Visiting Haunted St. Augustine: a comprehensive list for the Ghost Connoisseur
The warm amber glow of the street lamps illuminates the high balconies, worn windows, and tattered door frames of St. George Street with eerie intensity. Broad palm trees cast their swaying shadows on the cobblestones beneath my feet. Only the sound of the soft water flowing through the fountain in the distance breaks the silence in the dead of night. I watch the visitors of this ancient city as they dine al fresco, laughing and sipping sangria, blissfully unaware of the 450 years of dark history that transpired here. Commoners walk hand in hand through narrow alleyways where so many secrets lay dormant. While refreshing during the day, the courtyards crowded with palms, tropical plants, and high grasses, provide cover for wandering spirits in the night.
The St. Augustine lighthouse is poised over the city like a watchman, conflicting for attention with the full moon and its ghastly afterglow. A cluster of stars shimmer over the inlet, casting a rigid glare behind the pirate ship sitting stagnant in the deep water. The soaring towers of the Castillo play tricks on my mind as their shadows entangle and blur into misshapen figures and unrecognizable faces of the past, emitted on the stark contours of its coquina stoned walls.
The Old City Gates’ pillars stand confidently at the entrance to this ancient city, the rough and weathered stone appears soft in the quiet glimmer of night. Will I see little Elizabeth in her lacey white dress there waiting for me? The iron street lamp behind Huguenot Cemetery turns the headstones into mere silhouettes of their former selves; its heavy iron gates the only safeguard between the living and the dead. Walking past the Tolomato Cemetery I wonder if I will see the boy in the tree? Is he watching life pass him by from behind the cold walls of his entombment? Is the story of Bishop Verot true? His bust in front of the mausoleum he resides in is staring through my soul.
Glancing at the bay’s luminous views from the wicker bench outside of my room, I wonder how many people died here in St. Augustine? Is the caretaker of this inn still on the roof signaling ships that it’s safe to come ashore with their deliveries of alcohol, wine, and spirits at the time of prohibition? I hear the familiar click clack of horse drawn carriages trotting below me down Avenida Menendez. The distant sound of drums rings in my ears, is it coming from the fort? Are soldiers sounding the call of war? Or is it Osceola and his tribe announcing themselves to the colonists who took their precious land and called it their own?
Tonight I pray to see a ghost soldier, a sign of strength and protection. I fear I may need both as I encounter more restless spirits here in Haunted St. Augustine.
Are you a paranormal enthusiast? Does the thought of ghost-infested streets, haunted inns, and phantom-filled dining rooms strike your fancy? If four and half centuries worth of crime, scandal, adventure, piracy, tragedy, war, imprisonment, and ancient history don’t interest you then you’ve come to the wrong place. Here is Ghost City Tours comprehensive list of where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in the oldest city in the United States for the true ghost connoisseur.
Where to Stay:
Here are the top haunted places to stay and their memorable tales of deceit, lost loves, bloody battles, and secret love affairs. Where will you be resting your head tonight?
24 Avenida Menendez
Ms. Bradshaw was a quick-witted elderly woman of opportunity. As the proprietor of The Mantanzas Hotel on the Mantanzas Bay, she took advantage of her position at the inn, as well as the inn’s very position on the bay. Her “boarding house” was a well-known venue for treasury agents, government officials, and law enforcement officers to have a good night's rest when they were in St. Augustine on business. The prohibition era of the 1920s and 30s produced a great deal of crime and misfortune to innocent citizens, but Ms. Bradshaw wasn’t going to let a little smuggled alcohol stop her from the future she always dreamed of. She abetted bootleggers and their contraband by waving her trusty lantern from the widow’s walk of her establishment to let them know the area was free of those pesky officials, and she was handsomely compensated for her valiant efforts indeed.
Ms. Bradshaw may be buried in St. Augustine’s Huguenot Cemetery, but to this day her gleaming lantern can be seen swaying back and forth atop the widow’s walk of the Casablanca Inn by modern day shrimpers, boaters, and fishermen. Could she be signaling a ghost ship in from the bay to deliver their cargo of illegal imports from Jamaica, Cuba, and Puerto Rico? Rum for everyone! Or is she sending a beacon to a long lost lover on the sea? We may never know, but maybe you can ask her when you’re staying at the Casablanca?
