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5 spooky sites around Tampa Bay that aren't at theme parks

By Stephanie Hayes
Times file
It’s been said that the ghost of Jack Kerouac haunts Haslam’s.

Don't yell at us. We know it's technically still September. But we also know, technically, that you've already seen Christmas lights for sale in your local discount store.

That said, let's back up and indulge in some early Halloween chatter. The holiday has grown so popular that many of Florida's premiere spooky attractions are already taking visitors. In fact, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney opened weeks ago.

We've broken down the best haunted house and theme park thrills, rating them mild to wild. While the adult Halloween industry has been running on all cylinders for years now, kiddie attractions have recently caught up in quality. You'll find everything you need to know at tampabay.com/holiday.

But carefully-crafted haunted houses with high-dollar admissions are not the only place to get totally freaked in Tampa Bay. Here, some suggestions from the staff to choose your own supernatural adventure.

Haslam's Book Store

The beloved book shop in St. Petersburg is said to be haunted by the ghost of Jack Kerouac, who spent his last years in St. Petersburg before his death in 1969. Says Times writer Chelsea Tatham of visiting the poetry and art section of the store: "It is strangely cold and quiet back there."

Sulphur Springs water tower

This historic tower visible from Interstate 275 in Tampa has long been a draw for ghost enthusiasts (check YouTube for some amateur videos). It's also a draw for people just looking to get creeped out by the wind whipping around a cool, neo-Gothic building.

Tampa Theatre

In the interest of transparency, I recently had my wedding at Tampa Theatre and did not feel the presence of spooks messing with the nuptials. But the space does have a haunted reputation, hence the ghost tours offered on select dates throughout October. And on Oct. 21, see the premiere of Ghosts Behind the Screen, a new documentary that explores the haints of this haunt, from Foster "Fink" Finley to the Lady in White.

The Vinoy

Guests have long held that the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is populated with spirits. Mysterious rocking chairs and a woman roaming the halls are favorite reports. In 2008, the show Ghost Hunters filmed an episode on the entire fifth floor.

Philippe Park

Once, I visited the historic Tocobaga Indian mound in Safety Harbor's Philippe Park just as night fell. I repeat, just as night fell. Supernatural stories abound in the park, where early settler Count Odet Philippe was buried. Let's just say, right as the sun went down, lots of weird rustling started, and I got out of there real fast.