Do the lightkeeper ghosts leave a light on, beckoning you to visit?
St. Augustine is considered the oldest city in America, and it beckons visitors with its historic charm, dominating fortresses, and even an archaeological park that claims to be the original location of Ponce de Leon’s very own fountain of youth. With such a rich history, it’s no wonder that St. Augustine’s attractions come steeped in epic battles, bloodshed, and even eccentric characters.
If you are visiting St. Augustine, you might already know that it is considered one of the most haunted cities in America. But are you brave enough to meet its many ghosts? If you are in search of a ghost adventure, you need only to follow the light—literally.
At St. Augustine Lighthouse, the ghosts have taken their job of guiding weary travelers so seriously that it seems they have decided never to leave.
Storms of History: St. Augustine’s Lighthouse
The history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse dates back to 1589, when very old maps detailed Sir Francis Drake’s raid of the coast. There, on Anastasia Island, was a mention of a wooden watchtower.
Built to support the nearby Castillo de Marcos, this watchtower survived numerous changes of hands; each new conqueror had their own particular idea of not only how the tower should function, but of its design. They added to it, then took those additions away, then added them again.
And throughout this constant re-design, the watchtower saw its share of epic battles. Take the HMS Industry, which sank in 1763 taking along with it all of the iron and axes and grindstones Britain had sent over to use in building the new American colonies. Or how about the 16 ships that wrecked on one very rambunctious New Year’s Eve, fleeing the aftermath of the American’s victory in the Revolutionary War.
Then there are the more eccentric stories, like those of pirate invaders or that of a Spanish captain who cut off the ear of an accused smuggler.
The lighthouse as seen today was built after the fall of the South in the Civil War. Concern grew over the state of the tower. Was its position the most strategic? Was the worn-out lighthouse (which had gone through one remodel too many) going to fall into the ocean?
Luckily, funding was granted to build a new lighthouse nearby the original site in 1874. The new tower soon saw its own share of woes, though. Take the World War II-era, when the coast was rife with German U-Boats prowling the coastline.
St. Augustine’s Lighthouse is so steeped in a violent maritime past, it is no wonder the ghosts have decided to take up permanent residence.
But what is it they are trying to tell you?
St. Augustine Lighthouse’s Maritime Ghosts
One of St. Augustine Lighthouse’s most famous ghosts is that of lighthouse keeper Peter Rasmussen. Known for his careful watch over the tower, Peter also adored the finer things in life. It seemed keeping up with modern luxuries was of upmost importance to him, so he ensured that bathtubs, closets, and lavatories were installed in the keepers’ house.
But if there was one thing Peter loved more than any of these other luxuries, it was cigars. And it seems his desire for the finer things continued into the next life, for if you were to visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper’s quarters, you might begin to wonder–do you detect the scent of cigar smoke?
It is not that of a mischievous docent. It’s Mr. Rasmussen, still watching over his beloved lighthouse.
Or what about the ghost of another lighthouse keeper, Joseph Andreu, who fell to his death from the top of the tower, when the scaffolding used to complete paint repairs failed. Apparitions are often tied to places when they met sudden death. Is Joseph Andreu still in the lighthouse, trying to sort out why he was taken from this earth so unexpectedly?
Those who hear the screams of a man falling to his death can certainly attest to the chilling nature of such a spectacle.
The most famous ghosts of St. Augustine’s lighthouse, however, are thsose of Eliza and Mary, the daughters of, Hezekiah Pity. He had been hired to carry out construction work and repairs on the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and used a cart to carry his wares back and forth.
One distracted moment proved to be fatal when a group of children, including his daughters, saw the cart as a toy. The cart, unsecured, tumbled down the hill and into the bay. While several of the other children were rescued, Eliza and Mary plunged to a watery grave.
The young girls seem to be at play to this day, however, for the sound of their laughter echoes throughout the hallways and grounds of the lighthouse. So if you see a young girl in a blue velvet dress—it is likely not a Pinterest perfect young girl posing for social media. It’s probably Mary Pity herself.
These playful specters don’t mean to frighten you. They merely want to play a game with you.
The most haunted attraction in St. Augustine?
Today, the St. Augustine Lighthouse has gathered up artifacts from the many shipwrecks and lighthouse keepers. Visitors can take a variety of tours, from those focusing on the shipwrecks that happened nearby, to its storied Fresnel lens, to tours focused on the life of a lighthouse keeper.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse has been featured on shows such as Ghost Hunters and is considered one of the most haunted of St. Augustine attractions. Still, skeptics might scoff at a ghostly story buried within all that maritime history. But as you climb the 210 steps to take in the vision of Matanzas Bay, it might become less difficult to envision violent battles, cannon fire, sinking ships, stormy nights, and even pirates.
Feel a chill? Is it a breeze or a ghost breathing down your neck?
Looking for St. Augustine attractions of a ghostly variety? Book the best St. Augustine ghost tour the city has to offer.