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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fourth calendar year
    PCR #188  (Vol. 4, No. 44)  This edition is for the week of October 27--November 2.

The Hauntings at 3016 Villa Rosa Park
 by Will Moriaty
"Runaway Jury"
 by Mike Smith
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" by ED Tucker
Where's The Scary TV?....Halloween TV Highlights
 by Vinnie Blesi
Quick CD Reviews....RIP: Elliott Smith
 by Terence Nuzum
Old School Haunts....Modern Monsters....Music
 by Terence Nuzum
Scary Movie 3....Soul Survivors....The Tribute
 by John Lewis
It's Halloween!
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Movie Notes....The Kid Stays in the Cartoon, Too....How Super Is He?....He's Still Got A Name
 by Mike Smith
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The Hauntings at 3016 Villa Rosa Park

On the evening of July 18, 1970, I deplaned at Tampa International Airport from a Delta Air Lines DC-8-61 flight out of Atlanta and was whisked away to my Aunt Barbara’s house at 3016 Villa Rosa Park in South Tampa for the first time.

It was a large and beautiful New England style, yellow wood-frame house. It was one-and-a-half stories tall, the second half being an add-on designed by Florida Folk Hero and architect Bo McEwen. The gigantic living room had a cathedral ceiling with north facing windows as it originally served as an artist’s studio. My aunt informed me that this same artist committed suicide at this location not long before she and her immediate family moved there form the white antebellum house that they previously lived in on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.

Strange Things Are Happening
As Barbara and I sat down to watch “Frankenstein Versus the Space Monster” on Big 13’s “Shock Theater”, she began to tell me about some strange happenings in this newer abode of hers. In a nutshell, she was convinced that this house was haunted, or as we in the South are wont to say, a “haint”.

Not long after her family moved in, members of the family heard what sounded like human footsteps coming from the second floor. A family member would rush up the stairs to find no one and the sounds would immediately stop. Not long after they would come back downstairs, the sounds would start again.

Maybe It’s a Sign to Stop Smoking!
Both my aunt and uncle were avid cigarette smokers, so ashtrays were a common fixture throughout their household. Many a morning they would find an ashtray, often fully loaded, face down in the carpet in the dead center of the living room. Both of their sons claimed to deny any knowledge of how the ashtrays got there.

A Touching Experience
My aunt later went on to recount that on numerous occasions she felt a presence in her bedroom not long after she had gone to bed. Thinking that it was her husband, she would verbally request that he go to bed. There would be no response, so she would turn on her bedside lamp and find no one in the room with her once the room was bathed in light.

On several other occasions she would sense this presence and a little more. She would feel someone or “something” “sit” on her bedside. This was then followed by what felt like a hand caressing her face. When she would open her eyes and turn on her bedside lamp, no one was there.

What Say We Try To Reach a Happy Medium?
Befuddled and slightly perturbed by this pattern of weirdness, my aunt and uncle commissioned a medium who lived in Cassadega, Florida, to conduct a séance in their home and try to “contact” whomever or whatever may have been causing these strange activities.

With both of her sons, husband, and even their pet Pekingese dog present at the table in the breakfast room, the medium began his séance. He verbally asked that if there was a spirit outside that of those at the table, that it physically manifest itself.

Immediately thereafter the screen door between the breakfast room and the outside patio began to experience a scratching sound. All present at the séance reported to me that it appeared as if an invisible entity were scratching the screen at about five to six feet above the floor. The dog was not a candidate as it was sitting below the table the entire time.

The scratching became more loud and violent and within moments, the door began shaking and shuddering violently, almost coming off of its hinges. Needless to say, all at the séance, with the exception of the medium, were terrified and wanted no more to do with this activity. In addition, the pet Pekingese refused for over two weeks to even go near the breakfast room door. Upon his nearing it, he would whimper, begin walking backward with his tail between his legs, and looking totally terrified.

I was fifteen years old that July 18, 1970 night when my aunt shared the stories above with me. They were fun to listen to, and although I did not discount them, I didn’t necessarily buy into them either.

My Turn
In November 1971 my mother and I moved into my aunt’s house at 3016 Villa Rosa Park. I was assigned the second upstairs bedroom that my cousins, who were now both away at college, previously had. It was a strange triangular-shaped room built over the carport that was nicknamed the “Freakout Room”. It was given that moniker as during the late 1960s my cousins had many a wild party there, and the walls were painted up in Day-Glo color slogans of the era bantering “Bomb the LBJ Ranch” and decrying “Dracula Bites and Sucks” - - great…

The first night that I went to bed in that room I was “initiated”.

I felt a presence in the room and initially thought that it was mother being motherly and checking to see how I was doing after our long road trip from Chattanooga, Tennessee that day. I next felt someone or “something” sit on the side of my bed followed by what felt like a hand caressing my face. Then I felt as if 120 volts of electricity was coursing through my body. I became terrified, jumped out of bed, ran through the first bedroom to the balcony and down two flights of stairs into the breakfast room. Before I even could open my mouth, my aunt immediately chimed in a matter of fact tone, ‘I see you finally met the ghost.”

Sister, Sister
A little over one month after that incident, my sister moved in. She shared that same “Freakout Room” with me while my great aunt, Lena Rivenac, who was newly transplanted from living with her sister on Flagler Avenue in Miami, occupied the first bedroom, which was between the “Freakout Room” and the upstairs balcony.

Almost every weekend my mother and I would travel to the Top of the World condominiums in Clearwater to visit and stay with her friends from the Second World War, Colonel John Dillon and his wife Dorothy. One Sunday evening in February 1972 after we returned from visiting the Dillons, I was getting ready to go to bed when I noticed the hall closet light on. As the light made it difficult for me to sleep I asked my sister to turn it off. She adamantly refused. When I asked her why, she responded that twice while my mother and I were visiting our friends over in Clearwater she had the same exact experience that I did on my first night in that room! Neither I, nor the remainder of my family had ever told her about my experience in that room. A mere coincidence?

Difficult to tell, but until we moved to Georgetown Manors in July 1973, you better believe that the hall closet light was kept on every night.

The Luggage That Beat the Buccaneers
My mother had an old piece of Samsonite luggage that weighed about seventy pounds that had her most personal possessions, such as baby pictures, love letters, her scrapbook and recordings from her days as a big band singer, and her wedding photographs. This piece of luggage sat on the upstairs balcony about ten feet from the top of the stairs.

One early evening in June 1973 my sister, mother, aunt and I were sitting together at the breakfast room table when we all heard a thunderous crash at the landing of the stairway. When I looked up from the table I saw my mother’s piece of seventy-pound luggage bouncing of the stairway-landing wall, as if it had been thrown with great force and ferocity.

I immediately rushed up the entire set of stairways to the balcony and bedrooms beyond to find no one there who could have done this.

Just what was going on at 3016 Villa Rosa Park?
As far as the luggage incident and “Freakout Room” experiences, there is now only one living witness - - me.

And don’t bother looking for that house. It and its secrets were destroyed in 1986 in order to make room for two new houses - - I wonder how life has been for the occupants of those two houses ever since…

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.