Wide eyes, sweaty palms, and a racing heart. Are these the tell-tale marks of a love story or a haunted tale? If the story is set in Florida, there’s a good chance it’s both.
One of the state’s best love stories centers on the love of a parent — and the death of her loved ones. The setting is the Key West Lighthouse, which kept the area safe for more than one hundred years. But the same guiding light that brought ships safely into harbor may have been a magnet for a different set — a crowd of restless spirits still remaining on the island.
The Mabrity Family
Like many ghost stories in Florida, this one may have started with the Spanish.
On arriving in what is now Key West, they unearthed burial mounds and ignored the holy site in favor of an outpost. When Florida switched hands to the United States years later, they wanted to use it as a naval base and needed a lighthouse to support it. Almost as soon as it was commissioned, there were mysteries. The first man sent to look after the construction in 1824 left Boston with men and materials and was never seen again.
Barbara Mabrity came with her children to the lighthouse for its opening in 1826, when her husband was named its first keeper. Michael Mabrity was dutiful in his mission, but six years later he died of yellow fever.
Barbara took over. Every description of this woman paints her as tough and strong-minded, and she managed the grounds at the same time she managed her children. Barbara held the role for decades. But in 1846, the horrible Havana Hurricane destroyed the lighthouse, which was holding not just the family but also more than a dozen people seeking shelter.
Mabrity was able to save only one of her children, with everyone else perishing inside.
Over the years, the Key West lighthouse was rebuilt and updated, switching from whale oil to electric lights. It was decomissioned in 1969.
There was one constant: the ghost of Barbara Mabrity kept coming to work. It’s hardly the only example of a haunted light house. But in Florida, for more than one hundred years now people have talked of seeing a female figure climbing the stairs to the top of the tower and then disappearing.
Paranormal experts call this kind of haunting a residual haunting — someone repeating the same action for years after a person is no longer there.
Others have reported her in the courtyard at the base of the tower. There are even sightings of a woman said to be Barbara on the edge of the water, still waiting for the next storm.
That’s not all. There are said to be more ghosts on the grounds, including a phantom couple that disappears, a man who looks disoriented and vanishes when approached, various men in military uniform, and most of all groups of small children. Is the couple Barbara and Michael Mabrity? Are the children their children — the ones who died during the Havana Hurricane? Or are they children from the Native American communities who were disturbed by the Spanish?
Want to learn more about ghostly tales from Florida? Check out Haunted Florida Love Stories and other similar titles at arcadiapublishing.com!