Like much of Florida, Jacksonville has a history seeped in conflict, turmoil, and bloodshed, making it one of the most haunted cities in the state. Its origins begin with the land being stolen from Native hands, handed down from the Spanish to the British, then back to the Spanish again.
It was occupied by Union troops four times during the Civil War, surviving this tumultuous time only to be lit ablaze by a fire in 1901.
The small settlement originally known as Cowford, due to the cattle that once crossed the narrow riverbed of St. John’s river, has seen its fair of bloodshed since its founding in 1791.
Why Is Jacksonville So haunted?
Perhaps this bloodshed is why a majority of the institutions and buildings that stand within the city limits are festering with spiritual activity. Over 1.3 million people reside in the “Capital of South Georgia” despite the ravages the city has endured throughout its past.
They filter through the theaters, litter along the beaches, and gather in the bars. But what makes Jacksonville unique is that they are never without company.
Read along here as we discuss the most haunted locations and be sure to take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures to see it for yourself!
1. Carriage House Apartments
Florida is known for its slew of insane and often violent antics. And, sometimes, the devastation of these events can be so significant the dead are unable to part from the place they met their grisly end.
Now known as the Chelsea Courtyard Apartments, the Carriage House Apartments in Jacksonville is just such a place. The horror that transpired here in 2000 was so intense, the energy left behind earned it a spot on the National Registry of Haunted Places.
Built in the mid-1960s, the apartments first appeared alongside the improvements made to Jacksonville University in 1961.
By 1966, the apartments comprised 97 units and, over the years, have become quite popular for renters. There’s one unit, however, that remains sealed off to the public as it’s already inhabited by something else.
The Terror Within Unit 40
On February 1st, 2000, a Florida man named Tracy Moss went on a killing spree. He began by murdering his girlfriend in a separate apartment complex, then, returning to the Carriage House Apartments and suffocating his wife in unit 40.
Moss went on to kill his boss before being discovered by an off-duty detective. This sighting would lead to the end of his spree when Moss shot himself in the face.
The brutality of that day left its mark on Jacksonville, and a poltergeist in unit 40 of the Carriage House Apartments.
Those who were unlucky enough to reside in unit 40 experienced activity befitting a horror movie. Past residents have reported the smell of rotting flesh, blood dripping from the walls, and objects flying across the room.
The activity was so intense that unit 40 was converted into a storage room, preventing any future inhabitants. Though, it’s yet to curb the otherworldly activity that exudes from the room. Tenants around unit 40 continue to report hearing whispers and unexplained noises coming from the now-storage room.
As though it couldn’t get any creepier, the tale of unit 40 is just one of a few that disturb the peace at this Jacksonville apartment complex.
Why is The Carriage House haunted?
Though the grizzly murder committed by Tracy Moss in apartment 40 left a spiritual residue inside the building, it’s only one of a few calamities. In 1987, the manager of the complex, Billie Boyd, passed unexpectedly. Not ready to retire, it’s said his spirit still lingers in the front office.
In 2009, a resident passed away in apartment 20 when the unit caught on fire. There is also talk of a phantom cat that disappears when approached, though it’s believed it’s actually an entity disguised as a feline.
2. Ginger’s Place
Local watering holes are in no short supply in the sun-soaked streets of Jacksonville, Florida. Many have such an extraordinary history that they’ve become staples of the city.
Ginger’s Place is one of the most popular of these “dive bars”, with its former owner being the star of the place even in the afterlife.
Prior to opening Ginger’s Place in 1976, Darlene Edith “Ginger” Payson worked as a vaudeville performer under the stage name “Tiza, The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl” and “Ginger Lani”. Interestingly enough, the building she and her husband, Ziggy, chose for their new venture had a fascinating history of its own.
Built in the 1950s, the building once operated as a grocery store followed by a fast-food joint, dress shop, and Glass Bar. In the years leading up to its acquisition, it was home to a fair share of tragedy that kicked off the paranormal activity still experienced today.
However, it was the passing of the former star that would really amp up the unexplained happenings the bar has become known for.
