Ghost Tour Meeting Location: In front of the Tampa Theatre, located at 711 N. Franklin Street, Tampa FL
Tour Duration: 1hr. across 1 mile
To Order: Press "Get Tickets" for availability.
Ghost tours are held nightly, rain or shine!
Tours are available daily year-around from the afternoon to late at night. Some are offered throughout the day based on season.
Join us to reveal the dark history of this stormy town. The spirits here in Cigar City date back over 200 years, as the city has built up a rich history of confirmed hauntings and ghostly appearances by historical characters. Every ghost here has a fascinating story, and possibly a few relatives who are ghosts too; hauntings in Florida are often a family affair.
On your tour, you will stand in the very spots where horrid crimes were committed and hear the gruesome tales of unfinished business and emotional trauma that consigned these souls to live in limbo forever. Tampa Terrors will share the stories of those that didn’t live to tell their stories themselves.
Join our tour any night of the week to see eight mysterious locations across the shady Downtown streets and add the extended tour for a visit to four additional fascinating locations. Whichever you choose, you will have a deep insight into Tampa’s history and get an up-close and personal encounter with the most horribly haunted places of this corner of Florida.
No tour of Tampa is complete without looking at the history of the mob. Organized crime has had its hooks deep into Tampa almost as long as the city has been around. Tampa was a warm getaway when the other kind of heat was too much in Chicago or New York. Florida was the only place you could see a wise guy in shorts. So, where do Tampa hoods go when their collars might get felt? Cuba! The Caribbean connection is strong here too. Three cigar manufacturers received a deal they could not refuse, and they created the Ybor neighborhood from scratch. They abandoned Cuba and set up factory towns here, bringing a distinct Caribbean flavor to this Floridian town, even down to its ghosts!
You can’t help but bump into the name McKay if you spend any time in Tampa. The powerful dynasty has left their physical and spiritual footprints all over Tampa. Their multi-generational story has touched several of the most haunted places in Tampa.
James McKay Sr. was a broad-shouldered, six-foot-four Scotsman who emigrated to St Louis, Missouri, in 1846. He married a local girl and, based on a tip from a preacher, set off in a boat with all his worldly possessions (including a handful of slaves) to make his fortune in the new U.S. state of Florida. His boat promptly sank about 70 miles North of Tampa, right by the Chassahowitzka River’s swampy outlet. He had to repeatedly swim to shore dragging his passengers and possessions to dry land. They eventually made it to Tampa and settled in what was then a tiny town, setting up a lumber mill up the Hillsborough River staffed by his slaves.
Over the next 150 years, the McKay family played a pivotal role in making Tampa the town it is today. Their family legacy involves three Mayors, a bronze bust, running cattle to Cuba during the Civil War, and having a bay, and several streets bear the family name. They also have left behind a few ghosts along the way.
While you are on your Tampa Terrors haunted walking tour keep an eye out for the old City Hall to see the ghost of one member of this famous Tampa dynasty.
Other mayors of Tampa have ghost stories to share too. Tampa Terrors will tell you all about the City Mayor who married into the McKay family, their son Charlie, was the black sheep of the family. He rebelled against his privileged upbringing and chose a life of crime. Charlie ended up running illegal gambling in the city and butting heads with rival gangs. Legend has it he made a deal with the Devil to avoid assassination, but he got his eventual comeuppance after trying to do the right thing! He hasn’t gone to the bad place yet. His well-dressed ghost haunts the steps of the Le Méridien Tampa, a luxury hotel on North Florida Avenue that occupies a former court building. During the 1950s, he sang like a canary in front of a federal inquiry into organized crime in this very building.
The inquiry was prime time viewing on American T.V. in the 1950s, with a bigger audience than the Baseball world series. Characters that seemingly stepped out of the Hollywood casting room marked ‘gangsters and molls’ paraded into courtrooms across the country. However, the inquiry had little effect here in Tampa, or the rest of the U.S., except for Charlie, our black sheep gangster who testified in Miami, he was dead three days later! Tampa Terrors will take you to the steps his ghost haunts today, sightings aren’t guaranteed, but they have happened before!
One mobster in Tampa fled to Cuba before the organized crime inquiry. He ended up running Casinos in pre-revolutionary Cuba and had a strong connection to the underworld there. His contacts in Cuba made him a prime candidate for later coercion by the CIA to help assassinate Fidel Castro. An unsuccessful operation which may have caused the much more successful retaliation attempt on the life of John F. Kennedy by Castro.
