Spooky Lights

Explore ghostly lore, reported apparitions and enjoy family fun on tours of Michigan’s historic haunted lighthouses.
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Presque Isle Lighthouse
Photography courtesy of Thinkstock

Built in 1840 on a on a peninsula that juts into Lake Huron, Old Presque Isle Lighthouse operated for a mere 30 years and is one of the oldest decommissioned lighthouses remaining on the Great Lakes.

De-electrified in 1979 after a lens from another lighthouse was installed during a restoration project, the mystery of its “ghost light” continues to baffle the U.S. Coast Guard, reputable local residents, mariners and lighthouse employees.

All have reported seeing a light coming from its 30-foot tower, usually during a storm. But there is no power. The Coast Guard has been out to inspect several times.

“I have met families and individuals who are very reputable, and they have been out in either a small fishing boat or pleasure boat or gotten caught in a storm, and they all say that the light came on in this tower,” said Susan Brooks, a longtime lighthouse guide. “They swear that it was this (decommissioned lighthouse) that brought them into Presque Isle Harbor.”

Presque Isle’s old and new towers are open for tours until Oct. 15 and will celebrate the end of the season with a fall festival. Visitors can learn about the local lore, alleged apparitions and who is believed to be haunting the tower.

I have met families and individuals who are very reputable, and they have been out in either a small fishing boat or pleasure boat or gotten caught in a storm, and they all say that the light came on in this tower.
— Susan Brooks

Many of Michigan’s lighthouses have reported paranormal activity, usually linked to former lightkeepers, due to the tower’s age, remote locations and treacheries of the job. White River Light Station, Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, Big Bay Point Lighthouse and Saginaw River Range Lighthouse are some of the most notorious. Some caretakers openly tell the stories; others strongly refute the claims.

Seul Choix Point Lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula is alleged to be one of the Great Lakes’ most haunted. The Gulliver Historical Society used to host haunted Halloween tours but canceled them due to a lack of volunteers. Visitors still can walk the grounds during the fall or tour the lighthouse decorated for the holidays Nov. 25-26.

The lighthouse is allegedly haunted by a former light keeper who died there in 1910, along with two women and a little girl.

“I’m confident they’re there,” said Marilyn Fischer, president of Gulliver Historical Society. “We’ve had pictures of them. I’ve written over 150 true stories that have happened to our house guests and volunteers.”

The state’s first lighthouse, Fort Gratiot Light Station, dates to 1829 and hosts Motor City Ghost Hunters on Oct. 21. The public can investigate the historic landmark and paranormal activity, with the option to stay overnight.

Whether you believe in ghostly spirits or not, other lighthouses host family-friendly fall events and tours.

Tawas Point’s Haunted Lighthouse Weekend on Oct. 13-14 is the one time of year visitors can climb the tower at night, plus there’s family fun with pumpkin painting, crafts and hayrides. Although there’s no ghost story to tell, it’s a fun weekend, and the lighthouse is decorated for Halloween.

On the state’s west side, Grand Traverse Lighthouse near Northport hosts an annual Halloween event, decorating the main floor Munster-family style and opening the basement for a haunted house experience Oct. 21-22.

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