There’s no question that our region is crawling with haunted spirits, many that are hard to explain, but easy to see if you look closely. With centuries of history in JAX, bizarre occurrences are of no surprise, but who would have thought their ghostly aftermath would linger?
As the nation’s oldest continuously occupied European settlement, St. Augustine has a complicated history of its own, with no absence of the peculiar. The St. Augustine Lighthouse, which has stood tall since 1874, is widely known for its many tragic stories and consequent hauntings. This has made it a popular tourist destination, welcoming 225,000 visitors annually. One such tragic event surrounding the lighthouse is that of the Pittee Sisters. The three girls frequented the lighthouse to play during the time of its construction and two of the three tragically drowned one afternoon off its shores. While this story is only one of many unfortunate events that surround the lighthouse, their spirits are known for being the most active amongst the grounds. For years, guests have witnessed the friendly ghosts of these girls laughing, playing hide-and-seek and even lending a helping hand to lighthouse visitors by tying their undone laces!
You can experience firsthand the eerie nature of the site on the Dark of the Moon Tour offered year-round on weekends which tells all the lighthouse’s scary stories that are based on true events. You can even rent out EMF readers that detect electromagnetic fields (AKA, ghosts) as you travel along the tour.
Beyond the lighthouse, you can visit several city sites all in one tour with tours like St. Augustine’s Ghost and Gravestones Tour which guides the fearless through a number of spooky sites. On this tour, visit St. Augustine’s Old Jail which was built in 1891 and given an exterior design unlike most jails. Its Victorian appearance was designed to preserve the uplifting atmosphere of the ancient city. But although the outside of the jail portrayed exquisite beauty, horror was the overarching theme within its four walls. Operating for 60 years until 1953, the jail was known for housing the worst of criminals, all of whom were treated quite inhumanely. Expert investigators and ghost hunters have toured the grounds and believe the haunted occurrences are the spirits of distraught inmates who died inside the jail. When visiting this site, be prepared to hear sinister laughs, loud wailing, barking dogs and sounds of chains raddling. Sounds terrifyingly lovely, doesn’t it?
Also on the Ghost and Gravestones Tour, visit the Tolomato Cemetery, the oldest planned cemetery in the country, dating back to the second Spanish period. This haunted ground is home to thousands of St. Augustinians and its fair share of grizzly stories. It’s no surprise that ghosts have found this to be an adequate space to linger and their disturbing presence has left many history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts in awe. A young boy named James P. Morgan has kept watch over the grounds for over 100 years since his tragic death falling from an oak tree he climbed on the grounds. His apparition enjoys watching visitors frequently, so smile and wave!
Ghosts in these parts tend to love the coast as well. Head north and you’ll happen upon Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, a place with many stories to tell as its earliest vacationers were pirates, smugglers and bootleggers. Here, the locals are sure to give you the inside scoop in their year-round Friday night Museum of History Ghost Tour where guests are guided through the dark streets of a bygone era covering nearly 14 blocks of the town’s historic district.
Looking for a spooky night that’s still accompanied by fun, laughter and libations? Amelia Island’s Haunted Bar Crawl recounts tales of the Island’s most haunted bars and saloons while participants sip on their drinks of choice. Your spirit guide will take you through several the town’s unique bars that hold their own ghastly stories which will leave you speechless.
The region’s largest city has its share of spirits as well, including the historic Florida Theatre in downtown Jacksonville and the apparition that favors Section 500, Row E, Seat 2. Several ghost-hunting expeditions and a paranormal investigation have confirmed the male apparition thought to be Doc Crowther, a motion picture technician from the theatre’s early days. He is generally well loved and gentle as most who have claimed to interact with him say his regular appearance is merely due to his love for the theatre. In 2020, the theatre underwent seating renovations, reinstalling brand new, historically accurate seats. However, the popularity of the famous “Ghost Seat” along with its partner, Seat 1, were refurbished and returned to the theatre, welcoming its friendly ghost to enjoy another round of performances.
Getting in the Halloween “spirit” (lol), these are just a few of the creepy venues and historical sites around our region. One thing is for sure in JAX; during the #spookyszn there’s no need for old wives’ tales and scary costumes in order to bring on the spook – it’s already lying in wait ready to show itself when you least expect it.