Wednesday, November 27, 2019

HGB Ep. 316 - Investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

Moment in Oddity - Queen Elizabeth I's Dress

Textiles are very hard historic objects to preserve and retain through the centuries for obvious reasons. Moths, humidity and light can play havoc with cloth. But textiles are very important treasures to help us understand how a people lived: their culture, their wealth and their values. For some people like me, it's just really cool to be able to touch or see something that was worn by someone with historic appeal. Seeing something from the Victorian Era is pretty amazing. Imagine being able to see something dated to the time of Queen Elizabeth I! She reigned from 1558 to 1603. Anne Boleyn was Elizabeth's mother and she loved pearls, so when gowns were made for the queen, she always asked for pearls to be included. She had some elaborate gowns that were very unique and one dress was featured in a portrait of her named "Rainbow Portrait." The gown features fabric hand embroidered with forest animals, insects, flowers and a small bear. Eleri Lynn, a curator at the Historic Royal Palaces in England believes she has found part of that gown. This is an amazing piece because it was believed that none of Elizabeth I's dresses survived. The clothing of royalty was always made from the finer things, so many times these items would be repurposed or given away as gifts. The dress was given to a member of the court, but the queen was so vain, no one could be dressed as fine as she was, so known of her gowns could ever be worn. It is believed that the dress was cut apart by the new owner and made into an altar cloth for St. Faith's Church in Bacton, Herefordshire. The idea that a piece of cloth used for years to cover an altar would turn out to be part of the only dress belonging to Queen Elizabeth I to survive, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Queen Elizabeth I Ascends the Throne

In the month of November, on the 17th, in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England at the age of 25. Elizabeth was born to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533 and was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.The era of her reign would come to be known as the Elizabethan Era and it was a good time for England. She succeeded her half-sister Bloody Mary and was not one to force religion on her subjects. She did establish the Protestant church that would come to be known as the Church of England, however. She never married and became known as the Virgin Queen and was celebrated for that. She was cautious in foreign affairs, but did eventually find that she could no longer avoid conflict with Spain and led England to one of its greatest military victories with a defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. In her later years, she became severly depressed and eventually fell ill. She died on March 24, 1603 at the age of 69. Her coffin was carried at night on a barge lit with torches to Whitehall. Elizabeth's funeral would be a month later and her coffin was carried on a horse drawn hearse to Westminster Abbey.

Investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is a location full of history, but it also has many stories of tragedy. The tower that stands there today is not the original lighthouse. There have been several towers through the centuries. The one built just prior to the current tower was closer to the sea and eventually fell into it, but not before tragedy hit. The tower that exists today was started in 1871 and was completed in 1874. That construction would leave another tragedy in its wake. Others would lose their lives here too. And in the wake of all of this, we have spirits. I've visited this location many times, but this would be Kelly's first visit and this would be the first time I would conduct an official investigation here. Join Kelly and I as we share the investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse!

I've told the story of the tragedies on previous episodes, but let's do a brief a recap. The original lighthouse here was built from wood and burned to the ground in 1586 when Sir Francis Drake attacked the settlement. Another wooden one was built and in the early 1700s it was replaced with the Old Spanish Watchtower, which was made from coquina. This tower would pass from the Spanish to the British and finally to the United States in 1821 as Florida passed from country to country. As I said earlier, it eventually fell into the sea due to erosion in 1880. A keeper, Joseph Andreu, and his wife Maria De Los Delores Mestre Andreu lived here before the Civil War. In 1860, Joseph was on a scaffold to whitewash the exterior of the tower. The scaffold collapsed and Joseph fell more than 60 feet to his death. Maria witnessed the whole thing and would take over for Joseph. She was the first female and the first of Hispanic descent to have that job. During the Civil War, a local harbor master named Paul Arnau and Maria removed the lens from the lighthouse to keep it from union soldiers and they buried it in the ground. Arnau was taken captive and under torture on a vessel, he revealed the location of the lens and the Union forces replaced it, so they could see the shipping lanes. Maria left after this and never returned.

The second tragedy involved Hezekiah H. Pittee, who was in charge of constructing the second lighthouse, and I'm sure nearly all of you are familiar with the story. His four children, Mary, Eliza, Keri and Edward, and a neighbor girl, who was African American, jumped into a supply cart and rode it down the rails to where the supplies were loaded and when they got to the gate, the cart flipped over it and down into the water, trapping the kids under it. Two of Pittee's daughters, Eliza and Mary, died and it is believed the African American girl did too.A construction worker saved Keri and Edward.

Listener Myra Wheeler had contacted me to let me know that she, her boyfriend Ken and her mother Mary - also a listener - would be in Florida and they were going to do an investigation at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. We were totally in! We went up to St. Augustine early and I took Kelly to the Pirate Museum. It's a great place full of history and memorabilia. Then we met up with Myra and her family at Harry's for dinner. This is one of the haunted locations in St. Augustine and one of my favorite places to eat for New Orleans style food. And then we were off to one of the handful of places I will say with no hesitation, is haunted: The St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Set the mood (Augustine Wind)

We started the investigation by climbing the 219 stairs to the top of the lighthouse. Certainly not one of my favorite places to be when it is windy or dark! They have redone the decor on the landings with new displays and one of the additions is a story about Smoky the cat. It would seem that a brother and sister once lived at the lighthouse and Smoky was the little girl's pet. Her brother decided one day to see if Smoky could float, so he attached a parachute to the cat and threw it off the top of the lighthouse. It did indeed float, all the way to the ground, and then the scared creature promptly ran off and stayed away for a few days.

