Friday, November 9, 2007

Haunted by a Lighthouse Ghost

With Halloween still a blip in the rear view mirror, I'm reminded of how, at this time of year, we have so many stories circulating about "haunted" lighthouses. It seems that every town with a lighthouse and a community newspaper or TV station does the "obligatory" story on how their local lighthouse is "haunted".

Now, I can't say as I'm opposed to all of these stories, after all, if that's what it takes to bring awareness to these lighthouses, then I'm all for it. The more people we can make aware of the plight and struggle most lighthouses face to survive, the better they all will be. And, I guess, the "hauntings" add to the lore of each beacon.

I'm not saying, as well, that I don't believe in the possibility of some lighthouses being haunted. There are far too many unexplained events happening within the walls of not only lighthouses, but other structures as well. So with this in mind, I have come up with my favorite haunted lighthouse story and am obligated to pass it on.

There are many famous haunted lighthouse stories out there, most notably about the girl who was visiting a boarded up Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Oregon with some friends. While exploring the lighthouse, the group supposedly found a trap door inside a closet which led to an ominous large, deep hole. The group left the lighthouse, but the girl returned inside alone to retrieve a dropped handkerchief, (or some other personal item, depending on the account). The other members of the group heard a bone-chilling scream from within the lighthouse, and when investigating, found a trail of blood which led up the stairs and right to that closet trap door.

That story has been recounted for years, and many people take it as Fact. There are a number of sources, however, who swear that this account actually started as a fictional story in the 1800's, and has just created a life of its own throughout the years, now to "mythic" proportions. I am convinced that that is the case.

Other lighthouses have laid claim to "haunting" stories, as well, and seem more legitimate than this one. Marshall Point and Seguin Island, Maine, for example, have been the venues for "unexplained" phenomena. Others, (and this is just a short list off the top of my head), are Portsmouth Harbor, NH, New London Ledge, CT, Heceta Head, OR, Point Lookout, MD, and St Augustine, FL.

A while ago, I read a short story which was posted by the Western Michigan Tourist Assn. about the South Haven South Pierhead Lighthouse. It is condensed from "Ghostly Lights" written by Annick Hivert-Carthew. At first reading, it seemed like a recounting of an actual experience. After some lengthy follow-up, however, it appears as just a "tall tale", but one, for some reason, which has stuck with me.
The story is about lighthouse keeper Trevor Tavish, (there was no keeper by the name of Trevor Tavish to ever tend South Haven lighthouse. Trevor seems to be modeled after Civil War veteran Captain James S. Donahue, who lost a leg in the Battle of Wilderness and later became keeper at South Haven).
Now in this story, a Dr. McKenzie was alone in the lighthouse doing research on Keeper Tavish. After quite a long stretch of reading the keeper's logs, Dr. McKenzie nodded off to sleep. When she awoke, the room was in total darkness. Attempting to turn on the light, the good doctor found the switch didn't work. The phone was also dead. Now a slight bit apprehensive, the doctor was trying to decide what to do next when she heard a wailing sound. Frightened now, Dr. McKenzie shreiks out "Who's there?", but gets no reply. A second wail, then many panicked voices yelling "Help!", "Over here!", "Please save us!", and the like.
Frightened beyond her wits, Dr. McKenzie pressed herself against the wall. She heard a loud shrill nearby, followed by a blue mist which passed right in front of her and clung to her skin. Horrible creatures in black hoods formed a wall in front of her, wickedly cackling. Loud crashes of splintered wood, waves and suffering came crashing through the room. An ancient ship with a gaping hole on wild seas appeared, along with cries of suffering. Bodies can be seen floating past, while others are clinging onto floating pieces of the ship. Through it all came a bearded man rowing a small boat. As the man in the boat appeared, the horrible cloaked creatures removed their hoods to reveal leathery, misfigured faces, lips twisted by death into a ghastly grin.
Suddenly, from behind the ghouls, the bearded man appears, wooden leg tapping as he walks. The man strikes the cowering horde shouting, "Leave me in peace! How could I save everyone, especially with a wooden leg! I saved as many as I could! Quit tormenting me!"
As the man turned to show his face in Dr. McKenzie's direction, She recognized him as the keeper she was researching, Trevor Tavish.
You know, reading this story again and recounting it as I just did, I don't know how I could have taken it for real the first time I read it. It sure does have a lot of Hollywood, or Stephen King in it, don't you think?

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