If you ever take a nighttime tour of the St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida, don’t be alarmed if you are touched by something you can’t see, or if you believe you saw something that may not be there. You may have just had an encounter with one of the lighthouse’s permanent residents.
The Old Lighthouse
Maps of Anastasia Island in St. Augustine have shown a wooden watch tower since as early as the 1500’s. This location was strategic due to views of the Atlantic Ocean, the bay, and the nearby town of St. Augustine. When looking at the coastline to build a new lighthouse, this location was an obvious choice. In 1824, the first lighthouse of its kind in Florida was built here, ready to guide ships along the Atlantic coast.
Lighthouse keeping has always been a difficult and dangerous occupation, and as could be anticipated, accidents happen. In 1859, lighthouse keeper Joseph Andreu was standing upon some scaffolding at the top of the tower, painting the lighthouse. Suddenly, the scaffold broke, dropping him to his death.
By the 1870s, the lighthouse had begun to sink due to erosion, and a replacement tower had to be built. Funding was quickly secured and construction began in 1871 on the impressive new model. The designs for the new tower boasted 219 steps to the top, and a breathtaking 12 foot tall Fresnel lens, complete with 370 hand cut glass prisms. This would be the tower that we know today.
The Pittee Girls
When construction began, the appointed superintendent Hezekiah Pittee moved his wife and children with him to live near the lighthouse. His daughters Mary (15), Eliza (13) and Carrie (4) loved to explore and play near the construction site. It was here that they found one of their favorite new activities. A small rail line connected the lighthouse to the bay with a cart that could travel between to carry supplies. The children loved riding this cart any chance they had.
On July 10 1873, Mary, Eliza, Carrie and an unnamed friend (10) rode this cart as they had many times before. Unfortunately, this time would be different. On the ride down to the water, the cart slipped off the tracks and flew into the bay below, flipping upside down with the girls still in it. A man working on the lighthouse saw the incident and sprinted down to save the girls. Unfortunately, the only one he could save was Carrie. The other three had already drowned.
Construction halted for time to mourn and bury these young girls, but work soon continued.
As construction finished and workers and lighthouse keepers have come and gone, it would appear that the Pittee girls never did, and are still there today.
One night, a staff member was locking up the tower and heard giggling from the top. Thinking a child must have been playing inside, he climbed to the top and found no one. As he turned to go down, he now heard the giggling from below him, despite passing no one on the way up.
Reports include 4 foot tall figures peering around corners, a girl in a blue dress wandering the property and the sound of laughter.
One day, a woman visiting the property was walking among the trails and came upon a girl in a Victorian dress sitting on a bench reading a book. She stopped to ask the girl a question when another group of visitors came walking by. The woman glanced away for only a second, but by the time she turned back, the girl vanished.
Haunting the Keepers
Construction on the beautiful new tower was completed in 1874, and a house for the lighthouse keepers built on the property in 1876. Lighthouse keepers lived in this house, dutifully tending to the light until it became fully automated in 1955. During this time, reports of unexplainable incidents grew.
Lighthouse keepers are no strangers to hard work and perilous circumstances, but one keeper refused to work after he claimed that a man in blue chased him up and down the tower one night.
A relief keeper in the 1950’s lived in the two story light house keepers house and reported hearing footsteps upstairs, but upon investigating he could find no one.
James Pippin, the last keeper, lived there between 1953-1955. Despite having the large house to live in, he moved into a much smaller lookout building on the property. When asked why, he claimed the big house to be haunted and that he would not stay another night in it.
Upon the automation of the light, the keepers house was rented out for a period of time. One man renting the house in the 1960’s claimed that he awoke one night to a small girl standing over his bed. As soon as he blinked, she was gone.
Saving the Light
In 1970, the keepers house was burnt under mysterious circumstances, leaving only a gutted building and the coquina basement. Slated for demolition, a group of volunteers raised enough money and support to salvage the property. Not only did they save the keepers house, but also the tower and original light, which were restored to their former glory. The site is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
During renovations, volunteers and workers reported unexplainable activity that has continued to this day.
In the museum’s gift shop, music boxes will begin playing on their own when no one is around. Often times chairs on the property have been moved or overturned when staff opens in the mornings.
The staff locks the door at the top of the tower every night, but it is often unlocked when they go to open it in the morning.
Visitors often report being touched or grabbed, and seeing a lone man looking out from the top of the lighthouse. Some say you can hear the screams of a man falling. In the tower at night, human shaped figures are seen leaning over the rails from flights above, looking down at the visitors beginning the climb to the top of the tower.
In the lighthouse keepers house, a man has been seen appearing and disappearing, and visitors report feelings of cold despite the hot Florida temperatures.
Spending Time with the Spirits
For those interested in learning more about the spirits that still live here, nighttime tours are offered to allow guests the opportunity to explore the property at night.
One night, a woman on the tour stopped for a moment with one foot on the first step of the lighthouse tower. When she began to lift her foot, she found that she couldn’t, her shoelaces had been tied to the stairs.
Another night, someone complimented a woman on the tour for how well behaved her daughter was. She was confused, she did not have a daughter. Several people spoke up that they had seen a girl standing near her for most of the night. That girl was no longer there. And records showed that there were no children on the tour that night.
On yet another tour, a group of young women brought ghost investigating equipment to the basement of the lighthouse keepers house. Later in the evening, a tour guide found the women using an EMF meter which is said to measure electrical activity used by ghosts. When asked what they were doing, one of the women said they were playing with “the girls”, but no children could be seen.
As the guide watched, the woman would ask the girls if they wanted to play hide and seek. The meter spiked. They would go around the room with the meter looking for spikes until they found the girls. She asked if they wanted to play again. The meter again spiked. This continued until more guests entered the basement, and the girls disappeared.
If these reports are any indication, perhaps the spirits here enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs.
- The Ghosts of the St. Augustine Lighthouse: Haunted Lighthouse. Ghost City Tours. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://ghostcitytours.com/st-augustine/haunted-places/st-augustine-lighthouse/
- Ghost Stories: The Pittee Girls. St Augustine Light House. (2020, March 2). Retrieved September 9, 2022, from https://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/2020/03/02/ghost-stories-the-pittee-girls/
- Posted by blogger in Old City Ghosts. (2021, September 27). The haunting of St. Augustine lighthouse. The Haunting Of St. Augustine Lighthouse – Old City Ghosts. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://oldcityghosts.com/the-haunting-of-st-augustine-lighthouse/
- The St. Augustine Lighthouse Ghost – St. Augustine Haunted Lighthouse. Nightly Spirits. (2022, June 24). Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://nightlyspirits.com/st-augustine-lighthouse-haunted-ghosts/
- Ghosts & Gravestones. (2022, June 16). St. Augustine Lighthouse Haunted Guide. Ghosts & Gravestones. Retrieved September 11, 2022, from https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/st-augustine/lighthouse-haunted