Top 10 Haunted Houses in Florida
Ok, we admit there are thousands of stories about the most haunted places in Florida. That doesn’t mean we have to believe in ghosts to write about them.
Yes, we are skeptical of ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. After our research, it is very possible we are in a vast minority.
Enjoy the haunted places in Florida, some of them could possibly be true!
The Most Famous Haunted Places in Florida
East Martello – Robert the Doll
Perhaps Florida’s most famous haunting is Key West’s Robert the Doll. Robert is housed at Fort East Martello, an old Civil War fort started in 1862. The Fort is now a museum.
Robert, the 4-foot doll, was the possession of a Key West eccentric named Robert Otto. Upon his death in 1974, the doll became part of the artifacts at the East Martello Museum. Anytime a malady of any kind occurred, his original owner blamed “Robert the doll”.
Today’s legend says Robert changes facial expressions, makes noises and occasionally moves. However, the real reason Robert has become famous is his ability to impart bad luck on those who disrespect him. Just ask Ozzy Osbourne and his bad luck after encountering Robert.
People say you must ask his permission to photograph him. Visitors who are non-believers that scoff at him have a lot of bad luck befall them.
A complete story about Robert the Doll’s history and potential curses are here.
Key West is a haven for ghost stories, haunted houses and persistent legends. Our experience is there are more strange things that happen on Duval Street than any self-respecting ghosts could conjure up!
St. Augustine Light House
The St. Augustine Lighthouse has long been the subject of TV shows seeking paranormal activity. Many report strange inhabitants and spirits.
The story is two-fold. First, visitors claim they encounter strange sounds, sights and happenings attributed to a former lighthouse contractor who in 1859 fell to his death while working on the lighthouse. Others say the shadowy figure of a man seen is one of several lighthouse keepers.
The second story is the one about Hezekiah Pittee and his two daughters. Pittee was the keeper of the lighthouse in 1872. His daughters, along with a playmate, were riding in a cart used to haul materials from the waterfront to the grounds.
On a tragic afternoon, the girls tipped the cart over. They drowned underneath. They say the spirits of these children roam the grounds of the Lighthouse. Evidence from workers say that giggles from the girls and small footprints remind them of the tragedy that occurred here.
The legends have a few variations, but paranormal investigators corroborate the strange presence of spirits.
The Cuban Club
Supposedly, the Cuban Club in Ybor City, (a Tampa Neighborhood) is a hotbed of spirits that occasionally get the attention of visitors.
The Cuban Club was a place that immigrants patronized as a gathering place. This social club included entertainment, recreation, and political input in Tampa.
The current Cuban Club building was built in 1917 as a replacement for a structure that burned down. According to the Travel Channel, the Club is one of their top 10 Haunted Places.
The two prevailing stories about the spirits that frequent the Cuban Club are one about a suicide that took place there and “Little Timmy” who drowned in the Club’s pool.
Story one is about people reporting the lively spirit of an actor who performed regularly at the Cuban Club. He was on stage and forgot his lines. He committed suicide while on stage.
Perhaps the most tragic of the stories is that of Little Timmy. He was 8 years old when he drowned in the basement pool of the Club.
The Cuban Club is supposed to be haunted by the two spirits above, plus several hundred more according to the Club’s envoy that offers tours.
We don’t know if you call the Cassadaga Spiritual community haunted or not, but this is on their website – “A medium is one who is capable of receiving communication from people who were once living on the earth and have passed into the spirit world.”
Now, as far as we are concerned, if you are talking to ghosts, that’s haunted enough for us!
Cassadaga Spiritual Camp is a group of 80-plus residences near Lake Helen in north central Florida. Many of the residents are practicing spiritualists and healers that have resided here since the founding in 1894.
People come here to communicate with people in the afterlife and to explore the healing powers through spiritualists.
As we stated early on, we are skeptics. However, the stories that come out of Cassadaga are compelling.
For instance, one account is of a 10-year-old girl who started communicating with her dead uncle. Today, she is supposed to offer her powers to the public. There are many more such reports throughout the community.
In our world, a ten-year-old grows to be a teenager that doesn’t communicate with anyone!
Believers, doubters, and the curious visit Cassadaga. We will stay at home.
Gilbert’s Bar – One of the Top 10 Haunted Houses in Florida
Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge was established back in 1874. Congress created places like this primarily for shipwrecked sailors and others who were victims of storms. Now it is one of the top 10 haunted houses in Florida.
Gilbert’s Bar was such a place near Stuart, Florida. This was an active area for storms and wrecked ships.
Any structure as old as Gilbert’s Bar is bound to have a ghost or two hanging around occasionally doing what spirits are supposed to do. They make noises, slam doors, and walk around the building.
