Castillo de San Marcos: Where History and Hauntings Intertwine

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 30 July 2023
  • Time to read: 7 min.


Bathed in the warm glow of a St. Augustine sunset, the imposing walls of the Castillo de San Marcos reflect centuries of history and mystery. Known as the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, this national monument offers more than just architectural beauty and historical significance. It is also reputed to be one of the most haunted locations in the country, where stories of ghostly encounters and supernatural phenomena are as pervasive as the coquina walls that have withstood countless sieges.

History of Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument – Credit Evangelio Gonzalez

Built in 1672 in the heart of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest inhabited city in the U.S., Castillo de San Marcos stands as a mammoth Spanish fortress. Its creation was fueled by numerous threats from pirates and English troops that necessitated a robust defense. Crafted from coquina limestone, this imposing structure resisted multiple English sieges, never surrendering.

Switching hands multiple times due to territorial swaps, it served as Fort St. Mark under the British, detaining American revolutionaries. After Spain regained Florida, it was transferred to U.S. control in 1821, taking on a new identity as Fort Marion. In times of war, it morphed into a prison for Seminole tribe members and Spanish-American War captives.

Confederate forces seized it during the American Civil War until Union forces snatched it back. Decommissioned in 1898, it was named a National Monument in 1900. Congress revived its original title, Castillo de San Marcos, in 1942. Managed by the National Park Service, it remains a must-see historical landmark.

Haunting Legends and Supernatural Phenomena

At Castillo de San Marcos, a fortress with centuries of history, the boundary between the living and the dead seems thin. Legends of spectral sightings and paranormal activities echo in its ancient stone chambers. Visitors and staff recount a gamut of spooky experiences, transforming this historic monument into a spectral haunt.

Yellow Fever Ghosts

The Yellow Fever Ghosts are some of the most haunting apparitions. They’re believed to be the spirits of Spanish soldiers and their families who died during an outbreak in the 1820s, still wandering within the fort walls, their anguished faces reflecting their grim fate.

Morning over Castillo de San Marcos
Morning over Castillo de San Marcos – Credit Thomas Cizauskas

Garcia Marti & Dolores

The ghost of Colonel Garcia Marti is another recurring phantom. Back in 1784, Colonel Garcia Marti and his young bride Dolores arrived at St. Augustine, eager for a fresh start. The Colonel’s charismatic assistant, Captain Manuel Abela, caught Dolores’ attention, who found solace in his companionship as her husband was consumed by his duties.

Colonel Marti realized something when he smelled Dolores’ perfume on Abela during a handshake. He deduced their affair and in a fit of rage, Dolores and Abela mysteriously vanished. Garcia told stories about Dolores getting sick and moving to Spain. He also mentioned Abela having a special task in Cuba. His stories raised eyebrows, yet they remained unchallenged.

The truth, however, was far darker: Garcia, in his jealousy, had imprisoned the illicit lovers in the fort’s secret chamber, dooming them to a slow, icy death. The discovery of their remains finally gave closure to their mysterious disappearance and explained the fort’s spectral happenings.

Visitors often notice a flowery smell and feel like they’re being watched in the Castillo. It is often mentioned that when you catch a scent of the sweet perfume, it sends shivers down your spine. This is a chilling reminder of the restless spirits believed to haunt the fort.

Native American Prisoners

Visitors have also reported encounters with the spirits of Native American prisoners, their mournful cries echoing through the fort. The ghost of Chief Osceola, a renowned Seminole leader imprisoned here, is also believed to make appearances.

Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos and Bridge of Lions Sunrise – Credit Matthew Paulson

There are other paranormal phenomena at the fortress. One is a Spanish soldier wandering around the gun deck. The other is a ghostly woman who appears to fall from the fortress wall, replaying her centuries-old suicide. Eerie sounds, cold spots, and the feeling of being watched are some spooky encounters at the fort.

Whether these are manifestations of the fort’s tumultuous past or products of overactive imaginations, the fort remains an intriguing location for paranormal enthusiasts and history buffs alike, with its dark tales of tragedies, hauntings, and timeless spirits.

Popular Culture and Media Coverage

The Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, has played a significant role in both history and pop culture, making it a notable subject of media coverage and capturing the imaginations of many.

The fort has appeared in a range of literary works, providing a historical backdrop for stories set in the region. One notable example is “Cross Creek” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, which weaves elements of the fort’s historical significance into the larger narrative of life in the surrounding area.

