Red curtains scale the walls of the massive and historic theatre with dark wood and theatrical fixtures. The grand chandelier in the foyer creates an unusual ambiance.
This eerie social club is the Centro Asturiano de Tampa, allegedly one of the most haunted buildings in the Tampa Bay area.
The Centro Asturiano, built in 1902, hosts events from weddings to charity benefits, and it’s the site of this year’s Rock Your Horror Art and Music Festival.
Jared Wells and Tim Szafranski of Praha International Entertainment group have spent months coordinating the event.
“When we started talking about doing a Halloween event, we knew it had to be here,” Wells said. “There is so much culture and history in this building.”
Wells and Szafranski seem excited about the venue because of its rumored high levels of supernatural activity and ghosts. This makes the venue a prime location for a Halloween bash.
“There have been numerous reports of people seeing the ghosts of a man and a woman in 1930s vintage clothes, sitting in the front row of the theatre,” Wells said. “Also, people claim to have seen the ghost of an old man sitting in the rafters above the stage. That is where the theatre’s caretaker lived for years back in the ’50s.”
In 2007, a St. Petersburg based ghost-hunting team, Serving Paranormal Investigation Reporting Information Through Study (SPIRITS), explored the building. Their audio equipment picked up a Hispanic man’s voice answering “si” when they asked if ghosts were present. Video footage revealed black mist clouds, which according to SPIRITS founder and President Brandy Stark, is a rarity in the world of ghost hunting.
“I’ve been in this business for 13 years and have seen only a handful of actual moving video footage in an investigation,” Stark said. “My team has done over 400 investigations, (and) the Centro Asturiano was one of the most unique places I’ve seen.”
“There was an overwhelming presence there. It was very feminine downstairs and masculine on the second and third floors, just as it was at the beginning of the 19th century. (It was) very divided in gender,” she said.
Students wary of spirits should have no fear, though.
Stark said that while she has no doubt there is a supernatural presence at the building, there seems to be no reason to be afraid.
“Always be polite to spirits. They deserve respect just like the living,” Stark said. “I don’t think the spirits mind the continuous use of the building. As long as you respect them, they are not going to bother anyone.”
On Saturday, the haunted house will feature live music by bands like “The Malah” and “The Soular System,” as well as live sets by DJ Craig Heneveld and Von Garden Jr. There will be a live art show and a cash prize costume contest, which should attract a good number of students if they’re willing to pay for admission.
“I just think it would be really cool to celebrate Halloween in a supposedly haunted building,” said junior Melissa Dowling, a business student. “I’m sick of the same old house parties on Halloween. I want to do something different this year.”
Rock Your Horror Art and Music Festival is definitely something different on the Halloween
to-do list, as long as attendees remember to be polite. No one wants to offend the spirits on the spookiest night of the year.
The festivities begin at 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $13 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, visit rockyourhorror.com.
For the full SPIRITS report on the Centro Asturiano, complete with audio and video, visit centralflghosts.homestead.com.