The Key West Lighthouse

Posted by blogger in Key West Ghost Tours
The Key West Lighthouse - Photo

Key West is known for its outstanding views and one building with the best view is the Key West Lighthouse. It is now a museum, but when it was a fully functional lighthouse, it held some deep, dark secrets.


The lighthouse was built in 1825 and it was there to help guide ships to the shore and help them to avoid hitting the dangerous reef that was in the area. It has 88 iron steps that visitors can climb to get the full, scenic view of the sea. Lighthouse keepers kept watch here for over 120 years before it was closed and turned into a museum. There is a lot to see here and visitors can see the Keeper’s Quarters to get an idea of where the lighthouse keepers and their families lived. There are some great, vintage photos to view as well. Not only can guests see some great, historic memorabilia, they may also run into a few ghosts along the way.

A Haunted History of the Lighthouse

It was very unusual for a woman to ever maintain a lighthouse, but in the 19th century, the Key West Lighthouse was. Her name was Barbara Marbrity and she took on the job of lighthouse keeper after her husband died. He was maintaining the lighthouse when he died very suddenly. She took on the duties of lighthouse keeper for over 32 years. She was the keeper through three hurricanes and still kept the lighthouse light burning and helping sailors get to the shore. There was one hurricane that nearly destroyed the entire lighthouse though.

The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 caused quite a lot of damage and death to Key West. In fact, Key West was almost wiped clean because of the devastating damage the hurricane had on the city. The USS Morris was completely wrecked during the storm and the crew remembers seeing the beach and the lighthouse.  No one knows exactly how, but Mabrity survived this terrible storm. There were many people who needed to find shelter at that time, so they came to the lighthouse where they thought they could remain safe. They were not so lucky though. There were fourteen people that ran into the lighthouse during this hurricane. They all died and taken off to sea with the storm. Six of these were Mabrity’s children. The lighthouse was almost completely destroyed too. There were a lot of renovations that had to be done to it to bring it back to its historic look. In 1848, the new lighthouse was finished and Mabrity wanted to continue to be the keeper.


As the keeper of the lighthouse, Mabrity would climb 88 steps each and every day that she worked there. She was 82 years old when she died and she died as the lighthouse keeper. It seemed that her life’s purpose was to pick up her husband’s job when he died and she never slacked on her work that she did there. The Coast Guard had the Key West Lighthouse decommissioned in 1969. This is when Monroe County took it over and leased it to the Key West Art and Historical Society.  The society is in charge of maintaining the museum that the lighthouse was turned into. Mabrity worked very hard in the keeping of the lighthouse during the many years that she was there. She was dedicated and devoted to it and many believe that she was blessed somehow by living through all of the natural disasters that happened. This is why many people think that her ghost haunts the lighthouse today!

Visitors Tell All

There are thousands of visitors that come to see the Key West Lighthouse each year. Some of them enjoy the historic feel it has, while others love the stunning views. There have been some that enjoyed the ghosts here! Several visitors have shared their stories about seeing ghosts in the lighthouse. One visitor said that as she was climbing the brutal 88 steps, she felt someone behind her. She knew that her family was touring the lighthouse as well, so she thought it could have been one of them. She turned around to talk to someone and there was no one there. So, she kept walking up the stairs. She had the same feeling once again and stopped to look behind her. There was no one there again. She said the feeling got stronger and stronger the higher she climbed. When she finally got to the top, she sighed and took some time to catch her breath. While she was looking out the window, she felt a very cold wind come through the room. Keep in mind, it was about 85 degrees that day. She was unsure where the cold air was coming from, but appreciated it because she was worn out from the climb. She stood at the window for a few minutes looking at the view and then she decided she would go back down the stairs. Before she left the window, she said she felt as if someone was giving her a hug. She looked around again to see if anyone was around her, and still saw no one. She said the hug was gentle and it felt as if someone wanted to comfort her on her climb down the stairs. She said no matter what or who it was that she felt there, she never felt scared of threatened and feels that the ghost is friendly and very welcoming.

Another woman who visited the lighthouse had a similar story, but she actually saw something. This woman was also with a tour group of the lighthouse. Before they all climbed up the 88 stairs, the tour guide was showing them around the lower level of the lighthouse. This woman said she felt a hand brush through her hair in a very playful way. She looked at the couple next to her and they hadn’t moved, so she knew it wasn’t them. The tour continued and it happened again. This time, she heard a playful laugh. She looked around and the couple next to her ask if she was all right. She asked if they felt a breeze come through or heard anything and they both said they hadn’t. For fear of seeming crazy, the woman thought that she should keep her thoughts to herself. As the tour group began to go up the stairs, this woman looked to her left and what she saw almost made her fall down the stairs! She saw what she thinks is the ghost of Barbara Mabrity!

Mabrity’s ghost isn’t the only one that visitors have seen at the Key West Lighthouse. In fact, some have seen a woman that is called Mary and her husband in  the keeper’s quarters. It is said that these two came down with typhoid fever while they worked here and died in this room. There are several other staff members that are said to have died from typhoid fever as well. Some said that the lighthouse had its own “Typhoid Mary” that would cook for the staff members here! Is that creepy enough for you? Because we have more ghosts that haunt these grounds!


On the grounds of the lighthouse, visitors have seen two young girls holding hands and walking or skipping through the grass. The girls are said to be Mabrity’s daughters who died here when the hurricane demolished the lighthouse. They seem very friendly, but are never engaging with anyone but each other. Lastly, some of the guests here claim to see a man that is guarded the front door. They say that he is dressed in soldier attire and he looks very angry as you pass him by. There is no record of who he could be, but some say he could be one of the locals who decided to seek shelter from the hurricane that killed many people. His uniform seems to be from around the Civil War and historians say that he could be anyone from that era!

The Key West Lighthouse is a beautiful place to visit, but if you don’t like ghosts, this may not be the prime tourist spot for you. There have been so many sightings of ghosts that we suggest coming her if you love to be spooked. None of the ghosts here seem to want to hurt people, so we think that you are safe enough. Perhaps, Mrs. Mabrity will try to give you a big hug too! Be sure to keep your eyes open!