Cecil the Ghost


The legend of “Cecil the Ghost” dates back to the very early 1970s where it was reported that a certain cemetery in the Safety Harbor area contained a spirit that could be summoned using the following invocation:  “Cecile Cecile I believe, Cecile Cecile come to me.”

The Story:

My best friend from both Junior High and High School relayed this tale to me and I consider it a first hand accounting of this legend.  For the sake of this report I am calling my old friend, PB.

PB was a girl who was very level headed for a teenager. She did not possess any interest in the paranormal or ghosts and was pretty much a non-believer of such “stuff”. It was well after high school and while we were roommates that PB gave me this account of her first hand experience with Cecil the Ghost.

During high school, her boyfriend and one of his friends took PB down to the Cecile [sic; entry references Cecil and Cecile] cemetery in an effort to “scare her”.  Though PB remained in the car while the two boys went off to summon Cecile in the graveyard in the middle of the night.  Becoming bored, PB started to tell the boys that it was getting late, she was tired and that she didn’t believe any of this and it was time to leave.  After becoming less than happy with her boyfriend about this “nonsense” they finally left the graveyard and took her back home. 

The next evening, PB was babysitting for her sister’s two little children.  As she slept next to her little niece, PB woke up around midnight and there on the wall opposite the bed was a silhouette shape of a man wearing a long cape and a large rounded brimmed hat.  Startled, PB closed her eyes and shook her head and when she reopened her eyes the shadow was gone.  Thinking she had just imagined the image on the wall, remember PB had no beliefs in ghosts; she got out of bed and went into the kitchen for a glass of water.  She looked at the kitchen clock for the time and was horrified to see the face of a man staring back at here from within the clock.  Somehow, this still did not convince PB that ghosts exist as she rationalized it away as many people will do when encountering the paranormal.

However, just a few days later after leaving the same sister’s house, PB drove the usual route home stopping at the same T-intersection she always stopped at.  Though I cannot describe the make and model of her car at this time, as she was the only one in high school to have this very stylish car, I will tell you it had white leather interior.  When PB pulled up to stop sign looking first left then right, again as usual, only this time when she glanced to the right, there sitting in car with in her the passenger front seat was the same shadow she had seen on the wall. 

PB was terrified and could only think of one thing to do.  That was to shut her eyes tightly and start saying, “Cecile I believe in you, I believe in you, please go away.”  When she reopened her eyes the shadow was gone and she drove home and never saw Cecile’s ghost again.

What really validated the honesty of PB’s account besides her being my best friend, was once she had finished telling this tale to me, I jokingly began to recite the, “Cecile Cecile come to me” invocation and PB dove for cover nearly crying and shaking like a leaf at the thought of this apparition reappearing. She literally begged me to stop.  In fact, even this partial invocation frightened PB so much that she moved out of our apartment and back in with her parents within 24 hours of relaying this tale to me.

4/15/19:  When asking about this story to others, I finally had one verbal response from one young woman.  She “heard of the name” when she lived in Safety Harbor, but heard nothing else on the legend.   It’s the first “hit” I’ve had on the information since posting this story nearly 10 years ago.  

4/18/19:  Another person who lives in Safety Harbor said that they thought that they heard a story like this.  They remembered being told about a ghost with a “C” name, but that was all.  They did know about the ghosts of Safety Harbor Spa, the mound, and even said that there were reports of Conquistadors’ ghosts seen in the area of Safety Harbor.  She also reported volunteering in the library and feeling odd temperature fluctuations.  (This is the first I’ve heard of any issues in the library).   

