October 11, 2023
All Hallows Eve will soon be here and on an island that’s been under the dominion of eight different flags and whose history includes pirates, bootleggers and other ne’er-do-wells, you can bet that there’s a spooky side to our storied coast. Get into the Halloween spirit with ghost tours, unique things to do, and creepy places to visit on and nearby Amelia Island. Read on … if you dare.
The Amelia Island Museum of History is Florida’s first spoken-word museum and is housed in the old Nassau County Jailhouse. The infamous pirate Luis Aury, who arrived in Fernandina in 1817 to take over the island, raising the flag of the Mexican Republic, was sentenced to hang for his many crimes. The night before his execution, he attempted to avoid the humiliation by slitting his own throat but was caught and crudely stitched up by a surgeon to keep him alive. He was hanged the next day on the gallows out back. According to locals, Aury’s ghost has been heard moaning around the jail, and some have spied an apparition with a bloody gash in his neck. 233 S 3rd Street
The Williams House is one of the oldest and most historic homes in Fernandina Beach. Purchased by Marcellus A. Williams in 1858, the Williams family fled for safety when Union troops occupied their house during the civil war. Upon his return to the island and his home, Williams, who had released his slaves, became active in the Underground Railroad, offering a safe house for slaves. A secret room exists near the dining room that was used to hide them until safe to travel. This antebellum mansion is said to be haunted by partying guests. Witnesses have heard laughter and friendly chatter from the dining room and seen apparitions descending the staircase. A female apparition often appears in a mirror near the stairs, and a ghostly man and woman are known to make eye contact with the guests and then disappear suddenly. The ghosts and atmosphere are said to be friendly and happy. 103 S 9th Street
Appropriately nicknamed “Beautiful Woods”, Bosque Bello Cemetery is one of the most stunning and oldest cemeteries in the state of Florida. “In Bosque Bello, you will discover the graves of 19th century Spanish residents, Amelia Island Lighthouse keepers, gun runners, politicians, boat captains, magicians, law enforcement officers, victims of both yellow and typhoid fever epidemics, nuns, and veterans of many wars – from the American Revolution to the present day.” Throughout the years, visitors have reported hearing disembodied voices and laughter amongst the graves, especially once the sun sets on the cemetery. Ghosts in the form of children have been seen wandering throughout the grounds, some even sitting high in the treetops watching your every move. Bosque Bello Cemetery is located on North 14th Street, One Mile North of Atlantic Avenue
In the center of the island, the EGANS CREEK GREENWAY is a protected 300-acre oasis of marsh landscape with walking and bike trails as well as ample chances to view wildlife. A wild life of a different kind reportedly led a pirate to bury a substantial treasure here in 1900 and then kill his accomplices, leaving a chain over the limb of a large oak tree to mark the spot. As the pirate finished covering his tracks, a rattlesnake bit him and the pit became his final resting place. If you happen to see the remnants of a rusty chain in a tree during your walk, it’s recommended that you leave “the money tree” alone! The Greenway may be accessed from behind the Atlantic Recreation Center, 2500 Atlantic Ave., Jasmine St., Sadler Rd., Jean Lafitte Blvd., and Citrona Drive from the extensions of Beech and Hickory Streets. Parking available behind the Atlantic Recreation Center, along the right-of-way on Jasmine Street, and at the Residence Inn on Sadler Road.