The Casablanca Inn is a unique two-story Mediterranean Revival style structure constructed in 1914 and located on St. Augustine’s alluring bayfront. Perhaps you can sit on your own wicker bench on the balcony and ask St. Augustine about her dark and dastardly past, and what secrets she’s waiting to reveal to you? ______________________________________________________________________
Casa de Sueños
20 Cordova St
During the first Spanish occupation of the 18th century, the people of St Augustine were seeking ways to protect their beloved city from British Invasion. Known as the Rosario Line, the western border once resided where Casa de Sueños is today. Imagine an earthen defensive wall of razor-sharp cactus, and yucca gloriosa (also known as the “Spanish dagger” for its skin-piercing edges). Would you dare cross it?
First constructed as a one-story wood-frame residence in 1904 on land owned by Henry Flagler’s real estate company, the casa has been home to a host of characters. George Colee, whose family started a prosperous horse carriage company in the 1880s, called Casa de Sueños home in the early 1900s. The Carcaba family later moved in and spent their successful cigar manufacturing money on an elaborate expansion that bestowed the casa’s now characteristic Mediterranean-Revival style. In the mid 1900s, the Garcia family took over with their prosperous funeral home business. In the 1970s, the St. Augustine Association for Retarded Citizens called the casa home and it was converted to office space. Now, as a lovely bed and breakfast, we can all enjoy the rich history of this unique structure.
An earthen defensive line, a horse-carriage company owner, a successful cuban cigar manufacturer, a family funeral home, and now a bed and breakfast in a building over a century old? This is what haunted houses are made of!
Old Mansion Inn
14 Joiner St
A woman of affluence in the mid-nineteenth century was afforded an abundance of opportunity, especially when your name is Lucy Abbott. Ms. Abbott, a young spinster from South Carolina who moved to Florida with her mother after her father passed away, was the first female real estate developer in St. Augustine. After many years of fighting with the government about legal ownership of property, a bit of a “mule” situation, and a letter to General Grant himself, Lucy finally built her beloved mansion in 1872.
In the near 150 year saga of the Old Mansion, it has been a boarding house, school, convalescent home, guest house, private restaurant, studio, apartments, and a business office. The Causey family updated the home in 1921, bringing to life the Colonial-Revival style it is known for today. In the early 1970s it became a private supper club owned and operated by a renowned swiss chef. The Kramer family purchased the property in 1980, spending 13 years restoring its original glory.
Several tenants of this elegant residence have reported hearing knocks and footsteps, sudden chills, and even a bitter voice saying “get out.” Could it be Ms. Abbott herself sending a warning to those who aren’t fleeing her cherished dwelling? ______________________________________________________________________
St. Francis Inn
279 St George St
With well over two centuries of military family history, one very forbidden love affair, and countless literary figures as both owner and occupant, The St. Francis Inn invites you to hear its age-old memoir.
Built in 1791, the “oldest inn” dates to St. Augustine’s Second Spanish Colonial Period; a time when the mere safety and protection of one’s own property and family was of the utmost importance. The King of Spain ordered homes to be constructed as a “defensive fortress against those who might attempt to occupy the town.”
When a young man whose uncle owned the inn in the middle of the 19th century met a young slave girl from Barbados named Lily, they fell in love. Their affair existed in secrecy for it was strictly forbidden, so the infatuated lovers snuck into rooms when they thought no one was looking and executed their passionate deeds. Unfortunately for Lily and her beau, the uncle discovered their intimate dealings and ordered his servant away, forbidding his nephew from ever seeing his precious mistress again. In the nephew’s unending despair, he took his own life. It is unknown whether he hung himself on the third floor or hurled himself from the window, either way the grizzly outcome was the same.