Forever Ginger’s Place
It’s ironic that Ginger did not believe in spirits as hers is the primary one seen at this local favorite. Not long after her passing in 2003, family members, employees, and patrons began finding dimes and nickels scatter across various locations of the bar.
Though, paranormal experts believe this is a means of communication from the spirit world, Ginger’s granddaughters and current owners believe it’s Ginger attempting to buy drinks for those she fancies.
Additionally, the granddaughters often feel a tap on their leg when no one else is around and believe she’s responsible for frequently changing the date on the adjustable calendar the bartenders use to check IDs.
Why do they believe this? Because it continuously changes to September 27th, Ginger’s birthday.
As if that wasn’t convincing enough, Ginger herself will occasionally make an appearance in the bar, scaring patrons while simultaneously comforting the staff.
Should you get the chance to stop by Ginger’s Place, be sure to acknowledge the former vaudeville star. Your next drink just might be on her.
Why is Ginger’s Place haunted?
Though the most well-known of the spirits is the former owner, there was plenty of activity prior to the building becoming Ginger’s Place.
Tragic Backstories of Ginger’s Place
- During its time as a grocery store, the owner’s sons were killed in a shrimp boat accident and just days later, their bodies washed up on the beach at Third Avenue South.
- The building’s time as the Glass Bar didn’t fair much better. It’s said that the owner, Freda, locked herself away upstairs after her husband died at the jukebox.
3. 33 Star
Next door to Ginger’s Place is another drinking establishment that appears to be Ginger’s second favorite haunt.
A former supermarket, the building was purchased by current owner Thressa Anderson in 2011 and converted it into the Rock ‘N’ Roll boutique and venue you see today.
The stage here is set for only the most illustrious performers. Ever the entertainer, it seems that Ginger does not get her fill of attention at her own bar and often pops into the glitzy venue next store.
The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl
It’s believed that spirits will appear during a disturbance of the places they frequented in life. This is no truer than in 33 Star. As Anderson completed renovations she discovered some unusual items in the debris – dimes.
During the remodel, Thressa claims that workers began finding dimes scattered across the floors, even after clean sweeping the area minutes before. And it didn’t stop there.
Customers have also claimed to find dimes appearing right in front of them. One employee of 33 Star stated that he went to the convenience store during work one day and found one of Ginger’s trademark coins in an odd location inside his wallet.
Ginger continues to make her presence known in a variety of ways, garnering attention in any way she can. Whether you’re a local or visiting the area, Ginger is always ready to put on a show for her audience.
Why is 33 Star haunted?
33 Star may not have the backstory that Ginger’s Place does, but it has everything the vaudeville performer needs to make herself at home. Edith “Ginger” Payson’s love of the limelight could not fit in one building and she now haunts 33 Star as well.
Ginger’s Antics at 33 Star
- Ginger also likes to mess with the lights at 33 Star, once blowing out a brand new 7-year LED light.
- She often slams the dressing room doors open and forces them shut with the same velocity.
- One morning the staff came in to find t-shirts all pulled off their shelves. They checked the cameras and saw a ball of light hovering around them followed by the shelf of shirts collapsing on the floor.
4. The Florida Theatre
Constructed in 1927 of 1 million bricks, The Florida Theatre was the largest theatre in the state at the time. Built in a quick 21 days, the theatre is only one of 8 historic theaters in Florida that still stands strong.
In the days of silent film Jacksonville was known as the “Winter Film Capital of the World” and was the home of over 30 silent film studios. Oliver Hardy of the renowned Laurel and Hardy comedy duo began his career in Jacksonville, utilizing the Florida Theatre and others as a medium for his work.
The Florida Theatre also was the home of WJAX and often broadcasted big band and jazz performances to its audience. And the talent that walked the halls of the theatre was second to none, including Elvis Presley.
As grand as the theatre and entertainment is, so is the paranormal activity that rivals the performances.
Behind the Curtain
There are various theories as to who – or what – is causing the unexplained activity in the theatre. The balcony is said to be the site where the spirits can primarily be found. In fact, visitors to the theatre are often unaware that they may be sitting in one particular spirit’s seat.
One woman actually captured a ghostly apparition in seat E2 in section 500. The spirit appeared to be a friendly one, waving for the camera.
