Once called “The Little River Settlement,” Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was exactly that when it was founded in 1838. A petite melange of Spanish and American settlers along the New River that, by the 1970s, exploded into the “Venice of America.”
Its history is plagued with war, natural disasters, and money lust. As such, there is a plethora of haunted locations that only help to aid the already lucrative tourism industry.
It is considered the westernmost tip of the Bermuda Triangle, and for that, a certain level of oddity is common throughout its yacht-filled waters.
Incorporated in 1911 with a population of 186,000, the city flourished as Americans flocked to Florida in the 1920s. Many buildings from this era of prosperity still exist in the Himmarshee Village.
A high concentration of spiritual activity is reported in the downtown historic section. From disappearing planes to mysterious voices from distant planes, Fort Lauderdale is regarded as one of the strangest places in Florida.
Follow along with us as we discuss the city’s top ten most haunted locales. Next time you visit, take a tour with US Ghost Adventures to find out for yourself!
1. Stranahan House
Built-in 1901, its location along the banks of the New River acted as the perfect trading post for Ohio businessman Frank Stranahan.
Frank and his wife Ivy had been residents of Fort Lauderdale for nearly ten years upon its construction. Frank helped to establish a ferry crossing for the Bay Biscane stage line, arriving eagerly in 1893.
His then-future wife, Ivy, separately followed suit in 1899 and became the first public school teacher for the burgeoning city. The couple is considered some of the first founders of Fort Lauderdale.
The building served as an inn and community hall until it was renovated in 1915, at which point it became a private residence for the Stranahans.
All was well until the onset of the Great Depression. Frank made his living in the business world and could not handle the large losses that the Great Depression inflicted upon him.
He was diagnosed with cancer that same year and decided to end it all. Tying his leg to a stone, he threw himself into the New River.
Many experts and visitors agree that his spirit remains in the home he worked so hard to build. The smell of a cigar is common, particularly when there are none around.
Books have been known to fly off the wall toward guests, and odd sounds emanate from the bathrooms and attic. A caretaker once saw a man in the master bedroom after the building – now a national landmark and conducts tours – was closed.
Ivy would live on to see the house become various restaurants and once again an inn. She would rent out rooms to visitors and the bottom floor to aspiring restauranteurs.
Her perfume is often smelt around the building. It is believed that Ivy’s sister appears from time to time as well and that Franks’s father, Augustus Stranahan, has also stuck around.
Apparitions are seen, and orbs are commonly captured on film.
Why is the Stranahan House Haunted?
What was once a dream home turned into a nightmare when the Stranahans faced financial ruin. Frank Stranahan would take his life in response, resulting in a place engulfed in sadness and filled with the otherworldly.
The Ghosts of the Stranahan House
- Frank Stranahan
- Ivy Stranahan
- Ivy’s sister
- Frank’s father Augustus Stranahan
2. Old Fort Lauderdale History Museum
Located in the center of Himmarshee Village, Seminole for “New River,” The Fort Lauderdale History Museum has much more to offer than an engaging walk through the past.
The building served as the New River Inn from 1905 to 1955 and hosted many early entrepreneurs traveling south to make their wealth in the bountiful seaside settlement.
The New River Inn was constructed of beach sand to harden the bricks, which helped it withstand the frequent hurricanes known to hit the area.
In 1984, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and continues to be preserved with rooms and structures resembling the early 1900s.
Decorations and furnishings are not the only things that have been preserved from the early days of Fort Lauderdale. Many spirits roam the walls of the historical center. Guests who met an untimely end around and those whose last residency was room and board at the New River Inn are frequently spotted here.
Most commonly there is the ghost of a man dressed as a rancher from the early 1900s. He is often seen pacing the front porch and first floor of the building.
Former senator Philemon Nathaniel Bryan (P.N. Bryan), who commissioned the hotel, is known to make an appearance, glaring at guests ominously but quickly vanishing when approached. The apparition of a young girl has been spotted by many. She appears playful and will even talk to guests before shocking them with a sudden disappearance.
Many workers have reported strange incidents as well. One woman states that one of the spirits has an unwanted admiration for the female form. Female workers often feel a pinch on their rear end. When they turn around no one is there.
