The desolation and loneliness of a lighthouse lends itself to spooky tales, spirits good and bad, and other spectral beings. Many legends and supernatural lore have sprung up about the lightkeepers, their family members and perhaps lost souls wrecked on the reefs.
A lightkeeper's life was fraught with danger and loneliness in some of the harshest possible environments. It was not the romantic adventure a lot of people think. It was a hard life, with continual work even with assistants. Having to be with people you may not like for extended periods of time without ever getting away can and did drive some to madness. Not only the light keepers, but their family members too. Children drowned or died from lack of access to mainland doctors, the land based pirates known as mooncussers were your enemies for taking away their livelihoods, the sea was often raging about you, it's no wonder with all that residual energy left behind that although the real lightkeepers are gone, their spirits may remain behind. Hardly a lighthouse exists that didn't have tales of hauntings or odd happenings.
When the Coast Guard took over from the US Lighthouse Service in 1939, the old style civilian lightkeeper who was (mostly) dedicated to his work came to an end. The Coasties considered it another job posting, and the job wasn't quite the same. And now that all but one of the 604 lightstations in the United States have been automated, all that is left are these tales of keepers left behind. Whether the apparitions are real, or just something the keepers made up for the amusement of visitors, I'll leave that up to you to decide.
I am fortunate enough to live within driving distance of several haunted lighthouses in Maine. In fact, I volunteer as a docent at Pemaquid, and even married my second husband there. It is one of the most photogenic lights, and definitely one of the most visited. Its location at the end of Rte. 130 brings people from all over the world past my home. Although this isn't noted as one of the more haunted lighthouses, it does have a ghost associated with it. Not in the tower, but in the former keeper's house, now the Fisherman's Museum run by the Town of Bristol, there occasionally appears a red haired lady in a shawl. Usually she's near the fireplace. No one seems to have any history on her, as no one ever died in the lighthouse, there have been no notable deaths associated with Pemaquid Light at all. Nevertheless, she has been seen on occasion. Perhaps a survivor of a shipwreck here, or waiting for a loved one who was lost? I don't know, but it's something to wonder about.
As a docent with the Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, I'd often have kids who'd been dragged along by their parents to see the lighthouse. Most would be bored, so to make it more fun and pique their interest in lighthouses and their history, I'd mention there was a ghost. Their eyes would light up and they'd pay attention. I'd tell them some of the other ghost stories, and with any luck I'd made a new generation of lighthouse enthusiasts. Some of the stories on these pages are the ones I'd use to intrigue the youngsters and their parents. The goal of this site is to get as many of the tales of these haunted beacons in one place, to excite the curiousity of our younger generations, and for everyone else, to just tell a darn good tale.
Are these legends true? Are the ghosts real? You decide...
Ah, Seguin Light...home of Maine's only First Order Fresnel lens, home of the highest light above sea level in Maine, and home of one of the more gruesome tales of haunting in the state. Seguin Light sits on an island 10 miles from Boothbay Harbor. Although it's fairly close to the mainland (3 miles to the nearest shore), in the winter it would get very isolated. One keeper, newly married, brought his young wife out with him to tend the light. Becoming very bored, the wife complained about not having anything to do. Thinking it would occupy her, and keep her mind off the boredom, the keeper ordered a piano to be brought to the island before the next winter set in. Winching it up the side of the rocky ledge that is Seguin, he proudly presented it to her. The wife was delighted, but could not play without sheet music. Fortunately, one song had come with the piano, so she set to playing it. By this time, the island was icebound, no other deliveries could come in. She played her piano, though. The same song, over and over and over again, driving her husband insane. Even when he had had new sheet music brought out to the island, she kept playing the original tune. Finally he'd had enough, took an axe and chopped the piano to bits. When she complained, he turned to her and chopped her up with the axe, nearly decapitating her. Then he killed himself. It's said, on a quiet night, you can hear the tinkling of the piano floating up the Kennebec River. The keeper has also been seen, still tending to his duties.
From a recent email:
"I wanted to mention to you that when I went out to Seguin Island, ME with the USCG a few summers ago, after going to two other lights I did have an uncanny experience at Seguin Light. I should say first that I had heard nothing about any sort of ghosts, nor had I read anything at all about ghosts, and merely went along on this beautiful, sunny day with USCG while they did their repairs to the ATON.
