exterior of a bar in Florida
Photograph: Dawna Moore Palace Saloon

The 11 most haunted places in Florida

Explore spooky theaters, creepy lighthouses and more of the most haunted places in Florida

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America’s dangling appendage has no shortage of scary stories. They seem to come daily, on whatever Twitter calls itself these days and in videos on Tik-Tok. At the top of the list is the ever-frightening Florida Man. But, generally, that kooky character is still among the living. What’s truly frightening in the wilds of Florida are tales of the deceased, those who hang around longer than heartburn after a visit to Busch Gardens. We scoured the Sunshine State and discovered stories of ghosts who haunt theaters and hotels, from the chilling apparitions of slain children to one dude who just seems like he still wants to catch a good show. Luckily none of the ghosts are also known as Florida Man, because that would be truly scary. Below, the spookiest haunted places in Florida.

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This guide was updated by Florida-based writer Eric Barton. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines. 

Scariest places in Florida

Although many places in America’s oldest city are rumored to be haunted, no spot is more iconic than the city’s namesake lighthouse. Lighted watchtowers first rose on this spot half a millennia ago, and they’ve had their fair share of tragedy since. Most tragic has to be the death of the lighthouse keeper’s two daughters and a friend—all three drowned, their bodies never to be recovered. Some say to this day, they hear laughter and footsteps when no one else is around, perhaps the three girls playing in the tower one more time.

Coming up on its centennial birthday, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables hosted guests like notorious gangster Al Capone and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in its heyday. The hotel became a World War II military hospital and then a VA hospital for decades before turning back into a luxury hotel in 1987. One ghost of many who are rumored to haunt the hotel is Thomas Walsh, a gangster who was murdered on the 13th floor. Guests at the hotel report lights switching on and off mysteriously, elevators taking them to the wrong floors and messages written on mirrors.

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An organist who worked at The Florida Theatre in the 1920s and later took his own life might be why paranormal researchers have found evidence of ghosts here. The good news, though, is that this apparition isn’t of the evil sort. In fact, when the theater underwent a $10 million renovation in 2020, it preserved balcony seats E1 and E2, the spot where they say this ghost likes to catch a show, apparently with a friend.

The Bilheimer Capitol Theater opened in 1921 and is one of the oldest operating theaters in Florida. They say the theater is haunted by three ghosts: an old sea captain, a former theater manager murdered on the balcony and a young girl. All are known to play tricks on unsuspecting guests as they walk through the theater halls toward their seats. The antics were enough to earn the theater a booking for a live performance of Ghost Files Live.

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Two hundred people followed Cyrus R. Teed from Chicago in 1894 to a tract of land in Lee County, believing he was the messiah of a new religion called Koreshanity. When Teed died, his followers stored him in a bathtub, waiting for his resurrection. Spoiler: it never happened. And now some say the park is home to ghosts and apparitions, perhaps those still waiting for Teed to get out of that tub finally.

Visitors to Florida’s oldest bar, which dates back to 1878, can allegedly encounter Charlie, a longtime employee who lived in the back of the place. Patrons have reported the back room’s door opening and closing without anyone around. And when a fire broke out at the saloon, every room burned except for Charlie’s. You’ll find a picture of Charlie at the entrance, but if you see a man who looks like him walking around the bar, well, you might have just seen a ghost.

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The Cuban Club is considered one of the most haunted places in the country. Located in downtown Tampa’s historic Ybor City, the club was once a lively spot for Cuban immigrants, and it’s used now for special events. The space is haunted by several ghosts, including an actor who committed suicide on stage and a board member who was murdered during an argument. A little less gruesome, guests also claim to spot a lady in a misty dress and a young boy playing with a ball on the steps of the theater.

The Tampa Theatre, which opened in 1926, is considered a must-visit for its movies and live performances—then again, you also might visit to see the living dead. The theater is supposedly haunted by a man who worked the projector during the Golden Age of film; rumor has it he died of a heart attack in the booth while screening a movie, and he still shows up every now and then to cause a little trouble for theatergoers. Catch a show at the theater, and you might catch sight of his ghost—a spooky double feature, no doubt.

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Fernandina Beach is home to a few haunted spots, but you’ll find a classic ghost story at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. As the story goes, a church employee placed the ashes of Amelia Duryee (the wife of a deceased military officer) in front of a mirror, and the following day, a large crack was found across the mirror. No one knows what caused the crack, but locals believe it was the ghost of Amelia.

Although the Pensacola Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful structures on the city’s shore, it also has a spooky past. According to local lore, the lighthouse is apparently haunted by the original lighthouse keeper and the wife who murdered him. Visitors to the lighthouse occasionally report hearing children’s voices, whispers and footsteps and having small objects thrown at them when no one else is in sight. Take a chance and climb the tower of the lighthouse to see if you encounter any of these paranormal activities (at the very least, you’ll get a sweet view of the shore).

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In the coastal city of Rockledge, a cafe called Ashley’s is home to one of the more tragic ghost stories. As the story goes, a young woman who was last seen at the restaurant was later found with a fractured skill and slit throat. Now, diners have reported seeing a woman in 1930s garb at a table, or at the end of the bar—many believe that’s the woman who disappeared, coming back to get justice for her murder. Then again, maybe she just really likes the ambiance? We’ll never know!

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