Florida is synonymous with warm beaches, orange groves, freshwater marshes, and Dolphins football, but another thing it seems to have a secret arsenal of is frights. Fans of haunted houses and ghostly tours may indeed find themselves in the Sunshine State looking for their next run-in with the paranormal. As home to some of the oldest towns in the U.S., Florida contains countless supposedly haunted places and a myriad of tours eager to teach you all about them.
Most Haunted Places
Every state has its share of scary stories, but Florida's is particularly tourist-friendly. This is probably because the state's so-called "tourism pioneer," Henry Flagler (responsible for developing much of the Atlantic coast and founding the Florida East Coast Railway), is said to still reside earth-side—at Flagler College in St. Augustine—an entire century after his death.
- Spook Hill: East of Tampa and south of Orlando, Lake Wales is a small, old town that's home to an optical illusion-turned-tourist attraction called Spook Hill. Here, it often appears as if cars are rolling uphill on their own. The gravity-defying hill is officially recognized by the town and there is a sign on-location explaining how to experience the phenomenon for yourself.
- Lillian Place: Daytona Beach has a number of great frights, but none more spooky than this beachside Victorian mansion built in 1884. It's the proud home of a ghost named Lucille who is said to wander the property in a white dress. Guided and self-guided tours of Lillian Place are available daily.
- St. Petersburg: Also in central Florida, St. Petersburg is home to the Don CeSar Beach Resort: Haunted Hotel, where the ghost of a young woman who reportedly died of sadness has been known to haunt the halls at night. You can book a night here and, while you're at it, sign up for St. Petersburg's Ghost Tour, a candlelit walking tour of the city's most haunted places.
- The St. Augustine Lighthouse: While it may be a pretty tourist attraction and photo op, this lighthouse has a sinister side to it. The original keeper, Joseph Andreu, who fell to his death while painting it, is said to still smoke his cigars at the top.
Best Ghost Tours
Then again, attempting a visit to Florida's most haunted places alone may not be in your best interest. If you prefer to brave the haunts with a group—and who wouldn't?—there are plenty of tour options for you.
- American Ghost Adventures: The next time you're in Orlando, take a break from the chaos of Disney World for this paranormal investigative tour. The two-hour walk travels around to some of the city's most haunted buildings and equips its participants with their own ghost-hunting gear to investigate the unexplained themselves.
- Encounter Spirits Night Tour: Drive north from Orlando for about 45 minutes and you'll hit Cassadaga, home to the oldest active religious community in the region. The 57-acre Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is inhabited by a community of mediums, healers, and other people who can commune with the dead. On most weekends, the residents host an Encounter Spirits Night Tour where guests can "capture images of energy orbs and other spirit manifestation."
- St. Augustine Ghost Tours: The oldest city in America offers a worthwhile 90-minute haunted tour called A Ghostly Encounter, where guests walk through the city's narrow and historical cemeteries while listening to tales about the first citizens of what would eventually become the United States.
- Amelia Island Ghost Tours: Located at the most northeastern point of the state, Amelia Island is cut off from the mainland by the Amelia River and serves as one of the barrier islands on Florida's eastern coast. The island is rich with history, having been subject to Spanish, French, British, and American rule at one time or another. For a haunted history of the island, the Amelia Island Museum of History's walking ghost tour gives a good rundown. It guides guests along the historic streets of downtown Fernandina Beach.
- Key West Ghost and Mysteries Tour: As the name would suggest, Key West is the westernmost of Florida's southern Key Islands. Here, you'll find a Ghost and Mysteries Tour that takes guests to the old town's supposedly haunted Victorian mansions. The tour guides tell stories about spooky characters like Robert the Doll, Count Von Cosel and Elena, and The Watcher.