Legendary for its mysterious hauntings, the King House in Mayport has been attracting visitors for many decades. In the early days, they would come to listen to John King spin his ghostly tales. Later, teams of paranormal investigators, including the famed Rhine Research Center, came to capture evidence on film. Reportedly, the house was built on an old Spanish cemetery, although the location of that burial site is in dispute.
Built in the 19th century, the original home has been modified many times throughout the years, and according to Clara King Andrew, a King descendant, its appearance is markedly different from the Victorian house she knew growing up.
Neptune Beach Mayor Harriet Pruette says that as long as she can remember, the house has been the subject of many ghost stories. In the 1970s when she was twenty years old, she went to go check it out for herself. “I went to see Mr. (John) King, and when I got to the front door I heard all these ladies inside. They sounded like they were having tea or something. I knocked several times but they didn’t come to the door; they were just chattering away.” When she turned to leave, Mr. King was just arriving home. He invited her in, but when they stepped through the door, no one was there!
That was Pruette’s only first-hand encounter but she’s heard countless other stories. There’s the legend of a “little butler” who follows visitors home by stealing away in the back seats of cars. “Naturally, the driver pulls over in a fit of fright only to find his backseat completely empty,” writes Greg Jenkins, author of Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore.
Another reported haunting is that of the lady in the rocking chair. Lillian Strode recalls being in the house one time and “when we approached the first upstairs bedroom, we saw the rocking chair just rocking away by itself.” Reportedly, a King family member was brutally murdered in that chair, a young woman stabbed to death by an angry lover.
Another female ghost, “the lady in white,” has frequently been sighted too, but there are conflicting stories about her origins. Some say she died in a car accident on her wedding night and has haunted the kitchen ever since. But Deborah Barclay of Fernandina Beach claims the ghost is her own grandmother who died in childbirth in 1932. Her name was Emily Bellere, and she spent a lot of time at the King house where she could watch and wait for her husband, a shrimper who frequently worked in dangerous waters. According to Barclay, “she had long burgundy red hair and was very beautiful.” Her ghost wears a long cream-colored dress and continues to this day to wait for her husband.