History of the building: Berriman-Morgan Cigar Factory
Note: This building is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as a "Contributing Structure Within the West Tampa Historic District"
*Erected in 1903 as the Berriman Cigar Factory (headquarters in Illinois and New York; (1897 - 1910). Romanesque Revival style.
*Basement used to store tobacco (coolest place in building) and to sort tobacco leaves for quality control (now: Student lounge and library). The ground floor accommodated the factory's cigar banders, quality control workers, loading dock laborers and factory administrators (now administrative offices). The upper floors: cigarmakers, raw-leaf selectors, and workers who striped stems from the tobacco leaves (now: lecture room, classrooms, employee lounge and offices for administrators and faculty). The property retains a 25,000-gallon water tower that once served the factory's plumbing needs. Bathrooms beneath the towers (now conference rooms).
* In 1911, Berriman sold the property to Morgan Cigar Factory (1910-1962) for $11,000.
*Morgan's 1,000 workers produced more than 11 million cigars annually for what became one of the premiere cigar factories in Tampa. Manufacturer of La Flor de Berriman, Jose Vila, Don Cosme, La serenidad, La Evidencia, Marc Anthony, and Light It . Specialized in private labels and clubs brands.
*1914: Owner spent $8,500 to expand the building to boost space from 400 workers to 700 workers.
*After Morgan's: General Cigar Co. (1964-1970)
*Tobacco Warehouse facility (1971-1979)
*Spent 4 decades unused.
*1998-Present: Office space, educational facility
*2004: The building was designated in 2004 as a national and local historic landmark and renamed the Berriman-Morgan Cigar Factory. Nick Jamal bought the building from the city for $600,000, started restorations (utilized old photography of the building for authenticity).
*In April 2008 the rehabilitated building earned the City-County Planning Commission's prestigious Jan Abell Award.
*2010: Argosy moved in; has a 10 year lease on the property.
The Haunted History:
*Building oddities in demarcation; 10 years ago the DOT/Federal Government was going to cause the building to be torn down. These were fought; made the highway match the historic district of the area. Nick: I wanted the highway to become part of the neighborhood rather than destroy the neighborhood. I wanted to help fix the situation which was started in the 1960s when they first started building the highway. The caused greater segregation with the building of the highway."
*When the building was being restored, workers would talk of doors opening and tools missing. When we would go and check, the doors would be open but the tools were there.
*Lynching in West Tampa (not the building) but some of the workers from the building were present
*1912 Stairwell Stabbing: There was a murder that happened on the 2nd floor stairway. That stabbing was covered up as a heart attack. (This seems to be the origin story for Pedro or Pacco).
*Graveyard near building disturbed when I - 275 built; Don't know much about the cemetery but they did disturb a lot of people.
* Serial Killer of West Tampa; one person killed near building in 1991, body hidden in shed. Cold case and unsolved.
Information (taken from page 5, USA Crusader) http://www.usacrusader.com/pdf/2006/2006-06.pdf): The Tampa Police Department is currently investigating three homicides, which occurred in the West Tampa area in September 1991 and December 1991. They are asking members of the community who have any information to please come forward. On September 24, 1991, at approximately 11:00 pm, Denise Clark,
28 years of age, left Doretha’s Bar located at LaSalle Street and Rome Avenue. She left by herself and was walking southbound on Rome. As she approached Rome Avenue and Nassau Street, she was confronted by an unknown black male, 25-35 years of age, approximately 5’6”-5’8”, 130-140 pounds, thin build and “Don
King” style hair. Denise Clark was able to escape from her attacker after being stabbed several times. She collapsed a short distance from the attack and died at the scene. The listed suspect fled from the scene.
On December 18, 1991, at approximately 5:15 pm, Latrenda Marion, 25 years of age was discovered next to an abandoned building located at 1010 West Laurel Street. She was last seen on December 17, 1991, at approximately 11:30 pm, leaving the Gold Nugget Tavern located at Howard Avenue and Beach Street.
