The California coastline is dotted with many beacons of hope, protection and guidance. These lighthouses shine brightly despite the dark pasts they possess. Today, the state boasts almost 30 lighthouses that have stood the test of time and have many stories to tell, dating back to the 1850’s.
Two of Northern California’s lighthouses have gained notoriety for their stories. Claimed to be some of the most haunted places in the United States, these are the haunted tales of the Point Piños and Point Sur Lighthouses.
Point Piños Lighthouse
Point Piños is California’s oldest remaining and still operating lighthouse. It was built in 1855, originally fueled by whale oil before changing to lard oil, kerosene and finally to electricity.
Unlike most other lighthouses, Point Piños did not condemn its keepers to a solitary lifestyle. The building is conjoined to the mainland and very close to Monterey, making it easily accessible to guests. Between the years of 1893 and 1914 Emily Fish was in charge of maintaining the lighthouse and took full advantage of this opportunity to lead a social lifestyle, even earning the nickname: the Socialite Keeper. Emily took over care of the Point Piños Lighthouse after the passing of her husband. Emily’s son who was a Naval officer of the Lighthouse Service played a part in having her appointed to this position. Emily took pride in her post, building up and maintaining the surrounding gardens and sharing the space with by entertaining her local community.
Although Emily did not die within the Point Piños Lighthouse, it is believed her spirit haunts the building. The paranormal community supports the belief that places of great joy or heavy emotions during life could attract ghosts of the deceased to make a return. Many visitors to the Point Piños Lighthouse have claimed to feel Emily Fish’s presence around the building, which was once her living quarters. Full body apparitions of her ghost have also been sighted usually roaming the second story of the building and especially in her former bedroom. Strong scents of perfume have also been reported whilst no one is around and swishing noises passing by, thought to be caused by the long skirts Emily would have worn in her era.
Staff also make reports of items within the museum moving around on their own and have also sighted another apparition of a teenage girl, thought to have died at the lighthouse sometime in the 1900’s from tuberculosis.
Point Sur Lighthouse
A little further south of Point Piños Lighthouse sits the haunted Point Sur Lighthouse. Commissioned in 1889 the Point Sur Lighthouse has warned ships of its surrounding dangerous waters from upon its volcanic rock perch for many years. Despite the Lighthouse’s strategic placement and bright light, the area has seen much destruction. Around a dozen shipwrecks resulting in loss of life have occurred in sight of the lighthouse since 1875. These include the loss of the Los Angeles, which sunk in 1894 claiming the lives of six people, including women and children passengers.
It is the lost spirits from these shipwrecks that are believed to have wandered upon shore to the Point Sur Lighthouse and it’s station’s other buildings, which make the lookout so haunted. The rocky outlook is supposedly haunted by sailors and a young child thought to have lost their lives in the ocean below. A tall man in a navy blue suit has been seen walking around the visitor center and around the tower and a young, female child’s voice has been captured on various recordings.
When the lighthouse was in operation before the light could be automated, up to three families would man the rock at a time. Many people believe that some of the former residents of the Point Sur Lighthouse have returned in death. Investigators have recorded numerous clear EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) from inside the buildings that make up the lighthouse station. Visitors have also seen apparitions, experienced poltergeist activity through objects moving on their own and have even seen the lighthouse’s beacon rotate independent of power.
As many as 20 ghosts are believed to still call the very haunted Point Sur Lighthouse home.
Visiting the Haunted Lighthouses
Both the Point Piños and Point Sur lighthouses are historic buildings continuing to serve their original purpose of guiding ships on the surrounding ocean. Today, a lighthouse keeper is not necessary, yet the history of this way of life has been preserved by volunteers who keep the buildings maintained and open to the public for tours.
The Point Piños Lighthouse has been lovingly restored to resemble what it would have looked like in the 1890’s, during the time Emily Fish was lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse and its grounds are open 5 days a week for self guided tours for the cost of a small donation. Volunteers are friendly and although not supposed to discuss the ghostly history of the building, some volunteers will share fruitful and interesting stories.
The Point Sur Lighthouse is now part of the Point Sur State Historic Park and has also been mostly restored and is open for tours These tours run less frequently and are all led by a volunteer guide. Tours involve a decent amount of walking with much of this ascending the large hill the stations sits upon. Not all buildings are able to be accessed on the tour, but most can be explored and a great overview of the Point Sur Lighthouse’s history is provided. Moonlight and ghost tours also run from time to time.
If you enjoyed this read and are interested in other ghostly places along the Northern California coastline, check out my blog on San Francisco’s haunted Sutro Baths ruins.
Thanks for reading!