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Haunted St. Augustine

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Located in Northeast Florida, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. It is appropriately called the “Nation’s Oldest City”, and to many of the locals, it is known as the “Ancient City”. After more than 450 years, it is also said to be one of the most haunted cities in America.

 

Haunted Places:

 

Casablanaca Inn

Castillo de San Marcos

Flagler College-Hotel Ponce de León

Huguenot Cemetery

Lighthouse

Old Jail

Spanish Military Hospital

St. Francis Inn

 

Casablanca Inn

Built in 1914, this Mediterranean Revival style two-story inn was first called the Mantanzas Hotel. It changed hands in about 1920 and the new owner -- a widow -- changed the name to the Bayfront Boarding House. Taking great pride in running a clean and comfortable boarding house that offered excellent meals, the establishment was soon very busy and reservations began to be required in order to secure a room. After a few years, she changed the name to the Casablanca Inn.

 

These were the years of Prohibition and bootleggers were very active in bringing alcohol into St. Augustine from Cuba. Legend has it that the widow began to have a relationship with one of the bootleggers and she was in an excellent position to provide assistance. Though her clientele was a broad range of salesmen, families, and other travelers, during this time, she also hosted a number of FBI agents who were in town to enforce the law. Soon, she began to assist the rumrunners. When no agents were in the city, she would swing a lantern at night from the top of her inn, signaling that it was safe to deliver the alcohol. She also made arrangements to have booze to provide her customers who wanted to drink. The smugglers paid her handsomely for her help.

 

At one point, she was allegedly question by an agent, but the suspicion was dismissed. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, she had made enough money to live well for the rest of her life. When she died she was buried in the Huguenot Cemetery. However, many who have visited the inn, report that though she may have died, she never left.

 

Claims have been made that many people in boats have seen a lantern swinging atop the hotel at dusk. Others have stated that they saw a dark figure swinging the lantern. Staff and guests have reported seeing a misty fog like female apparition at various places inside and outside the inn. Others have felt a gentle touch, the sounds of footsteps when no one is near, disembodied voices, and the strong scent of oranges, which were associated with her.

 

Though she is said to be a kindly ghost, a number of prankish activities have been reported such beds becoming unmade, televisions and lamps that turn on and off by themselves, even when unplugged, items being moved around and tablecloths removed from tables. On one occasion, a night innkeeper heard loud footsteps and doors opening and closing on the floor over him, but that section was unoccupied.


Restored to its former glory today, the Casablanca Inn serves as a beautiful bed and breakfast inn today.

 

 

Castillo de San Marcos

 

Castillo San Marcos outer wallT he oldest existing permanent seacoast fortification in the continental United States, Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine, Florida was built between 1672 - 1756.

 

Though the Spanish founded St. Augustine in 1565, it would be another hundred years before they began building the Castillo de San Marcos. The earlier wooden forts did not last long. Some of them burned down, some were washed away by storms, and some just rotted from neglect.

 

However, two events took place around the mid-1600s that made the Spanish realize that it was time to build a stronger fort to defend their town and their colony of La Florida.

 

The first event was in 1768 when the pirate Robert Searles attacked St. Augustine . Unlike Sir Francis Drake, who had attacked and burned St. Augustine to the ground a hundred years earlier, Searles did not burn the town or destroy the wooden fort. However, the Spanish feared he might return with more men and turn St. Augustine into a pirate camp to attack Spanish treasure ships. They needed more protection.

 

 

 

The second event was the founding of South Carolina by the English in 1670. The English had settled Jamestown, Virginia 42 years after the Spanish founded St. Augustine , followed by the Pilgrim's settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. But, these colonies were too far away to be a threat. Even the establishment of Maryland and New York over the next decades did not much affect the Spanish. However, that changed in 1670 with the establishment of South Carolina . The English were now much too close for comfort and the Spanish Crown sent money to St. Augustine for the building of a stone fortress.

 

After more than three centuries this magnificent fort continues to stand and today is not only a destination for tourists but also is apparently called home to a number of restless spirits. The largest masonry structure of its kind in the nation, this 17th century fortress has survived years of battles and storms, changed ownership five times (Spain, Britton, America, Confederate States of America, then back to US control again), pirate attacks, and served as a prison throughout the years, witnessing the deaths of many.  The fortress has also been a silent spectator to a number of gruesome stories. It is no wonder that it is haunted.

