Mayport has many historic buildings, but, by far, one of its more famous is the King House at 4627 Ocean St. The first records of this property describe a building located on a former Spanish graveyard, which was used as a one-time boarding house for sailors and — reportedly — a house of ill repute before it was destroyed by a fire in 1881.
William King rebuilt the house, with its oversized balconies, on the same site in 1907. He resided in the home with his family. His father, Howard, and his son, John, who grew up in the house, loved telling ghost stories and trying to scare the other children in town. While the King men may have provided colorful stories in some cases, the history of the house, nearby events, and the King family provided plenty of material for real tales.
For example, an aunt of William King’s had reportedly been involved for a time with a sailor. This sailor become jealous after their breakup and pitchforked his past love to death as she sat in a rocking chair on the front porch. It’s believed he later threw her body into the nearby river.
This would not be the only time the King House would play host to a dead body. The house was used as a Catholic Church in the 1940s and mass was held there weekly. It was rumored that the occasional wake or funeral were also held there. The area around the King House also seems to have a sorrowful past, as car wrecks near the house have claimed at least a few lives.
The ghost stories told by John King may have fueled the fire, but the King House seems to be a hot bed of paranormal activity. Mediums investigating the King House have reported an atmosphere that attracts spirits of the dead. Apparently, it also draws the attention of those looking for the supernatural. Researchers from the Rhine Institute of Duke University and several other paranormal research groups have frequented the place, and it was featured recently on an episode of Syfy’s Haunted Collector.
One of the most famous reports of activity came from John King himself, among others, and seems to have been confirmed. It involves the murdered aunt of William King. She is believed to cause the rocking chair she was murdered in to rock on its own (blood and the pitchfork’s puncture marks can reportedly still be seen on the chair itself). King’s aunt is also frequently encountered in a long white dress with long dark hair walking through the house. A former owner of the King House reported seeing her reflection in the mirror several times. When he turned around, she would vanish. Many of the church-goers during the time the King House served as a Catholic Church reported hearing high-heels moving about in the attic when no one was there. Whether this was King’s aunt remains unknown.
What is known is that besides drawing congregants to its church services, the King House seems to draw other nearby spiritual energies. The ghost of a bride killed on her wedding day in a car crash near the house is said to have settled there. John King and many of his guests, experienced her in his kitchen where she has been seen cleaning and doing other house cleaning activities. This territorial “Lady in White” is known to wreak havoc on other female cooks in the house.
Besides the bride, frequent reports suggest the presence of a “Little Butler,” who is said to open doors for visitors. In addition, the current owners of the house reportedly have a bird who repeatedly says the word “Howard,” even when no one is in the room. No one in the new owner’s family is named Howard, but Howard King reportedly died in the home. This just goes to show you that perhaps even animals can experience the paranormal.
Jamie Roush Pearce of Orange Park is a paranormal investigator and the author of Historic Haunts Florida. She is working on two additional books, Historic Haunts of the South, and Historic Haunts Southern Inns. Her website is www.historic-haunts.net and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org