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Haunted Ybor City in Tampa, FL: A Murderers' Ghost and Other Specters
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!
Related Documentaries & Books on Ybor City:
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!
Written and copyright © by Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.
- Haunted Ybor: Teatro on 7th, Revolve and the Don Vicente Inn | Daily Loaf
The owner of the Ghost Party Paranormal company offers tours of things that go bump in the night all around Ybor City.
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© 2010 Nicole Canfield