St. Augustine Delights Visitors with History and Legend

Socialize with resident ghosts as your climb
to the top of the lighthouse for a great view.

If Halloween night is party time for ghosts, the largest celebration will be taking place in St. Augustine, Florida. Ask any local in the city, and they will tell you with a straight face about their paranormal interactions. Travel Channel and Discovery Channel have both filmed specials about the ghosts residing here

Ghost Tours of St. Augustine Inc. has dedicated more than 20 years to uncovering and cataloguing the old city’s darkest secrets and mysteries. Lantern-lit nightly walking tours lead guests to graveyards, and various buildings across the city including a jail and a lighthouse. At the city’s historic fort we heard of maritime hauntings and pirates. Most of the city’s ghosts are happy and prank-playing, but some are sad at the loss of love or life. None cause any harm. For those who “prefer spirits with their spirits” the tour operator has teamed up with the original City Walk Pub Crawl tour in town to investigate haunted taverns all over town.

St. Francis Inn–Share a room with Miss Lily?!?

On our ghost tour, we were also told about the ghost at St. Francis Inn—where we were staying. She resides on the third floor—where ours was one of about six rooms on that very floor. (St. Francis Inn did not tell us the story when we checked in!) While we didn’t actually see any ghosts on our tour, we were certain we heard Miss Lily that night back at the hotel! Restless minds or fact? Hard to tell! Nevertheless, St. Francis Inn was a gorgeous bed and breakfast, with one of the best breakfasts ever and great hospitality. We’d go back to stay, even with Miss Lily rattling around by our door at night.

We had a separate private tour at the lighthouse, climbing to the top in the dark. We were given meters that lit up red when activity was detected. Several of the guest’s meters went off at times. We wore light sticks around our necks, and a few of the guests found that theirs came untied. We were told that was a favorite trick played by the ghosts of two little girls who lived in the community near the lighthouse who were drowned after an accident. It’s often the photos taken during the tour that reveal the evidence. One of the ladies that we toured with took a photo that showed “an orb.”

With or without ghosts, St. Augustine is one of the most interesting and historical cities in the country. The city continues to capitalize on the great legend of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth discovery in the early 1500s. Hundreds visit every day to drink from the stone well at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. The oldest continuously occupied European settlement in continental United States, St. Augustine was later founded by Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565.

St. Augustine retains its European roots with beautiful buildings and narrow streets. Restaurant owners excel at delighting visitors with personal service and superb food quality. We enjoyed a great dinner at Meehan’s Irish Pub on our first night and spent an entire afternoon sampling gourmet food and boutique wines on the City Walks culinary history tour. One of the eateries on the tour was in what was the old swimming hall for guests of the Ponce de Leon Hotel. No, we did not see a ghost floating above on what would have been the water surface level above us (another story told by our Ghost Tour guide). In the Colonial Quarter, we enjoyed sangria and a fabulous lunch of Spanish tapas at Taberna Del Caballo.

The Old Schoolhouse–downright creepy!

Our tour in the Colonial Quarter was educational and fun, with a great guide named Grimm who led us through three centuries of history. The two acre attraction site in the heart of the downtown historic district recreates the sights and sounds of the civilizations that lived there under rule of various flags. Just outside of the Colonial Quarter is The Pirate Museum and a rather creepy Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse with talking mannequins and a resident ghost, of course.

The Flagler College campus, now the centerpiece of St. Augustine’s
modern history, was constructed appropriately in Spanish Renaissance
style under direction of the most accomplished architects of their time
with no expense spared. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
it was built in 1888 as the Ponce de Leon Hotel by Standard Oil
co-founder and multimillionaire Henry Flagler as a place to entertain
the country’s most affluent travelers. Interior elements are credited to
Louis Comfort Tiffany. It was wired for electricity at the onset
and indeed was electrically lit before the White House. 

Today on the grounds of the old hotel, Flagler College is a small private liberal arts college. Students are required to live on campus the first year, dining in a gorgeous hall that resembles Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. Our guide at Flagler College did report encounters with Henry Flagler’s ghost in the dorms. She showed us a tile in the rotunda entry that mysteriously became marked with an image of Mr. Flagler’s face after his death in 1913.

When you’re ready for a break, you can enjoy more than 40 miles of pristine natural beaches surrounding the city. These are the same beaches that stopped Ponce de León in his tracks in 1513, the same beaches hotly contested by the British and the Spanish for ages, and the same beaches on which the Timucuan Indians once made their home. Ghosts on the beach, too? Quite likely!