A Tale of Love Lost
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.
The Curator Who Won't Quit
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.
The Cigar-Smoking Captain
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.
The Lights That Won't Stay Off
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.