By Tori Ashworth
Lamar Newsome of Saint Petersburg, Florida, often felt eerie as he walked the empty Vinoy parking garage, which he describes to be “too quiet at times”. The Vinoy, a beautiful sight that captures Saint Petersburg culture, sits still near the edge of the marina. The Vinoy isn’t just a place to stay, but it’s a sight to see; or is it the unseen that makes traffic flow and the stories frequent?
The Vinoy Hotel, or as many locals refer to it, the “Vinoy Park Hotel”, was first completed in 1926. Rates ran as high as $20 dollars back then, often entertaining the rich and the famous. Many familiar names have stayed in the “Mediterranean Revival” structured building including Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, and baseball heroes Babe Ruth and Jimmy Stewart could be spotted in the familiar halls. Even in the midst of the great depression, the Vinoy stood tall. During World War II it was temporarily utilized by the U.S Army for a barracks training school. After the war, the hotel was sold to a new owner. In the early 1970’s it closed due to financial difficulties. Soon after it became a haven for criminals on the run. Police interacted with criminals inside the walls daily and even described it as “a creepy building”, said old timer Bill Richardson who has been a part of the Old Northeast community for decades. “I used to run around by the water, and I would always see something going on. The police wanted nothing to do with that building, but they couldn’t keep the crooks outta there.” Costing several million in renovations and two years to complete, the hotel was restored to its former glory in 2005. The building remains almost a replica of its former self.
Lamar Newsome is a former valet attendant that shared with me a few stories from his overnight shifts at the Vinoy. “One Blue Jays player claimed he had video evidence of their window shades opening and closing,” Newsome said. But that isn’t all of the spookiness he’s experienced on the job. He also saw two young women who checked in around 11:00pm; they checked out at 1:00am saying they heard footsteps in the hallways. Newsome says he often felt the presence of someone following him on his overnight shifts.
There is no question that the halls of the Renaissance Vinoy is haunted; there is also no doubt that the spirits that roam the halls are the furthest from threatening. Many guest have experienced flickering lights in their rooms at night, as well as unexplained noises such as the sounds of walking, shuffling, and chains. Not only did baseball players stay at the original Vinoy, but they also stay in the former hotel today for regional training purposes. Baseball players are considered to be the most popular type of guest, if you only count the living guests.
Ghost hunters investigated the pink building because it seemed to be a hotbed for paranormal activity. One ghost that came in contact with a few workers is a ghostly woman on the fifth floor wearing a white dress, which seemed to disappear moments after seeing her. There are a variety of spirits that have been spotted by many children, women, and men. Another seemingly real person that has been spotted is an old worker in a uniform; whenever this man is called or reached out to, he disappears. These spirits aren’t just seen but also felt! Many workers have had incidents where they feel that someone is pushing down on them. Once the investigation was finished, the team agreed that something appeared to be in the structure.
As October approaches and we chase after the paranormal, ghost tours are held and stories are told. It’s a 90 minute tour that starts on 400 Beach Dr NE St Petersburg, 33701. Tickets cost $15 dollars a person and can be booked all year round. Whether you are a beloved local or down here on vacation, the Vinoy is a call or drive away from a paranormal experience of your own.
To go on a ghost tour, visit the website!
Header photo from pursuitist.com