At one point, psychic investigators were brought in to help uncover the identities of the theatre’s spirits. They discovered that one of the spirits calls himself “J” which stands for Joy, the feeling he most felt when inside the theatre.
However, the most fascinating piece of information came after J introduced himself. He told the psychics he was there to protect the maintenance manager, Joe Collier.
It makes one wonder what Joe is protecting him from. Are there other, more unruly spirits, inhabiting the building?
For every answer, The Florida Theatre provided another mystery.
Why is the Florida Theatre haunted?
For years, The Florida Theatre has been a beacon of entertainment for locals and tourists alike. Its light-hearted atmosphere is not without its tragedy, though. Ultimately, the deaths of former employees are what keep the energy of the theatre high, and the ghostly experiences plenty.
Haunting Facts About the Florida Theatre
- The second-largest Wurlitzer organ in the world was once housed in this building.
- A former organist, Joseph Hilton, left this world by taking his own life, and many say they still hear the sounds of his organ echoing through the theatre.
- Some believe there is the spirit of a former motion picture technician from the opening days named Doc Crowther that haunts the projection booth.
- One of the spirits will turn lights on and off in an attempt to communicate with the living.
5. Casa Marina
During the 1920s, celebrities flocked to the city in droves. In addition to Jacksonville Beach being one of the world’s finest, the city was also rivaling Hollywood as the center of the silent film world.
An A-list trip requires an A-list hotel, which is why many of them chose to stay at the Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant. Built in 1925, the Spanish Mediterranean-style inn was of the highest quality for its time, making it a popular destination for the rich and famous.
The good times would be short-lived as the military would take it over during World War 2 for housing. Later, it became a tea room, followed by a clothing store, and then an apartment complex before reopening as a hotel in 1991.
In its hay day, Casa Marina was a hotspot for the “who’s who” of the time. From movie stars to mobsters, some of the nation’s most notable figures took a seat at the bar of the “Grand Dame” of Jacksonville.
Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly frequented the establishment during the days of prohibition. Film stars such as Jean Harlow, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Fatty Arbuckle also helped make Casa Marina the place to be in the 20s.
Some loved their stay so much, they’ve yet to leave.
The Party Continues at Casa Marina
Today, many guests come to experience the glamour of a time lost to history but end up getting much more than they bargained for.
Some say the spirit of Fatty Arbuckle resides here, however, others aren’t so sure. One thing that is certain is Casa Marina is full of spirits.
There have been reports of a man in striped pajamas appearing in certain rooms. The sounds of children playing in the second-floor hallway are often reported.
Many see ghostly apparitions staring at the windows of notedly empty rooms. One guest who stayed at the Casa Marina decided to unplug her hotel telephone as she wanted nothing more than a nice, relaxing stay.
She was abruptly awoken on the second morning of her stay to the telephone ringing. After using the restroom and thinking it was just a dream she checked to make sure she had unplugged.
As she did this the lights on the phone lit up and it rang again! More horrifying yet, scratch marks appeared on the wooden floor that was not previously there.
Why is Casa Marina haunted?
Though it’s not clear why Casa Marina is haunted, there are theories Once a favorite hotspot of national celebrities, it appears some of them have remained to haunt their favorite hotel.
6. Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station
“Ruby”, as Jacksonville Beach has been known since 1884, was not only a popular tourist destination but a site of major historical importance as well. In 1562 Captain Jean Ribauld and his French Huguenots laid claim to the area.
Later the Spanish, then the British, then later the Spanish again would lay claim to the region before it was ceded to America in 1821. This early settlement is why Jacksonville Beach and the surrounding area are considered the “first coast” to this day.
William E. Scully, a railroad surveyor named the beach after his oldest daughter Ruby in 1884. It was officially deemed Jacksonville Beach in 1925, being known as Pablo Beach for some years before that.
As the city expanded, both locals and tourists flocked to the beach. But with the increased amount of people came the need to increase safety.
On April 6th, 1912 the Life Saving Station No. 1 was opened on Pablo Beach, modern-day Jacksonville Beach. 19 volunteers worked day and night to keep the people of the beach safe. One of these individuals was Henry Walters, who invented the Torpedo Buoy which is still used worldwide today.