Submitted via email on 4/15/19 with second part 4/19/19:

This is really bizarre, but today (4/15/19) I happened by accident upon your synopsis regarding Cecil the Ghost. I have information that you will find interesting that I have kept to myself for many decades. First, the Cecil story goes way back BEFORE the 1970’s. Here’s what I know. When I was a Junior at Clearwater Central Catholic High School (CCCHS) back in the late-1960’s, students in my Junior class and in the Sophomore class who lived in Clearwater and north of Clearwater, would talk about “Cecil’s Graveyard” in Safety Harbor. I know that those kids were friends with other students who went to Clearwater High School, Gulf High and also Clearwater Comprehensive. I know the CCCHS kids went up to “Cecil’s Graveyard” at night because I would hear stories about the place. One of my Junior friends, (“name withheld but I would love to give his name”) drove a new Ford Shelby and I assumed that he went up to “Cecil’s Graveyard” as it was called at the time. Classmates told of an older man they would see holding up a lantern and a rifle who would chase the kids from the area at night. I was told by more than one Sophomore of a “blue hue” light that would glow upward from the area of the grave around midnight. Some of this talk might have been exaggerated by the CCCHS Sophomores that went up there at night. I did hear REPEATEDLY that Cecil’s headstone had the inscription, “My Light Shall Shine Forever” and I do believe that because I heard it from different CCCHS students. I gathered from what I was told by the CCCHS Sophomores that the man (Cecil) was executed for whatever reason and he wanted those words placed on his tombstone. I am just relating to you what I heard way back then. While I was in my Junior year at CCCHS, I was subsequently told that the grave headstone came up missing (possibly stolen) and was gone and the grave was unmarked. This was back around 1969. I personally never went up there because I lived down in Largo and did not drive at the time and all these “Cecil Graveyard” students lived in Clearwater and to the north towards Safety Harbor and Tarpon Springs. All of us CCCHS kids would be 65 and 66 years old today. I hate to give names of CCCHS students that I believe went up there out of concern for privacy, especially after all these decades, but I’ll bet some of those CCCHS students from the late-1960’s could fill in some of the blanks about “Cecil’s Graveyard”. I will add that I never heard it referred to as “Cecil the Ghost” but only as “Cecil’s Graveyard” that was somewhere up in Safety Harbor. I now am a Dual National and live permanently in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I hope all the preceding information is helpful in “filling in the blanks” regarding “Cecil”. As a footnote, back in 2007, we named one of our kittens “Cecil” after this Pinellas County legend. He now is 11 years old. —- John

The Cecil’s graveyard story is very real and I have been wracking my memory since I happened upon your website on April 19 trying to remember anything more. There are definitely “older” people down there in Pinellas County who know about the Cecil story, but you would have to go searching for it. A good place to look is people who graduated from high school in 1971, 1972 and possibly even 1973. First, I do not know the location of the cemetery where the grave was located, but I know that classmates from CCCHS went there at night. I now recall that one good friend I had at CCCHS told me things about “Cecil’s Graveyard” that I related in my previous message. His parents owned Biscoe Memorial Services in Safety Harbor and they probably knew of that cemetery. Biscoe is no longer in business. When looking up my high school friend on Google, I found an obituary from 2001 that quite possibly could be him (passed away at age 47). If you want to determine the location of the cemetery (“graveyard”), I’m sure the City of Safety Harbor could provide information. Also, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has always provided law enforcement for the City of Safety Harbor and they would know where that cemetery is/was located by virtue of any past PCSO incident reports regarding late night teenage drinking or trespassing on the cemetery property. In thinking about it, I was probably mistaken when I mentioned “Gulf High” in my previous message, but many of the students at CCCHS, especially in the grades before me, had many friends at Clearwater HS and Clearwater Comprehensive. I’m sure if you proceeded with investigating the Cecil story in your professional capacity, I would assume you would get cooperation in order to “connect the dots” regarding this interesting story. —- John L.