There have been reports of loud noises, lights and appliances turning on and off, personal items being scattered across the floor, items dry when they should have been wet from the rain, the feeling of hands on stair railings, spirit sightings, sounds of whispers and moans, locking and unlocking of doors, falling books, moving pictures, ice cold touches, bed sheets and blankets removed, and full apparitions. It is nice to know that despite the fact there has been a remarkable amount of activity reported at the St. Francis Inn, no one has been harmed, and the ghosts, though playful at times, are pleasant and friendly.
Where to Eat:
Here are the top haunted places to eat and their remarkable tales of misfortune, criminal dealings, unopened love letters, murder, and mischief. Where will you be dining tonight?
46 Avenida Menendez
Catalina de Porras was born in 1753 during the First Spanish Colonial Period of St. Augustine. At just 11 years old, Catalina and her family were forced to evacuate to Cuba from their treasured home at 46 Avenida Menendez when Florida became an English Colony after nearly 200 years of Spanish rule.
British soldiers moved into vacated homes and the de Porras house was claimed. In 1784, East Florida returned to Spanish rule and the British were forced out. Catalina and her new husband, along with her now widowed mother, returned from Cuba to claim the estate that was rightfully theirs. The once grand homes of St. Augustine were in such neglect and disrepair that the governor planned to auction them off or have them demolished. Fortunately for Catalina and her family, after much persistence and intervention, they were able to save their family home from utter ruin.
The heirs of the de Porras family eventually sold the property and it passed through many hands before burning to ashes in 1887 along with much of the city’s other buildings along Avenida Menendez. It was immediately rebuilt to its original beauty by the Carr family from sketches done in 1840.
The smell of smoke, burning clothes, sudden movements, feelings of nervousness and restlessness, items moving seemingly on their own, sounds of voices, chills, and a presence in the ladies room have all been reported. Could it be Catalina? She and her family fought so hard to keep their residence, perhaps she could never truly leave? Spend some time in “Catalina’s Garden”, the outdoor dining area of Harry’s Seafood, and try not to drink too much water...you might have to use the upstairs restroom and you never know who might be awaiting you.
45 San Marco Avenue
Duff Green was a boisterous fellow who spent his days gambling and rough-housing with many prominent local characters (including Henry Flagler) in the back room of Le Pavillon. The smell of cuban cigars, the smoke rings distending through the stale air, the clinking of bourbon glasses, and the sounds of men laughing and heightening their voices after losing an intense round of poker sets this scene in late 19th century St. Augustine.
The building at 45 San Marco Ave. changed hands many times over the decades. From private residence to Bed and Breakfast, owned by one “Mrs. Roe”, and now to a fine European restaurant. But one thing has remained unchanged...the presence of Mr. Green and Mrs. Roe and their mischief in the upstairs dining room. Moving objects, flickering lights, doors opening and closing, and chills in the air have been reported consistently.
Will you dare dine upstairs with Mr Duff and Mrs. Roe? Can you smell the faint aroma of stale cigar smoke and sweet bourbon? Can you hear the clustering of poker chips and the groans of men having lost a long card game? ______________________________________________________________________
O. C. White’s Seafood & Spirits
118 Avenida Menendez
Margaret Stafford Worth was a distinguished woman married to Major General William Worth who triumphantly ended the second Seminole War. The General was a profoundly decorated officer and so well known and respected that Fort Worth, Texas and Lake Worth, Florida (among other locations) are named after him. When the General was sequestered to Texas from St. Augustine for the Mexican-American War, little did he know he would never see his family again. Soon after his move, he died suddenly of cholera after contracting the deadly disease from his own soldiers.
Mrs. Worth frequently wrote letters to her beloved William and held those letters close to her heart after the General passed. She went on to live nearly 20 years after his death, leaving the mansion and its contents to her son-in-law, Colonel T. Sprague, since her daughter was not legally allowed to acquire property as a woman.
The mansion stayed in the Worth family for generations before subsequently being moved to its current location at 118 Avenida Menendez. With its history dating back to 1790 as one of the city’s first hotels, its original coquina walls have stories to reveal.
