It has a drawbridge, massive bastions (made of coquina, donax shell), cannon and ports to fire them through, and a moat.
Your Examiner was standing on one of the bastions when she happened to look down and see long, dark shapes circling El Castillo in the water below.
“Mr. Ranger, sir,” she asked a nearby US Parks Ranger, “what are those?”
“Hmmm … thought so. What kind?”
“Bull sharks most likely.”
Most of St. Augustine is like that.
Official Bridge-of-Lions venerable History-with-a-capital-H side-by-side with tiny freak shows like the man-eating sharks in yon moat.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not®
Ripley’s Odditorium is a prime example.
The flaghship of the Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not® franchise lives in an erstwhile mansion and hotel – the Castle Warden (“The Castle” owned by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings) – that was Ripley’s favorite.
The Odditorium exhibits the same weird crap that all Ripley Museums do: a mummified cat, a stuffed two-headed calf, death masks of “celebrities” (like President Lincoln), shamans’ beads and rattles, etc.
Bona fide Florida History (“The Castle”) versus Freak Show (The Odditorium)
That the good people of St. Augustine saw fit to juxtapose the Old City with The Odd is a testament to their long suffering and sense of humor.
It is not just another way to fleece tourists.
It is not.
It does explain the World Famous Fountain of Youth Archeological Park and the Old Florida Museum.
More of your Florida heritage
Like El Castillo, the Old Jail is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built by Henry Flagler in 1891, the St. Johns County Jail and the Authentic Old Jail were the same place until 1953.
In the old days, each cell had a bucket for a toilet, and prisoners had to supplement infrequent meals with animals they snared in the fields while working as forced farm labor.
Granted it’s not glamorously historical, but it is accurate.
Now the Authentic Old Jail, a museum in its own right, shares space with the Florida Heritage Museum.
You’re greeted at the door by what looks like a stuffed-and-mounted pirate.
Inside you’ll find an idiosyncratic display – old French and Spanish battle flags, posters from Barnum & Bailey and Harry Houdini shows, an automated Gypsy fortuneteller, and so on.
Whether you’re a History Snob or attracted to The Odd, you’ll have a ball in St. Augustine.
See the sights, load up on junk food, then go feed the sharks in El Castillo’s moat.
How long does it take for half a hotdog to hit the water from the top of the eastern bastion?
This Examiner clocked it at about 15 seconds.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: email@example.com