Address: 938 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040
The Key West Lighthouse withstood many storms until it was obliterated by one the most powerful hurricanes of the 19th century. Some sought refuge inside the structure, only to be blown away by the vicious winds. With a site plagued by tragedy, we can't help but wonder, what secrets lie within the Key West Lighthouse?
Pinpointing a location's switch from tourist destination to haunted attraction is not always easy. For many destinations they hold both historical significance and ghostly legend.
The Key West Lighthouse has a unique and traumatic past. But is it haunted? The spectral speculations become clear after we look into the happenings of early-October 1846.
The morning of October 11th, 1846, the most intense storm to ever strike Cuba touched down on the Florida Keys. Barbara Mabrity had been lighthouse keeper for fourteen years, assuming the role after her husband - the former keeper - died unexpectedly.
A woman manning a lighthouse (better yet, working at all) was rare at the time, so Mabrity had a lot to prove. Perhaps it was the desire to prove herself that possessed her to keep the tower's light shining despite the violent 160 mph winds.
As the storm raged on, it decimated buildings and uprooted trees, claiming over forty lives in the process. Mabrity was stubborn, but she wasn't foolish, realizing that she would soon join the rubble in the sea if she kept tending to the light.
She rushed downstairs where she joined her seven children, who had been waiting out the storm at the base of the light tower.
After their houses were destroyed, eight locals sought shelter inside the lighthouse but were taken to sea before they could reach it. Soon after, the tower also gave in. Legend has it, Mabrity was only able to grab one of her children before the structure was destroyed, but this cannot be verified.
What we do know is that Mabrity mysteriously managed to survive.
Although a new lighthouse was constructed over the old site, the spirits of those tragically taken away by the hurricane are said to still remain. In 1848, two years after the catastrophe, the new lighthouse was opened, with Barbara Mabrity once again as keeper.
She continued to serve as lighthouse keeper until 1864, climbing the 88 steps to reach the top of the tower even in her golden years. Mabrity was 82 years old when she was forced to resign, passing away only three years later.
Mabrity dedicated most of her life to the role of keeper, so it's no surprise that even in death, her spirit has lingered to look after the tower. Some visitors to the lighthouse claim to have felt a presence nearby, followed by eerie cold spots, and in some cases, even report being touched by unseen hands.
One of the most popular paranormal accounts at the lighthouse comes from a tourist. The woman claims that while she climbed the painful 88 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse, she felt someone following behind her. She wasn't alone. Her family was also touring the light tower, so she assumed it was one of her family members catching up to her.
The woman looked back to see who was making the trek with her, but there was no one there. She brushed it off, more focused on the burn she was working up from the climb. Several minutes later, she reached the top, at which point she stopped to catch her breath. As she stood there, she felt a sudden cold breeze, a feeling she welcomed among the scorching Florida heat.
The top of the lighthouse offers stunning panoramic views you can't get anywhere else, so the woman took her time, staring out the window and appreciating the view. As she did, she felt someone give her a hug. At that moment, all she felt was comfort, not a shred of fear. After learning about Mabrity, the woman had no doubt that it was she who embraced her so kindly.
Other visitors swear they've felt someone stroke their hair and even seen the apparition of an elderly woman inside the lighthouse. With the many disturbing hauntings surrounding Key West, it's nice to know that some spirits are there to help.
Barbara's granddaughter, Mary Armanda Fletcher, married a man from New York by the name of John Carroll. John began his career as assistant keeper of the Key West Lighthouse, before becoming keeper in 1866.
Mary followed in her grandmother's footsteps, serving as assistant keeper until, in 1889, her husband's death forced her to assume the primary role. John had contracted Typhoid fever and died merely days later. Mary took over, but she too died three months later from the same ailment.
The couple passed in the keepers quarters, which explains why some claim they can feel an overwhelming presence when entering the building. Lucky for us, Mary and John aren't contagious from the afterlife.
Key West's Lighthouse carries the remnants of a forgotten past, where men and women worked tirelessly to help ships make it to port. Today, the lighthouse is still a celebrated landmark, equipped with a ghostly crew who will forever keep the midnight oil burning.
The historic Key West Lighthouse & Keepers Quarters are currently open to the public for tours. Visitors can explore the top of the lighthouse, as well as the photographs, and letters left behind by former keepers in their quarters.
At least 60 people died in what’s known as the Havana Hurricane of 1846.