Why is the Old Fort Lauderdale History Museum haunted?
It’s believed P.N. Bryan is not ready to loosen his grip on the building he poured his heart into. An outbreak of Yellow Fever also claimed the lives of hundreds, particularly children. Some of the spirits who succumbed to their illness have chosen to continue on in the afterlife at the Old Fort Lauderdale History Museum.
The Ghosts of the Old Fort Lauderdale History Museum
- A rancher or possibly a former Texas Ranger
- P.N. Bryan, former US Senator and commissioner of the hotel
- A young girl, possibly the victim of the Yellow Fever outbreak
3. Sunrise Hall of the Art Institute
Established in 1968, the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale experienced a large influx of students in the 80s, requiring the need for housing. A dormitory program was founded, and a building was selected – a former hotel and apartment complex off Sunrise Boulevard.
However, the cheery name does not aptly fit the building’s dark past. Soon after students moved in, eerie happenings began. Amongst the regular rambunctious and revelrous affairs that take place in any college dorm, students were subjected to odd occurrences that are not of this world.
The original building was lost during a fire in the 1960s. No deaths were reported, but prior to its immolation, the structure served as a den of sinful activity.
Many died far before the flames ever wrapped themselves around the old wooden structure. Built in the boom Fort Lauderdale experienced in the 1920s, the three-story structure had been a hotbed of vice since the Great Depression.
Starting out as a boarding house for travelers, it quickly became dilapidated by the 1930s, attracting the wrong crowd.
It was a brothel where the most ill-fitting characters of Fort Lauderdale’s underground society would gather.
Prostitution, illegal gambling, drug dealing, and violence were everyday occurrences in the building until the 1960s fire. Murders were common, either by pimps looking for their money or by unhappy clients of the women who lived, worked, and died there.
These crimes became so common that by the early 1960s, a daily police visit was mandatory for patrolling officers.
Today students experience the aura of madness left behind. One of the most common stories is that of a moaning sound emanating from the top floor.
It sounds muffled, as if someone’s head is being placed right next to the floor. The muffle eventually breaks out into sobbing and then disappears into the night.
The sounds of high-heeled shoes running down the hallway have also been heard. The most terrifying of them all, however, is the story of a shadow figure that stalks students outside their windows.
Why is the Sunrise Hall of the Art Institute haunted?
Illicit behavior and the murders that accompanied it left a stain on a building meant to house the nation’s brightest. The nefarious activity keeps a stranglehold on the spirits that once thrived during this dark era, holding them hostage for all eternity.
The Ghosts of Sunrise Hall of the Art Institute
- A dark shadow figure that stalks dorm rooms at night
- Former prostitutes
- Victims of murder
4. Philemon Nathaniel Bryan House
This structure was once the home of entrepreneur and former senator Philemon Nathaniel Bryan, or P.N Bryan. While it is said that his spirit resides in the hotel he adored, guests have also been visited by the spirit of his loving wife Lucy.
The Bryans moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1895 after a freeze destroyed their orange crop in Smyrna, Florida, the year prior. Philemon bought 120 acres and began anew.
Soon he found great wealth helping Henry Flagler construct the New River Railroad line between Miami and Pompano Beach. This stretched fully from Key West to New York, and the endeavor brought the Bryans a great fortune.
Philemon built the New River Inn in 1905, destroying their old wooden home in the process. That same year his two sons commissioned the construction of the colonial revival-style house we see today.
It is the oldest example of “residential masonry architecture” in Fort Lauderdale and is owned by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society today.
After the Bryans passing, the home became a boarding house in the 1940s for spouses of deployed soldiers. In the 60s, it became a commercial Yoga Center, which is about the time many started to notice they were not alone in the old house.
Lucy died quite an untimely and freakish death. She was shelling peas on her front porch when some friends arrived, and she headed down the stairs to greet them. Lucy slipped on a pea and broke her pelvis, ultimately dying a few days later.
Her spirit still stays in the home, and her presence has made this one of the most haunted places in Fort Lauderdale. During the days of the Yoga studio, many saw her behind them in the mirror. An elderly woman dressed in a black wool shawl. Upon turning around, the woman disappeared.
