Most people envision beautiful beaches and gloriously warm weather when they think of Florida. Little do they know that this state also has ghostly tales to chill you to the bone! The city of Jacksonville, in particular, has more than its fair share of paranormal occurrences and spooky stories. Read on to discover the seven most haunted places near Jacksonville!
The Florida Theatre
One of the most haunted places near Jacksonville is the classy Florida Theatre. It opened its doors in 1927 – the same year inventors successfully demonstrated the electric television. Today it remains a center for the performing arts. Yet after all these years, it remains the center of much supernatural speculation, with some claiming it has its own in-house ghost.
Staff and visitors have long speculated that the ghost of Joseph Hilton roams the space, a former organist who committed suicide. Some report seeing him walking through the theatre or sitting in his favourite spots. Apparently, whatever lurks in the shadows of the theatre means its patrons no harm and simply likes to keep an eye on the business. In 2020, the owners of the Florida Theatre replaced all of its 1,950 seats except Balcony E1 and E2. They refurbished these seats and returned them to their original spots, citing the ghost’s fondness for them.
You can visit the Florida Theatre at 128 E Forsyth Street #300 or call them at 904-355-2787. Alternatively, you can check out their website here.
TacoLu Baja Mexicana
One of the most haunted places near Jacksonville currently houses the TacoLu Baja Mexicana eatery. Its history dates back to the 1930s when it was a boarding house governed by Alpha Paynter. Later, she turned it into the Homestead, which became a popular local restaurant.
After she died in 1962, patrons and staff began reporting sightings of a ghostly woman in the building. Most believed the spectre to be that of Alpha Paynter, who appears to people throughout the building near the limestone fireplace. Her body was buried on the property, leading many to speculate that her spirit never left.
Sightings of the ghost are so common that the TacoLu ended up in the National Directory of Haunted Places. For a ghostly encounter or a great meal, visit TacoLu Baja Mexicana at Jacksonville Beach at 1712 Beach Boulevard. You can also call them at 904-249-8226 or visit their website here.
Carriage House Apartments
TacoLu isn’t the only Jacksonville location to earn a listing in the National Directory of Haunted Places. Carriage House Apartments (now Chelsea Courtyards) in the Arlington suburb also claims this dubious distinction. Though most of the building hosts the usual renters, legend says that there is one apartment the owners don’t allow anyone to rent.
Apartment 40 has a grisly reputation. On February 1, 2000, a man named Tracy Moss suffocated his girlfriend, then returned to the apartment with a plastic bag to do the same to his ex-wife. He left her lifeless body behind and went to kill his boss. When Police stopped him, he shot himself in the face, ending his life. Police never established a motive for any of these crimes.
Many people claim that, since then, apartment 40 has been unlivable. Some say they’ve heard disturbing whispers or other noises from the empty apartment, now a storage unit. When tenants still lived there, tales circulated of invisible hands throwing occupants around, walls leaking blood, and an overpowering stench of decay. As if all this wasn’t enough, the ghost of the building’s former manager Billie Boyd apparently haunts the front office.
You can find the Carriage House Apartments at 2260 University Boulevard. If you decide to drive by, just remember that this is the home of many living tenants and make every effort not to infringe on their privacy.
Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station
Though it’s technically a place meant for saving lives, the Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station also has its fair share of ghosts. Visitors and beachgoers report seeing various spectres, including those of a drowning victim and a lifeguard called Todd. Photographers have caught strange, inexplicable shadows on camera. It garnered enough attention that the television show “Local Haunts” featured it in one of its episodes.
You can find the Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station at 2 Ocean Front N. on Jacksonville Beach. Visit the Jacksonville Beach Parks & Recreation website for more information on the area.
One of the most haunted places near Jacksonville is the Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville’s oldest fully operating cemetery. It dates back to its first burial on April 8, 1881. It is nearly 170 acres of beautifully sedate landscape, comprising over 70,000 graves. However, despite appearances, not all is peaceful within its gates.
The cemetery is famous for several ghosts. A man in vintage clothing often lingers near an unmarked mausoleum. Similarly, a female spirit is said to hover near the “ugly angel” tombstone. Observers have spotted “the Lady in Violet” walking or standing throughout the cemetery.
You can visit the Evergreen Cemetery at 4535 Main Street N. For information or assistance, call 904-353-3649 or visit their website here.
Ginger’s Place is a bar in Jacksonville known for several different kinds of spirits. The building had several proprietors dating back to the 1950s, but it didn’t gain its current name until a retired burlesque dancer, Ginger Payson, purchased it with her husband. Since then, paranormal activity has been the norm.
Though there were occasional reports of supernatural activity before Ginger’s death, they didn’t really ramp up until she passed away from a stroke in 2003. After this, patrons and staff frequently reported seeing her ghost or finding spare change lying around in strange places. Her family and friends sometimes experienced a ghostly tap on the leg, something Ginger did during her life to get people’s attention. Thankfully for the bar’s reputation, no one has reported any malicious activity.
To visit Ginger’s Place, visit 304 3rd Street S along Jacksonville Beach. You can also call them at 904-249-8711 or visit their website here.
The Devil’s School
Of all the haunted places near Jacksonville, the so-called Devil’s School has to be the creepiest. It first opened in 1918 as Public School No. 4, though it would later become Annie Lytle Elementary School. It saw the end of its public service in 1960 and remains closed to this day. In the year 2000, the city designated the building a historic landmark.
The living may have abandoned the Devil’s School, but the dark rumors about its ghostly inhabitants are alive and well. Urban legends range from a janitor who burned students alive in the boiler room to a cannibalistic principal who kept students’ bodies on meat hooks in his office. A tale also circulates about an exploding boiler that killed several students. In addition, many claim that Satanists used the site to perform Satanic rituals.
Before the building became a landmark, vandals and graffiti artists left markings all over it. Today, the city prohibits visitors and trespassers on the property. However, passersby can still catch a glimpse of the infamous Devil’s School. The school stands at the juncture of I-95 and I-10.
AdLib Luxury Tours offers the nighttime River City Haunts walking tour for those interested in diving deeper into Jacksonville’s spooky history. For more information about other haunted tours around Jacksonville, including those in the city of St. Augustine, check out this guide.