Category Archives: Events

Ghost Tour Experience: ‘Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House.’

The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown on October 31, 2018 during a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. Photo by Jayda Barnes

By Jayda Barnes, Flagler College student

The first thing I noticed about the Dark of the Moon Tour was that it was, indeed, very dark. The chill in the air may have been due to the setting sun or the spookiness of Halloween night. The Museum grounds, usually bright with sunlight, faded into the shadows of the trees which hovered around it. The only true source of light appeared in the beacon of its namesake: The Lighthouse.

After receiving my tickets, I rented an EMF meter to sense the electromagnetic fluctuations caused by any ghosts, mostly because I knew my best friend would glare at me all night if I didn’t.

The occasion of the evening only became more apparent as we stood outside of the Museum gift shop, waiting to be led on our spooky journey. Halloween shirts and costumes popped up sporadically in a few of the more festive guests. Promptly at 7:30 pm, our party was escorted to the base of the tower, where we learned the rules for the evening and split into groups. My group entered the Lighthouse first. We stood at the bottom of the tower and listened to the stories of ghosts seen in the past, especially the mysterious Shadow Figure who has been seen peering over the railing down at guests.

Perhaps the scariest moment of the evening came as we huffed our way up the 219 steps to the top of the Lighthouse. The exercise of it was frightening enough, but on top of that, the entire tower was shrouded in darkness, save for the few lanterns dangling along the way. Silhouetted figures painted on the walls of each landing invoked images of the Shadow Figure we’d just been told about.

Despite the fear and the height, everyone made it to the top and embraced the whipping chill of the wind. All of St. Augustine stretched below, hundreds of tiny lights peppering the ground. It was almost beautiful enough to make me forget the ghost story I was standing on.

Once the heat of the climb wore off and the wind became more chilling than relieving, the group made its way back down to the ground. Our guide led us around to the side of the Lighthouse, where she detailed the haunting tale of one Lightkeeper’s plummet from the original tower.

After catching our breath, we journeyed to the Keepers’ House. Stories of fatal accidents and irritable Lightkeepers filled the darkness. Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House. We ended in the basement, where we were released to explore on our own for the rest of the night.

The basement had the most activity of the evening. One man sat in one of the resident ghost’s favorite chairs. As the guest spoke to the room, EMF meters began lighting up red around his shoulders, indicating some paranormal activity. The more we spoke and scanned the room, the more lights lit up, travelling behind the chairs to the back of the room. Upstairs, we explored an area called the Shadow Room, where the energy of the room intensified as soon as we entered. My friend heard beeping in the corner as we searched the room for signs of ghostly activity.

The tour ended at 9:30 p.m., sending us back into the world to reflect on our supernatural experiences. Even with the Lighthouse looming behind us, we carried the eeriness with us into the festive evening. The tour might have been even spookier because of Halloween, but it was also even more fun because of it. As our guide told us, the Museum is “not a haunted house, just haunted.” And on Halloween, when the spiritual veil is said to be thinnest, it’s always possible the ghosts will make a special appearance, just for you.

Archaeologist Brendan Burke speaks about Maritime Traditions in Tarpon Springs

On September 20, the City of Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum opened a new exhibit on Greek Maritime Traditions at their beautiful facility located on the banks of Springs Bayou, a true Florida gem.

Brendan Burke, Associate Director of Archaeology for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum was asked to provide a keynote presentation on Greek boat building impacts throughout Florida to open the exhibit.

 

The City of Tarpon Springs and Brendan Burke, guest speaker, were honored with the presence of Mr. Dmitris Sparos, Consul General for the Hellenic Republic of Greece. Mr. Sparos has also served as Consul General for Greece at The Hague, Peru, the Middle East, and as Directorate for Russia and the Balkans. A natural polyglot, he speaks five languages fluently and was kind to help Brendan refine his pronunciation of a few Greek words used in the presentation. Sparos and Burke are joined by Wally Ericson, master boat builder in Tarpon Springs and Tina Bucuvalas, Curator of Arts & Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs. For those of you not having visited Tarpon Springs, you must! It is an amazing community of Greek diasporans who maintain their cultural affiliation as Greek very strongly. Of course, their tradition as a sponging capital couples naturally with St. Augustine’s role as a fishing and boat building port, indeed sometimes linked by blood! It was a wonderful experience, well attended by the community, and we wish the City the best with their new and important exhibit.

Mrs. Ourania Stephanides approached me after the presentation with an amazing tale, she is the 4th great-granddaughter of Hezekiah H. Pittee, Superintendent of Lighthouse Construction during the 1870s. Pittee oversaw construction of the St. Augustine Lighthouse from June of 1872-October, 1874. It was amazing to connect with her, what a marvelous coincidence!

Mrs. Coutroulis, pictured here with Brendan, was a special guest to the opening of the exhibit on Greek fishing heritage in Tarpon Springs. Her family built boats in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, primarily shrimp boats, and she brought pictures from their decades of experience.