Why is the Philemon Nathaniel House haunted?
Lucy Catherine Bryan loved her home, making it understandable that she would not want to leave, even in death.
Ghosts of the Philemon Nathaniel House
- Lucy Catherine Bryan
- Possibly her husband, P.N. Bryan
5. The King-Cromartie House
Along with the Stranahan House, the King-Cromartie House is one of the oldest homes in Fort Lauderdale. It was one of three homes built by a contractor and early resident of the settlement, Edwin T. King.
King built many of the buildings previously discussed in this article. It is perhaps an odd coincidence that they are all haunted, but also comes as no surprise given the tumultuous history of the area.
King came to the area in the early days and found that the small population was in dire need of a schoolhouse and teacher. In 1899 he traveled to Miami to request a teacher be brought to the area.
Miss Ivy Julia Cromartie, the future wife of the aforementioned Frank Stranahan, traveled to the area that same year to teach the nine children in the new settlement.
Ivy’s brother Bloxham moved to the area shortly after her and would marry Ed’s daughter Louise King. Hence the lengthy name of the building.
In addition to the New River Inn and the home for the Bryans, the King family also constructed the Evergreen Cemetery from a portion of their 90-acre property. Twelve acres of this property was bought by the city of Fort Lauderdale in 1917, and it is where many of these early settlers are buried.
Edwin King is one of the many residents the cemetery now holds. He died after being struck by debris during a Hurricane in 1928. Louise King-Cromartie is another.
She died of old age, but her spirit still resides in the house, along with some of her children who died young. Many see her staring out the second-story window. Others have seen her apparition in the house wearing a bright pink dress.
Some have reported the smells of a meal being prepared in the kitchen. The sounds of children running through the hallways are also common.
Why is The King-Cromartie House haunted?
Louise King-Comartie and a few of her children were unfortunate victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak. Their souls have yet to move on from the place they once called home.
Ghosts of The King-Cromartie House
- The lady of the house, Louise King-Cromartie
- Several children
6. Henry E. Kinney Tunnel
In 1956 the chief editor for the Fort Lauderdale/Broward edition of the Miami Herald began a petition for a new method to cross the New River. A drawbridge had previously been the only method and created a 45-minute journey for those trying to cross such a small distance.
Henry E. Kinney believed there was a better way, and so did the residents, as his petition ended in favor of the bridge. Construction began in August 1958 and was finished in December 1960.
The Stranahan house sits above the tunnel on Las Olas Boulevard and is the only building that does so. Ivy Stranahan was staunchly opposed to it, for obvious reasons, and refused to ever use it. Perhaps that’s why this tunnel is so haunted.
Deep in the tunnel, drivers have been shocked to see various apparitions running across it late at night. While it does allow pedestrian access via two walkways on either end, it is rare to see anyone actually using them.
Many have reported sightings of Seminole Native American men running across the tunnel. They generally appear as shadow figures which is all the more distressing.
Much of Fort Lauderdale was a Native American settlement, and sightings of this nature are not uncommon in the other parts of the city.
The other sighting is even more strange. Henry E. Kinney died in 1985, and the following year the tunnel was named after him.
A man wearing a brown suit and derby hat is often sighted running across the tunnel, and many believe it to be the journalist himself!
However, the tunnel’s location under the New River, the river that Frank Stranahan drowned himself, makes it likely that the spirit could be any number of people.
Why is the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel haunted?
The opposition of the tunnel and its proximity to dark and disturbing events have created a holding cell for restless spirits and spine-tingling sightings.
Ghosts of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel
- Seminole Native Americans
- Possibly Henry E. Kinney himself
- Various apparitions
7. Las Olas Riverside Hotel
The oldest hotel in Fort Lauderdale, the Las Olas Riverside Hotel, was built in 1936 and is alive with a number of guests. Both the living and the dead frequent the quaint European-style building.
Brothers Preston and John Wells of Chicago were frequent visitors to Fort Lauderdale. They came down every year for fishing trips and noticed the city was in dire need of greater accommodations. The two would rent a boarding house across the street from the current site and slowly but surely purchased the land.