For more than a century, the Life Saving Station has seen a variety of individuals assume the duty of protecting beachgoers. Though, not every beachgoer would be saved.
Terror At The Station
Over the years there have been reported sightings of odd shadow figures lurking along the walls. These dark figures have even been caught on camera by the television show “Local Haunts”.
It’s believed that these figures are the spirits of those who the lifeguards were unable to save as well as lifeguards, particularly one named Todd, whose watch was ended by the ocean.
While it’s hard to say who haunts the building exactly, there is no doubt that it is indeed haunted.
7. Evergreen Cemetery
What haunted city is complete without spooky tales from the local cemetery? Evergreen Cemetery spans over 200 acres of land and contains some of the city’s earliest founders, political leaders, and other notable citizens of Jacksonville.
In fact, the cemetery is filled with the who’s who of Jacksonville including the founder of Jacksonville Isiah. D Hart, major league baseball player Bill Terry, silent film producer Richard E. Norman, ten mayors, five governors, and three survivors of the Titanic.
Built in 1880, Evergreen Cemetery was once part of the Palermo Plantation that stood on the edge of town. Perhaps this explains the various reports of spiritual activity in the beautiful cemetery.
Spirits of The Evergreen Cemetery
One of the most well-known spirits is the “Lady in Violet”. Witnesses describe her as a woman dressed in a Victorian-era violet gown who appears somber, as though in mourning.
The spirit of the Lady in Violet has been seen for over a century but the first official report didn’t come in until the 1940s.
As the story goes, a woman and her aunt saw the apparition wandering the cemetery. While the woman was fascinated by the sighting, her aunt was terrified. Back at home, the woman described the event to her grandfather, who then informed her that the apparition had been seen for years and that her sighting was actually a bad omen.
Legend states that those who see her will experience a loss in the family, which is exactly what happened to the aunt whose father passed away just days later.
While it’s not completely clear who the woman is or what keeps her at the cemetery, what is known is that she’s not alone.
Who Else Haunts the Evergreen Cemetery?
- The spirit of Belle Hightower who tragically died a few days short of her 35th birthday. Her grave is known as the Tomb of The Ugly Angel and it’s believed her spirit appears to comfort those in mourning.
- The spirit of Dodd family member, Thaddeus, is said to inhabit the Dodd Mausoleum. The apparition has been appearing in front of the tomb for years, with an outrageous tale including that of a woman claiming to have become a couple with the spirit.
Ghost hunting can really make a person hungry. If you’re in the Sunshine State, nothing hits the spot after a long ghost adventure quite like a taco… or three! Florida is known for its Latin cuisine, with unique and incredible restaurants extending as far north as Jacksonville.
The haunted TacoLu just so happens to be one of them. Opened in 2012, TacoLu has become famous for its Tex-Mex style cuisine as we as the various spirits that inhabit the restaurant. However, they were far from the first to occupy the building.
Before it ended up as the TacoLu, the building housed a variety of restaurants with the first being The Homestead. The homestyle restaurant was owned and operated by a mysterious woman named Alpha Paytner who originally built the home to serve as her living quarters and a boarding home.
In 1947, she turned the home into a restaurant to appease the various tourists and locals that flocked to the beaches. She eventually retired from the restaurant business in 1961 at the age of 74, and a year after selling the building, passed away in her Neptune Beach home.
Almost immediately after her passing many began to feel her presence at the restaurant. Her apparition began to appear near the limestone fireplace in the large log cabin-style building.
Some claim to have seen her on her old rocking chair and would often appear to be checking on the customers. Others have seen her face in the women’s restroom. It appears the love she felt for her business never faded.
Sightings of the former restaurant owner are reported to this day, however, she is not the only spirit that haunts TacoLu.
Why is TacoLu Haunted?
There are actually a couple of theories as to why TacoLu is haunted. The first, of course, is that it’s haunted by former owner Alpha Paytner who continues to check up on her beloved restaurant. The second theory is a bit darker.