The lighthouse has always held an allure for me and a spiritual connection. This is where I had my first real unexplained experience. I had heard what I thought was a ghost dog with my sister when I was a teenager, but this was really what I consider the real deal. And there was no need for any investigation equipment. It was special and always will be and it's why it's the story I share every time I'm asked to be on a podcast or speak about the paranormal. So I was not expecting for the Keeper's House to be the place where we had all of our experiences. We made our way down to the basement where Pete is said to reside. Did we catch an EVP? (Augustine EVP 1) Here it is amplified (Augustine EVP 1 amplified) It almost sounds like something repeating like "thank you, thank you." It's definitely a low class EVP. There were two other people in the basement, but they were being very quiet. Sometimes the smell of smoke comes from down here in the basement or outside. Pete was a keeper, Captain Peter Rasmussen and he was not allowed to smoke in the house by his wife, so some wonder if this is him sneaking a smoke down here in the basement.

We got the dowsing rods out to see if we had anyone with us and we got a yes and that it was a male entity. But that was about it for the basement. When I was on a tour here before, you might recall that one of the women on that tour got poked. So we decided to head upstairs to the first floor and we joined Myra and Mary who had already been having an interaction with at least one spirit. We sat down at the table with our EMFs. (Keeper's House 1) It was funny cause they had told the spirit they would leave and were getting ready to do that when we came along and then Mary ended up having to leave. We got a lot of interactions with the EMF detectors as we sat there. And using them and the dowsing rods, it seemed we were talking to the children who haunt the property. (Keeper's House 2) As we continued to press for more details, it seems that one of the Pittee girls was with us, Mary. (Keeper's House 3) We asked her some of the questions I like to ask inspired by listeners who have joined us on live feeds, for example temperature changes and whether they can leave an area. Mary interacted with the EMF detectors a lot. She would step away and shut down the lights when we would ask. (Keeper's House 4) Now as I listened back to what we recorded, I really wasn't looking for EVPs because of all the audio contamination. But I thought I heard something different in one part that I've pulled out to see what you think. (Augustine EVP 2) Then I've amplified the section (Augustine EVP 2 amplified) and I pulled it out alone (Augustine EVP 2 amplified solo) I think I hear yes or yeah to our question. To let you know how we are set-up here, I have a recording on catching everything and then I have a mini recorder that I do short bursts with. I started doing this at Villisca so we could see if we catch things in real time. So what I'm going to play here is us listening back to a short burst being caught on the recorder catching everything. (Keeper's House 5) Now I'm going to play for you the short burst from the little recorder in its original. (Augustine EVP 3) And now I'll amplify the section (Augustine EVP 3 amplified) and all by itself (Augustine EVP 3 amplified solo) I can't understand what it is said but it sounds like same voice and lilthy cadence)

We head back into the lighthouse and we think we start communicating with the little African American girl that died in the accident too. Now we know we have certain words we don't use anymore, but sometimes we need to return to the vernicular of the time so we are going to use "negro." (Lighthouse Girl) So apparently she didn't want us in there. And sadly, there is really no record for her, so I couldn't find a name. Kelly and I do go back into the lighthouse and up onto a landing and get no interactions. We discuss the exchange again and this is when Kelly tells me that the feel of the dowsing rods changed. She felt as though someone were emphasizing that they were done with us. So we decide to leave the tower for good for the evening. Kelly explains it later to our group. (Lighthouse Girl 2) Then we talk to Mary about someone she was communicating all evening with and that was someone named Charles who had been at the lighthouse as a child. One of the guides let me take a picture with my phone of a picture she had found of Charles when he was a child. I'll put that up on Instagram. Why he has returned here, we'll probably never know. Here is Mary sharing about that and she has an EMF detector that was going off in regards to him. (Augustine Charles)

I kept hoping to see something manifesting as color. This is my focus with investigations now. But this area had quite a bit of ambient light and we needed somewhere darker. Kelly and I went to the parlor and this is where we had the more profound experiences. I didn't expect to have interactions with Joseph and Maria. These were more profound to us because Kelly could actually feel the difference in the rods between Joseph and Maria. Maria had a more delicate touch. In the audio, you will hear the clock on the mantle ticking. (Keeper's House 6) So you got touched Kelly? And it was interesting the exchange with Maria because she kept saying no to being the keeper after her husband, but seemed to indicate that she was an assistant. So I'm not sure what that was about cause that doesn't match the historical record.

On the most recent visit to the lighthouse for the Ghost Hunters, this is the new one with just Grant, there was a cupboard on one of the upper landings that opened on its own and hit the railing. We opened the cupboard and it did indeed hit the railing. Other than this, they really didn't have any experiences. We were really disappointed with this episode because they never even went into the Keeper's House and an interaction they got excited about happened out in the woods. We had a similar one, which I guarantee just sounded like an animal, probably a racoon or armadillo. We were chased out of the woods by the mosquitos. (Augustine Woods) Amplified sound (Woods Roar)

I've collected many ghost stories about the lighthouse over the years, many since the original episode we did on this location, Ep. 76.I'm going to share a story about the first caretaker who started on after the lighthouse became fully automated in 1955. His name was David Swain and this is from David Lapham's "Ghosts of St. Augustine." (p. 141-142)

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