Florida’s most haunted landmarks and the terrifying tales about them

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2017 @ 7:54 PM

The Spooky History of Halloween

Florida is one of the world’s top tourist destinations with its sugary, white sand beaches, emerald waterways and sun-drenched vacation hot spots, but plenty of people don’t realize there are also dark forces at play in the Sunshine State.

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From a mysterious stretch of highway to an abandoned NASA launch complex, the state can lay claim to a few of the scariest ghost stories and hauntings ever recorded.
Here are the top haunted places in Florida:
1-The Don CeSar Hotel 
St. Petersburg 
The Pink Palace is one of the most recognizable hotels in Florida, if not the country. In operation since 1928, the Don has played host to “the world’s elite, stars of the silver screen, renowned authors, baseball players, U.S. presidents and even a gangster or two,” according to the landmark’s web page. The stunning resort has spectacular ocean views, luxurious accommodations, and gourmet dining, but it also has a darker and stranger side.
The luxury resort is haunted, as least if you believe numerous visitor and staff accounts.
The hotel was constructed by Thomas Rowe, who is said to have built it as a monument to the love of his life, a beautiful Spanish girl from an aristocratic family, but the couple’s love went unfulfilled when her parents spirited her away from the young American while he was visiting London in the late 1800s, according to writer Tom Williams.

The Don CeSar Beach Hotel in St. Peterburg, Fla., is rumored to be haunted by Thomas Rowe, the man who built it in the 1920s, among other frightening spirits.(John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Years later Rowe, who died in 1940, received word that she died, but she left him a note pledging her eternal love.
Some have reported seeing a man in a white suit and Panama hat, possibly the spirit of Rowe, roaming the grounds and others have reported seeing the couple together, Williams said.

>> Related: Scariest places in Ohio have haunted, chilling histories and creepy ghosts

Other weird goings on have also been reported at the Don, including unexplained door openings and showers turning on by themselves. A kitchen staffer once reported a sink full of dirty dishes mysteriously turned up clean and stacked in the middle of the floor when he was out for a break, Williams wrote in a story about the hotel. And in another incident, a maid refused to work on the fifth floor where Rowe once lived because of mysterious door knocking.
The Pink Palace was also used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War II and some people have reported hearing noises and, and even seeing a nurse from that era, at the Pink Palace.
2-Apollo 1 Launch Complex 34
Cape Canaveral
It’s not hard to imagine that the desolate and abandoned Launch Complex-34 at Cape Canaveral is haunted. Actually, just one look at it is all it takes.
What’s left of the windswept and barren former NASA launch site near the Atlantic Ocean, once a crown jewel in America’s space program, is eerily deserted most of the time, with just the grim remains of the concrete launch platform and rusted steel left as reminders of its ill-fated history.

The lonely remains of NASA’s Launch Complex-34 at Cape Canaveral is all that’s left 50 years after a flash fire inside the Apollo 1 spacecraft on the pad killed three astronaust in 1967. Visitors and former Space Coast  workers swear the grusome landmark is haunted.(The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Three astronauts, command pilot Gus Grissom, senior pilot Ed White and pilot Roger Chaffee died at the site in a flash fire, while trapped inside the Apollo 1 capsule in 1967, just two weeks before they were scheduled to blast off. NASA shuttered the complex in 1968. In the decades since, former employees and visitors have reported unusual occurrences at the site.

From left, Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee pose in front of their Saturn 1 launch vehicle at Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral. On January 27, 1967, the crew was sitting above the launch pad for a pre-launch test when a fire broke out in their capsule. The investigation into the fatal accident led to major design changes, making the Apollo spacecraft safer for the coming journeys to the Moon.  (Science & Society Picture Librar/SSPL via Getty Images)

Some have reported hearing screams near the hulking monument, while other have reported dark feelings of dread, sadness or fear, according to the Huffington Post. Floating apparitions have been reported, too, according to the book “Weird Hauntings: True Tales of Ghostly Places.” Citing local lore, Roadtrippers reported NASA even stopped allowing visitors at, one point, because of “strange occurrences.”
NASA has never publicly commented on the reports the Launch Complex-34 is haunted.
The bleak remains of the launch pad, two plaques and three granite benches remain at the site as a memorial to the fallen astronauts.
3- Castillo de San Marcos
St. Augustine

St. Augustine, Florida lays claim to the title of oldest city in the U.S., and located on the western shore of the city’s Mantanzas Bay is the oldest 17th century masonry fortress in the country, according to the National Park Service: The Castillo de San Marcos.
Constructed by the Spanish beginning in 1672, the fort is more than 300 years old, and, through decades of constant warfare in colonial America, has been under Spanish, British and American control at various times. Now it’s a national park.
Throughout its storied history, in addition to its use as a military defense by the Spanish and the British, the Americans used it to imprison native American tribe members, including the Seminole war chief Oseola.
With so much history, it’s no wonder plenty of ghost stories and spirit sightings abound at the old fort.

The Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, Fla., is a major tourist attraction for the city, but the Spanish-built fortress also has a long, ghostly history of violence and persecution within its walls.(Algez the City Guy/Via Flickr)

Visitors have reported seeing apparitions of soldiers and Native Americans, and orbs inside the Castillo. 
One particular ghost story involves a love triangle between a Spanish colonel, his wife, and a captain in 1874. After the fort’s commanding officer suspected his wife of cheating on him with the captain, so the story goes, the pair vanished. In the century since, witnesses have described seeing a forlorn woman dressed in white and thought to be the colonel’s dead wife, according to the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures.”
Fort visitors have also reported seeing the ghost of a Seminole jumping from the fort’s walls and the spirit of soldiers patrolling the Castillo.

A weathered angel at the Key West Cemetery. (MittenStatePhotog/Via Flickr)

4-Key West Cemetery
Key West
The Key West Cemetery is known for ghostly sightings and other strange events, and why not? After all it’s more than 170 years old with more than 100,000 people buried there, and some of the graves are even older. Although the current cemetery opened in 1847, some graves in the oldest part of the cemetery date back to 1829 because they were moved there following a hurricane that dislodged them at an older cemetery on another part of the island, according to the website Florida Rambler.
One of the more unusual supernatural reports from the Key West Cemetery involves a woman of Bahamian descent, who has made appearances during the day and at night. Those who have seen her have reported that she seems to become angry if visitors sit on grave stones, walk across graves or in any way disrespect the dead.
“Some say she has made threats and will turn insolent, only to vanish right before your eyes,” according to a website based on paranormal activity in the Keys.

Key West Cemetery in the city’s Old Town has more than 100,000 people buried there and plenty of ghostly tales to go with them.  (ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Other odd phenomena have been noted at the cemetery, too, including apparitions and disembodied voices. There are also reports that visitors who photograph the cemetery can sometimes see odd shadows in their pictures.

5-Interstate 4 "Dead Zone"
Seminole County
Interstate 4 in central Florida halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach is one of the most traveled highways in the region, and a quarter mile stretch of it in Seminole County is also one of the scariest stretches of road in the country, quite possibly haunted, with deadly accidents and reports of unexplained phenomena over the decades.
Rumor has that in 1886 a family of four German immigrants, two adults and two children, died of yellow fever. The road was built over their graves, and ever since strange weather events and unusual apparitions, including phantom truckers and hitchhikers, have startled frightened drivers.

(Epics/Getty Images)

Some people believe that Hurricane Donna’s strange and powerful trek across the state in 1960 and directly over that stretch of I-4 is related to the seemingly haunted road, according to reports
“Witnesses have said their cellphones pick up strange voices” on that eerie path of I-4, according to the website ghostreports.com.
One woman told the website she believes the strange voices she has heard when traveling on the road represent the voices of the dead.

12-year-old charged as adult in armed carjacking at Walmart

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 11:11 PM

12-Year-Old In Armed Carjacking At Walmart Charged As Adult

A 12-year-old boy in Lauderdale Lakes has been charged as an adult in a carjacking last week, Broward County Sheriff deputies said Monday. 

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According to the sheriff’s office, Shaquille Dixon is one of three juveniles who carjacked an elderly woman at gunpoint on Jan. 15 in a Walmart parking lot. 

Surveillance video from the store on North State Road 7 shows Dixon and two other suspects following the woman into the store. When she is done shopping the woman is seen walking to her car, with the suspects close behind. 

Once the woman got to her car, two of the suspects walked up behind her and the other suspect walked around to the front of the car, pointed a gun and demanded the car keys. The woman complied and the suspects fled with the car so quickly, they almost hit the victim. 

Deputies took Dixon into custody on Jan. 19 and he’s facing felony carjacking charges. 

Most underrated fried chicken in America named best in new survey

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 8:42 PM

This Is The Best Fried Chicken Chain In America (And It's In A Gas Station)

There are plenty of reputable options if you want to pull up to a drive-thru and devour some crispy, golden chicken, i.e. KFC and Popeyes. However, an unsuspecting alternative you might have ignored at your last gas tank fill-up has been crowned the true bastion of fried chicken.

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Krispy Krunchy Chicken, established in 1989 in LaFayette, Louisiana, has bested some much more familiar names as Thrillist’s choice for America’s best fried chicken chain. The online entertainment site described the chain’s Cajun-style chicken as “the most underrated item in fast food today.”

KKC, which is typically attached to convenience stores, has more then 2,300 locations in the U.S., Malaysia and American Samoa, according to its site.

Krispy Krunchy doesn’t leave it up to its spicy chicken to do all the work though. Its honey butter biscuits, daubed in honey, Cajun rice balls and macaroni and cheese are also mouthwatering.

