Lighthouses are beacons in the night for those out at sea. They ensure that boats enter harbors safely and serve as markers for hazardous coastlines. But life in a lighthouse can be pretty lonely—just ask any lighthouse keeper. Maybe that’s why eerie legends and ghost stories have surrounded lighthouses around the world throughout the years.
10Seguin Island Lighthouse
The Seguin Island Lighthouse, built in 1857, is the tallest lighthouse in Maine. One of its earliest lighthouse keepers lived there with only the company of his wife for many years. She was very lonely and took to playing the piano at night to break the silence, but her husband seemingly had no outlet for his own feelings of isolation and loneliness. Apparently driven to madness, he took an axe and bludgeoned his wife to death before committing suicide.
Many people claim to have heard the ghostly sounds of piano music floating from the lighthouse at night, even though there’s been no piano inside for many years. In 1985, a decision was made to decommission the lighthouse, and a warrant officer stayed the night to ensure all furniture and other items of value were packed and put onto a boat. During the night, the officer woke with a start. The bed he was sleeping in was shaking violently, and a voice screamed at him to get out of the building. The brave officer wasn’t too perturbed by this experience, however, staying until the next day to pack up all the items he came for and send the boat on its way.
A freak accident caused the boat to sink, never to reach its destination.
9Heceta Head Lighthouse
Tragic female figures in flowing pale dresses have been haunting hundreds of locations around the world for centuries, and lighthouses are among them. Heceta Head is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a mother whose baby daughter fell to her death from the cliff upon which it stands. The apparition has been dubbed “The Gray Lady,” as she has been reported to wear a long, gray skirt while floating around the attic of the lighthouse, which has been renovated into a guesthouse.
Visitors have reported flickering lights when no one else was in the lighthouse, doors that seemingly lock themselves, and objects that disappear only to reappear in a different room. A worker who was tasked with replacing a broken window in the attic received the fright of his life when he saw the Gray Lady just floating around while he was working. Naturally, he took to his heels, returning the next day to find the shards of glass from the broken window swept up and sitting neatly in a pile in the attic.
The spookiest case involves a photographer named Steve Terrill who was looking for a ghostly shot of the lighthouse when he noticed a transparent figure looking at him from inside the attic. He thought it was only his imagination, since he and a friend were the only ones staying at the lighthouse at the time, but he soon realized that may not have been true when he discovered the guestbook of the lighthouse in his room. The book was open to a page where a previous visitor’s tale of a ghostly encounter in the lighthouse was recorded.
8New London Ledge Lighthouse
The US Coast Guard began taking shifts at the New London Ledge Lighthouse in 1939. Not long after, spooky things started happening there. Legend has it that a lighthouse keeper by the name of Ernie jumped from the roof of the lighthouse to the ocean below, where his body never resurfaced. Many people don’t believe that he killed himself, but the official story is that he cut his own throat with a fishing knife.
But Ernie allegedly refused to leave the lighthouse. His spirit frightened and annoyed the crew from the Coast Guard by making loud knocking sounds at night, pulling the bedding off of them while they were sleeping, and turning the television set on and off. Some of the keepers didn’t even wait until daylight to get away from the lighthouse, calling the mainland and asking to be fetched from the place immediately.
After the lighthouse was automated in 1987, several reports filtered in from boat crews that a figure at the lighthouse had signaled to them or tried to lure them to the dock. However, whenever these reports were investigated, not a living soul was found in the lighthouse.
7Boon Island Lighthouse
The spookiest—and most tragic—tale surrounding the Boon Island Lighthouse, which has seen numerous shipwrecks and other tragedies, revolves around a woman named Kathleen Bright. In the mid-1800s, Kathleen became the blushing bride of the lighthouse keeper at Boon Island. She relocated to the lighthouse with her new husband shortly after their wedding for what she surely thought would be happily ever after.