Latrenda Marion died as a result of being stabbed several times. On December 28, 1991, at approximately 5:12 pm, Faye Wilson, 40 years of age, was discovered in a shed of the abandoned Cigar
Company located at 1403 North Howard Avenue. She was last seen on December 27, 1991, at approximately 8:00 pm, leaving by herself from Doretha’s Bar located at LaSalle Street and Rome Avenue.
Faye Wilson died as a result of being stabbed several times.
*2nd floor psychology wing... front closes randomly all times and no particular time of day or day of the week. It will close by its self and more than once when opened back up and propped open. 3rd floor administration area near Jeff's office smells of cigars smoke mostly during around 3pm. I think that's went Pacco takes his break.. Pacco is the name of our resident spirit.
*Smell of cigar smoke in elevator too. Mostly on 3rd floor.
*"I used to work on the 3rd floor in the addition area -- while I was doing the historic preservation part of the building. It was an interesting feeling that I kept to myself....whenever I crossed the line between the addition and the original building, I would get a chilled feeling. I watched people when they crossed the line -- I saw the do the same. One time, I had another preservationist who owned another building (the sister to this one) who met me for the first time. As soon as she crossed the line, she crossed the line and said that the building was haunted. I was so relieved."
*The smell of cigar smoke on the 3rd floor is so strong. We'll see smoke -- but there is no origin. The longer we are in the building, the more tobacco we smell. Now, more people smell it, too."
*Feeling: When walking on back stair case there is a feeling that something is trying to push me down...just a feeling of uncertainty. I was alone at the time.
*After saying there were not likely any ghosts in the building, my phone switched to speaker and started dialing out. Nothing was by it. It did this 3x and I was trying to stop it. Never happened before. The phone number began with 601. I found that: Area codes 601 and 769 are the telephone area codes for central Mississippi. The main area code, 601, was one of the original area codes implemented in 1947, and covered the entire state of Mississippi. (Basement/Library). I was alone in my office talking to student assistant outside my office.
*Item "falling" off shelf -- though it would actually to come off shelf to fall. Happened in front of the group. One person in the group said "there goes Pedro"...
*Two other people and I were talking about the changes at Argosy. A book on the book shelf tipped over and fell down.
A sensitive walked through the building and picked up the following items:
First floor: A sense of peace.
Basement: Feeling of heaviness; library with books: Might have been a group break room in the past. Closer to modern times: Someone had a heart attack but survived.
Student lounge: Possible connections with a speak easy or local mobs.
Backstairs: Sensation of being pushed; possible vortex.
She sensed that a woman had been killed and dragged somewhere else. The entities on the third floor saw her and tried to help her spirit.
A stabbing happened when the cigar factory was still a factory. Workers under Berriman were not happy with their working conditions (when Morgan took over the factory, conditions improved. He had two foremen, one was good with the workers and one was not).
Room 230: Workers are still moving through this area -- still working. Feelings of people moving through and rushing past.
Third floor: Room 301: Feelings of grief; sons have gone off to war. Also, a positive feeling -- philanthropy happened here.
SPIRITS investigation notes:
When we first got here and we were opening the investigation, I felt a tug on my shorts.
Outside, south side where the padlock door is, I had a feeling of being watched above from the South side.
Library: Main room, I felt off balance, slight headache, but I lost that feeling when I went into the library itself. When I went back into the room, I felt it again. My heart was racing and my hand were shaking in that room.
Storage office: Temp 71.7 to 74.3.
Rhonda’s office: I again felt off kilter, shaking.
In hallway walking back to student lounge area…when he was talking about flooring, I heard a noise in the student lounge as if someone was in there. I asked if anyone was in there and she said “no”. I walked in and I heard a guttural sound. I ran the recorder to check later.
Back stairwell, it was 81 degrees. Then it turned off and wouldn’t come back on again until we went to the admissions office.
In the admission office I felt a slight headache. I heard a slight jingle of keys but it could have been one of the people outside.
First floor hallway and third floor hallway: cigar smell.
Second floor: Right before temp and EMF changes, I heard what I thought was someone shuffling behind you all. It was at the same time that Rhonda got the chills. When I went down to check, I heard a knock. I had goosebumps all over my body. Temp dropped to 72 degrees and went back up to 74. Will check the recorder later.
