Apart from its rich history, Vinoy Renaissance Resort has had an old reputation for paranormal activities since the 1950s. The sports industry, particuarly the baseball teams, has been a leading victim of such strange events as the hotel was the primary choice for many Major League Baseball (MLB) teams visiting St. Petersburg.
There have been reports of unexplainable events across the resort, which are said to be caused by ghosts of former guests who have lingered on after their passing. These include the tap being turned on and off at will, flickering of the tableside lamps, and running footsteps in the middle of the night. There have also been reports of a man in a formal suite walking along the hallways; however, the strange figure would always disappear in the void. Here are a few of the more infamous paranormal hauntings that have been reported and logged by staffs of the Vinoy Renaissance.
The Man in the Coat
Scott Ryan Williamson, a former MLB right-handed relief pitcher, experienced a crazy paranormal activity during his stay in 2003. During the first night of his stay, Williamson noticed a faint light from the pool area after he had turned off the lights of his room. Throughout the night, he felt like he was being watched by someone in the room.
Then, without warning, William felt an immense pressure on his back. The episode repeated itself as he turned over and laid down on his back. It was then that the pitcher noticed a man in a coat by the curtains, staring right back at him.
The Translucent Man
After the ghostly experience of Williamson, the Pittsburgh Pirates visited the haunted hotel. There, the team’s pitching coordinator and strength coach had a terrifying paranormal experience that prompted the team to never return to Vinoy Renaissance.
‘Hopefully you guys got sleeping pills, because this hotel is haunted!’– José Cruz Jr., head baseball coach for Rice Owls and former MLB outfielder
At five in the morning, Frank woke up to see a translucent figure standing near the desk of his room. Believing that he was just disoriented from the busy schedule of the team, Frank went back to sleep without much attention. However, it was later known that a handful of the players on the team had similar experiences during their night at the hotel.
The Lady in White
The fifth floor of the hotel has long been known to be a haunted floor, for many believed that it is haunted by a spirit known as “The Lady in White”.
The legend has that the woman was murdered by her wealthy husband who pushed her down the stairs after an argument. Tragically, she suffered a concussion and passed away on the staircase landing of the fifth floor. Now, the forlorn figure of “The Lady in White” is said to linger along the hallways of the fifth floor in a long white dress.
Guests of the hotel have also reported being taken by the elevator straight to the fifth floor where upon opening, “The Lady in White” can be seen at the end of the hallway.
Haunted Room 521
Room 521 is said to be one of the most haunted spot in the resort. Little is known about the history room 521, albeit some believed that the “Lady in White” was murdered in the room. On season 4, episode 18 of popular paranormal reality series Ghost Hunters, the room was investigated by The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS).
During the investigations, co-host Jason Hawes experienced several unexplainable events. Firstly, the closet door mysteriously opened, causing an iron board to fall. However, having a deeper look at the door and realizing that it was latched by strong magnets, Hawes concluded that it could not be opened without significant force. This meant that a falling iron board alone was not sufficient to cause the door to swing open.
Moreover, Jason heard two distinct voices, leading the team to conclude that there are at least two entities present in Room 521.
History of Vinoy Hotel
The history of the now-iconic hotel dates back to 1923 when oil tycoon Aymer Vinoy Laughner placed a bet with legendary golfer Walter Hagen that he would purchase the surrounding land and build a massive resort if Hagen could drive golf balls from his pocket watch without damaging it.
Staying true to his unofficial title as the “father of professional golf”, Hagen drove several golf balls from Vinoy’s watch without causing a scratch to it. With the loss of his bet, the Vinoy promptly purchased a piece of land for $170,000 ($2.78 million in today’s dollars) and assigned local architects Henry L. Taylor and George A. Miller to construct a hotel.
Construction of the Mediterranean Revival style hotel began on 5th February of 1923 and was completed at a record time of ten months. On December 31, 1925, Vinoy Park Hotel held its grand opening with a lavish party attended by distinguished citizens and luminaries of St. Petersburg.
Back then, Vinoy Park was the city’s most luxurious resort, charging $20 ($326 in today’s dollars) for a night at the hotel. As such, the hotel attracted countless celebrities and wealthy individuals for its lavish ambiance and quality service. Some of the notable guests who have stayed at Vinoy Park include legendary baseball player Babe Ruth, 30th president of the United States Calvin Coolidge, 31st president of the United States Herbert Hoover, and American icon Marilyn Monroe. More recent guests who have enjoyed their time at the hotel include American actor Harrison Ford, professional golfer Tiger Woods, and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck..
Wwith the onset of World War II, the hotel was appropriated by the U.S. Army to serve as a training center and home base for military personnels stationed in Florida. In December 1944, Vinoy Park Hotel reopened to citizens of St. Petersburg. A year later, it was purchased by Alberding for $700,000.
In spite of its early success, Vinoy Hotel has lost luster among its regulars, By the 1960s, the hotel has fallen into a state of disrepair and was on verge of bankruptcy. In 1974, almost half a century after it first opened, Vinoy Hotel shut down its operations and sold most of its furnishings, announcing that it was closing its doors for good.
However, the legacy of Vinoy Hotel did not end with its closing. In 1990, the abandoned building was bought over by Renaissance Hotels and Resorts and Vinoy Development Corporation. After an extensive two-year renovation, the hotel reopened in 1992 as the Stouffer Vinoy Resort. It was later renamed to Renaissance Stouffer Vinoy Resort and now, the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.
The last change of hands happened in August of 2018 when it was sold to SCG Hospitality. The sale, which was said to be closed at $188.5 million, included the Vinoy resort, a golf club and 74-slip marina.
Today, Renaissance Vinoy Resort offers 362 luxurious room, on-site tennis courts, a golf course, and a spa, among many other amenities. In 2005, the hotel won the AAA Four-Diamond Star status, representing 4.2 percent of the total hotels.
However, the luxurious furnishings and Mediterranean revival style architecture is not the only reason for its Renaissance Vinoy Resort’s fame. Over the years, the hotel has attracted a slew of adventurers and thrill seekers for its paranormal activities and strange happenings.