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Find hauntings minutes away from UNF

Halloween is right around the corner, and it’s the perfect time for lingering thoughts or fears about ghost stories or spooky tales. With North Florida’s rich historic background, it’s no surprise the area has a few hauntings of its own to satisfy curious minds. Here’s the Spinnaker’s list of some local spots’ eerie backgrounds that might make your skin crawl and send chills down your spine.

Annie Lytle School, School No. 4
Don’t let the brown brick exterior and tall white columns fool you – this once majestic landmark has been reduced to nothing but a decaying and dangerous building.

Located on the corner of Interstate 95 and Margaret Street in Riverside, the Annie Lytle School has been considered by many as “the most haunted place in Jacksonville,” according to the book “Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: North Florida and St. Augustine.”

The school opened in 1917 and served as an elementary school, said Joel McEachin, principal planner for the Historic Preservation Section for Jacksonville Planning and Development Department. The current building replaced an old wooden schoolhouse built in 1891.

The school eventually lost its stature after it was cut off by the Riverside expressway system, he said. The building has served as a haven for hippies, vagrants, criminals and even a satanic cult, which is said to have attracted the evil entities roaming around, according to the book.

Rumors have circulated throughout the years as to what exactly can be seen or experienced inside the building. McEachin said the main rumor is sounds of an active elementary school heard throughout the building. The book also mentions before the windows and doors were boarded up, passersby could occasionally see the faces of students looking out. The children were also seen running and playing in the empty rooms, only to vanish in the darkness.

But McEachin said there has been no documented proof of the hauntings in Annie Lytle, and he believes the rumors started due to the number of people that have trespassed the building during the years, he said. The appearance of the building adds mystique to anyone interested in going.

“It’s very large; it’s impressive-looking; it looks old and run-down,” McEachin said. “It’s just a bright description of what you think a haunted place would look like.”

Captain W. J. King Residence – 4627 Ocean St., Mayport
This is the only certified and documented “haunted house” in Jacksonville, McEachin said.

The grandiose two-story house was built near the St. Johns River in 1913 by Captain W. J. King, he said.

After King’s death in 1940, his son, John, began to report sightings of supernatural presences in the house. The presences included a weeping teenage girl and a gray-haired woman wearing a shawl, according to a 1982 Florida Times-Union article.

It is also believed the spirit of Captain King can be seen roaming the hallways surrounded by a cloud of mist. The article also mentions how door knobs can be heard mysteriously turning by themselves and furniture can be heard moving.     McEachin said the rumors piqued the curiosity of so many people that paranormal investigators were hired to look into the investigation.

“In 1968, a pair of psychology researchers from Duke University actually examined the house and concluded that there was a presence within,” he said. “The presence was felt coming down the stairs of the home.”

Ghost tours of St. Augustine – 2107 River blvd.
Although the Ghost Tours of St. Augustine aren’t technically a building or house, they’re certainly located in a town filled with hauntings and history.

“There are tons of haunted places around St. Augustine,” said Allison Edwards, assistant manager of the ghost tours. “Pretty much if you stand in the middle of town and pick a direction, you will find haunted buildings every where you go.”

The ghost tours offer tourists and residents “an alternative history tour,” which tell more than 200 documented and researched stories in a walking, riding and sailing format. Each tour has stories and themes that fit the atmosphere of each tour, Edwards said.

Many of the tourists have had their share of creepy experiences, Edwards said.              “One lady at the Hugenot Cemetary was listening to a story, and she had her phone in her camera case,” Edwards said. “And while she was standing there, [the phone] sent 35 text messages to her husband, and she had a phone where you had to physically go through different steps [to send text messages].”

Edwards even had her own personal experience during one slow night.

“I was out on St. George Street; there was nobody around, and all of a sudden I started smelling cigar smoke,” she said. “I thought ‘OK, weird’ and then all the lights shut down around me.”

The spirit might have been the St. Augustine Lighthouse’s old keeper, Captain Rasmussen, she said. He loved to smoke cigars and blow smoke in people’s faces. It’s reported his spirit travels back and forth between the lighthouse and the historic district.

After the tour company consulted with a psychic, she concluded the few changes in the looks of St. Augustine might be a reason why spirits still loom around the area, Edwards said.

“St. Augustine still looks the same way it did back when these spirits were living,” she said. “The town hasn’t had a major change since Henry Flagler came through in the 1800s …They realize that it’s not their time, but they can’t get past it because it looks so much like their time.”

Compiled by Laura Franco.

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