 

During the many years it took to build the fort, a number of workers died due to hard labor, tropical heat and diseases. During this time of Spanish control, it is believed that a hidden room in the lower chambers was used as a torture chamber during the brutal Spanish Inquisition. It wouldn't be until years later that the room was discovered when a heavy American cannon fell through the floor revealing a room containing ashes and human bones.

 

In 1702, when Spain was at war with Great Britain, the British launched a major attack on St. Augustine. For 50 days, the British besieged the fort, captured hundred of Indians for slaves, and burned the hospitals, monasteries, and the valuable Franciscan library. In the end, the Castillo de San Marcos was the only structure to survive in St. Augustine. Dozens of men on both sides of the conflict were killed.

 

In 1784, the fortress was under the command of a Spanish officer named Garcia Marti. Colonel Marti was married to a woman named Dolores, who was renowned for wearing a distinctive perfume which she used liberally. Marti was a busy man and began to suspect that his younger beautiful wife was having a clandestine relationship with one of his subordinate officers. His suspicions were confirmed when his young and handsome assistant -- Captain Manuel Abela -- reported for duty smelling of his wife's distinctive perfume. Suddenly both Dolores and Captain Abela went missing. It was explained that Abela had been sent on a special mission to Cuba and that Dolores had became ill and had been sent to live with her Aunt in Mexico. Though rumors abounded, Colonel Marti wasn't directly challenged.

 

It would be nearly five decades before the truth would be discovered. In 1833, the Castillo de San Marcos was under American control when an American officer discovered a hollow sound in one of the walls of the dungeon area. Puzzled, he removed a brick and out flowed the smell of a strong perfume. Soon, an entire hidden room was discovered, within which were two skeletons chained to the wall. It is believed that the couple were chained to the wall and left there to die a slow death.

 

Catillo San Marcos CourtyardToday, it is said that a female apparition, thought to be the forlorn spirit of Delores Marti, roams the grounds of the Castillo wearing a white dress. Other reports say that the screams of the slowly dying couple can be heard through the stone wall of the room where they were held when visitors place their ear against it.

 

The dungeons below the Castillo have kept numerous prisoners including that of Chief Osceola in 1837 during the Second Seminole War. Other captives over the years included more than 500 Apache prisoners who were followers of Geronimo , which included women and children;  pirates, and prisoners of war. Though a few escaped, others were released, there were no doubt, many who met their deaths while being held in cramped, dank conditions in the dungeon.

 

Reports of paranormal activity at the castillo include sightings of Spanish soldiers patrolling the grounds, the ghost of a Seminole Indian who seemingly leaps to freedom from the high fortress walls, a Spanish soldier who is often spied at sunrise and sunset standing at the edge of the fort looking out to sea. In the 18th century a Spanish soldier was killed by a cannon ball while searching for a ring on the grounds. His spirit is said to be seen still looking for the ring.

 

Other paranormal activity includes a light that shines from a watchtower on stormy nights even though the tower has no electricity. In the dungeon, visitors report a number of sensations including felling as if someone with cold hands had touched them, unexplained noises, and people talking. Many report having felt goose bumps and feeling ill while walking through. Photos taken at the fort often display

misty shapes, strange lights, and what appears to be translucent ghosts.

 

In other places within the fort, flashes of light have been seen coming from the brass cannons, wisps of smoke, more spirits dressed in soldier's uniforms, and the sounds of screams.

 

Flagler College-Hotel Ponce de León

Hotel Ponce de Leon-Flagler College, St. Augustine, FloridaIn 1882, Henry Flagler, a New York entrepreneur and cofounder of Standard Oil, became interested in the historic city of St. Augustine and its potential as a winter resort. Flagler's subsequent development of transportation and resort facilities in St. Augustine and along the east coast of Florida spurred rapid development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A focal point of this development was Flagler's Hotel Ponce de León. In 1887 Flagler hired two young architects from the prominent New York firm, McKim, Mead, and White, to design the hotel. With the design of the Ponce de Leon, John Carrere and Thomas Hastings launched a new architectural firm, Carrere & Hastings, which would gain national prominence. Flagler chose the Spanish Renaissance Revival style so that the hotel's design would compliment its historic surroundings. Retained to decorate the interior of the hotel, Louis C. Tiffany used stained glass, mosaics and terra cotta relief on the walls and ceilings and commissioned several grand murals. The hotel was the first large scale building constructed entirely of poured concrete.

