TAMPA, Fla. — With Halloween just around the corner, do you want to see something really scary?
Well, you don’t have to look far in Tampa. After all, real-life history can be more unnerving than any frightening folk-tale.
It stands to reason that a city known for its skull and crossbones is bound to have a scarier side, which might explain why visitors and locals alike seem to gravitate toward Tampa’s Ybor City Ghost Tour.
“I believe it,” said Jill Davidson, who took the tour earlier this month. “I really believe that there are ghosts and that their energies are out there.”
“A lot of people are skeptical about paranormal things. And a lot of people take the tour to kind of test those waters,” said Steve Stamberger, the Ybor Ghost Tour guide.
The two-hour outing takes those who dare through some of the city’s oldest, downright darkest locations.
“And so, the body count sort of rises along the way,” Stamberger tells the group.
Armed with hand-held beeping and flashing gizmos called spectrometers, participants walk the streets of Ybor for a tour that is as much a history lesson as it is a ghost story.
“A lot of people really get a treat with history. We try to just give you enough to kind of peak your interest,” said Stamberger.
It’s a way to get acquainted with a side of Tampa Bay that you don’t find on those prominently placed plaques.
The tour visits spooky spots like Ybor's Cuban Club, which is said to be possessed by – among other ghosts - a woman in white who jumped from a balcony, a jilted actor who hanged himself behind the stage, and an eight-year-old boy who legend has it was drowned in the club's indoor pool.
“That, plus the other 300 known spirits in that building are enough to proclaim that building the fourth most haunted in the country,” Stamberger tells the group.
Each time he brings a tour through, Stamberger leaves a rubber ball behind – a sort of peace offering to the little boy’s spirit.
“There certainly is no shortage of fodder for these ghost stories,” says the Tampa History Center’s Rodney Kite-Powell. Tampa, he says, has got a pretty petrifying past without all the horror hype.
Ghosts are also said to haunt two local theaters, including the Tampa Theater downtown.
“Supposedly, Tampa Theater is haunted by a projectionist,” said Kite-Powell. “A guy named Fink who, I believe, worked there in the 30s and 40s. He’s a very benevolent spirit. But he is there.”
The other haunted theater is across the street from the University of Tampa.
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