"Just a few days before, a couple had moved in to be at the keepers house at Seguin for the season - they were from California as I recall. I was standing outside the tower at its base and casually speaking with the woman, and, as she was speaking, I heard a piano playing - a rather quick, Scott Joplin style tune - I thought perhaps it might be an unseen radio, although it did have an ethereal quality to it - almost more like a memory on the wind than music. Since she was speaking to me at the time, I did not think to question her about it, or say anything to her. We had just done a walk through the structures which are impeccably restored.
"When we returned to the USCG office, the Ex-O asked if his staff had told me about the ghost at Seguin which plays the piano!!....My heart literally stopped when I heard that question...There is no doubt that I had heard it. It is a true story and unforgettable - all the more so in a way, since it was a sunny, almost timeless day, so quiet yet with high winds on the top of that cliff, with the music like a memory more than a song."
Ram Island, located near the entrance to Boothbay Harbor, Maine has a long history of being a warning to mariners even before a lighthouse was finally constructed there in 1883. It is home to Maine's most protective ghost. It was traditional for fishermen from the early 1700s to put a light on the island to warn mariners of the rocks. This practice changed slightly when a fisherman began to hang a light on his dory, and the last one coming in through Fisherman's Passage would light the light. Unfortunately, these lights weren't bright enough to warn ships. Hence a woman in white waving a lighted torch over her head appears to warn sailors of the dangers. She has been seen even in recent years, manifesting just in time to prevent tragedies, such as the one mentioned by this boat owner: "Seeing her, I spun my wheel just in time to avoid being dashed on the rocks." A fisherman: "There was a flash of lightning, and there, standing on the reef at Ram Island, waving her hands in warning was this lady all in white, as if full of electricity. If it weren't for her I would have struck the ledge." Another fisherman: "I was in danger of running into the rocks when I saw a burning boat near shore, about to smash on the rocks and in the boat was this woman, warning me away. I quickly changed direction. The next day I saw no trace of the burning boat or the mysterious woman."
The ghost of a beautiful young woman dressed in white walks the shores of the beach near Hendrick's Head Lighthouse, Southport, Maine. Is she the ghost of a woman who was found drowned there one morning, or is it the mother of a shipwrecked baby? In 1871, a vessel went aground on the ledge about a half mile off shore during a March gale. The keeper had no way of getting out there, so he watched helplessly as the ship went under. Some of the debris washed ashore, and the keeper and his wife went to pick through it. The keeper spotted what looked like two feather mattresses bound together with rope. He called his wife over, and they hauled it in. Untying the rope, they found a wooden box wedged inside, which was making strange noises. Opening it, they found an infant girl. Apparently the mother had done the best she could to save the baby, and succeeded. The keeper and his wife rushed her to the house where they dried her, warmed her and fed her, and kept her as their own. But the real mother, filled with grief and longing, may be the ghost who walks the beach.
Owl's Head, near Rockland, Maine, has two ghosts, one a former keeper who keeps the brass polished, and the other known as the "Little Lady," who is often seen in the kitchen. Doors have slammed shut unexpectedly, silverware gets rattled, but mostly the Little Lady gives a feeling of peace when she has been encountered. But she's not the only one. The unknown keeper has been encountered by other, later keepers, who have usually seen him out of the corner of the eye. His footprints have been seen outside in the snow. In fact, a 3 year old girl once woke up her parents and told them they needed to get up because it was going to get foggy, and they needed to ring the fog bell. When questioned on how she knew, she revealed she had an "imaginary friend," whose picture was suspiciously resembled an old sea captain. The lighthouse keeper's house is currently used as quarters for the local (Rockland) Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer, and this specter keeps lowering the thermostat. Obviously frugality passes on into the afterlife. He also is noted for polishing the brass in the light tower. Brasswork was the bane of lightkeepers, as the Lighthouse Board required it to be polished daily, so it's very possible this is one very welcome ghost.
See the sidebar for two stories about Owl's Head Lighthouse.
