Haunted Lodgings: Belleview Biltmore Hotel: Clearwater, FL

Belleview Biltmore: Clearwater, FL

In 1897 the beautiful Belleview Biltmore Hotel was erected overlooking Old Clearwater Bay by the famous Florida developer, Henry Plant.  Mr. Plant’s influence is still felt throughout Florida; Plant City was named to honor him, the onion-domed, riverfront University of Tampa was originally built by Henry Plant as another grand hotel, and Morton Plant Hospital (named for Henry’s son) still provides state of the art healthcare for Florida residents. But of all Henry Plant’s contributions to Florida history, the one that holds a special place in my heart is the Belleview Biltmore.

The Biltmore is Florida’s largest wooden structure; some say that the Biltmore is the world’s largest occupied wooden structure…but I’m not 100% on that! Painted white with deep green trim, the sprawling hotel sits amongst an immaculately trimmed golf course, with sparkling views of the bay in the background.  In its heyday, the hotel was frequented by Hollywood’s and Wall Street’s elite. As with so many of grand hotels, during World War II, the building was taken over by the government to house troops.  Its thousands of windows were painted black, to avoid possible sightings by enemy ships at sea. But as soon as the war ended, the hotel reclaimed its prominence as provider of hospitality to the word’s exalted, including aristocrats, European royalty and U.S. presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The hotel has struggled to keep its doors open.  Threat of demolition looms over the grande old dame like a black shadow.  In 2005, it was barely rescued from destruction and enjoyed a period of renewed popularity when lower rates allowed more people to enjoy the historic property. In 2008 the Biltmore was host to the first (and only that I know of) TAPS-CON, which was a ghost hunters convention that showcased the teams of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International as the guests of honor. Over 1,200 amateur ghost hunters, fans of the shows and just plain curious spectators showed up for the event during the weekend of July 18-20.  I was a happy attendee for the event.  The level ticket that I purchased for my boyfriend and myself also provided us with a two night stay at the hotel.  During the event, the hotel opened all levels for an all night ghost hunt on Friday the 18th.  People could investigate the attics all the way down to the basement.  It was an incredible experience.

One of the stories that we heard repeated during the weekend was that of a bride who was staying at the resort with her husband following their wedding.  A day or two into their stay, the staff of the hotel had the bleak task of informing the radiant bride that her new husband had been killed earlier that day in a car accident. In her anguish at being left a widow before she could even get used to being a wife, the poor bride jumped to her death from the fourth floor balcony of her bridal suite. Today, people approaching the hotel claim to see the figure of a woman briefly silhouetted on one of the highest balconies before suddenly disappearing. Others have seen a form dressed in bridal vestments walking forlorn and alone through the upper hallways.

My favorite ghost story associated with the hotel is that of Maisie Plant, daughter-in-law to Henry and wife to his son, Morton. Around the time of World War I, Maisie lost a double strand of perfect pearls by the famous jeweler, Cartier.  The necklace was rumored to be worth over a million dollars. In those days, that was a mind-staggering sum! The pearls were lost somewhere in the hotel…never to be found, at least, not that anyone ever admitted! Maisie is still looking for those pearls today. She has been repeatedly spotted throughout the hotel, from ballroom to balcony.  And quite frankly, if I had lost such a bauble from Cartier, I would be haunting that hotel too!

Along with these tales there are a host of other supernatural phenomenon…including sighs, moans, doors opening and closing, elevators that are said to be out of commission that move on their own with their own agendas. There is a report from a local Clearwater ghost hunter who said he went to the “haunted tree” to do an EVP session, but I never could find a reason why the tree was haunted.  The ghost hunter in question did receive a response, albeit a profane one, when he asked if anyone wanted to communicate, so perhaps the tree is haunted by someone with a gutter-mouth!

Sadly, the hotel is shut down until some time in 2012, for extended renovations. The golf club on the 160 acre property is still open for business, though!  And since we all know that renovations bring out spirit activity in droves, maybe we’ll hear some new tales once this gorgeous hotel re-opens for business!  http://www.belleviewbiltmore.com/

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7 thoughts on “Haunted Lodgings: Belleview Biltmore Hotel: Clearwater, FL

  1. Read with interest your article “Haunted Lodgings: Belleview Biltmore Hotel: Clearwater, FL”. Also read with interest in this article about Maisie Plant (wife of Morton Plant) havingt lost her [Cartier] pearl neckless at the Belleview. As the historian in the Town of Groton, CT, I have conducted extensive researched about the [Cartier] pearl neckless belonging to Mrs. Plant. In fact I have written an article about these pearls in the Groton Times Newspaper. The pearl neckless was not lost, it was sold at acution in New York. If you would like a copy of the article, please feel free to contact me via email.

    Jim Streeter
    Historian, Town of Groton, CT
    Author

    • Well, shoot! Here I thought Maisie Plant had a good reason to be haunting the hotel! I guess the cause is a mystery….though staying behind for such a gorgeous piece of jewelry was something I could truly understand and respect!
      I’d love to read the article, so I’ll be sending you an e-mail soon! :)

  2. My sister and I stayed here her wedding weekend and saw a ghost carrying a tray of glasses. We originally thought it was a waiter and yelled, “excuse me sir” but he just kept going around the corner….we started jogging to catch up and turned the corner and it was a dead end. So super freaky!! And the night before her wedding as we went to sleep the lights got turned off “magically” my sis asked if it was me that turned the light off and when I said no…..she asked if we should turn them on again and I said, “hell no….it could happen again”. I had no idea about the ghost story of Mr Plant until suggesting a friend stay here and I looked for website today

  3. I was also there for TAPS Con, but I was one of the convention staff who had different jobs, including security. Yes, that was the one and only TAPS Con, sadly. Just for information, yes, most of the hotel was open for a ghost tour with the exception of the 5th floor. That was closed due to the condition being unsafe for visitors. There was an area of the 4th floor that was in bad repair but was safe for most. Supposedly, the 5th floor is very active as far as paranormal activity goes. Unfortunately, it’s in such bad shape that nobody can go there now. Some of the more interesting places to go was the various areas of the basement (which does NOT have tunnels, it’s just a big basement). There’s a maze of rooms and hallways in the basement which most people would get lost in. It had some very interesting items down there including some medical equipment of questionable means. I was able to go farther than the normal tours as part of my job, so I found some interesting stuff. It’s too bad it’s in such bad shape now. It would be nice if the building could be restored and appreciated again.

  4. Hi!
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blog posts about hauntings in Clearwater to share on our site and feature in an upcoming Halloween travel blog post. I came across your post and think it would be perfect! If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)
    Jane

  5. I don’t believe in ghosts but I do believe in pearls. I was sad to hear the pearls were sold in N.Y. I was thinking Maise’s story might form the basis of a historical novel. As a writer I’m always open for new historical fiction material. Contact me if you wish.

  6. Im interested in hauntings, yet bound to find any real evidence yet…..will keep looking around the state. Hopefully when i do go to the Belleview Biltmore Motel, it will make me a believer

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