Saint Augustine Lighthouse

More From Saint Augustine More From Florida

An angry spirit with a grudge has caused some trouble and headaches.

A dedicated spectral lighthouse keeper and wife are the managing protectors.

Children who died in an accident are still themselves.


The massive, 1874-built St. Augustine Lighthouse towers 165 ft above sea level. It is an American-made, sturdy, well-built, Alabama brick/Philadelphia iron tower, with 219 steps and small landings, offering breaks between the 50 winding-step interval staircases. On each landing, there is a window, looking out at the sea, or town of St Augustine, or other buildings on Anastasia island. Tom and I went up to the top and enjoyed the view, exploring the lighthouse. Just don’t look down, if you don’t like heights! The staircase winds along the curved walls, giving a great view downward to the ground floor in the middle – Yikes!

The lens of this lighthouse is described as a “first-order” Fresnel lens, made of 370 hand-cut prisms, that are arranged in a beehive shape, that is 12 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. This lens still worked under automatic electrical power, up until 2002, when the lighthouse itself was retired from Coast Guard service, given to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, Inc., who have done a marvelous job, running the lighthouse and other buildings as a museum, exploring various aspects of the history of the area, from early times to the present.

Their mission statement declares: “The Saint Augustine Lighthouse is dedicated to discovering, preserving, presenting and keeping alive the story or our nation’s oldest port.” They are considered to be the shining example as to how lighthouse museums should be presented, organized and run. The St. Augustine Lighthouse staff are recognized nationally as experts in restoration and museum operations. They are involved in not only educational opportunities, and preserving the past for other generations, but also in archaeological excavations of ship wrecks off St. Augustine and the surrounding waters. They help to preserve the artifacts found. Tom and I had such a great time looking at all the fascinating exhibits on display in the museum rooms, that it took more than an hour to see it all.


As of June of 2010, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum has been accepted as a partner of the Smithsonian, allowing the museum greater access to the Smithsonian’s substantial resources and exhibits on loan. Their exhibits should be even better!

There is so much history to be recorded and appreciated in St. Augustine, as this city is over 400 years old! Since the early days of St. Augustine, when it was a Spanish settlement, there was always a tower somewhere on Anastasia Island, not far from the spot where the St. Augustine Lighthouse now sits, as a tower on this island would give an exceptional view of the sea and incoming invaders. The first two towers were built of wood. The first tower was burned to the ground in 1586, courtesy of Sir Francis Drake during an English attack on St. Augustine. The second wooden look-out tower lasted into the late 1600s. It was replaced with a sturdy, well-made coquina shell structure, sometime between the late 1600s and early 1700s. It was located near the present lighthouse, but a little to the north.

When the British took over St Augustine in 1763, they improved this tower, by making it taller and by putting a canon on top, so they could warn the town of incoming dangers. I’m sure that the Spanish appreciated the additions made to the tower when they again were given back Florida in a treaty with Great Britain.

This tower finally became a lighthouse, under the control of the Coast Guard, when the United States was given Florida for a dollar by the Spanish, in 1821. Three years later, a new lighthouse was built on this same spot. It was in use until the Civil War.

After the Civil War was over, the lighthouse was put back into service. However, the tides had eaten the land away, and the need to move to a new location became apparent. This project of building of new lighthouse got off on the wrong foot in the very beginning; in purchasing the land needed. The government bought Dr. Ballard’s property, who wasn’t a happy camper about the final price dictated by the government. It seems that Dr. Ballard was forced to sell the land to them under the threat of eminent domain. After acquiring the land, this final version of the St. Augustine Lighthouse was built and finished in 1874, with 6 years to spare. The old lighthouse was washed away in a high tide in 188O.

In 1876, the head light keeper’s house was built right behind the lighthouse. Other houses for the two assistant light keepers and other personnel were built on the property near the lighthouse as well. Throughout the years, improvements were added, as times and needs changed. The St. Augustine Lighthouse became electrified in 1936. It was fully automated in July of 1955, which meant that only a caretaker who lived off-site was needed after that time. Chief James Pippin was the last, on-site light keeper, and David Swain was the very first caretaker, who lived not far from the lighthouse.

The old light keeper’s house was rented to Dan Holiday, from 1961-1967. After 1968, the house was no longer rented, which was a mistake, it seems. A fire destroyed the inside of it. But in 1980, The Junior Service League, from which the organization, The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, sprang from, began the restoration project to bring the light keeper’s house back from its sorry state. The Lighthouse Tower was also restored. The lens was re-lighted in a glorious celebration in 1993.