No mention of haunted lighthouses would be complete without Boon Island. Although it's in far southern Maine, and not one of my local lights, it's still worth mentioning, because of the horrors that have occurred on the island. It is most famous for the wreck of the Nottingham Galley, which crashed into the island in December of 1710. Some of the crew survived by cannibalism, eating the flesh of their dead shipmates before they were rescued by fishermen. There was no woman on the Nottingham Galley, though, so the ethereal young woman shrouded in white who is seen on the rocks at dusk may be Katherine Bright, who came to the 400 square yards of rock as a newlywed with her lightkeeper husband. A mere four months after arriving, a surge tide from a winter storm swept the island, and while trying to secure the island's boat, the keeper slipped on the rocks and drowned. Katherine somehow managed to pull his body ashore and dragged it to the lighthouse. She left his body at the foot of the stairs, and took over lighthouse duties for five days and nights, without eating or sleeping. On the sixth day, the light was out. Fishermen from York investigated, as the storm was over now, and found Mrs. Bright sitting on the stairs holding the frozen corpse of her husband. She and her husband's corpse were taken ashore, but by that time she'd completely lost her mind. She died only a few weeks after being rescued. Her screeches can still be heard along with her apparition.
William S. Moore (not the same one who was with Captain Kidd), who was alleged to have been a pirate, took over as the first Keeper at Bird Island Lighthouse (Marion, Massachussetts) in 1819 after having fought in the War of 1812. Supposedly he owed the US govt. money, who perhaps used that as an excuse to "banish" him to the lonely life of a lightkeeper. He brought with him his wife, a blowsy wench who'd married him in his more prosperous days. She was a heavy tobacco user, and suffered from tuberculosis.Mrs. Moore was forbidden to leave the island by her husband, since he feared she'd leave him for someone else. The dampness of lighthouse life left her in pretty bad shape, and the lack of tobacco on the island led her to despairing cries which could be heard on the mainland. The townspeople took pity on her, and would smuggle bags of tobacco out to the lighthouse, fearful that Moore would find out. Even the local doctor entreated Moore to "put her out of her misery" and let her have her tobacco. He refused, and when she died, he raised a distress flag. A minister came out and they laid her to rest on the island. Moore was blamed for her death by not allowing her off the island. He in turn blamed the townspeople for bringing her her beloved tobacco. Some thought privately that he outright murdered her, and the circumstances surrounding her death covered up, but that was never proven. Legend has it that some later keepers were frightened by "the ghost of a hunched-over old woman, rapping at the door during the night."
Over to the Left Coast, at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Oregon... This light was discontinued three years after it was lit in 1871 (although it has now been relit as of 1996 as a private aid to navigation). Muriel Travenard was born at the end of the 18th century to a sea captain and his wife. Her mother died when she was young, and for a time she sailed with her father. However, as she grew into a teen, on one trip, he decided to leave his daughter behind with some friends in Newport. Weeks lengthened into months, and the captain didn't return. Muriel was unhappy but had made friends with other teens, which helped to assuage her grief. One day, her group decided to explore the abandoned lighthouse. It was a mess, dilapidated, and not as much fun as they'd hoped, but they did find a strange iron plate in the floor on the second level. It was a door to a compartment that had a deep hole cut into it. They looked inside, but left the door open, and went off to explore the rest of the area. In the late afternoon, as they were preparing to leave, Muriel remembered she'd left her scarf inside and went back in to get it. Her friends waited, but she didn't return. Calling her out didn't work, so several went back in to look for her. After searching without success, one of the kids noticed a pool of blood on the floor, with a trail of drops leading up to the iron plate, which was now closed. The teens tried and tried to open the door again, but couldn't. After coming back with help, a complete search of the lighthouse and grounds was made, but still no one could pry open the plate. Her body was never found, and a dark stain marks the floor where her blood was found. Some people have claimed to have seen her ghost peering out of the lantern room or walking down the path behind the lighthouse, but no one knows just what happened that fateful day.
Disclaimer: This story may or may not be true. It seems it may have originated from a short story written many years ago. But which came first, the story or the legend it was based on?
