Spooky Places in the Bradenton Area

Autumn ushers in longer shadows, dryer weather, and a definite change in seasons. Although the leaves in Florida don’t change as drastically as other locations, you will notice the colors of fall everywhere—from pumpkins to fun Halloween decorations. With the shorter days and cooler evenings, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the spookier side of the Bradenton Area.

Spooky Places in the Bradenton Area

1850 Manatee Burying Grounds

This historical cemetery is one of the oldest organized burial grounds on the west coast of Florida, and it is also the final resting place of many Manatee Village pioneers. Upon entering through the worn wrought iron gate, you’ll immediately notice the overgrown trees that provide broken shade to the tombstones and burial vaults. Many of these weathered headstones have the names and inscriptions of the dearly departed, most dating back over a century or more. There are 94 marked graves within the fenced boundaries of the Manatee Burying Grounds, and many more lie unmarked. Time has taken an unyielding toll to many plots, including headstones that have cracked, tilted, and even one that has been enveloped by a tree.

You’ll need a key to access the graveyard for a self-guided tour, so please see the staff in Wiggins Store in the Manatee Village Historical Park. Please be respectful during your visit as this is a sacred place to many.

Learn more by visiting the Manatee Historical Village Park’s event page.

Spooky Places in the Bradenton Area

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Many have traversed this iconic cable-stayed bridge on their way to and from the Bradenton Area. The nearly 20-story summit allows for spectacular views of Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Island and the coastal regions of Terra Ceia. But this this modern bridge was actually a replacement for the original bridges, one of which collapsed on the foggy morning of May 9, 1980. The southbound segment of the original structure buckled when an abrupt squall sent the freighter Summit Venture careening into a main supporting column, causing a 1,200-foot span of the bridge to collapse and fall into the bay. This unfortunate disaster resulted in the loss of 35 lives when six cars, a truck and a Greyhound bus fell nearly 150 feet into the chilly waters below.

The new Sunshine Skyway bridge opened on April 20, 1987. Freighters and cruise ships continue to pass beneath the bridge to reach the Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee, but this new Skyway was methodically designed to avoid the tragedy that happened many years ago.

The Summit Venture later changed ownership and names over the years, and sank as the Jian Mao 9 off the coast of Vietnam in 2010.

Photo Photo Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections.

Spooky Places in the Bradenton Area

Braden Castle

Braden Castle was constructed in 1850 on by Dr. Joseph Addison Braden, a physician from Virginia, and his brother, Hector Braden, both seeking to rebuild their lost fortunes. The 20-inch thick walls of the two-story homestead were built from tabby, a primitive concrete-like material comprised of lime, sand, crushed oyster shells and water. The floor of the two-story structure had rooms separated by a long hall down the center. The halls contained a grand wooden stairway to the second floor, and the roof was covered with cedar shingles. This ‘castle’ sat on over 900 acres of plantation land. Years after completion, the fortified home was attacked by Native Americans, who were unsuccessful in their attempt.

In 1857, Hector passed away and the estate fell on hard times after pests destroyed much of the main crop, sugar cane. Eventually, Dr. Braden found himself deeply in debt and faced with foreclosure. In the same year, the castle was foreclosed and sold to Mary and John Pelot who moved into the castle with Mary’s parents, the Coopers, who improved the home and added a wooden cupola to the roof. In 1867, after Mary’s father passed, the castle was abandoned and the structure later caught fire in 1903, leaving only the unsupported tabby walls standing.

The Ford Model T automobile made it possible for Northerners to drive down for the winter and the visitors discovered the need for a more permanent location site. The Camping Tourists of America purchased the site in 1924 for their tents and cottages around the remains of Braden Castle.

The ruins are located within Braden Castle Park, a Florida Historic District. Visitors are welcome to tour the historic park and ruins. Parking is permitted in designated spots within the park.

Photo Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections.

Spooky Places in the Bradenton Area

Memorial Pier

This Mediterranean-style structure was constructed in 1928 and sits at the end of a 500-foot pier on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton, but its history began much earlier. In 1878, the original Municipal Pier was constructed to connect Bradenton (then known as Bradentown) to Tampa by means of streamliner. In 1930 the pier was reconstructed using modern materials, closely resembling the structure you’ll see today. The building was modeled after the luxurious villas found in Mediterranean regions of France, Spain, and Italy. For decades, the ground floor was a warehouse that kept freight for steamers traveling to Tampa, and the second floor was a social scene for USO dances and events. The pier was used for a variety of purposes, including the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce and the area’s first radio station, WTRL, which began broadcasting in 1946. It was also the original home of the South Florida Museum, including their collection of historic objects—antiques, physician’s tools, and Native American artifacts.

The structure is now home to the PIER 22 Restaurant, offering guests delicious, scratch-made meals. The spectacular views of the Manatee River that are hauntingly similar to what people must have witnessed over a century years ago.

Photo Photo Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections.

Spooky Places in the Bradenton Area

Coquina Beach

There are many urban legends that surround the swift-moving tidal water of Longboat Pass and the southernmost end of Anna Maria Island, known as Coquina Beach. There are ‘No Swimming’ signs posted in specific areas of this beach for good reason—the dangerous currents have caused several tragic incidents. Rumors are that indistinct voices or sounds can be heard from the shoreline at night, and even a silhouette that resembles a person that seems to disappear without a trace. 

Photo Photo Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections.

1850 Manatee Burying Grounds: 1404 Manatee Ave E, Bradenton, FL 34208
Sunshine Skyway Bridge: I-275, Terra Ceia, FL 34250
Braden Castle: 45 Braden Castle Dr, Bradenton, FL 34208
Memorial Pier: 1200 1st Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205
Coquina Beach: 1300 Gulf Dr S, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217