At one point during the 19th century, the building served as an adoption agency run by a mother-and-daughter team, the Rosenburgs. Legend has it that the duo hanged themselves in the building and can often be seen appearing somber.
9. Florida House Inn
A little further north, outside the hustle and bustle of Florida’s largest city, is the quaint area known as Amelia Island. While not completely an island, merely cut off by a series of rivers and smaller waterways, this area is a calmer option for those looking to stay in the Jacksonville area.
The Florida House Inn is one of the more popular destinations for wayward visitors looking for a comfy bed. But many get much more than they bargained for.
Built in 1857 by prospective railroad builder David Yulee, the inn was originally used as housing for his railroad workers. Yulee intended to build a railroad line from Fernandina Beach to nearby Cedar Key, however, the civil war began and dashed his prospective plans and fortune.
As the war progressed, the inn became a house for Union soldiers. Eventually, it was purchased by Major Leddy and his wife and grew along with the seaport town.
“The Queen of Summer Resorts”
The town of Fernandina grew at an alarming rate. It became the site of the first US custom house and was home to the oldest newspaper in the United States.
An economic boom brought well-known investors from around the United States. The Vanderbilts, Duponts, and Carnegies all housed guests of theirs at the Inn as well as hosted lavish dining parties here.
As the times changed and cinema rose to prominence, new types of celebrities took residency here. Laurel and Hardy were frequent guests as well as Mary Pickford and automobile mogul Henry. US President Ulysses S. Grant also spent time here.
Some loved it so much that they never left.
Who haunts the Florida House Inn?
It is said that “Miz Leddy”, wife to Major Leddy of the post-civil war era, still haunts it. Her Lavender perfume can often be smelled throughout the inn. Antique shoes from her era are often stolen from their display case and later found in various guest rooms.
10. Palace Saloon
As Fernandina Beach grew so did the need for entertainment of the adult beverage kind. Thus, the Palace Saloon was established in 1878.
Built on the remnants of the old Nassau County jail, it’s not surprising that the oldest bar in Florida is also one of the most haunted places in the resort town.
Between the 1880s and 1910s, Fernandina Beach was among one of the busiest ports in the US. Palace Saloon was one of twenty saloons that lined the streets of the harbor district. It was only one however that held the prestigious honor of “Ship Captains Bar.”
By 1903, it had obtained status as the preferred watering hole for the area. It was around this time that the Carnegies frequented the town, often seen at Palace Saloon.
When prohibition hit the Palace Saloon held on, holding court and serving liquor until the bitter end. A line down the block, full of patrons from other states, grew as the clock ticked closer to the end.
During this era, the Palace Saloon claimed to be an “ice cream parlor”. But judging by the mobsters that frequented Jacksonville, it is not hard to believe that it served harder drinks under the table.
Running the Show
Between 1903 and 1960, one bartender named Charlie Beresford would host a drinking game, betting patrons a quarter that they couldn’t land the coin in between the cleavage of a wooden statue.
Today, when bartenders attempt to play the game they say they feel his hand on their shoulder, believing it to be Charlie. But the former bartender is only one of many regulars that still patronize the old bar.
Music, clinking glasses, and conversation are often heard early in the morning. An old electric piano player is known to start playing whenever at any moment, even though it’s unplugged.
It seems that nothing can keep the good times from rolling at the Palace Saloon!
Jacksonville’s sunny beaches often leave visitors in a sun-soaked state of wonderment. But a closer look reveals there is much more to Georgia’s southern capital.
The economic boom of the late 1800s brought fortune and fame to the city. Despite losing over 2,000 buildings in the fire of 1901 it rebuilt itself better than before, attracting the leading entrepreneurs, actors, producers, and investors.
The energy of these early enthusiasts lives on in the buildings and structures they left behind. For some, like Ginger of Ginger’s Place and 33 Star, it is a life they never wanted to leave behind, and didn’t.
Most are here to have a good time and are willing to buy you a drink if you know where to look. Some, like those murdered in Unit 40 of the Carriage Apartments, are to be avoided.
To know which spirits will take you out to wet your whistle and which aren’t, take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures next time you visit Jacksonville!
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