of Haunted Oregon Coast Lighthouses
Coast) - They inspire imaginations, impart mystery and create an
ever-widening array of emotions and thoughts. And many of them may
or may not be haunted.
Four of the five lighthouses
on the upper half of Oregon’s coast are some of the most legendary.
Indeed, one – the Heceta Head Lighthouse, near Florence –
is the most photographed lighthouse in the world. The others are
the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport,
the lighthouse atop Cape Lookout (near Tillamook), and the Tillamook
Rock Lighthouse, a mile offshore from Seaside and Cannon Beach.
All but Cape Lookout’s
light have some weird tales surrounding them, in various incarnations.
And these tales intertwine tightly with the buildings’ histories,
making for some lively discussions and research.
Here are the
haunted tales of these four lighthouses. If you want to see more,
click here to see the companion story,
“Behind the Scenes: Researching Oregon Coast Lighthouse Tales.”
There are upcoming
TV shows, talks on coastal ghosts and a DVD being released soon
which cover this subject as well.
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is one lighthouse that has never been accessible to the public and
probably never will be. Thus, it sparks the imagination more than
most, with mysterious silhouette lying more than a mile away.
Indeed, the truth behind
this lighthouse is weirder than fiction itself – or any of
its ghost tales, for that matter.
It began in the 1880’s,
when it was decided that too many ships were meeting their demise
at Tillamook Head and this part of the north coast. It was eventually
planned for the blob of basalt rock offshore rather than Tillamook
Head itself, as fog or other blind spots on the headland would create
start well. The first man to step on the rock to do some surveying
drowned, creating an immediate public outcry that perhaps this wasn’t
a good idea.
Beach, Cannon Beach - a favorite place to view the lighthouse
It took a lot
of blasting to flatten the top of the rock enough to build the lighthouse.
Then, construction crews had to endure insane conditions, living
under soggy tents and enormous waves that constantly knocked at
The crews lived in rotating
shifts on the rock, and there were so many casualties in these conditions
that men waiting onshore to work there were actually sequestered
away from the public and from talk of what went on there. They were
housed in a remote spot on the southern Washington coast and later
on a ship just offshore.
Lightkeepers lived there
in shifts too: four of them, usually a few months at a time. It
was a brutal existence, and one keeper reportedly went mad from
giant winch was used to bring supplies and personnel from visiting
ships to the rock, which was a dangerous and unwieldy endeavor under
even the best conditions. They were put inside an object called
a breeches buoy – which is essentially a giant pair of pants
encircled by a floatation ring, attached to the cables overheard.
Numerous men were lost doing this.
The place was ripe for
ghost stories. It didn’t help that local tribes purportedly
said it was inhabited by evil spirits.
are rumors of ghost tales over the years, including the claims of
voices heard over the din of storms from lens area and other dark
parts of the lighthouse. Sometimes, stories about ghost ships appearing
in the fog and drifting past are associated with the place as well,
but usually these have foundations in actual events involving near
misses from real ships.
Indeed, a ship called
the Lupatia nearly hit the lighthouse in dense fog, but was warned
away just in time. However, it did soon after slam into Tillamook
Head, killing all aboard except the ship’s dog.
One legend says
that you can sometimes still hear the dog howl in the night near
Another almost spooky
tale from the lighthouse comes from a keeper who felt something
brush past his face in the dark while lying in bed. All of a sudden,
he heard strange footsteps in the pitch black, and after a time,
bolted towards the light switch, arms swinging wildly in an attempt
to smack whatever being – or trespasser – was there.
When he turned on the light, he found only an injured bird that
had somehow made its way into his bedroom. The odd footsteps were
its broken wing hitting the floor.
The lighthouse was decommissioned
in 1957, with the last keeper, Oswald Allik, proclaiming “I
return thee to the elements.”
In the 80’s, after
numerous failed ownerships, a firm called Eternity at Sea bought
the property, and it now serves as a columbarium – a place
for ashes of the dead.
Rather comically, that
firm ran ads in the early 90’s or so offering free satellite
TV for life – if you reserved your resting place early. Presumably,
they figured if you were making such arrangements you wouldn’t
be around too long.
