The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse sits on a piece of land replete with history and colorful legends. It was completed in 1860. Thousands of visitors have crossed its threshold through the years, and many of them have reported hearing "strange noises" and feeling "cold spots" while climbing the 100-foot spiral staircase. Others felt hands touching their shoulders when there is no one behind them.
The sandy beach near Jupiter Inlet has sheltered humans dating back at least 5,000 years. The Jobe and Jeaga tribes carved canoes from the abundant cypress trees to fish the ocean and river. They traveled throughout South Florida, and made their way to Lake Okeechobee using the river system.
They built shell mounds, and archaeologists have found pottery and stone, shell and bone tools. Their main village of Hobe sat directly across the inlet, and archaeologists discovered artifacts in the lighthouse grounds themselves. After the arrival of Europeans, they salvaged precious metals and goods from the ships that wrecked along the coast. They are believed to have died out or merged with other tribes in the 1700s.
When Jonathan Dickinson was shipwrecked on Jupiter Island during a hurricane in 1696, he and his twenty-three shipmates encountered the Jeaga from Jobe who relieved them of their clothes and possessions. They were held hostage in the village for a few days until the Jeaga allowed them to walk north along the beach where they were met by the Santaluces at the St. Lucie River and the Ais near present-day Fort Pierce. Early on, Dickinson learned that the Jeaga, Santaluces and Ais hated the English, but feared the Spanish. It would be a death sentence if any of them spoke English, so they secretly delegated all communication with the tribes to Solomon Cresson, who spoke fluent Spanish. Five members of the castaways died from exposure, but the rest made it to safety by trekking over two hundred miles to the Spanish fort in St. Augustine. Jonathan Dickinson later became mayor of Philadelphia. (Source - WPB.com)
In the 1760s there was an attempt to establish a plantation on the north shore of Jupiter Inlet, but it failed when Sir George Grenville died in 1770. Fragments of British pottery have been found around the lighthouse.
In the early 19th century the U.S. army established Fort Jupiter, west of the lighthouse to aid in the battles fought in the Second and Third Seminole Wars. Soldiers stationed there suffered from what they dubbed “Jupiter Fever”, believed to be a form of malaria.
In 1849, Lt. Robert E. Lee surveyed the area for potential military use, but found the inlet too shallow.
In the 1850s, Jupiter inlet stretched away with no warning light for approaching boats. Lighthouses already shone from Cape Canaveral and Hillsboro Inlet. Three years later a tall sand dune was chosen as the building site for a lighthouse.
In 1855, just as construction on the tower had started, a group of careless surveyors in the Everglades destroyed the prized banana plants of Chief Billy Bowlegs, touching off the Third Seminole War. In 1859, a two-story house was built for the head keeper and the assistants near the base of the lighthouse. It was constructed of coquina and a well was dug inside so the occupants would not have to leave in case there was more trouble with the Indians.
The 108-foot structure, the adjacent oil house and keepers' house were completed in less than year, and the light from the tower first shone out on July 10, 1860.
During the Civil War, those sympathetic to the Southern armies disabled the light and it became inactive. Smugglers and blockade runners for the Confederacy used the site to hide from Union gunboats. A yellow fever outbreak forced the USS James L. Davis to abandon blockade duty off the Jupiter Inlet. It was not until five years later that the light on the tower was relit.
Captain James A. Armour recovered the missing light in a palmetto hammock near Lake Worth Creek. In 1866, he was appointed an assistant keeper at the lighthouse, and the following year he brought his bride, Almeda Carlile to live there. Together they had 8 children, the eldest Katherine went on to marry Joe Wells, and they lived there with their children.
Starting in 1869, James Amour served as a head keeper for 40 years. Until 1939 more than 70 different keepers served there until it merged with the Coast Guard. It was automated in 1987.
The following is a story about a modern encounter with something that chooses to haunt the tower:
When my friends planned a weekend trip to see the one in Jupiter, I was actually pretty excited. We found a nearby campsite the night before and spent the night partying. None of us were feeling especially well the next morning when we set out to see the lighthouse. I felt sick when we arrived so I told my friends to start the climb without me and that I would catch up with them in a bit. They opened the large metal door and began to climb up Jupiter’s long flight of stairs. I finally started to feel like myself, when I heard my friends’ voices grow loud within the lighthouse. Their footsteps grew loud too, and suddenly picked up their pace. I could tell that something was wrong.They came tumbling out by the time I reached the door. Each of them looked a bit pale and were out of breath. 'What’s with you guys?’ I asked, looking from one frightened face to the next. 'I think there’s something up there,’ my friend Monica whispered. ‘What do you mean…? ’She means that we felt… a presence,’ supplied Mary. I looked at them all and laughed my butt off. ’As in you think it’s haunted?’ I scoffed. 'It’s an ancient lighthouse, you guys… it’s going to be noisy, especially on a windy day like this.' ’Okay, then you go up there,’ snapped Monica. So I did. I began to climb the metal stairwell, still amazed at my friends’ behavior. The air grew colder as I climbed, but that was to be expected. My stomach was in knots, but that was also not surprising. I had almost reached the top when an apparition appeared three steps above me. A tall figure formed out of white mist within seconds. I could make out two dark eye sockets and a gaping mouth, but the lower half of its body remained a white mass. He reached a bony large hand to grab me when I fainted and started to fall down the stairs. When I woke up my friends were gathered all around me. My experience was so frightening at Jupiter, that I haven’t been to another lighthouse since.
Adjacent to the keeper's house is a small graveyard. Joseph Wells and his wife Katherine buried their stillborn children in this small plot of land. Life was difficult here, and so much took place on this piece of land, that it's no surprise many experience unusual encounters.
Here are more ghost stories:
I was driving home because I was working late at the Jupiter Police Department. It was about 11:30, and I was really tired. About 10 minutes away from home, my patrol car stopped. I put on my warning lights even though there were not many cars on the road. I then called on my radio for any backup to help me out. I just heard static. Then with nobody to help, I went to the front to check out the engine. Just then an old antique car came driving down the road without headlights on. Since I thought it was coming to help, I wouldn't charge them for driving without headlights. I ran inside my patrol car to call dispatch to tell them I'm okay. When I lifted my head the old car was gone. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Nothing. One second it was coming to me; the next second it was gone. I turned my lamp on and shone it around. Nothing there. I sat down and closed the door trying to think about what happened. My engine then turned over and the car started back up. To this day, I still never figured out what happened .
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer