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Haunted Lighthouses: A Ghostly Light in the Dark
Almost everyone enjoys a good ghost story filled with mystery, shadowy figures and creepy sounds and characters. And many people are fans of lighthouses, those often tall structures topped with the brightest possible lights, set along the coast to warn mariners about treacherous shores and deadly seas. So what about a haunted lighthouse? It seemed a good bet that a stray ghost or two may have wondered into the occasional light station from time to time. But as I was soon to find, there may be more haunted lighthouses than there are un-haunted lighthouses!
Below I have listed just a few of the many coastline hauntings I was able to uncover. I have to say that as a native North Carolinian, I was a little disappointed to find that none of the Outer Banks' majestic light towers are home to any supernatural squatters. Oh sure, there is the ghost of Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr, who was lost at sea, possibly off the coast of North Carolina near Cape Hatteras and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, but she is said to only roam the beach and has never even visited the lighthouse. In fact, she seems to get around a bit, sometimes being claimed by the Bald Head Island and Ocracoke light stations as well.
Point Lookout Light in Scotland, Maryland
Owls Headlight in Owls Head, Maine
Point Lookout Light is considered by many to be the most haunted lighthouse in America. Maybe that is the reason the lighthouse is no longer in use, its light extinguished for the last time on January 11, 1966. Opening and closing doors seem to be the playthings of male and female apparitions that appear from time to time and fill the house and grounds with ghostly footsteps and half heard voices.
So who haunts the lighthouse? Speculation includes crew members from the steamer Express that sank off Point Lookout during a gale on October 22, 1878, as well as Confederate soldiers who died at a prisoner of war camp located just outside the lighthouse from July, 1863 until June, 1865. Family members of previous lighthouse keepers are also considered possible culprits.
The lighthouse is located in Point Lookout State Park and there have been sightings throughout the area of Civil War era soldiers wandering around in the woods as well as other supernatural occurrences. The Lighthouse and surrounding area was even investigated by noted parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holzer before his death.
Dr. Holzer and his team of paranormal investigators were most famous for their work on the house in Amityville, NY that was featured in the book and movie, The Amityville Horror . While the investigators did agree there was paranormal activity in the lighthouse, fortunately it seemed to be much more mild mannered than the evil that permeated the house in Amityville.
Coastal Livingmagazine named Owls Head Light as the most haunted lighthouse in America in 2006, but even they admitted it cannot hold a candle (or should that be a Fresnel lens?) to Point Lookout Light in Maine. But they counted off points because Point Lookout is no longer in use. That doesn't seem fair since Owls Head is automated so it is not like there is anyone running around on a daily basis to be haunted there either.
But that does not mean Owls Head Light is lacking its fair share of hauntings. Occurrences include an old sea captain who befriended the daughter of one keeper and became her "imaginary friend" for the duration of her stay, a past keeper or other industrious spirit who occasionally shines up the light lens, and a lady who likes to sit in a chair and look out the window from time to time. And then there are those inexplicable footprints in the snow that begin in the middle of nowhere...
Boon Island Lighthouse off the Coast of Maine
It would not be hard to imagine someone's imagination getting the better of them when stationed at the Boon Island Lighthouse. After all, there is the well known story of the Nottingham Galley which crashed into the island in 1710 leaving the survivors to turn to cannibalism to stay alive. Who could blame a lonely keeper for imagining those tortured sailors returning to the desolate atoll to share their otherworldly misery with the captive island occupants? And yet, no one has ever seen the ghost of any of those sailors.
Instead, the commonly seen apparition is a young woman who appears sad or distraught. There were no women aboard the Nottingham Galley. But there was Katherine Bright, the new wife of a keeper who died in a storm leaving her trapped on the island with his corpse until she went mad. She died shortly after being rescued after the light finally faltered from lack of being tended. In addition to the apparition, there have been doors opening and closing on their own and playmates dogs can see though invisible to the human eye.
Waugoshance Lighthouse at the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan
Built in 1851, this little lighthouse stands at the top of Lake Michigan on a reef where that Great Lake enters the Straits of Mackinac. It is a dangerous area for ships, full of rocky formations that can easily breach a ship's hull. It would seem to be the perfect spot for a lighthouse, but the light has been extinguished at Waugoshance since 1912. If you ask for an official explanation, you will be told the lighthouse was rendered obsolete by the White Shoals Light that was built in 1912. But, since that lighthouse replaced a lightship that had been there for years, you have to wonder, could it be that they were having trouble keeping a keeper at a light haunted by a practical joker?
You see, in 1900, John Herman was the head keeper at Waugoshance. He was known to have a frequent drink as well as play an occasional prank. One night he locked his assistant keeper in the lantern room and left him there. When the man eventually escaped the room, Herman was nowhere to be found. The assumption was he continued drinking and fell into the sea. Future keepers reported everything from doors opening and closing on their own to chairs kicked out from under unsuspecting victims. For the next 12 years keepers came and went at an alarming pace until the lighthouse was closed down.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on the Toronto Islands, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
J.P. Radan Muller, the first lightkeeper at Gibraltar Point, was murdered, possibly by soldiers looking for bootlegged beer. It is believed they chased him upstairs, knocked him unconscious, dismembered him and buried him in several spots around the lighthouse. Visitors have reported shadows that follow them around, disembodied footsteps, the sound of something being dragged upstairs, thumps and bumps in the night, and more.
The lighthouse was deactivated long ago and is now boarded up and shut down. It is of interest to lighthouse aficionados as it is the oldest standing lighthouse on the Great Lakes. But even as nothing more than a monument to the architecture of lighthouses, the location is still home to a restless spirit. Since the closing of the light tower, the ghost seems to have taken to enjoying an occasional stroll on the beach, a ghostly apparition being spotted from time to time on particularly spooky nights.
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in Dunsborough, Western Australia
Located on the southwestern corner of Australia, Camp Naturaliste is a beautiful white limestone structure that hardly seems likely to be the home of a restless spirit, let alone two discorporate residents. But those who have visited the lighthouse tell of both a woman and a small boy haunting the building. The two spirits have distinctly different methods of haunting as well as completely contrasting personalities.
The woman, dubbed "Mary" and sometimes referred to as "Bloody Mary", haunts the caretakers' cottages and has been known to yank the sheets off male guests trying to sleep. One unfortunate male visitor seemed to particularly get under Mary's translucent skin, waking with choke marks on his throat. All these ghostly shenanigans have given Mary a bit of a man-hater reputation. No one is sure who she was in life, but a scorned lover seems likely.
The second otherworldly inhabitant is a young boy known as Happy Harry. Harry was a child who was rescued from the Carnarvon Castle , a ship that was abandoned when she caught fire. Young Harry was badly injured and died at the lighthouse which had taken in survivors. Harry haunts the visitor center, making occasional appearances and making himself often heard but not seen.
The Haunted Lighthouse from Lost in Space
And finally, on a lighter note, there is "The Haunted Lighthouse" episode of the space adventure Lost in Space. The Robinson family happen across a space lighthouse -- though technically wouldn't this be a lightship? -- while trying to return a boy to his home. There they encounter strange things that defy normal explanation. But is the lighthouse really haunted? Or is it the strange powers their young friend may possess? And what about that quirky old lightkeeper? Danger, Will Robinson?
Glossary of Terms Used in This Hub
Fresnel lens (pronounced fray-NELL) The type of lens used in lighthouses to generate a lot of light from a relatively small source.
Keeper, lightkeeper or lighthouse keeper The person in charge of running the lighthouse. These days, most lighthouses are automated.
Lantern room The enclosure housing the Fresnel lens.
Lightship A ship that is equipped with a light to warn sailors away from treacherous waters in areas where a lighthouse is either not practical or cannot be built for some reason.