The brothers hired Architect Francis Abreu, a well-noted professional in the field who also built the nearby Las Olas Casino. Upon its opening on December 13th, 1936, the hotel was nameless.
By the 17th, it was designated as Hotel Champ Carr, named in honor of first mate Champ Carr. Carr would accompany the brothers and Captain Franklin Merritt on their fishing expeditions. They were so smitten with Carr that they gave him the job of hotel manager upon opening, followed by his honorary mention.
While the Wells brothers were from Chicago, their parents had originally been from Shakespeare County, England. The two would often return to their familial land and visit their parents’ country estate.
This was a yearly endeavor and apparently rubbed off on the two hoteliers as the hotel has a distinctly European feel.
While there is little indication as to why, the hotel is extremely haunted.
First and foremost, and most menacing, is the spirit of a man often seen from the street. He presses his face and hands against the windows of the bottom floor in an attempt to scare visitors. His attempt is often successful.
There is also an older man wearing a raincoat who wanders around the various rooms. The more innocent spirit of a little girl, aged somewhere between 5 and 7, also haunts the old hotel.
Why is the Las Olas Riverside Hotel haunted?
Though it’s not entirely known why the hotel is haunted, many believe it’s occupied by both guests and residents from a previous life.
Ghosts of the Las Olas Riverside Hotel
- The malevolent spirit of a man
- An older man who aimlessly wanders throughout the hotel
- A little girl, potentially the victim of the Yellow Fever outbreak
8. Hollywood Beach Hotel
Chock full of its own tales of hauntings and paranormal activity sits the Hollywood Beach Hotel, just a little further south of Fort Lauderdale in Hollywood, Fl. None are quite as famous as the Hollywood Beach Hotel.
Constructed in 1925 during Florida’s economic boom, the Hollywood Beach Hotel was originally referred to as Hollywood by the Sea. Although many simply referred to it as “The Grand Lady.”
It was built by the industrious Joseph Young, whose vision was that of an avenue of Royal Palms overlooking the sea, leading right up to the entrance of his glorious establishment.
This was an era where hotels were built and designed to exemplify the height of luxury. Many were in competition with each other. Hollywood by the Sea was one of many built during this era, including the famed Biltmore in Coral Gables.
The Hollywood was built in the Mediterranean style that was popularized in the 1920s.
All of this luxury attracted many wealthy guests. The beautiful sunny beaches of South Florida and the perfect weather made the area a perfect getaway for all types of people.
The most famous and most notorious visitor of the Hollywood Beach Hotel was none other than Chicago gangster Al Capone. Capone and his gang made the hotel their permanent South Florida home in the late 1920s.
A brothel was running next door, making the hotel the perfect gangster’s hideout. It is said that in room 202, multiple murders took place. Because of that, the grounds are terribly haunted today.
One particular ghost is known as the Choking Ghost. It’s believed this spirit was originally a worker at the brothel that was strangled by Capone and his gang.
The terrible sounds of someone being choked are often heard in room 202. Other guests report cold spots, disembodied voices, and strange lights.
Why is the Hollywood Beach Hotel haunted?
A brothel operating next door and the violent crimes of Al Capone and his gang created a bubble of darkness with the souls of the oppressed trapped inside.
Ghosts of the Hollywood Beach Hotel
- Murder victims of Al Capone and his gang
9. Old Ghosts Odditorium
Off I-595 is an odd shop. An Odditorium, as it was so aptly named by founders and owners Brittany Nicole and Jackson Valentine. The two met at another spookily named business, Kreepy Tiki Tattoos. They were also regulars at the Kreepy Tiki Bar and Lounge.
After hitting it off and landing a job at the tattoo parlor, Nicole and Valentine began collecting. The bar eventually closed, but it was already filled with oddities, antiques, and other strange, side show-like items.
The two brainstormed quite a bit and decided on a museum for all of their oddities. A gift shop was later established, but eventually, guests could not tell which was which.