John has been working hard to track down this legend.  He has provided another entry for this page as of 5/1/2019 –ed

The following is another story of Cecil’s Graveyard in Safety Harbor, Florida that was passed along back in the late-1960’s. I recently spoke to an individual who is quite familiar with the story about Cecil’s Graveyard. She wishes to remain anonymous. She attended Clearwater Central Catholic High School (CCCHS) and also Largo High School and graduated in 1972. The story about Cecil’s Graveyard that she heard at school is, as follows: …. “A couple had driven up to Cecil’s Graveyard late one night. They knew of the place prior to that night. Once they arrived, they parked under a tree that was in the area near Cecil’s grave and were making out. All of a sudden, they heard and felt a loud THUMP on the roof of their car. It wasn’t anything that fell out of the tree because nothing fell on the ground. Scared out of their wits, the boyfriend started the car and they sped away from the cemetery, not stopping until they pulled into a business establishment ‘like a gas station’. They got out of the car to inspect the roof to see what had hit them. Under the bright lights in the parking lot they discovered that the center of the car roof had been dented in and the dent was in the shape of a large hand with the palm and five fingers imprint clearly visible.” … This is the story that the girl I spoke with heard from others when she was in high school. In our telephone conversation, she told me that she had actually been to Cecil’s Graveyard one time while she was attending Largo High School. She went up there late one night sometime around 1969 or 1970 with her boyfriend and a friend of his. There were three of them in the car and it was late at night. Her boyfriend and the other guy got out of the car to walk around the “graveyard” but she stayed in the car and did not go with them. Unfortunately, she does not remember where that “graveyard” was located. I subsequently telephoned her again two different times, questioning her, and she does not remember where her boyfriend took her or where she was that night. She only specifically recalls going up N. Bayshore Dr. in the general direction of Philippe Park, but that’s all she remembers as she said that was nearly 50 years ago. She cannot remember where that “cemetery” was located, but she did tell me that it was NOT in Philippe Park. One additional thing this individual told me was that she was also told by her friends in high school that the gravestone on Cecil’s grave had been stolen (i.e., had been taken and was missing) and the grave was apparently unmarked when her boyfriend took her there that night. Of note, I personally heard the very same thing in 1969 regarding the missing gravestone when I was a student at CCCHS, so I wasn’t the only person who had heard that bit of information. —- John Longo

Special thanks to Mr. Longo who has done so much research on this legend that he located historic information and the cemetery!  

Historic information:  https://www.wikitree.com/photo.php/b/bb/Wishart-851.jpg

Additional information 5/17/19:

Also, there is indeed a recorded grave in Midway Cemetery where a “Cecil” is buried, but I do not believe that it has anything to do with our Legend. The decedent in question is Cecil William Rowe who died in November 1958 at the age of 40. He was a native of Tarpon Springs and lived in Miami and was a cabinet maker. There is a nice headstone on his grave (photo is on the Internet) and his parents are also buried in Midway Cemetery. I’m sure there is no connection with Cecil William Rowe to the Cecil The Ghost Legend. I was originally told decades ago, as were others, that the “Cecil’s Graveyard” grave in question was unmarked.

Additional information: 
I couldn’t help but tell you these additional things I have uncovered regarding Cecil the Ghost. This story and Legend was so widespread that even horse racing was touched by it! In February 1964, there was a thoroughbred race horse up at Sunshine Park in Oldsmar (which is known today as Tampa Bay Downs) whose name was “Fab’s Ghost”. The horse’s jockey was L. Cecil. In the race results in the St. Petersburg Times, the results listed the horse/jockey as “Fab’s Ghost – Cecil”.

  The entire Cecil The Ghost Legend stems from the man who was murdered in San Antonio, Florida, but when I initially found his name in my research (i.e. Robert Evander Wishart), I saw that there was absolutely no connection between his name and the name “Cecil”. I was somewhat perplexed and I thought I was at a dead end in my research until I saw in the same exhibit that his father, the patriarch of the family, was “Colonel of Militia Eli Wishart” (1813 – 1893) and that is where I made the connection to the name “Cecile” and later, “Cecil”.