A grieving and devastated widow who never saw her General again, unopened love letters, and nearly twenty years of loneliness without her soulmate - it’s no wonder Mrs. Worth still roams the hallways of what is now O.C. White’s Seafood and Spirits. Men and women conversing, doors opening and closing, locking and unlocking of the balcony, and a man believed to be Mrs. Worth’s son-in-law, Colonel T. Sprague, wearing his bowler hat in the mirror of the men’s restroom are just some of the hauntings believed to occur in this nearly 230 year old structure.
70 Hypolita Street
In 1879, Mr. Colee built a house for his beautiful, doting fiancée as her wedding gift. He promptly discovered that she had forsaken him for another man, a soldier. But that wasn’t the end for Mr. Colee and his broken heart. He met the woman of his dreams soon after this unfortunate incident, married her, and moved into the house on Hypolita Street. One day, Mr. Colee was found lifeless in his bathtub, not from a drunken stupor, but under very suspicious circumstances indeed. It was thought that his malicious first fiancée had something to do with his untimely death, but it could never be proven. At least, this is the story that has been told of Scarlett O’Hara’s sordid past for several decades.
The martini bar upstairs, lovingly known as the “ghost bar”, is aptly nicknamed for the restaurants residing ghost, Mr. Colee. He is so beloved and respected at this fine establishment, that they even put out a stocking for him at Christmas. Even though Mr. Colee likes to frolic around this quaint two-story structure triggering the burglar alarm, startling guests, moving chairs, touching shoulders, lighting candles, and messing with the air conditioner, heater, and other appliances, he is also known to be favorable and friendly, so don’t be too alarmed.
With its vibrant and colorful atmosphere, delicious food and drink, lively entertainment, and vintage Gone with the Wind memorabilia, I am sure Mr. Colee will stay entertained for years to come. ______________________________________________________________________
St. Augustine Distillery
112 Riberia Street
In 1907, the Historic FP&L Ice Plant was built as part of St. Augustine’s first power and ice complex. It was the first innovative building of its kind to make commercial block ice in a time before refrigerators and freezers were common household appliances. With business booming a step away from the city’s fishing and shrimping industry, an expansion was built in 1926 that doubled the capacity. Enormous trays of ice were transported to rail cars, boats, and trucks in the back of the building by way of crane, while lesser portions were sold to residents in the front.
During both World Wars, Ice Plant employees were immune to the draft. The industry had upwards of 4,800 plants, over 100,000 employees, and over 40 million tons of ice that were all important to the sustainment of the country. When the time came that refrigerators and freezers were common household appliances, the market fell. Seemingly overnight, the once thriving ice industry ceased to exist. A former employee was able to purchase the now obsolete structure for a mere $1.
As a distillery creating locally sourced vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum, the 110+ year legacy of Florida’s oldest ice plant lives on. While we can’t say for sure if any of the buildings former employees still remain there, we can say that this is a great setting for any ghost hunter to unwind, have a sip of rum (or whatever your spirit of choice is!), and take in a little history from another of “Florida’s Oldest.”
What to Do:
Here are the top haunted places to visit and their extraordinary tales of headless corpses, missing bodies, exploding coffins, scandal, torture, and disease. Where will you be spending your time on your ghostly trip to St. Augustine?
Castillo de San Marcos
Dr. Frederick Weedon was a prominent physician assigned to the care of ailing Seminole leader Osceola during the Second Seminole War. Osceola evaded capture by the military until he was tricked into custody under the guise of a white flag. He was transported to the Castillo among 200 other Seminoles where he contracted malaria, was treated by Weedon, then transported to Fort Moultrie in South Carolina where he later died.
Osceola was a celebrity by this time, and a multitude of artists and citizens frequented Fort Moultrie to see this urban curiosity. Dr. Weedon and his family spent a great deal of time with and grew very close to Osceola. After the the great leader’s death, the doctor decided that the best way to pay homage to their respected and admired friendship was to keep Osceola’s head as an embalmed souvenir.
The great chieftain may still haunt the grounds of the Castillo de San Marcos. Shadows, moving figures, chills, and conversational sounds have all been known to transfix those who dare enter the gates of this infamous fort. Will you encounter Osceola’s headless corpse on your journey behind the coquina walls of the oldest masonry fortress in the United States?
