By Marcy Shortuse – This week the tales of a little girl who loved to play, another girl who loves to play tricks and a third girl distraught with grief over a lost love. Welcome to Part II of “Ghosts and Legends of Boca Grande,” a slightly darker side of the island that we call home. See Part I in last week’s Boca Beacon.
Spirits of the Lighthouse
Since construction on the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse was complete in 1890, many people served as keepers of the light. It faded out in 1967, when the historic building was threatened by erosion from the waves and many storms, but was refurbished in 1981 and relit in 1986. Its light has been spilling on the island for many, many years and has seen many things – some good, some bad.
In the 77 years that is was first used, stories of good times and bad have issued forth from its walls. One little girl in particular, who loved the sea very much and died in the place she loved, is still reported to haunt the Lighthouse. A general sense of foreboding can be felt sometimes when you near the staircase up to the top room.
In the early 1800s a young, happy family by the last name of Johnson lived on the lighthouse property and helped to maintain the light. They had a little girl, approximately 5-years-old, who loved to play in the upper rooms of the building where she was surrounded by windows and could watch the sea.
Many say her small face could be seen long into the night, framed against the glass by the bright, revolving light. As children often did in that time, though, she took ill and died. Some say it was whooping cough that took her, others say diptheria. Because there was no way to take her body to a proper cemetery (the closest was many miles away), she was buried somewhere near the lighthouse.
Those who have been in the lighthouse late in the evening swear you can hear the sound of little running feet, and the rythmic bounce … bounce … bounce of a rubber ball on the floor as her spirit happily plays jacks in the corner of the room she loved so much.
A lonely life
One soul who lived on the lighthouse grounds met an untimely end. Not long after the Johnson family left their post, a new assistant lighthouse keeper by the name of Charlie Fine came to town. He was a single man who most people thought would fill the position perfectly.
It was a hard life for someone with a family, as constant vigilence was necessary to wind the large weights that spun the light. The keeper also had to make sure the light was still lit. Fine worked the job for awhile, but became morose because he was unable to meet any girls and could barely keep friends because of the rigidity of his schedule. One night a shot rang out over the deep water in Boca Grande Pass.
When the lighthouse keeper heard the shot he ran to check on his assistant, and found him dead from a gunshot wound. People on the island were shocked, as they had always considered Fine a very decent and kind young man. At some point in that soured evening the loneliness got the best of him, though, and he ended his young life.
Haunting at the Boca Grande Bakery
Another island legend tells of a young pre-teen girl who decided to spend her eternity in the Boca Grande Bakery (now the Inn Bakery at the corner of 4th Street and E. Railroad Ave.). Really, who could blame her? While the story is sketchy about how she died, many people who have worked at and visited the bakery over the years have said that she is a mischievous imp who likes to push cups around near the freezers, and wreaks general havoc from time to time for those who open up in the morning.
What happened to Molly?
Here is another story of love lost and the tragedy that ensued. A young girl, approximately 17, named Molly lived with her parents in one of the homes at Banyan and Park. She fell in love and was being courted by a handsome young man who returned her feelings with much fervor. Her parents, however, vowed that their daughter would not marry him.
She was so despondent at the hearing of their decision she hung herself. When that didn’t work properly, she shot herself. It was then she suceeded. While this occurred in the 1930s, the residents of the home and visitors there have felt a strange presence at the end of their bed when staying in that room. One resident said that pairs of shoes neatly tucked away would be found jumbled into a pile on the floor sometimes. One former resident who frequently baked biscuits would sometimes turn away and, upon looking back, find the biscuits gone. They would turn up later on in a pair of shoes in the closet where Molly had died.
Two women who spent the night in the home said they saw a vision of a young man standing in their room in the middle of the night. Could it have been the ghost of Molly’s lover, back to find his lost love? Shown in the photo above is an old towel found at the residence bearing Molly’s name – a sad remembrance of a girl who loved too hard, and was known to hanker for a biscuit or two. See next week’s Boca Beacon for the final installment of Ghosts and Legends of Boca Grande.