  In 1906 when Robert Evander Wishart was shot at point-blank range in a dentist office by a man who had mistaken him for the dentist, Wishart apparently did not die immediately after being shot because the archive newspaper account reported that he told others and the authorities that the man who shot him said to him, “Nichols, you have ruined my life”. Since Robert Evander Wishart did not die immediately after being shot, this could explain how the legend began about the epitaph on the purported tombstone— that Wishart lived long enough to say what he wanted inscribed on his tombstone. What I was told many of my classmates when I was in high school at Clearwater Central Catholic was that “… Cecil had lived in the 1800’s and was an innocent man who was executed and, before he died, he stated that he wanted the epitaph, “My Light Shall Shine Forever”, to be inscribed on his tombstone. This is the stuff of how legends and myths get started. This entire saga is complex, but (young) people in the twentieth century somehow thought that the murdered son of Eli Wishart was “Cecil the Ghost” when I believe from my research that “Cecil” is/was his father, Eli.

  Tombstones were stolen from Midway Cemetery as a result of this Cecil the Ghost Legend. One very large 200-pound tombstone was found hidden in a field in the Ridgecrest section of Largo in March 1978. How that huge tombstone got all the way down to Ridgecrest had everybody baffled. The St. Petersburg Times accounts of this bizarre event connected Midway Cemetery to Cecil the Ghost and the alleged haunting of the cemetery. Another tombstone was stolen from Cecil’s Graveyard and thrown into the swimming pool at Clearwater High School! It sounds like some teenagers from another school were trying to find a way to put a “Cecil Curse” on Clearwater High— a possible high school rivalry….. These stories are all documented in the newspapers and they explicitly talk about Cecil the Ghost. These stories are mindboggling!

  Vandalism at Cecil’s Graveyard has occurred all the way back to the early-1960’s. I am attaching a newspaper clipping I found (see above Attachment) from the St. Petersburg Times that I think you will find VERY INTERESTING! There is so much history and stories regarding Cecil the Ghost and Cecil’s Graveyard up in Palm Harbor that you could literally write a book on the subject and have it published! The stories I have heard about paranormal occurrences at night at Midway Cemetery (Cecil’s Graveyard) are stories that I believe are true because the people who related them to me would not lie to me about it.

  The more I investigate and dig into this “Cecil’s Graveyard” story, I am beginning to second-guess myself and, from my discovery of “recent” information regarding “Cecil’s Graveyard”, I am beginning to wonder if the cemetery in question is located in Palm Harbor, and not in Safety Harbor. There are only two (2) cemeteries in close proximity to Safety Harbor that are listed on the Internet and neither one matches the description that the girl I spoke described. I am beginning to wonder if I might have the city wrong from what I think I recall being told in high school back in 1969. There is one particular cemetery in Palm Harbor that DOES match the description of two “eyewitnesses” so far. Therefore, Cecil’s Graveyard might not be Safety Harbor after all! I will continue to “dig” into this and I hope that somebody at your end can shed some light as to the exact location of “Cecil’s Graveyard”. The more I think about this and ruminate about this, I now think that the kids at school said it was in Palm Harbor. Interestingly, your original posting on the Cecil The Ghost page stated “… a certain cemetery in the Safety Harbor area…”. Your posting did not say that the cemetery was actually located in Safety Harbor, but rather, the Safety Harbor area. Your subsequent postings of 4/15/19 and 4/18/19 were from people who lived in Safety Harbor but they did not say that what they had heard was based in Safety Harbor per se. If we can just locate the cemetery in question, the easy part will be any ghost hunting once you know the general area of the grave.

July 2019:

An aerial view of the Midway Cemetery:  https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Palm+Harbor,+FL/@28.0840692,-82.7603256,927m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x88c2f1d307e6570d:0x40993b1f9b5af5fc!8m2!3d28.0780718!4d-82.7637127

More Research from John L: https://patch.com/florida/palmharbor/an-infamous-murder-in-pasco-county-with-palm-harbor-roots

Information: Prior to 1923, executions in Florida were by public hangings under a local jurisdiction and were carried out by the Sheriff at the county courthouse/county jail in the county where the crime took place. Many of these hangings were “non-legal” prior to local laws being enacted. In the case of Robert E. Wishart, the murder took place in 1906 in Pasco County and John N. Burton was arrested by Pasco County sheriff’s deputies and was put in jail at Dade City, the county seat for Pasco County. This is where Pasco County hangings (i.e. executions) took place prior to 1923. From 1923 forward, all executions in the state of Florida were under state jurisdiction inside prisons.

