St. Petersburg: Where ominous shadows lurk in the Sunshine City
Since 1967, St. Petersburg has donned the nickname “Sunshine City” for its record-breaking 768 consecutive days of sunshine. It claimed to be the greatest destination in the world, and for affluent members of the high society, it was.
But while they were cast in a golden light, the area’s original residents were left in the lurking shadows and endured a turbulent past. They remain in the city today, residing in homes, strolling down Central Avenue, and attending the St. Petersburg Museum of History and Cordova Inn with current guests.
Before St. Petersburg became the city it is today, it was first home to the native Tocobagan Indians from the year 900 to the 1500s. Over time, large mounds appeared in the St. Pete Peninsula area. They are both refuge and burial mounds, which still lie underneath the city today. Specifically, they remain under Roser Park and Central Avenue, two active and historic areas in St. Petersburg.
In the early 1920s, St. Petersburg experienced a significant economic and residential boom. It was known for gambling, loose prohibition laws, and extravagant nights of dancing and entertainment. Thousands of property owners and unwary investors bought and sold land until the mid-1920s, when the real estate market underwent a precipitous collapse. Many financial, societal, and personal tragedies have occurred throughout the next 100 years, which may have led to the area’s immense reported paranormal activity.
This feature article explores some of St. Petersburg’s most visited historical sites that continue to host invisible guests unbeknownst to the human eye. Their mission? To help residents remember those who walked these streets prior. This story contains interviews with Rui Farias and Jessy Breckenridge from the St. Petersburg Museum of History and their encounters with Mary Wheeler Eaton, a self-moving mourning dress, and unknown spirits walking above–and next to– visitors and residents.
Denielle Kennett, owner of St. Peter’s Ghosts, also takes readers through the Cordova Inn and discusses the hotel’s Major-domo, a past-life personal concierge from the original Cordova family. Residents often attend Kennett’s sold-out tours, which signifies high public interest surrounding history and the metaphysical realm within St. Petersburg.
Although the city has undergone immense progressive changes since the 1920s, it’s still vital to remember St. Petersburg as it was 100 years ago.
“It’s important to know where we came from, to see where we’re going. We weren’t always this tourist mecca. We weren’t always this cool inclusive town,” Farias said. “There are stories that need to be told, and not in such a way like, ‘look how awful we were.’ But just to remember, ‘look how far we’ve come.’”