Historical Museum – Polk County, Bartow, Florida
Photograph © Polk County Board of County Commissioners
100 East Main Street
Bartow, Florida 33830
When you look upon this grand museum in the daylight, you would never guess it is haunted, nor would you ever dream that any horrifying incidents have occurred here. Looks can be deceiving.
The land where the old courthouse museum stands, once housed an older courthouse in the year of 1883. In 1886, Marshall Silas Campbell was killed right outside of the old courthouse building. The two men accused, the Mann brothers, never made it to a legal trial; a vicious lynch mob hung the brothers and brought their dead bodies to the old courthouse to display their idea of justice to the town folks. Also, in the old courthouse, there was an explosion that occurred in the basement boiler room. This accident took the life of an employee who was working in that area at the time.
Eventually another courthouse was built here; this building is now known as the Polk County Historical Museum. The new courthouse structure was not enough to chase away the old spirits because today, the museum has quite a bit of paranormal activity going on within its walls.
In the basement area, which can only be accessed by using the elevator, many employees and museum visitors have heard blood curdling screams that sounds as if someone is in agonizing pain. When the screams are investigated, no one is there. It is assumed that this is the spirit of the worker who died in the boiler room explosion, reliving his tragedy over and over.
In the criminal courtroom on the first floor, many have felt unexplainable cold spots. It is impossible to identify any spirits who might haunt this room, as there were many criminals who passed through the doors here.
In the Native American display room, many visitors have walked through cold spots or they have experienced the lights turning on or off on their own.
On the third floor, visitors and employees have reported seeing a full-bodied, female apparition. This woman is dressed in a white, antique dress. No one really knows who this woman is or why she haunts the old building. All that is known is that she tends to stay on this floor.
In the Rotunda area, many patrons and staff members have reported a melancholy feeling and strange cold spots. The apparitions of two men, believed to be the Mann brothers who were lynched, have been seen roaming about.