My Ghostly Encounter in St. Augustine

I’m going to tell you a ghost story.

It was our 19th wedding anniversary and my very first visit to St. Augustine. All I kept thinking is, “Why did we take this long to make this trip?”

I was smitten. There were buildings that were old. I mean really, really old. You get that kind of architecture in Europe, but not so much in the US. We spent three glorious days.

Not being familiar with the city, we stayed in a ramshack of a motel “overlooking the bay”. Our room was the very last on the second floor tucked around a corner with nothing even remotely resembling a view. The table lamp illuminated the kind of creepy yellow that made you look like you had jaundice. That was the only significant complaint I have about that entire weekend. Luckily we spent very little time in that shit hole of a room.

The first thing we did was acquire trolly passes. That little investment afforded us three days of unlimited passage throughout all the best bits of St. Augustine, with the added bonus of a nasally narrator pointing out all the city’s highlights. After a full two hour round of the complete tour, we’d decided what we wanted to see, and started from there. This really is a walking town, and regrettably, I’d worn the wrong shoes. That sucked. Needless to say, I packed those sandals away for the rest of the weekend.

St. Augustine Lighthouse

St. Augustine Lighthouse

Toward the end of our second day, we decided to head over to Anastasia Island and visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse. It was close to closing so we were the last ones to head up the 219 steps to the top. It was so fucking worth it. We had a 360 degree view of St. Augustine.

Still, pressed for time, we made the descent and headed over to the Keepers’ house. The ground floor is really the second floor and houses your typical museum displays; clothing from the era, bits of rope, things I don’t recognize tucked safely behind glass protectors. It was interesting, but we headed down the short spiral steps to the floor below.

Grant went down first, and I followed a few steps behind. About half way down I felt a tug on my hair. It was hard enough that it made me stop and look over my shoulder. I surveyed the immediate area and ran my hand over my head trying to determine what might have been the cause. My hair was down and loose, and I’d left my purse in the car so my strap wasn’t the culprit.

“Hello?” My husband called up from below. He peeked his head around and asked if I was coming down. I glanced over my shoulder once more, hesitating. “Is something wrong?” He asked looking mildly concerned. I shrugged. “No. My hair felt like it was being pulled. I have no idea why. Weird.” He looked at me with bored eyes. “So, you coming?”

The part that I found a little creepy were the water holding areas. There are two of them and there is a window opening in the wall for each with nothing but darkness beyond. I’m too short to see inside the little windows properly, but I was brave enough to extend my camera through to snap this baby. See? Kinda creepy, right?

Creepy basement room

Creepy basement room

Aside from that, I didn’t feel any evil vibes.

When we were done, we made our way across the grounds and into another building where we were forced to exit through a gift shop (of course). It’s pretty small, but we perused the offerings nonetheless. As we were getting ready to leave, I heard the girl at the counter speak into a two-way radio. “You closed up down there at the Keeper’s house?” She asked. A moment later, a voice crackled through the radio, “Almost. I’m just waiting for the last visitors to come up and leave.” I stepped up to the counter, leaned over and said, “There’s no one else down there. We just left and we were definitely the last people to come through.” She looked a little wary, and informed the other girl through the radio. I can’t be certain, but it sounded like the other girl said, “Oh hell.” If I were alone down there, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have freaked the fuck out.

A couple months later, Grant and I stumbled across a Ghost Hunters episode involving the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and in a segment they covered the lighthouse keeper’s house. Kris (ghost hunter in training) comes down those same spiral steps to the basement and says, “So, I’m gonna head down to the basement. There’s reports of what they believe is a man-a blue man down there who likes to pull hair.”

My heart stopped. Holy shit! Grant looked at me with wide eyes and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

I thought it would be cool if I could find that episode and include it in this post. You’re welcome 😉

It took some searching, but it’s Ghost Hunters Season 3, Return to St. Augustine. In the full episode, that scene is within the last 10 minutes. I found the video below, which is Part 4, so the clip where she says this is within the first 30 seconds of the video. You get a good (albeit dark and creepy) view of the basement, and if you watch the video a few seconds longer, she will actually climb into one of the water storage rooms. *shudder*

Ghost Hunters Return to St. Augustine by oWcStunner

Where the hell is St. Augustine?

I get that question a lot. Sometimes without the expletive, sometimes with. Even from Floridians.

If you know where St. Augustine is, that last bit’s funny. If you don’t know where it is, that’s okay; I didn’t know where it was for the longest time either. And I live in Florida.

A little history and geography for the uninitiated:

St. Augustine is located on the east coast of Florida, south of Jacksonville, and north of Daytona. It’s a lovely little coastal town wrapped up in historical significance. It also happens to be the oldest city in our Nation. Yep. You read that right.

Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the closest thing we’ve got to a little slice of Europe. That’s because it was originally settled by the Spanish, invaded by the French (those bastards), then won by Britain in the 1700’s, eventually becoming ours in 1821 (with a lot of back and forth in between).

The blend of Spanish, French Provincial and English Colonial influence is unmistakable. There are narrow roads with uneven pavers, two story Tudor style homes beside large Spanish estates surrounded by coquina concrete walls. In the center of the historic district, there’s a criss-cross of pedestrian friendly streets lined by quaint shops with everything from hand crafted fudge to vintage clothing. For the artistic history enthusiast, there is so much eye candy, you’d feel naked without a camera. I’m not even kidding.

Aviles Street, St. Augustine

Aviles Street, the oldest street in the US, St. Augustine.

The crown jewel of the city in my opinion is the former Hotel Ponce de León. Originally built as THE premier luxury hotel in 1887 for the wealthiest elite of the era (think Theodore Roosevelt or Mark Twain), this is serious “Oh. My. God.” architecture. Today, it is home to Flagler College; the hotel rooms and suites are girls’ dorms and administrative offices, the grand ballroom now serves as the student dining hall. I was so struck by the expansive beauty of the dining hall, my chest actually ached.

Dining Hall at Ponce Hall

Dining Hall at Ponce Hall

The ceilings and walls are exquisitely detailed by legendary muralist, George Maynard, and the hall is surrounded by the largest collection of Louis Tiffany stained glass windows in the world. I still can’t believe that regular students eat there every single day. So fucking lucky. Makes me want to go to college. Almost.

Just across the street is the stunning Casa Monica Hotel (I have a paranormal tale involving a stay here BTW), and a few blocks down there’s the old military fort, which was impenetrable despite at least a few invasions. Add to that another couple dozen landmarks sprinkled throughout the city, and you can see that this is just a glimpse of St. Augustine. It is one of my very favorite places to visit, and is the backdrop of my debut novel, FINDING SAM.

There is an element of magic that is intrinsic in Sam and Emily’s story, which makes St. Augustine the perfect setting.