Carysfort Reef Lighthouse – Key Largo, FL

This lighthouse is located in a treacherous stretch of water that has seen more than its share of shipwrecks.  In addition, the area is home to a dangerous stretch of reef that has claimed numerous ships, including the one it was named for, the HMS Carysfort in 1770.

Several lightships were set here, but they weren’t very effective.  Their presence more or less made them a target for attacks from Seminole Indians and more than 60 vessels were lost on the reef during the time of the lightships.

When a new method of securing reef lighthouses to the coral rock beneath was created, and in 1852 the Carysfort Reef Lighthouse was completed.  The lighthouse offered poor living conditions for its keepers.  Food would spoil after a few days because there was no means of refrigeration.  But even in these conditions, keepers were loyal.

One keeper in particular, Captain Charles Johnson apparently decided he was never going to leave.  No the most likable guy, Captain Johnson died just after the lighthouse was lit.  After his death, keepers began reporting deep, gutteral groaning that would carry through the rafters of the lighthouse.   These groans would begin softly and intensify into high-pitched, human-sounding screams as the night went on.  Most keepers had a hard time getting a good night’s sleep.

These days, many dismiss the noises as the iron joints of the lighthouse settling.  Others are convinced it’s Captain Johnson’s spirit hanging around to annoy people long after his death.

The Carysfort Reef Lighthouse is located offshore about 6 miles from Key Largo.  It can’t be seen from land. It’s very hard to reach by boat because of the reef , but you can get a charter to take you out there. The tower is currently closed to visitors.

Find out more about the history of Carysfort Reef Lighthouse here.