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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #552  (Vol. 11, No. 43)  This edition is for the week of October 18--24, 2010.

"Hereafter"  by Mike Smith
It's Halloween In Florida, Part Two  by William Moriaty
Friday the 13th: The Legacy - Part 1  by ED Tucker
BOOK REVIEW: Rapture by Thomas Tessier  by Lisa Scherer
Oldboy  by Jason Fetters
Mr And Mrs C. .... Don And Cosmo Back On The Big Screen .... Apologize To This .... This Just In .... Just In Time For Halloween .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

It's Halloween In Florida, Part Two

Haunted Britton Cinema Theater
Many people who have spent any time in the Tampa Bay area might be familiar with the alleged hauntings at the Tampa and Falk Theaters, but for those of us who grew up in South (or Interbay) Tampa, little did many of us, including this author, know that our own home grown Britton Cinema is also on the "allegedly haunted" list (which may come as a surprise to our editor and several staff writers who worked there at one time or another).

Built in 1952 as part of the Britton Plaza shopping complex, it is alleged that at the theater toilets flushed by themselves although no one was using them, that the door to the ladies rest room locked itself with no human presence there, that soft voices and whispers were heard in the balcony before or after the patrons were there, and that shadowy figures would follow staff members conducting routine chores.

Haunted El Prado
Just a few blocks north of the Britton Cinema is El Prado Boulevard. This four lane roadway runs from east to west starting at Bayshore Boulevard and basically ending at Westshore Boulevard. This roadway is predominantly residential with most of its homes dating back to late 40's through early 60's, not typically houses old enough to earn the title of haunted. One into the study of the paranormal would probably argue, however, that age does not always contribute to a "haunting" as much as events or outstanding spirits occurring at a specific location.

A two-story residence along El Prado was home to poltergeist activity. A two-year-old girl was terrified by visits in her second story bedroom by an apparition of a man who appeared from out of her closet, sat down on the edge of her bed and asked her to run off with him. In addition, family members heard an unearthly billiards game being played on the upstairs pool table when no one was upstairs. Family members also heard their names being called from the vacant second story after the two-year-old refused to sleep upstairs. Curtains, chairs and doors were found moved throughout the house without the touch of human hands.

Investigators from the Rhine Research Foundation (http://www.rhine.org/history.htm) at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina were called by the family to look into the matter. One of the investigators claimed that while attempting to sleep on one of the family's beds, something grabbed at her ankles as if trying to pull her off it.

Sometime later the investigators brought in several local psychics to assist them in their work. One of the psychics had claimed to have had a contact from the spirit of a Mr. West. Upon further investigation it was determined that a family by the name of West had actually lived at the house and that Mr. West and his wife had both died a number of years before the investigation.

Sometime after the investigation, the lady of the house had discover a diamond ring in the back yard valued at several thousand dollars. After discovery of the ring the poltergeist activity quickly ending, presenting its own new mystery to the equation. Was there some connection between the hauntings and the diamond ring, and if so, what?

Further west near the intersection of Manhattan Avenue used to be a wedding chapel. It was rumored that an apparition of a man smoking cigars and roaming the chapel was seen by guests and owner alike on numerous occasions. Often times the apparition was seen walking up a flight of stairs to "disappear" at the top of stairs, yet the smell of cigar smoke lingered in the air afterward. In addition, candles would continually light themselves without benefit of human intervention.

These are only two examples of numerous hauntings to occur along a street that appears to look as benign as any other suburban street anywhere in the country. Just what is going on along El Prado Boulevard?

The Temple Terrace Bat Tower
On late afternoons in the summer of 1973 I would clock out of my job mowing lawns at Georgetown Manors in south Tampa, shower up, and afterward often go with my sister Merry (in 1975 married to become Merry Moor Winnett) either to the University of South Florida's darkroom or on filming expeditions as she was a budding photographer at the time.

The original 1924 bat tower as seen along the west bank of the Hillsborough River in Temple Terrace.
A more eerie photo of the Dr. Campbell's original Temple Terrace bat tower circa 1969. Photo by Marvin Law, 1976.
The newly-built bat tower viewing pavilion at Riverfront Park.
Promotional brochure for the Temple Terrace Bat Tower Project.
Merry had an innate ability to find and capture on film the weird and the unusual, particularly before the subject itself became extinct, typically a victim of Florida's population boom and the state's move to become more "safe" and sterile over time.

We would gingerly wander through Cypress and Willow swamps near the Hillsborough River, particularly adjacent to the University of South Florida and Temple Terrace areas. Looking back, it was a miracle that we didn't get bit by water moccasins, and strangely, I can't ever recall our even getting our shoes wet in those photo expeditions, even though the majority of time we were walking along the river bank and along pond margins!

