Category Archives: In the News

Sept. 4: New Ghost Hunters episode at the St. Augustine Lighthouse airs on A&E

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – They’re back! Attention Ghost Hunter fans: Third time’s a charm! The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will be featured at 9 p.m. Wednesday, September 4 on A&E in a new episode of Ghost Hunters called “Return to St. Augustine.” Prior to 2019, the original Ghost Hunters (TAPS, The Atlantic Paranormal Society), filmed at the St. Augustine Lighthouse in 2006 and 2008.

From the A&E website: “Grant (Wilson) returns to the St. Augustine Lighthouse, site of some of the most compelling paranormal evidence ever captured in Ghost Hunters history when the team is summoned to investigate a reported increase in paranormal activity, both in and around the undeniably haunted landmark. …”

The film production company (Pilgrim Media Group) reached out to lighthouse staff in March, asking if Ghost Hunters could return to the Museum.

“I’m working on the new season of Ghost Hunters and we want to have our team revisit a handful of the BEST locations from the show’s first 11 seasons. Obviously, St. Augustine is one of the best episodes we’ve ever done, so naturally we’d love to come back if you’ll have us… We’d like to have our team spend 2-3 nights investigating, after hours,” said John Fitzpatrick, Segment Producer with Pilgrim Media Group, a Lionsgate Company.

Filming took place in May of this year, organized by Kelcie Lloyd, Special Programs Manager for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Lloyd is a guide and manages the staff for Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours. She also will be featured on the episode.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse, built from 1871-74.

“I’ve been here for a number other filming including the WWE, some smaller companies, and many YouTube videos. I’m behind the scenes in most of the videos, as I have a preference to not be on film, but that wasn’t the case for Ghost Hunters,” Lloyd said.

“The Ghost Hunters and the crew are some of the nicest people I’ve met. Some nights they filmed until the wee hours of the morning and were still polite and thankful that we (staff) were there. They were very respectful of the fact we were a historical site and an active attraction,” Lloyd explained.

Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours feature ghost stories that include history about the first lighthouse, called the Spanish Watchtower, and the current St. Augustine Lighthouse. The most popular story includes the two Pittee sisters and their playmate who drowned in 1873 during construction of the current tower. Another popular story includes lighthouse keeper Joseph Andreu, who fell to his death white-washing the Spanish Watchtower, and his wife, Maria, who became the first female lighthouse keeper in Florida.

The 1874 Keepers’ House at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

“Our Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours help to support our Lighthouse Archaeology Maritime Program at the nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, explained Executive Director Kathy Fleming. “Everything we do at the Museum saves our maritime past.”

Also on September 4, the episode featuring the St. Augustine Lighthouse from 2006 will be shown at 4 p.m. on A&E, followed by the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse at 5 p.m., and the Pensacola Lighthouse at 6 p.m.

From the A&E website: “Fifteen years after introducing the world to the field of authentic paranormal investigation, ‘Ghost Hunters’ returns to television. The series that terrified and captivated fans for 11 seasons will follow one of the original team leaders, Grant Wilson, and his handpicked group of professional ghost hunters as they use their decades of field experience to investigate hauntings across the country. Engaging forensic experts, historical records and the most innovative technology available, the new squad will help everyday people who are struggling with unexplained supernatural phenomena. The team is committed to discovering the truth to give relief to those plagued by paranormal activity and will follow the evidence they uncover wherever it may lead.”

“It’s going to be exciting to see what kind of things the Ghost Hunters find. It might make working nights a little more unsettling,” said Megan Cejmer, Specialty Program Assistant Manager and Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour guide at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse and twitter.com/firstlighthouse


ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

About the American Alliance of Museums:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum has achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)

Handcrafted wooden strip kayak offered through silent auction

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is offering a handcrafted wooden kayak to the community through a silent auction. Created by volunteers in Heritage Boatworks, the kayak is made from strips of red cedar, mahogany and cypress coated with fiberglass.

Heritage Boatworks volunteers working on the strip kayak.

This unique design features the St. Augustine Lighthouse spelled out in in Morse code which runs along one side, made from mahogany and cypress. The kayak is on view in the Visitors Center area of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Gift Shop.

The Museum is auctioning this incredible wooden watercraft, along with two handmade and decorated paddles. Minimum bid starts at $2,000.00 through a sealed bid silent auction, available at http://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/visit/ and click on the link in the Heritage Boatworks section.

All sealed bids must be received by designated museum staff by 3 p.m. October 15, 2019.   

The completed strip kayak, made from red cedar, mahogany and cypress.

Volunteer boatbuilders work in the Museum Heritage Boatworks area from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Guests can watch them create wooden craft following boatbuilding traditions practiced in St. Augustine for more than 400 years. Boatbuilders work with Museum researchers to ensure authentic builds of historic, wooden, small craft.

