The St. Augustine Lighthouse is a true St. Augustine treasure. Watching over the city skyline, with a full moon playing peek-a-boo on a cloudy night from behind it, it oozes romance onto the city with every passing beam of light.
Few people know the real history in that the lighthouse that people climb today is not the original! The original lighthouse stood where the St. Augustine Yacht Club stands today. Built too close to the ocean, the original began to deteriorate and crumble into the sea. Our newish lighthouse began construction in 1870, to be completed in 1874. The old tower was decimated during a storm in 1880.
The city brought in foreman Hezikiah Petit to oversee construction of the new tower. Accompanying Petit were his wife and three school-aged daughters. The girls loved their new surroundings, especially with access to the wooded area near where the new lighthouse was being built.
The area we know today as Lighthouse Park, with its lazy tangled limbs and hanging Spanish moss, is where the girls and their new friends would play. They would climb the trees and play hide-and-seek, watched closely by the nearby workers. Their favorite game was “roller coaster”. There was a railway supply cart that ran from where the new lighthouse tower is today and through Lighthouse Park, stopping about 10 to 15 feet from the intracoastal waters. There was a safety latch on the tracks to stop the cart just before it hit the end, preventing supplies from spilling into the sea. The children of the neighborhood, three or four at a time, would jump into the cart, and it would WOOOSH down the hill and through the trees. The children would throw their hands in the air and scream and laugh. The safety latch would catch the cart and bring it to a nice, easy-going stop before the water’s edge. The children would pile out of the cart, push it back up the hill, and the next group of kids would go.
Some days just don’t go the way you expect, and some games don’t end the way you would hope. One day, four of the kids jumped into that cart and flew down that hill through the path between the trees, and just as they began to squeal with joy and laughter, their squeals turned to screams … for their lives. The cart popped into the air, flipped upside down, and plunged into the intracoastal, trapping the children beneath. The workers ran to the water and tried with all their might to save those children. They did save one, but the other three …
Apparently, someone forgot to set the safety latch earlier that day.
But that is not the end of the story. The men who pulled those tiny, lifeless bodies out of the water, had no time to mourn. The new lighthouse was to be finished before the other eroded into the sea. They were forced to resume work the very next day. Soon after, the men began to hear familiar sounds about Lighthouse Park, sounds of children laughing and playing, except there were none, children, that is!
The crew turned to Foreman Petit for guidance who refused to talk about it. Rumor has it that it was his three daughters who perished in the water that day, and he had heard that same laughter of which the workers inquired. Another version of the story claims it was Petit’s two younger daughters that died as well as the daughter of a slave from a home nearby. Either way, on a still night, with not a whisper of wind through the trees, the modern day swings begin to swing, slowly at first, gaining height and speed, sometimes will stop suddenly and then resume. If you listen carefully and with an open mind, you will hear the laughter of the phantom children that still play in that park … and they want to play with YOU!
Grant and Jason and their Ghost Hunters team have been to the Light House twice. Read what they had to say! The Dark of the Moon Paranormal Tour (Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays) is the only paranormal tour that gets you IN the Lighthouse and Keepers’ House at night. Click here to reserve your spot!
Not to worry, if ghosts aren’t your thing, there are still lots of “worldly” things to experience at the Lighthouse, to include archaeology and historical research, artifact conservation, heritage boat building, and scientific diving!
The popular Sunset and full Moonrise event affords the most unique perspective of all, atop the Lighthouse! This special event includes a champagne toast provided by San Sebastian Winery and light hors d'oeuvres prepared by The Reef. Tickets are $25 for non-members ($20 for museum members), reservations are required, and space is limited. Dates for 2013 are 2/25, 3/26, 4/25, 5/24, 6/23, 7/22, 8/20, 9/19, 10/18, 11/17, and 12/16. Click HERE to reserve your space or call 904.829.0745.