Tampa has many ghosts of other mafia criminals, some with Junior or Senior at the ends of their names. Although Tampa was not a large city until recently, it has been big enough for more than one Organized Crime gang throughout its history. A fierce turf war in the 1940s had many casualties, some that have not quit this earthly realm yet.
The conflict was over a game that was called Bolita, an import of the Cuban cigar workers. The Cubans that ran the game sent all the money back to Cuba, which displeased local gangsters who wanted a piece of the action. The scene was set for a bloody turf war between the gangs that has created several ghosts around town.
The atmospheric Ybor City district to the northeast of Downtown was Cigar Central for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. The tight-knit worker community was a wholesale transplant of a Cuban workforce to Tampa via Key West. A cigar factory owner in Cuba funded a rebellion that failed, forcing his migration to the Keys. A fruit trading friend later told him about Tampa and said the humidity would keep the tobacco soft. The city made him an offer he could not refuse, and Tampa got a new industry and a new neighborhood.
The workers brought their own culture, gambling games, traditions, and ghosts with them. A few decades after the neighborhood started, the terrifying story of Jose Luis Avellanal Jr. unraveled. A fraudster and fake doctor of Cuban heritage, he allegedly lured women to his hotel residence in Ybor City and murdered them, froze their bodies, and tried various loopy methods of reviving them. All unsuccessful. He haunts the basement of the Don Vicente Inn with several of the ghosts of his frozen solid victims. If you feel a cold draft on your walking tour with Tampa Terrors on a hot night in Ybor City, it might be the ghost of Jose Luis Avellanal Jr.
Tours set out every night, around sundown. Family-friendly and accessible for all. You will hear all about the history, hauntings, and horrors of Tampa. Join Tampa Terrors and take a wild ride through this Gulf-side city’s swampy history with some of Florida’s finest hauntings.
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Everyone can enjoy a trip to Tampa; it has attractions for every kind of visit. The Florida Aquarium has over 20,000 species of plants and animals, but they close at 5 pm, and they do not have ghosts! If you are too late for the famous stingrays in the touching tank, there is something else to do on the streets of Tampa that will give you the shivers and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end!
All the hauntings and encounters with the unexplained come from first-hand, verified accounts. The stories of real lives cut short that you will hear on Tampa Terrors are plucked directly from the history books. The twisted history of this town does not need any sensationalizing. So you won’t see any costumes or anyone jumping out trying to scare you; the stories are more than enough for that. It does help that your skilled guides are great and adaptable storytellers. This also makes the tour suitable for anyone, young or old; all are welcome to hear Tampa’s horrible history.
Tampa’s streets are as flat as a pancake, and the route sticks to streets with ample sidewalks. The tour is accessible to anyone that can walk a mile. The extended tour adds an additional half-mile and 30 minutes of spooky stories. Tampa Terrors starts and ends at the same location for both the standard and extended tours, and there is plenty of accessible parking nearby.
Guests of all ages are welcome on our ghost tour. Your tour guide will recount stories from the days when pirate ships sailed up the Hillsborough River past trees hung with moss, and Cigar City’s history, infamous criminals, crooks, and double-crossers.
Book your tour for a fascinating glimpse of the city’s past through its ghosts and ghouls. Hear how the roads of the city are built on the crushed bones of the Tocobaga tribe. The foundations of the city rest on Indian graves.
The Tampa Bay History Center has artifacts and exhibits from every era in Tampa’s history, but they don’t have any ghosts. And the dioramas have that hollow feel when something is not entirely authentic. The ghosts of Tampa were real people, with real lives. You will hear their unvarnished stories, how they lived, how they died, and how they still make themselves felt today. Tampa Terrors will take you on a dramatic and atmospheric night-time walking tour to the actual sites where the haunted and historical events of Tampa’s ghostly past took place.
Like the 38th Mayor of Tampa. Another in the line of Tampa McKay’s, Donald Brenan McKay, knowns as ‘D.B.’ to all. He oversaw the public works, sewerage, and infrastructure projects that made Tampa a truly modern city. He was also responsible for the construction of the first Tampa City Hall. This odd building was by turns called a layer cake, an edifice fit for a modern city, and an eclectic mess.