Built in 1857 as a boarding house for his railroad employees, the Florida House housed Union officers during the Civil War. One of them, Major Leddy, bought it after the war and ran it as a hotel with his wife. They entertained glittering guests including the Carnegies and Rockefellers, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti, automotive tycoon Henry Ford, and early film stars Mary Pickford as well as Laurel and Hardy. One person from the old times seems to have been so fond of it she has never left: “Miz Leddy,” the major’s wife. Bartenders still catch the scent of her strong lavender perfume and antique shoes from her time tend to disappear from their display near the desk and wind up in guest rooms. 22 S 3rd Street
Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country and although it never saw an actual battle, it was garrisoned during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars. After preservation began on the old abandoned fort in the 1930’s, it became a part of the state park system in 1935. There have been quite a few ghostly tales associated with the old fort but probably the most popular is the legend of a Civil War soldier stationed there who wrote his dearly beloved a letter in which he promised not to die until he saw her again. Unfortunately he didn’t fulfill that promise and died during a Confederate ambush. His angry ghost is said to roam the fort so If you see a Confederate soldier somberly walking the grounds at dusk, you may want to turn the other way. 2601 Atlantic Avenue.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the site of the original town of Fernandina, now known as “Old Town”, was originally settled over 1000 years ago by Timucua Indians. In the centuries that followed, this riverfront enclave, seldom discovered by visitors who flock to “New Fernandina,” today’s Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, has been the site of a Spanish fort, the neighborhood of a witch named Felipa who was famous for love potions, and the lovingly preserved 1880s Captain’s House that served as a setting for a Pippi Longstocking movie filmed here in the 1980s. It is said a 16-year-old who drowned in the river appears to teenagers of today if they visit the old Plaza San Carlos on their 16th birthdays. Located off North 14th Street (from historic Centre Street , turn onto North 14th Street at the traffic light and follow until you see Old Town on the left, just before the 14th Street bridge.)
As the oldest bar in Florida, the Palace Saloon likes to say that in its storied rooms, “ghosts from ten decades past join in drinking to your health.” Legendary bartender Charlie Beresford held court from 1906 until 1960 and made extra money with a bar game of his own devising: He bet customers that they couldn’t flip a quarter onto the décolletages of the carved mahogany ladies behind the bar and have the coin stay there. At the end of his shift, he filled his pockets with the quarters he scooped from the floor. Bartenders of today have felt a cold hand on their shoulders when they have tried to get this particular game going. Sounds of music, glasses clinking, and conversations are heard in the early hours of the morning even when the bar is deserted, and, although it is unplugged, an electric player piano is known to start up a tune at the strangest of times. CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO OF UNCLE CHARLIE’S GHOST! 117 Centre Street
AMELIA ISLAND GHOST TOURS – The original ghost tour led by Diane Blanton, a history buff with a passion for psychic phenomena, takes a bit over two hours and cover about .5 miles of historic downtown. Blanton encourages guests to bring their cameras to capture paranormal activity as the “cooler weather seems to stir the spirits up.” Tours take place daily. You can book by calling 904-548-0996. AMELIA ISLAND MUSEUM OF HISTORY GHOST TOUR – Each Friday, a guided tour of this “city of restless ghosts,” is filled with stories of ghosts and haunted buildings. Meet in the cemetery behind St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (801 Atlantic Avenue.) at 6pm to begin your journey. This tour lasts about one hour and covers approximately 14 blocks of our historic district (note: some of the walking is on cobblestone streets). Tickets can be purchased online or at the Museum and are $15 for adults and $10 for students. GHOST TOURS OF AMELIA ISLAND – Explore the paranormal and spooky stories here on the Island with your tour guide. Hear all about Amelia’s spooky haunted history on this informative .5-1 mile tour. You’ll hear chilling ghostly tales and the most famous haunted stories the city has to offer. Ending at St. Peters cemetery! Ghost hunting equipment provided. Ghost Tour ($35) or Haunted Bar Crawl ($40. Must be over 21). Tours take place nightly and aren’t for the faint of heart. Reserve your space ONLINE.PADDLE JAX AMELIA HAUNTED HALLOWEEN PADDLE – Join the folks at Paddle Jax Amelia for a spooky guided kayak tour on Lofton Creek at dusk – Trick or Treating at the docks along the way. This will be about a 3 mile round trip paddle, estimate 2 hours from start to finish. October 27 & 28 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm $65 per person for a single or $130 for a tandem kayak. Don’t forget to wear a costume! Reserve your space ONLINE.
13TH FLOOR HAUNTED HOUSE – Experience the world famous 13th Floor Haunted House, Jacksonville’s legendary Halloween event where halloween lives! 9230 Arlington Expressway, Jacksonville, FL 32225HAUNTED TRAIL & CORN MAIZE – Bone chilling, spine-tingling, heart pounding all out frightening haunted trail at Connor’s A-Maize-Ing Acres! 19856 County Road 121 Hilliard, FL 32046SPOOKTACULAR – Dress up in family-friendly costumes to explore the winding pathways of themed decorations, mythical beings and sweet treats. Spooktacular features activities for all ages from trick-or-treating to scare zones. October 12-15, 19-22 and 26-31. Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. 370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, FL 32218
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