The Ybor City Ghost Tour begins as daylight fades and the streetlights come on. The shadows lengthen as your guide Charlie Doan begins his story. As you listen, he spins fascinating tales, telling of another side to Tampa’s historic district – a dark side, full of passion and betrayal, of greed and madness.
Ybor City Ghost Tour's knowledgeable local guides offer safe passage for those who dare to explore — Photo courtesy of Jana Jones / Ybor City Ghost Tour
Tampa’s famous historic district Ybor City is a charming New Orleans-style city within a city, featuring decorative wrought-iron balconies overlooking worn cobblestone streets. During the day, it’s is a great spot to do some souvenir shopping or relax at a sidewalk café while sipping café con leche and people watching.
By night, it's transformed into Tampa’s favorite entertainment district, with its festively lit streets lined with popular restaurants, bars, lounges and nightclubs.
But this is only the surface. If you dig a little deeper – into the hidden depths of Ybor City – you'll find yet a different picture, a picture you won’t find in any history book. A picture you can explore – if you dare – on an Ybor City Ghost Tour, perhaps with Doan as your guide.
Doan is a fourth-generation resident of Ybor City, and he knows where all the bodies are buried, literally. With eclectic style and a proud passion, he takes you on a journey through the most haunted spaces in Tampa, if not the country.
Doan, together with fellow guide Greg Melton and local historian owners Joe Howden and Lonnie Herman, operates the Official Ybor City Ghost Tour. For the past four years, they have delivered goose bumps to thousands of amazed amateur ghost hunters.
Explore the haunted spaces of Tampa's famous historic district — Photo courtesy of Charles Doan / Ybor City Ghost Tour
This thoroughly enjoyable walking tour lasts around two hours, taking you down historic streets past beautiful neighborhood architecture. The colorful history of Ybor City is brought to life through stories of tragic heroines and arrogant villains, and the ghosts they left behind. The Ybor City Ghost Tour is perfect for almost anyone (except for small children), even the cynical and jaded.
The tour also includes access to two of the most well-documented haunted spaces in the country. Guests are invited to embark on their own ghost exploration, complete with an EVP reader to measure changes in electromagnetic energy and believed to indicate the presence of spiritual energy.
Be warned: They do go off! It's also quite common for guests to take pictures of unexplainable images that weren’t visible when the photo was taken.
The beautifully renovated Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn is the first location and hosts the ghosts of nurses who treated patients during the building’s time as a public clinic. Curious visitors may also encounter a brilliant madman who, in the process of trying to reanimate the dead in the clinic’s morgue, may have killed over a dozen local prostitutes.
The inn was featured on the Travel Channel show The Dead Files in an episode entitled “Hotel Hell.”
When you visit the historic Cuban Club, you'll be joined by hundreds of ghostly theater-goers — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
The second location is the extravagant Cuban Club. Established in the early 1900s as a social club and mutual aid society for Cuban immigrants, the club still serves as an important neighborhood event space. Not to be outdone by the Don Vicente, the Cuban Club was featured on the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters in an episode called “Club Dead.”
Ghosts here include a murdered member of the board of directors and a beautiful young woman who fell to her death.
The Ybor City Ghost Tour is well worth the $25 cost, providing hours of chilling entertainment every night of the year. However, if you’re looking to do something out of the ordinary this Halloween season, be sure to reserve a spot on their special late-night tour of the Cuban Club on Friday, Oct. 31. Check their website for details.
This spooky attraction's guaranteed to provide plenty of thrills and chills and change skeptics into true believers.