Owls Head Light, Owls Head, Maine
Owls Head Light State Park, open year-round, provides lovely views of Penobscot Bay. The pretty little lighthouse and keeper's residence are part of the park but not accessible, though that doesn't prevent a ghost from trespassing. The 3-year-old daughter of previous keepers once awakened her parents and announced, "Fog's rolling in! Time to put the foghorn on!" They discovered she had an "imaginary friend" who resembled an old sea captain. Current residents recognize his footprints in the snow and welcome his services―polished brass and frugally lowered thermostats; 207/941-4014 or lighthouse.cc/owls. In nearby Rockland, the Maine Lighthouse Museum displays the country's largest collection of Fresnel lenses; 207/594-3301 or mainelighthousemuseum.com.
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Point Lookout Light, Scotland, Maryland
Aficionados of the paranormal consider this the most haunted lighthouse in America. Male and female apparitions materialize and then vanish. Doors open and close without visible reason. People hear voices, footsteps, even snoring, but no one is there. So why does it rank only ninth? Because the beam at this modest, house-style structure went dark more than 45 years ago. A lighthouse without its light appears so forlorn. Then again, a hospital and a prison camp for Confederate soldiers existed here during the Civil War, so perhaps an unlit lighthouse represents an appropriate memorial to such a mournful heritage. Today, visitors enjoy the much more pleasant surroundings of a state park; 301/872-5688 or dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/pointlookout.asp.
To find out more about the preservation of the lighthouses, visit pllps.org.
Seul Choix Lighthouse, Gulliver, Michigan
Overlooking Lake Michigan from Seul Choix Point, this 78-foot tower went into service in 1892. One of its keepers, Captain Joseph Townsend, is said to still haunt the lighthouse and museum to this day. Townsend died in the keeper's house in the early 1900s. For months they could not bury his body because of the winter weather, so his body was kept in the basement. Maybe it's because his body was not laid to rest for so long that today visitors and staff alike have reported the strong stench of cigars (he was an avid cigar smoker) throughout the buildings. Staff at the museum have seen the place settings and chairs in the museum’s kitchen disturbed, and some have even reported seeing a man peering through the windows. You can visit the museum and take a tower tour daily from Memorial Day through mid-October; 906/283-3183 or greatlakelighthouse.com.
St. Simons Lighthouse, St. Simons Island, Georgia
Above the waves at this quiet beachfront on the southern tip of St. Simons Island, you may still hear the echoes of a decades-old killing. In 1880, an argument between head keeper Frederick Osborne and assistant John Stevens ended with a fatal gunshot. John, never charged in the case, continued to tend the light. But legend says he often heard the accusing sound of Frederick's footsteps at night in the vacant tower. Over the years, many others have claimed to hear the footfalls. The tower invites climbing the 129-step spiral staircase―if you dare; 912/638-4666 or saintsimonslighthouse.org.
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Point Sur Lightstation, Big Sur, California
Who wouldn't want to linger at such a lovely location? Maybe that explains the gentleman in the 19th-century keeper's uniform seen inside the visitors center. Point Sur's beacon has shone since 1889 atop a massive volcanic rock just offshore in the amazingly scenic Big Sur area. Non-spectral beings can visit during scheduled tours―weekends and Wednesdays year-round. For the most deliciously spooky atmosphere, take a "moonlight tour;" 831/625-4419 or pointsur.org.
Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Big Bay, Michigan
Here on the north shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, William Prior, who became this station's inaugural keeper in 1896, finally may have given up his duties. Surveying Lake Superior from atop a 60-foot bluff, the light station now operates as a romantic bed-and-breakfast with fireplaces and even spa services. William, dead these past 105 years, apparently still insisted on "helping"―until innkeeper Linda Gamble angrily told him off when his slamming of kitchen cabinet doors awakened her one night a few years ago. Neither William nor the other five resident ghosts have been heard from since. Well, so far, anyway; 906/345-9957 or bigbaylighthouse.com.
Seguin Island Lighthouse, Bath, Maine
This desolate lighthouse, which is Maine's tallest and second oldest, is the site of a gruesome story. A keeper who had recently married moved to the island 3 miles off the coast to tend the light with his wife. To help with his wife's boredom in the winter, the keeper bought her a piano. It only came with the sheet music for one song. Unable to get new sheet music since the island was locked in ice, the wife played the same song over and over again eventually driving the keeper insane. He took an axe to the piano, and then to his wife. Afterwards he took his own life. The ghost of the keeper has been spotted in the house, and sometimes on quiet night you can hear the tinkling of a piano. The island is only accessible via boat or helicopter; 207/443-4808 or seguinisland.org.
St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, Florida
The scent of cigar smoke is sometimes detectable in the oil-house building. Records show no fatal oil-house explosions, but any ghost who smokes around flammable liquids must not be the brightest bulb in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Tour guides claim to hear someone climbing the tower steps, but the footfalls fade away, and no one appears at the top of the tower. This lighthouse's collection of spirits also apparently includes a prankish girl in the keeper's dwelling, a tall man in the basement, and a merchandise-disturbing poltergeist in the gift shop. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum doesn't exactly encourage these spooky speculations, but its website does at least acknowledge their existence. It also provides a factual history of the seven people known to have died on the lighthouse grounds; 904/829-0745 or staugustinelighthouse.com.
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats, Oregon
Rue (such a perfect name for a ghost!) doesn't like changes. She's been blamed for setting off a fire alarm and moving random objects during work on the keeper's house, which is now a bed-and-breakfast. Overall, though, the "Gray Lady" (so nicknamed because of her sometimes-wispy appearance) comes across as rather benign. She supposedly manifested herself to one worker in the attic, scaring him badly. He refused to re-enter the room, even to clean up the glass from a window he broke while working outside. Another worker investigated and found the glass swept into a neat pile; 866/547-3696 or hecetalighthouse.com.
Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle, Michigan
This Lake Huron lighthouse was only operational for 31 years, but it is well-known for its ghosts. Many say you can hear a woman's screams some nights from the ghost of a keeper's wife who was locked away in the tower long ago. But it's the ghost of George Parris that is the most talked about. He and his wife moved into the keeper's cottage in the 1990s to run the museum and give tours. Since George died, the light in the lighthouse comes on at dusk and goes off at dawn every night. This may not seem that odd for any other lighthouse, but this one’s light had been permanently disabled. Air National Guard pilots have even reported seeing the light, and the Coast Guard has gone so far as to remove the old light from the tower—but it still shines. The building and grounds are open daily to the public from mid-May through mid-October; 989/595-6979 or michigan.org.
Even ghosts seem to love these majestic lighthouses. Take a tour of the spooky beacons on Coastal Living's list or spend the night—if you dare.