D.B. McKay haunts the city hall to this day, high up in one particular office window, his shadow can often be seen. Find out why his ghost paces back and forth and seems so worried about something. You will also hear the curious story of how the city hall got its clock, and how it got the name ‘Hortense’!
Not everyone can be receptive to the energies of the past. Animals and young people tend to be the most open-minded to these subtle ebbs and flows of previous lives. Adults have too much focus on in the here and now, and rightfully so. If you have lost your openness to the other worlds surrounding us, we won’t try to change your mind. We’re just here to lay out the evidence for the thin barrier between this world and the next.
We’re not the only ones exploring the possibility of things beyond the grave. There’s a sliding scale of investigators, from your Ouija board wielding teens to a research center at Yale University. If you are interested in ghosts, you will have seen the many legitimate accounts of hauntings. These raise questions for which satisfactory answers don’t yet exist. That is something we might just have to accept. It’s sometimes tough to take, but being OK with not knowing the answer will make life a lot more bearable.
Tampa Terrors invites you to crack open the door of possibility that there might still be some things in the universe that we don’t have an explanation for yet. You will also receive a fascinating and memorable introduction to Tampa’s flamboyant history through the stories of the lives and deaths of some of its most notable personalities. Unbelievers are especially welcome to join the Tampa Terrors, several have had their minds changed in the past. Will you be next?
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Perhaps you are a Tampa resident and want to spend a weekend away without going any further than the Downtown area? Staycations are a booming trend in travel; the Sheraton on the river has excellent views and is right in the center of Downtown.
The Sheraton is also one block away from one of the most haunted squares in Tampa. Lykes Gaslight Park is a pretty typical looking park. But it’s diagonal paths pretty much mark an ‘X’ for the haunted center of Tampa. It is also a stone’s throw from the Old City Hall, the haunted Tampa Police Department, and The Vault. However, the largest and most ancient concentration of ghosts is right underneath this spooky park. This is the final resting place for hundreds of bodies.
One of the largest shell mounds in the city stood on this spot. Centuries of Indian burials give the park a spooky atmosphere when the sun goes down. Join Tampa Terrors to hear the stories of how the square is haunted and find out why you might want to avoid it after dark!
While you stay in Downtown Tampa, you can get to know your hometown more and get some more entertaining stories to tell out of town visitors. Even if you choose not to believe the ghost stories, Tampa Terrors is a fun and entertaining night out.
If you only have a night or two here in Tampa and want to get a feel for the city’s culture, Tampa Terrors is a great way of doing just that. The ghost stories that stick around are the ones that capture the spirit of the place, literally! The people they memorialize, the places they mark as notorious, these are the secret to how the city sees itself.
Tampa Terrors ghost tour takes you to 8 haunted and historical locations that will give you a good feel for the Big Guava. The city got that nickname when a New York fruit company exec came looking for wild Guava trees in 1884. They didn’t find any in what was a village of around 1000 people at the time. But on his way back to New York, he did swing into Key West to recommended Tampa to his friend, Cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez-Ybor. The rest is history, one that you can experience in the places it actually happened on the Tampa Terrors Extended tour, including all the stops of the standard tour, but adding four additional stops, and about a half-mile of walking.
The Extended tour adds four additional locations after the conclusion of the ghost tour and leaves you to explore the extensive Tampa nightlife afterwards.
Tampa has some world-class sights in the daytime, but even Busch Gardens Tampa Bay closes at 6 pm. The Aquarium is the same. Tampa has some legendary nightlife, with dozens of clubs and bars, casinos, and discos across the bays. They really get going later on in the evening, if you are looking for the perfect activity to get the most fun out of your time in Tampa, then Tampa Terrors perfectly fills the slot between the two.
Finish up your hour or ninety-minute haunted walking tour of Downtown Tampa with a new perspective on the city. Tampa has countless secrets to share, and your local professional guides of Tampa Terrors have dug up dirt on the haunted histories of The Big Guava to make your tour a riveting blast through the twisted past of Tampa. Hear all about the ghosts of Downtown Tampa, how they became ghosts, and how they haunt the streets of Tampa today. Tampa Terrors will lift the city’s glitzy curtain to reveal the rotten heart of this ghost-infested city.
Some of the stories that were unearthed for the Tampa Terrors tour were just a bit too far to walk to. The best of the ones that aren’t on the tour can be found on the Tampa Terrors blog
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