Friday, October 23, 2009
A haunted lighthouse: believe it or not!
It has stood on the same spot for almost 180 years, but has been vacated for the last 30. Its beacon, the aid to navigation that provided the reason for its existence, was removed 44 years ago. But some folks say there's still a lot of activity going on at Point Lookout lighthouse in Scotland, Maryland, dubbed the most haunted lighthouse in the United States!
The grounds of Point Lookout State Park, at the mouth of the Potomac River where it meets Chesapeake Bay, haven't always been quite so desolate. Originally part of St. Michael's Manor owned by Leonard Calvert, first governor of Maryland while still a British colony, the spot was a mecca for visitors to its wharf and summer cottages when the lighthouse was built in 1830. With the coming of the Civil War, however, the area's charm as a summer resort dramatically changed.
In 1862, the federal government leased land on the point to construct Hammond General Hospital for the care of wounded Union soldiers. The following year, some Confederate detainees were assigned to the hospital. After the Battle of Gettysburg, however, Camp Hoffman--the Civil War's largest prison camp--was constructed on the site to house a maximum of 10,000 Confederate soldiers. By 1864 the population had exploded to 20,000. Conditions were squalid: drinking water was contaminated and make-shift tents provided little protection from the elements. More than 4,000 Confederate soldiers died and were buried a short distance from the camp.
Renovations to the original lighthouse were made in 1883 to allow space for two keepers' families and again in 1927, when it reached its present 2-1/2 story size. By the early 1950s, the U.S. Navy had begun buying parcels on the site and when the Coast Guard turned the lighthouse over to the Navy in 1965, the Fresnel lens was removed and a steel light tower was constructed offshore. After years of disinterest, the Navy did restore the lighthouse exterior in 2002, returning it to its original 1927 paint scheme, and the State of Maryland assumed ownership in 2006.
Oddly enough, it wasn't until the state took over the lighthouse that strange noises and sitings began to occur. Paranormal psychologists were brought in, confirming in taped recordings the existence of 24 different voices and documenting apparitions both in the lighthouse and on the grounds.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, stay tuned for a little stitching and some interesting--and slightly spooky--stories about the spirits of Point Lookout lighthouse!