The current St Augustine Lighthouse in Florida was built between 1871 and 1874 and stands at the North end of Anastasia Island. The original lighthouse was actually a wooden structure that dates back to 1589. It was a tower which went dark during the Civil War of 1867, and had since lost the battle with encroaching tempestuous seas and long periods of erosion. Congress approved the rebuilding of the lighthouse in 1871 amidst myriad reports from the United States Lighthouse Board concerning its condition, they could never have expected such a benefit to public transportation and safety to end in such catastrophe. The Ghost of St Augustine Lighthouse is one of tragic beginnings.
Hezekiah Pittee was superintendent of Lighthouse Construction at the time, and moved with his family to Anastasia Island to oversee the construction of the new and improved lighthouse. He had a wife, Mary and four children; Mary Adelaide, Eliza, Edward and Carrie, all who lived on site with him during the building period. Of course it didn’t take long for the young children to turn the site into their own personal playing field, and the children of many of the workers soon joined in the fun.
Two years into the process and not even half of the tower had been erected. To streamline things, a railway track and cart were installed to transport supplies from the supply ships docked at Salt Run to the building site. Of course the children all loved the cart, riding it down the hill like a rollercoaster and pulling it back up again several times a day. The only thing that stopped the cart from flipping and careening into the water was a single wooden board slotted into place at the end of the track. Clearly health and safety standards were less evolved back then.
It doesn’t take an expert on tragedy to foresee what happened next. On the fateful morning of July 10th, 1873, the three young Prittee sisters were riding the cart with the 10 year old daughter of one of the construction workers, though for some inexplicable reason the safety board was not in place. The cart descended the hill and tipped into the water, trapping all of the girls inside the watery metal box. One of the workers, Dan Sessions, witnessed the incident and ran to the water where he managed to lift the cart from atop the girls. Sadly by this time three of the four girls had drowned, the only survivor being the youngest of the Prittee sisters, Carrie. Construction on the tower, and indeed the whole town was shut down in the days following the incident, and after the funeral was held the family returned to Maine to bury the children in their hometown.
In the nearly one hundred and fifty years since the tragedy occurred, many strange and unusual instances have been blamed on the spirits of the unfortunate young victims. Haunted lighthouses are a common trope, but this is one of the most active haunted lighthouses in the world. Heceta Head lighthouse in Oregon is another notable haunted lighthouse.
One of these occurrences comes from Lighthouse Keeper James Pippin who lived and worked in the tower from 1953 to 1955. The man reportedly heard footsteps above him late at night sometime in this 2 year period, though when he went to check it out, no one was there. At first Pippen lived in the usual Keeper’s house, but he quickly moved to a smaller coastal lookout building, insisting that the main building was haunted and refusing to spend any more time there.
Another haunted story comes from the 1960’s at a time when the lighthouse’s lamp was fully automated and lighthouse keepers were replaced with workers known as ‘lamplighters’. These people didn’t live on sight as keepers did, so the buildings were rented out instead. One man who was renting the Keepers’ house in the 60s tells a story of waking up in the night with a small girl standing over his bed. As he blinked and rubbed his eyes, the spectral apparition vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
In the 1970s the keepers’ building burned down mysteriously, and in the process of it being rebuilt, those involved reported the area was a hotbed for ghostly and unexplainable activity. It’s said that even today a strange and spooky presence can be felt in the basement of the home, which is also coincidentally one of the only parts of the place that didn’t fully burn.
These days the tower is reserved for supernatural tourism, and of course there has been no lull in the hair-raising activity the place is known for. It would seem that the spirits of the girls like to play games with unsuspecting people. When one staff member was closing up for the night alone, he heard giggling coming from the top of the tower. Thinking he had left a tourist up there by mistake, he went to check but, of course, found no one.
Patrons of the ‘Dark of the Moon Tours’ consistently talk of ghostly activity to this day, so why not take a trip and see if you can come into contact with some 19th century spirits?
Joe first knew he wanted to write in year six after plaguing his teacher’s dreams with a harrowing story of World War prisoners and an insidious ‘book of the dead’. Clearly infatuated with horror, and wearing his influences on his sleeve, he dabbled in some smaller pieces before starting work on his condensed sci-fi epic, System Reset in 2013.Once this was published he began work on many smaller horror stories and poems in bid to harness and connect with his own fears and passions and build on his craft.
Joe is obsessed with atmosphere and aesthetic, big concepts and even bigger senses of scale, feeding on cosmic horror of the deep sea and vastness of space and the emotions these can invoke. His main fixes within the dark arts include horror films, extreme metal music and the bleakest of poetry and science fiction literature.
He holds a deep respect for plot, creative flow and the context of art, and hopes to forge deeper connections between them around filmmakers dabbling in the dark and macabre.
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“MARIA, TEND TO THE LIGHT!!” – Sam and Colby