Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
5. Old City Cemetery
Established in 1852, the Old City Cemetery on East Union Street is one of the most overlooked and underrated historic sites in Jacksonville’s urban core. Cut off from downtown by the Mathews Bridge Expressway ramps, the cemetery is home to a who’s who list of early 19th-century Jacksonville settlers and residents. One is Marie Louise Gato, the 19-year-old daughter of local cigar factory owner Gabriel Hidalgo Gato. She was shot five times as she was entering her father’s house in North Springfield on April 20, 1897. On her deathbed, she accused her spurned boyfriend Edward George Pitzer. A week later, the police lieutenant investigating the case was attacked and murdered near the corner of Liberty and Phelps streets.
Attracting a horde of female admirers, Pitzer’s two week trial became one of the most sensational murder cases in the city’s history. Pitzer was eventually found not guilty and Gato’s murder was never solved. Over a century later, some claim they have encountered the sounds of weeping, spooky lights, and the ghost of the young lady buried near the back of the cemetery.
4. El Modelo Block
This building at 501 West Bay Street is one of a handful in downtown that survived the Great Fire of 1901. During its early years, it housed Gabriel Hidalgo Gato’s El Modelo Cigar Manufacturing Company. After Gato’s death, the building was occupied by the Plaza Hotel and a number of bars in what became known as a seedy area of the city.
In 1907, a Spanish-American War veteran entered the front door one of these bars in what would be his last act. He was immediately shot in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Upset over the tragic events - and still waiting on that drink - the victim’s ghost allegedly haunts the building.
3. Carriage House Apartments - Chelsea Courtyards
Listed on the National Directory of Haunted Places, this Arlington apartment complex is credited with extreme poltergeist activity. It is said the front office is haunted by the spirit of Billie Boyd, who managed the complex for more than two decades before dying in 1987. According to local legend, so many strange events happened in apartment 40 that management decided to stop renting it and converted it into a storage room.
Considered to be home to a force not interested in cohabitating with the living, apartment 40 has accrued a number of sightings. Witnesses describe strange events such as things being thrown, blood-dripping walls and the smell of rotting flesh. Despite no longer being a rental unit, some tenants still claim to occasionally hear whispering sounds and other strange noises emanating from the vacant space. The property is also home to unearthly cat that when seen, vanishes into thin air. To make matters worse, the apartment was the scene of a murder in 2000, and a tenant who resided in apartment 20 was killed in a 2009 overnight three-alarm fire.
If you’re looking rent an apartment with that comes with a few spectral roommates, this place awaits you.