The Old Tampa Theater has a haunted past riddled with gargoyles, ghosts, and glamour. Is it all fact or fiction? See for yourself on a USGA Tampa Tour.
Tampa’s history is rife with bloodshed, death, and battle. From its indigenous Tocobaga roots to its colonization in 1513 by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, the city as we know it today hasn’t always been sunshine and tranquil beaches.
Some of the most iconic emblems the city has to offer are also full of ghostly mystery and unusual frights. The Old Tampa Theatre is perhaps the most iconic and suspiciously eerie of them all.
Join US Ghost Adventures for a tour of haunted Tampa, and you’ll get to unlock the sinister secrets of the Old Tampa Theater and more. It’s the kind of thrill fit only for the daring.
Now considered a US Historic Site, the Old Tampa Theater opened its doors in 1926. Coined as a “movie palace,” the theater was supposed to be a refuge from the real world, allowing folks to escape the monotony and gloom of the Great Depression. Uniformed ushers welcomed guests into a grand hall lined with old-world statues and gargoyles. From the beginning, the theater had all the elements of a horror movie in the making.
Living in a glamorous dream for several decades, the Old Tampa Theater was an escapist fantasy. But as the 60s and 70s approached and suburban flight set in, the theater was forced to close its doors.
While it was only a few brief years before the community rallied and saved the beloved space, there it sat for some time. Some say that the decaying gargoyles and statues come alive in the night and that ghosts of uniformed ushers appear, waiting to reopen the doors.
While the theatre has gone through modernizing renovations, it still pays homage to its rich history as one of the nation’s surviving movie palaces. The projection booth remains as it was in the 1940s, and that’s not all that remains the same.
Stories circulate that decades ago, there was a projectionist who worked at the theatre. For whatever reason, he never clocked out, and he haunts the booth to this day. Theatre employees have reported seeing him in the locked room and hearing the scrolling of film as he tries to finish the job he began long ago.
People have also reported hearing footsteps and rattling change from behind the stage. With only the ghost lamp lighting the stage before the theater closes at night, it’s hard to see who—or what—is making all that noise. There are strange smells that lurk up from the pit and sudden feelings of cold.
All these signs suggest that, even when the show ends and the doors close, some semblance of life creeps through the empty space.
The fantastical Old Tampa Theatre was once a refuge from the dreariness of the Great Depression—but now it pulls visitors back into a different kind of horror. See for yourself on a US Ghost Adventures Tampa Tour and explore the haunted side of Florida.
Since 2013, US Ghost Adventures has offered entertaining, historic, and authentic ghost tours of America’s most haunted cities. We deliver fun yet honest accounts of hauntings across the nation for curious people of all ages. Our ghost stories are based on historical research, but that doesn’t mean they won’t send a chill down your spine.
US Ghost Adventures also offers virtual tours, a self-guided mobile app, and an Alexa voice app.