Fairport Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Erie, the oldest lighthouse on the lake, is home to probably the cutest ghost. The light was discontinued in 1925, and was turned into a museum. In 1989, the resident curator was in the kitchen when she saw out of the corner of her eye something small and dark flitting by. A few seconds later she saw it again. Looking around the corner of the door, she saw a small gray cat, almost like a puff of smoke, scampering around the floor. It had no feet, and moved about the floor almost on invisible wheels. It had iridescent gold marble like eyes and feathery gray fur. It seemed to chase something, then scooted around the corner and disappeared. The curator saw the puff many times over the winter, and even played with it by tossing an old sock down the hallway, which the cat would chase. The last family of keepers, the Babcocks, had a little boy who died when he was 5 years old. Shortly after, Mrs. Babcock took ill and was confined to bed for several months. During that time, she was kept company by one particular kitten of the many house cats, who delighted in chasing a ball down the hallway and bringing it back to her. The living room where the curator encountered the ghostly kitten used to be the bedroom where Mrs. Babcock stayed.
An addendum to this tale: Workers doing some reconstruction of the lighthouse is the winter of 2000-2001 discovered the mummified remains of a cat in the crawlspace. It was determined that the poor creature had gotten trapped in there and was unable to get out of the cold, dank space. The remains of this kitty are on display at the museum.
Minot's Ledge lighthouse was a place no sane person wanted to live. It is just a tower coming out of the sea on a reef located off Scituate, Mass. In fact, the first tower was destroyed by the sea a scant year after it was built. Isaac Dunham, who was also the first lightkeeper at Pemaquid Point, was sent to be the first caretaker at Minot's Ledge when it was rebuilt, and after 14 months just abruptly retired from the service, being unable to take it anymore, especially when his warnings about the instability of the then spider-legged tower went unheeded.
In April of 1851, the new keeper, John Bennet, flew a flag from the lighthouse to show he was requesting to be picked up for a shore visit. His two assistant keepers, Joe Wilson and Joe Antoine, stayed behind to tend the light. While ashore, a no'theaster with winds of over 100 mph kicked up, preventing Bennet from returning. The lights went out at 10 p.m. The next morning, nothing was left of the tower, it had been smashed on the rocks. Antoine's body washed ashore at Nantasket Beach, while Wilson's was found on Gull Island.
Since then, fishermen report hearing cries from the island at night, and Portugese (Antoine was Portugese) swear they've seen a man hanging from a ladder on the side of the tower, screaming, "Stay away, stay away" in their language. Shadowy figures have been seen in the lantern room, taps on the shoulders and whispers at night have all been heard or felt by subsequent keepers. A cat brought to the tower for companionship, went berserk when near the lantern room, running around in circles and screeching.
Although these phenomena would be enough, the strangest thing is the cleaning. Seagulls flying overhead dirty the windows, which usually take the whole day to clean off. If a keeper mentioned to his assistant that they needed cleaning, by the time the assistant would make it up with cleaning implements, the windows would be sparkling clean again. Another keeper heard five taps echoing up through the stairs. The five taps had been a signal that the two Joes had once worked out for signalling the end of the shift. Some keepers would thank the two Joes for their work, but one couldn't take it and slit his throat and bled to death. Another went insane and was removed from the lighthouse in a strait jacket.
St. Augustine Lighthouse has been a favorite of ghost hunters and television documentaries. It towers 165 feet above sea level, and is located on Anastasia Island near what is America's oldest city, and allegedly most haunted. Although a hanging was reputed to have taken place there in the 1930s by a passing sailor, the only documented deaths are those of John Carrera of unknown cause at the first tower that was built, Joseph Andreu, who fell from the first tower, William Harn of tuberculosis, and the wife of one of the keepers also passed away. Perhaps one of these are the cigar smoking ghost reported in the fuel house.
However, a tragedy did occur there in 1873. The superintendent overseeing the construction at the time, Hezekiah Pittee, moved his family down from Maine to be with him. To aid in the construction work, a tram was built from out in the ocean to the station. Mr. and Mrs. Pittee had five children, and being kids, they loved to get in the tram car and ride it up and down for fun. Something happened and the car derailed and five children (four of the Pittees and the daughter of a worker or a servant) went into the water. Nearby workers were able to save a boy and a girl, but three, including the unrelated girl, drowned. Their laughter is often heard in the tower, and one has been seen, wearing the same blue dress she drowned in.
