With the turbulent nature of Lake Superior, many lighthouses were set up to help those on the water make it safely into the harbor. Several of them went through their own renovations with new fog lights and other safety measures, but one measure they perhaps didn’t expect was that of a ghostly light keeper, still watching the waters and reportedly both saving and scaring various people who visit the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in Michigan.
The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse was originally built in 1851, primarily serving the sailors who transported copper from the nearby mines and guiding their safe entrance to the rocky harbor on which a pier had been built in 1844. The original building was a simple one, with a rubble stone keeper’s house and a white wooden tower topped with an octagonal window at the top to reflect the light into the foggy nights on Lake Superior. During its early years, the lighthouse went through keepers as quickly as they could be assigned, with several of them quitting rather than spending more time in the isolated lighthouse. At least one of the keepers passed away in the keeper’s house after working only 7 months at the lighthouse.
The spooky reputation of the lighthouse did not wane when it was rebuilt in 1871 as the previous structure began to deteriorate after being battered by waves for two decades. The new structure was built out of red brick and included housing for two light keeper assistants, removing the isolation of a single keeper that had been so difficult to bear for the four previous keepers that resigned, were removed from the position, or died on duty.
An octagonal tower jutted out of the fog in Eagle Harbor, with the new design making it more resilient to the waves and winds. Outfitted with 12 inch thick walls and a cast-iron lantern, the lighthouse would continue to serve in this capacity for over a century, before the running of the lighthouse was automated and the building’s ownership passed on to the Keweenaw County Historical Society in 1999. It still operates today and is on the National Historic Register with several museums opening near the structure and in the light keeper’s house. One operates as a Maritime Museum, another on Commercial Fishing History.
The most fascinating part of the old lighthouse are the reports of hauntings within the structures and around the grounds. In the most infamous sighting, one keeper working in the 1970s claimed to see a man, dressed in warm flannel, but missing his face. The faceless light keeper has been seen by several visitors, sometimes out of the corner of their eye and sometimes climbing the tower, presumably to light the lantern at the top and safely guide sailors once again.
One particularly salty spirit said to haunt the lighthouse is affectionately known as George, the name of the light keeper who passed away before the renovation and new building was completed. George is said to turn off the radio of those working at the station, but only when they played rock music. Apparently, George is a ghost of more refined tastes. The stories of light keepers allude to more paranormal activity, including the sounds from the attic of furniture being moved, loud noises in the middle of the night, and of course, ghostly footsteps. One keeper said his alarm clock would be moved in the night and sometimes turned off completely.
Another ghost haunting the lodge nearby is said to be that of a woman whose husband disappeared in a freighter crash, still watching the waves and praying for him to come home. The woman is typically seen through a window at the top of the lodge, but when people investigate, no one is in the lodge. Others visiting the museums say she sometimes appears walking around corners, only to be gone when the visitor checks that hallways.
While the haunting tales of the Eagle Harbor lighthouse continue to keep the mystery of the location alive, the museums on the compound surrounding the lighthouse provide more than just spooky tales. You can learn more about the history of the lighthouse and the region itself with the copper mines and sailors making the treacherous trip across Lake Superior. You can learn about commercial fishing and its history in the location. Or, you could see a ghost. Either way, you’re gonna have a good time, especially when the creepy fog rolls in from the waves of the lake.
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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.