When you think of Florida's bright, sunny beaches, ghosts and hidden mysteries are not always the first thing that may come to mind. However, along the east coast in St Augustine are a multitude of haunting stories and spooky secrets that are buried among the white sand. This is because St Augustine is the oldest continually occupied settlement of European origin in the entire United States of America. Now, it stands as a beautiful and vibrant location, thriving with music, nightlife, and eateries. But from the 1500s, its shores were rife with battles and conflict. If you’re a tourist with a love for horror or are planning a trip to St Augustine around Halloween time, I recommend planning some of your journey around the spooky secrets that it holds.
There are countless highly recommended ghost tours to get involved with, which can be a fun group experience, especially as the tour guides tend to dress up to tell the eerie tales of the area. If you would prefer to explore for yourself, I have compiled a few location ideas that are absolutely unmissable if you enjoy some horror.
The Castillo de San Marcos is a perfect place to start this endeavor. This is the oldest nation fort in the continental United States and is situated on the Western shore of Matanzas Bay. Despite being built in 1672, one of the chambers inside was not discovered until recently, in 1932. This chamber is long and narrow, with a low doorway leading it. According to rumor, when this door was finally opened, the chamber was discovered to be filled with skeletons. Although these claims are not concrete, multiple ghost hunters have visited the site and reported unusual activity in this room, so tread carefully.
Staying towards the shores of St Augustine, the next visit on my itinerary would be St Augustine’s, Lighthouse Park. This was built way back in the 1600s by Spanish settlers yet has been slightly reconstructed since. The paranormal activity surrounding this lighthouse has attracted the TV show ‘Ghost Hunters’ to pay this site a visit and speak about its ghostly inhabitants. During filming, the producers managed to capture an apparition on film that resembled one of the old keepers, who fell to his death from the top of the lighthouse. As well as this, two young girls once drowned by the lighthouse while they were playing, and many have said that they have heard the voices of children playing around the site.
The shorelines of St Augustine are rife with creepy history. Famous pirates used to patrol its oceans. The pirate and treasure museum in St Augustine was featured on CNN and offers over 800 artifacts and relics from this unique point in time. The rich history of piracy dates back to the 1600s, with notorious names like Sir Francis Drake, Robert Searles, and many others journeying around these seas. If you wish to be out on the water, enjoying the same views that these pirates once did, there is a large variety of watersport equipment available in St Augustine, such as renting a paddleboard. This is a simple yet effective way to enjoy the hidden mysteries of the area while on your own and without feeling tied to a tour group. It can feel special to be explored independently, which paddleboarding enables you to do out on the waters.
If you want your night’s sleep to be as filled with mystery as the rest of your trip, the Casablanca Inn at Matanzas Bay is the perfect place to rest that you won’t forget! One of the owners of the inn managed to avoid financial ruin by consorting with bootleggers and seedy characters. She would wave a lantern from the second-story window, which faced the sea, to warn them when investigators would be patrolling the shores. There have been reports of a faint white light waving back and forth from that same window. Visitors of the inn have claimed to have heard her footsteps, disembodied children’s voices, and a ghostly female figure haunting the premises. A generic hotel cannot compete with an experience as unique as this one.
An absolute unmissable stop would also be the Old Jail Museum. Once a holding place for St Augustine’s most brutal criminals, tourists can now dress up and view the cells which were used for women, men, and maximum-security criminals, with exciting and spine-chilling tales about some of the infamous criminals who once stayed there. If this isn’t spooky enough for you, eight recorded executions at this jail, including Sam Jackson, who famously murdered his wife with a straight razor. The tour allows you to visit the Sheriff’s old quarters and kitchens and provides personal stories about the old Sheriff who used to loan criminals out to local farmworkers. The jail closed in 1953 after its deplorable conditions and cruelty to inmates became public knowledge. To this day, it is believed to be an epicenter for paranormal activity for old inmates from the past, still hanging around, seeking revenge.
Next, Cromwell’s Parlour of Paranormal Curiosities is an eye-opening experience of the supernatural. It hosts a collection of authentic artifacts with entirely unexplained histories. Everything in Cromwell’s parlor is said to have magical or paranormal powers beyond the realms of what we know, so this is undoubtedly a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how ghosts try to communicate with us and hear stories that we simply cannot explain.
So if you have come to the end of this article, I would assume that horror certainly intrigues you somehow. There is certainly no place in America better suited to exploring locations filled with chilling and exciting stories. And if you are adamant that you don’t believe in ghosts and never will, what better place to put that theory to the test!