This boat is a beautifully crafted wooden strip kayak that shows the dedication and skill of our volunteer boat builders,” said Brenda Swann, Interpretative Division Director at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

“As with all our volunteers, they help make the Museum a great asset to the community and a fun, educational place to visit. The proceeds from the auction will help support our educational programs such as Heritage Boatworks, and preserve the rich maritime history of the northeast Florida region for future generations.”

For more information, contact Brenda Swann at bswann@staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745 ext. 208.

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

National Lighthouse Day celebrated August 7 at St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Alexander Hamilton was first Supervisor of all U.S. lighthouses

Long before the days of GPS, lighthouses played an integral role in keeping sailors safe on the water. There was no Siri to tell them where to go, so they simply had to fully rely on their wits … and lighthouses.

The first St. Augustine Lighthouse, called the Spanish Watchtower, which become Florida’s first lighthouse in 1824. This tower fell into the ocean in 1880, six years after the current St. Augustine Lighthouse was completed in 1874.

On August 7, 1789, the U.S. Congress recognized the importance of Lighthouses and passed the Act for the Establishment and Support of Lighthouses, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers. This act officially put lighthouses under federal control, attempting to make navigation for sailors more efficient and safer.

The act specified that it was “the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury” to oversee that the act’s provisions be carried out. This included maintenance of all lighthouses and aids to navigation, as well as overseeing construction of the mandated lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Guests are shown on the observation deck at the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. On National Lighthouse Day and every day of the week, visitors can climb all 219 steps to take in amazing views of St. Augustine, Florida. Guests also can learn about maritime history in multiple exhibits on site.

Alexander Hamilton became the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury on September 11, 1789, a little over a month after the Lighthouse Act was passed. Thus, Secretary Hamilton oversaw the transition of responsibility for all existing lighthouses (and other aids to navigation) from the various states and municipalities to the federal government. 

Two hundred years later, The United States Lighthouse Society petitioned for August 7, 1989, to be deemed National Lighthouse Day, in honor of the day that Congress signed the Act. This petition only deemed National Lighthouse Day to be a holiday for that specific year.

Then, on August 7, 2013, the Senate passed a resolution stating that every August 7th be declared National Lighthouse Day. Although not officially law, the recognition of August 7th as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day continues with the government and its agencies, including the National Park Service, which maintains a number of historic lighthouses across the country.

The Junior Service of St. Augustine saved the 1876 Keepers’ House, renovating it and creating a maritime museum, and then asked the US government for the St. Augustine Lighthouse tower and the original Fresnel lens. The lens had been shot by a vandal’s bullet, damaging 19 prisms in the beehive structure. The US Coast Guard shut down the lens in 1991 and replaced it with a modern airport beacon, but the League quickly rose to this challenge. The keepers’ house restoration was finished in 1990, and in 1991, the League signed a lease with the U.S. Coast Guard and opened part time to the public.

“Thanks to the Junior Service League of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine Light Station was saved and a maritime museum was created,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

“We are nonprofit, mission-centered, and community connected. Our donors and members continue to help us save maritime history and keep the light shining.”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will celebrate National Lighthouse Day on August 7. Learn the history of Florida’s first lighthouse in exhibits at the nonprofit Museum and participate in the Nation’s Oldest Port Demos, interactive demonstrations offered daily every 30 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days each week, with hours changing to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. after Labor Day.

Check out the Conservation Lab on your next visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, which working conservators are preserving historic artifacts.

The 145th anniversary of the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse will be celebrated on October 15, 2019. This second tower was built from 1871-1874, and the first order Fresnel lens was lit on October 15, 1874. Prior to this tower, the Spanish Watchtower was named Florida’s first lighthouse in 1824 by the U.S. government. A wooden watchtower was first built at the site in the 1560s, followed by the Spanish Watchtower, which stood at 70 feet high and was made of coquina, like the Castillo de San Marcos. That coquina came from the quarry on Anastasia Island.

Visit staugustinelighthouse.org for more details.

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

About the American Alliance of Museums:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)

229th US Coast Guard Birthday celebrated Aug. 4, 2019

Established on August 4, 1790, the U.S. Coast Guard has kept the nation’s waterways safe, playing a critical role in national security. Every year, August 4 is celebrated as the U.S. Coast Guard Birthday, commemorating the military organization for its valor and discipline.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, founded the Revenue Marine — which later became the U.S. Coast Guard.

A US Coast Guard retired fog bell in front of the 1876 Keepers’ House at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

The Coast Guard is one of America’s five armed forces and traces its founding to Aug. 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of federal revenue. Responsibilities added over the years included humanitarian duties such as aiding mariners in distress.

The service received its present name in 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form a single maritime service dedicated to the safety of life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.

The Coast Guard is a multi-mission, maritime, military service and the smallest of the five Armed Services. Its mission is to protect the public, the environment and U.S. economic interests in the nation’s waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.

US Coast Guard coasties are shown at the St. Augustine Light Station in front of the Coastal Lookout Quarters in the 1940s during World War II.

