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What Lurks Behind the Walls of the Lightner Museum?


I’m pretty positive nothing lurks behind the walls of St. Augustine’s Lightner Museum, however…for a split second during our most recent visit I had my suspicions.

The Lightner Museum is one of my favorite haunts. On my first visit there in 1999, I felt certain it was a place restless spirits roamed. However, when I asked some of the ladies on duty if any ghosts resided there, they were less than forthcoming. Which is a polite way of saying they clammed up and quickly put the kibosh on any attempts at uncovering paranormal mysteries within the museum.

Maybe it was just my spirit that was restless there. I swear, the wave of nostalgia I experienced on my first visit (and to some degree every time thereafter), was almost overwhelming. None of the objects on display have played a part in this lifetime of mine, but I get the strong feeling they did in a past one.

We often went down to St. Augustine when we lived in Jacksonville. We’ve been back to Jax a few times since we moved to Nashville. It wasn’t until our visit this past July that we ventured down to St. Augustine again, though.

That’s how I found myself in one of my all-time favorite museums once again. It was a perfect day to stroll through it, too. Stormy.


Everything about the Lightner Museum screams history. Specifically, my favorite period in American history: the Gilded Age.

Before it became the Lightner Museum, it was born the Hotel Alcazar. It was built in 1887 and fashioned in the Spanish Renaissance style. (The architects who designed it would later add such famous structures to their credit as the New York Public Library and the U.S. Senate office building.)

The exterior gray walls and terracotta-colored trim convey a grand elegance with a Gothic twist. Oh, yes, it’s exactly the perfect sort of place to pass a rainy afternoon, especially if you’re partial to Gothic romantic settings, which the Lightner Museum most definitely is.

The inside is even more of a treat. It positively oozes the charm of days long gone by. Maybe because it’s one giant collection of nostalgia after another.

This replica of a 19th century room was among those found inside the “Music Room” of the Lightner Museum.
This vignette of a dining room was on the museum’s 2nd floor.
From the third floor’s open floor plan you can look down on some of the second floor’s collections, like the cut glass collection.
There are many interesting things on display in the Science and Industry Room, including a stuffed lion and an Egyptian mummy.

Since our last visit, they’ve restored the lobby to its former opulence when it was the Hotel Alcazar.

It took my breath away.


Another thing that tried to take my breath away (not quite, but it definitely made it catch in my throat a bit) was a funny message my camera kept giving me, especially when I was photographing portraits: “Blink detected.”

It happened when I took pictures of all the following.

This is entitled “Maid at the Door” and is my favorite painting in the museum. I was glad to see it again. It was like reuniting with an old friend.
This is a portrait of Otto C. Lightner, who bought the old Hotel Alcazar in 1946 and filled it with his “collection of Americana.”

I only meant to take a picture of the Maid at the Door. But once I got that “blink detected” message I took shots of other random portraits to see if it would happen again.

It did.

Which was a little unsettling and definitely had me wondering if something lurked behind the walls of the Lightner Museum.

I’m sure it’s just a quirk with the camera. However, perhaps it was the spirits I’m sure must reside there having a little fun with me.

I’m just glad I didn’t get that message when I was snapping pics of the dolls or the weirdo heads in the Tobacconist shop display case!


I hadn’t Googled “Lightner Museum Haunted” in years. When I did it before nothing turned up.

However, as I was writing this post I tried again and this time something did turn up. An interesting personal account: “The Ghost of the Tiffany Room of the Alcazar Hotel.” Apparently a man had an experience in the Tiffany Room with an angry spirit whom he didn’t “see” so much as got the impression of a disgruntled gray-haired woman in her seventies.


The Tiffany Room

I’ve heard rumors that the old pool area is haunted too, but I’ve never read any first-hand accounts or spoke to anyone who’d had any experiences.

They have a display case that gives an idea of what the pool looked like back in its heyday.
Today the pool has been drained and serves as the Cafe Alcazar.

I’ve never felt threatened by or afraid of whatever spirits I’m either feeling or imagining I’m feeling in the museum, but this time I did get a little creeped out in the Turkish Bath for some reason.


Let us know! You know what to do. Use that comment section!

See more pictures in our The Lightner Museum album on our Facebook page.

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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17 thoughts on “What Lurks Behind the Walls of the Lightner Museum?

  1. I’ve read about the hauntings there and what’s interesting is that there are three old hotels there: the Lightner (formerly the Hotel Alcazar), Flagler College’s Ponce de Leon Hall (formerly the Hotel Ponce de Leon) and the Casa Monica Hotel (formerly the Hotel Cordova); and all have reported activity. The three hotels are linked as two were built by Henry Flagler (who may haunted the Hotel Ponce de Leon) and the Hotel Cordova was bought by Flagler shortly after it opened. They are fascinating, though it does seem that the Lightner gets less press about its ghosts than the others, but I would have to check my sources and get back to you on that.

  2. Hi Lewis! I’m fixing to write about the Casa Monica Hotel and Flager College soon too. However, until you mentioned it in your post, I never considered how the 3 are all right there together. I mean, I knew they were, but the way you wrote it made me see them in a different light. Also, if you find anything about the Lightner, I’d love to know about it. I’ve searched more than just online. (I know I wrote online in my post but I spent hours in the library when we lived in Jax trying to find any kind of paranormal reference to it at all. If you have some, I’d be highly interested in them.) Thanks for the comment.

