I grew up in St Augustine, Florida which, as a lot of people know, is teeming with ghost stories and haunted locations. My grandparent’s house was definitely one of them. My grandfather passed and 2012 and my grandmother continued to live there until she passed away in 2021 at the age of 94. It’s a 3 story Victorian house built in 1876 near downtown St Augustine that looks every bit the part of a spooky, haunted house. I’d like to share with you the story she always told of the people that lived in her home before her. If you are lucky enough to have a copy of the book she wrote and published in January 1979 about the family, The House by June Moore Ferrell, you will already be familiar with this story, albeit a more fictional version of it.
St Augustine is a beautiful, scenic town on the Atlantic coast between Jacksonville and Daytona, Florida. Having been founded in 1565, the town is rich with history and stories of both happiness and despair. Although both myself and my dad were born and raised there, my husband can trace his ancestry back to the Minorcans who settled there in the 1700’s.
My grandparents, June and Ed, moved to St Augustine in the mid 1950’s and fell in love with an old, run down 3 story Victorian house that was condemned but still inhabited by one remaining member of a family of ex-carnival performers. When that family member passed away, my grandparents moved quickly to buy the house before it could be torn down, promising the city that they would restore it. And restore it, they did.
However, when they first took possession of the house, they quickly began to realize that something wasn’t quite right. Everything the previous family owned was still there because there were no other living family members to claim it. My Nanny began going through everything and realized there was quite a story to tell about this odd family. Here’s what she told us, based on what she learned from talking with neighbors, the last living family member, and from their journals, diaries, pictures, and other belongings.
The family moved into the house in the early 1900’s when they left the circus. The lady of the house had two children, a son and a daughter, who were half siblings, and her second husband. They were very reclusive and did not leave the house much. The children rarely ever left the house. The lady of the house was a seamstress and sewed beautiful gowns for the wealthy people of St Augustine. I’m not sure if her husband worked or was retired after the circus.
As her children grew, they began to experiment with each other and the daughter ended up getting pregnant by her half brother. She was still a very young teenager at this point so her mother kept her pregnancy a secret and then played the baby boy off as her own. As time went on and her daughter’s son grew, her daughter began to act inappropriately with him as well. She eventually became pregnant by her own son, whom she had with her half brother. Confusing, I know…
The lady of the house was horrified by this. She once again secreted the daughter away until the baby was born. When this baby boy was born, he was riddled with such incest that he was mentally handicapped and physically deformed. The lady of the house decided that he would be kept on the third floor of the house and never be seen. His birth was not reported and there is no record of him ever existing.
She never tended to him or cared for him but she did allow her children to tend to him. As he grew, he began to draw attention to himself through his behavior. He would bang on the third floor windows, scream and yell at people walking below, and there is even one account from a neighbor who told my Nanny that he once peed on a passerby from the third floor window!
One fateful fall evening, the lady of the house was conducting a fitting for a wealthy client’s evening gown when the little boy, now probably five or six years old, began to throw a fit. Her children had trouble quieting him and the client took notice. Rumors had already been spreading about an unknown boy living in the top floor of their house so the lady of the house was furious.
After her client had gone, she stormed upstairs and locked up the third floor bedroom that he was in. She refused to let her children in to take care of him that night, and the next entire day, and the day after that…. She left him locked up on the third floor for several weeks with no food or water. He screamed and cried and banged around for a few days but then he grew more muffled, softly whimpering, until finally all was quiet. Her children were completely distraught but dared not disobey her. She apparently ruled the house with an iron fist after their previous misdeeds.
After several weeks, the smell coming from the third floor required that she allow her children into the boy’s room. When her daughter unlocked the door, she was met with a horrible scene. The poor little boy, never named by his family, was curled up in front of one of the windows, decomposing. There was feces on the floor and bloody claw marks on the door from his feeble attempts to escape. The family members, under the cover of darkness, dug a grave for him in the backyard and that is where he is rumored to remain.
His death is not the only one that has happened in that house as the family members died off but his is the only suspected murder that happened there, that we know of. I cannot imagine the sheer panic and terror he must have felt, not understanding why his caretakers suddenly stopped coming in. I doubt he even understood what starvation was as he suffered and died of it. The tragedy of his story is so great, it still brings tears to my eyes to think of it.
Over the years, pretty much every single family member of mine has had some kind of experience in that house, some have multiple stories to tell. Even my grandpa, who often said he didn’t believe in ghosts, said he could feel cold spots. Mind you, this is a sprawling house in Florida. Cold spots are not a thing in that house during most of the year. He also said he had trouble keeping doors shut on the third floor. He would close them and put a brick against the door and then exit out of another door. The next morning, the brick was pushed aside and the door stood wide open. I can understand not wanting that door closed if the cause of your death was it being closed.
I, myself, have many stories of strange things happening there. I used to lay in bed at night and wonder who on earth was walking back and forth on the third floor. We always slept on the second floor and I would look over at my sister and then at my grandparents in their bed, and then I would stare at the ceiling and listen to the sound of boots walking back and forth! I am not the only grandchild that heard it, either.
My grandparents never finished the third floor and no one in my family has ever slept up there, to my knowledge. My Nanny always told me that those rooms were not suitable to sleep in. They believe they know which window he died in front of because of the rot and smell of the wooden floor in that spot. They replaced it but my Grandpa always used that room to store extra wood in. I always remember that room being stacked high with 2x4s and sheets of plywood from my Grandpa’s various projects.
Whenever I would go to visit my Nanny, I would sometimes go into a room and turn on a recorder on my smart phone. Sometimes I actually caught whispers that none of us heard at the time. They are saved on my phone as my own personal proof that ghosts really do exist. I’ve played them on my podcast, True Hauntings & Scary Stories, several times. I also have this picture of some third floor windows that appear to have more than one face in them. (Yes, they are modern windows now. They were replaced due to leaking.) I’ve circled two faces but I think there are more. Comment below with how many faces you can see.
The house is now owned by my uncle and has fallen into dire disrepair. He has started a GoFundMe campaign to help him save the home. Please consider visiting the link to see the pictures and description of repairs needed and help our family save this beautiful and spooky home. Thank you!
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Spook ya later….
In the early 70’s I heard stories of the sequestered boy in that house, but thought them to be an urban myth due to the spooky appearance of the house. Now I know the backstory. In the mid 70’s, while living on the south end of Charlotte Street, I experienced a rather unusual occurrence. It was a very warm summer night so the doors and windows were open. There was no breeze to be felt. Suddenly, numerous dogs began howling in unison a mournful cry. My friends and I stopped chatting and commented on this. Then, as if a switch had been turned off, all the dogs stopped simultaneously. We looked at each other quizzically. At that moment, an icy cold wind flowed through the room. To this day I have no logical explanation. Perhaps it had something to do with the legend of Maria Sanchez who died tragically in the area centuries ago. We may never know.
I love it! And well written, too!
There was another murder near Charlotte too wasn’t there ? There’s a book about it.
Yes, I believe so! I haven’t read that book but I heard about it. There is a lot of history in that town…
“Bloody Sunset” The story of the murder of Athalia Ponsell Lindsley. I remember it well. It caused quite a stir in the neighborhood.
Love ❤️ It and my town
Cindy that was a awesome story
God bless you all