By air, Florida’s Castillo de San Marcos looks like an architectural stone turtle.
By land, the structure is one of the most haunting locations in the United States.
There are both official and unofficial stories around this historically significant attraction… which one you choose to believe is up to you.
Castillo de San Marcos’ official history
This structure is actually the result of hundreds of years of architectural minds working towards a common goal. Built from 1672 to 1695, it was an outpost for the Spanish Empire and the first permanent European settlement in the continental US. It’s changed hands by treaty a number of times, and even changed its name to Fort Marion for some of it. It was used by the American army up until 1899 and finally was announced as a national monument in 1924.
Castillo de San Marcos is one of just two fortifications (the other being Fort Matanzas National Monument about 20km away) built from coquina, a semi-rare form of limestone. The star (or turtle, if you ask us) shape is an attempt to foil the plots of anyone invading with the black powder weapons of the time to withstand cannon projectiles. For what it’s worth, Castillo de San Marcos was never taken by force.
Castillo de San Marcos’ unofficial history
Behind the glossy veneer of iconic American history lurks a story far more sinister than treaties and limestone.
In a truly terrifying tale of adultery worthy of the Game of Thrones saga, the most well known spooky story is that of Colonel Garcia Martis, his wife Dolores and his chief officer Captain Manuel Abela. Dolores was known for her love of a unique perfume and would wear it liberally – a penchant that would eventually be her downfall after her husband noticed the scent on his chief officer’s uniform. Captain Manuel Abela and Dolores soon disappeared, and both were said to have moved countries… yet when a hidden room in the dungeon was unearthed years later, the ashes and bones told a different story. These days you can tour this room, where tourists often report feeling cold spots in the air, the smell of a sweet perfume, and occasionally even a sad figure in a white dress.
Then there are stories of ghostly military men, still on duty on the grounds, loyally protecting the fort in death as they were in life hundreds of years ago.
Would you brave a night spent alone in the hidden dungeon of Castillo de San Marcos? Please note that most travel insurance policies don’t cover for lack of sleep due to tingles down the spine… but if you’re interested, of course you can check out the inclusions with Virgin Travel Insurance options.