John Stickney was a staunch Massachusetts attorney who moved to St. Augustine and quickly climbed the ranks to District Attorney, States Attorney, and Judge. To local citizens he was just another opportunist taking advantage of the oldest city during the reconstruction period.
A widower with a brood of children to care for, the Judge became very ill in late 1882. At the detest of his loving family, he traveled (as he often did) to Washington D.C. for an important business meeting regardless of his ailing health. Five days after his arrival he was found dead in his room of complications from Typhoid Fever and his body was immediately shipped back to St. Augustine.
Judge Long, a dear friend of Stickney, took in the orphans and moved them to Washington D.C. to live out a privileged life. Twenty years later, upon the death of their adoptive father, the children had Stickney’s body exhumed from Huguenot Cemetery and finally interred in D.C. alongside his lifelong friend and caretaker of his beloved children.
One Mr. Wells, was in charge of the exhumation at Huguenot Cemetery on a particularly hot day in Florida. After taking a short break from the intense heat, he carelessly left the casket open and two drunk men were able to steal the Judge’s gold teeth, leaving an embarrassed and bewildered Mr. Wells! He silently closed the lid in hopes no one would notice the desecration of Judge Stickney and shipped his toothless body off to his heirs.
When you are wandering around Huguenot Cemetery, do you see a staunch man in a black hat staring at you? Is the old toothless Judge there searching for his long lost gold teeth? Maybe you can help him search for the shiny gold treasure he lost to the graverobbers so many years ago.
As an attendee of a holy and prominent funeral in the late nineteenth century, you have certain expectations. You expect that the body has lied in state for a time so that all mourners have the opportunity to pay their respects. You expect the deceased has been taken care of with the utmost concern and consideration. And most of all, you expect that the funeral will go as it invariably does; smoothly, without dramatics, timely, and well...sanitarily.
The funeral for Bishop Verot (the first Roman Catholic Bishop in the diocese of St. Augustine) was unfortunately not as well thought out and planned as expected. The Florida heat in the middle of June was scorching, and to keep the Bishop’s body lying in state long enough for mourners to visit, a pit was made in the ground, lined with sawdust and ice, and the bishop’s body inserted.
An expensive iron face-plated casket was the only option for this well-known, beloved, and studious man; only the best would be afforded to him for all of his work in Florida and beyond. But imagine for a moment what happens to a dead body over a period of three days subjected to intense heat, sort of like bread dough left in the sun for the yeast to rise. Now imagine for a moment, putting that mound of bread dough inside an iron oven that’s been sealed shut with no expanse for air and excessive temperatures. I don’t need to tell you exactly what happened during Bishop Verot’s funeral, but suffice it to say that the funeral-goers left quite abruptly, and the remnants of his body were quickly interred in his final resting place at Tolomato Cemetery.
The Ponce de Leon Hotel (Flagler College)
Henry Flagler is the grandfather of the tourist industry in Florida. He was part-owner of the Standard Oil Company and built the Florida East Coast Railway, placing St. Augustine, Miami, and West Palm Beach on the map. He modernized existing railroad systems for heavier bearing loads and built the unique and luxurious Ponce de Leon Hotel.
In 1913, Henry died of a dreadful fall down a marble flight of stairs at his mansion in Palm Beach. When his body was brought back via railway to St. Augustine for burial, the local newspaper reported:
‘Trains will stop for ten minutes!’
“Every wheel on the Florida East Coast Railway system will cease turning tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock for a period of ten minutes. This is during the hour of the funeral. No matter where it is every train will stop for that period of time as a token of respect for the departed great man who made the Florida East Coast Railway system possible.”
While Mr. Flagler is buried in the family mausoleum at Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, he is believed to haunt Flagler College to this day. Do you hear the sounds of trains stopping in the distance? Take a look around at the astounding architecture, impressively detailed reliefs and paintings, wood carvings, and unique light fixtures of this stately old hotel...you just might find Henry wandering the halls and checking in on his guests.
