Halloween is the night where tradition says the spirits of the dead come alive to haunt the living. Rather than run from such encounters, some thrill-seekers use Halloween as an excuse to take tours of local cemeteries in hopes of encountering spirits. While Tampa’s most famous ghosts are mostly confined to buildings, these various cemeteries hold enough graves of famous, infamous and simply notorious residents to provide an interesting tour.
Morgan St. and Harrison St.
Tampa, FL 33602
Located in the heart of what would become modern Tampa, bordered by Morgan and Harrison Streets, Oaklawn Cemetery was established by the Alachua County Commission in 1850 as a public burial ground for “white and slave, rich and poor.” Even then, Tampa’s diversity was evident as there were sections set aside for Catholics and “marginal persons,” those we might today call pirates. One of Tampa’s real-life heroes Vicente Martinez-Ybor is buried there. It is an interesting location for Ybor’s resting place as it’s not in the part of town made famous by his name.
24th Ave. and 26th St.
Tampa, FL 33605
The Italian Club was founded in 1890 as a mutual aid society for Italian immigrants. Monthly dues helped build its social hall, provided medical insurance and served as the center of the Italian community’s social life. The Italian Club Cemetery at 24th Avenue and 26th Street in Ybor City holds the remains of one of Tampa’s most notorious mobsters, Santa Trafficante, Jr. However, the man who some claim ordered John Kennedy’s assassination does not have the most prominent grave marker. That belongs to a man named Filipo Cagnina. Cagnino made a modest living tending the billiard room at the Italian Club. Cagnina saved enough of his tip money to purchase a full-size bust. He may have lived a modest life, but Filipo’s bust looms large over his final resting place.Related: Tampa Bay’s Best Challenging Public Golf Courses
2504 W. 21st Ave.
Tampa, FL 33605
The Cementerio Tampa was established in 1896 by the Centro Espanol, a mutual aid society. Centro Espanol was open to Spaniards and Cubans loyal to Spain at a time when many of Tampa’s Cubanos (including Ybor City founder Vicente Martinez-Ybor) were sympathetic to the rebel cause. This cemetery is walled off and not open to the public, but it is still a reminder of Tampa’s Spanish heritage.
3698 N. Ola Ave.
Tampa, FL 33603
Named after the Asturias region of Spain, El Centro Asturiano was founded to help Latin males, especially Cuban Catholics who worked in the cigar industry, with medical care and to provide a sense of community in a new land. This location is the original cemetery which contains the remains of El Centro Asturiano founder Antonio Gonzales Prado. The club still operates the newer Centro Asturiano Memorial Park at 5400 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.
Garden of Memories
4207 E. Lake Ave.
Tampa, FL 33610
Tampa has its share of war heroes dating back to the Civil War, but Tampa’s Garden of Memories holds the grave of someone who truly stands out. Dr. Frank Adamo was serving with the U.S. Army in the Phillipines when the Japanese invaded. Despite the war raging around him, Dr. Adamo developed a revolutionary treatment for gangrene, which up until then could only be treated by amputation. Adamo would be captured by the Japanese, survive the infamous Bataan Death March and later went back to private practice and served at Centro Asturiano Hospital. If there are ghosts at his grave, we can assume that they are the ghosts of grateful soldiers whose lives and limbs he saved under the most horrific conditions serving as an eternal honor guard.
719 N. Franklin St.
Tampa, FL 33602
After such a tour, a stop at a local watering hole would seem like a good idea. Downtown Tampa’s legendary Hub Bar has been pouring drinks stiff enough to curl your hair since 1949. In addition to its potent drinks, The Hub boasts one of the most eclectic jukeboxes you’ll find anywhere, providing the perfect background for a discussion about Tampa’s most famous cemeteries.
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