By Marcy Shortuse Photos by Marcy Shortuse, Skip Perry, Julee Lawrence and archival It isn’t hard to surmise that a place as old as Gasparilla Island has a few tales to tell – and not all of them are paradise-perfect. While we are now known as an elite island getaway location, just a few decades ago there was a more diverse population. From times of Cuban sailing smacks bringing rum to Gasparilla Island to tales of pirates and Spanish royalty walking our shores, our reputation years ago was far from spotless. Haunts and ghosts still wander Gasparilla Island, having met their untimely end through many different means. The pirate Gaspar was once believed to have chosen our island as a private lair, and is believed to have stashed female captives, jewels and gold on nearby islands. His blade is rumored to have spilled blood on our beaches more than once, and a spectral Spanish child princess has been spotted wandering the beach, in search of her head that was taken by Gaspar. The spirits of pirates who jumped ship instead of being captured haunt the rocks and wail in the waves pounding the shore at the south end. There is the story of the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, a vibrant child who loved nothing more than to play in the upper rooms of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse. Another girl, a teenager, still haunts a home on Park Avenue; the same place where she met her untimely demise. Welcome to “Ghosts and Legends of Boca Grande,” a slightly darker side of the island that we call home.
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