By Charlie Carlson
St. Augustine, Florida, has racked up quite an inventory of spooky sights since it was founded in 1565; and according to those who dare to dabble in the ethereal, the lighthouse on Anastasia Island ranks in the top five. Having been featured in several paranormal television documentaries, it might even “outshine” all the other ghostly places in the ancient city. Built in 1874 directly across Matanzas Bay from the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, this lighthouse is the last in line of light towers dating back to the 1500s, and it’s also the alleged domain of a portal to the afterlife. No wonder St. Augustine is crawling with ghosts!
The 165-foot-tall lighthouse is believed to harbor numerous souls — mostly of lives that ended within the tower or somewhere on the grounds. There are many contrived ghost stories concerning the lighthouse, among them a tale about thirteen pirates who were executed and buried on the grounds, as well as the story of the former lighthouse “owner” who remains earthbound to revenge himself on the government, which confiscated his property under eminent domain. Albeit intriguing, none of these yearns have any historical basis, so let’s stick with the haunting facts.
The most frequently seen phantom – usually observed on the tower’s catwalk – is of a little girl who wears a blue dress and a bow in her hair. People have also been unnerved by the disincarnate laughter of children late at night. Investigating mediums attribute these phenomena to three young girls. Records indicate that when the lighthouse was being built, construction supervisor Hezekiah Pittee resided on the site with his wife and five children. On July 10, 1873, while playing with a handcart on a track used for hauling building supplies, two of the Pittee children and a playmate were drowned when the cart ran off the rails and into the bay.
The lighthouse is also known for its cigar-smoking ghost, which some believe is an earthbound soul named Peter Rasmussen, a former keeper remembered for being very fussy when it came to managing the lighthouse. Although Rasmussen has never been seen, visitors often report smelling cigar smoke in the old fuel house and basement.
Historical records indicate that several people died at or near the lighthouse, including lighthouse keeper William Harn in 1889, and the wife of another keeper in 1894. There were two deaths at the lighthouse that stood near the location of the present structure – one in 1853, when keeper John Carrera fell from the tower, and the other in 1859, when Joseph Andreu fell while painting the lighthouse.
Perhaps one of these departed souls is the shadowy figure seen roaming the grounds or on the tower’s spiral staircase, where The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) filmed an undisputable moving human figure that mysteriously vanished as they hastily pursued him to the top. In lighthouses, the stairs are the only way up or down – did he jump to his death, or vanish through a portal into the ethereal world? The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum offers you a chance to reflect on this conundrum on its Dark of the Moon after-hours paranormal tour.
Saint Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, 81 Lighthouse Avenue, St. Augustine, Florida 32082