Halloween Haunts: The Lighthouse by Elle Mitchell
Halloween Haunts: The Lighthouse
by Elle Mitchell
I love St. Augustine. It’s a part of Florida that feels unlike Florida—or it did when I went there as a child. It was a slice of Europe with a splash of American tourism dusted in pirates. When my grandparents rented a condo there one year, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to do. Visiting the beach was at the bottom of the list. Museums, old homes, the lighthouse, and the ghost tour were at the top.
Given that St. Augustine, FL is one of the most haunted cities in America, you’d think the ghost tour would be the highlight. And though it was spooky and fun and informative, that’s not where the real haunting took place.
It was the perfect time for a lighthouse visit. We’d just had a pancake breakfast, there wasn’t a cloud in the bright blue sky, and the sun sparkled off the calm water.
I’d never been in a lighthouse before, though I’d been so obsessed with them I had books upon books on them. So I decided I would run up the windy steps. What better way to introduce myself to the magic I’ve been waiting for—speed through it. Eleven-year-olds, am I right?
I’m about halfway up before I saw another person. A man was holding his son’s hand. The little boy was waving to someone above him, just out of my view. The man was too busy marveling at something on the wall or floor or lost in his own head to notice. He pulled them both towards the curved stone wall when he registered my footsteps.
I said a brief thank you and smiled at the child. I kept my pace at a slow walk, not wanting to crash into whoever the boy had been waving at. It was a tighter fit than expected, and my head was spinning. I was not made to run in circles. Was anyone, though?
A few moments later, I see a young girl in an old-fashioned dress. She’s jumping rope down the steps.
I knew my imagination was playing tricks on me, though. The girl was semi-translucent, and by the time I reached her, she’d disappeared.
I glanced behind me. The boy wasn’t waving anymore. The man seemed as oblivious as he had been.
Shaking that off, I ran the rest of the way up. Once I was at the top, I waved at my grandparents. They took a picture that showed a few dots—two couples who were hanging out when I got there and me. I was indistinguishable from them.
As I made my way back down, I looked for the girl or the jump rope. She was nowhere to be seen, but I didn’t really expect her to be. I asked my grandparents if they’d seen a girl jumping rope. They said they hadn’t, so I let it go.
I thought about her often over the years, but she faded over time. I assigned her a hair color, and I think I gave her an overcoat. But I don’t think she had those when I saw her. I can’t remember if she laughed or whispered, if her shoes made noise on the steps. Still, the core of the memory remained.
When I was sixteen, I watched a documentary show about haunted cities. St. Augustine came up, and I was excited. I knew so many stories, had visited restaurants and bathrooms, tours and hidden away streets, all in the name of ghost hunting. They told the story of a girl dying from falling down the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper’s daughter was blonde and small and wore what I was pretty sure I remembered her wearing. Chilled, I called my mom in to see the show. I asked her if she remembered me telling her about the girl.
She did, but she came up with excuses why it couldn’t be that.
I allowed that to be the truth: I saw a ghost. It seemed as likely as anything.
One day, many, many years later, I went to write about her. I couldn’t find her story. I could find stories about another lighthouse keeper’s daughters—sisters—who were killed by a tipped railway cart. They giggle and have been recorded saying they like to jump rope, but the girl I saw all those years ago? She’d disappeared just like she had the day I saw her. I don’t know if it was a coincidence that a history show had bad information that lined up with my childhood experience or if the girl has just been lost to years of new information on the internet.
It doesn’t matter, really.
My truth hasn’t changed.
I saw a ghost when I was eleven in one of the most haunted and beautiful cities in America.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Elle Mitchell is giving away three ebook copies of We Used to Be Different: a collection of stories and miniatures.
Comment below or email email@example.com with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.
Elle Mitchell is a multidisciplinary artist and author of raw, character-driven dark fiction and essays. She spends her downtime playing video games, fighting for disability rights, researching, and eating more than her share of homemade baked goods (when her body allows). Being a woman with several invisible illnesses, she enjoys living a semi-horizontal life with her husband and spoiled furbutts in the PNW. You can find her books and limited edition miniatures connected to them in her shop and on Amazon! Sign up for her newsletter to keep up to date with her goings on, receive a free horror short story, and get other exclusive content delivered to your inbox twice a month!
Her latest publication, We Used to Be Different, comes out Friday, October 13th. Pre-order now!
OR (if it’s after Oct 13th)
Sixty-two eclectic stories with sixty-two miniatures to match.
Dive into a provocative mixed-media collection from the creative and twisted mind of dark fiction author and multidisciplinary artist Elle Mitchell.
Enter stories where urban legends are real and love can be beautiful or violent, where ghosts are both figurative and literal, where bunny aliens are totally normal, and where darkness means drug addiction, zombie apocalypse, grief, cannibalism, and a hitman with OCD. Within the pages of this genre-defying collection, you’ll find an array of short stories, poems, and photographs that plumb the depths of what it means to be human. Each piece has an accompanying miniature or assemblage that brings another fascinating layer to this already unique collection.
Take a journey through the unexpected in We Used to Be Different. It’s more than just another collection of stories, it’s an experience.