But there is more and it starts to get weird as some things in Florida tend to do.
One website of several, claims the following;
House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar in Stuart is the location where a possible cult had been started. People lived here with a man they claimed to be some kind of Messiah. It turned out that the man was a doctor named Cyrus Teed, who later renamed himself Koresh. This new name came from the religion of “Koreshanity”. More than 250 people stayed at the location while following Koresh. Koresh passed away in 1908, and his body was propped up for weeks until it had to be disposed of. His body was placed in a mausoleum soon after and has since been washed away by a powerful hurricane. The spirits of those who lived at the location are said to linger the grounds. Witnesses have reported hearing phantom footsteps and seeing people appearing and quickly disappearing.
Here is where it gets more weird – none of the above occurred at Gilbert’s Bar that we can find. Teed was in Estero, Florida near Fort Myers all away across the state. He died there, and his body was propped up there for three weeks waiting for a resurrection.
Are spirits rewriting history?
Lesser Known Haunted Places In Florida
Tate’s Hell – A Haunted Forest
Tate’s Hell is a state park with over 200,000 acres of forest in the Florida panhandle. This untouched swamp and forest lands are admittedly some of the densest land masses left in Florida.
The interesting part is how Tate’s Hell got its name. Cebe Tate was the son of a homesteader on the edge of what is now called Tate’s Hell. His mother was a Cherokee Indian.
It was a tough place to be a farmer, but Cebe did raise pigs. The local Indian medicine man came by Cebe’s place once a year to get a pig from Cebe. It was in exchange for the medicine man’s blessing of his crops.
In 1874, Cebe decided not to give the medicine man his pig. The medicine man warned him.
In 1875 Cebe married a Jewish woman. She could not eat pork. In addition, Cebe’s father died, crops went bad and hard times came upon Cebe.
With the urging of Cebe’s wife, beef became an obsession. There were wandering cattle in the dense forest and swamps originally brought over by Spanish explorers.
Cebe headed into Tate’s Hell. He wandered for days. Lost his musket in the swamp, had almost starved and barely alive, wandered out of the forest one day. His last words were, “I have just been through hell!”
There are a lot of strange scary noises in a dense forest. Legend is that Cebe Tate’s spirit is one of those strange sounds such as feet heard running and screams sounding like help.
What do camper, hikers and visitors hear in Tate’s Hell? Who knows what’s there?
Ashley’s of Rockledge – One of the Notorious Most Haunted Places in Florida
This story has been published numerous times over the years. Everyone writing about the most haunted places in Florida seems to pick up this much-repeated legend.
In the 1930s, a man by the name of Jack Allen opened a bar/restaurant called Jack’s Tavern. Jack’s opened near what is now called the Space Coast in northwest Florida.
Ashley’s of Rockledge, successor to Jack’s, is a successful restaurant by any measurement. Good food, great guests, and attractive facilities help the restaurant thrive. Except there are some problems.
Employees and guests at Ashley’s report lights flickering, burglar alarms going off, dishes falling and strange sounds on the stairs. All without human interference.
The place is reputedly haunted. Not from one spirit, but multiple ghosts seem to roam at will.
One story is about the death of Ethel Allen, possibly a relative of the original owner. She was a frequent guest at Jack’s but ran with a rough crowd. She was murdered in 1934. Some say it happened in the restaurant, but she was found on the shore of the nearby Indian River.
Her’s was a particularly brutal murder. Ethel’s killers were never found. Some say she roams the restaurant trying to fit into the life of a spirit.
Many paranormal researchers claim there are numerous spirits at Ashley’s. If so, that may account for the multiple strange events that occur in the restaurant.
Old Jail St. Augustine
St. Augustine is the oldest town in America according to most historians. If there are ghosts, it would seem there are certainly more accounts of hauntings in such a small city than normal – if there is a normal!
Henry Flagler helped make what St. Augustine is today. He ran his railroad there. He built hotels and made St. Augustine the destination it is today. Another thing Henry built was the St. Augustine Jail.
From 1891 to 1953, the Old St. Augustine Jail housed all of the prisoners, some of them violent. In fact, 8 men were hanged at the Old Jail.
Like the rest of the historical sites in St. Augustine, paranormal activity is rampant. Today, ghost tours take you to the Old Jail at night. They lock you in a jail cell. Turn out the lights and people swear they experience the spirits who dwelled there over one hundred years ago.
The Old Jail is a top tourist attraction. It is also a target of The Travel Channel’s Kindred Spirits show.
We can assure you we will avoid the nighttime jail tour, but many rational people agree the Old Jail has something going on.
