Encounter at Plant Hall–Tampa, Florida

Plant Hall—Universityof Tampa
401 West Kennedy Boulevard

Tampa, Florida

Several years ago, I wrote about Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. Originally constructed by Henry Plant as the grand Tampa Bay Hotel, this whimsical edifice had trouble turning a profit, and sold to the city of Tampa. In 1933, the building was converted for use as the University of Tampa, which remains its use today.

About a year after I posted the article, I received an anonymous comment telling a chilling story. This has been edited for clarity.

Several years ago, my husband and I were vacationing and visiting my sister in Florida. On one afternoon we were looking for something to do and my sister suggested we check out the Plant Museum in Tampa. My husband knew I loved architecture and especially grand,old, buildings. I was very excited.

We went in and began walking around. I could just imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. I saw the grand staircase and couldn’t help but walk up several flights ahead of my husband. Then I came to a strange hallway that seemed out of place and as I started walking down the hallway, I felt uncomfortable and I felt just a little bit cold (I thought probably because of all the windows). I felt I had gone to a part of the building that was off-limits to the public and decided to turn back.

A curving corridor. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

My husband was still on the first floor. As I headed toward the top of the stairway of the third-floor landing, I felt that there was a young girl in a long, white dress nearby. I think I sensed her on the way up too, but I thought I must have quite a vivid imagination and tossed it aside.

Then I reached the top of the stairway and looked down the 3 flights and I heard a man whisper, “Go ahead, why don’t you just jump?” I ignored it and heard it again. “Why don’t you just jump?” This scared the hell out of me.

A grand staircase inside Plant Hall. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

The railing I was clutching now seemed so flimsy and low to my body that I could easily fall right over. I felt dizzy and very frightened. I held the railing deliberately and I kept my grip all the way down until I made my way back to my husband. I told him, “I want to leave this place, now!”

In the car, on the way back to my sister’s house, I explained what happened.

This experience has stayed with me for years even though I have put it out of my mind. Recently I saw something on TV today that reminded me of it again. That’s when I decided to look up the history of the Plant Museum and found this web site with the two things I remembered most; the grand stairway and that cold corridor. Does anyone know if, in the history of the hotel, did a young girl, maybe 12-14 years old, fall to her death there? Or commit suicide?

While I cannot validate any of this, especially since the commenter is anonymous, it seems to ring true to me.

Several years ago, I visited Tampa. While I strolled downtown with my partner, I suddenly was greeted with the sight of minarets poking up through the tree canopy across the river. The sight stopped me in my tracks. Just the way that I imagine Henry Plant planned it.

The minarets of Henry Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall, rises above the Hillsborough River across from downtown Tampa. Photo 2014 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.
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