The vote of approval was even co-signed by New York-based restaurateur and “Top Chef” contestant Dale Telde.

“Their fried chicken is ill,” he told Thrilllist. “I go there every time that I’m in Miami, and I’m in Miami once per month." 

The Louisiana chicken standard only began expanding outside of its home state in 2000, and its fast-growing franchising is due not only to the winning taste but affordable prices, according to the company’s bio.

>> Related: Best way to lose weight with the most minimal effort

If you haven’t yet tried America’s best fried chicken, according to Thrillist, the site said you need to.

5 missing after natural gas well catches fire in Oklahoma

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:57 AM
Updated: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:57 AM

VIDEO: 5 Missing After Oklahoma Natural Gas Well Catches Fire

Five workers remained missing Tuesday after a natural gas well exploded and caught fire in Oklahoma one day earlier, sending out a smoke plume that could be seen for miles.

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Officials said 16 other employees were able to get out of the area safely. One person was flown to a Tulsa hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.

Emergency officials let the fire burn itself out and fought any flames that went beyond a perimeter they established. 

Officials said the public was safe from contaminates and that there was no need for evacuations. 

Firefighters said they were able to extinguish any secondary fires. Nine different fire departments responded to the scene.

Pittsburg County emergency managers and the county sheriff confirmed around 9 a.m. local time that an explosion and fire took place at a well in Quinton.

The well is owned by oil drilling company Patterson-UTI Energy Inc., employees confirmed. In a statement, company officials said they were unaware of what caused the fire.

“We have received reports that some of our employees and others are unaccounted for at this time,” the statement said. “Our top priority is the safety of our employees and any others who may be affected. We've activated our emergency response systems and are fully cooperating with first responders and authorities on the scene. We will provide more details as they are known.”

The company's president and CEO, Andy Hendricks, later released a separate statement:

All of us at Patterson-UTI are deeply saddened by the news of the incident in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, this morning. Our hearts go out to the families of the five missing individuals, three of whom are Patterson-UTI employees. We've reached out to their families and are providing support during this difficult time.

At this moment, no one knows with certainty what happened, and it would be unwise to speculate. Well control experts and emergency responders are on site and we will conduct a thorough investigation when the incident is fully contained. We will provide updates as more facts are known.

There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our employees and others we partner with in the field. Tonight, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected and their loved ones.

Red Mountain Energy was operating the well.

FOX23 storm chasers in the area spotted the smoke plume from the fire miles away.

Grief counselors and religious leaders were offering support to families and workers on Monday. The American Red Cross was also working to help first responders as they worked to contain the fire.

Fire crews also searched woods for anyone that may have run from the scene, but they didn’t find anyone. Searches are expected to resume once the area cools down.

The drilling company has reportedly notified the families of the five missing people.

Migos producer arrested, accused of driving 125 mph on Georgia freeway

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 5:51 AM

Record Executive And Producer Arrested On Georgia Highway

A record label co-owner and producer credited with the speedy success of Atlanta-based Migos is facing charges after his alleged speed behind the wheel caught the attention of Alpharetta, Georgia, police.

>> Watch the news report here

Dashcam video obtained by WSB-TV’s Mike Petchenik shows officers pulling over Pierre “Pee” Thomas last Sunday. Thomas, the chief executive of record label Quality Control, has produced records for rappers such as Migos, Lil Yachty, Lil Baby and Rich the Kid.

The officer "observed a red SUV traveling at a high rate of speed,” said Officer Jason Muenzer. “He noticed the vehicle was going about 100 mph.”

Muenzer said the officer got on Ga. 400 near Old Milton Parkway and began following Thomas north.

“That officer tried to catch up to the vehicle, but he himself got up to about 120, 125 (mph) and even then, the officer noticed the vehicle was pulling away from him.”

Eventually, video shows Thomas pull over off McFarland Parkway in Forsyth County.

He told officers he was heading home from the studio.

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“When the officer approached the vehicle, the driver acted as though he didn’t see the officer,” Muenzer said. “The only excuse he had was he didn’t see the officer and he wanted to get home.”

On the dashcam video, the officer questioned Thomas and his speed.

“What were you doing going that fast, man?” he can be heard asking. “You were pulling away from me. I was doing 120 (mph) just trying to catch up to you. You were pulling away from me.”

Officers would later handcuff Thomas and take him to the North Fulton Jail annex on reckless driving charges.

Police told Petchenik this arrest was just one of a series recently on the busy highway.

“It’s getting old,” Muenzer said. “Those speeds, the slightest crack, the slightest item in the roadway, road debris, you can lose control of your vehicle.”

Thomas’ attorney, Drew Findling, told Petchenik that his client was not impaired and complied with officers.

“We will go to court in the city of Alpharetta and look forward to putting this matter behind him,” Findling said. “We will resolve it in court.”

– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.