and Hauntings of Oregon Coast Lighthouses
Coast) - They inspire imaginations, impart mystery and create an
ever-widening array of emotions and fantasies. 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
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
There are upcoming
TV shows, talks on coastal ghosts and a DVD being released soon
which cover this subject as well.
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.
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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 visibility problems.
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.
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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.
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 the solitude.
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.
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One legend says
that you can sometimes still hear the dog howl in the night near
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.
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.
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.
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
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 still inside.
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.
for a cemetary somewhere beyond those hills
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.
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.
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, say historians.
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.
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.
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 grave.
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.
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.
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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 little pile.
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.
said, they discovered some small objects in Geddis’ room had
Oregon Coast Show (Channel 22, KPXG), will spotlight these haunted
tales on various in November. It airs on Comcast Channel 5 or over
the air on channel 22 in the I-5 corridor on Thursdays, and on Fridays
and Thursdays in Tillamook County and Lincoln County, on Charter
cable ch. 18. Click here
for exact schedule.
are partially footage from Oregon Coast Show producer Scott Gibson’s
DVD “Oregon Lights,” which
has been released 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.