Haunted Public Restroom

Downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida


The Legends: 

1) The architect who built St. Mary’s was not paid right away.  In revenge, he designed the bathroom after the same floor plan of the church. 

2)  The bathroom is reported to be haunted.  The general story is that a woman went in to use the restroom.  While she was in the stall she noticed a second set of feet in the stall next to her, wearing these old outdated shoes.  She struck up a brief conversation in which she asked the woman’s name (Myrtle) and how long she had been in the area (“a long time”).  When she got out of the tall to wash her hands she turned to say goodbye and noticed that the stall next to her was totally empty.  No one had come or gone during her time there. So, who was she talking to?

SPIRITS Research:
Comfort Station One
N 27° 46.422 W 082° 37.878
17R E 339260 N 3073200

Located near the Museum of Natural History at the approach to the pier.

First public restroom in St. Petersburg.
Received national press when completed.*

Construction: 1927. Octagonal, brick and tile, Romanesque Revival-styled structure with domed roof. Architect Henry Taylor.  

Architect Henry Taylor: Also designed Vinoy Hotel, Admiral Farragut (fka The Jungle Hotel), Mercy Hospital, Jungle Prada, Southside Junior High School, the demolished Florida Theater, and St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Henry Taylor was born in 1884 and came to St. Petersburg in 1921 with his wife, Gladys, to run the southern branch of the architectural firm Richey, Parsons & Taylor of Boston. In 1940 they moved to Washington DC and in 1958 he passed in Arlington, VA.

Legend: Henry Taylor built the restroom (sometimes called “Little St Mary’s”) in the likeness of St. Mary’s Catholic Church as revenge for an unpaid debt the church owed Taylor.  

Reality: Architect Henry Taylor designed both buildings, but the restroom was built for the city two years before Saint Mary’s constructed its church. Because difficulties are inherent in creating an eight-sided building, Mr. Taylor designed the comfort station as a prototype. Built in 1927, it was used as a model for the church which was built in 1929.

Urban legend 1:  False. 

Legend 2:   
Comfort Station One, the Women’s side, is haunted. 

Type of occurrences:
Indistinct figures are seen reflected in the mirrors. 
Stall-to-stall conversations with people who turned out to not be there
Cold spots 
Mirrors fogging up

Stories and Incidents:
One tourist swears she used the restroom and struck up a conversation with an old woman in the stall next to her named Agnes – only to realize afterward that there was no one else in the bathroom with her.

in 1999 when a couple of tourists from Wisconsin were visiting the city. They were sisters who were enjoying their last day in the sunshine before heading back to the ‘frozen tundra’. One of the girls went inside while her sister decided to wait outside. The young lady said that as she entered, all the doors to the stalls were ajar and she was clearly alone in the bathroom. But shortly after she entered one of the stalls and shut the door behind her, she heard a noise in the stall next to her. Thinking her sister had decided to come in after all, she said, ‘Heather, is that you?’ An elderly woman’s voice came from the other side, ‘No, it’s Agnes.’ Feeling a little foolish, the girl wanted to be friendly, so she said, ‘Nice to meet you Agnes. How long have you been in St Petersburg?’ Agnes answered, ‘A long, long time.’ The girl looked down and saw an old fashioned, 1930s-style shoe on the foot of the woman in the next stall. Feeling nervous now, she quickly finished what she had come to do, and then left the booth. The stall next to her was completely empty. She ran outside and asked her sister if she had seen anyone come out? Heather had seen no one.

A woman went in to use the restroom. While she was in the stall she noticed a second set of feet in the stall next to her, wearing these old outdated shoes. She struck up a brief conversation in which she asked the woman’s name (Myrtle) and how long she had been in the area (“a long time”). When she got out of the tall to wash her hands she turned to say goodbye and noticed that the stall next to her was totally empty. No one had come or gone during her time there.

Comfort Station One has been described by a visiting California Psychic as, perhaps most aptly: “not quite right.”

