Archive for February, 2015

The Haunted City

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Ybor City is haunted. Specific buildings are haunted. But I think there is evidence that many…if not all the buildings of the old ‘Latin Quarter’ are sites rich in paranormal activity. As a resident of nearly twenty-five years and as a ‘paranormal enthusiast’, often in those early days I would walk into small shops owned by Cuban or Spanish or Italian families and introduce myself. “Hi…I live here in the neighborhood. By the way, does anything ‘weird’ ever happen in your shop?” Usually the wife would say, “We have a guy who roams around late at night and…”…then the husband would say “NO! Don’t talk about that!” Why? Because they thought it was bad ‘juju’…bad luck…because they thought something bad might happen…or, you may not come into their establishment. But today, many years later, one has to be concerned that ‘hauntedness’ is being used as a marketing tool…”Oh yes, we have a ghost. Come on in!” (see the blog “Everyone Wants To Get Into The Act”).
I know of a many haunted sites in Ybor City. Along 7th Avenue, the central promenade of our old historic district, there is building after building which carries with them ghost stories. Restaurants, clothing stores and bars, many of which have multiple accounts of ghostly encounters. There are owners or employees, past and present, who have seen or felt the remnants of the dead. Why would there be so many hauntings? History? Certainly many have died here.
But…here’s one theory for you to consider. When I came here one of the first residents I met was an elder cubano named Raphael. His family was rooted in the craft of cigar making. His grandfather had come to Ybor City not long after Vicente Martinez Ybor founded his cigar manufacturing city. I often found Raphael parked on a wrought iron bench, resting in the warm Florida sunshine. I would sit with him and we would talk. Mostly, I would listen. He spoke of the city in magical ways. He was an observer of the ‘unseen’ and was the first person that made me aware of the old village’s ghostly stories.
One day he said to me…” You know, in the old days communities and cities often formed in an area for reasons that not even it’s inhabitants understood. Oh yes, it might seem obvious…a river or a railroad. But it might be that they were attracted to something they ‘felt’. It was such with Ybor City!” He had my curiosity now. “How?” I asked.
“This area is ‘special’. There is a ‘vortex’ here. A place where energy collects in a very unusual way. There were two separate natural aquifers here, where drinkable water just flowed out of the ground. It’s part of the reason that Ybor settled here. The vortex is in the center, and it fans outward like a small but powerful hurricane.”
He then said something that I cannot forget. “And these kinds of vortexes ‘attract’ energy…and people to them. And when they die…some of them…cannot resist it’s pull…and they REMAIN!”
And so I wonder sometimes, could Raphael…now long gone himself…be correct? Could it be that the level of paranormal activity here in Ybor City is, in part, because this is a special place with a mysterious influence on the surface of our planet?
Could it be that ‘where’ an entity attaches is as important as ‘why’? It’s something to consider.

Stories of a ghostly President Lincoln wandering the corridors and rooms of the White House persist, but are not officially acknowledged. The gangly prairie lawyer with the black stovepipe hat and the long, sad face was the kind of man around whom legends naturally collect. If one were to believe in ghosts, one would have to believe that the benevolent spirit of Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, still watches over the nation he fought so gallantly to preserve.

Liz Carpenter, press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson, told author John Alexander that Mrs. Johnson believed she’d felt Lincoln’s presence one spring evening while watching a television program about his death. She noticed a plaque she’d never seen before hanging over the fireplace. It mentioned Lincoln’s importance in that room in some way. Mrs Johnson admitted feeling a strange coldness and a decided sense of unease. This disquieting apprehension has been felt by others. Grace Coolidge, wife of Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president, was the first person to report having actually seen the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. She said he stood at a window of the Oval Office, hands clasped behind his back, gazing out over the Potomac, perhaps still seeing the bloody battlefields beyond.

The ghost of Lincoln was seen frequently during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when the country went through a devastating depression then a world war. When Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was a guest at the White House during that period she was awakened one night by a knock on her bedroom door. Thinking it might be an important message, she got up and opened the door. The top-hatted figure of President Lincoln stood in the hallway. The queen fainted. When she came to she was lying on the floor. The apparition had vanished.

On one occasion, Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary, Mary Eben, encountered Lincoln’s ghost sitting on the bed in the northwest bedroom. He was pulling on his boots, as if in a hurry to go somewhere. The startled young woman screamed and ran from the second floor. Other staffers of that era said they’d seen Lincoln lying quietly on his bed of an afternoon.

Tales of ghosts are not new, and in fact date back into the shadowy beginnings of history, as we know it.

A ghost story survives from 1200 BC ancient Egypt, translated from hieroglyphics found on shards of pottery.

There is also the legend of Tu-Po, who served as a minister to Chinese Emperor Hsuan (lived 827-783 B.C.). After a disagreement with the emperor, Tu-Po was put to death, but he did much more than just haunt his former boss. It is said that Hsuan was killed by an arrow, fired by a shadowy figure that resembled his former minister.

And then there is this, from Ancient Rome:

Roman senator Pliny the Younger, who died in A.D. 113, told a ghost tale so haunting that it survives to this day. “There was at Athens a large and roomy house, which had a bad name, so that no one could live there. In the dead of the night, a noise — resembling the clashing of iron — was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains,” disturbances that led to the appearance of a specter “form of an old man, of extremely emaciated and squalid appearance, with a long beard and dishevelled, hair, rattling the chains on his feet and hands.”

Needless to say, the house was abandoned and had to be rented out for a cheap price. When a philosopher named Athenodorus heard the story, he reportedly rented the house and confronted the ghost. The ghost appeared, and rattled around before vanishing. Athenodorus calmly marked the spot where the ghost vanished and, in the morning, ordered that the spot be dug up, the story goes.

“This was accordingly done, and the skeleton of a man in chains was found there, for the body, having lain a considerable time in the ground was putrefied and mouldered away from the (chains). ” After being given a proper burial, the ghost departed, and the house was haunted no more, according to Pliny’s tale. (Translation from Pliny the Younger, The Harvard Classics, 1909-1914.)

So as shocking as it is to encounter a spirit, don’t think you are the first – or only one – to do so. You are just the latest.