The 14 Creepiest Haunted Places in Florida
Florida Man cometh.
“God’s Waiting Room” might not look as nice on a license plate as “The Sunshine State,” but that nickname is far more accurate. Not just because of the throngs of people who move here to live out their golden years, but also because even after the locals pass on to the other side, they still like to “keep a place” in Florida. Sometimes that place is a luxury hotel room. Sometimes it’s a bar. Occasionally it’s an entire seaside fishing village. Regardless, as our state’s appeal seems to transcend the mortal world, you can always count on ghosts to hang around. Here are the most haunted sites in Florida, a place where the spirit world is never far from home.
To claim the title of Most Haunted Bar in part of the state rife with haunted bars, you need some serious spook. And you’ll find just that at Scarlett’s, where resident ghoul and onetime owner George Colee likes to make his presence known. George allegedly met his maker drunk in a bathtub above the bar he named for his adulterous wife, and ever since guests and staff have boasted tales of George’s post-mortem antics.
Plates and glasses move mysteriously across the bar. An adding machine in the office won’t stop calculating. The jukebox keeps playing “Help Me Rhonda,” even after being unplugged. Today, the place has become a full-fledged tourist attraction, complete with a second-story Ghost Bar where patrons can pose alongside George’s fateful tub.
This stately white mansion was originally constructed as the Cuban consulate in the mid-1920s, home to Consul Domingo Milord and his wife, Paula. The Cuban-born Paula was known to spend her days playing piano and drinking Cuban coffee, until she died from complications from a leg amputation in 1932. Legend has it that Domingo interred his late wife in a sarcophagus laid in the backyard. The sarcophagus is still there, now covered by ficus tree roots and nearly impossible to reach.
Whether or not it actually contains her mortal remains is debatable at best, but reports of her ghost persist. “It's said her ghost is in different rooms there,” says HistoryMiami’s Dr. Paul George. “People who’ve lived at Villa Paula since have had existential kinds of experiences.” Among them: Phantom coffee smells and piano playing… a one-legged woman roaming about.
The oldest house in Ft. Lauderdale is, not surprisingly, also its most haunted, where tour guides warn visitors a certain Frank Stranahan might just photobomb their selfies. The house’s original resident is said to still oversee the place, regularly showing up in guests’ pictures. Other members of the Stranahan family haunt the house, too. Ivy Stranahan—Frank’s wife—reportedly guides visitors up the stairs with a hand on the shoulder, while her perfume allegedly lingers in the air. Her sister, Ivy, hangs around, as well, holding a baby, and grumpy old Augustus Stranahan—Frank’s father—has been known to toss books around in an upstairs bedroom.
The tiny town of Port Salerno may hold the distinction of being the most haunted place, per capita, in all of Florida. Its most famous otherworldly resident is notorious bank robber John Ashley, who met his untimely end—along with his entire gang—not far outside of town. You’ll also pass a tree near the Pirate’s Cove resort, where a wealthy man’s mistress hanged herself after, rumor has it, learning she was pregnant. Other remnants of more contemporary barflies reportedly still stumble “home” down Port Salerno’s streets, making mysterious noises and tripping alarms along the way.
Gambling in Miami is rarely a good idea. And gangster Thomas “Fatty” Walsh—who was fatally shot over a gambling dispute at The Biltmore Hotel in 1929—most likely agrees. While staff hoped he’d be over it by now, it turns out he isn’t. As legend has it, ol’ Fatty still hangs around, mysteriously shaking glasses at the bar, chasing good-looking women (one woman apparently just disappeared, according to Dr. George of HistoryMiami), appearing in bathroom mirrors, opening doors, and sticking particularly close to the 13th floor, where he was killed.
If there is one rule all Floridians follow, it’s “Do not mess with Robert the Doll.” The four-foot figurine has terrorized anyone who hasn’t taken him seriously since he was gifted to artist Robert “Gene” Otto in 1904. Otto blamed any mischievous act around him on Robert The Doll, effectively coining the oft-repeated “Robert Did It” mantra.
The doll currently holds court inside Fort East Martello, where he lives inside a class case surrounded by a constant soundtrack of haunting xylophone music. The room evokes a heavy air immediately upon entering, and the walls are papered with apology notes from cocky tourists who’ve dared cross the world’s most haunted plaything. Even the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osborne, felt Robert’s wrath when he suffered a series of health mishaps shortly after dissing the doll on his reality show.
