Florida Paranormal: 5 of the Most Haunted Places in the Sunshine State
Paranormal Activity in Florida?
Most people that have had the privilege of visiting the state of Florida visit for vacationing purposes. The beaches in Florida are some of the top most beautiful in the entire world and with good reason. But there is a darker side to Florida that most tourists and snowbirds do not even realize...a dark side that lurks in the most unexpected places. Take a brief and bewitching tour with me through five of Florida's most haunted places, and we will learn about the Sunshine State's ghostly secrets along our way. We'll learn that Florida is indeed a haunted place.
1. May-Stringer House
The May-Stringer House is now a museum in Brooksville, Florida, full of antiques from the 1800's and early 1900s and also home to a collection of War collectibles. By day, the museum welcomes visitors to a tour through its historic halls and rooms, but by night only the adults are welcome to participate in the tour. This is because the night-time tour is a haunted tour, filled with stories of the haunted house's mournful past, ending with a bone-chilling view of one of the house's most paranormally active spots. This house is truly the number one place for Florida paranormal activity.
Believed to have been erected circa 1856, John May moved into the home with his daughters and wife, Marena. They lived happily together for a short period in time within the May House, when John May passed away in 1858. His beloved wife, Marena, ended up marrying a man named Frank Saxon, eight years after her first husband passed. Marena gave birth to a beautiful little girl shortly thereafter, but sadly she passed during the painful childbirthing process...most likely due to Puerperal fever (childbed fever). The little girl was named Jessie May Saxon and the story gets even more depressing from here...three years after Jessie was born, she died too. The causes are said to be unknown and both Jessie and her mother's graves have not been pinpointed, though there is a cemetery on the premises and gravestones throughout. After the Mays and Stringers, a few doctors resided in the home, using it as a part of their business. Different families have lived in its haunted yet pristinely Victorian walls and gingerbread wooden frames, and it is known that more than just members of the May and Saxon family passed here.
Today, the house-turned-museum is documented to be haunted...and extensively haunted at that. There are pictures all over the internet taken of different places in the house with strange streaks of light and blackness that can't be explained by professionals. There was one particular picture that really creeped me out...a picture of the outside of the house at night...with at least twenty orbs surrounding the mansion, from the foundation in the ground to the tip of the roof. People who have been on the night tour say that they have caught dozens of EVPs on tape and have experienced the sound of a little girl's ghost crying in the dark attic. It is thought by many to be the sad little voice of Jessie May...desperately wanting to have her family back. One person even claims to have seen her peering down to him from the attic window.
But amongst the friendly ghosts at the haunted May-Stringer House, there is also a darker spirit called "Mr. Nasty." He tends to give people the chills and shakes when in their presence. Fortunately, he has not been violent or too terrifying. The main focus of the paranormal events that have taken place in this mansion have Jessie May's three-year-old touch all over them. Toys will be in disarray when the employees come to open the museum (although they know the toys were in an orderly fashion the night before), with no sign that anyone had broken in to tamper with things. One time in particular, Jessie May's hauntingly white porcelain doll was moved from the play crib in the attic to the bed...the next morning, the whole room was torn apart...as if a poltergeist had ransacked Jessie's belongings. Now the employees keep the haunted doll in the crib all of the time and ask that the museum visitors do not even touch the antique doll...for Jessie May's sake.
To add to the mystery and sadness behind Jessie May's haunting, it is said that if you visit the ghost-filled museum you will find a picture of a sleeping Jessie May on the mantle. But don't be fooled...she is not sleeping in this old photograph...she is lying in her child-size coffin. Creepy, right? It is something that the people used to do back in those days, and it sure adds to the hair-raising vibe of the haunted May-Stringer House. Other pictures can be found in the house, including one of Jessie May's father, Frank Saxon. I wonder if their eyes follow you when you walk by?
As for the EVPs, I read that one particular person caught a little girl on tape asking for her mommy...and another EVP of a little girl's voice asking for "more cake please". Do you think that Jessie May's ghost is still stuck in the house, eternally bound to looking for her missing mother? Just remember, it's not just sweet little Jessie May occupying this antique home...there are other ghosts known to haunt the property...including other older owners of the home. Do yourself a favor if you live in haunted Florida - this Halloween, take a trip to Brooksville and pay the $20.00 to do the haunted tour at night. I'm sure it will be well worth the visit...and I guarantee you will have a frighteningly good (or just plain terrifying) time!
2. Ybor City
Haunted Ybor City is a part of the sunny city of Tampa, Florida. It is a part that has a thick and rich hispanic history, as well as a dark, ubiquitous history that seems to hang heavily in the air. It is a smaller part of the city that has been established since the 1800's and started out as a cigar manufacturing town. At its peak of success, it was considered the largest cigar manufacturing city in the world, with the ability to produce millions in a day. Unfortunately, with Cuban and Italian immigrants who lacked hygienic resources and skills, diseases and illnesses ran rampant in many of the manufacturing facilities.
In the early 1900s, a tuberculosis epidemic hit this quaint part of town and claimed many of the workers' lives, as well as their family's lives. If that wasn't hard enough on the immigrants and residents of Ybor City, they then had to deal with two large fires that wiped out a couple blocks worth of buildings and manufacturing plants on two separate occasions. The papers claim that no one was killed in these fires, but how were they to be sure?
