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The Phantoms of St. Augustine's Haunted Lighthouse

"The figure of a young girl in a long dress can be seen standing alone on the observation deck..."


One of the oldest cities in America, St. Augustine, Florida, is rich with history—and ghosts. The lighthouse that stands at the end of St. Augustine’s Anastasia Island was built in 1874, one in a long line of lighthouses that have served the city since Sir Francis Drake raided the village in 1586. 

St. Augustine has become a national historic site, drawing thousands of visitors each year. But visitors don't just come for the history. St. Augustine’s years of service has left it with many ghosts, leading Jason Hawes of Ghost Hunters to dub the lighthouse “the Mona Lisa of paranormal sites.” 

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After the original lighthouse established by the territorial American government eroded and fell into the sea, construction began in 1871 to build the lighthouse as it stands today. A man named Hezekiah H. Pittee oversaw the work. To entertain his restless children, he allowed them to play with the supply cart that ran back and forth between the lighthouse and the ocean. But on July 10, 1873, he would come to regret that decision.

st augustine haunted lighthouse
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  • Photo Credit: Jessica Spengler / Flickr (CC)

After a day of play, the two eldest Pittee children, Eliza and Mary, drowned when the cart toppled over into the water. Historians believe that a third child, a young African-American girl, was also killed in the accident, though her name goes unmentioned in newspaper reports. 

According to lighthouse workers, the mischievous spirits of these children still haunt the lighthouse today. Workers will find locked doors standing wide open the next day, and the sound of children’s laughter can be heard in the stairwell. Music boxes sold in the gift shop inexplicably pop open, playing by themselves. Tour guides report multiple incidences of being touched or grabbed by ghosts while showing visitors around the lighthouse.

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Visitors to the lighthouse report catching glimpses of a young girl dressed in period clothing peering out from the lighthouse door or standing near an upstairs window. In 2009, a cell tower technician took a photo of his coworker with the lighthouse in the background—the figure of a young girl in a long dress with long hair can be seen standing alone on the top observation deck. 

st augustine haunted lighthouse
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  • The young girl can be seen on the right of the observation deck.

    Photo Credit: Angels & Ghosts

The ghosts of the young girls are friendly and don't engage directly with visitors. Unfortunately, there are other, less pleasant presences making themselves known at the lighthouse, including a figure who has come to be known as “the man in blue.” This specter has terrified many who have worked and lived in the house, following them down all 219 stairs from the top of the tower. One lighthouse keeper was so unnerved that he refused to live in the lighthouse any longer. Eventually a coast guard who evidently didn't fear ghosts switched duties with him.

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Many believe that the man in blue is the restless spirit of lighthouse keeper Joseph Andreu, who fell to his death while painting the original tower in 1859. Others claim the spirit is that of another lighthouse keeper, who allegedly hanged himself in the tower. Visitors and staff report the overpowering smell of cigar smoke on the landing of the tower, despite the fact that smoking is expressly prohibited on the grounds. Could it be that Andreu had a penchant for cigars? 

The St. Augustine Lighthouse hosts over 200,000 visitors per year, and is open to the public daily. For those especially interested in the paranormal activity, the lighthouse offers the Dark of the Moon Tour, a comprehensive tour of all the haunted sites related to the lighthouse. If you’d like an intimate audience with the man in blue, private tours are also available. 

[Via St. Augustine, Explore Southern History, Doug Dillon.]

Featured photo: PJ Nelson / Flickr (CC); Additional photos: Jessica Splenger / Flickr (CC), Angels & Ghosts