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.

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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.

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George H.W. Bush hospitalized with blood infection after death of Barbara Bush

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 7:31 PM

Biography of George H.W. Bush

Former President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with an infection, after attending the funeral of his wife Barbara.

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Please check back on this developing story.

Waffle House shooting: Man accused of killing 4 in Tennessee arrested

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:09 PM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:09 PM

Police: 4 Dead After Waffle House Shooting by Nude Gunman

Authorities on Monday afternoon arrested a man suspected of stripping at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, early Sunday before opening fire on customers and employees, killing four people.

Nashville police confirmed that authorities arrested suspected shooter Travis Reinking, 29, on Monday afternoon. He was earlier identified as the man suspected of killing Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; Akilah Dasilva and DeEbony Groves, 21. 

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Toronto van attack: 10 dead, injuries reported

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 5:21 PM

Several Dead, More Than A Dozen Injured In Toronto Van Attack

A van apparently jumped onto a sidewalk Monday at a busy intersection in Toronto and struck down pedestrians before the vehicle was found and the driver taken into custody, Canadian police said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Teen girls abducted: Arrest made in 19-year-old cold case

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 6:40 PM

Warren Phllip Welch (deceased), Ronnie Busick and David Pennington (deceased), are suspected in the 1999 disappearance of two Oklahoma girls. (Kansas Department of Corrections)
Warren Phllip Welch (deceased), Ronnie Busick and David Pennington (deceased), are suspected in the 1999 disappearance of two Oklahoma girls. (Kansas Department of Corrections)

Investigators made a break in the 1999 disappearance of two Welch, Oklahoma, girls.

Officials charged Ronnie Busick in connection with their disappearance, according to KOKI

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Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were 16 years old in 1999, when they planned a sleepover to celebrate Freeman's birthday. 

The day after the sleepover, firefighters found Freeman's parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, shot to death in their burned-out home. The girls, however, had disappeared. 

For years, investigators searched for answers, interviewed several potential suspects and pleaded for information surrounding the girls' disappearance. 

KOKI reported in 2017 that "extremely valuable" information was turned over by Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey. 

Officials said they charged Busick Sunday in connection with the case. He faces four charges of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and a final count of arson.

Busick is currently in custody in Newston, Kansas, according to investigators.

At least two other people were involved in the case, they said. Those two, identified as Warren Phillip Welch and David Pennington, have since died. 

Members of the victim’s families learned Lauria and Ashley were likely kept alive some time after their disappearance, but they have since died. Their bodies have not been recovered.

An affidavit claimed Welch kept photographs in a leather briefcase that showed the girls bound and gagged at his Picher home during their last days. According to the affidavit, multiple people said they had seen the pictures, but the suspects reportedly threatened them.

The affidavit claimed the girls were tied up, drugged and raped before they were killed. It said the girls were strangled and their bodies were dumped into a pit, which may have been a mine shaft near Picher.

Multiple people told investigators that both Welch and Pennington dealt methamphetamine, according to the affidavit. One person reportedly told investigators that Pennington had said the girls had entered a room where Freeman’s parents were buying drugs on the night of the crime.

Another witness reportedly said that a conversation between Welch, Pennington and Busick had implied that the Freeman parents had been murdered over a debt. That witness said the suspects had also hinted that they had taken the two girls and eventually killed them, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said an insurance card found near the scene connected to a car that investigators believed to be connected to a vehicle in Welch's possession helped them in the case.

It said that the suspects had threatened the lives of people who may have had information about the crimes.

Investigators said they still need people to come forward about where the girls' bodies may be. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-522-8017 or via email at tips@osbi.ok.gov.

Officials said a private reward of $50,000 still stands for information related to the location of the girls.

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