By L’Aura Hladik
The lighthouse in Owl’s Head, Maine has stood high up on a rocky promontory since 1825 and over the years has been the site of a number of strange phenomena. At the keeper’s house in December 1850, a “frozen couple” was miraculously defrosted from a block of ice and revived after a raging winter storm sent a stranded schooner crashing into the rocks. The house was also home to Spot, a fog-bell ringing Springer spaniel credited with preventing a mail boat from smashing into the rocky shore during another storm in the 1930s. Neither incident is associated with a ghost, but several eyewitness accounts suggest the presence of a certain maritime phantasm haunting the lighthouse and surrounds.
Why a ghostly sea captain made the lighthouse at owl’s Head his permanent residence is unknown, but he has presented himself to people in various forms. The Andrews family, who resided at the keeper’s house, had the first documented ghostly encounter. Mrs. Andrews witnessed a mysterious swirling light upstairs in the house, and her father found his bed shaking one night for no apparent reason.
The spectral seaman gave himself a more identifiable human form one night in 1980, when former lighthouse keeper John Norton awoke to see the captain staring at him. He also observed footprints in the freshly fallen snow that began in the most peculiar places and ended much the same, without incurring more prints on either end of the mysterious trail.
Gerard Graham, a Coast Guard officer in charge of the lighthouse, lived in the same house with his wife, Debbie, and three-year-old daughter, Claire, from 1987 to 1988. Like many young children, Claire had an imaginary friend at Owl’s Head . . . or so her parents thought.
One night, Claire’s imaginary friend woke her and instructed her to tell her parents to sound the foghorn, as there was a fog rolling in. Claire left her room – which was always colder than the other rooms – and did what she’d been asked. Debbie was certain at this point that her daughter’s imaginary friend was more ghost than imagination – why else would a three-year-old child wake from a sound sleep and tell her parents about the incoming fog?
The ghostly sea captain did more than leave tracks in the snow and issue fog warnings; he also allegedly polished brass fixtures in the house. The keeper worked diligently to ensure the light functioned continuously; his wife was responsible for keeping the house perfectly clean in case of unannounced inspections. After all, they didn’t own the property. Both keeper and wife appreciated a ghost that pitched in.
According to author Bill Thomson, there is another ghost residing at Owl’s Head Lighthouse. The Little Lady is said to occupy the kitchen, slamming doors and rattling silver-ware. Malcolm Rouse, the last coast guard lighthouse keeper at Owl’s Head before it was automated in 1989, didn’t elaborate on the ghost or activity, but likewise insisted that the place was haunted.
Today Coast Guard personnel occupy the keeper’s house, which, along with the lighthouse is off-limits to visitors. The surrounding area, however, is a state park, so bring a picnic basket and enjoy the views. You just might catch a glimpse of the sea captain’s ghost, on the lookout for imperiled ships.
Owl’s Head Light State Park, Lighthouse Road, Owl’s Head, Maine 04854
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