During the heyday of the pirates, thirteen were captured and executed at the lighthouse. Their bodies are buried behind the tower. Perhaps it's their spirits still haunting the grounds. Others, althought they didn't die there, threatened never to leave, including the original owner of the lighthouse, who had the lighthouse taken by eminent domain. Some say his spirit still walks the tower late at night.
Stratford Shoals is a 60 foot granite tower built on a reef just off Long Island, near Connecticut. Looking at the photo, you can see where someone with mental instability would have problems living there. In 1905, Julius Koster, the Second Assistant keeper and a lighthouse rookie, was left behind with First Assistant Morrell Hulse while the Head Keeper was ashore. According to newspaper reports published at the time, Julius attacked Morrell with a razor, who was able to fend him off and calm him down. A few days later, Julius locked himself into the lantern room with an axe, stopped the rotation of the light and threatened to smash it and kill himself. Once again, after hours of pleading, Morrell persuaded Julius to come out. Julius then jumped off the tower into the swift water, but Morrell once again saved his life. At this point, Morrell tied Julius up and kept him for two days until help arrived.
Julius was transported to New York, where a few days later he did succeed in taking his life. ALthough he didn't die at the light, his spirit appears to have returned with a vengeance. Doors slam shut in the middle of the night, chairs are thrown against the walls, posters have been ripped down and hot pans of water have been flung from the stove. The lighthouse was automated in 1969, and the last of the Coast Guard left, probably with no regrets. To this day, however, sailors passing close by can still hear thumps, bumps, grinding noises and loud sounds as Julius continues to throw tantrums.
Block Island's Southeast Light, Rhode Island, sits over 200 feet high at the edge of Mohegan Bluff. In the early 1900's, a keeper, angry with his (perhaps nagging) wife, pushed her down the stairs to her death. Although he claimed it was a suicide, he was convicted of murder and relieved of his duties. Her spirit, however, stayed behind and has continued to harass men since that time. She will leave women and children alone, in fact children have seen and heard her, most notably in the kitchen banging pots and pans. But men, whether keeper or visitor to the light, are fair game. She is a very physical poltergeist, often lifting the beds with men in them and shaking them violently. She has locked men into rooms or closets. Once she even chased a keeper out of bed and into the cold night dressed only in his underwear, locking the door behind him. The poor embarrassed keeper had to call the Coast Guard to reopen the lighthouse so he could get back in.
In 1993, threatened with erosion, the lighthouse was moved back from the edge of the bluff. Unfortunately, Mad Maggie (as she's known) moved with it, and in fact seems very angry about the move. She rushes up and down the stairs in a rage, rearranges the furniture, and has even thrown bits of food to anyone who dares to sit down and eat in "her" kitchen.
See more about Block Island in Chrissy's Gang to the right.
Considered to be one of the more notable hauntings, Heceta Head lighthouse, Oregon, sits high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. On the grounds, is a long abandoned grave of a baby girl, thought to be the daughter of one of the early lightkeepers. The grave is difficult to find, but it has been thought to be the focal point of the gray lady that haunts the lighthouse. Every keeper since the 1950s has reported the strange goings-on. Screams in the night have been heard, objects have been moved or are missing, rat poison in the attic has disappeared, closed cupboards have been found open, and lost tools reappear in strange places.
Perhaps the most notable sighting was in the 1970s, when a worker was doing some work in the attic. While cleaning the windows, he noticed a strange reflection in the glass, and turned to see a silver haired lady in a gray dress seemingly floating over the floor. He screamed and ran out of the attic. He was finally convinced to return to work, with the promise he wouldn't have to go into the attic While working outside, he accidentally broke the attic window, but of course refused to go back in to clean it up. That night, scraping sounds were heard from upstairs, and the next morning the glass was found swept up into a neat pile.
The ghost, who has been identified as "Rue" through a Ouija board, has been seen many times on the stairs, or lurking about the house. Often she is seen looking out the attic windows. She also wanders the grounds, near the abandoned grave. It's believed she's the mother of the baby, as she often has a sorrowful expression on her face.