  3. Hello Courtney,
    On November 1st.I visited the Lightner museum for the first time.I was in the top floor in what used to be the ballroom.I felt like I was’nt alone.I knew that something was there.I did’nt see anything.And I did’nt feel scared.And I am pretty sensitive to things like this.It was near the piano and near the balcony doors which are not used of course.And as I viewed the rest of this floor I did’nt feel it.I just felt this feeling of not being alone in this one area(the piano area and balcony doors.

  4. Very cool, Patricia. I hope you liked Lightner. It is one of my favorite places in the world. And I LOVE that Ballroom. Was the kookie monkey still on the piano?

  5. Hey Courtney!Yes the kookie monkey was still on the piano!I loved the Lightner and want to visit it again.There are a lot of “spooky”places in St.Augustine.I went to the lighthouse also and climbed it.The view was amazing.I saw a lot in St.Augustine but that Lightner museum and it’s history fascinate me.

  6. Hey Patricia! YAY! I like that kookie monkey! LOL And the Lighthouse is great. Have you ever been to St. Simmons Island? Their ligththouse is also haunted and fun, like St. Augustine’s! Oh and the view is awesome. Very pretty. So happy you stopped to share your experiences there.

  7. Hey Courtney!Yes I have been to St.Simmons several times.And I love the lighthouse there also.I bet you are a lighthouse fan too.I live in the Beaufort,SC area and we have a lighthouse here on Hunting Island State Park.It is really cool.There are a lot of ghost stories in this area also.There are also stories about the pirate Blackbeard.No one has found any hidden treasure here though…lol!

  8. I LOVE the story of Blackbeard, Patricia. When we moved to Jax I was obsessed with it after having read about his exploits and notorious death. I’d love to go to Beaufort. Never made it there. If I do, I’ll be sure to see the lighthouse. πŸ˜‰ (Yep, I love them too.)

  9. When my mother and I went to the lightner museum we both saw a beautiful girl walk by in a light green long flowing dress, but when she asked if anyone was dressing up to reenact something they said no. It scared the piss out of her!

  10. Oh dear, Rachel. LOL. But how interesting. I’ve never heard the tale of a ghost in a light green dress from there before. How wonderful! Thx for sharing. (And for the chuckle. Hope your mom made it to the bathroom okay. πŸ˜‰

  11. I was at the Lightner Museum over the weekend and had a very disturbing event happen. I was in the room with the stuffed lion and I started to feel as if something was invading my personal space. I had to walk out of the room. I decided to take the elevator to the 2nd floor. The feeling never left. I felt as if I was being crowded by something. A friend I was with noticed me turning bright red and figitting. My husband had to take me outside and I finally felt better. This is not a normal occurrence for me. The people I was with were fine. I do consider myself sensitive to energies. I do believe there are many spirits there. Whether I had a reaction form residual energy from Lightners collection or if there is a nasty spirit roaming around and decided to pick on me I’m not sure. I do know with what I remember the place is beautiful. My friends had a great experience. Not sure what happened to me…..

  12. Wow. What an odd, yet powerful, experience, Tracy. Sorry you weren’t able to enjoy the museum more, but selfishly I like that you had this experience and took the time to share it here! Glad you recovered once you got outside. Wild!

  13. Hi, Courtney! I came across your page when I did a Google search for whether or not the Lightner Museum is haunted. My husband and I were there earlier this week while on vacation in Florida, and though we’ve been to Saint Augustine several times, we hadn’t visited this museum yet. We decided to go simply because we love museums, and even though we do love ghosts and ghost stories, we hadn’t heard anything about it being haunted either as the museum itself or as the old hotel. But almost from the moment we stepped inside, I had a strange feeling, almost ominous. It only got stronger as we walked through, and even though I loved seeing all of the amazing artifacts, I couldn’t shake my feeling of unease. It was strongest on the third floor, near the collection of old coins and buttons, as though something “bad” had happened around that area. I don’t really consider myself particularly attune to spirits, but I have had some strange encounters in my life, and that feeling I got in the museum made me go a-Googling to see if there was anything to it. Thanks for sharing your stories and thoughts!!

  14. Hi Alix! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment about what you sensed in the Lightner museum! It gave me chills reading about it! I’m trying to figure out if the museum itself is harboring anything, or could it be the large collection of items have energy associated with them and that’s what’s palpable in the museum? It’s interesting to hear you felt something. I feel something every time I’m inside but don’t know why… But whatever you felt was strong enough for you to go searching for answers so I believe your senses detected something! Thanks again so much for stopping by like this!

  15. I ran across this “haunt” on accident, and wanted to add my experience from 2006. The Turkish Bath/Steam Room area (I believe on the second or third floor) was a chilling experience for me. Not one to believe in paranormal activity, this area of the old Hotel Alcazar definitely has some of it’s own unsettling energy. My encounter with this (and only this) section left me unable to breathe – almost as if the steam room was in full operation. My partner at the time admonished my reaction, but my experience was real and will prevent me from stepping foot near it again.

  16. I’m not going to lie to you Andy. The steam room has always sort of given me the creeps. There’s a weird vibe in there. I’ve never had the experience you did, or any experience for that matter, but it was always my favorite place to end up just because of the feeling it left me with. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave your experience. Sorry it wasn’t as pleasant for you when you got to that part of the museum though.

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