Castillo de San Marcos

300 years worth of spirits may lurk within the star-shaped walls of Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos’
Centuries of Hauntings

  • A headless apparition is seen wandering through the fort
  • The spirits of two lovers immured in the wall of the fort now reportedly haunt the room where they died
  • Feelings of uneasiness and dread are felt in certain prison cells
  • Shadows and apparitions are seen around the top walls of the fort
  • Phantom lights are seen coming from the watchtower
  • An apparition is commonly seen leaping from the top walls of the fort

Castillo de San Marcos History

While St. Augustine, Florida, has no shortage of sites that celebrate the city’s over 400-year history, there is perhaps no better example than Castillo de San Marcos. A military fort so impenetrable and sturdy that it still stands strong today, Castillo de San Marcos’ shuriken-shaped structure has complimented the shores of the Matanzas River for more than three centuries.

Castillo de San Marcos famous haunted fort

In its time, the fort has seen countless battles and sieges, and done its duty to defend the Spanish Floridian shores from invasion. Today, long after the Spanish Empire crumbled, Castillo de San Marcos remains as a popular tourist attraction; a true star on the shores of St. Augustine, that some say may just be haunted.

Timeline of Castillo de San Marcos's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Castillo de San Marcos through the years

1565

When Spanish explorers first landed in the area known today as St. Augustine in 1565, they hardly prioritized military defense. But not long after the Spanish settlement arose, the need for fortification made itself painfully known. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake arrived on the shores of Florida with one goal: burn the settlements at St. Augustine.

Drake proved devastatingly effective, reducing the settlement to ash. The Spanish survivors were not swayed though and soon rebuilt, adding wood forts guarding the settlement.

1695

Over the following years, wood forts proved woefully inadequate against invaders looking to loot St. Augustine. After English buccaneer Robert Searle sacked the city using Spanish supply ships to avoid fortifications, the leaders of the Spanish Empire finally ordered a permanent, stone fort built at St. Augustine.

That stone fort would become Castillo de San Marcos. Completed in 1695, Castillo de San Marcos was a massive improvement over its wooden predecessors. And, it soon had a chance to prove its superiority.

1702

In 1702, Carolina Governor James Moore sought to capture St. Augustine from the Spanish once and for all, and set out on an expedition to siege the city.

In November of that year, over a thousand locals crammed into the safety of Castillo de San Marcos for nearly two straight months as the siege took place. This time, the Spanish held the region. Though Moore burnt the city on his retreat, the Spanish rebuilt quickly afterwards, and the new stone fortress proved its might.

1763

Castillo de San Marcos proved so effective in its defense that when it finally fell into British hands, it was through treaties. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 gave the British control over the fort, but this would be short-lived. Just twenty years later, as part of their loss in the American Revolution, the British ceded the Florida territory back to Spain.

1819

During the American Revolution, the British used the fort as a military prison and maintained it rather well. But the Spanish found the rest of the city much different than they’d left it, devoid of many Spanish settlers and teeming with British loyalists.

Soon, the new United States pressured the Spanish to sell Florida to them, which they did in 1819, and Castillo de San Marcos became property of the US.

1842

Though it was over 100 years old at this point, Castillo de San Marcos was far from retired. After the US acquired the fort, they renamed it Fort Marion and used it as a prison during the Second Seminole War. Skulls of Native Americans who died during there were kept by the fort doctor, Frederick Weedon.

Some prisoners managed to escape and share tales of their horrid treatment, inflaming the Seminole’s fighting spirit and prolonging the war. The war ended in 1842, but there was one more war the old Spanish fort needed to see.

1861

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, the fort was quickly annexed by the Confederacy after Florida seceded from the U.S. One Confederate militia, the St. Augustine Blues, was formed at the fort in August of 1861, but in March of 1862, the USS Wabash entered the city’s harbor to find it emptied of all Confederates.

The US took the fort back without a shot fired and ended the life of Castillo de San Marcos as a military fortification. But the U.S. military wasn’t quite ready to let go of the fort yet.

1900

From the 1870’s onward, Castillo de San Marcos was a military prison, used to house Native Americans including Chief White Horse of the Kiowa and Chief Grey Beard of the Cheyenne. Countless Native Americans would die at the prison during this time.

The fort’s use as a Native American prison camp continued until it was reused as a prison for army deserters. But, the fort’s time as a prison soon came to a close. Castillo de San Marcos finally shuttered in 1900, after 205 years of operation.

Castillo de San Marcos:
A Mysterious Monument

In 1933, the fort was finally transferred away from the military to the National Parks Service, and the Fort Marion title was removed in 1942. Castillo de San Marcos has greeted, educated, and entertained throngs of visitors and tourists ever since then, remaining a historical staple of St. Augustine’s culture and heritage. And, with its long life and bloody history, locals and tourists alike consider the fort one of the most haunted forts in the United States, if not the world. And, if you believe the stories that come out of the fort today, you might just agree.

Is Castillo de San Marcos haunted?

One of the most common spirit sightings at the fort stems from its time as a Native American prison during the Second Seminole War. During this period, a tribe chief named Osceola was captured and imprisoned in Castillo de San Marcos, soon befriending Dr. Weedon.

Upon Osceola’s death in custody, Weedon sawed off his head and preserved it as a trophy. Now, the story goes that Osceola’s headless apparition wanders through the fort, searching for the head that was stolen from him.

Haunted Hidden Rooms in

Castillo de San Marcos

Two other spirits known around the fort source from even more grizzly history. Local legend has it that a curious architect touring the fort one day came across a hollow wall and, after removing a few bricks, found two skeletons immured in the wall. The story goes that these two unfortunate souls were the wife of a Spanish colonel and her mistress, who were found out by the colonel and sealed away in the walls of the fort until they succumbed to starvation and dehydration.

Now, these two restless lovers are frequently encountered around the room their souls were bricked away in, with a common report being visitors smelling the woman’s sweet perfume when examining the immurement room.

Castillo de San Marcos’

Spectral Soldiers

Other hauntings around Castillo de San Marcos are equally well-known amongst locals and paranormal enthusiasts, though their sources are less certain. The shadowy apparitions of Spanish soldiers are often seen by visitors and passers-by from the top of the fort, as if still tending to and firing cannons at enemy ships in the harbor. And certain prison cells at the fort are known to bring uneasy feelings and sudden senses of dread to those who step into them, with many claiming it is the spirits of those who died in the cells bringing about those bad feelings.

Phantom Lights at

Castillo de San Marcos

Lights from the fort’s watchtower are often seen without explanation, with many who have seen the lights saying they look like search lights from ghostly soldiers still patrolling the grounds and nearby water. An apparition is also commonly seen leaping over the walls of the fort and then disappearing, as if he were a Seminole fighter escaping prison.

Castillo de San Marcos’

Haunted Reputation

Ghost stories around Castillo de San Marcos are numerous, and seemingly stem from just about every century the fort saw use in. Locals know the paranormal happenings at the fort well, but it has become more widely known in recent years after it was visited by the Travel Channel series’ Ghost Adventures and Monumental Mysteries. Ghost tours in St. Augustine almost always note the paranormal stories around Castillo de San Marcos, and paranormal enthusiasts can tour the structure regularly during their guided historical tours.

So though only two people were reportedly encased in the walls of Castillo de San Marcos, it seems many more souls have immured themselves in the masonry of this old Spanish fortress.