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Haunted Lighthouses? Maybe: Oregon Coast Halloween Series

Published 10/23/20 at 12:04 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Haunted Lighthouses? Maybe: Oregon Coast Halloween Series

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(Astoria, Oregon) – The first part of Oregon Coast Beach Connection’s Halloween series, it’s the lighthouses of the region that simply must be examined first, and that includes one on the Washington coast. There’s a lot to get to in the way of paranormal possibilities along these shores, from Astoria all the way down to Brookings. (Above: Yaquina Bay lighthouse about 1900. No wonder they said it was haunted)

It all begins on the southern Oregon coast where – strangely – there don’t appear to be any real legends of hauntings in its lighthouses. Except maybe Cape Blanco, and then any talk of this is rare and difficult to find, as well as extremely vague.

However, scoot yourself a ways north and you have the Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence, where its BnB lightkeeper’s quarters has had some rather high-profile claims there is truly a ghost wandering the place. Among them were the family that owned the place back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and famed scenic photographer Steve Terrill. Both were interviewed back then by Oregon Coast Beach Connection’s editor Andre’ Hagestedt years before the publication began. Current owners of the BnB do not appear to be touting that legend.

There are no direct tales of the lighthouse itself being haunted, but some 20 years ago there were plenty of sightings of a wispy figures wandering around the area, and the owners back then claimed the spirit was just a member of their family.

Terrill said he and photographer friend Steve Gaddis caught a glimpse of something in the shape of a woman in the attic of the keeper's quarters while on a shoot.

"We both saw it," Terrill said back in 1999. "You could just barely make out the outline. And then it just disappeared. Steve got spooked and said, 'No, I don't want to think about it.' And later on, when we found out it was the attic we were looking at, I realized it was right above the room he was staying in."

Newport’s Yaquina Bay is one of three big haunted lighthouse tales of the Oregon coast. For decades, the story circulated that the daughter of a lighthouse keeper was killed by pirates during the structure’s brief, three-year run in the 1880s. Since then, she purportedly haunted the place – and some said even the beaches of Newport. She would appear especially on foggy nights on or around the bluffs of the south bay. (Above: the lighthouse in the early century. No wonder it had haunted tales).

However, this tale proved to be more Buffy the Vampire Slayer material than anything else. It all came from a short story published in the local paper around 1910, and somehow got stuck in local culture, taking on a life of its own. Even into the 1980s there were books that featured it.

Yet it was about then the whole thing was ghostbusted, and slowly, finally, in the ‘90s it became clear it was a work of fiction. - Newport Maps and Virtual Tours

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The larger Yaquina Head Lighthouse forever had a tale surrounding a poor keeper’s assistant named Higgins, who had a horrible infection but had to nonetheless do the work of his drunken partner and climb the lighthouse steps. With a high fever and plenty of lightheadedness, Higgins slipped and plunged to his death along the metal spiral staircase. After that, his spirit would menacingly visit the lighthouse and other keepers until that job was eliminated by technology.

Looking into this in the early 2000s, Oregon Coast Beach Connection called the Bureau of Land Management at Yaquina Head and the voice on the other end started answering with: “You know, we just got a letter from a relative of Higgins saying he did not die in the lighthouse.”

Apparently, Higgins – who actually did work there – moved on to Portland and became a dock worker. He died of natural causes there in the ‘30s.

Up the coast, Tillamook County’s Cape Meares Lighthouse has never had any spook talk, and neither has Tillamook Head, just offshore from Seaside and Cannon Beach. However, in Seaside there are legends of a dog howling somewhere on the tip of Tillamook Head, where people can’t normally get to. It’s said this is the ghost of the dog who died in the wreck of the Lupatia, which crashed against these rocks early in the century after somehow missing the lighthouse’s warning. - Cannon Beach Maps and Virtual Tours

On the south Washington coast, the North Head lighthouse at Ilwaco has been a legendary and beautiful sight for nearly 150 years. However, since around 1900 there have been reports of “Melancholy Mary” floating around the lighthouse grounds, the ghost of a light keeper that came here from working at Cape Blanco’s lighthouse, then dying mysteriously while on a walk nearby.

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