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HomeMI HistoryMichigan Lighthouses13 Haunted Lighthouses of Michigan

13 Haunted Lighthouses of Michigan

Based on the Book by Dianna Higgs Stampfler

Lighthouses, those iconic structures peppered along the Great Lakes’ shores are more than just guiding lights for ships. They have a rich history filled with stories and mysterious events that are deeply intertwined with those who cared for them. But why are these beacons so lined to the supernatural? it all goes back to their origins. Lighthouses were built in response to the numerous shipwrecks along Michigan’s coasts, many leaving behind their own legacy. The bodies of ill-fated sailors found their final resting place in unmarked graves within local cemeteries, while others settled in the cold depths of the Great Lakes.

This begs the question: Could the spirits of these unfortunate souls still wander our shores, forever tied to the places where their lives met a tragic end?

Then there are the lighthouse keepers, men and women who dedicated their lives to these beacons. Isolated from the outside world for extended periods, they formed unique bonds with their towering homes. Day after day, they climbed the winding staircases to light the lamps at night and extinguish them at dawn. This solitary routine went on for years, forging strong connections between keepers and their lighthouses. 

It’s easy to imagine that when these devoted keepers passed away, some chose to linger, their spirits forever linked to the places that defined their lives. In this article, we offer a peek into the world of 13 Haunted Michigan Lighthouses. These stories, filled with folklore, legends, and unexplained incidents continue to intrigue visitors and invite us to dig deeper. They remind us that even in death, some souls may find comfort within the embrace of the Great Lakes and the enduring lighthouses that grace their shores, adding to Michigan’s unique history.

13. Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, Port Huron

Amidst the picturesque landscape of Port Huron, Michigan, where the tranquil waters of Lake Huron meet the rugged shoreline and only a stones throw across the lake from Canada, the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse has long stood as a sentinel of the past and a silent witness to the mysteries that surround it. This historical landmark, the oldest among the 129 lighthouses that grace the Great Lakes, harbors a legacy of unexplained encounters that beckons both the curious and the adventurous. 

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse has become a haven for those seeking an encounter with the supernatural. It is in the dimming twilight that the lighthouse grounds come alive with the inexplicable phenomena that defy rational explanation. From the lighthouse itself, to the keepers quarters, to the old hospital, objects once left undisturbed find themselves in new and unexpected positions. Mysterious sounds fill the air, from creaking floorboards to faint whispers carried in the wind. 

Visitors often speak of an overwhelming sensation of being watched, spirits of the past acting as curious observers of the living. The feeling of a ghostly presence may brush against one’s skin, leaving an eerie sensation in its wake.

Legend has it that five ghosts haunt Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and grounds. Three of them are former lighthouse keepers, their names and stories forever etched into the annals of time. The other two are children—a girl named Sarah and a 13-year-old boy named Josh—each of their demise remains unknown. But their laughter and footsteps are said to echo in the night. 

We conducted our own paranormal investigation of Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and Carnegie Museum on September 30 with Detroit Rock City Paranormal.

What secrets lie hidden within the enigmatic walls of Fort Gratiot Lighthouse? What unexplained phenomena did we uncover during our daring exploration of this historic landmark? Stay tuned for the spine-tingling release of our paranormal investigation in October via video on our website and social media, where we venture into the realm of the unexplained. You won’t want to miss this eerie encounter with the supernatural. Subscribe to our magazine and Youtube channel and watch for the release!

Event Tickets: https://phmuseum.eventbrite.com/

Make a donation and help keep Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and Museum open to the public. Donations: https://www.porthuronmuseums.shop/donations

12. Point aux Barques Lighthouse, Port Hope

The Point Aux Barques Lighthouse, standing tall on Lake Huron’s Shores, holds a haunting mystery that beckons the curious and the brave. Within these weathered walls, there have been documented accounts of furniture mysteriously shifting, phantom footsteps ascending and descending the tower stairs, unsettling giggles that pierce the silence, and the lingering aroma of burning tobacco. Some have even reported sightings of the ghostly figure of a lady cloaked in white, while others claim to have witnessed a figure draped in mourning black, pacing along the cliff’s edge yearning for her lost love. These recorded encounters with the supernatural at this historic beacon make it an irresistible enigma for those drawn to the eerie and unexplained. Will you heed the call of the Point Aux Barques Lighthouse and venture into its chilling embrace?

11. Saginaw River Rear Range Light, Bay City 

Bay City’s historic beacon harbors a haunting tale that beckons the curious and the fearless. The story centers on Julia, a woman whose life became inexorably entwined with the lighthouse’s eerie legacy. Following her first husband’s tragic demise, she assumed the role of lighthouse keeper. Remarkably, her second husband, who became keeper after their marriage, also met a grim fate. Was Julia cursed by ill-fated love, or were they? Julia’s restless spirit is said to wander the desolate lighthouse, and eerie encounters have become part of the lore. As the lighthouse undergoes a long-awaited renovation, it will once again open its doors to the public in 2024, after being sealed in mystery for four decades. What chilling mysteries lie in wait for those who dare to explore its haunted halls?

10. Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle 

The haunting grounds of Presque Isle Lighthouse include an ethereal, unnatural glow that emanates from the tower, witnessed by many, despite the absence of any electricity. Here, a widow has encounters with the spectral presence of her dearly departed husband. Glasses of whiskey left as a heartfelt toast by old friends inexplicably drain overnight. But there’s more to this haunting tale—a departed husband who, from the great beyond, protects his beloved wife and even entertains the curiosity of young visitors. In the realm of Michigan’s ghostly legends, the former Presque Isle Lighthouse Keeper stands as a gentle guardian, his story a magnetic lure for those seeking the mysterious and the unexplained.

9. Point Iroquois Lighthouse, Brimley

In 1662, a gruesome massacre unfolded along the shores of Lake Superior near the now-standing Point Iroquois Lighthouse. This fateful battle pitted the Ojibwa (Chippewa) against a band of Iroquois who had traveled four hundred miles from western New York. When the sun set that day, it marked the triumph of the Ojibwa and the tragic demise of the Iroquois warriors. Their tragic ending in this location forever bound their spirits to these shores. The restless spirits of these fallen souls are immortalized in the haunting name of this place, Nadouenigoning, a fusion of Nadone (Iroquois) and Akron (bone), forever echoing as a boneyard for the Iroquois. This is not the only haunting tale of this lighthouse. In 1919, during the infamous “Gales of November,” a shipwreck claimed the lives of seventeen crewmen. Over the ensuing months, their bodies – frozen in ice – washed ashore. And in 1948, a tragic encounter between a 3-year-old girl and a relentless young bear ended in tragedy near these grounds. These are the lingering souls believed to haunt the vicinity of Point Iroquois Lighthouse, where history and the supernatural converge in an eerie dance. 

8. Whitefish Point Lighthouse, Paradise

Whitefish Point Lighthouse, the oldest operating beacon on Lake Superior, watches over the perilous waters known as “The Graveyard of the Great Lakes” or the “Shipwreck Coast.” This area has claimed numerous vessels over the years, and within the lighthouse’s historic walls, chilling tales have emerged. Visitors have reported ghostly touches from unseen hands, doors locking and unlocking on their own, mysterious whispers, and phantom footsteps that reverberate through the halls. These unsettling experiences would give even the most seasoned ghost hunter a reason to pause. The atmosphere is heavy with the presence of restless spirits, with estimates suggesting that as many as 50 or more ghosts call this place home, creating a truly supernatural spectacle.

7. Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, Marquette

Amidst the backdrop of Lake Superior, the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse holds an intriguing secret—a spirited presence believed to be that of a mischievous young girl dressed in early 1900s attire. Yet, unlike stereotypical apparitions, this ghostly figure radiates an air of joy and boundless energy – as most children do. Her spirit is drawn to the motherly types and she has a captivating charm that draws in children. On calm days, when the lake is still, she often stands by the edge, gazing out at the vast horizon. Her mysterious presence has left a lasting impression, witnessed by both staff and curious visitors who are captivated by the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse’s mystery.

6. Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Big Bay” 

Big Bay Point Lighthouse carries a somber history and is rumored to house up to five resident spirits, one of suicide by hanging. 

Big Bay’s history is as varied as its hauntings. Decommissioned in 1961, it transitioned into a private residence for nearly two decades, then later served as a retreat for a brief period, then a bed-and-breakfast since the early ’80s – currently on its third owner since then.

Over the years, both visitors and owners have encountered strange phenomena. From marbles inexplicably rolling across the floor, to doors and windows opening and closing by themselves, lights flickering on and off, to the distinct sound of heavy footsteps echoing through the corridors, and mirrors revealing spectral figures while shadowy figures have been found standing at the foot of beds.

Does Big Bay Point Lighthouse remain a place where the boundary between the living and the dead blurs. Whether you believe it or not, Big Bay Point Lighthouse offers a mysterious history that continues to intrigue those who dare to explore its secrets.  

5. Seul Choix (Sis-shwa) Point Lighthouse, Gulliver 

Seul Choix is arguably the most haunted lighthouse in Michigan. With hundreds (possibly thousands) of encounters written and stored in countless three-ringed binders housed at the lighthouse museum. Encounters that include faces in mirrors, self-rocking chairs, utensils moving on their own in the kitchen area, to the undeniable heavy scent of cigar smoke filling one’s nose. It is believed that up to five spirits occupy the lighthouse, the most active – and one that is seemingly hungry for attention – is previous lighthouse keeper, John Joseph Willie Townsend who passed away at the lighthouse in 1910 of lung cancer, and was embalmed in the basement. He was an avid cigar smoker, to his wife’s chagrin. Having come to Michigan by way of England, he was also very particular about the placement of utensils at the dinner table. To this day, he remains the keeper of the light, protecting all within, and correcting staff on the proper way to set an English table.  

4. Waugoshance Shoal Lighthouse, Mackinaw City

What do you do when a lighthouse becomes so steeped in hauntings that not a single soul will stay to tend to its light? You decommission it.

