Haunted Ybor City in Tampa, FL: A Murderers' Ghost and Other Specters

The Fire of Ybor in 1908
The Fire of Ybor in 1908 | Source
Another picture of the fire of 1908
Another picture of the fire of 1908
Firemen in a thriving Ybor City in 1919.
Firemen in a thriving Ybor City in 1919. | Source
Two Beautiful Cuban Ladies in Ybor
Two Beautiful Cuban Ladies in Ybor

A Brief History of Success & Turmoil in Ybor City

Ybor City is nestled in the Northern part of Tampa, Florida...it is a part of Tampa that has seen a huge amount of success and loss from the time it was founded in the late eighteen-hundreds to present day. When you drive into Ybor City today, your car's tires will hit old brick roads and you will immediately see a historical part of Tampa that cannot be seen anywhere else in the city. Today Ybor City is filled to the brim with cutting-edge clothing shops, rowdy bars, tattoo shops, fine-dining restaurants and infamous nightclubs. Back in Ybor City's hay day in the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds, it was widely known as the Cigar Capital of the World...as it housed the largest number of manufacturing plants of cigars. Following Ybor City's time of success, the depression took it's nasty toll on America's economy and apparently on cigar production in Ybor City, too. After the Great Depression, Ybor City turned into somewhat of a ghost-town in the respect that the population lost it's luster and many mafia and criminals began to take over the streets, hotels, and pubs in the area.

To start at the very beginning - Ybor City was established when a man Don Gavino Gutierrez came to Tampa to start a hopefully lucrative business in the guavas fruit industry. Unfortunately, this idea did not pan out for Don due to the lack of guavas fruit and he decided to go into the cigar business with a few pals from Cuba - Don Vicente Martinez Ybor and Don Ignacio Haya. Ybor City began to thrive due to the call for work at the cigar plants and many Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants and their families took up residence in this part of Tampa. Unfortunately, the conditions in which the immigrants lived were less than healthy. The workers in Ybor City had to bear a whole bramble of troubles including angry alligators, disease-infested water, and infectious mosquitoes. During the highest time of success in Ybor City's cigar making, a yellow fever epidemic broke out amongst Ybor's immigrant residents and many people lost their lives to the disease. So many that the mayor mentioned the mortality rates in the paper, The Tampa Tribune, as being some of the highest mortality rates in Tampa during that time period. Among other diseases, Tuberculosis was prevalent in the early twentieth century due to poor sanitary conditions within the factories and streets of Ybor City.

To add to this unsettling, disease-ridden turmoil that Ybor City had to bear...in March of 1908, between eight to ten blocks of Ybor City were burnt to ashes in "The Fire of 1908". W. Reyes and D. Martin wrote a whole article detailing the fires that swept through Ybor City and Western Tampa in the early twentieth century (the link to their article is below). The picture above displays the devastation that was felt by Ybor's inhabitants and employees, as hundreds of families lost their homes and thousands of workers lost their jobs. It is mentioned in the Tampa Tribune that there was no mortalities in this fire, but how would they really be able to confirm this with their lack of technology? Nonetheless, the crushing emotions and loss of a way of life were felt in Ybor City for years to come...the energy left by these losses might still undulate in the air of Ybor City today.

Even after these tumultuous times, the hard-working citizens of Ybor City pressed on with their cigar manufacturing and became successful once again. At one point, Ybor City housed over two hundred cigar factories and produced over seven hundred million cigars in a given year! Unfortunately, this success would not last for much longer than the nineteen-thirties, when the Great Depression grasped Ybor City in it's damaging claws. Ybor City lost many of its inhabitants and the city seemed to lose its life, overall. Mobsters traveled through and conducted business in Ybor City in the thirties and forties, including the infamous Charlie Wall. Although he was not Italian, he was considered Florida's first crime lord and rampaged through Ybor's streets in the early twentieth century. Shoot-outs between Charlie's crew and the police occurred regularly during this time period in Ybor City.

With such a thick history of success, loss and crime, it is no wonder there are so many legends of ghosts and spectral spirits that reside in Ybor City's oldest buildings and walk the brick streets still today!

