Many years ago, my sister and I had the opportunity to stay at a lighthouse on a tiny island not far from Bruce Mines, Northern Ontario. The lighthouse was on a fifteen-acre island, called McKay Island, in Lake Huron. It was built in 1907 and the accommodations were a little rustic, but being on your own island and looking out onto Lake Huron was definitely cool. The lighthouse was one of those places where you slept lightly, kept the nightlight on, and always had the door opened a crack. I remember there was a bedroom downstairs and two more upstairs. My sister chose to sleep on a pull-out couch in the sunroom rather than go upstairs and sleep. I slept in the first-floor bedroom with the door open. We were totally creeped out. As I’ve researched them, I’ve learned that lighthouses have a way of doing that to people – or, perhaps, it’s the spirits that choose to remain as residents in those lighthouses.
America’s first lighthouse was Boston Light on Little Brewster Island. Boston Light started out with a tragedy. The first lighthouse keeper, George Worthylake, drowned along with his wife and daughter in 1718 just months after getting the position. Their canoe capsized just offshore.
His replacement, Robert Saunders, had only been at the light station a few days when he too drowned. Not a great beginning for the lighthouse.
According to the website Lighthouse Digest , the wife of another lighthouse keeper in 1947 had some interesting experiences on the island that she relayed to Yankee Magazine years later.
Russell Anderson’s wife, Mazie, was twenty-two years old when she came to stay on Little Brewster Island. Her first experience with the paranormal was when she was walking the shore of the island and heard footsteps close behind her. When she turned, there was no one there.
That evening, when she was trying to sleep, she felt a presence in her room. Later she heard what she described as “horrible maniacal laughter” coming from the boathouse. Several days later she heard the same sound coming from the fog signal house.
Mazie also heard a sound that confused her. She often heard a little girl sobbing and then crying out, “Shaaaaadwell.” She heard the voice over and over again. Curious, Mazie decided to do some research and discovered that when the Worthylake family drowned, there was also an African slave who perished along with the family. The African man’s name was Shadwell. Mazie learned that Shadwell died while valiantly trying to save the others, including the Worthylake’s young daughter, Ruth.
Even today, the lighthouse on Little Brewster Island holds unexpected experiences for visitors. Coast Guard officers have had their radios change stations from rock and roll to classical as part of a common experience. There are often footsteps heard when no one is there and a rocking chair has been known to move on its own.
Most of the Coast Guard crew attribute it to “Old George.”
In 1999, Coast Guard Petty Officer Gary Fleming told the Boston Herald, “It really does get spooky. You have plenty of time here and if you let your mind go, you can freak yourself out.”
Lighthouses do have a way of doing that!
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