What’s the most haunted city in the South? Although Savannah, New Orleans and Selma may be better known, for sheer number and persistence of spectres Pensacola, Florida, is a strong contender.
Houses in the old section of town date back to 1795, but before that a British fort encompassed the downtown area; its parade ground is today’s Seville Square. Over the years residents have reported floating blue lights, children’s cries from abandoned houses, headless maidens and assorted rappings, tappings and bangings. In recent years, one architectural firm did not allow its employees to work in its Seville Square headquarters after dark because of spooky occurences including chairs rolling across the floor by themselves, heavy footfalls on empty stairs and exploding light bulbs.
Intrepid visitors can hear about these and other ghostly tales during the 31st annual Haunted House Walking and Trolley Tours. Started by the Pensacola Historical Society, the tradition is now carried on by the University of West Florida’s Historic Trust. This year’s dates are October 22, 23, 29 and 30 and the tours include the Seville Spirits Walking Tour, the Redlight Walking Tour (an adults-only promenade through what was a thriving redlight district), and the ominously-named Trolley of the Doomed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, on October 30 the luckless visitor can participate in the Death and Mourning Tour, followed by the ever-popular presentation Talking to the Dead: All Hallows Eve and the Victorian Seance.
NOTE: It’s when they start talking back that the trouble really starts.
Participants in the walks have encountered unscheduled ghostly phenomena. At one Adams Street address, a tour guide was preparing to lead a group onto the porch of a vacant house when a voice said in her ear “Don’t bring people onto my porch.” The guide’s response is unrecorded, but probably centered around the word “Okay.”
Unable to wait? Check out some haunted hot spots for yourself.
The Pensacola Cultural Center’s Little Theatre occupies what was once the old County Jail and Courthouse. There was a hanging here as late as the 1920s; Hosea Poole was executed for murdering his brother in a dispute which may have involved a bicycle and a pair of shoes, although an alternative theory holds that the cause of the trouble was a person named Isabella Koops. Occupants of the building–noticing lights turning on and off, doors being locked and unlocked, and inexplicable cold spots–have decided Hosea is still in residence.
The Dorr House, situated on Seville Square, is also afflicted with cold spots, and female visitors standing in front of one of its huge mirrors may find their skirts being yanked by a prudish spectre who apparently dislikes anyone showing too much leg.
At Old Christ Church, the remains of three former vicars were being reinterred when a spectator noticed that three weirdly-dressed men, all carrying Bibles, had joined the procession. When he blinked, they vanished.
For years, Pensacola’s top haunt was The Gray House on S. Alcaniz Street, now occupied by the architectural firm of Heffernan Holland Morgan. Word on the street is that the property has been haunted for nearly 200 years by the ghost of Thomas Moristo, a sea captain, usually referred to as Captain Tom, who can still occasionally be seen peering out a window.
Since we’re living in scary times, all tours follow Covid19 protocols and ticket sales are online only. For more information, check the website at www.historicpensacola.org
photos courtesy UWF Photography