The haunts of the Cuban Club in Ybor City

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The Cuban Club in the heart of Tampa’s Ybor City is a century old and rich with history, and some say some of that rich history still lurks within its walls.

Cuban immigrants frequented the Cuban Club at the turn of the century in 1902, forming recreational societies to gather, to help each other, and to offer aid to the sick.

As Cubans worked in Ybor City producing millions of cigars in Ybor factories, they frequented the Cuban Club for their activities.
The original Cuban Club burned down to the ground in 1916 but a new, four-story building was built in its place the following year, in 1917. The building housed a gym, a swimming pool, bowling lanes and a theater.

The Cuban Club was also the place of several untimely deaths, and the stories of people having seen some of the departed has landed the club on the Travel Channel’s Top Ten Most Haunted Places list.

“I’ve heard elevators running by themselves, doors have actually pushed open on me as I’ve tried to close them,” said Jeff Hartzog, owner of the Cuban Club.

Among the tales of lurking spirits are a young actor and playwright who took his own life on a stage in the Cuban Club after he forgot his own words, says Greg Milton with the Ybor City Ghost Tour. “The theater of the Cuban Club is the most haunted space,” Milton said. Milton says orbs and even images of people sitting in the chairs have been captured on video and in photos.

“Little Jimmy,” a 9-year-old boy who drowned while swimming in the Cuban Club’s pool unattended, is also said to have been seen at the Cuban Club.

“Are there ghosts?” the Cuban Club asks on its website. “We are reputed to be haunted, but we will let you make up your own mind on this subject…”

Paranormal investigators from C1 Paranormal, a group that operates out of Tampa, says undoubtedly so. On an investigation of the Cuban Club, a photo taken of a window of the club showed nothing unusual on the surface, but when the photographer, Wesley Coons, zoomed in, a face appeared to be lurking in the window. “We’d like to think it’s Little Jimmy,” said Wesley Coons.

The club was closed and empty when the photo was taken, around 3 a.m. on that October 30, said Ed Bagrowski. Was it a reflection? You be the judge.

The Cuban Club is one of several stops along the Ybor City Ghost Tour which runs daily throughout the year. Guides tell the tales of the Cuban Club along with the Orpheum Theatre, the Don Vicente Inn, and the King Corona.

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