Williams House
St, Petersburg, Florida
I was first introduced to the possibility of ghosts in this historic house when both the Williams and the Snell houses were newly relocated to the USF campus.  Shortly after the renovation the houses were opened to the students and public for touring.  As a student and historian I, and my family, took advantage of this opportunity to get a look at genuine Florida "cracker" houses.  During the tour, the group I was within the Williams house met up with one of the workers who was gathering his supplies for the night.  In talking about his work and the history of the house, the man volunteered that the house was haunted.  Interested and excited, I kept a look out for any unusual activity but the spirit was quiet for us that night.

Since then I have had the opportunity to talk with others on the campus about the claim that the house is haunted. Sudsy Tschiderer, a person who is seen all over campus, works in the Snell house, adjacent to the Williams house.

"Well, there are many rumors about the house," she said, "one of them being that the spirit of a woman in a dancing gown appears.  She is supposed to be the spirit of the mother of a former owner."

Sudsy related a strange event the night the Williams house was to be moved to the St. Petersburg campus.  Some of the workers hired to move the house refused to go in.  These men, originally from the Carribean, told the owner that they sensed another presence in the house.  Since that time, the house has been moved.  But the question is: has the spirit moved with the house or remained on the original land left behind?

"When I walk in the house, I feel a presence of previous generations," Sudsy added, "the house has a sense of history to it.  It's one of the few old buildings native to St. Petersburg, it's one of the only icons of that era.  When the Williams House was part of the Manhattan Hotel it was the place to stay.  Many famous people, including Babe Ruth, were there.  When one looks at the house there is a sense of just how much history occurred within this dwelling.

At present, the Williams house stands empty.  It is difficult to report any unusual happenings since no one has really been in the building after the public tours ended.  However, students and attendees of the 25th Hour Bayboro Spooktacular may have a chance to see if there is a ghost for themselves.  This year's Spooktacular, held October 30th from 9 PM to midnight,  will be in the Snell and Williams houses.  Both places will be decorated to the hilt for that thrill-seeking adult looking for some pre-Hallowe'en fun.  A warning for those who plan to attend: if, during your wanderings in the Williams house, you encounter a woman wearing  a party dress who looks slightly out of place, think again.  She may belong there more than you do.

This image was taken after I taught ghost hunting 101 at the Dali Museum.  The group was taking pictures of the William's House.  I took nearly 25 images, but this was the only image to "manifest" as a possible ghostly image.  An altered image (contrast lightened) shows additional orbs around the dark white orb.  But, is it a ghost?
Addendum: 11/02/03

Recent sources say that the entity is still active.  She has been sensed by at least one former staff person.  The entity, allegedly, sits in a glider and rocks at night.  This person also reported that the ghost pushes things off of her desk late at night, when no one else is there. 

While in the Williams House 10/25, I did pick up some EMF energy fluctuations and at least one unusual image.  However, this was not an official investigation, and the instruments were simply employed during a tour of the property.
Return to Williams House, 10/14/05

Tonight I returned with a USF student doing a story on ghost hunting.  We did a quick "investigation" so that she could see how the equipment worked.  I also brought with me a field report form.  Though unofficial, it helps me to keep my thoughts in place and record what happens.

Due to time constraints, we did the 3rd and 2nd floors only.

Williams House
Oct. 14, 2005
Waxing Moon to full
Present:  Sudsy (who left after letting us in), Kate (student), and myself

Building surrounded by power lines, cable lines reported to be running up trees and in the far side of the house.  A/C on in building.

History:  (Via Sudsy, 10-6-08): ohn Williams died in 1892, shortly after the family moved into the house. Widow Sarah remarried Capt. James Armistead a few years later.

The Williams House was sold to the Manhattan Hotel Co. in 1906.  Eventually, the Ward family came into ownership. Louise (Ward) Flint Slansky was the Manhattan Hotel’s last owner – she is the daughter of Alma Ward.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Williams was married to two women.  He divorced his first wife, who was not happy in Florida.  His second wife, Sara, loved Florida.  She was known as a good woman who improved the town.  Though she remarried (Capt. James Armistead  who became mayor of St. Petersburg) when Sara died, she was buried next to her beloved John. (Incidentally, John also ran for mayor of St. Petersburg but failed to get the position.  Why?  He favored leaving bars open during the height of the temperance movement in St. Petersburg.  His temperance-supporting opponent won).