Too much had been collected from the various estate sales, dumpster diving sessions, and secondhand gifts. Various dolls, statues, banners, curtains, and other strange items line the shop. Some items in the Old Ghost Odditorium were once living and almost refused to stay dead.
The pair’s friend Jack, who worked in fine art, was visiting the big island one year when he stepped into a tiki bar. In the bar was a stuffed parrot, a Macaw from Hawaii, to be exact.
He attempted to purchase it, as taxidermy Macaws are somewhat of a rarity in the art world, but the family relented. The bar owner told him it was his great-great-great grandfather’s.
The grandfather would visit the bar every day with the bird, passing away long before the bird did. In the 1940s, the bar’s owner had it taxidermied, and it remained in the bar as the family bought the establishment.
Eventually, the family gave it to Jack, making him promise it would stay in a tiki bar. He brought it back to Nicole and Valentine, who promptly placed it on a high shelf.
But every night, the bird would fall to the ground, landing on its feet! This happened for weeks until they placed it on the bar. Then it all stopped.
The bird stays in the shop today and is at peace.
Why is the Old Ghosts Odditorium haunted?
Some oddities get the reputation for a reason, such as a previous being unable to let go even in the afterlife.
Ghosts of Old Ghosts Odditorium
- A taxidermied Macaw whose long-dead family is still attached.
10. The Bermuda Triangle
Fort Lauderdale is considered one of the westernmost points of the Bermuda Triangle, an area infamous for ships, planes, and people mysteriously disappearing. Also known as the Devil’s Triangle, this area stretches from Fort Lauderdale to the Greater Antilles to the Island of Bermuda.
Since the mid-19th century, records have been kept of ships disappearing and never being seen again. While this could simply be a case of magnetic disturbances, hurricanes, or undersea earthquakes, it is hard to know as there are no known survivors from any of these wrecks.
These occurrences have persisted, yet even with the addition of modern technology, there are still no indications of where the missing vessels disappear to. No wreckage has ever been found.
A great example of this is Flight 201. This Cessna aircraft left Fort Lauderdale on March 31st, 1984, en route to Bimini Island in the Bahamas.
All members on board were Cessna employees, many of them pilots and co-pilots. All were well-experienced and trained in proper safety procedures.
About midway to its destination, the plane slowed its speed and went hurdling into the ocean. A woman on Bimini Island reported seeing a plane crash into the water, yet no wreckage or bodies were ever found.
Then there is Flight 19, which left Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Base on December 5th, 1945. After a report that their compasses had malfunctioned and that their location had been lost, the crew sent a series of muffled radio transmissions to the Naval Base.
After nearly five hours, a Mariner aircraft of 13 men was sent out to rescue the lost vessel. The Mariner and Flight 19 were both never seen or heard from again.
27 men in total disappeared, and although a nearby tanker reported seeing large explosions nearby, no wreckage was ever discovered. In fact, it led to one of the largest naval search missions of the 20th century. It only led to further solidifying the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
What makes the Bermuda Triangle so mysterious?
Numerous theories exist on why the Bermuda Triangle is a black hole for anything, or anyone, that passes through. They include leftover technology from the lost continent of Atlantis, magnetic anomalies that affect compasses, the Gulf Stream, and possibly, a curse.
Victims of the Bermuda Triangle
- The ship, HMS Atlanta, and the entire crew
- USS Cyclops (the single largest loss of life that was not combat-related
- A five-mastered schooner, Carroll A. Deering
- Training flight, Flight 19
- Two Avro Tudor IV passenger aircraft
- A Douglas DC-3 aircraft
- Pleasure yacht Connemara IV
- KC-135 Stratotankers
Fort Lauderdale is a city of mystery. Its small population helped build the South Florida coastline while unknowingly attracting large groups of spiritual enthusiasts.
Its magnificent hotels, beautiful beaches, and sun-soaked boulevards are only matched by the enormous amount of paranormal activity taking place in the “Venice of America.”
Perhaps the Bermuda Triangle plays a role, or maybe the early residents never wanted to leave.
Whatever it may be, we highly recommend you take a visit to the coastal playground. Next time you do, be sure to take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures to get the full experience!
Featured Image Source: Flickr