 

The popularity of "the Ponce" and its style strongly influenced the architecture of southern Florida for the next 50 years. The success of the Hotel Ponce de Leon was episodic, immediately contending with a yellow fever epidemic and the worst freeze in state history in 1895. St. Augustine's weather proved not to be as warm and sunny as other resort areas that were developed further south along the peninsula, and the town never boomed as a winter resort. However, tourists did come during the first decades of the 20th century, and the Ponce de Leon was one of only three Flagler Hotels to survive the Great Depression. Following a lull in tourism during World War II, the hotel attracted large crowds for several years. Some of its famous guests included Ernest Hemmingway, Mark Twain, Babe Ruth, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Unfortunately; however, over the years, the hotel declined and in 1967 the hotel closed and was sold to Flagler College. It has been renovated and today and retains most of its original integrity. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and became a U.S. National Historic Landmark on February 21, 2006.

 

Today this historical landmark is said to remain home to a number of unearthly residents including Henry Flagler himself. When the wealthy entrepreneur died in 1913, he was laid in state in the hotel's rotunda. When his casket was being carried out, all the doors suddenly slammed, and legend has it that his spirit was trapped in the rotunda. Reports are that Flager continues to keep an eye on his hotel.

 

Another spirit is said to be that of Henry's second wife, Ida Alicia Shourds . Ida, who was the nurse for the first Mrs. Flagler. She was described as frivolous and high-strung when Henry Flagler married her two years after his first wife's death. But, as time passed, it began to appear that she suffered from mental illness - potentially manic-depressive or bipolar disorder. She began to dabble with a Ouiga board and became involved in a spiritualist movement that was popular in St. Augustine at the time. As she talked with the dead, read tarot cards, and attended spiritual meetings, her behavior became more and more erratic -- so much so that she was forced to spend some time in a mental hospital.

 

However, she was soon releases, returning immediately to her Ouija board sessions again. Before long, she was sent back to see a psychiatrist, at which time she attempted to kill the doctor by stabbing him with a pair of scissors. In March, 1899 she was legally declared insane. A year and a half later, Henry Flagler divorced Ida and quickly remarried a third wife.

 

Today, Ida Alice is said to haunt the East Wing women's dorm, walking the halls of the top floor, and at one point taking up residence in a dorm room occupied by a girl who looked much like her. Though not harmful, the girl eventually transferred to another college.

 

A third lost soul is said to be that a a former mistress of Henry Flagler. Called the "Woman in Black", the story says that Flagler had an on-going extra-marital affair with a young woman while he was married to Ida Alicia. Henry was said to have kept his mistress, who was always dressed in black, in a suite of rooms in the hotel and forbade her to leave the rooms whenever Ida stayed at the hotel. Legend has it that the young woman eventually became so depressed that she hanged herself.

 

Other restless spirits are also said to continue to reside at the hotel including a young boy who fell to his death in the hotel. A number of people have reported a little boy who tugs at them and asks to play. Others have reported seeing a ball bouncing or rolling down the hallways.

 

Yet, another mistress is said to haunt the hotel, though this one wasn't Flaglers. The story tells of a woman who, while a guest at the hotel, had an affair with a married man which resulted in a pregnancy. Of course, she wanted the man to divorce his wife and marry her. This led to a meeting between the man, his wife, and his mistress at the hotel. Obviously, the meeting didn't go well for the mistress, as she is said to have emotionally ran away from the meeting, fleeing up the stairs to her room. However, along the say, she tripped and fell down the stairs to her death. Called the "Lady in Blue", this spirit is said to be the one who is most frequently appears, seen and heard crying in the hallways or the dining room.

 

In addition to sightings of the spirits, other paranormal activity has been reported including the sound of footsteps and voices when no one is present and objects that mysteriously get moved about.
 

 

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