Non-believers always want proof of paranormal activity, and The Plaza Resort & Spa has it. In August 2013, security cameras captured late-night footage of a shape-shifting ghost roaming the hotel’s Veranda Bar & Grille. But that’s not the first or only spook-story at the hotel. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1909, and current staff will testify that they’ve seen the ghosts of victims caught in the blaze, including a little girl who now spends her nights messing with the elevators and raiding the restaurant kitchen.
St. Augustine’s fanciest hotel is also its most haunted. In fact, this five-star, Mediterranean-revival haunt is a hotbed of spectral activity. Children are heard running along the fourth floor, but no one is there. The radio in the Ponce de Leon Suite randomly comes on, but no one is there. Guests of Room 411 wake up to people staring at them, but no one is there.
But it’s the three-story Flagler Suite, high in the tower, that’s most haunted. Maids have seen a child’s handprint appear on the first floor bathroom mirror, and after knocking, one heard a man say, “We’ve been expecting you,” from an empty bedroom. Its spookiest claim to fame, however, is the male ghost staring out of the top tower window. He’s believed to be the ghost of one of two people: either Franklin Smith, the architect who built the hotel, or Henry Flagler, the man who purchased it.
Charles Deering’s former home is a 444-acre archaeological preserve built on Indian burial grounds… so no wonder it’s home to Miami’s largest concentration of spirits. Ghost hunters have recorded a total of 60 voices in the mansion, on one night alone. Now, investigators from PRISM (Paranormal Research & Investigative Studies) lead regular ghost tours and use pendulums, dowsing rods and EMF meters to show believers exactly what’s lurking in the dark.
The fashion brand wasn’t always based at its famed Worth Avenue location. Pre-2010, it was a few blocks down... but employees were driven out by a poltergeist. The playful ghost was known for calling out employee names, flickering lights, opening doors and moving things around. Multiple paranormal researchers were brought in, and a number of exorcisms were performed to try to get rid of the phantom. But nothing worked. Gucci’s solution? Dropping hundos of thousands in cash to move to a new space.
Florida is weird, so perhaps it’s no surprise the psychic capital of the world is right here, in Cassadaga. The historic community of spiritualists was founded in the late 1800s by medium George P. Colby (because a Native American spirit told him to), and is now a 57-acre camp made up of just 55 homes. It’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1991, and attracts believers from far and wide for spiritual healings, drum circles, group meditations, and more. Whatever you do, if you visit the town cemetery, don’t sit in the Devil’s Chair—it’s said to be haunted by Satan himself. Leave a beer there, and some say he’ll even drink it, leaving you weirded out AND thirsty.
This bed and breakfast was once the home of a school marm named Sarah... and rumor has it she still “lives” there, in a sense. No need to fear, though! Sarah is a friendly ghost who spends her nights in a rocking chair in her old room, tucks visitors in bed and pats young children to sleep.
The Blue Anchor Pub
This pub was built in 1840s London—during Jack The Ripper times—so it should be no surprise that it’s haunted. The story goes that the bar was razed in London, but its facade and wooden interior was sent to New York City, then onto this sleepy SoFla town in 1996. Little did anyone know that the pub’s original elements came with the ghost of Bertha Starkey, a cheating wife who was murdered by her husband. Today, she can be heard rattling pots, knocking things over, and wailing in the middle of the night at The Blue Anchor. Every night around 10pm (the time she was murdered), Bertha likes to remind everyone she’s still here—so the current owners ring the “ship's bell” to scare her away.
St. Augustine’s iconic lighthouse is a Florida landmark built in 1874. But climb up its 219 steps and it’s not just the views that will take your breath away. First, there’s the ghost of Joseph Andreu, the original lighthouse keeper who fell to his death while painting the 165-foot tower. Then, there are Hezekiah Pity’s two daughters, who were playing with a building cart when it broke loose and slid into the nearby bay, drowning them both. While the girls giggle and run up and down the lighthouse steps, Joseph has been reported smoking cigars at the top of the lighthouse, keeping watch over his forever home.