Medieval Torture Museum
What better place to display a private collection of medieval torture devices and their history, than the oldest city in the United States? There was a time when it was totally justifiable to use torture as a means of justice to obtain confessions, collect names of co-conspirators, appropriate favorable information about crimes, and gather testimonies - all for use in legal matters during the Middle Ages.
Ripping out teeth and/or nails, beating, blinding, boiling, bone-breaking, branding and burning, castration, choking, cutting, disfigurement, dislocation, drowning, flagellation, whipping and beating, flaying, roasting, genital mutilation, limb/finger removal, starvation, quartering, spiking, dismembering, and tongue removal were all means of torture and carried out with a host of devices including but not limited to: the Spanish Boot, Branding Irons, The Brank, The Collar, Drunkard's Cloak, Ducking Stools, Foot Press, Foot Screw, The Gossip's Bridle, Heretic's Fork, The Maiden, Pillory, The Rack, Scavenger's Daughter, Scold's Bridle, Stocks, Thumbscrew, The Wheel, The Fork, The Gibbet, torture and execution by Fire, and The Sword or the Axe.
Are you the tormentor or the tormented? If you’re courageous enough, why don’t you visit the torture collection and see just how fearless you really are?
The Old City Gates
In 1821 the city of St. Augustine was destitute within its coquina walls. With its tenacious pillars, the Old City Gates couldn’t defend its residents from the deadly Saffron Scourge. An adolescent girl named Elizabeth succumbed to the cruel yellow fever and was among the hundreds buried in unmarked graves across the street at Huguenot Cemetery. Her body went unclaimed and was left at the city gates to be found by officials. At the time, if you or your family was believed to have yellow fever, your home and belongings were burnt to the ground in order to keep the disease from spreading. Did poor Elizabeth’s family leave her body at the Old City Gates in fear of losing their home and prized possessions? Was Elizabeth an orphaned girl who fell to her knees in sickness and died at the entrance to her beloved St. Augustine? We may never know. But we do know that Elizabeth and her lacey white dress have been seen dancing and frolicking at the coquina columns. Won’t you say hello to Elizabeth as you enter the heart of the colonial city?
Potter's Wax Museum (The Old Drugstore)
Resting on the edge of Tolomato Cemetery lies the Old Drug Store, one of St. Augustine’s most recognizable buildings. Liquor, tobacco, medicine, Indian remedies, medical concoctions, elixirs, and tonics once consumed the wooden shelves of this nearly three-century old structure which remained an established drugstore up until the 1960s.
Now home to Potter’s Wax Museum, the first established wax museum in the United States, surely there are still a few anecdotes to share?
Authentic wax figures of politicians, entertainers, horror characters, villians, historical personalities, literary figures, sports stars, and other famous celebrities grace the rooms of this historic building and give an eerie premonition to its history. Unexplained noises, moving shadows, cold spots, and feelings of being followed and watched have all been reported. Is it the wax figures creeping over and watching your every move? Or is it citizens of St. Augustine looking for the latest and greatest way to medicate their ailments? Either way, we’re pretty sure you’ll encounter someone waiting for you here. ______________________________________________________________________
St. Augustine Lighthouse
The superintendent of the St. Augustine Lighthouse discovered that the construction of this new watchtower was going to take substantially longer than expected, so he moved his doting family from Maine to the Florida coast.
One day, two of the superintendent’s daughters were playing on the grounds with three of their friends. They pushed each other in a small railcar that led from the lighthouse towards the pier as they did many times before, but today was different. Today the wheels of the railcar shifted and they lost control, careening directly off the pier into the sea below. Two of the five children were saved by nearby lighthouse construction workers who saw the disaster happen, but the others sorrowfully drowned. The superintendent lost two of his precious daughters that fateful day and never forgave himself.
Deemed the “most haunted lighthouse in America”, it is no wonder there have been endless accounts of hauntings. A man roaming the basement of the lightkeeper’s house, young girls’ voices laughing and playing, shadowy figures traipsing up the stairwells, and the smell of cigar smoke are just a few of the reported occurrences The Ghost Hunter’s TV show filmed a memorable episode here, and they even came back a second time!