On a remote island in the Dry Tortugas, a structure was built with 16 million bricks. That massive fort was called Fort Jefferson. The fortress was designed for the protection and guidance of ships going through the Florida Straits into the Gulf of Mexico.
Fort Jefferson became a prison when Confederate prisoners from the Civil War were held there. Today the Fort is a major tourist attraction. It is also reportedly a hotbed of ghostly activity.
One ghost tour site says this –
Everything bad that could happen on an island essentially happened at Fort Jefferson. Cannibalism, executions, murder, outbreaks of diseases – we’ll talk about that later on, inmates shanking each other, drowned Cuban refugees… You name the tragedy, Fort Jefferson has a story. This is basically ghost fodder.
While we couldn’t verify all of the claims the tour operator purports, we do know many things occurred there that included hundreds of deaths.
Dr. Mudd, the doctor that treated Lincoln’s assassin, was imprisoned there. He was pardoned for treating prisoners and inmates during a Yellow Fever outbreak, killing 38 men. Many more would have perished without Mudd’s treatment.
Paranormal investigators and reporters have long been a part of the Fort Jefferson scene. Some claim they have photographic proof of ghosts on the island. Apparently, we have seen a lot of ghosts that appear as glares on many of our photos!?!?
In any event, if ghosts wanted a perfect place to haunt, dark, damp, and creepy Fort Jefferson is the place.
If you have visited the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables Florida, you know this grand old resort has tons of history. The walls are lined with pictures of famous people who have stayed there.
Of all the stories about lively spirits at the Biltmore, the most famous is the tale about Thomas “Fatty” Walsh. The portions of the story that are true are that he was a gangster with friends like Lucky Luciano and Dutch Shultz.
Fatty had parties in the hotel on the 13th floor as the story goes, but our research shows it was the 14th floor. They always included women and gambling. It has been reported that Fatty paid the Biltmore staff handsomely to look the other way during his party nights.
Police never solved the murder of Walsh in March 1929. He was embedded in criminal activity from New York to Miami. While there were a dozen or so witnesses to the shooting, none ever admitted to whom the actual gunman was. Some were fearful of retaliation by the real murderer.
Fatty seems to be the primary spirit roaming the hotel looking for the murderer. Staff at the hotel used to relate more ghostly stories to the hotel’s official historian Linda Spitzer.
Ms. Spitzer heard about the spirits of soldiers who died at the hotel when it was used as a hospital during World War II. She heard about guests who vanished after asking for assistance from the front desk clerk. There are many more abnormal sightings.
If ghosts are at the hotel for unfinished business, the history of this grand old hostelry certainly offers many opportunities for haunting.
Loop Road, The Everglades
Spend a little time deep in the Everglades. That is creepy enough without the stories of Loop Road.
Loop Road can be described as a byway off the Tamiami Trail. That is a generous description. It is actually a semi-dangerous gravel road cut through the middle of the swamp.
Loop Road is full of alligators, swamp angels, off-the-grid people, ramshackle dwellings, and plenty of things that want to bite, sting or eat you!
The Tamiami Trail was built as part of the quest to find a quick way to Miami. It was completed in 1928. Long before the completion of the Trail, a man by the name of James Franklin Jaudon built Loop Road from an old Indian trail into the Everglades.
Jaudon had a dream that tourists and travelers along the Miami-Dade/Monroe County line would come to his community of Pinecrest along Loop Road. He ran out of money.
Loop Road eventually was traveled only by gladesmen, Indians, bootleggers and loggers. Rumors persist today that Al Capone had a speakeasy and gambling joint near Pinecrest.
Crime, deceit, lawlessness and unmarked graves have been associated with Loop Road. One old-timer quipped, “wise men don’t travel Loop Road at night…. bears and panthers are the least of their worries”.
In the 1950s Gator Hook Lodge opened for a 20-year stint. It was a real dive bar frequented by “hunters and fishers, froggers and gator poachers, moonshiners and misanthropes”.
The Gator Hook burned down, but the stories about lost souls, disappearances and lack of law enforcement remain. The nearest sheriff was 90 miles away in Key Largo.
Needless to say, the sounds of the Everglades at night lead to ghostly thoughts and inhuman sightings. Even the paranormal investigators shy away from the swamp.
We traveled Loop Road during the day. It is not for the faint of heart or vehicle in need of service. There are no gas stations, rest stops or stores. Cell phone service is spotty at best.
This creepy section of the Everglades is 20 miles of gravel road on the western portion and somewhat paved on the eastern side. The couple of homes at the eastern end are rustic, at best.
Our advice is to travel at your leisure and own risk!
The Island Hotel in Cedar Key is a famous bed and breakfast listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was built in 1859.
