A city as lively as Miami would be assumed to have a big collection of ghosts. Not necessarily.
While Miami has a colorful history, it's a relatively new city, and hasn't had much time for a supernatural history to develop. Or maybe the stories in Miami are so wacky, there's no need to embellish them with ghosts.
"You don't have to tell ghost stories," says Dr. Paul George, a historian for the History Miami museum, who leads an annual Halloween tour of the Miami City Cemetery. "The stories there are enough."
Take the story of William and Carrie Miller, who were inspired by an article in National Geographic magazine about a Roman soldier found frozen in lava from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. When Carrie died, her husband, an undertaker and furniture manufacturer, brought her in her deathbed to the cemetery, then poured concrete over her.
The inscription on her tomb reads: "The body of Carrie Barrett Miller was molded in this solid block of concrete – December 4, 1926. After the body has gone to dust, her sleeping form will remain." Kind of spooky, right? While they may not be abundant in Miami, don't think Miami is ghost free. Miami has a few "verified" ghosts, or as verified as ghosts can be. Check out these haunted houses in Miami and other Halloween activities.
The Biltmore Hotel: Miami’s most haunted landmark
The Biltmore Hotel is one of the most haunted places in Miami, where a number of supernatural things have occurred. It's also home to the most famous ghost in Miami, Thomas "Fatty" Walsh. Fatty was a local mobster who had an eye for beautiful women and ran the speakeasy on the 13th floor of the Biltmore Hotel in the 1920s. No one knows who did the deed, but Fatty ended up dead at his casino. Soon after, the speakeasy was closed and the whole matter hushed up, because who knows which upstanding Miami citizens dropped by to drink and gamble?
Except Fatty didn't leave, or so the story goes. It's been said that his affection toward beautiful women continues, and attractive women who get on the elevator might find it making a stop on the 13th floor. Today, the 13th floor is the site of the presidential suite, and Fatty was suspected the time President Clinton couldn't get any TV reception to watch a football game.
During World War II, the Biltmore became a military hospital and then a veterans' hospital. The ghosts of some of the men who died there are thought to drop by from time to time. There also have been reports of a ghostly lady in white, the spirit of a woman who fell to her death in the 1940s after pulling her small son off the balcony rail.
During the years the building was vacant after 1968, teens often snuck onto the grounds of the abandoned hospital and reported a number of spooky occurrences. Since the hotel was restored in 1987, guests have told of doors opening and closing, lights going on and off and the elevator misbehaving. Looking for a Biltmore Hotel ghost tour? Just book a room on the 13th floor and see what happens.
Haunted Cuban Consulate in Little Haiti
The second most famous haunted house in Miami is the former Cuban consulate, a 10-room building in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood built in 1926. The consulate was the home of Cuban consul Domingo Milord and his wife, Paula. Paula died young, of complications from an operation to amputate her leg. Rumor had it she died in the house and was buried in the yard, but The Biscayne Times newspaper did some research and concluded that she died in a hospital and was buried in a cemetery. Her husband returned to Cuba shortly thereafter and the consulate was closed.
Cliff Ensor bought the dilapidated house in 1974 and began restoration. He claims he saw a black-haired woman in a long gown – with only one leg – in the hallways. He smelled coffee and roses, heard piano music and the clattering of high heels. A psychic he consulted said the house actually had five ghosts. This year, the building was turned into an art gallery and museum, so we hope Paula likes art.
Miami Ghost Stories
Every Halloween, someone tries to come up with a few additional Miami ghost stories, for example, suggesting that perhaps the Miami Beach mansion where designer Gianni Versace died in a pool of blood on the front steps might be haunted. Or, that the Miami Beach house that Ricky Martin bought in 2001 and sold in 2005 was reported by a former owner to be haunted by the ghost of a woman who was killed on the way to her wedding in the 1930s.
Haunted Miami City Cemetary
Despite the shortage of ghosts, Dr. Paul George has no trouble finding stories to tell about the 8,000-plus souls buried in Miami's first cemetery during his annual ghost tour, held this year on Friday, October 26. One of those is the story of a murder that took place in the cemetery itself, when a serial killer named Francisco del Junco killed a woman and set her on fire in front of a prominent family's mausoleum in 1996.
Or, there is a story from 101 years earlier, when Miami saw its first law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. Sam Lewis, a barkeep and tough guy, killed two men who refused to apologize after getting drunk and disorderly in his bar. He fled to the Bahamas but later hijacked a boat back to Miami, where he was met with a posse. He was shot, but got back up and fatally shot Rhett McGregor, one of the posse. Lewis was taken to the county jail 85 miles north. The posse followed, killing the jailer and then hanging Lewis from a telegraph pole and shooting up his body.
"His nickname was ‘The Enforcer,'" George said of Lewis. "His favorite rifle was called Nancy." If this story sounds familiar, it's because it appeared in "Killing Mr. Watson," by Florida author Peter Matthiessen.
Not all of those buried in the city cemetery have a lurid past – though it's likely that some of the city's modern-day developments might have them turning in their graves.
Perhaps the most important person buried in the Miami City Cemetery is Julia Tuttle, the woman known as the "Mother of Miami" and the only woman credited with founding a major American city. Tuttle was a widow from Cleveland who moved to the area that was to become Miami in 1890.
She began pushing Henry Flagler, who was building the Florida East Coast Railway, to extend the railroad to Miami. He ignored her pleas until the freeze of 1894–1895, which devastated the orange groves and tropical foliage of northern and central Florida. Flagler took Tuttle up on her offer to give him land for the railroad and a hotel, and he extended the railroad.
So far as anyone knows, Julia has never come back to haunt anyone. But we hear she does show up for Dr. George's haunted tours in Miami.