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Ghostly tales from the shoreline

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Lighthouses all over North America are great sources of ghostly legends. Isolated and aging, there’s plenty of spooky stories to be found at these maritime landmarks.

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Lighthouses all over North America are great sources of ghostly legends. Isolated and aging, there’s plenty of spooky stories to be found at these maritime landmarks. Photo Store

At this time of year, haunted sites and ghostly tours are a hot commodity. It seems that just about every place has a spooky story to share on a cool autumn night. Like this one.

In the spring of 1976, a caretaker was working alone in Chambers Island Lighthouse, located near Fish Creek in Green Bay, Wis. He was startled to hear the sound of footsteps coming down the tower’s staircase, and stood frozen in his tracks as the footsteps continued through the living room and kitchen, ending with the unmistakable ‘click’ of the door closing. Shaken enough to share his story, it became known as the first haunting of Chambers Island Lighthouse.

Did the caretaker simply have an overactive imagination? Or were the footsteps those of Lewis S. William, who worked as the Chambers Island Lighthouse keeper from 1868 (the year it was built) until 1889? Was the ghost of Williams also responsible for making tools disappear, only to end up in unlikely places? Who shook the beds of overnight visitors with mighty, unseen hands?

While no one knows for sure, the folklore of haunted lighthouses along the Great Lakes is alive, thriving, and hugely popular among tourists. There are nine lighthouses believed to be home to restless souls, including Old Presque Isle in Michigan, Fairport Harbor in Ohio, and Gibraltar Point in Ontario.

It’s no surprise that so many lighthouses are thought to be spooky. Erected to protect ships from impending danger, their glowing beacons in the darkest of nights cast warnings of "land ho."

By virtue of their isolated existence, and by association to disasters they could not prevent, many garnered a reputation over time of doom, gloom and ghosts.

I find it fascinating to visit these majestic sentinels that silently watch over the shore, and learn of tales-gone-by that tell of broken ships, disrupted dreams, and many a restless soul. Like the one that still lingers in Pottawatomie Lighthouse.

Located on Rock Island off the northernmost tip of Door County, it’s Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse. Built in 1836, the original keeper was David Corbin, who was buried on the island.

Is it his voice that visitors hear? Is it his hands that open and close doors? His feet that go "thump" in the night, up on the second floor?

And what about the Sherwood Point Lighthouse, where residents have reported hearing voices at night, the sound of clinking teacups, and seeing a "presence" on the stairs. Proof of an eerie entity can be seen in a photograph shot in 1984, showing a human form in one of the windows. Many believe the photo to be of Minnie Hesh, the assistant keeper who suffered a stroke and died in an upstairs bedroom.

While no one can be sure the spirit that haunts Sherwood Point today is Minnie, those who knew of her know one thing for certain.

She loved her tea.

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