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bevy of rumors and ghost stories have surrounded this beauty, the
tallest on the Oregon coast. But none are as wild as the truth behind
The big tale involves
a lighthouse keeper named Higgins who supposedly got drunk, then
fell and broke his neck on the spiral staircase. Another version
has the man deathly ill, and forced to work on the lens until he
passed out and died, because of the negligence of a co-worker who
didn’t attend to his duties. In any case, Higgins purportedly
haunted the place thereafter, and his old coworker refused to go
near the staircase at night for fear of running into the ectoplasmic
Another story claims
a construction worker fell to his death in between the layers of
a wall while the building was being built. His corpse could not
be retrieved, so the building was supposedly finished with his body
Those stories were eventually ghost-busted. The Bureau of Land Management,
which now runs the lighthouse, told BeachConnection.net they received
a letter from a descendant of Mr. Higgins who said he did not die
in the lighthouse. He moved to Portland, became a dockworker, and
eventually died of natural causes there in the 30’s.
|Look for a cemetary somewhere beyond
A true scary
story, however, is how the Hollywood crew from the old “Hardy
Boys” TV show came to the lighthouse in the 70’s to
film a Halloween episode, complete with lots of cobwebs and other
spooky accoutrements scattered around the lighthouse. The group
in charge of the lighthouse at the time had to sue the Hollywood
crew to come and clean things up.
There actually is a cemetery
in the hills atop the headland, set a ways behind the trails atop
Salaal Hill and the old quarry.
is also a tale of a head lighthouse keeper who died in a storm while
trying to cross a creek close to the ocean, getting washed in by
a large wave. The story has his daughter so bereaved she shot herself.
It’s said sometimes you see her spirit wandering the beaches
between Agate Beach and Nye Beach, looking for dear old Dad.
Another rumor about the
lighthouse says it was mistakenly built here instead of at Cape
Foulweather, just to the north and much taller. This is not true,
is lucky to be blessed with actually two lighthouses: one at the
headland, and this smaller one, which serves as a bit of living
history now. It was started in the late 1800’s, but was shut
down after only three years. The place started to decay fairly quickly,
and really fell into serious, even creepy, disrepair by the early
part of the century.
Somewhere in there, a
tale got started about the ghost of a teenaged girl named Muriel,
who had fallen to her death while being chased by pirates, or something
like that. One version involves a secret passageway into a hidden
cavern beneath the lighthouse, where she fell.
This tale has her wandering
the beaches as well, appearing out of the fog.
turns out this one was only a fictional short story written by an
imaginative local around the turn of the century. What is interesting
to note, however, is that until local historians found the original
short story in the 80’s, it had somehow weaved itself into
local lore as a real ghost story.
Even book authors
took the tale seriously as late as the 70’s.
lighthouse here is one of the only ones on the coast to still have
its keeper’s quarters. They’ve been turned into a charming
little B&B, in fact, and it’s on the national historic
for being haunted, however. Indeed, Coastal Living Magazine recently
named it one of the top ten haunted lighthouses in the nation.
It’s said to be
inhabited by someone nicknamed the “Gray Lady,” or “Rue,”
often appearing as either an elderly woman or a grayish, smoke-like
figure of a woman that quickly dissipates. One version of the tale
is that she is the mother of a baby whose grave sits hidden somewhere
on the grounds. The other says she is the person in this secret
any case, this one has more witnesses and coherency than any other
ghost story on the coast. The family that runs the B&B claims
she’s just a member of the family now.
Some of the earliest
tales involve workmen who’ve encountered the otherworldly
lady and ran off in fear. One man actually refused to finish working
inside one room, and would only continue working on a window from
the outside – even after he broke it. He wouldn’t even
venture in to clean it up.
In the middle of the
night, the family living there heard sweeping noises somewhere upstairs.
The next day, they discovered the mess had been swept into a neat
Two of the more credible
witnesses of this ghost are famed Oregon scenic photographers Steve
Terrill and Larry Geddis. Terrill spoke to BeachConnection.net editor
Andre’ Hagestedt in 2001 and told him how the pair were staying
at the B&B while shooting photos of the area. At one point,
they spotted what looked like the figure of a woman in the window
of Geddis’ room, if only briefly. When they later discovered
there was absolutely no one in the building at the time, Terrill
said Geddis was visibly disturbed.
Later, Terrill said,
they discovered some small objects in Geddis’ room had been
Oregon Coast Show (Channel 22, KPXG), will spotlight these haunted
tales the following two Thursdays – Nov. 2 and Nov. 16 –
at 7:30 p.m. on channel 22, or on Comcast cable ch. 5. It will also
air Thursdays and Fridays on Nov. 2 - 3, and Nov. 16 – 17,
in Tillamook County and Lincoln County, on Charter cable ch. 18.
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are partially footage from Oregon Coast Show producer Scott Gibson’s
DVD “Oregon Lights,” which will be released soon for
purchase. Other parts of the Oregon Coast Show segments on haunted
lighthouses come from BeachConnection.net editor Andre’ Hagestedt,
who acts as the on-air reporter, transitioning sections of the show
segments and sharing his own knowledge about the subject.
give two talks this coming weekend on paranormal tales and ghost
stories of the coast: at Newport’s Oregon Coast Aquarium on
Saturday, October 28, and in Seaside, at Beach Books, on October
here for more.