Though the lighthouse is now a museum, it is still used as a lighthouse as well, under private ownership, providing light at night for boats on the sea.



According to the St. Augustine Lighthouse web site, while no light keeper’s ever fell from this grander lighthouse, people connected to this lighthouse have died while serving as lighthouse keeper, or in accidents that happened around the property.

Children from all generations have been victims of senseless accidents. Children who have died from sudden accidents, sometimes decide to stay and enjoy the place where they were living, not ready to pass on just yet.

The building of this new lighthouse took a long time to complete, due to the height and scope of this facility. Hezekiah Pettee, who lived in Maine with his family, was hired to build this grand lighthouse. He moved his wife and 5 children down to St. Augustine, and they moved into a home on the property. On site, there was a rail car or hand cart that carried building material from the ocean dock to the lighthouse site. When it wasn’t being used by workmen, the children loved to ride it down to the water for fun.

On July 10, 1873, 4 of Hezekiah’s children and a daughter of one of the workmen, were enjoying a ride, when the brakes failed, and all 5 children were dumped into the sea. While workmen were able to save 2 of Hezekiah’s children, a son and daughter, his two eldest daughters, Mary (15) and Eliza (13), and the workman’s daughter died from drowning.

While it isn’t known for sure who the adult entities are who haunt the property, there are several theories to ponder.

Sometimes when people receive a raw deal or injustice in life, they can’t let go of their anger or disappointment, and choose to harass or complain to the living, or try to clear their name, postmortem.

Dr. Ballard felt he was wronged and was furious!! Dr. Ballard had originally made a deal with the Coast Guard, that was “mutually beneficial” to both Dr. Ballard and the Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the government wasn’t able to bring the deal to a close, and the Coast Guard officer who had made the deal with Dr. Ballard, was transferred. Dr. Ballard wasn’t happy with the final, low-ball price offered by the government. When he didn’t agree to the officially presented price, the government offered him another “deal that he couldn’t refuse”. Accept the offer or receive nothing for the land. His alternative choice to sell the land on the free market to other interested parties was gone forever.

Dr. Ballard vowed to never leave the property – Uh oh! Some believe it may be the entity of Dr. Ballard who has caused some trouble and headaches to the living here, and still lurks and stomps around the property as well, forever fuming.

The families who were hired to keep the lighthouse running and operational were a hardy lot, who took their duties very seriously indeed, knowing that their service was vital in keeping people alive, as the light would guide the ocean-bound vessels away from the deadly rocks.

Sometimes when these dedicated folks died while working at a lighthouse, or other facility that has an important function for society, they don’t want to retire from their responsibilities, and choose to stay, to continue on, or perhaps to supervise the living.

St. Augustine Lighthouse Keeper, William Harn, died of tuberculosis on April 1, 1889 while still Head Keeper. Kate Harn, William’s wife, became the Second Assistant Keeper after her husband’s death. Perhaps it is this couple who still work in the lighthouse.

Head Keeper Rantia’s wife died here on Sept. 21, 1894.

Other more recent St. Augustine Lighthouse Keepers may also be the male & female entities who are haunting/supervising the living. Every keeper who served here was truly dedicated to their service in this lighthouse. Any one of them may not have wanted to retire just yet!

In other stories found on, entities have attached themselves to items/things that meant a lot to them while they were alive.

As there are military and maritime displays, and other relics found in the museum displays in the basement of the former Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence; now part of The St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum, perhaps a soldier, mariner, or past light keeper’s from another, older version of the lighthouse is attached to something in the basement.

People who commit suicide sometimes don’t find peace that they were looking for, and are stuck in this world, still very unhappy, unable to let go of their feelings. Being dead didn’t help at all.

It is an urban legend that in the 1930s, a mariner had hung himself in the basement of the lighthouse keeper’s house, though there is no proof that this incident happened.



Reports of paranormal activity have been around for many years.

The Lighthouse Museum; formerly the head Lighthouse Keeper’s residence.

In 1970, when the house stood empty, it was destroyed by a mysterious fire, that left a shell of a forlorn-looking building. While it was thought that it was an act of vandalism, some think that the entity of Dr. Ballard could’ve started it as an act of revenge.

In 1981, the workers who were hired to rebuild the inside of the house, endured the wrath of a full plate of poltergeist activity from an angry spirit, trying to scare them away.

Some think it was the entity of Dr. Ballard.

