South Florida Ghost Stories: The House of Refuge

The House of Refuge is one of the last remaining shipwreck life-saving stations on the Atlantic coast. And did we mention it's haunted?

What is a House of Refuge?

The House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar is the only House of Refuge still standing. If you don’t know what a house of refuge is, don’t feel bad, we didn’t either! Houses of Refuge were built all along the east coast of Florida to rescue shipwreck survivors. This particular house was 120 miles away from the nearest town. The keeper and his wife would walk the beach daily looking for sailors. If they found someone, they would bring them back for food, shelter, water and rest.  If they were up to it, the sailor could make a trek to the next House of Refuge 30 miles away, eventually leading to a port. If not, they could wait for a resupply ship to pick them up. This House saved 44 lives between 1876 and 1915. At most, they housed 22 sailors after 2 shipwrecks in the span of 24 hours.

There were a lot of children birthed in The House of Refuge. Since the house is so far away, there was no doctor or midwife. If the husband was out looking for survivors, the wife was on her own…

Who ya gonna call?

Supposedly there is a ghost of an old sailor that can be seen sitting on the rocks outside the house, staring into the sea. Sometimes he wanders the House of Refuge. Guests have reported hearing a disembodied voice say, “Get. Out.” He does not like people wandering around in there. Others have claimed to smell things in the house, whether it is old pipe tobacco or beef stew cooking in the kitchen. There have been reports of cold spots followed by footsteps and even a masked figure appearing.

Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, one thing for sure is that this is a very cool place to visit. The history, artifacts, and beautiful scenery make this a trip worth taking!

To learn more about the history of The House of Refuge, swing by their website.

Want to see The House of Refuge for yourself, but aren’t feeling up to the drive? Why not try a virtual tour?