Haunted Florida: Pirate Ghost Stories
Pirate Ghosts—Dead Scourge of the Florida Seas
Usually when the word ghost comes to mind, we think of eerie, beautiful, wispy specters of Victorian women in white, or the passing image of a shadow in the night. We might think of haunted graveyards, full of spirits ready to pop out and wave at us from behind an unmarked, mossy grave...but have we ever thought of ghosts that aren't of the typical graveyard or Colonial house type? What about the idea of pirate ghosts?
Forget the overgrown graveyard and abandoned farmhouse and take a journey with me to haunted Florida...to a place where the seas engulf the peninsula on every side but north...to a place where ghosts live. And not just any ghosts, but pirate ghosts.
The Headless Pirate Ghost of Pierre LeBlanc
In the days when the pirates were the rulers of the Gulf and laid claim to land all up and down the coast of Florida, there was one particular pirate by the name of Jean LaFitte. Jean LaFitte, like all other scourge of the sea and terrors to society, owned massive amounts of pirate loot or what we might call "treasure". Jean LaFitte buried his treasure of jewels, gold, and other precious items on Treasure Island in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
In order to protect his booty, Jean LaFitte chose one of his minions (a man named Pierre LeBlanc) to watch over his treasure and ensure that no thieves would steal it. To help Pierre LeBlanc's watch over the treasure, LaFitte gave him a palomino horse to ride up and down the coast. One day a stranger came to Treasure Island and was supposedly hunting for snakes in order to sell the skins. Leblanc, being lonely, became drunk with the strange man and trusted him enough. He took his horse and walked away from the stranger, but in the morning the strange man found Leblanc laying on top of one of the chests with the treasure inside. In the end, a fight ensued and Leblanc had his head chopped off and the stranger made off with Lafitte's treasure.
It is said to this day that the headless body of the Pirate Ghost Pierre Leblanc can still be seen on certain nights, riding up and down the coast of Treasure Island. Maybe he's in search for his head or maybe he's still trying to protect the treasure that Lafitte left him in charge of so long ago...to his demise.
Tampa's Infamous Jose Gaspar—The Ghost Pirate "Gasparilla"
If you live or have ever visited Tampa Bay, you might have heard of a festival called "Gasparilla". If you haven't heard, Gasparilla is a festival that is quite similar to New Orleans' Mardis Gras; however, there is no religious undertone or original meaning behind it. Gasparilla is a day that the Tampa Bay locals throw a parade and a HUGE party in honor of a supposed historic event involving a pirate named Jose Gaspar. Jose Gaspar, also known as "Gasparilla", was a Spanish pirate that scoured the Gulf Coast of Florida with his men...pillaging merchant ships and collecting as much treasure as their ship could hold. It is said that Gasparilla hid his loads of treasure on Gasparilla Island, an island in the Gulf of Mexico off the Western coast of Florida.
Unfortunately, the infamous legend of Jose Gaspar or Gasparilla has been completely denied by many historians and even some locals. They say it was all made up in the early 1900s in order to promote the purchasing of real estate in the Tampa Bay area; however, there are those who still believe that Jose Gaspar was a real pirate and indeed may even be haunting the waters up and down the Western Coast of Florida. Specifically in the Tampa Bay and on Gasparilla Island. Legend says that Jose Gaspar was almost done with his career of robbing merchant ships when he decided to rob one last merchant ship in the Gulf. But...this was to his ultimate demise. The merchant ship turned out to be a ship that was set up in order to capture or kill Jose Gaspar and his Gasparilla crew of pirates. Jose Gaspar, instead of being captured, decided to go down in a blaze of glory and threw himself into the ocean with some sort of object that was to weigh him down...leading to a watery grave. Gasparilla sacrificed himself to the sea instead of to man. Many Tampa Bay locals believe that Gasparilla's treasure is still buried on the island. His spirit can be felt all throughout the Tampa Bay area, especially on Gasparilla day.
The Ghost Pirates of St. Augustine, Florida
One of the most well-known haunted spots in the state of Florida is Saint Augustine. Honestly, I've yet to go to St. Augustine but there is something inside of me that is dying to go there. Okay, maybe not "dying"...that might be a bad term to relate to when talking about Ghosts.
The town of Saint Augustine is full-to-the-brim with history. History of the Natives who lived on the land when the Spanish came. History of Ponce de Leon and his encounters with the Natives of the Floridian land. And history of...you guessed it...pirates! Specifically the lighthouse in Saint Augustine is said to be one of the most haunted places in the state. Many of the ghost tours in Saint Augustine will take you to the lighthouse to experience the creepy feeling of being watched. Or you could even capture an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) of some pirate ghost revelry yourself. Check out the video I've posted below. In this particular EVP taken by a lady tourist, you can actually hear singing...and the lyrics speak of grabbing a "molly". A "molly" back in the days when the Floridian coast was ruled by pirates was actually a prostitute. No one was in the lighthouse when this EVP was taken by the tourist. Many other stories of pirate ghosts in Saint Augustine abound. Maybe if you visit you'll get to see one of Florida's many pirate ghosts yourself.
Amazing EVP Taken of Pirate Ghosts in St. Augustine, FL
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© 2012 Nicole Canfield