From there, the story takes many twists and turns. One version of the legendary tale states that the lighthouse keeper became very ill after only a few short months. His wife looked after him tirelessly, even when a terrifying storm struck, but he passed away while the storm raged on. In her state of shock, Kathleen climbed the 168 steps in the lighthouse almost nonstop for five days to tend to the light. During this time, she didn’t eat and hardly slept. On the sixth day, the light was dead. Locals hurried to the island to investigate and found Kathleen wandering around aimlessly. She was starved, exhausted, and out of her mind with grief.
Another version states that the keeper drowned after he fell from the rocks while trying to tie up the island’s boat. Kathleen pulled him from the water and dragged him all the way back to the lighthouse, where she left his lifeless body at the bottom of the staircase. She proceeded to tend to the light for five days without eating or sleeping, and when locals found her on the sixth day, she was sitting on the bottom step holding her husband’s dead body. She was taken away to be cared for by the locals, but she died shortly thereafter.
The spirit of Kathleen Bright has allegedly been seen by scores of local fishermen and lighthouse visitors, who have reported a white apparition of a sad young woman. Many have also reported hearing a terrible wail coming from the lighthouse at night and during stormy weather. A Coast Guard lighthouse keeper stated that his dog chased a mysterious invisible entity all around the small island. Another two lighthouse keepers were shaken up when they saw the light come on inside the lighthouse when they were both outside and no one else was on the island.
The Souter Lighthouse was constructed in 1871 on Lizard Point, Marsden in northern England. The visibility from Lizard Point was very good, as its cliffs are higher than those at nearby Souter Point, but the lighthouse was named after Souter so it wouldn’t be confused with the Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall. It was built to be a solution to the many shipwrecks that occurred on the reefs under the shallow water, and while it has certainly been just that, it is also now known as one of the most haunted lighthouses in the UK.
Legend has it that the niece of the famed Grace Darling, Isobella Darling, makes ghostly rounds in the Souter Lighthouse. She is known for her heroic efforts to save crew members from the sinking ship SS Forfarshire during a storm in 1838. It is not clear why Isobella haunts the lighthouse, but census records do prove that she lived there in 1881.
Lighthouse staff have reported spoons floating in midair, unexplained temperature drops, and even physical interaction with some staff members, who say they were pulled or grabbed by an unseen hand. Some visitors have even heard their names called by a female voice, while others have heard crying and seen the apparition of a young girl assumed to be Isobella.
Isobella isn’t the only ghost said to haunt the Souter Lighthouse, either. Another story tells of a lighthouse waitress who was walking down the kitchen corridor one evening when she stopped dead in her tracks. Standing at the end of the passage, there was a man wearing a lighthouse keeper uniform. He disappeared before her eyes, leaving only the faint scent of tobacco in the air.
5South Stack Lighthouse
South Stack Lighthouse earned itself a place in two books, Haunted Britain and South Stack: Anglesey’s Famous Lighthouse, thanks to its spectral resident lighthouse keeper, Jack Jones. According to South Stack author Ian Jones, the lighthouse was a merry place right up until the night of October 25, 1853, when one of the worst storms ever hit the coastline where South Stack is situated. An incredible 200 ships were wrecked that night, including the famous Royal Charter.
Jack hurried down to the lighthouse as the storm raged on that doomed evening. Just as he reached the bottom of the steps, where the local bridge crosses over to the island, a giant rock broke loose from the cliffs towering above him and hit him on the head. He managed to cross the bridge but only made it as far as the door of the lighthouse. He was in a dire condition when he was found the next day and died two weeks later.
Over 100 years later, his ghost is often heard knocking on the door of the lighthouse in the dead of the night or frantically rapping at the windows, trying to get inside. After paying the lighthouse a visit, Ian Jones described the racket as astonishing. The TV show Most Haunted journeyed to the lighthouse and got a little more than even they bargained for when an object resembling a tiny horseshoe was flung at then-host Yvette Fielding as she walked toward an outbuilding on the island. When Dave Stack visited the island, he was skeptical at first but became a believer when he spotted someone staring at him through a window. Chasing after the figure yielded no answers, as it flung itself over the cliff and disappeared into the sea.