 

Full Sturgeon Moon this weekend

Climb to the top of the Lighthouse AT NIGHT by the glow of lanterns… and the FULL MOON! Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours this week:
  • 8:30-10:30 PM Friday, August 24
  • 8:30-10:30 PM Saturday, August 25
  • 9:30-11:30 PM Sunday, August 26 (Full Sturgeon Moon – read description below!)
TICKETS & UPCOMING DATES: staugustinelighthouse.org
More about the Full Sturgeon Moon from mlive.com

 

This weekend’s moon is summer’s last big show of the season, with the Sturgeon Moon set to become officially full just before 8 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 26.

This means both Saturday’s and Sunday’s moonrises will be a treat, if skies are clear.

The August moon is traditionally called the Sturgeon Moon because this type of fish can be a good catch in late summer and September, according to Space.com.

In Michigan, the ancient-looking lake sturgeon are a threatened fish and are caught only sparingly, according to strict guidelines. Volunteers each spring stand guard over their spawning rivers to protect the fish from poachers.

But not all groups use the Sturgeon name for the last summer moon.

Here’s what Space.com has to say about what other people call this moon:

“The Ojibwa — who lived in what is now southeastern Canada, near the Great Lakes — referred to the eighth moon of the year as the Blackberry Moon, which could also occur in July. The August full moon — the ninth full moon of the year — was called the Corn Moon by peoples in northeastern North America, per the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

 

 

 

 

Anastasia Sailing

The day dawned bright and beautiful. And it had been a long-awaited day. The Florida skipjack, Anastasia, which was built at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s

Volunteer boat builders get her rigging ready as they launch out.

Heritage Boatworks, launched in July. She was christened with the name of the island she was built on. Her first sailing sea trial, delayed by the construction and opening of our new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, took place the morning of February 7, 2018. Like many of St. Augustine’s historic working watercraft, the Florida skipjack’s origins are elsewhere. The vessel type originated in the nineteenth-century as a working watercraft on Long Island Sound. They were used there in the oyster business and other fisheries. The craft type was brought to Florida by Captain Watrous, possibly a local pronunciation of Waterhouse, who arrived in the Jacksonville area from Essex on the Connecticut River on Long Island Sound in about 1850.

Watrous built and introduced the type to the St. Johns River and the surrounding coastal waters, including St. Augustine, where they became a common sight on the waterfront. These craft were used in the local shad fishing industry, which typically ran from January through March. Working Florida skipjacks supplied the distant markets of New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and more distant inland cities with catches which were first transshipped to Savannah and from there they continued by rail. In the off-season, Florida’s skipjacks were also used to haul local cargoes such as oranges.

St. Augustine skipjack docked on the bayfront of St. Augustine. Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Historical Society.

Our craft, Anastasia, is a faithful replica of one of these historic watercraft. The original skipjack, upon which ours is based, was built between 1875 and 1880 by a boat carpenter named McCabe on Dunns Creek in the vicinity of Jacksonville. The craft was documented and drawn in 1936 during the Great Depression by members of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project called the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey. Her construction plans (twenty pages of field notes with measured drawings) and photos all correspond to Survey 8-46. This information was used to build a faithful replica of the original.

Anastasia sailing on February 7th.

Anastasia sails like a dream! She is fast and very responsive to the helm. She points very close to the wind and goes about with ease.  She is a beautiful craft! A few adjustments to her rig will be made before she returns to the water next week. Look for her on the bayfront. She will be flying the Lighthouse pennant!

Contributed by Director of Heritage Boat Works Dr. Sam Turner, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

20th Annual Luminary Night set to take place during City’s Nights of Lights celebration

Family-friendly event offers free admission to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum after hours

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Luminary Night at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a family-friendly tradition during St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights celebration. On the evening of Wednesday, December 6th, the Lighthouse grounds will open for an evening celebration that will delight both young and old. This popular event is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to get a taste of the holidays, St. Augustine style. The event takes place from 6 PM to 9 PM.

The Keepers’ House illuminated with white lights and luminaries.

“We love hosting all of our neighbors, Museum members and holiday tourists for this event and I know it’s my favorite time of year to deck the halls at the Lighthouse,” says Darlene Humphreys, head decorator for the event. She continues, “And, of course, what holiday event is complete without Santa Claus? Kids of all ages can visit Santa while enjoying the festive atmosphere.”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum goes all out for Luminary Night, offering children’s activities and holiday crafts, yuletide refreshments and live music, including a string quartet inside the Lighthouse tower and the St. Augustine High School choir led by Mr. Jeff Dodd. Guests also get a close-up look at the Lighthouse’s spectacular holiday decorations and lighting displays. Nautical ornaments are donated by people from all over the country to grace the centerpiece Christmas tree set up in the Keepers’ House, with at least ten other decorated trees dotting the property. Guests will be able to visit the Museum’s newest additions: Legends of the Light exhibition; and the Maritime Archaeology & Education Center with special viewing spaces of the archaeology conservation lab.

Aerial view of the Light Station during the event. This year, the event will extend into the Museum’s new Maritime Heritage Park area which in this photo, is to the left.

As a finale to the evening, guests can climb the Lighthouse tower to see St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights from the top – it’s a spectacular view!

Quartet performing at the base of the Lighthouse stairs.

In the spirit of giving, the event is free and open to the public with a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item which will be donated to a local food pantry. Throughout the event, holiday-themed refreshments will be available for purchase. All monetary proceeds go directly back to the Museum to continue the work of the Museum’s mission.

 

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