop for hitchiker’s on the skyway if he takes it. Not because its futile to offer help to any young blonds, but because it’s actually illegal to stop on the skyway.
I didn’t turn up any haunts in Cocoa Beach exactly, but in nearby Cocoa, Florida the Cocoa Village Playhouse is thought to be haunted by a ghost named Joe, a former handyman. He’s described as harmless and is usually heard more than seen (doors opening and closing when they shouldn’t and unexplainable footsteps).
If Jim’s up for jaunting about a half an hour from Cocoa Beach, he’ll find some neat haunts in Melbourne. Such as the the Henegar Center for the Arts. It’s another haunted Florida theater. They call their ghost Jonathan and say he likes to move things. Some say they’ve seen his apparition in the balcony.
For a fun and lighthearted jaunt, Jim might consider the Historic Rossetter House Museum & Gardens. It consists of the 1908 Rossetter House and Gardens, the 1892 Roesch House and the 1865 Houston Cemetery. They do ghost tours on the first Friday of the month, which is a “for entertainment purposes only” tour that describes the “impressions” a team of psychics got when they visited the house in 2008.
Another haunt to mention that is worth the about an hour jaunt from Cocoa Beach is the Kennedy Space Center. According to Shadowlands, the launch pad they used for the Apollo Missions is rumored to be haunted by three astronauts who died in a fire. I’m not sure if you can actually still go to that launch pad, but you are taken to some.
I highly recommend this attraction anytime I can. It blew my mind. I had no desire to go to it, but on one of his visits to see us when we lived in Jacksonville, my dad insisted we take him. He loves aviation, rockets, ships, etc., all of which I’m usually less than interested in. Being the good daughter I am, however, I obliged him. I am so glad I did. I enjoyed the tour and scenery immensely. The whole experience was awe-inspiring.