The most treacherous seas seem calm, but the Penfield Reef in Connecticut is a different beast. Set idyllically offshore on a small island in the reef, the Penfield Reef Lighthouse is not just a historic landmark, but it saved countless lives during its lifetime as a beacon of light in the fog. Constructed in 1874, this ancient lighthouse has stood on the shores of Connecticut, silently keeping the sailors safe in the churning and dangerous waters that surround its isolated location. But is there more than just the light keeping folks safe on the waters? Does a ghostly lighthouse keeper continue to save lives, even when his own was lost nearly a 100 years ago?
Today we explore the Penfield Reef Lighthouse and the ghost that haunts it to this day.
The lighthouse is a unique structure, standing with a tower tall above the two story keeper’s house, connected as one building on the isolated island. The lighthouse sits on the south side of Black Rock Harbor on Long Island Sound, silently watching over the waters. The light would be automated in 1971 with electricity being brought to the island and the light keeper’s jobs being eliminated in favor of modernization.
When it was first built, keepers found it difficult to remain on the island, with one keeper taking his chances with the tall waves as he desperately tried to get to shore to be with his family for christmas. On December 22, 1916. Lighthouse Keeper Frederick A. Jordan gambled to get to his family and deliver hand-made Christmas presents, but the water was too choppy and dangerous for a boat to be brought to the lighthouse, so he took it into his own hands and launched a rowboat he hoped to reach the mainland in. Only 150 feet from the island, a huge wave capsized his boat and thrust him into the cold Atlantic waters.
The assistant light keeper was watching from the tall light tower and saw his coworker go over the side of the rowboat and into the water. He attempted to reach the man with another rowboat, but was forced to turn back to save his own life in the deathly waters. Jordan would drown in the water, his christmas presents never reaching his wife and children on the mainland.
Very shortly after Jordan’s demise, strange occurrences began to be reported at the isolated lighthouse. A specter dressed in all white could be seen all over the two story home. The light would always behave strangely when the spirit of Jordan was active in the area. Many have reported seeing the keeper, dressed in all white, wandering the rocky island that was his home for years. Even more reports come from sailors who were lost in the fog and using the lighthouse to keep from plunging into the dangerous reef. One sailor said a man in a rowboat helped bring him safely to shore, then disappeared in the waves after the rescue.
Another rescue from an unseen force came when two young boys had their boat capsize while they were fishing nearby to the lighthouse. An unknown man pulled the boys from the sea and swam them to the rocky island of the Penfield Lighthouse. When they went to thank the lighthouse keeper, he was perplexed and didn’t understand who could have been the rescuer. The boys saw a photo of Jordan on the wall and exclaimed that it was their savior in the swells of water.
While some attribute the ghost stories to the isolation and loneliness on the lighthouse’s small location in the sea. One keeper in 1920 said he felt as if someone was watching him while he slept, and a figure could be seen several times walking out of Jordan’s old room in the antique building on the rocks. The most surprising incident took place when the diary held by the deceased man fell from the bookshelf and landed on the day the keeper died, with an entry describing his death on the page. This scared the assistant light keeper so much that he slammed the book shut and could not find the entry again when looking in the diary.
The spirit of Jordan is both an unnerving presence and a reminder of the danger of the surrounding waters. Still saving lives in his afterlife, The Pennfield Reef lighthouse stands to this day as an historic landmark and the beacon in the night for which it was built.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.