I’ll admit that I’m addicted to the lure of creepy and paranormal activities, even if it keeps me from sleeping like a normal person at night. Still, there’s only so many Ghost Hunter episodes I can watch before wanting to hunt down my own tragically, troubled ghoul. So in the spirit of Halloween (see what I did there?), I’ve put together a few of my favorite local haunts. Even if you don’t see a ghost, at least it got you off of your couch.
1. Casa Marina Hotel, Jacksonville Beach
It’s been around since 1925, so it’s no wonder Casa Marina Hotel boasts a colorful history of drama and mystery. The beautiful, Spanish-style hotel hugs the ocean and beckons visitors to stay in its lushly furnished rooms, or to enjoy a fancy cocktail on the balcony overseeing the beach. In fact, Casa Marina is simply so alluring, rumors claim some guests decided they never wanted to leave, even after death. The hotel played host for many Hollywood stars and eventually housed military men for World War II before lapsing into a period of non-use until the ’90s. Rumors of voices, apparitions, and random scents of cigars and perfume are quite common. Some guests claim that on the seventh stair of the main staircase, a playful ghoul is responsible for tripping people. Others say that on some nights, a shadowy figure wanders along the boardwalk behind the hotel. It’s a good spot to enjoy a drink and view the ocean with a friend … or a ghost.
2. Dame’s Point Bridge, Jacksonville
This 26-year-old bridge stretches across an expanse of the St. John’s River, part of 9A and another popular local haunt. It’s a creepy hotspot for the apparition of an African-American woman, sometimes seen wandering along the bridge late at night, a victim of a violent attack. As if that’s not creepy enough, the bridge has a reputation for willing jumpers. I guess if your fear of ghosts still isn’t enough to instigate a spine tingle, perhaps the bridge’s height will make you woozy.
3. Anne Lytle School, Jacksonville
Otherwise known as “The Devil’s School,” just walking by this place is enough to make you shiver. Condemned in the 1970s, the brick building that once held students became a hangout for hobos and the inspiration of many horror stories. Ask anyone around town and they’ll feed you gory tales of furnace explosions, cannibalistic principals and murderous janitors. Graffiti-bearing symbols of devil worship fuel the horror for many local teens who claim it to be the most haunted place in Jacksonville. It’s hard to say whether ghastly accounts of murder and death instigate imaginary ghouls, or if there really are angry and restless spirits wandering the dilapidated halls. Deemed structurally unsafe, the building is sectioned off by chain link fences topped with barbed wire. I dare you to walk past this place in the dark, peer through the fence and not feel like running for your life.
4. St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine
Hiking up to St. Auggie is worth the couple extra bucks in gas money to see the famous St. Augustine Lighthouse. Featured on many paranormal TV shows, including SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters,” the lighthouse is rich with thrilling paranormal history. Built in 1824, the lighthouse is home to a few spirits unwilling to depart. Among the most popular are sightings of keeper Joseph Andreu, who fell to his death while painting the lighthouse in 1850. A couple of decades later and again during renovation, two daughters of a worker drowned in a bay just in front of the lighthouse. The two girls are often heard running around and playing together, and occasionally the oldest girl can be spotted wearing a blue dress. If you’re too lazy to do the research on your own, there are tours for those interested in trying to catch a glimpse of one of the lighthouse’s permanent residence. Even more terrifying than the prospect of seeing a ghost is the amount of stairs you’ll have to climb in the process.
If you find that these places haven’t satisfied your passion for things that go bump in the night, at least you worked off some of the calories you consumed from all of that Halloween candy. Happy Hunting.