By Hilda Mitrani
Soldiers, hotel guests and even railroad and hotel tycoon Henry Flagler haunt the state.
Florida’s centuries-old history provides a strong connection to interesting places and significant people. As it turns out, some of them linger a bit longer than expected. From dormitories to hotel rooms, Florida’s past becomes memorable when spirits remain “in the present.”
Apparently Florida’s tourism pioneer Henry Flagler did it. Some say he still resides at Flagler College. And many more like him (and his spirit) have followed suit, vacationing here and falling in love with the sunshine. Legend says that quite a number of Floridians have stayed above ground when their human time on Earth came to an end.
Homefront Battles in North Florida
Northwest Florida has hundreds of years of history and multiple ghosts. A dueling couple once lived where the Pensacola Lighthouse now sits, and many visitors agree that it is haunted. Jeremiah Ingraham and his wife Michaela were resident keepers of an original lighthouse, and rumor has it that Michaela murdered her husband in 1840 and took over his duties. The current debate is whether the current lighthouse, built in 1859, is haunted by her spirit or his! The Travel Channel proclaimed the structure as "One of America's Most Haunted Lighthouses." Syfy's hit show Ghost Hunters has also featured the lighthouse.
The first shot in the War Between the States occurred at Fort Barrancas, which overlooks the entrance to Pensacola Bay. The spirits here are said to be Confederate soldiers who died in battle. Perhaps they’d like one of the wool uniform caps sold in the gift shop. (Union caps are sold there, too, but there’s no word on Union supporters becoming ghosts.)
In the northeast corner of Florida, Fort Clinch was the site of repeated Civil War skirmishes and many ghosts are said to roam the grounds. Dozens of visitors to this part of Fernandina Beach have reported a Union man who wanders about, occasionally tipping his hat at astonished visitors. You can do your own research on the popular torchlight tours held on Saturday evenings.
Nearby,the Amelia Island Museum of History hosts popular ghost tours that include many historic inns and pubs. In fact, the Williams House, the Florida House Inn, the Bosque Bello Old Cemetery and the cemetery at St. Peters Episcopal Church all provide illuminating stories of what happens when earthlings are restless. Eight different flags have flown over this region. Do you think the ghosts need interpreters to talk to each other?
South Florida Hot Spots
Miami’s Deering Estate hosts ghost tours at the bayfront estate along with the non-profit League of Paranormal Investigators. You can learn about sightings and experiences from a paranormal investigation of the Deering Estate and see the recorded video, photographs and audio.
Thirteen is a lucky number at the Island Hotel Bed and Breakfast in Cedar Key, where as many as 13 spirits live on. Bessie Gibbs, who lived in the hotel for 26 years, is the most prominent. Bessie was reportedly enchanting while alive, jovially telling stories to other guests. Now she locks guests of out their rooms in playfulness. Enchantment indeed.
Central Florida’s “Extra” Ordinary Residents
In St. Augustine, the Huguenot Cemetery is reported to be one of the most haunted spots in one of the most haunted cities in the United States. It was built in 1821 to serve as a resting place for victims of yellow fever. The most popular ghost in the graveyard is that of Judge John B. Stickney, whose spirit remained in St. Augustine after his children moved his body to Washington, D.C., where they lived.
Any of these stories seems worthy of its own reality TV show. And it’s all part of Florida lore. Whether it’s a battle of the sexes in Pensacola or the chief versus the wayward brave in Ocala, Florida events sometimes produce spirited results!
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