Photographer’s Guide to the Haunted St. Augustine Lighthouse

“Today and most days since, the girls can be heard laughing at the top of the tower late at night.”

Photo by Paul Brennan

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St. Augustine’s Lighthouse stands tall at 165 feet opposite the banks of Conch Island in St. Augustine, Florida. It is the 8th tallest lighthouse in the United States and can be seen for miles around. It’s stark black and white spiral is topped by its red cherry lantern house. It looks like a birthday candle and is a picture-perfect lighthouse in design. It appears almost whimsical. But this lighthouse is not just known for its unique appearance and lovely design. It is better known for being one of the most haunted places in America.

St. Augustine Lighthouse from Far - Photo by Paul Brennan
St. Augustine Lighthouse from Far - Photo by Paul Brennan

Such a Pitee

The year is 1873. Work has begun on the development of a new lighthouse in the Floridian community of St. Augustine. Hezekiah Pitee, the foreman, mops his brow in the hot Florida sun and looks around the construction site. The work is hard and hot. Bricks, mortar and lumber are slowly pushed in a small cart by workers the 150 metres from the waterfront to the new lighthouse’s new site. It is hard, gruelling work, but Hezekiah is happy to have it.

Laughter fills the air as two of his daughters playfully chase Hladik, a young coloured girl around the gnarled tree trunks that dot the property. The abolishment of slavery in the southern states was only eight years young, but times hadn’t changed much. Hladik’s father toiled under the hot Florida sun performing the most laborious work for the lowest wage.

St Augustine Lighthouse Sepia Toned - Photo by Nicepik
St Augustine Lighthouse Sepia Toned - Photo by Nicepik

But, the children were oblivious to this as they cavorted in the construction site. Hezekiah, catching Mary’s blue velvet dress and matching bow out of the corner of his eye, called out for the girls to be careful. A construction site can be a dangerous place for kids, especially when the adults are busy working.

In their play, the girls discover the long track from the shore and its cart unminded. They clamber into the cart, giggling with joy — Eliza at the helm with Mary and Hladik excited passengers aboard a trolley of imagination. But then, the cart moves. Slowly at first, and then faster. In seconds beyond the point of control. The girls scream in terror. But for reasons lost to the annals of time, their cries were unheard. By the time Hezekiah and the men discover the tragedy, it is too late. The girls have drowned in the murky waters of the Salt Run with Mary’s blue bow floating sentinel on the surface of the water.

St. Augustine Lighthouse Red Lantern - Photo by Rob Briscoe
St. Augustine Lighthouse Red Lantern - Photo by Rob Briscoe

Today, late into the evening, the girls are still here. Their laughter can be heard echoing along the grounds and in the lighthouse itself. And it is said, on some nights, during stormy weather when the tower is empty, you can see Mary, in her blue velvet dress, standing on the balcony outside the red lantern house — staring off into the sea.

Other Ghost Stories

Mary, Eliza and Hladik are not alone. They are kept company by a former lighthouse keeper named Joseph Andreu. In 1859, Joseph fell from his scaffolding while applying the unique paint pattern of the lighthouse. He is also said to roam the grounds, seeking to finish the work he started.

Another keeper, years later, was discovered dead on the front porch of the caretaker’s house having hung himself. Perhaps a victim of the sinister paranormal activities of the light.

St Augustine Staircase Looking Up - Photo by Jessica Spengler
St Augustine Staircase Looking Up - Photo by Jessica Spengler

Visiting St Augustine Lighthouse

If you are brave enough to venture to this haunted lighthouse, you will find it quickly enough. Located at the end of the aptly named Lighthouse Ave, it is open from 9 am to 6 pm with extended hours till 7 pm during holidays and summer months. As well there is an evening ghost tour if you are feeling extra brave. Admission during the day will cost about $13.00 USD.

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Photographing St Augustine Lighthouse

The lighthouse itself is exceptionally photogenic from a variety of angles. It’s dark contrast, and bright red top makes it one of the most aesthetically pleasing towers in Florida. The 291 step staircase is a unique half-circle shape and makes for some beautiful spiral photography as well. During blue and golden hours, the lighthouse is well lit, and the yellow tint of the lighting can create a fascinating colour contrast against the blue sky.

St. Augustine Lighthouse - Photo by Arturo Donate
St. Augustine Lighthouse - Photo by Arturo Donate

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