Now if you visit haunted Ybor City, there are shops and nightclubs lining the brick streets...but there is still a feeling of stepping back in time...feelings of something lurking behind every corner. Many shop owners and employees throughout the area have claimed to have seen and experienced different ghosts within their buildings, including one little boy's ghost who seems to play tricks on the employees by moving objects around and running throughout the aisles of clothing, when the store has been shut down. Another tale of the haunted Cuban Club tells us of a lady ghost in a misty dress who has been seen walking down the staircase on many occasions; pianos playing by themselves, and disembodied voices talking into the night when no one is in the old building.
A law firm located in Ybor City also claims to be haunted. Further investigation into the history of the old haunted building shows us that the law firm was first a bar and was the scene of a heinous fight when the bar had first opened. A man was killed in the fight, trauma to the head...now he can be heard talking in Spanish and walking around in the law firm's building at night. The lawyers and employees have said that the paranormal activity died down after their remodeling had been completed, however.
If you get the chance to travel to haunted Tampa, Florida and you are intrigued by places with a rich history, give Ybor City a try...but watch out! You may run into an angry cigar plant worker that died over a hundred years ago!
To read a more detailed account of Ybor's haunted history, click here: http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Hauntings-of-Ybor-City.
3. Riverwalk Museum
At Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Riverwalk Hotel has been made into a museum in recent years; however, it is one of the oldest hotel buildings in Fort Lauderdale today, being established in the early 1900s. There is talk amongst the employees and locals that the museum is in fact haunted. And, like many older established buildings in Florida, it is not haunted by just one ghost or entity, it is haunted by a quite a few ghosts.
A ghostly little girl, between the ages of five and seven, can supposedly be seen looking through the second floor's window at different times of the day. Passersby have caught a spine-tingling glimpse of her, only to find out that the museum is closed and no one should be inside at that moment. The ghost of a man, who appears to be in his twenties or thirties, will look through the window of the first floor and has even scared some people away by pressing his nose and hands to the glass once the helpless and unsuspecting person peers inside. The ghost of a man in his late forties has been said to pace the first floor at night; he has been seen wearing a brown duster and it appears that he is from a different time period. Cold spots and creepy feelings in each room of the haunted museum have been reported by different people throughout the years.
4. Round Cypress Head
There is a particular gaggle of cypress trees, if you will, known as the Round Cypress Head of St. John's River in Seminole County, Florida. It is not easy to reach and would take a boat and some heavy boots to get there; however, many say that the paranormal occurrences that they have witnessed in this spot of the wooded river is a story worth the trip.
Some say that a demon lives amongst the centuries-old trees in Round Cypress Head. This legend has been around for ages, dating back to the time of prohibition...the boot-legging era. This demon is said to be a shape-shifter, able to metamorphose into a bobtailed wild cat at will. Many young hunters and fishermen were warned to never visit the haunted Round Cypress Head, because if they did this demon would consume them...some believe this demon was possibly a witch and the bobtailed cat was actually her familiar. Paranormal investigators, specifically the investigators who wrote the book Weird Florida, traveled to this haunted cypress forest by boat down the St. John's River. What did they find? An extremely dark and dank area of cypress woods, with roots sticking up from the ground and barely any light seeping through the canopy of thick cypress branches...a perfect place for a demon or witch to haunt. Though they did not find this demon or have any particularly terrifying paranormal experiences, they confirmed that there were some broken bottles and jars, possibly from the moonshining days. A theory is that this demon or witch of Round Cypress Head was made up by bootleggers, in an attempt to keep their stash safe from the authorities or from any young'uns who might steal it.
Still yet, locals claim that certain fisherman have gone missing on the St. John's River, and many fishermen and hunters have said time and again that those woods are definitely haunted. Moaning noises, bending trees, and horrible smells accompany the legends of the haunted Round Cypress Head...maybe there is a logical explanation to these occurrences...maybe not. We may never know.
5. Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee is the second largest body of fresh-water in the United States, as it stretches over seven hundred and thirty five square miles of Florida land. Old American beauty undulates from the Lake in every direction, but there are some darker secrets that the lake holds...literally. Separate reports of ghost phenomena and sightings in and around Lake Okeechobee occur every year...from my research, there has been five reports already this year. Other than ghosts, there have been tales circulating the haunted lake about ancient monsters and dinosaurs...which have all been rejected by modern science. However, the ghostly hauntings are impossible for any scholars or educated men to deny...there have just been too many.
Back in the early 1900s, a scary sight could be seen on the southern most part of Lake Okeechobee, between Kreamer Island and Observation Island. What was that terrifying sight? Massive amounts of skeletons...just lying in the bed of the lake...resting in a watery grave. The skeletons are unable to be seen today, but when random fishermen in the early 20th century came across these bodies, they were definitely frightened. Stories are told by locals of fishermen "catchin' skulls" on their days fishing the mysterious and haunted lake. Theories are that the skeletons are those of the Seminoles, due to their struggles with war or disease, while others believe that it could be the skeletons of ancient people...ancient tribes that resided in Florida before the Seminoles' reign in the 1700's. Whatever the case, I can guarantee that this could be aiding in the paranormal phenomenon taking place in a constant manner around the lake's lands.
Let us also not forget that a massive hurricane in 1928 hit the lake and killed thousands of people, all of which were buried at one gravesite...the historical marker pictured to the right. In addition to the Natives' potential watery burial grounds, there has been a large amount of death surrounding the lake throughout the centuries...it is no wonder the area is so haunted!
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© 2011 Nicole Canfield