That’s at least how the tale goes. Nestled off the shores of what is now Wilderness State Park, the Waugoshance Shoal Lighthouse remains shrouded in mystery, much like the origins of its restless apparitions. This imposing tower, distinguished by its unique birdcage-style lantern room that once held a fourth-order Fresnel lens, stands as a sentinel surrounded entirely by the unforgiving waters of the Straights of Mackinaw. The first documented encounters with the supernatural date back to 1883, when Clara, the wife of an assistant keeper, recorded her unease and terror within the lighthouse’s walls. Clara never ventured alone within those haunted confines, accompanying and clutching her husband’s hand as they ascended the tower’s stairs, where he dutifully performed his tasks.

In the years since, this abandoned lighthouse has endured various phases, including serving as a military training island before World War II. Today, it stands as a weathered and forsaken yet protected site, a lonely sentinel off the coast of Mackinac Island, visited by only a brave few. However, the mischievous spirits, one of whom is believed to be a prankster, persist in entertaining all who dare to venture to her cemented shores. 

3. South Manitou Island Lighthouse

A tragic drowning over 140 years ago creates an aura of lore surrounding South Manitou Lighthouse.

In March 1878, the lighthouse keeper, Aaron Sheridan, his wife, Julia, and their youngest son Robert, who was just a baby, met their tragic end during a return trip to the island from the Mainland of Michigan. Their small fishing boat overturned in a late winter squall eventually claiming the three lives of the Sheridan family whose bodies were never recovered. The lone survivor was the fisherman, Christ Ancharson. He was found clinging to life by a rescue boat. Tales of hauntings and voices echoing in the night began to occur after the deaths and continue to this day. Some say they are simply tales of lore, while others claim the ghosts of Aaron and Julia walk the island, two lost souls finding their way home. 

2. White River Light Station, Whitehall

A lively spirit that likes to keep things tidy, a keeper that continues to watch over his beloved light that he was instrumental in the construction of. These are the husband-and-wife team of ghosts that inhabit the White River Light Station.

This Lighthouse is truly a family legacy. Captain Bill Robinson and his wife Sarah were the first family to inhabit and keep the light. All told, the Robinson family kept the light at White River for over seven decades, that included Robinson’s son and grandson. Captain Bill did not take retiring lightly and the evening before his forced retirement, he passed away in his sleep at the lighthouse at the age of 87.

Staff and visitors alike have had encounters or unexplained experiences over the years. Apparitions standing in windows, guests compelled to the room that Captain Bill passed away in. Footsteps heard ascending and descending the tower stairs. Sarah’s ghost is thought to help clean the room that was once the children’s nursery.

The family is buried on the grounds of the cemetery located a short distance from the lighthouse, including Captain Bill’s parents, and one of their young daughters who passed away at the age of 18. Their silent vigil reminds visitors that, even in the afterlife, the keepers of the light stand watch over the White River Light Station. 

1. South Haven Keeper’s Dwelling

Imagine stepping into a bygone era, back to a time when Captain James Samuel Donahue stood as the unwavering guardian of South Haven Lighthouse. His watchful eye spanned from March of 1875 until his well-deserved retirement in 1909. Yet, this historical account is tinged with tragedy, for within these very walls, his beloved wife Sarah, at a tender age of 27, succumbed to the relentless grip of lung disease.

The modern-day custodians of the Keeper’s Dwelling, now home to the Michigan Maritime Museum and Marialyce Canonie Great Lakes Research Library, have shared intriguing stories of their own. They speak of inexplicable phenomena—a ghostly presence that leaves faint echoes of footsteps, doors that sway open of their own accord, whispers that dance on the edge of perception, and mysterious cold spots that send shivers down one’s spine. Skeptics among them dismiss these occurrences as mere quirks of an aged house, but the allure of the unexplained persists.

Captain Donahue, a figure of immense honor and distinction, continues to cast his watchful gaze over the lighthouse and harbor, even in death. If his spirit lingers within the keeper’s house, it does so with the same dignity and unwavering dedication that marked his earthly service. Come, step into history, and experience the enigmatic legacy of South Haven Lighthouse for yourself.

Purchase Dianna’s Books

Click on the image to be directed to Dianna’s bookstore.

Listen to our Podcast “Haunted Michigan Lighthouses with Author Dianna Stampfler.”

Tamara Graham
Tamara Grahamhttps://livelovelocalmi.com
With an adventurous spirit and a burning desire to make the world work for all of us, Tamara encourages others to embrace self-love, compassion, empathy, understanding, and an ever important sense of humor. With over 30 years of diverse marketing experience, including a decade in publishing, she brings a fresh and innovative perspective to the industry. Her concept revolves around experiential magazines that captivate both online and in print. Tamara's visionary project, LIVE. LOVE. LOCAL. MICHIGAN™, unveils the wonders of our breathtaking home state, igniting love and admiration among Michiganders for where they live. By fostering this deep connection, she inspires a genuine appreciation and love for where we live!
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