Over the years the settling of the structure, weather issues and other factors created havoc, but the Hotel has withstood the wrath of many hurricanes.
In 1914 Simon Feinberg bought the hotel. It was managed by a man named Markham. Steinberg found out Markham had an illegal still in the attic. Markham denied it and scheduled a dinner meeting with Steinberg to discuss his mistrust.
After the meeting with Markham professing his innocence, Steinberg retired for the night. He never woke up. Some say it was food poisoning. During a remodel of the hotel in 1999, they found the remnant copper piping used in stills.
The staff and local patrons continually say the hotel is haunted. They have identified at least 13 spirits roaming the building.
One story is that of a nine-year-old black boy who was accused of stealing from the general store in the hotel. He was chased by the manager but was never seen again. Years later the skeletal remains of a young boy were found in a cistern.
Another story revolves around multiple sights in rooms 27 and 28. Guests say that a murdered prostitute during prohibition years visits these rooms.
Many other stories talk about the kissing girls, the disappearance of guests and lively spirits.
We have never stayed at the Island Hotel despite being in Cedar Key many times. We are not sure we want to visit there now.
Riddle House – One of the Top 10 Haunted Houses in Florida
Located in West Palm Beach, Florida, the Riddle House has long been a source of rumored ghost sights, strange sounds and unexplained behavior. So much so the Travel Channel documented it on national TV.
The story starts in 1905 when workers on Henry Flagler’s railroad built the house. Eventually, it was the home to the caretaker of Woodlawn Cemetery. Part of the caretaker’s job was to protect the cemetery from grave robbers since it was common for people back then to be buried with their valuables.
That beginning is enough to start the beginning of ghost stories. One such story is about a big man named Buck who was murdered in town. It is said he still roams the grounds maintaining his vigil.
The second story is about an employee of the Riddles who hung himself in the rafters of the home. After that, the Riddles could not keep employees who continued to hear sounds from the rafters. They promptly quit.
Since the suicide, visitors have heard chains being dragged across the floor, murmuring in the walls and supernatural sights in and around the house.
Ghost tours of West Palm Beach make the Riddle House a mainstay of the tour. We haven’t visited it yet but will soon.
The 13 Plus One Just in case 13 is an unlucky number!
We choose not to take chances, despite being a nonbeliever. Besides, this is the story of a personal experience with ghosts.
The Gibson Inn
The Gibson Inn was built in 1907. Located in Apalachicola, Florida, the Inn was a perfect stopping point at halfway between Jacksonville-St. Augustine area to Pensacola at far west part of the panhandle.
Apalachicola has been one of the biggest producers of fresh oysters for many years. It has also been the subject of hauntings at the Gibson.
The main ghost story has been the one about Captain Wood who died in room 309. However, that is not the story told to us.
Five years ago, my wife I and our youngest adult son were traveling north Florida. We decided to stay at the Gibson Inn for the night. After dinner, we visited the bar located in the lobby of the hotel.
The night was slow and the bartender was talkative. Somehow, we got on the subject of the supernatural occurrences at the Gibson. A mistake for my wife and son while having cocktails prior to a night’s rest.
The bartender told the tale of two sisters. His version didn’t match current recollections but was close enough.
He stated that two young sisters were relatives of the hotel owners. They stayed at the Gibson. The elder sister was followed constantly by the younger one. They were inseparable.
As fate would have it, the elder sister fell in love. She was smitten only to be rejected by the boy she loved. Her broken heart was inconsolable.
On a dark night, there was a tragedy. The elder sister jumped to her death from the heights on the Gibson Inn. Immediately thereafter, the younger sibling joined her sister.
The bartender contended that the Inn is haunted by the sisters seen by guests with birds following their apparitions in the hotel. There are noises that roam the halls and windows opening in preparation for their fate.
That is about the point of the story when I headed for a TV in my room. Not so for my wife and son. They listened on.
To this day both spouse and offspring swear they heard strange sounds moving around our rooms and hotel during the night. I also swear that they had too many cocktails and stories from what I suspect is a still-smiling bartender.
Our experience was long before the preparation of this post. My doubtful recollection is matched by their assurances of the happenings.
Occasionally, I wonder how many of the most famous haunted places in Florida started out with cocktails on some dark night??
Obsession With Haunted Places in Florida
Ok, we admit there are thousands of stories about the most haunted places in Florida. That doesn’t mean we have to believe in ghosts to write about them.
Yes, we are skeptical of ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. After our research, it is very possible we are in a vast minority.
Enjoy the most haunted places in Florida and a couple of the top 10 haunted houses in Florida, some of them could possibly be really ghostly!