  After local laws were enacted in Pasco County, there were two “legal” public hangings carried out by the Sheriff at the Dade City jail— one in 1913 and the other in 1917. Neither one was Burton. Hangings prior to 1913 in Pasco County would be considered “non-legal” and apparently no public records of them were kept. I will continue to research this because the word “execution” was part of the Cecil Legend as it was told to me by several different classmates when I was in high school. If I can answer this, we will have all the parts of the story that make up the Legend of Cecil the Ghost.

Another article:  
Open the link and you will see a toolbar just above the newspaper. On the right side you will see a scrollbar that says “Page 2 of 72”. Use the button on the far right to scroll to “Page 19 of 72”. NOTE: This scrollbar page number will not match the actual page in the newspaper where the article is located. The article is on page 5B in the City and State section and has the headline, “The mystery of Mary Emily Legg — Vandals are blamed, if you count out the ghost”. The newspaper image and the article can be enlarged by clicking on the “magnifying glass” icon on the toolbar. For reference, the name of the newspaper, the date and the page number are at the top of the page and just to the right of the article. 

The kids at Clearwater Central Catholic High School (CCCHS) told me that Cecil “was an innocent man who was executed…”. The innocent man was clearly Robert Evander Wishart, but was the “executed” person Wishart—- or could it have possibly be his murderer??? I am in the process of researching the trial and sentencing of the murderer. This is going to be awfully difficult for me and I wish I had someone to help me with this. I know you have much more education than I do and you probably know quite a bit about doing research using various sources, including newspaper archives—- so here is what I have found so far.
  First, this story was big—- REALLY, REALLY BIG! It got a lot of coverage in the Tampa Tribune for years after the murder. With my preliminary research— for what it’s worth— the murderer’s name is John N. Burton, also known by the courts as J. N. Burton. I traced the court proceedings in the Tribune from 1906 to 1911 where I have lost track of the paper trail. As of this moment, I do not know what Burton’s sentence was. Was he exonerated for some reason? Did he die while in preliminary custody?? Was he sentenced to a prison term??? Was he executed by the State of Florida???? I do not know the answer to that without further research being done. If Burton was executed for his crime, that could explain the part of the Legend that speaks of a man who was “executed”, but I do not know at this time. The total Legend, as passed down, has apparently been distorted over time and is clearly a combination of different “related” things to create the “Cecil Legend”. However, “Cecil” (i.e. the spiritual entity) is REAL and was clearly in that cemetery. I have heard of way too many unexplained paranormal sightings and experiences up there to believe otherwise. As I mentioned in a previous email, even my sister who lives in Seminole is too afraid to go back up to “Cecil’s Graveyard” after her first and only visit there when she was in high school.

There is a reference about Cecil’s Graveyard in pages 35 and 36 of the non-fiction book, “Oh My God…: The Authorized Autobiography” by Skyler Townhouse (AuthorHouse 2008). If you refer to the Google aerial map I emailed to you earlier, note that the author describes the “big circle drive where Cecil’s grave was”. This would be the dead end of 16th St. where it curves to the left into Kansas Ave. and finally comes to another dead end. The author’s story speaks for itself and also note that he said that they arrived at the cemetery at about 1:30 in the morning and that sheriff’s deputies showed up and questioned them at length. This “quite possibly” is one and the same incident as that Trespassing article from 1965 that was in the St. Petersburg Times that I previously sent you where it specifically mentions “1:30 AM! Could it be???

Here is a story of ghosts cited at the cemetery.  Two girls went into the cemetery looking for ghosts.  They saw two orbs floating in the back of the cemetery where an old house used to be.  The orbs began to grown and take on human form….the girls fled.  Story here: 

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