In 1896, the local sheriff, Fred Milliken in Biddeford, Maine, who was also a local lobsterman, rented a chicken coop on Wood Island to a drunken drifter named Howard Hobbs from Old Orchard Beach. After an argument with the sheriff's wife, he was confronted by Milliken, who threatened to arrest him. Hobbs drew a gun and shot the sheriff point blank. Witnesses helped carry the fatally wounded Milliken to his house, with Hobbs following, still holding his gun. When Milliken died, Hobbs said, "this bullet's for me," and ran off. He made his way to Keeper Orcutt's home, who tried to persuade Hobbs to give up the gun. He was unsuccessful, and Hobbs shot himself.
Most agree it's Hobbs that is haunting the lighthouse, and not the sheriff. Moans are heard coming from the chicken coop, and locked doors have been mysteriously opened at the lighthouse. Dark shadows and strange voices have been heard. The keeper who came after Orcutt couldn't take it any more, and rowed to the mainland to spend the night, leaving the lamp unlit. The next morning, he jumped from the third floor of the boardinghouse to his death.
Near Fairfield, CT, in Long Island Sound, a deteriorating lighthouse sits on a rock looking like a ghost itself. In 1916, just three days before Christmas, Keeper Fred Jordan set off to the mainland, leaving his assistant Rudy Iten in charge. Just a short distance from the light, his boat capsized. Iten took the lifeboat, and tried to reach Jordan, but by that time the winds had pushed Jordan more than a mile from the lighthouse. Iten tried signalling for help, but Keeper Jordan was lost. Two weeks later, the now Head Keeper Iten, saw Jordan's ghost for the first time, gliding down the tower stairs then disappearing. He reported in his log that the light began "behaving strangely," and later found the keeper's log book open to the day of Jordan's death.
Many keepers since have seen the spirit of Jordan, especially just before a storm, floating in the tower, or on the rocks next to the lighthouse. Every keeper that saw him was asked to sign an affidavit by Iten. It was unlikely that Iten would fabricate a story about seeing the ghost, as he tried to rescue Jordan from drowning in the first place. In 1942, two young boys were fishing near the light, when they capsized. A pale-faced man pulled them up onto the rocks. They walked to the lighthouse after regaining their strength to thank the lightkeeper, only to discover that he hadn't a clue. Later, they identified Jordan through a photograph as the one who had rescued him. More recently, a couple lost in the fog near the light were guided to safety by a mysterious person in a dory who vanished when they reached safety. The light behaved strangely after any tragedy or shipwreck. The light may be extinguished now, but many feel Keeper Jordan is still guarding the safety of mariners who come to close to the reef.
Point Lookout, Maryland, holds the distinction of being America's Most Haunted Lighthouse. It was the first to be investigated by a team of paranormal researchers in 1987, the Maryland Committee for Psychic Research. Among the denizens of this abandoned lighthouse are Ann Davis, the wife of the first keeper and herself a keeper for thirty after her husband died. She moans and sighs, and has been heard to say, "this is my home." Ann, who is most often seen in a long blue dress and white blouse, was found dead in the lantern room still on duty.
Another ghost said to reside there is the Joseph Haney, an officer on a ship that wrecked offshore in 1878, and whose body drifted onto the lighthouse rocks. Park rangers, who are responsible for keeping the vandals away, have reported seeing his apparition, still in blue and white uniform, with brass buttons, standing near the lighthouse door with his hair stringy and wet, as if he'd just come out of the sea. He appears before every major storm.
Numerous other ghosts live in the lighthouse. One park ranger reported several apparitions passing through as he sat in the kitchen, the air moving, vibrations on the floor, and their clothes rustling as they calmly floated by, never to be seen again. Foul odors in the upstairs rooms have been reported. One state employee who was living in the lighthouse, once woke to a circle of lights dancing in the air above her. She smelled smoke, ran downstairs and found a heater on fire.
Point Lookout was the site of a hospital and prison camp during the Civil War, and over 4,000 graves have been found near and under the lighthouse. The moans and cries of the long ago prisoners and patients are heard by passing ships, and their specters have been seen, still in uniform.
The life of a lighthouse keeper was lonely, but sometimes, for the wife it was worse, particularly if you were young and full of life. The wife of John Randolph, the keeper of New London Ledge Light's (Connecticut) was one such person. Flirtation with the local fishermen and other sailors was what kept her sane. One day, however, when her husband went ashore for some supplies, she ran off with the ferry boat captain and was never seen again. When her husband returned and discovered she was missing, he slit his throat and fell off the 65 foot tower.
