Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg: Luxurious Legends and Phantasmal Phantoms

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 30 July 2023
  • Time to read: 6 min.


The Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, is as much famous for its breathtaking Renaissance Revival architecture and luxurious accommodations as it is for its uncanny stories.

The grand hotel, with its illustrious past, is reputed to be one of the most haunted locations in the city, filled with tales of eerie encounters and supernatural phenomena.

History of the Vinoy Hotel

Built in the early 1920s by oil tycoon Aymer Vinoy Laughner, the Vinoy Hotel quickly became a hotspot for the rich and famous, hosting celebrities and presidents.

Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg
Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg | Credit: travelpockets

Despite its glamorous past, the hotel fell into disrepair in the 1970s, only to be restored to its former glory in the 1990s. The hotel’s rich history and colorful past create an ideal backdrop for its haunting reputation.

Haunting Legends and Supernatural Phenomena

The hotel’s history dates back to the Roaring Twenties, and over the decades, guests and staff have reported a variety of unusual and unexplained phenomena.

Many of these paranormal encounters revolve around the mysterious apparitions of men dressed in period attire from the 1920s and 30s. These apparitions are often sighted in the hotel’s lobby and hallways, as well as in certain guest rooms. Unexplained sounds are another common paranormal claim, with guests reporting hearing parties and laughter emanating from empty ballrooms late at night.

Additionally, some guests have reported their belongings being mysteriously moved or misplaced within their rooms, and strange occurrences with the plumbing and electricity, such as faucets and lights turning on and off by themselves.

At the Vinoy Park Hotel, tales of spectral encounters abound. One commonly reported apparition is a woman dressed in white, often seen on the fifth floor. Many believe she is the ghost of Gene Elliott’s wife, who tragically fell from their house’s back porch during a tumultuous divorce that involved a hefty alimony request. The sole witness, a maid named Annie Gadsden, vanished before the trial, fueling speculation of foul play and connecting her to the ghostly presence.

Another ghostly inhabitant is a gentleman haunting the hotel’s old section. Some identify him as J.P. Williamson, the previous landowner before Laughner purchased it, while others believe he is Karl Abbott, the hotel’s inaugural manager. Guests have reported encountering this spectral figure, often dressed in a tuxedo, who mischievously stops the elevator on the fifth floor, revealing an empty hallway upon opening the doors.

Not all spirits manifest in visible form. Visitors have recounted hearing enchanting music emanating from an empty ballroom, possibly attributed to the lingering presence of Paul Whiteman, who once conducted music there. Some even claim sightings of a spirit from the tower, even when it is locked and inaccessible.

Adding to the hotel’s supernatural reputation is the association with Babe Ruth, leading some to believe his spirit may have left an imprint. Baseball players, particularly those from the visiting Red Sox team, have reported feeling a presence in certain rooms. This connection reached its peak when Jason Hawes from Ghost Hunters stayed in room 521 and allegedly gathered evidence of paranormal activity, featured in the episode titled “Ghosts of the Sunshine State” from Season 4, Episode 18. The Vinoy Park Hotel has truly become a haven for ghostly legends and eerie encounters.

One of the most well-known ghost stories associated with the Vinoy involves a former guest who supposedly lost the hotel in a game of cards. His spirit is said to wander the hotel, particularly the tower, creating an eerie aura that adds to the hotel’s mystique.

Popular Culture and Media Coverage

The Vinoy Hotel, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, has made notable appearances in both movies and television shows, further solidifying its presence in popular culture. In movies, the hotel has been featured in films such as “Ocean’s Eleven,” where its stunning architecture and luxurious interiors have graced the silver screen, adding an air of sophistication to the story. On television, the Vinoy Hotel has been showcased in popular shows such as “American Horror Story: Hotel,” where its elegant facade and opulent setting provided the backdrop for thrilling and chilling storylines.

Additionally, the Vinoy Hotel has been featured in paranormal investigation shows such as “Ghost Hunters.” In this hit series, the hotel’s reported paranormal activity was explored and documented by the team of investigators. The show delved into the mysteries and potential hauntings that surround the Vinoy Hotel, captivating viewers with its eerie and supernatural narratives.

These movie and TV appearances have not only highlighted the hotel’s architectural beauty but also its cultural significance and potential supernatural allure. The Vinoy Hotel has become a recognizable location in the entertainment world, synonymous with luxury, intrigue, and the possibility of encountering the paranormal.

If you’re intrigued by the spine-chilling tales of hauntings and wish to delve deeper into the ghostly mysteries of Florida’s west coast, look no further than “Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas County: Tales from a Haunted Peninsula.” This book offers a captivating exploration of the region’s supernatural occurrences, including the famed Vinoy Hotel hauntings.

Authored with a blend of historical insights and eerie storytelling, it uncovers the area’s haunted history, making it a must-read for both paranormal enthusiasts and curious travelers. Whether you believe in ghosts or simply enjoy a thrilling tale, this collection promises to transport you to a world where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.

Investigation and Research Efforts

Several paranormal investigations have taken place at the Vinoy Hotel. Investigators have recorded unexplained sounds, temperature drops, and anomalous readings on electronic equipment, suggesting possible ghostly activity. Skeptics, however, caution that these occurrences might be due to natural causes or human interpretation.

Visitor Experiences and Urban Legends

Guests and staff at the Hotel have added their own accounts to its spectral reputation. Stories of apparitions appearing in hallways, voices calling out from empty rooms, and objects moving of their own accord are often shared, adding to the hotel’s allure.

Preservation and Tourism

Today, the Vinoy Hotel continues to be a prime example of restored 1920s architecture and luxury. Its reputation for hauntings, however, offers an added attraction for tourists interested in the paranormal.

Regular guests enjoy the luxury and history, while ghost tour participants hope for a brush with the otherworldly.


The Vinoy Hotel, with its combination of historical grandeur and spectral stories, offers a unique blend of luxury and mystery. As visitors relish its opulence and delve into its haunting narratives, the hotel’s enduring allure remains a testament to the fascination of a place where history and the supernatural intertwine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg

Q1: Where is the Vinoy Hotel located?
The Vinoy Hotel is located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Q2: Can I visit the Vinoy Hotel?
Yes, you can visit the Hotel. It is a luxury hotel open to guests.

Q3: What kind of paranormal activities have been reported at the Vinoy Hotel?
Reports at the Hotel range from sightings of apparitions to unexplained sounds and moving objects, often attributed to a “friendly” ghost.

Q4: Has the Vinoy Hotel been featured in any media?
Yes, the Vinoy Hotel’s haunting tales have been covered in books, newspapers, blogs, and paranormal-themed TV shows.

Q5: Are there skeptics about the hauntings at the Vinoy Hotel?
Yes, skeptics suggest that the reported supernatural phenomena could be explained by natural occurrences or human interpretation.

Q6: How does the Vinoy Hotel contribute to local tourism?
The Vinoy Hotel, with its luxurious accommodations, historical significance, and reputation for hauntings, attracts a diverse array of guests, thus playing a significant role in local tourism.

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