Massachusetts, well known for Plymouth Rock, where the first pilgrims landed, and the Salem witch trials, is also home to five of America’s most haunted lighthouses.
The Haunted Bell
Baker’s Island Light
Baker’s Island Light, just six miles off the coast of Salem, home of the infamous witch trials, is reputedly haunted by a phantom foghorn bell.
This mechanized bell sounded a warning to sailors of impending danger, and rang just once, before being struck by lightning that destroyed it. The lighthouse keeper had to go out in the storm and manually strike a hammer against the bell at precise intervals to keep mariners safe. The bell was replaced, but the new bell repeatedly failed and the frustrated keeper left his post.
Seventeen years later while visiting the lighthouse by steamer, the keeper and his fellow passengers heard the bell. After dropping a few passengers off at a nearby harbor, a waterspout suddenly rose from the sea, capsizing the boat and drowning all but a few passengers. The former keeper, who survived, believed the bell was sounding a warning.
According to legend, this bell, also destroyed by lightning, can be heard sounding the alarm even when there is no apparent danger.
The Ghost Walk
Boston Harbor Light
Boston Harbor Light on Little Brewster Island was the first lighthouse built in the pre-revolutionary war colonies. The original structure, cone shaped and first lit by candles, and later oil lamps, was destroyed by the British Army garrisoned in Boston, after colonial militiamen twice attacked it.
When the war was over, a new tower was erected, that stood 75 feet above the sea, and prevailed against hurricanes, gale force winds and high seas for more than 200 years. A new Fresnel lens was installed in 1859, making Boston light visible for sixteen miles.
Little Brewster had its share of shipwrecks, though not as many as other lighthouses. Sailors still speak of a “ghost walk” several miles from the island, where the lighthouse signal cannot be heard. New Englanders and others believe this area is haunted.
The Pirate Keeper
Bird Island Lighthouse
The first keeper of Bird Island Lighthouse was alleged pirate, William Moore. Moore, who fought against the English in the War of 1812, owed the government enough money to justify their banishing him to the lonely life of a lighthouse keeper.
He was assigned to Bird Island Light in 1819, taking his wife who apparently married him when he was financially prosperous. Mrs. Moore, suffering from tuberculosis and addicted to tobacco, was forbidden to leave the island, as her husband feared that once gone, she would never return.
The dampness of the lighthouse aggravated her condition, and her desperation for tobacco so distressed her that people on the mainland could hear her cries. The local doctor implored Moore to allow her tobacco, but he staunchly refused. The townspeople, disturbed by her wailing took pity on her and smuggled tobacco to her, despite fearing her husband.
When she finally died, Moore raised the distress flag, and a minister went to the island, performed the funeral rites and laid her to rest. The angry townspeople blamed Moore for her death, and he in turn blamed them for not respecting his wishes. Rumors flew that Moore murdered her and covered up the true cause of her death.
According to legend, several of Moore’s successors reported seeing an old woman’s ghost, hunched over, knocking at the door late at night.
The Long Goodbye
Gurnet (Plymouth) Light
Gurnet, or Plymouth Light, America’s oldest wooden lighthouse dating back to the Revolutionary War, is also one of its most haunted.
Today, the Coast Guard operates Plymouth Light, yet many believe the spirit of a former keeper’s wife haunts its rooms, waiting for her husband’s return.
Hannah stayed behind to tend the light while her husband went off to fight for America’s Independence from Great Britain. Her neighbors noticed her standing vigil at her window each evening, waiting for her husband, who unfortunately was killed in action.
Some say Hannah still keeps her faithful vigil, briefly appearing at the window, and then quickly vanishing from sight.
Warning Cries-Nightly Shadows
Minot’s Ledge Light
Minot’s Ledge Light is no more than a tower that sits on a reef jutting out to sea off the coast of Scituate. The first tower lasted less than a year before an angry sea claimed it.
Isaac Dunham, the first keeper at Minot’s Ledge urgently warned his superiors about the lighthouse’s instability to no avail, and he retired after fourteen frustrating months.
One day, Dunham’s successor, John Bennett flew a flag from the lighthouse indicating he needed a ride to shore. He left his two assistants, Joe Wilson and Joe Antoine in charge, when suddenly a savage nor’ easter packing one hundred mile an hour winds attacked them. Bennett watched helplessly from shore as the storm destroyed the lighthouse, killing his two assistants.
Several fishermen reported seeing Antoine swinging from a ladder, yelling, and “Stay away!” in his native Portuguese. Subsequent keepers reported seeing shadows in the lantern room, hearing ghostly whispers at night, and hearing or feeling soft taps upon their shoulders. The two Joes used these taps to signal the end of a shift. One keeper, hearing the taps committed suicide, and another went insane and was taken to shore in a straight jacket.
Then there are the windows…It generally takes an entire day to clean windows soiled by overhead seagulls, yet each new keeper’s assistant reported the windows sparkling clean before ever reaching them.
Are these stories truth or legend? Visit one and find out.