Sudsy gave us both more information on the history of the Williams home  dates and details, including John's move back to the home in 1891, and his death a year later.  Could he also haunt the house?

Sudsy toured us through a bit, leaving us at the 3rd floor to investigate.  We started around 6:45 p.m.  I did ask the entity to interact with us nicely on both the second and third floors, and the second floor balcony.

3rd Floor:
1.2  1.4 base EMF
Temp:  85 degrees
Slight EMF flux of .2 - .4, small sporadic spikes with EMF rising about .6th of a point.
One image of the room showed a very bright white orb, with striation.  Multiple pictures in the area could not duplicate the orb.  Is it a possible light refraction?  Again, other images show the flash reflected in the window, but no orbs. 

Kate took some images of the cubby area and later told me she "felt something" there.
Cubby temperature was 88 degrees, with small spikes of EMF.

Heading down the stairs I had a strange phenomena.  Kate went down first.  As I walked down, taking pictures (I remembered getting orbs there the last time I was in Williams House).  In the middle of the stairwell, my digital camera began to whine.  This camera has NEVER ever done this.  Nor have any of the 12 other digital cameras I've owned.  It sounded as if it was going to explode.  I quickly shut it off.

Images coming down the stairwell include several sets of multi-orb images.  One orb appears to be a double orb, unlike one I've seen before.  I am unsure if these are dust orbs  (light and scattered) or something more.

Temperature in the hall was 78 degrees, as a/c from the second floor drifted up through the door opening into the heated area upstairs.

Reaching downstairs, Kate said that she had just seen something that she described as a mist image.  I asked her if she was sensitive and she said that she had been told she was, but hadn't really tried it before.  We took multiple images of the areas, but to no result.

2nd Floor:
I again asked the entity to interact with us in a friendly manner.  As soon as I said that, I heard a noise coming from one of the offices behind us.  Went in to check it out and found nothing.  (Infrared Video used).

EMF was decreased on the 2nd floor, though Sudsy had told us that she thought there would be more activity on the 2nd floor than on the third floor.  It was the area of former occupant's living quarters. 

EMF read 1.6 on average.

A/C was turned on the second floor negating temperature readings (73  77 degrees)

We walked through the offices of the area taking readings but there were no unusual variations in the area.  We opted to take pictures in the area where Kate saw the mist.  In taking her picture, my camera shut down telling me that the batteries were depleted.  However, when we moved out of that area, the camera worked normally and took another 35 to 50 shots without giving any warning of depletion or power failures.

We attempted 1 Polaroid image, which worked out to be too dark to see anything (unusual for this camera, which, when used later in similar lighting, took a decent picture of the stairwell leading to the first floor).

We went to the back porch and took more images (one former employee reported seeing the glider rocking and claimed that "Alma" stayed out there with her).  We had no results.  EMF was 1.2 as a base and it was 82 degrees outside.

We finished at 7:45 p.m.  Kate went to get Sudsy while I packed up my equipment.  I did take several more photos (including the second Polaroid picture).  One image produced a light but large orb with striation.  It is too light to see clearly, and almost appears to be a double orb image.  It is rounder than the orb upstairs, but, again, there is a light source outside reflecting in.  It could be light refraction.

Overall results:  I did take multiple images of the 3rd floor stairwell.  I had some images without orbs (included one, which I lightened to verify there were no orbs present).  Two images did have orbs.  The other 8 did not.  We had the two orb images, 1 on the 3rd floor, 1 on the 1st floor, but it is hard to determine if these are naturally produced.

EVP:  Nothing.  Session ended at 7:44 p.m.  Though I attempted a video record of the EVP, the session did not record on video.

Video:  I noted that the video had problems focusing in the offices.  It's possible that the windows with varying light sources were the reason for the camera's fuzziness. However, it went in and out of focus with or without the window present.

I also left the camera on while we went outside to investigate the porch.  In the images, one can see slight movement of handles on the desk across from the camera as they move  a/c breeze or ground vibration.  However, there appears to be no other phenomena recorded.

What surprised me most were 1)  My digital camera's whining sound.  It has not done this since I've been home to use it.  2)  The batteries depleting then the camera working for the rest of the night, taking more images than it could have on depleted batteries (with flash).The area of depletion is also an area where the Polaroid failed to work, and where Kate saw the mist.

Also need to hear back from Kate to see if any of her equipment registered results.


