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Built to scare

(ran TP edition)

If a house looks haunted to one, it probably looks haunted to all. Since most of our ghost lore is rooted in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the popular conscience tends to respond to the architectural trends of those eras.

Historic restoration specialist Charles Jordan of Hyde Park Architects described trappings of a haunted house without hesitation.

"Haunted houses have to be tall," Jordan said. "They have to be set up on a hill. The architectural style could be anything that has its roots in France, of all things. Second Empire, casement windows, tall windows, tall and narrow doors with transom panels, steeply pitched roofs with flat tops, hiding places. It can't be symmetrical. The best haunted houses just sort of evolve over time."

Jordan added that many of the creepier styles that are familiar in Tampa's older neighborhoods, including the Victorian Second Empire and Gothic Revival, weren't so familiar when they first appeared, roughly between the 1880s and 1930s.

"In the history of architecture, this is an important time period, because it was when people finally started letting go of the traditional, classical styles. That's when we moved into the modern era with contemporary architecture.

"Consequently, just before World War II, you started seeing a lot of streamlined, very new-looking architecture, and everything else started to look older than it really was. All the styles were borrowed and imported from all around the country, none of which was particularly right for the area.

"So I think combining superstition and rural folklore with this weird style coming from another part of the country, and weird materials, must have given some of these homes kind of an instant mystique. These (homes) were unusual, and to be revered."

There are no ghosts in these two Tampa mansions, but their architecture evokes thoughts of Halloween like no others.

Who couldn't picture bats and lightning bolts framing the burnished mansard roof of the 1908 Hutchinson House? The house at 304 S Plant Ave., one of Tampa's few examples of Second Empire architecture, was built by drugstore chain owner Currie J. Hutchinson. Lawyers and CPAs now haunt it.

The 1881 Morrison House in Hyde Park, one of Tampa's oldest buildings, radiates an otherworldly aura in a neighborhood dominated by 1920s wood frame houses. The hand-cast stone Italianate mansion even faces the wrong way _ south _ since it was built when there was nothing to obscure its view of Hillsborough Bay. It was built by William Morrison, who owned the surrounding 98-acre orange grove.