East of the Hillsborough River we would wander south of Fletcher Avenue around an abandoned farmhouse where current day Telecom Park is located., and made our way over to a Pop Ash and Blue Beech slough to a swamp back near the river that we called "The Bog". Those days were magic, I'm here to tell you.

One fine evening in that summer of 1973 Merry came home ecstatic about a place she found in Temple Terrace that she said had a very unique and spooky quality - - right up her alley - - a bat tower! What is a bat tower you may ask? In this instance it was a wood and concrete structure built in 1924 along the shores of the Hillsborough River in Temple Terrace that was based on a design by a Dr. Charles A.R. Campbell, a bacteriologist for the City of San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Campbell who believed that malaria could most effectively be controlled if the disease carrying mosquitoes were ingested by bats.

The Temple Terrace bat tower was one of Campbell's 14 bat towers that were originally distributed worldwide. Today only three of the unique bat roosting towers exist. One in Sugarloaf Key in the Florida Keys and the other two in Texas.

Merry took me to the bat tower on a late summer Saturday in 1973. It was one of the neatest and spookiest structures I'd ever seen - - sort of a haunted house that up to thirteen varieties of Florida's more common bats may have called home and an additional seven varieties of more rare and uncommon bats may have had lodging at while passing through town.

There were a lot less houses for humans in that part of Temple Terrace at that time giving the bat tower a powerful yet foreboding and lonely appearance, especially when framed with majestic Spanish moss-filled Baldcypresses and old Live Oaks with limbs smothered with Resurrection Ferns. If one word summed up the feeling I had witnessing this structure and its surroundings for the first time, it would have been "enchanting". I also recall during that visit that although the air was a typical Central Florida thick and heavy with humidity for that time of year, and although standing water was plentiful nearby, there was not one mosquito to be found - - a possible testimony to the effectiveness of Dr. Campbell's unique creation.

Merry took dozens of photos of the bat tower that day, most negatives and prints of which I suspect are stored in the voluminous collection of her works at the High Rock Lake, North Carolina home of her surviving husband Tommy Winnett, who 15 years after her passing, married North Carolina artist Betty Helen Longhi this past May.

Flashing forward to five years after my sister and I first visited the bat tower, Merry relocated from Tampa in the fall of 1978 to be with her husband who had several months earlier moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to start work with the U.S. Department of Labor.

It took Merry several years to adjust to the new environs of the Tar Heel state. She had always loved the sense of mystery and uniqueness endemic to the Tampa Bay area as it was in the early to mid 1970's. As mentioned earlier in this article, however, it seemed that many of the mysterious and unique features of La Floridiana that Merry captured on film seemed to either be bulldozed for development or destroyed out of senseless acts of vandalism, and the bat tower would prove to be no exception.

Not more than a year after Merry left the Bay area, the bat tower was burned down by arsonists in 1979. A unique Temple Terrace landmark destroyed out of sheer dumbness, carelessness and spite.

Efforts To Rebuild the Bat Tower

It's good to know that in addition to dumb, careless and spiteful people there are also enlightened, caring and loving people. The Temple Terrace Bat Tower, as it turns out, had more fans out there than just me and my sister!

Earlier this decade, Florida Folk Hero and Temple Terrace architect Grant Rimbey, who grew up in Temple Terrace, spearheaded an effort to have the bat tower rebuilt. Enlisting the help of the City of Temple Terrace, Friends of the Temple Terrace Parks and Recreation Department and the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, a new bat tower is planned to one day be erected in the new 150 acre Riverfront Park located between the eastern banks of the Hillsborough River, the Temple Terrace Highway and 78th Street.

The new bat tower will be based on measurements of the remaining base and foundation of the original structure coupled with the measurements of the Dr. Campbell's Sugarloaf Key extant and intact bat tower. The exterior of the new bat tower will match the proportions, design and materials found in the 1924 original Temple Terrace structure. The interior of the tower will be designed with the assistance of George and Cynthia Marks of the Florida Bat Conservancy.

A bat tower viewing pavilion for the park was designed and installed by architecture students from the University of South Florida in 2008.

If you would like to contribute to the resurrection of this unique Temple Terrace landmark, you can send a tax deductible donation by writing out a check in the name of the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, referencing that the donation go to the Society's bat tower funding account. Send your check to:

Al Latina
Temple Terrace Preservation Society
7002 Doreen Street
Tampa, FL. 33617

If you would like to volunteer to assist personally with this noble effort, please contact Grant Rimbey at 813-914-9037 or e-mail him at grimbey@ij.net.

Temple Terrace Bat Tower (also known as "Dr. Charles Campbell's Hygiostatic Bat Roost") Statistics:

Year Built: 1924.
Dimensions: 10 square feet wide at the base and 40 feet tall from ground level up to the top of the roof ridge.
Year Destroyed: 1979 by arsonists.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "La Floridiana" is ©2010 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 ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.