Warden Castle in St. Augustine, Florida
Warden Castle in St. Augustine, Florida
The First Ripley's Museum
Although they now dot the
country, the first "Ripley's
Believe It or Not! Museum" is
still open in St. Augustine.
Marker at Warden Castle
A state marker tells the story
of the unique Moorish castle
built by William Warden.
(Click image to enlarge).
Historic Warden Castle - St. Augustine, Florida
Warden Castle in St. Augustine
This historic late 19th century home is the location
of the nation's first "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" and
is a landmark of the American era in St. Augustine.
Original Ripley's Believe It or Not!
The well-known Ripley's Believe It or Not!
are a popular part of American
vacation culture. Noted for their bizarre
collections of unusual and sometimes
macabre artifacts, they can be found in
locations such as Key West, Panama City
Beach, Branson, Myrtle Beach, Gatlinburg,
San Francisco and New York.

The museum that started it all, however, can
be found in the historic Warden Castle in
Augustine, Florida.

Built in 1887 as the winter home of William
G. Warden, a business partner of John D.
Rockefeller and Henry Flagler, the castle is a
noteworthy landmark from the post-Civil War
era in St. Augustine.

The unique Moorish Revival architecture of
the castle and its sheer size made it one of
the most striking private residences in the
city. A focus for winter activity, it was owned by
the Warden family through the 1930s.

In 1941 the castle was remodeled as a hotel
and hosted many prominent visitors. The
famed novelist
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
(author of
The Yearling, Cross Creek, and
South Moon Under) and her husband owned
it and had an apartment on the top floor.

The hotel was also a favorite for Robert S.
Ripley, the newspaper cartoonist, writer and
researcher made famous by his
Believe It or
cartoons that ran in newspapers around
the world. Becoming convinced that the
castle would be an ideal home for a
museum displaying his discoveries and
collection of artifacts, Ripley tried
unsuccessfully to purchase the structure.

Following his death in 1949, however, his
heirs finally managed to secure the estate
and in December of 1950 the nation's first
Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum opened in
St. Augustine.

Today the museum is filled with thousands
of oddities, ranging from an Egyptian
mummified cat to the world's largest moving
erector set. The unique architecture of the
historic castle, however, has been preserved
and it remains an imposing sight.

In addition to its collection of unusual
artifacts and stunning architecture, Warden
Castle is also a focal point for ghost hunters.
A Haunted Castle?
A costumed guide leads
visitors on a "ghost tour"
through Warden Castle. A
variety of claims are made
about ghost activity.
Ripley's operates a "ghost train" that departs
the castle nightly and takes visitors to some
of the supposedly haunted locations in St.
Augustine. Among these are the
Fountain of
Youth Park grounds and a historic cemetery.

The tour concludes, however, at Warden
Castle where guides tell a variety of stories
about alleged supernatural events. Visitors
are then taken on a somewhat chilling low
light tour through the castle at night and
encouraged to take photographs to see if
anything "strange" develops. Orbs and
unusual streaks of light are the common

Tour trains also depart the castle throughout
the day, taking visitors to a variety of stops
throughout the nation's oldest city. Operated
Ripley's, they are popular with tourists.
Several other companies provide similar

The Warden Castle is located at the
intersection of Castillo Drive and San Marco
Avenue in St. Augustine, a couple of blocks
north of the Old City Gate.

Please click here to visit the official Ripley's
website for more information.
Tour Train at Warden Castle
The castle and "Ripley's
Believe It or Not" are popular
stops for tourists in St.
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Copyright 2011 & 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: November 14, 2013