For no apparent reason, a scaffold collapsed, beams fell down, and a spike either fell or was thrown at a worker, sending him to the hospital. An unfriendly atmosphere was felt by all. Other mishaps also convinced some workers to quit. However, when the house was fully renovated, all the poltergeist activity stopped.

The Lighthouse Museum Basement:

Male entity; who perhaps killed himself, or is attached to something on display in the basement.

A tall male entity, dressed in a military/maritime uniform/gray attire has been seen standing in the doorway of the video room, hanging out by the cistern, and seen walking across the area.

The music boxes wind themselves up and play, chairs are rearranged in the video room, and sometimes overturned.

First Floor:

The playful entity of a young girl gets her chuckles by playing tricks on the staff.

The smell of cigar smoke is sometimes noticed. A past light keeper enjoyed his cigars while alive, and still does in his after-life.

Second Floor:

People on the first floor have heard footsteps up on the second floor, when no one living was there.

When the house was rented in the 1960s, the second floor guest room was being used by a friend of Dan’s. His friend awoke in the wee hours of the morning, and was startled to see a young girl, around 13-15, standing there beside his bed, dressed in a long dress. She stared at him, and slowly faded into the woodwork.

The faces of young girl entities have been seen, peeking out of the windows.

The Gift Shop – Located in the area next to the lighthouse and museum:

It is suspected by some that the entities of the girls enjoy playing with the items for sale in the gift shop. Items are moved around, sometimes disappear; perhaps borrowed, but always reappear at some point.

The Outside Area of The St. Augustine Lighthouse:

The sounds of young girls playing, talking in the swing set area have been reported. Some claim that these entities still swing on the swings.

The entity of Dr. Ballard has been seen stomping around the grounds in a bad humor.

A female entity is seen in the area right in back of the lighthouse, going about her business.

Inside the St. Augustine Lighthouse:

To get the full story of some of these occurrences, read David Lapham’s book, Ghosts of St. Augustine.

Late at night, a male presence, who is perhaps the unseen guardian/supervisor, lets the living know that they are trespassing, by enveloping them with an icy cold spot.

David tells the story that one night, the automated light system in the lighthouse was misbehaving. When he arrived, he went across the yard to the lighthouse. He heard a man’s footsteps behind him on the gravel. He turned around, the footsteps stopped, and no one was there. As he climbed the stairs to the top, he heard the footsteps of his unseen supervisor coming up closely behind him. After checking out the problem and fixing it, he made a controlled yet hasty exit.

A female entity is also seen on the stairs.

Disembodied conversations, between a male and a female which can’t be understood have been heard by the living.

The laughter of young girls has been noticed as well on the stairs.

The apparitions of two young girls, thought to be Mary and Eliza have been seen on the cat walk at the very top of the lighthouse, enjoying the view of the sea.

A male entity is seen in the lighthouse, going about his business.


A big YES INDEED is in order.

Though the entities who haunt, enjoy and supervise the living here at this lighthouse aren’t on the museum’s payroll, in that they have their own schedule and don’t always show themselves, hard scientific evidence has been captured on digital film and on EVP recordings by paranormal investigators. The most well-known evidence was gathered by the GHOST HUNTERS, who have the TV show on cable.

Their team caught some footage of what appears to be a figure leaning over the railing at the top of the lighthouse, as well as other evidence. On both investigations, they also recorded some clear EVPs.


81 Lighthouse Avenue
Saint Augustine, Florida 32080.
(904) 829-0745

The St. Augustine Lighthouse can be found on the north end of Anastasia Island and can be seen from the mainland.

If biking or driving a car, take the Bridge of Lions across the water which turns into A1A – Anastasia Boulevard Turn left onto White Street East, which runs into Lighthouse Avenue Turn south, follow the signs, and the parking lot will appear.

An easier way is to buy a bus/trolley ticket on King Street, located right next to Potter’s Wax Museum. The bus takes you to the Lighthouse, and gives you an hour to explore the lighthouse and grounds, while it takes other passengers to other places on Anastasia Island. You can stay as long as you want at any location. The trolleys run all over the city, pointing out the sights of interest and is an easy way to get around St. Augustine, when you are tired of walking!



  • Ghosts of St. Augustine
    By Dave Lapham
    Pineapple Press – 1997
  • Daily Motion — Ghost Hunters
  • dailymotion video — “Ghost Hunters Return to St. Augustine”

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Saint Augustine Haunts in Florida