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PCR #133  (Vol. 3, No. 41)  This edition is for the week of October 7--13, 2002.

La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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The Paranormal in Florida:
Haunted St. Augustine

Ah---October in Florida--the rain and humidity of summer starts to become more scarce, giving way to clear skies, a few cool breezes, shorter days with longer shadows, football and that most wonderful of October things: Halloween. So what better way to get into a Halloween mood than tell some ghost stories? Let's start our ghost stories in Florida's oldest city, St. Augustine, a town rife with the spirits of the dead.

The Spirits and the Scents of the Castillo San Marcos
The oldest standing fort in the United States is the Spanish built the Castillo San Marcos in 1672. In 1784, Colonel Garcia Marti commanded the fort on behalf of Spain when it controlled the Florida Territory after 20 years of British rule. As he was showing his lovely wife the fort's many catacombs and unique rooms and halls, they had a chance meeting with Captain Manuel Abela, one of the Colonel's assistants. This chance meeting would lead to clandestine meetings between Marti's wife, Delores, and Captain Abela. In short order, rumors reached Colonel Marti about these trysts. One day shortly afterward, Colonel Marti and Captain Abela were reviewing maps together when Marti noticed the fragrance of his wife's perfume on Abela. He confronted Abela about the rumors and about the scent.

Several days after the confrontation, Abela failed to answer roll call. Marti announced that Abela had been reassigned to Cuba. Neighbors began to wonder where Marti's wife was. Marti explained that Delores had become ill and was sent to an aunt's in Mexico, to be later sent back to Spain for recovery.

Almost 50 years later, on July 21, 1833, U.S. engineer Lieutenant Stephen Tuttle was exploring the dungeons beneath the Castillo De San Marcos when he found a section of wall, which when tapped sounded hollow. He chipped away at the wall, until an opening revealed two skeletons. Upon relating this story to his superiors, Tuttle said that a perfumed fragrance filled the passageways after the skeletons were revealed. To this very day, some visitors swear that there is a strange glow and a perfumed scent in the same area where Tuttle made his horrifying discovery close to 170 years ago. Is this glow and fragrance an eternal manifestation of two lovers who probably died at the hands of one Colonel Garcia Marti?

The Ghost Light of the Casablanca Inn
During Prohibition, St. Augustine was a popular destination for the illegal smuggling of liquor from Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Rum runners would enter Matanzas Inlet with their ill-gotten goods due in large part to its ease of navigability and closeness to St. Augustine and Jacksonville. Along this coastline is the Casablanca Inn. Built in 1914, this current bed and breakfast was run in the 1920's and 30's by an elderly lady who was quite the enterprising type. She made a deal with smugglers that she would climb to the widow's walk of the Casablanca and signal them with a lantern when it was safe to bring their goods to shore. She was able to do this with authority, as her Inn was often where Treasury agents would stay when in the northeast Florida area.

These activities occurred with regularity until Prohibition was repealed, and by that time, she had become a millionaire. Although buried at the City's Huguenot cemetery, a light from a renovated widow's walk to the sea still occasionally still burns at night without an earthly explanation. Could the ghost of the elderly lady still be signaling ghost schooners that the coast is clear for depositing their ill-gotten goods?

"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.