1940-1945

A Coastal Lookout Building was constructed at the St. Augustine Light Station in late 1941-early 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. However, life had not changed dramatically on the East Coast. Americans still felt a sense of separation the war. The sinking of the SS Gulf America off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida in April 1942 changed that feeling. Candlepower in the lighthouse was reduced. Blackout curtains were required in every home, and cars drove without headlights. The war was close by.

A US Coast Guard Training Center was created in St. Augustine, Florida during World War II, based out of Flagler College (formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel). IN THE PHOTO: Coasties are shown at the Castillo de San Marcos (fort) during a training exercise.

U-Boat 123, Korvettsenkapitan Reinhard Hardegen was on his second patrol to the Americas. The mission was to interrupt British supply lines and demoralize everyday citizens. On his first journey, he sailed into the harbor of NYC and looked out at the American shoreline. Now, Hardegen prowled the St. Johns County and Duval County coast before finding a target for his torpedoes.

He mentioned “the slender lighthouse” in his logbook, and noted how clearly the coast could be seen without binoculars. The explosion of the SS Gulf America could be seen for miles. Eyewitnesses rushed to the beach to watch as Hardegan surfaced his U-boat between the tanker and the shore and fired on the vessel to finish it off. Despite being hit by depth charges, U-123 managed to escape and limped back to Germany.

US Coast Guard coasties at the training center at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida during World War II.

Not long after in June 1942 German spies from Operation Pastorius choose Ponte Vedra (and New York) as landing sites. A submarine surfaced in view of the shore and four men disembarked, buried explosives, and caught a bus to Jacksonville. At least one of them spoke perfect English. The FBI learned of the operation when one of the NYC team became nervous and reported the others. Buried on Ponte Vedra beach were blocks of TNT molded as soap for the laundry, a “pen” that could start fires, and a detonation device. The four spies from Ponte Vedra were executed within weeks of landing.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Women’s Reserve, known as SPARS, was the World War II branch of the USCG Reserve. It was established by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 23, 1942. IN THE PHOTO: SPARS at the training center in St. Augustine, Florida, taken in May 1944.

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard responded with beach patrols using Jeeps, horses and guard dogs. Armed guards were stationed at St. Augustine Lighthouse to watch the sea 24 hours a day. The passing of each friendly ship was marked with a board and a string. Coordinates were radioed to U.S. Naval Headquarters at Government House, and the next watch station was alerted. The men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, trained at St. Augustine’s Flagler College and all over St. Johns County for service around the world.

Thousands of veterans’ artifacts are preserved in collections at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. More details at www.staugustinelighthouse.org/explore-learn/collections-conservation/

Visitors honor their loved ones in the US Coast Guard or other military branches with engraved bricks, which support the nonprofit Museum and help preserve the rich past of the St. Augustine Light Station. Find out about bricks and naming opportunities here: staugustinelighthouse.org/get-involved/museum-difference-makers/bricks-naming-opportunities/

St. Augustine Lighthouse nominated as Best Haunted Destination by USA Today’s 10Best

Voting open through August 26

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum was nominated as Best Haunted Destination 2019 by USA Today’s 10Best website. Voting opened on July 29 and continues through Aug. 26 at 10best.com/awards/travel/best-haunted-destination-2019/

From the story:

“The United States is filled with purportedly haunted locations, each with their own ghost stories and paranormal occurrences. Vote once per day for your favorite haunted destination until voting ends on Monday, August 26 at noon eastern time. The winning places will be announced on 10Best on Friday, September 6.”

Locations on the list include the Wavery Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky; the Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa; Fort Mifflin on the Delaware in Philadelphia; the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia; the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio; and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, among others.

From the listing about the St. Augustine Lighthouse: “Paranormal activity reported at the St. Augustine Lighthouse includes the disembodied voice of a woman asking for help. Dark of the Moon ghost tours take visitors into the lighthouse at night to learn about the spirits that may still haunt the 1876 Keepers’ House and 1874 lighthouse tower.”

During ghost tours at the lighthouse, guests hear stories about the history of the lighthouse, lighthouse keepers, their families, and those who played a role in building the 1874 tower. Ghost stories also go back to the Spanish Watchtower, the first lighthouse made of coquina, which became Florida’s first lighthouse in 1824.

“Everything we do at our nonprofit Museum saves our maritime past,” said Executive Director Kathy Fleming. “Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours helps fund the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, enabling us to continue our mission to preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port.”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will be featured on the new season of Ghost Hunters, which debuts August 21 on A&E. In addition, the St. Augustine Lighthouse has been highlighted on CNN, MSN, the Travel Channel, Fox News, The Weather Channel, and Parade Magazine.

For additional information, visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A defensive and navigation tool and landmark of St. Augustine for 145 years, the St. Augustine Light Station watches over the waters of the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

ABOUT THE AMERICAN ALLIANCE OF MUSEUMS:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)