Building on your interest in Castillo de San Marcos, the book Haunted Lovers: Ghosts of Castillo de San Marcos” is sure to further intrigue and enchant. Unveiling the romantic and spectral tales that echo through the fortress’s walls, this book weaves love stories with ghostly legends, offering a unique perspective on this well-known historical site. The author masterfully combines romance with mystery, creating narratives that resonate with both history enthusiasts and fans of the supernatural. If you’re drawn to the haunting allure of Castillo de San Marcos, this book serves as a fascinating extension of your exploration, promising a reading experience filled with passion, intrigue, and otherworldly charm.

On the big screen and small screen, the fort has made its presence known in various movies and TV shows. In the swashbuckling adventure film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the fort’s impressive walls become part of the scenery as Captain Jack Sparrow embarks on his thrilling escapades. Meanwhile, the TV series “Burn Notice” utilized the fort’s architecture to set the stage for espionage and action in the show, adding an air of mystery to the storytelling.

In “X-Men: First Class,” the fort appears briefly, lending an air of authenticity to the historical setting of the film. These cinematic appearances have contributed to the fortress’ fame beyond its historical significance, captivating audiences worldwide with its grandeur and historical allure.

As a result of its rich history, architectural beauty, and alleged paranormal activity, the Castillo de San Marcos continues to captivate the public’s imagination and draw visitors from far and wide. Its prominence in pop culture and media coverage underscores its unique status as a historic landmark that remains relevant and intriguing in the modern world.

Investigation and Research Efforts

Many paranormal investigations have been done at the Castillo de San Marcos. The goal is to confirm the claims of ghostly sightings and strange experiences. These investigations have reported unexplained temperature fluctuations, odd energy readings, and ghostly EVPs. Skeptics still doubt these findings. They think environmental factors or human suggestions might be the cause.

Visitor Experiences and Urban Legends

Castillo de San Marcos is a hotspot for paranormal encounters that often send chills down visitors’ spines. The sight of ghostly figures, most notably the lovelorn spirit of Dolores, is a regular occurrence that both terrifies and intrigues. Her spectral presence seemingly wanders the fort’s grounds, a chilling reminder of her tragic tale of love and betrayal.

Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos – Credit Evangelio Gonzalez

The fort’s corridors often have a mysterious, sweet smell of flowers. Some believe it is Dolores’ lingering perfume. Many visitors often feel like they are being watched or followed, even when they are alone. Phantom sounds can be heard in the fort, like clanging chains, hushed whispers, and muffled cries. These sounds create a spooky atmosphere. The fort is known to be haunted because of sudden temperature drops and unusual light captured in photos. These scary encounters add mystery and draw history lovers and ghost hunters to the haunted grounds.

Preservation and Tourism

As a national monument managed by the National Park Service, the Castillo de San Marcos is well-preserved and continues to be a significant tourist attraction. Ghost tours are popular, enticing visitors with a mix of historical insights and spine-tingling stories. The fort’s spectral reputation not only drives tourism but also contributes to St. Augustine’s cultural richness.


The Castillo de San Marcos stands at the intersection of history and mystery. As a stalwart sentinel and a specter-filled sanctuary, it invites us to question the boundaries between the past and present, the physical and ethereal. Its ghostly tales and time-worn stones continue to captivate visitors, revealing that sometimes, the most enduring stories are the ones that defy explanation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Castillo de San Marcos

Q1: Where is Castillo de San Marcos located?
Castillo de San Marcos is located in St. Augustine, Florida.

Q2: Can I visit Castillo de San Marcos?
Yes, the fort is open to public visits. The National Park Service manages it and provides guided tours.

Q3: What kind of paranormal activities have been reported at Castillo de San Marcos?
The fort is associated with several paranormal phenomena, including apparitions, disembodied voices, unexplained temperature fluctuations, and strange orbs appearing in photographs.

Q4: Has the fort been featured on any TV shows?
Yes, the fort has been featured on several paranormal investigation TV shows due to its reputation for supernatural phenomena.

Q5: Who is the ghost of Dolores at Castillo de San Marcos?
Dolores Martínez is the subject of a local legend, a tragic figure who is said to have been locked in the dungeon by a jealous lover. Her ghost, often spotted in a white dress, is one of the most commonly reported apparitions at the fort.

Q6: Are there skeptics about the hauntings at Castillo de San Marcos?
Yes, while many visitors and paranormal investigators believe in the hauntings at the fort, skeptics suggest that the supposed paranormal phenomena may have more mundane explanations.

Q7: How is Castillo de San Marcos preserved today?
The National Park Service manages the fort, ensuring its preservation. The fort is open to the public, offering historical tours and occasional ghost tours.

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