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Homes Built on “Lost” Florida Cemetery

by Piper St. James

The 1982 movie Poltergeist has become a real life nightmare for a Tampa, Florida community when they discovered their homes were built on top of centuries old Zion Cemetery where the headstones were moved, but the bodies were not.

As if it was a line from the haunted house movie itself, Vice President of the tenant council Clark Simmons gasped “Those people are still there, Jesus Christ.”

1982 classic ‘Poltergeist’

Residents of the Robles Park Village were shocked to discover the African American cemetery was the first to have been built during the segregation-era in Tampa, and the place they called home was sitting right on top of it.

The burial ground was established in 1901 and spans 2.5 acres, and about one hundred years ago the land was parceled off and sold for white developments.

Back in June 2019, local church pastor Byron Pressley claimed when walking the grounds “I don’t know how to explain it to people, but there’s a feeling you get. As if there were people there. Their spirit was kind of still there because I could feel it. I stood there in awe. There used to be a cemetery there, and it just gave me chills.”

still from ‘Poltergeist’

The search for the “lost” cemetery began about nine months ago, earlier this year. With the help of technology, radar images have revealed reflections of rectangular objects four and six feet beneath the ground.

Archaeologist Eric Prendegrast explained the images show these rectangular reflections “are arranged in rows and orientated east-west within boundaries of a former cemetery.”

Once thought to be lost, radar images have rediscovered the remains of so many who are still there.

A bit more than 120 coffins have been found, but there were originally at least 386 bodies buried in this cemetery. However, even that number may be low.  Zion had room for 800 individuals to be put to rest.

In addition, records at the time were very inaccurate as African Americans were seen as second class citizens. There could very well be more than 400 remains in this area.

Furthermore, if the bodies were not buried in coffins and instead were laid to rest in cloth shrouds, the radar cannot detect bone decomposition, nor can it see through the floors of the homes where more coffins may be buried.

For a site such as iHorror, you have to wonder if any paranormal related activity has occurred in the homes developed on Zion Cemetery.

The apartments only occupy about 40% of the land Zion Cemetery covers, and as of now all plans to develop the land in the surrounding area has come to a cease. It will have to be determined if bodies are at a rest before any establishment can begin breaking ground. If there are bodies, they have to be respectfully relocated to another cemetery before the land can be built upon.

Read how the search for Zion Cemetery began here.