Michigan's Haunted Lighthouses May 15, 2019 0:01:48 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on May 15, 2019 0:01:48 GMT -5
Michigan's Haunted Lighthouses
LANSING, Mich. – The White River Light Station in Whitehall might never have existed had it not been for the dedication of Capt. William “Bill” Robinson III. Robinson came to the area in the 1860s with his wife, Sarah, and seven of their children. He petitioned the U.S. Lighthouse Service to construct a beacon and until it was built, he hung a lantern on a pole at the mouth of the White River to aid passing vessels. The lighthouse was finally lit in 1876, and the Robinsons were the first keepers. Robinson died on the job, but some say he never left the lighthouse he loved.
Karen McDonnell, who lived at the light station from 1983 until 2012 as a modern-day keeper and museum curator, claimed she had countless encounters with the ghosts of both Robinson and his wife. She heard his footsteps on the staircase leading to the lantern room on numerous occasions. “I like the comfort it gives me,” she said. “It’s like a watchman, just making sure everything is okay before it’s too late at night.”
Her tale is among those told by Dianna Higgs Stampfler’s in Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses, published by the History Press. The book includes information the author has been researching and writing about for nearly 20 years. “Many of these haunted sites exist because spirits of former lighthouse keepers just did not want to leave,” she said.
There’s a ghostly tale about almost a fifth of the lighthouses in the state. Keepers took their jobs seriously and some held their positions in excess of 40 years. Often, lighthouse-keeping was a family business, with the tasks split among husbands, wives, children and grandchildren.
According to Stampfler, the Michigan lighthouse with the most ghostly activity is Waugoshance on the Straits of Mackinac off the northern Lower Peninsula. It is said to have been haunted for more than a hundred years.
Stampfler, a graduate of Western Michigan University, has written professionally since she was in high school. Along with writing, she handles public relations, marketing, social media and events for Promote Michigan, a public relations consulting company. Her background in journalism helped her in tracking down ghost stories.
“You have people who are adamant that there are no ghosts,” Stampfler admitted. “I wanted to make sure I was sharing both sides of that. The bottom line is the family history, the keepers and the family histories themselves are true. The perception of the ghost is questionable to each individual person.”
Her stories come from lighthouse museums, friends and family. She enlisted her father, a genealogist, to dig up family history on the lighthouse keepers. Google helped her find ghost stories and she even used reviews about haunted happenings from Tripadvisor and Yelp to find good leads.
Nevertheless, some skeptics question the truthfulness of these ghost stories. “We definitely understand the fascination of haunts and ghosts – after all, as historians, perhaps we are more in tune with dead people,” said Emily Stap, archives and office manager of the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. “As a reputable museum, we strive to provide the public with facts and truths regarding the past.”
Since 1997, Stampfler has been presenting programs about Michigan’s historic lighthouses, ghost towns and other unique places across the state. That’s how she landed the book deal in March 2017. The publisher had been Googling the topic and found out about her presentations.
She picked the lighthouses to include from the 36 she knew were associated with ghost stories. “I tried to pick ones with the best stories and photos,” she continued. “I also tried to spread it out geographically, so I was getting lights on as many of the Great Lakes as I could.”
Readers can visit many of the lighthouses featured in the book and perhaps encounter a ghost themselves. Those interested in a ghostly lighthouse encounter could volunteer as a keeper at South Manitou Island’s historic lighthouse – one of only a few locations in the state where such an offer is available, according to Stampfler. “The book is a chance for me to sell something that people take away after my presentations,” she added. “It enhanced something that I was already doing.”
In the meantime, if you stop by the White River Light Station, keep an eye out for Capt. Robinson, who continues his nightly rounds 150 years later – to the shock of the temporary staff. The captain’s wife, Sarah, is also helpful, McDonnell said. Once she left the upstairs bedroom to take a call. When she returned, she discovered someone had finished her dusting – even though she was alone. The cleaning supplies were even moved from one side of the room to the other.
Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses is available at a cost of $19.99 at promotemichigan.com/haunted-lighthouses-book. It can also be purchased at the Michigan Historical Museum store, bookstores and gift shops as well as through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Source: Angela Mulka, The Ionia Sentinel-Standard, April 19, 2019.