There is something about the psychology hallway – weird vibes, but not sure why.
Third floor break room, I felt off kilter. We asked questions, there were temperature fluctuations: 76.1 – 83.9. We were below an air vent so maybe that was the impact.
I have a note that says 80.9 but chilled (unknown location).
The lobby: Front door sounded as if someone was trying to open it.
When we first came in, instantly felt pulled to the admissions office – like there is someone in there. It feels like one is in the house and someone else is there….you feel them. That’s what it feels like here. The same thing happened by the backdoor (original front door). It felt very strange.
When we were outside, the north side of the building, I felt someone on the second floor watching from the window. I marked where it was. It was the stairwell where Brandy later got the spike when we were inside. The a/c unit is underneath the window.
The courtyard with the two palm trees, I feel very pulled to the courtyard. I don’t know why.
I felt nauseous by the original front door. Original opening I saw a definite spike on the trifield meter.
Felt strange in the basement, but when I went into Rhonda’s office I had a clear thought that “it’s not here, it’s above you”. I felt like I was transcribing and not really writing….like someone wanted me to know that (transcription). I don’t know if that’s related to what I’m getting in the admissions office.
The second floor is where it is – it’s the second floor. That keeps repeating to me that it’s the second floor.
The second floor, when we got there, the immediate moment I stepped out I felt light headed, dizzy. I felt like I had a weight in my stomach.
Second floor stairs: that stairwell feels heavy to me. I felt that outside, too. I know that there is something out there – noted outside and confirmed it inside.
Third floor: Tobacco smell. Third floor near elevator felt dizzy again.
So since we have been back in the lobby, I felt a pain in my left side, maybe where my kidney is.
I primarily tried to note areas of high EMF. There is the power box in the parking lot. There are additional areas of power nodes (boxes) on each level of the building. The lowest floor also has a pump that recycles water (note: moving water is thought to inhibit ghostly movement according to folklore, or to create energy for ghosts to draw from (modern ghost hunting). The building was warm, reading 80 degrees when we first got here.
On a personal not, there were several areas where I felt very odd.
Library: I felt chilled and dizzy. At one point, I found a spot of very warm air in the middle of the room. This may be a paranormal hot spot by the desk. I also felt heat on the back of my hands -- a senesation like having energy drawn from me. It's a strange feeling that I get on only certain investigations.
I felt very dizzy on the stairs heading to the second floor. when we first stepped out from the stairwell onto the floor, I had "dim sight" -- I actually touched my face to make sure that I was not wearing my sunglasses. (I do sometimes use my prescription sunglasses as indoor glasses; this was the same sensation). I was not wearing my sunglasses. I have no idea how to account for this "dim vision" as it has not happened to me before.
I again felt dizzy and warm as soon as I stepped off the elevator into the lobby of the psychology wing. The floor does dip there but it was still odd.
The break room also had the heat sensation on my hands. We tried an EVP session and the EMF meter responded to "do you want to communicate" but nothing showed up as far as I can find on my recordings.
Prior night before: Rhonda brought in a friend who was psychic who walked through the building.
Serial killer was in this area in the 1990s. One of the women that he killed, he stashed the body in a shed on this property. The psychic that walked through: the spirits on the third floor saw the murder and they “tried to bring her spirit in”.
On the back stairwell, a man was killed on the 2nd floor in 1912. (This was the area where we stopped to take pictures of the landing). My friend freaked out because there is a house on Howard where a woman’s spirit is watching.
The landing where you had the moment (second floor hallway) and in 230 and 231, it is a busy hallway. We also had an experience in the exact same point.
Second floor window: Felt that there was a girl sitting on the second landing, in her 20s. It was something to do with the time period when the woman was here.
Areas to recheck:
2nd floor, psychology wing, back stairwell, library
Track down the cemetery.
Start up and work down.
So far, nothing unusual manifested. I initially thought that a green orb in a series of my photographs, which appeared to "move" from one shot to another, may have been proof of the ghost but retesting the area showed that this was natural phenomena. The bright light at the end of the hallway caused an internal light refraction.