Is St. Augustine Lighthouse Haunted?

St. Augustine Lighthouse

Ghostly girls at St. Augustine Lighthouse are well-known for playing paranormal pranks on visitors

St. Augustine Lighthouse’s
Paranormal Claims

  • The spirit of a light keeper who reportedly fell from the tower can now be seen at the top
  • Unexplained cigar smells are reported from visitors in the keeper's house and tower
  • The spirits of two girls, daughters of a light keeper, are known to play jokes on visitors
  • Visitors have often reported the presence of children in the basement
  • The spirits of the two girls are said to appear as apparitions to people who sleep in the keeper's house

St. Augustine Lighthouse’s
Haunted History

St. Augustine, Florida has no shortage of strange historical sites. From the reported site of Ponce De Leon’s landing in the Americas to a museum of medieval torture, St. Augustine seems to relish anything that is equal parts historically significant and significantly odd. And, across the Bridge of Lions on nearby Anastasia Island, the story is no different.

St. Augustine Lighthouse haunted my many watches over the shore

There, the St. Augustine Lighthouse’s stark, black-and-white barber pole spiral has stood dutifully since 1874 and continues to operate still today. But, after almost a century and a half of lighting the way for ships coming in and out of harbor, stories now swirl about ghosts that linger in the old light tower.

Timeline of St. Augustine Lighthouse's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see St. Augustine Lighthouse through the years


Founded in 1565, the city of St. Augustine predates almost every other colonial relic by centuries. St. Augustine was also the site of the first lighthouse established by the new territorial US government. Erected in 1824, this 52 foot stone light served the St. Augustine shores for several decades.Then, in deference to years of beach erosion, a modern lighthouse on Anastasia Island was ordered. The new lighthouse was first lit in 1874. Six years later, the original light succumbed to erosion and tumbled into the ocean.


This new, 165-foot tall lighthouse was lit first by keeper William Russell, who is the only keeper to have managed both the old and new lighthouses on the island. Shortly after, management of the lighthouse was taken by William Harn, a Union Army Civil War hero who served as the light keeper at St. Augustine until his death. Harn and his family were known for their hospitality, with his daughters frequently hosting lemonade stands from the porch of the light keeper’s house, which was built during Harn’s tenure.


Over the decades that followed, the city grew and thrived with the advent of steam shipping and expansion of national rail networks. As more steamships made the trip into the region’s harbors, the St. Augustine Lighthouse became a critical navigational tool. But soon, war would turn the tides on the lighthouse.


In April, 1941, the SS Gulfamerica was sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. In attempts to prevent the enemy from seeing coastal targets, light was rationed. Blackout curtains were required; headlights were banned; and the St. Augustine Lighthouse was dimmed as much as it could be. After German spies made landfall in the area and were swiftly caught, the Floridian coast went into lockdown. Soldiers manned the lighthouse 24/7 to watch the sea for U-Boats until the end of the war.


After World War II, the lighthouse lived a quiet existence until being fully automated in 1955. No longer needing to house keepers or their families, the light keeper’s house was rented to local residents until it was gutted by a fire in 1980. In order to protect its future and history the Junior Service League of St. Augustine signed a 99-year lease for the building and the land surrounding the lighthouse, with plans for a grand renovation.


Over the next 15 years, the group raised millions of dollars and renovated the lighthouse, the keeper’s house, and the land around it. In 1994, the Lighthouse Museum of St. Augustine opened to the public for the first time. Itt continues to provide educational tours to the public today as the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Now, the historical complex includes the lighthouse, the restored keeper’s house, an old Coast Guard barracks, and a 1936 garage used as a Jeep repair facility during World War II.

Is St. Augustine Lighthouse Haunted?

While members of the public frequently visit the museum to learn about the lighthouse and local history, many visitors claim that some historical figures still live and work in the lighthouse, and many have reportedly encountered these phantoms going about their lives throughout the lighthouse complex.

St. Augustine Lighthouse towers above the city
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Phantom Light Keepers of St. Augustine

One spirit regularly encountered is that of a former keeper named Peter, who reportedly loved cigars. Now, long after his death, visitors report the fresh smell of burning cigars throughout the lighthouse and keeper’s house.

Another light keeper regularly seen at the lighthouse is named Joseph, and the story goes that Joseph died by falling from the top of the tower. Now, his apparition is regularly seen up there, staring out across the ocean.

St. Augustine Lighthouse’s
Ghostly Girls

But, it isn’t just light keepers who still call the old lighthouse home. Perhaps the best known haunting at St. Augustine Lighthouse is that of the Pittee girls. Their father, Hezekiah, was hired to oversee the construction of the current lighthouse in the 1870s, and brought his family along to live with him while he worked.

One day, his three daughters and a friend were playing in a railway cart (used to move supplies from shore to the construction site), using it as a ride down to the shore. During one trip, the cart careened into the water with the children inside. Two of the Pittee daughters, and their friend, drowned before help could arrive.

The Pittee Phantoms of St. Augustine Lighthouse

The two lost Pittee daughters are some of the most frequently encountered spirits on the property.

Visitors often report the girls play pranks on them, like coaxing visitors up-and-down the tower with sounds of giggling and footsteps, only to keep them going up-and-down chasing these sounds for as long as possible. Others ascend the lighthouse steps only to pause and find their shoelaces tied to the steps by these spectral pranksters.

St. Augustine Lighthouse’s Haunted Keeper’s House

The girls are also frequently seen and heard in the keeper’s house, with a former renter of the building reporting he would wake up at night to the apparition of a young girl in his room, only to see her disappear instantly.

Visitors today say they can often feel the presence of children in the basement of the home especially. Some attribute this to the fact that the basement was the only part of the home to survive the 1980 fire.

St. Augustine Lighthouse’s
Famous Ghosts

The haunting legends of the St. Augustine Lighthouse have made it a favorite for paranormal investigators, haunted tours, and ghost hunting television shows. The lighthouse can be seen on episodes of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America, and My Ghost Story on A&E.

The building is also a fixture of local ghost tours, and they often host their own ghost tours and public investigations. Private ghost tours and investigations are also available. So, no matter what your reason for visiting the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse is, be sure to keep your wits about you when exploring the keeper’s house or ascending the many steps of the tower. Otherwise, you may fall victim to one of the many Pittee girl pranks.