St. Augustine Lighthouse is the oldest brick structure standing in the city. The light keeper’s house was added to the site between 1871 and 1874, for the lightkeepers and their assistants a place to live and work. To climb to the top there are 219 steps, it has been a constant attraction to ghostbusters and the visitors passing by. The St. Augustine lighthouse tower is the second lighthouse tower in St. Augustine.
History of St. Augustine Lighthouse
With its long and intriguing past, it’s not surprising that the St. Augustine Lighthouse has gained a haunted expression. St. Augustine was the site of the first lighthouse established in Florida by the American Government in 1824.
According to the official reports this lighthouse was placed on the sire of an earlier watchtower built by the Spanish Explorer, Pedro Menendez De Aviles in 1564. The Spanish held the settlement against British pirate Sir Francis Drake, in 1586. A brutal British attack during Queen Anne’s war in 1702, and another fiery British siege in 1740.
St. Augustine was handed to Britain in 1763, the HMS industry, one of the first boats sent to the territory sank in the waters just below the looming lighthouse. Facing erosion and changing coastline, the old tower crashed into the sea in 1880, but not before the new lighthouse was lit. Today the tower ruins are a submerged archaeological site.
The lamps in the first tower burned lard oil, and Fresnel Lens was used to replace the silver reflectors in multiple lamps around 1855, to improve the range and eliminating the constant maintenance issues.
By 1870, beach erosion was threatening to the first lighthouse. Thus the construction for the new lighthouse began in 1871, during Florida’s reconstruction period. The tower was completed in 1874 and new first-order Fresnel Lens was used to increase the range.
For the first 20 years, the Augustine Lighthouse was maintained by head-keeper William A. Harn of Philadelphia. Harn moved in with his wife and his six daughters. Major Harn was a Union war hero who had commanded his own battery at the Battle of Gettysburg. After some years of experiments, the lard oil was changed and Kerosene was used in the lamps.
On August 32, 1886, Charleston Earthquake caused the lighthouse to “sway violently” but there is no recorded damage. During World War II the lighthouse was used as a lookout post for enemy ships and submarines which frequented the coastline.
Spirits of the St. Augustine Lighthouse
The new lighthouse was completed on October 15, 1874, approximately 500 yards southwest of the original lighthouse. The light from the new lighthouse could be seen up to 24 nautical miles away in a bright yellow color, the same lens is still used in the lighthouse today. With over 400 years in history, the site of the Saint Augustine Lighthouse is sure to have its fair share of ghosts.
The most active area of the Augustine Lighthouse is the basement of the house, visitors have claimed to have seen a heavy man wearing a blue suit and roaming around the basement of the house. A keeper or an assistant supposedly hanged himself in the basement of the keeper’s house, just years after the completion of the new lighthouse, and this might be the reason his ghost wanders there.
Even the workers working in the Keeper’s house have claimed to see a man in a blue suit lurking in the shadows. Staff at the lighthouse believe that this is the ghost of Peter Rasmussen, who was the Lighthouse keeper from 1901-1924, the most by any keeper at the lighthouse.
Peter was a smoker who was known for his love of cigars and is one of the first ghosts that people reported coming in contact with. He hated tourists and was, in general, a cranky guy. The smell of Peter’s cigar has been detected by many, including staff members and guests.
The construction of the lighthouse took place from 1871 to 1874, the construction superintendent Hezekiah H. Pittee, it’s reported that Pittee’ children along with one unnamed girl, who was believed to be the worker’s daughter, decided to play in the supply cart that ran from the construction site hight on the coastline down on the water below when the tragedy struck, The supply cart hit a gart and the children weren’t able to jump out in time and the cart slid rapidly into the bay, pinning them under the cart. a worker came into their aid but it was too late.
Two of Pittee’s children, Eliza and Mary as well as the unnamed worker’s girl drowned before they could be saved. A woman supposedly saw a young girl in a red dress in the upstairs window of the keeper’s house while she stood on the lawn. The young girl flipped her long hair over her shoulder and then vanished.
A child’s footprint made of dirt was once found in the keeper’s house despite the fact that no children have been present on the tour that evening. The locks in the upstair rooms will unlock themselves as if someone is playing with them.
A girl wearing a long lace dress was also seen in the doorway of the keeper’s house, the little girl stared at the man who rented the house in 1956 and vanished in thin air.
William Harn who died of tuberculosis contracted in the civil war, the sound of him coughing can be heard in the parlor of the Keeper’s house. Harn was the first keeper to die in the house.
Joseph Andreu and his Wife, Maria Mestra De Los Dolores Andreu
But the most haunting spirits claimed bu the locals can be seen at 291 stairs and 165 feet high into the night sky. Joseph’s ghost has been seen at the top of the tower. His presence could be explained by the fact that he fell to his death while painting the outside of the tower. His spirit never left the tower and it is believed that he is still looking out from the top.
After the death of his husband, Maria became the first official female lighthouse keeper and the first Hispanic-American woman to control a federal shore installation. According to visitors and lighthouse employees, Maria can be seen in a white dress with her long hair down.
There is a padlocked door at the top of the lighthouse with a sensor that triggers an alarm when open. The door was found open on many occasions without even triggering the alarm. The alarm company investigated but found no explanation for how this repeatedly occurred.
What really hides in the lighthouse, no one knows but the souls of the brave keepers who worked tirelessly to keep the beam constant now haunt the very lighthouse. The mystery, however, remains unsolved.