One young woman had a very frightening moment when, for just a moment as she opened the door to one of the stalls, she saw a head poking up out of the toilet. According to her, she blinked in shocked surprise, and the apparition was gone. It shook her up enough, however, that she decided to wait to use the restroom until she could make it to another location.

Johanna M. is a forty-three year-old graphic designer who lives near the area in St. Petersburg. Often when she does her shopping on weekend mornings, she stops in at Comfort Station One, as it is on the route she normally takes.  She says: 
“I stepped in there, and it was the middle of the morning, bright sunlight outside, white sterile light inside. … So I’m in the stall and I hear another person moving around, which I think is weird because I was pretty sure I was alone when I came in, and I didn’t hear the door open. I come out and I’m washing my hands, and when I look up into the mirror, there’s this dark face behind me made completely out of what looks like smoke. It snarls at me, and then all of the stall doors bang open and bang shut again and the lights go out.”

Possible Explanations:
Water generated by sinks and toilets also produces energy – Then it ought to hold true in men’s room.  

*Searched newspaper archives from 1927 and 1928 to no avail as of 04/07/18.

Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas County: Tales from a Haunted Peninsula Deborah Frethem

Reported via social media when I posted the updated to the page (2/8/2017): 

Entry 1: That bathroom is very scary to me. My hair stood up on the back of my neck when I first went in there and never again will I go in there.

Entry 2: Michael Giardelli: I remember this lovely little charm, although not always clean, the men’s side seemed harmless.

Inquiries as of 4/7/18: Need to take closer look at engravings on building as per researcher. Will try a second attempt at the restroom this week.

Questions to consider: 

My first question on this is who actually strikes up a conversation in a public restroom with anyone?  Perhaps I am an odd woman, but I rarely engage in conversations with people that I know in public bathrooms, much less total strangers.  

Secondly, why haunt a bathroom?  The rumor is that the water generated by sinks and toilets also produces energy.  Still, surely there is someplace else for this ghost to go.

This does merit further research. 

Thoughts to ponder for this urban legend: 

*Bathroom ghost legends — there are a few.  Bathrooms can be seen as liminal spaces — in the ancient world, bodies of water and caves were entrances to the underworld.  Many mythic stories describe youth who are captured by the spirits of water to stay with them — allegories of death and transformation.  Bathrooms have that element since there are entrances for water to come in and to go out.  What goes out “vanishes” into a mysterious middle ground (the sewer) which most of us don’t interact with directly.  

*Running water is connected to ghosts — usually as a means of trapping the supernatural (vampires can’t cross running water/rivers, for example). 

*There are several examples of ghostly phenomena that do include facets turning themselves on and off. Some ghost investigators have theorized that running water (rain, thunderstorm, faucet water, etc.) becomes an energy conductor for ghosts.  In other words, ghosts may draw energy from the flowing water to manifest.  

*Bathrooms are areas of vulnerability.  We are somewhat contained by the toilet, reflected in our purest form by the mirror (i.e., we watch ourselves transform as we dress, apply make-up, etc.), and is a place where we do not expect attack.  That can lend itself to an eerie feeling.

Urban Legends containing ghosts and bathrooms:

From “Get to Know Your Japanese Bathroom Ghosts”  https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/japans-bathroom-ghosts

— Toire no Hanako-san (Hanako of the Toilet):  Mirrors the comfort station story a little bit.  Hanako is said to be the ghost of a young girl who died around WWII, and now haunts school bathrooms. Usually described as wearing an out-of-fashion red dress and bob haircut, (compare to the out of date shows and the concept that the St. Petersburg ghost woman claims to be there for “a long time”).   Hanako can be summoned by going to the girl’s bathroom (the haunting takes place in the women’s room only) on the third floor, knocking on the third stall three times, and saying, “Are you there Hanako-san?” Depending on regional variations, Hanako will respond by saying, “Yes I am,” or a ghostly hand (versus ghostly shoes/feet) will appear. If someone enters the stall, they could also be eaten by a three-headed lizard.

Some similar stories Japan to Korea (ghost stories of haunted toilets):  https://thoughtcatalog.com/michael-koh/2014/10/8-freaking-creepy-korean-urban-legends-thatll-have-you-locking-your-bedroom-door-at-night/

For some reason, Koreans have a lot of stories about haunted schools and especially haunted school bathrooms….Then we come to the bathroom. They are most likely decrepit, old, and dark. One of the stalls, towards the back, is where a girl killed herself and now haunts it (haunted stall; activity seems mostly contained to stalls). Girls whisper that the toilet flushes by itself and that the door shuts itself with no wind around. Someone says that if you’re alone in the bathroom, you can hear her crying. Someone says that she watches them from the mirror.

From Snopes.com “Bloody Mary” story collection https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/bloody-mary/

Variation 1: If you go into the bathroom and look into the mirror with the lights off and the room completely black, and then say ‘Bloody Mary’ thirteen times, a woman will appear and scratch your face up/off.

Variation 3: Here’s how I always heard the story. You go into a room with a mirror and turn all the lights off (this works well in a bathroom). You begin, in a whisper, to chant “bloody mary. bloody mary, Bloody Mary”….spin in a circle….Mary will appear.

Similarities to this urban legend:  The account of coming out of the bathroom and seeing a shadowy/ominous figure reflected in the mirror next to the viewer’s image. 

There is one other American story from Tennessee, though it involves a boy’s bathroom in a school setting: http://urbanlegendsonline.com/bullies-butcher-boy-in-the-bathroom/

They say one day a geeky boy went into the boy’s bathroom alone. While he was washing his hands one of the school bullies walked in and decided to play a little game. He and his buds snuck up behind the boy and pushed him, hard, into the mirror.  The boy hit the mirror, smashed it, and a piece of glass went into his neck, killing him. The bullies could do nothing but watch as he bled out, his blood mixing with the running water.  Panicked, they tore up the floorboards under the sink and shoved the body inside.

The school is abandoned now but you can still go tour it. If you go in the boy’s bathroom and stand at the sink and look at the mirror you’ll see the kid behind you. He’ll take his revenge and he’ll push you into the mirror and you’ll die. Then he’ll drag you with him down under the floorboards and you’ll never be seen again. (Ominous presence in the mirror).

SPIRITS Investigations: 

2/8/2017:  As long as I was in the area, I did snap a few shots of the “haunted” public restroom in DT St. Pete. I must say that only the LAST shot has an odd mist image in it (toward the top). Not sure what that is, to be honest. Hoping it’s not the spectre of Elenore (or whoever she is)! 

I did get a story from a woman today that she went in to use that restroom and a white haired older lady not only watched her go in to the restroom but followed her in. It was, she said, very creepy. I would tend to agree….the woman wasn’t dead but just watched this woman walking into the restroom…

7/8/2020:  From FB page:  Now, this place is haunted! My daughter was about 4-5 years old when we had to go in there after climbing banyan trees. We heard a woman really singing away in there as we walked up, echoing. Went in, and no one was in there. We looked everywhere, not a soul. Ran outside and around the building, no one. We’ve since heard that others have heard the woman singing in there only to go in and no one is there.

Investigation 2:  April 9, 2018:

I went to the Comfort Station at 2:46 PM.  To try the urban legend further, I drank a bunch of water and used the facilities.  Nothing encountered. 

I did do an EVP session via video.  (Note:  Next session I will try a digital recorder).  I also took more pictures of the bathroom to see if I could replicate anything. 

In the video, please note:  The sound of water while I am in the stall is the water outside.  The Comfort Station is on a sea wall.  While I am in the stall, the loud flush that you hear is from the Men’s room, divided by a wall from the women’s room.  The voices talking outside (as noted on the video) are people coming in to use the restroom. I had no luck with the video session. 

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