A replacement soon arrived, but he found he was not alone. Doors would open and close, items in locked desk drawers would be rearranged, a fishy smell was present, and cold wafts of air would accompany the feeling that someone was present. When the Coast Guard took over running the lighthouse service, the ghost was well known, and nicknamed Ernie. Only women and children had seen him, but no one was immune to his tricks. Tools would mysteriously disappear and reappear, items would be rearranged, floors would be washed, windows would be cleaned, and more.
A psychic visited in 1981, which was when his name was revealed to be John Randolph. He also promised to leave, but he didn't keep his word. When the next keeper arrived, he was back in full force. He also didn't like skeptics that didn't believe in him. Legend has it that some fishermen stopped by the light for coffee and expressed their doubts about Old Ernie. When they went to leave, they found their boat had been set adrift. Since everyone was all together having coffee, it could have been none but Ernie.
One of the more documented (through television) is the old lighthouse at Presque Isle, Michigan.And strangely, it's not only a lighthouse keeper. The light was operational for only 31 years before it was taken out of service and replaced by a different light. During its service however, legend has it that the wife of one of the keepers was kept locked up in the tower and went insane. Allegedly, she can be heard haunting the lighthouse on windy nights with her screams.
But it is the tale of George Parris that most are familiar with. The lighthouse was sold into private hands in the early 1900s, and was turned into a museum. George and his wife Lorraine moved into the keeper's cottage in 1997, and served as caretakers and tour guides. George loved his duties, and especially enjoyed playing harmless pranks on visitors young and old. On January 2, 1992, George died of a heart attack. Lorraine really didn't want to go back, but was talked into it by her kids. Shortly after arriving, Lorraine was driving back to the light station when she saw the light on. When she arrived, and went to check, it was off. The next morning, she went up and verified that the wires were disconnected, as the Coast Guard had required him to do years before. They were.
Lorraine didn't say anything to anyone for fear of being considered nuts, but soon, others reported seeing the light. Sailors reported it had a yellowish cast to it, like an old fashioned kerosene lamp. Air National Guard pilots flying near the tower reported it. The Coast Guard came out and investigated, even removing the lamp, but still the light persisted. And that wasn't all. One young girl, who'd never met George when he was alove, reported seeing a tall man with a beard and glasses at the top of the stairs. When shown a picture of George, she said it was him, only a "brighter white." People climbing the tower have reported feeling a hand brush their shoulders. To this day, the light comes on at dusk and off at dawn. It's classified by the Coast Guard as an unknown light.
James Townshend, captain of a Great Lakes ship and the brother of Lightkeeper Joseph Townshend, liked to stop in for a visit whenever he was near Gulliver, Michigan. During what was to be his last visit, the captain took violently ill, and after suffering severe agony, passed away in August of 1910. His brother had him embalmed in the basement of the lighthouse and the public viewing and wake took place there several days later. The captain, who loved it there, apparently has never left. He was a heavy cigar smoker, and a strong odor of cigar smoke accompanies his "appearances."
Besides the odors, he has a sense of humor. Silverware set out for meals would be turned upside down (the way he liked), the uniformed mannequin on display at the lighthouse will often have his cap turned around, and more telling, sometimes cigars are found in the pocket of the uniform. A worker at the lighthouse was hammering one day, and heard footsteps at the same time. He stopped, the footsteps stopped. Figuring it was just an echo, he continued to pound away, until the next time he quit. The footsteps continued. The carpenter grabbed his tools and high-tailed it out of there, vowing never to return.
Originally having a small sixth order Fresnel lens in its lantern room, Sturgeon Point Lighthouse near Harrisville, Michigan, had a new, larger third and a half order lens installed in 1889. Perhaps whoever was the keeper at the time appreciated having the larger, brighter light, because now whoever it is that haunts this station keeps turning the lights on.
The keeper's house, a lovely cape cod, is now a museum managed by the Alcona County Historical Society, and the volunteers have trouble keeping the lights turned off. They'll leave at night, turn off the lights and return in the morning to find them brightly lit. Frederick Stonehouse, while doing research on the light for a book, claimed that one of the display case's light kept turning back on after being turned off. Not once, but numerous times.