St. Augustine may be very old and very haunted, but just south of the city’s historic district sits the lighthouse, which houses quite a few famous ghosts of its own.
Places to see in St. Augustine before you visit the lighthouse
St. Augustine, Florida, is a very old city by American standards. First settled in 1565 by a Spanish admiral, the city is the oldest European settlement in the lower 48 that’s still inhabited. As you can imagine, this city is full of ghosts.
If you happen to be driving down (or up) the west coast of Florida, I highly urge you to stop in this storied city for at least a few hours. Popular places to visit include Castillo de San Marco—an ancient, 17th-century Spanish fort (yes, it’s haunted) that rivals the even older Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in beauty and size.
You will also want to wander down the pedestrian streets of the old town center (look for Orange Street or St. George Street on a map to get as close as possible with your vehicle), just past the original Old Gate. On these streets you can check out the old jail, small museums dedicated to Florida history, some boutique-type shops, restaurants, the country’s oldest continuously operating bar, and, of course, plenty of places to book a ghost tour of the city. Definitely book a ghost tour if you plan to stay through the evening. They’re all good and you will probably—at the very least—catch an orb on camera!
Also, before you venture down to the lighthouse, be sure you check out the first permanent Ripley’s Believe it or Not, right here in St. Augustine. This was the first place I ever saw an iron maiden in person—it still gives me shivers to this day.
Now, time for a relaxing climb up the haunted St. Augustine Lighthouse
Ha! It’s not relaxing at all! Prepare yourself for a workout. The trek to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse is 219 steps, and you need to be at least 44” tall to climb.
The good news is that if you’re claustrophobic like me, you won’t be in trouble. The iron grate steps and open, thin metal rails create a pleasing, open feel to the interior of the lighthouse, even for people like me. After all, I may not be afraid of ghosts, but I am afraid of tight spaces.
Once you get to the top of the lighthouse, you’ll be rewarded for your effortful climb. You’ll step out onto the bright red exterior deck to a view of green fields and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Even on hot, sticky, summer days, the blasting wind at the top will cool you off. Don’t worry about your hair at this point—that’s a lost cause.
Tickets for self-guided tours for adults are $14.95 and $12.95 for kids (remember the 44 inch rule). But, if you’re so inclined, there are guided ghost tours! Sadly, I’ve never taken one of these ghost tours. I’ve never been able to find anyone who would do it with me! Hopefully, that will change in the future. That’s okay, though, because I’ve been to this lighthouse many times during the day and I have much to report on it.
So, what makes the St. Augustine Lighthouse so haunted?
Built in 1874, the St. Augustine lighthouse has seen plenty of life, death, and everything in between. The lighthouse has not been the scene of as much trauma as some other areas surrounding the city. However, the ghosts of the lighthouse have a more personal attachment to their final resting place.
The lighthouse keepers that still keep the lighthouse
The lighthouse keeper Peter Rasmussen, whose tenure at the lighthouse lasted from 1901 until 1924, still lights up cigars from time to time in the keeper’s quarters. Visit the quarters at any time and you may smell the distinctive cigar smoke smell.
Also, the ghost of lighthouse keeper Joseph Andreu still wanders around the top of the lighthouse. He fell to his death from some shoddy scaffolding here in 1859. Some say they can still hear his screams of agony and fear.
The three girls that met a tragic fate
Eliza and Mary Pittee were the daughters of the contractor hired to oversee construction of the current lighthouse. In 1873, the two girls, along with their sister Carrie and another friend had taken to riding the railway supply cart that would transport supplies from the dock to the building site. One day, however, the cart tipped over, and all four girls fell into the water. Carrie was the only one who didn’t drown. The two sisters’ bodies were pulled from the water and buried, but the body of their friend was never recovered.
And so, the three girls still play in the lighthouse. People will sometimes see girls dressed in Victorian clothes in and among the lighthouse; usually, these visitors assume the girls are living, breathing visitors to the lighthouse who are playing dress-up. People will also often hear the girls’ giggling around the grounds and the lighthouse playground, and will turn on music boxes in the lighthouse’s gift shop.
A tour guide in St. Augustine once told me a story of a visitor who got back into his tour bus after visiting the lighthouse. According to him, the woman raved about her experience in the lighthouse, and could not stop talking about how considerate it was that hidden intercom speakers had been put on all the landings of the lighthouse’s spiral staircase. The woman exclaimed that every time she considered giving up, as she climbed those 219 stairs, a little girl’s voice came out from those speakers, telling her she could do it, encouraging her on to the top. The tour guide said he wasn’t sure if he should tell the woman that there were no intercom speakers within the lighthouse, nor was a little girl employed by the staff to encourage people through their fatigue.
Paranormal Investigations at the St. Augustine Lighthouse
Our guest in Episode 34, Dr. Kristy Sumner, led a paranormal investigation to the St. Augustine Lighthouse in 2018. You can watch the full episode here (yes, she did get to talk to the little girls’ ghosts). You can also check out our interview with Kristy here.
Probably the most terrifying episode of Ghost Hunters that I ever saw was in the St. Augustine Lighthouse, from Season 1. You should watch it. They caught a ghost on camera. In fact, they had such a good time at the lighthouse that the TAPS team returned for at least two more investigations.
Now it’s your turn!
Convinced you need to visit the very haunted St. Augustine Lighthouse now? After all, you can explore some history, experience some ghosts, and get a great workout all in one stop. What’s not to love?