City of Cigars – Part One

I’ve been dying to tell you about this for a while now – and maybe that’s a pretty terrible (or awesome?) choice of words, considering I’m about to expand upon the Ybor City Ghost Tour that Boy and I took on vacation.

We were a little skeptical at first, considering we met the tour guide at a cigar shop and only two other people (girls who were barely scraping 20 years old) showed up. The tour guide – a man named Greg who is an actor on the side – was also wearing a suit and top hat, so the kitsch factor seemed to really be up there….until he started talking.

What followed for nearly three hours were lively tales of historic Ybor City peppered with ghost stories that spawned from factual happenings. Though we were barred from a spot the tour would normally delve into due to a private function being held, we did make a foray into the fourth-most haunted building in the country, armed with ghost hunting equipment – and it paid off in spades.

I’m going to tell it in three parts because it’s a lot of shit to read. Also, what’s the fun in a ghost story if there isn’t a little suspense? Today and the next two will give you a look into good ol’ Ybor and all the crazy shit that happened there. Whether or not you believe echoes of said shit is actually still around in the form of paranormal activity is your point of view – but hell if it’s not at least a fun read.

 

First you have to know a little about Ybor itself. Nestled in the northern part of Tampa, Florida, it contains a paradox of brick roads found nowhere else in the area that harken to the past, yet are lined with cutting-edge clothing stores, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, tattoo shops, and an overall reputation for taking on a rowdier air the deeper the night goes.

Founded in the late 1800s, it was known as the Cigar Capital of the World, housing the largest number of cigar manufacturing plants. Don Gavino Gutierrez, Don Vicente Martinez Ybor, and Don Ignacio Haya were responsible for this, building the city up until the Great Depression inevitably tore it down.

Ybor was not without the typical ailments of the day; the yellow fever plagued the area’s inhabitants, decimating much of the population, and at one point the mafia infiltrated the area, making police/Mafioso shootouts all too common.

These factors, of course, played into the spirits that run rampant in Ybor.

 

THOSE WHO LIVED

After a brief history of the city, we stood outside a Tiffany blue building with art deco square glass windows, which used to be the site of the Trelles Clinic.

Trelles Clinic

 

Dr. Jorge Trelles was known as one of the best surgeons of the time, sewing patients up so well that it came close to what a stitched-up wound done in modern medicine today would look like. Well, that is, if the patient made it through the operation.

Trelles’ rate was 80/20 – I’ll let you guess which number is for the deaths versus the victories. Still, the people flocked to him because he was honestly the best they could utilize in the area.

Trelles, though married (and much like many men in that time period), took on many mistresses. He eventually found himself in love with a young girl, Conchita, who was 14. (Though it sounds absurd now, back then that was normal.) Jorge Trelles was the first divorce in Ybor city, leaving his wife for this young girl – who became known as the whore of the town.

Trelles employed Conchita in the clinic. He was a smart man and had a window installed where passerbys could see the operating table, where Conchita stood with a slit skirt hiked high, knee upon the patient undergoing surgery to hold him down as Trelles did his work. To say she was as much eye candy as anyone had seen publicly at that time was an understatement.

As time went on, however, and Conchita edged out of the age of 18, people begin to notice she took on a different demeanor. Trelles was telling her, as he operated, about the young pretty things he was screwing around with, upsetting her to no end.

She threw herself into the clinic work and, being astoundingly good at it, earned herself a new reputation – one of a phenomenal caregiver that many looked forward to seeing at the clinic.

Eventually, Jorge Trelles made history one more time and got the second divorce in Ybor – leaving poor Conchita for an even younger woman. Conchita left the clinic…though not entirely.

Her ghost is the one many see and feel in the hallways of what is now a spa. Greg told us she is a benevolent spirit, simply roaming a place she associates with happiness that was derived from the numerous people she helped in her years there. She seemed to embody goodness anyway when she was alive, because when Jorge’s third wife left him as he grew older, ailing in health and unable to operate, he went crawling back to Conchita, who actually welcomed him.

There have been reports by spa workers that it feels like a child is tugging at their clothes. Windows shut with no warning, footsteps are heard, and a woman is seen flitting about. In the right corner of the door on the right in the picture above, people have seen a man leaning on a cane, wearing a suit and a panama hat, the perfect match of a man from that time period.

When the Ghost Hunters of SyFy investigated the former clinic, they didn’t find much and actually disproved a lot – except the fact that a mounted camera in the hallway Conchita has been seen in was turned more than 180 degrees, and not a soul was in the building.

Well, maybe.

 

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