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The Haunted Florida Lighthouse

Nick Howes

Fate Magazine July 2003

Ghosts reportedly walk at the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, a location that is not merely accessible to the public, but is visited by perhaps hundreds of tourists daily. After climbing 203 steps to the top of the tower, visitors exit onto the gallery deck to view the Ponce de Leon Inlet, once known as Mosquito Inlet, the Atlantic Ocean beyond, and, on the inland side, the Halifax River. In all, 1.25 million bricks were used to build the lighthouse between 1884-1887, creating a 12 foot deep, 45 foot wide foundation. The tower was 32 feet in diameter at the base, tapering to 12 feet at the top. The brick walls were eight feet thick at the base, two feet at the top. At 175 feet, the lighthouse tower is the tallest in Florida, second only to the Cape Hatteras (NC) lighthouse in the United States. After decades of service, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1970 by the Coast Guard which replaced it with a beacon on the south side of the inlet. However, a preservation association formed to restore the facility and opened it the public as a museum. Today, tourists can take the 10-15 minute drive south from Daytona Beach, pay an admission fee, and explore the three keepers' homes, watch a 20 minute film on the history of the lighthouse, examine artifacts, enjoy a nature trail, and check out numerous displays, including two retired boats, one of them a wooden tugboat. One building houses a huge lens similar to that used for the kerosene-fueled beacon originally mounted in the lighthouse and visible 20 miles out to sea. In 1982, the lighthouse returned to active duty with installation of a new beacon, but that doesn't interfere with visitors who climb the 203 steps and step outside for the view.

The chief haunting dates to a Sunday in October 1919, when assistant keeper Joseph Davis filled in for the principal keeper. His first evening task was to carry a heavy container of kerosene fuel up the tower stairs to refuel the beacon atop the lighthouse a half-hour before sundown. But, on the seventh landing, Davis suffered a heart attack, his third, this time fatal. When the light didn
't come on as darkness fell, the second assistant keeper climbed the tower stairs and found Davis. According to a current employee, maintenance men report smelling kerosene fumes on that landing, although the kerosene-fueled light gave way to a beacon with electrification of the area in 1933. A psychic who visited the location wasn't told about the manifestation, but still identified the haunting two landings below the seventh where the kerosene fumes were encountered. From principal keeper Tom Hagen's time during the first decade of the 20th century, comes another haunting. It is believed that of his son, who died of injuries after being kicked in the head by a horse. This presence manifests itself as eerie footsteps, closing doors, and, said the employee, other activities suggestive of childish pranks. And in the second keeper's house are manifestations of something else. The employee says they don't know the origins and the psychic was unable to help on that point.

During it
's maiden investigation of the site, the Daytona Beach Paranormal Research Group, Inc. arrived with an assortment of electronic equipment on the afternoon of April 4, 2002. Doris "Dusty" Smith, author of "Haunts of the World's Most Famous Beach", said their early results indicated high orb activity near the oil house, where kerosene fuel for the light was once kept. Orbs are small, round balls of light, often giving emitting light or, conversely, transparent, associated with haunted locations. They broke until after dark. At 9:30pm they made a preliminary examination. Smith and another member, monitoring the south gate with a videocamera, saw through the LED an orb exiting through the gate and turning east every 11 minutes, 11 seconds. "The anomaly was captured 13 times throughout the course of the night," said Smith, "and was found to be the same size, shape, and color each time it was in the shot." Resuming at 10:37pm, substantial orb activity was detected at the boatyard, keepers house, and south gate. "One 35mm photo showed a glowing yellow/orange blob on the south side of the parking lot," said Smith. "Another showed a thick mist over the picnic table in the picnic area of the grounds." Video footage, 35mm photos, and digital photos showed the orb passing through the south gate as before, with corresponding EMF (electromagnetic field) fluctuations. The site showed signs of paranormal activity and deserves to be researched at length, said Smith. The investigation into the haunting of the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet, Florida, is ongoing.