SAFETY HARBOR — Rachel Wilson never pictured herself becoming the owner of a haunted restaurant. But she certainly was prepared for it.
Before she opened Gigglewaters Social Club & Screening Room, Wilson was an investigator on the Travel Channel show Paranormal Paparazzi. She went by her maiden name, Fine, in those days. Wilson made a living venturing inside terrifying places, like Lizzie Borden’s house.
“Years later, I buy a restaurant,” she said. “We realized very quickly that we’re not the only ones here.”
Last month, Wilson’s eatery drew the attention of another television paranormal investigator: Stormy Daniels.
Yes, that Stormy Daniels. So how did she end up in the Safety Harbor speakeasy?
The first sign of spookiness started on the day Gigglewaters opened in 2018.
At night, staff cleaned the restaurant and left the counter empty. The next morning, Wilson walked in to find a stack of change on the bar.
It kept happening. Wilson says no one knew where it came from. It always amounted to $2.14.
Then she saw a man in seersucker suit walk into the bathroom in the back of the building.
“I’d wait and wait and no one would ever come out,” she said. “And then I found out that other people have seen the guy with the seersucker suit.”
Once, a bartender got a flash of a little girl in a white dress and thought it was Wilson’s 5-year-old daughter giggling in the movie theater. She thought the girl wanted to play hide and seek, and started to look for her. But Wilson hadn’t brought her daughter in that day.
“It used to be a funeral home, so in the doors into our theater, 9,000 bodies pass through there,” Wilson said. “That was the viewing area, so our theater tends to be the most active.”
Other workers have also seen the little girl.
“I was rolling silverware after we closed and I saw what looked like a small child run into the theater from the kitchen,” Bailey Sandvill said. “I only caught a glimpse of small white sneakers, but everyone was working, so obviously wearing black shoes. I went into the theater and there was nothing there and the lights were off.”
Another employee, Savannah Dolan, said once the kitchen door swung shut. Out loud, she said “stop it,” and the door opened again.
Wilson sometimes hosts active investigations with patrons. She brings in local paranormal investigator Victor Chewning, who communicates with spirits using a device called a spirit box. Employees share their spooky stories and serve cocktails while playing security footage and recordings of EVP, or electronic voice phenomena. Near the bar where the piles of change appeared, an EVP once captured what sounded like a man saying he was leaving a tip.
“We’ve got footage of a spatula moving in the kitchen,” Wilson said. “Or all of the sudden, a bunch of glassware will fall down. Things like that, that just seem unexplained.”
Dark and Stormy
The paranormal activity caught Stormy Daniels’ attention this fall.
The adult film star-turned-paranormal investigator made a stop in Safety Harbor while traveling the globe for her latest project, the Spooky Babes Show.
According to spookybabes.com, the show follows a “conglomerate of passionate investigators, occultists, psychics, and healers drawn together by a fervent desire to pursue and explain (and sometimes debunk) paranormal phenomenon wherever it may be.
“An endeavor built on passion, Stormy Daniels founded Spooky Babes in early 2020 with her friend Justin Loupe after a series of unexplainable and frightening experiences occurred in her home in New Orleans.”
Daniels was traveling in Europe when the Tampa Bay Times reached out for comment. While she was not available for an interview, she gave permission to use behind-the-scenes photographs from her upcoming project.
Wilson said she conducted two investigations with the Spooky Babes. Both were active.
“She has a haunted doll she travels with, and in the first one that doll said her name and talked about one of the other people in the group on our EVPs,” she said. “And then in the second one, Justin saw the guy in the seersucker suit.”
Apparently, Daniels also grabbed a bite to eat at Gigglewaters.
“Just finished dinner at our favorite restaurant (and haunted place) in the Tampa area!” she posted on Instagram on Sept. 20. “Best food and best service...and old-fashioneds to die for!”