Tampa, Florida is a ghost-hunting dream town. Pockets of historical areas are littered about the city, ready for exploration. The area is filled with mysterious happenings and eerie sights to witness. One of these spots happens to be at an otherwise unassuming water tower.
Five miles north of downtown Tampa sits the historic area of Sulphur Springs. The quiet neighborhood used to draw visitors to enjoy its serene mineral springs in the late 1800s. Now, the area is also known for another historical landmark.
Towering above the swaying palm trees off Florida’s Interstate 275 is a stunning white structure. The 214 tall tower is impressive in both its size and its history. It can be seen from all over Sulphur Springs, a constant reminder of the tragedy that lingers over the area. If you want to take a ghost story tour in Tampa, go here.
The History of the Sulphur Springs Tower
There was once a lighthouse sitting on the site of the Sulphur Springs Water Tower. It stood watch and aided pirates and ship captains alike as they navigated along the Gulf Coastline just outside Tampa Bay. Eventually, the lighthouse was demolished, leaving a dark absence in its place.
Years later, in the 1920s, Josiah Richardson arrived in Sulphur Springs with a mission to make the area a tourist attraction. The reputation of the healing waters below the tower already drew visitors to the area. He sought to attract more and began by building Sulphur Springs Hotel and Apartments. He opened Mave’s Arcade, the state’s first indoor shopping venue, on the building’s ground floor.
The vast building sat at the corner of Nebraska Avenue and Bird Street, overlooking the Hillsborough River. Richardson was a developer that had big ambitions. He planned to add a luxurious spa retreat and an alligator farm for tours to the area.
Richardson found that he needed additional water pressure for his attractions so he turned to Grover Poole to construct a water tower nearby. Desperate, Richardson was forced to mortgage his resort to fund the building of the 200,000-gallon tower.
The massive tower was constructed with ten feet of its eight-inch thick walls being added every day. The project was a huge investment and would only add to Richardson’s resort area. However, his quickly popular tourist attracting venture would be short-lived.
In 1933, the Tampa Electric Company’s dam was intentionally destroyed. Water rushed unencumbered towards Mave’s Arcade and the Sulphur Springs Hotel and Apartments. The structure was badly damaged and the shops inside the arcade quickly closed. Richardson saw his heavily-mortgage investment destroyed and found himself bankrupt.
The Great Depression swept in and left the area desolate. Property development came to a halt and tourist activity nearly stopped. The once-bustling area of Sulfer Springs was eerily quiet.
Finally, in 1951, a drive-in theater brought new life to the area. The Tower Theater quickly became a popular hang out spot to take in the latest movies. It was built in the shadow of the Sulphur Springs Water Tower and a neon tower was erected at the drive-in mimicking its neighbor. The Tower Theater would continue to show films for over 40 years.
The Sulphur Springs Tower would go through many transitions throughout the years. A residential complex was considered to be built around its base. However, the area would continue to stay empty and would eventually become a park.
Finally, in 1989, the deteriorating and stained poured concrete tower was painstakingly restored. The entire surface was power washed to remove the years of debris. Sherwin Williams made the massive painting project possible by donating the paint. Over 150 gallons of graffiti-proof, white paint was applied to bring new life to the tower.
In 2005, the city of Tampa bought the tower and installed lighting. The small park still surrounds the tower. However, the area remains quiet with a single access point and no park amenities.
A Depressing Landmark
In September of 1929, stock prices took a deep dive and started a years-long depression. The Great Depression swept the nation, leaving many families in despair and dire economic situations. No one seemed immune as unemployment soared and even many of the wealthiest families lost their livelihood.
The vast sadness would continue to spread for years as many families lost their homes. Desperation set in and the inability to feed their families left many parents feeling hopeless. This deep despair caused a large number of frantic reactions.
Many felt that the only way to escape the feelings of hopelessness they were experiencing was through the tragic act of suicide. In one year alone, at least 40,000 Americans sadly took their own lives. More than a few desperate Floridians saw the Sulphur Springs Water Tower as their opportunity to escape their seemingly unavoidable fate.
The bright tower was an ironic spot for such dark endings. The area floods, combined by the struggling economy, caused many local business owners to lose everything. Many of them sought refuge from their immense pain by plunging from the top of the Sulphur Springs Water Tower.
With all of this horrific tragedy, it’s no surprise that the tower is the sighting of more than a few eerie happenings. Many have driven innocently by the structure and witnessed surprising sights. Those that have approached the tower to witness the supernatural events have left with mysterious stories.
A man in depression era clothing has been seen wandering the top of the tower. He slowly paces, clearly contemplating his fate. The sadness he had at the time is still remaining with his forlorn spirit.
Eerily, a figure of a woman has also been spotted at the top of the tower. The tortured spirit abruptly plunges to her death below. However, she doesn’t hit the ground. The apparition has been said to disappear right before impact.
Several other spirits have been seen jumping off of the tower to the ground below. Are they unsettled by the way they chose to end their lives? Or are they still grappling with the incredibly tough sadness they felt during one of the most depressing periods in history? One thing is for sure, a visit to the tower can give you the chance to witness these mysterious figures.
Since the tower was built in place of a lighthouse, it has a special connection with the sea. Legend has it that the destroyed lighthouse was a marker on an infamous treasure map. When it was demolished, the pirates lost the guiding light to their booty.
They’ve been spotted wandering around the tower, searching for clues to the hidden treasure. Their pirate ship has been seen aimlessly sailing the river, the last spot on their quest. These pirate spirits are likely unsettled by the unfortunate interruption to their mission.
Another Suicidal Hotspot
Just down the interstate, on the other side of the bay, is another suicidal hotspot. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is the location that nearly 250 people have chosen to end their lives since it’s been built. It’s also home to more supernatural phenomena.
The sheer number of deaths at the bridge has prompted several mysterious sightings. Many drivers have experienced a blond girl appearing in their backseat, only to disappear when they exit the bridge. Eerie images of people have been spotted lingering on the bridge that’s closed to pedestrians. A drive across this infamous cable bridge can give you an unforgettable experience.
Eerie Tampa Bay
The Sulphur Springs Water Tower is a must-see in the area. Its impressive architecture can be seen from afar. However, getting up close is when the real mystery appears.
The vast Tampa Bay area is home to many mysterious sightings and unexplainable events. From haunted theaters to spirit-filled hotels, the coastal city has a lot to offer for those hunting for something supernatural. The historic streets are full of stories to tell and spirits to spot.