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The St. Augustine Lighthouse is the city’s oldest brick structure. Between 1871 and 1874, the lightkeeper’s house was built on the site to provide housing and work for the lightkeepers and their assistants. There are 219 steps to the top, and it has long been a draw for ghostbusters and passers-by.

St. Augustine lighthouse
St. Augustine Lighthouse, credits: Marinas

History of St. Augustine Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse has a haunted reputation, which is understandable given its long and fascinating history. In 1824, the American government built Florida’s first lighthouse in St. Augustine.

Old St. Augustine house which fell into the ocean in 1880.
The old St. Augustine lighthouse fell into the ocean in 1880.

This lighthouse was built on the site of an earlier watchtower built by the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez De Aviles in 1564, according to official reports. In 1586, the Spanish defended the settlement against the British pirate Sir Francis Drake. During Queen Anne’s War in 1702, a brutal British attack occurred, followed by another ferocious British siege in 1740.

When Britain took over St. Augustine in 1763, one of the first boats sent to the territory, the HMS Industry, sank in the waters just below the looming lighthouse. Due to erosion and changing coastline, the old tower fell into the sea in 1880, but not before the new lighthouse was lit. The tower ruins are now a submerged archaeological site.

The first tower’s lamps burned lard oil, and around 1855, Fresnel Lenses were used to replace the silver reflectors in multiple lamps, improving the range and eliminating the constant maintenance issues.

By 1870, beach erosion had put the first lighthouse in jeopardy. As a result, during Florida’s reconstruction period in 1871, work on the new lighthouse began. In 1874, the tower was finished, and a new first-order Fresnel lens was installed to extend the range.

Head-keeper William A. Harn of Philadelphia was in charge of the Augustine Lighthouse for the first 20 years. Harn and his six daughters moved in with him. Major Harn was a Union war hero who commanded his own battery during the Gettysburg battle. After several years of testing, the lard oil was replaced with kerosene in the lamps.

Keeper's house at St. Augustine House
Keeper’s House

The lighthouse “swayed violently” during the Charleston Earthquake on August 32, 1886, but no damage was reported. During WWII, the lighthouse served as a watchtower for enemy ships and submarines that frequented the area.

Spirits of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

On October 15, 1874, the new lighthouse was completed about 500 yards southwest of the original lighthouse. The new lighthouse’s bright yellow light could be seen up to 24 nautical miles away, and the same lens is still used in the lighthouse today. With over 400 years of history, the Saint Augustine Lighthouse is bound to have a few ghosts of its own.

St. Augustine Stairs from the top. Credits: Wikimedia Commons
St. Augustine Stairs from the top. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Peter Rasmusson

The basement of the Augustine Lighthouse is the most active area of the house, with visitors reporting seeing a large man dressed in a blue suit roaming around the basement. A keeper or an assistant is said to have hanged himself in the basement of the keeper’s house just years after the new lighthouse was completed, which could be why his ghost wanders there.

Even the Keeper’s house workers claim to have seen a man in a blue suit lurking in the shadows. Staff at the lighthouse believe this is the ghost of Peter Rasmussen, who served as the lighthouse keeper for the longest period of time of any keeper at the lighthouse, from 1901 to 1924.

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Peter was a cigar-loving smoker who was one of the first ghosts that people claimed to have encountered. He despised tourists and was generally grumpy. Many people, including staff and visitors, have detected the odor of Peter’s cigar.

The Children

The lighthouse was built between 1871 and 1874, and Pittee’s children, along with an unnamed girl believed to be the worker’s daughter, are said to have decided to play in the supply cart that ran from the construction site high on the coast down to the water below when tragedy struck. When the supply cart collided with another cart, the children were unable to escape in time, causing the cart to slam into the bay and trap them beneath it. When a worker arrived to help them, it was too late.

Eliza and Mary Pittee, as well as an unnamed worker’s girl, drowned before they could be rescued. While standing on the lawn, a woman allegedly saw a young girl dressed in a red dress in the upstairs window of the keeper’s house. The young girl vanished after flipping her long hair over her shoulder.

footprints of the child

Despite the fact that no children were present on the tour that evening, a child’s footprint in the dirt was once discovered in the keeper’s house. As if someone is playing with the locks in the upper rooms, they will unlock themselves.

In the doorway of the keeper’s house, a little girl in a long lace dress was also seen. The little girl stared at the man who rented the house in 1956 and then vanished into thin air.

William Harn

The sound of William Harn coughing can be heard in the Keeper’s house parlor, as he died of tuberculosis contracted during the civil war. Harn was the house’s first keeper to perish.

Joseph Andreu and his Wife, Maria Mestra De Los Dolores Andreu

Locals claim that the most haunting spirits can be seen at 291 stairs and 165 feet into the night sky. At the top of the tower, Joseph’s ghost has been seen. His presence could be explained by the fact that he died after falling to his death while painting the tower’s outside. His spirit never left the tower, and it is thought that he can still be seen from the top.

Maria became the first official female lighthouse keeper and the first Hispanic-American woman to command a federal shore installation after her husband died. Maria can be seen in a white dress with her long hair down, according to visitors and lighthouse employees.

The top of the lighthouse has a padlocked door with a sensor that activates an alarm when it is opened. On several occasions, the door was discovered open without setting off the alarm. The alarm company looked into it, but couldn’t figure out why this happened so frequently.

No one knows what is truly hidden in the lighthouse, but the brave keepers who worked tirelessly to keep the beam constant now haunt the lighthouse itself. However, the mystery remains unsolved.

Do you believe in ghosts and spirits? Read about Winchester Mystery Mansion, which spirits help built and the Sallie House.

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