I revisited the house again with a crew from WUSF.  It was good Friday and late afternoon ( 2 - 5 p.m).  I didn't think much would happen.  Much to my surprise, I had one unexplained EMF spike (a very nice one) in the front room.  I tried to get the EMF to replicate; no luck.  I left the room and took pictures around the room.  As I left the sitting room and entered the library, I heard whispering behind me.  I turned and snapped a picture and I got an orb image.  This chair is situated directly beneath an image of John Williams, for whom the house is named.  His death date of April 29 is also coming up. 

This orb is flat-bottomed.  At first I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I've been retesting the camera and many of the orbs that it gets show up as "flat" -- even dust orbs.  It seems to be a function of the camera.  (VERY strange).  I have since field tested it again and I get the same flat orbs (see "Jungle Prada" on the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg site). 

I attempted to get the orb to replicate and could not.  See images below.   It does have texture and a nucleus. 
Short Timeline of the John C. Williams House
at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg


1875John C. Williams first visits Pinellas Peninsula and shortly thereafter purchases 1,600+ acres.

1890-91Williams House is built by John C. and Sarah Williams, “the Father and Mother of St. Petersburg.”
(Sarah, a Canadian widow with several sons and 30 years his junior, is John’s second wife.)

April, 29, 1892John C. Williams dies.

September 7, 1984Sarah Williams marries Capt. James Armistead (who
would later become Mayor of St. Petersburg).

August 17, 1905Sarah (Williams) Armistead sells the Williams House to Henry C. H. Palmer and Harry E. Washburn. (This was recorded on April 21, 1906.)

August 9, 1906Manhattan Hotel Company purchases the Williams House; the long west wing which comprised most of the hotel was added shortly thereafter.

1928The Manhattan Hotel is moved about 200 feet to the west to make way for St. Mary’s Church and rectory. Due to its compactness and quality construction, “The residence section was the easiest to relocate,” according to the movers at the time.

1929A.B. Vance is the owner of the property.

December 21, 1933Mrs. J. M. McBride buys the Williams House.

June 6, 1936Mrs. McBride sells the house to United Properties, Incorporated.

October 30, 1946J.L.Ward and Alma E. Ward purchase the hotel.

January 9, 1974Mrs. Ward sells the Hotel (to family??)
and remains at the Hotel as manager.

April 24, 1975John C. Williams Mansion (a.k.a. Manhattan Hotel main building) is entered into the National Register of Historic Places (#75000565).

August 6, 1975Ceremony celebrating National Register status is held on site.

1993Manhattan Hotel closes down when taxes and maintenance expenses become too costly.
Plans to sell the land and to relocate the
Williams House are developed.

The City of St. Petersburg assists USF in applying for a Special Category Historic Preservation grant from the State of Florida to be used to acquire, relocate, and rehabilitate the Williams House (and the C. Perry Snell House next to it).  Grant is received.

February 27, 1995Groundbreaking ceremony for the Williams House is held at USF St. Petersburg.

March 29,1995Williams House is moved to campus by A.B. “Toby” Thomas Housemover.

September 1997USF applies for a second grant from the State of Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation, again with support form community leaders. The grant is received.

November 1997Snell/Williams Grant Celebration is held in the (unfinished) Courtyard.

January 1998ASID Designer Showhouse features the Williams and Snell Houses.

199?Annex (including restrooms, lift) and breezeway connecting the Williams and Snell Houses are installed.  This construction provides access to the historic houses for those unable to climb stairs. The stage and Courtyard are also added.

Fall 2001 Second floor is refurbished for faculty offices
2003First floor renovations and “final touches” are applied.  Furniture and appointments in the communal spaces are procured to give the Williams House the warm, ambiance of the home in the 1890’s.

2004The Williams House is home to University Relations, Foundation Services, and the USF Alumni Association (second floor). The first floor is used for social events, meetings, receptions, seminars, and class activities.

USF St. Petersburg is honored to be the caretaker and conservator of both
the John C. Williams House and the C. Perry Snell House, two of Florida’s
invaluable historical treasures.

Sudsy Tschiderer
September 2004

Walking around DT, I met with a former USF/SP colleague.  She did tell me that she had a very powerful experience in the William's House -- actually saw a woman in a white dress.  The woman was trying to talk to her, and she felt as if she was trying to talk to the woman, but felt frozen.  She actually had to be shaken out of the reverie. Her behavior was witnessed by her co-worker who shook her out of the reverie.  She did report the phenomena to Sudsy.