The Pensacola Lighthouse stands on a tropical beach with a breathtaking view, but its history includes a sinister story. Michaela Penalber married the man of her dreams, Jeremiah Ingraham, and merrily moved into the lighthouse not long after it was completed in 1826. Theirs seemed like a wonderful union, but strangely, the couple’s marriage turned sour almost overnight. Its sudden turbulence came to a head when Michaela stabbed her husband to death one evening in 1840 for seemingly no reason. She was never convicted for the murder due to lack of evidence and lived out the rest of her days in the lighthouse until she died in 1855.
Even in the afterlife, it seems that Michaela’s violent streak lives on. Visitors have reported objects being thrown at them while they walked through the living area where Michaela and her unlucky husband stayed, and large blood stains were still visible on the floor before the lighthouse was renovated. A local resident stated that he had once tried to wash the blood off, but it would just reappear time and time again. Chillingly, some visitors have heard breathing behind them and sensed a presence following them while taking the staircase to the lighthouse tower.
3Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
According to legend, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse keeper J.P. Radan Muller’s refusal to share a second drink of whiskey with a group of rowdy troops led to a fight. After the fight was over, Muller vanished, presumed dead and never to be seen again. If several ghostly legends are to be believed, however, Muller can indeed still be seen at the lighthouse and surrounding island.
Another version of the story states that the drink of choice was beer. According to this version, Muller and two or three soldiers were having a good round of drinking when Muller suddenly decided that enough was enough. He refused to let them have any more alcohol, leading to a fierce fight, after which Muller was buried near the water on the island.
Some people have reported spotting a lonely transparent figure aimlessly drifting around the island and lighthouse, while others have heard moaning amid the drifts of thick mist that hang over the island.
In a recent BBC article, several eyewitnesses detailed their ghostly encounters at the Talacre Lighthouse in the UK. Most of the accounts include sightings of the ghost of a lighthouse keeper pacing the walkway of the lighthouse tower, which has been out of service since the 1840s. Several also reported feeling ill after visiting the lower part of the lighthouse.
One visitor describes a trip with her husband to Talacre Beach a few years prior. There, the couple spied a lighthouse keeper wearing an old-fashioned hat and uniform at the very top of the Talacre Lighthouse. Though she insists the lighthouse was locked up tight, making it impossible for any human figure to be inside of it, both she and her husband spotted the figure from totally different vantage points.
Another visitor at the beach was taking pictures with her children on the lighthouse steps when her six-year-old son suddenly complained that he was feeling sick. By the following day, he had a high fever and severe tonsillitis. Eerily, four of her five children soon came down with the same symptoms. Fortunately, upon their return home, all the children quickly became well again. It must have been quite a shock to the woman when she discovered that the lighthouse keeper had died of a fever.
1Point Lookout Lighthouse
The Point Lookout Lighthouse, built in 1830, is known as one of the most haunted places in Maryland. For more than 130 years, the lighthouse served the surrounding community and ships until it was decommissioned in 1981, after which several reports of supernatural activity began popping up. In response to these reports, parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holzer and a team of other experts descended on the Point Lookout Lighthouse and managed to record 24 different voices during their investigation.
The voices can be heard singing, talking, and even swearing. A voice saying “Fire if they get too close to you” can be clearly heard in their recordings, thought to be related to the Confederate soldiers that were held prisoner on the island. Holzer also believed that he captured the voice of the first lighthouse keeper at Point Lookout, Ann Davis, who fondly spoke of “my home” somewhere on the staircase. A sighting of Ann Davis dressed in a white top and blue skirt was also reported. When a stinking smell emanated from a room inside the lighthouse, Holzer was convinced that it was the spirits of tormented souls who couldn’t leave. Soon after he uttered this statement, the horrible smell dissipated.
Estelle lives in Gauteng, Johannesburg. She really loves ghost stories and would love to visit all of the lighthouses on this list.