Establishing of Ybor City in 1886
Establishing of Ybor City in 1886 | Source
A Pub at 7th and 16th in Ybor City, in the late eighteen hundreds.
A Pub at 7th and 16th in Ybor City, in the late eighteen hundreds. | Source
Illustration Showing Ybor's Hispanic Culture & History
Illustration Showing Ybor's Hispanic Culture & History | Source
An Illustration of 7th Ave in Ybor City, showing how it looked in the 50s.  This is more how it looks today, as well.
An Illustration of 7th Ave in Ybor City, showing how it looked in the 50s. This is more how it looks today, as well.

The Legends of A Haunted Ybor City

There has been many hauntings witnessed in Ybor City, but a few of these hauntings really stick out amongst the others. One of these hauntings is that of the old Tampa Florida Brewery, turned Swope Law Group's law firm in Ybor. The Brewery opened during the height of Ybor City's success, in the year of 1897, and handed out free beers to all that attended the opening ceremony. As it sometimes happens with drunken men, a few words were said between two cuban men, punches were thrown and one of the men passed away in the Brewery...most likely from head trauma by the blows of the other man's fists. When the law group bought the building in Ybor City, and started construction in 1999, they began hearing the voice of a drunken man with a heavy hispanic accent. Could this possibly be the man that was killed in the fist-fight during the opening of the brewery? Since re-construction, most of the employees of the law group have heard the man's voice but choose to let the spirit be. He has not inflicted harm upon anyone in the group, so there has been no reason for them to worry about his presence.

Probably the most well-known hot spot for ghostly visions and phenomena is Tampa's Historic Cuban Club, which now inhabits an Ybor City building that was built in nineteen-seventeen. The haunted building has held everything from a ballroom to a cantina to a theater. Recently, there have been rumors of college students that were in the middle of a tour and spotted a piano playing by itself, in the locked area of the old theater in the building. Apparently they were so frightened that they immediately ran to their vehicles and left the haunted premises. Sightings of ghosts riding the elevators and wandering all thoughout the Ybor building's hallways have been common. It has even been told that police officers scouting the haunted building were scared out after running into a wailing woman's ghostly figure...the figure of a woman who was apparently shot and killed in the building during a political debate back in the early nineteen hundreds. You can watch a video of the Ghost Hunter's experience and research in the Cuban Club, below.

Perhaps the most terrifying ghost story of Ybor City is the story of Doctor Avellanal's son, Avellanal Jr. who haunts the Don Vicenti Inn. The Don Vicenti Inn was a clinic during the early twentieth century and Doctor Avellanal worked in its walls for quite a few years. What most did not know is that the Doctor had a schizophrenic and brutally violent son, Junior. His son did not work or live within the Ybor clinic with his father, but lived across the street in a brothel. It was told that he used his father's occupational name to lure the prostitutes into his room and then performed twisted experiments, which usually led to these women's deaths. Junior knew of the underground tunnels below Ybor City's streets and would take the bodies of the women he murdered and dispose of them by way of the tunnels, in the incinerator across the street, underneath the clinic (now the Don Vicenti Inn). Even more unsettling is the fact that this same grisly incinerator still exists underneath of the haunted Don Vicenti Inn today...although it is now bricked up within walls. A disembodied nurse is also seen traipsing the lower levels of the Don Vicenti Inn...some connect her ghost with Avellanal Jr.'s ghost, while others believe she was a nurse who lived in the Ybor building during her work there in the Second World War.

Amongst these ghosts, there are tales of a ghostly little boy playing tricks on the employees in an Ybor clothing shop, called Revolve. Sightings of men dressed in early twentieth century clothing have occurred all over the streets in Ybor City. Could these be the ghosts of the men who worked and died in Ybor during the yellow fever epidemic? Or maybe these are the spirits of cigar-factory workers who died during the fire of 1908, whose bodies were never accounted for? Some of these ghosts may even be victims of a shoot-out during the crime-wars of Florida's first crime lord, Charlie Wall. Whatever the reason for these hauntings, the fact remains that Ybor City has a rich and extremely intriguing history...and where there is history such as this...there is bound to be a ghost lurking around every corner...just waiting to be discovered and researched!

