Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blood on the Sands

Magnet # 378:  Port Boca Grande Lighthouse

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Me

The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse which stands on Gasparilla Island on Florida's western coast may not be one of the best known lighthouses in the state, but many consider it to be the Sunshine State's most haunted.  And the sands of the island may have been cursed even before its construction in the late 1800's.  For many years after it was built, it served to light the way for ships traveling from ports on Charlotte Harbor to Cuba with loads of cattle.  During World War II, more than 30 ships might pass by it in a day.  But by the 1970's, it had been deactivated and abandoned by the Coast Guard.  The once-proud structure fell into disrepair as beach erosion threatened its survival.  But in the 1980's, a series of renovations began at the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and work was done to protect it from the ocean.  The building and its surrounding property were turned over to the State of Florida and are now a state park and the lighthouse has been turned into a museum.  Of course, there is more than just tanning, surf, and tours going on at Gasparilla Island - particularly when the sun goes down.

Long before the lighthouse was ever built on Gasparilla Island, legend tells of a pirate named Jose Gaspar who frequented it, and supposedly buried his treasure there.  The island was named in his honor and some say he once brought a Spanish princess named Josefa there after he had kidnapped her.  Why anyone would let her on a ship that a pirate could capture, I have no idea.  Regardless, Gaspar had fallen for the princess and made his move on her, only to be coldly rejected.  Enraged, he pulled out his sword and cut off her head before he could stop to think.  Ashamed of his behavior, he buried Josefa's body on the beach, but it's said he kept her head with him for the rest of his life, unable to part from her beauty.  And now, some claim to have seen her headless body wandering the sands, apparently in search of its head.  And the construction of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse hasn't stopped her nightly searches, but it has apparently given Josefa a ghostly companion.  One of the lighthouse keepers is believed to have had a young daughter that stayed with him until she passed away from either whooping cough or diphtheria.  Rangers at the lighthouse now say that they can hear the girl playing on the second floor around midnight.  All of this ghostly activity has earned the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse a spot on lists of the country's most haunted lighthouses.

Ever since I read about haunted lighthouses around the country for last year's creepy posts, this was one magnet I really wanted to get for this year's round.  When I was first planning to travel down to Tampa and Weekee Wachee Springs with Lindsay in January, I thought we might be able to make it down to Gasparilla Island, but it was just too far South.  Later, another friend was heading to Sarasota, and I asked him to look for it, but he wasn't able to get it, either.  So you can imagine my delight when I came upon it at the Florida State Capitol in landlocked Tallahassee, of all places.  It was the only lighthouse magnet they had and the clerk told me that it had been there for ages.  Maybe it was waiting for me.  In any event, I was thrilled to pick it up - it even looks a little ominous all on its own.  And perhaps I'll make it to the lighthouse itself one day.  Of course, that isn't the best time to check out Port Boca Grande Lighthouse - wait until dark if you want a chance to see what truly makes this lighthouse and its island intriguing.

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