Next month, on October 5, 2019, iHorror will take over the historic Cuban Club in the Ybor City district of Tampa, Florida for the first annual iHorror Film Festival. Fans can expect a full day of outstanding short horror films, a panel featuring Dan Myrick (The Blair Witch Project) and Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination), and if they’re lucky, perhaps a ghost sighting or two.
After fire destroyed the original “El Circulo Cubano” in 1916, the four-story building that stands today was constructed housing a theater, pharamacy, cantina, ballroom, and library. In its time it has hosted everything from boxing matches to plays to a variety of musical acts including Celia Cruz and Glenn Miller.
In its century long existence, the club has earned a reputation as a venue for weddings, concerts, and other important events, and along the way has also developed a reputation as one of the most haunted buildings in Florida, possibly even in the United States.
Two specific acts of violence are most often pointed to in the building’s history as a primary cause for the paranormal activity, but they can hardly take credit for everything that has been reported there.
Suicide and Murder in the Early 20th Century
One of the earliest stories concerning the Cuban Club and its hauntings revolves around a mysterious actor who, reportedly unhappy with is career, committed suicide on the main stage of the location.
Though I wasn’t able to track down specific details about the incident, locals have come to call him Vincent and more than one has reported run-ins with his spirit.
One man reportedly met up with Vincent while out for a night of theater when he stopped to freshen up. Suddenly the actor appeared in the mirror in front of him and then walked right out of it and began to harangue the man about his failed career before asking for one good reason not to kill himself.
As I said, there aren’t a lot of details about Vincent, but for the second violent act, we have plenty.
It seems that in the 1930s, there was some upheaval about how the club was being run. In his book, Ghosts of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Alan Brown describes this scene:
“One night in 1934, during a meeting at the club, an argument broke out. Fists flew and members pummeled each other in heaps on the floor. Suddenly, several gunshots ripped through the air, and Bellarmino Vallejo lay on the floor, bleeding profusely. He had been shot in the face. By the time Bellarmino’s elderly mother arrived at the clinic where he was being treated, he was dead.”
Since then, more than one witness, including police officers, have reported sightings of a woman wailing in grief, and she is assumed to be Vallejo’s mother.
Elevators, a Drowned Boy, Elegant Women, and more!
Not every sighting or haunting in the Cuban Club can be ascribed to these two specific instances, however.
Over the years, many have witnessed the apparition of a boy bouncing a ball in the area of the cantina that used to house a swimming pool, leading many to surmise that he drowned there.
Others have reported a beautiful woman dressed in a stunning white evening gown and wearing red shoes walking up a staircase.
Pianos have reportedly played on their own and men in early twentieth century dress randomly appear in the club’s elevators. Those same elevators have been known to take on a life of their own, moving up and down between floors between the hours of 4:00 and 5:00 am.
A Beacon for Paranormal Investigators
Because of its reputation, some of the most well-known paranormal investigators in the world have traveled to Ybor City and the Cuban Club.
Notably, the Ghost Hunters TV show featuring TAPS performed an in depth investigation of the premises in season five of the popular series. During the investigation, the team employed a twist-on flashlight, asking questions of an entity with which they felt they’d made contact.
The flashlight turned on and off repeatedly answering that the entity was a boy and that he was between eight and nine years old.
Ghost Hunters are far from the only investigators who have visited the Cuban Club and filmed their findings there. Episode four of Haunted Tours from Brian and Jake Jalbert takes place at the historic location. You can view the full episode on Amazon Video.
You can reserve your spot on one of the numerous Ybor Ghost Tours which includes the Cuban Club as one of its prime locations recounting stories of the club and other reportedly haunted locations in the district.
As with any haunted location, and paranormal activity in general, there are those who believe and those who don’t, and the line is almost always clearly drawn. The Cuban Club in the Ybor City district of Tampa, Florida, however, seems to be one of those places that makes a believers out of skeptics.
Join us for the iHorror Film Festival and maybe you’ll be a believer too.