If you'd like to read more about Haunted Tampa, click here.

If you'd like to read more about Haunted Florida, click here.

Written and copyright © by Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.

© 2010 Author Nicole Canfield

More by this Author


Comments 17 comments

julio 4 years ago

yeah the hub is scary


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Thanks, souvikm16!

wetnosedogs - Glad you enjoyed it.


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

Fantastic pictures as well as this hub.


souvikm16 profile image

souvikm16 4 years ago from Bangalore, India

This is indeed a very interesting hub. Loved every bit of it!


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Rach - Hi, Rach! I'm happy that you enjoyed my hub. Unfortunately I don't know of any other good websites on the Avelanals...I sort of put together that story from bits and pieces I've heard from friends, etc. Good luck and have a great day!


Rach 5 years ago

Heyy kitty!!

Loveddd your hub,very fun and informative. Recently, I saw a show about the infamous Dr. Avelanal and his son..and it really intrigued me especially since I live so close..but I really have heard soo many theories supporting jr being a crazy killer and a con, or just misunderstood. Reguardless, do you know of any other good sites about them?


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Hi, "Tom Petty".

I'm sort of a private person, so you can message me via my hubpages profile and I'll answer any questions you may have. It sounds like you wrote a wonderfully intriguing screenplay. Great to hear from you.


Tom Petty 5 years ago

Kitty,

I'd love an opportunity to talk with you more about the Don Vincente and 'Junior'. Let me know if there is a way we could make that happen. I'm working on a story about that time. As you are a self-admitted female pirate lover, I've previously written a screenplay about Anne Bonney and Mary Reade.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

hi, skarup! oh my gosh..so funny because there was a chance that my hubby could have gotten a job in asheville and we would have moved; however, it didn't work out. but the funny thing was that i had already researched asheville and discovered the plantations and ghost stories there and found them totally fascinating! thanks so much for reading my hub and i'm so glad you learned a little bit from this one. what part of tampa did you live in?


skarup profile image

skarup 5 years ago

Enjoyed reading this. Lived in Tampa my entire life and learned some new historical tidbits. If you ever come to Asheville, there's a great ghost walk downtown.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Hey, grace o'malley! Yes, he was "quite concerned" with my twisted concept of history, apparently. I did not approve his comment nonetheless because he was insulting me within it. He called me a "liar" and inferred that i was "deceiving the public"; however, if he had not tried to offend me I probably would have approved his comment! It makes me wonder if there was a story behind his anger, as well.

Anyway, did you choose your writing name because of the famous female pirate, grace o'malley? I love pirate stories and I just recently read about grace o'malley...what an fiercely strong lady!

Thanks for stopping by!


graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

How interesting that people see a nurse, but don't know her story.

I wonder myself about the "concerned historian" who wanted to defend the alledged killer's reputation. Was this person unjustly accused of something, and now defends all & sundry? Does he/she have a guilty conscience? There's a story there....


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

thanks, glad you enjoyed. i think i have a sick obsession with old photographs...from any period of time!


Silver Fish profile image

Silverfish 5 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

Really interesting hub, I love these old photographs too.


amybradley77 profile image

amybradley77 5 years ago

Thank you again for getting the word out about these happenings. People are incountering hauntings and becoming more and more aware and enlightened everyday to these things and less skeptic and closed minded to it all. The more the merrier, since keeping fear out of it helps people know that it is just another part of life and that we can and do have the power here being the living ones, we just need to learn and practice what to do in these haunting incounters. As I do everyday now. Thanks again, and I look forward to more of your hubs, we have quite allot of topics in common already. A.B.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it. Ybor is a really fun and interesting part of Tampa...one of my favorites. If you ever visit Tampa, you need to see Ybor City! :)


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

kittythedreamer, wonderful historical writ-up about Ybor. Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    kittythedreamer profile image

    Author Nicole Canfield (kittythedreamer)1,893 Followers
    428 Articles

    Kitty has had paranormal experiences her entire life. These experiences have fueled her passion to write about all things supernatural.



    Click to Rate This Article
    working