THE GHOSTS OF ST. AUGUSTINE - PART II
Marion Pelicano Ambrose
At the Mission of Nombre de Dios, there is a quaint little building which is the La Leche Chapel. It is part of the original mission Menendez and his party set up and where the first Catholic Mass was held in the United States. The first teachers were the priests and sisters who came to teach the Timucuan natives of the area. These faithful nuns are buried right next to the chapel. The story persists, even though the present director of the Mission denies its truth, that one of the nuns was buried alive accidentally. This wasn’t uncommon at the time since the only way to tell if one was dead was if you couldn’t feel a heartbeat of see them breathing. Many people were buried with a bell on the grace, a string leading down to the hand to ring if they regained consciousness. Someone was hired to sit by the gravethrough the night (thus the “expression graveyard shift”) to start digging if the bell rang. Unfortunately, this young nun had no such bell. There were reports of moaning and the ground vibrating near the grave and people were terrified. It was decided to dig her up to prove this was all nonsense. When they opened the coffin, there were deep scratch marks on the inside lid and her nails were broken and blood stained. Her mouth was open as if screaming. She was quickly reinterred, but to this day, people standing by the grave sometimes hear moaning and feel the ground beneath them tremble.
I told my 8th grade this very story and when we visited, they were most anxious to stand by the graves. We were in the chapel praying, but it was a hot and humid morning. Two of my girls felt a little faint and asked to stand outside for some air. They walked over to the grave. I stood in the doorway where I could supervise both the students praying and the girls outside. Suddenly there was a bone chilling scream and my two girls came running to me. They clung to me for dear life and cried, “It’s true, it’s true! We heard the moaning and the ground began to shake! It’s her!!! It’s the nun!” I held them both and stood with my mouth open in surprise. Sure enough, the ground WAS trembling and I could hear a low moan that seemed to be coming closer and closer……………..
Suddenly a man on one of those giant lawn mowers came riding around the corner of the chapel. It moaned and shook the ground as it whacked away the grass and weeds. Tears of horror turned into tears of laughter as the girls realized that their ghost was a big green John Deere!
So if you love Florida history, ghost stories or both, Saint Augustine is the place to go! Sure there are colorful shops, picturesque Bed and Breakfasts, sightseeing tours and sun- kissed golden beaches, but most importantly, there are GHOSTS!
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