Shedding Light on the Haunted Lighthouses Near Mackinaw City

Michigan is home to more than 120 lighthouses and the Straits of Mackinac boasts nearly two dozen of those lights—and a handful of THOSE are rumored to be haunted.

Among the most spirited beacon is the crumbling Waugoshance Shoal Light which stands in ruins off the coast near Wilderness State Park. Built in 1852 there are rumors that one man lost his life during the construction of the light—although no documentation can be found to verify this. Two keepers did lose their lives during their years of service here: Thomas Marshall in 1886 and John Herman in 1900.

A life-long bachelor, Herman had two loves in his life…alcohol and a good practical joke. As the story goes, on October 14 Herman was returning to the light from an all-night bender in Mackinaw City when he thought it would be funny to lock his assistant keeper in the tower. When the assistant was finally released (hours later, thanks to being “rescued” by another nearby keeper), he went in search of Herman to settle the score. But, the keeper was never found. It was commonly believed that he had fallen over the side of the crib and drowned. His body was never recovered, but for the next 10 years his spirit was known to harass other keepers at the light—knocking chairs out from underneath the men, rattling silverware in the drawers, shoveling coal into the fire and such. It became so bad that keepers refused service at this remote light.

Recent research however shed light on the REAL story behind Herman’s death. The 41-year-old had been on Mackinac Island that October under the care of a doctor. He actually died on October 14, 1900 of a heart attack. He was buried on the island, most likely in St. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery, although the location of his grave is unknown.

Casual accounts of ghosts have also been reported at McGulpin Point Lighthouse and St. Helena Island Lighthouse (located west of the Mackinac Bridge).

Heading down the Lake Huron coastline toward Alpena brings you to the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, which operated from 1840 to 1871. The first ghost encounters here date back to the early 1990s, after the civilian keeper George Parris passed away. His spirit was reported on more than one occasion by his wife, Lorraine, who stayed on for many years and who still lives in the area. Medium Tammy Schuster said she has also encountered a ghost while touring the lighthouse, but she believes it to be that of a man named Don S. Olds, who wrote a series of poems about the light during the 1930s. This light, as well as the New Presque Isle Lighthouse just north of it, operate as museums and are open seasonally. Distance to Presque Isle: 76 miles.

North over the Mackinac Bridge, you can head toward Lake Superior toward Point Iroquois Lighthouse and Whitefish Point Light Station, both with multiple tragedies and documented spirits.

The shoreline along Point Iroquois in Brimley was the site of a massive Native American massacre in 1662 and the spirits of those slain on that horrific day are among those who walk the rocky coast here. Then, in 1919, the SS Myron sank in a November storm taking the lives of all 17 crew (the only survivor was the captain, who floated in the pilot house to Canadian waters before being rescued). Perhaps the ghosts here belong to those lost seamen. Another ghost here is that of a child, encountered on at least one occasion by a paranormal who was visiting the light in the 1990s. Turns out a three-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a bear nearby in the summer of 1948. This lighthouse operates as a maritime museum and is open for seasonal tours (the grounds are open year-round). Distance to Point Iroquois: 59 miles.

Of course, the most noted incident in Paradise was the November 10, 1975 sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, just 15 miles from Whitefish Point. The entire crew of 29 were buried in the depths of Lake Superior that day, in an area known as “Shipwreck Alley” and the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” Several of Michigan’s nearly three dozen paranormal groups have visited this site and documented all kinds of activity.

There is even one video online which shows an apparition of a child scurrying across the doorway in one of the rooms in the lighthouse. It is believed the ghost is that of the Bertha Endress Rollo—granddaughter of one-time keeper Robert Carlson, captured in her upstairs bedroom. Robert and his wife, Anna Maria, served at several Great Lakes lighthouses including Marquette Harbor (which is also haunted by the ghost of a young girl, speculated to be that of Cecilia Carlson—Robert and Anna’s daughter (and Bertha’s mother). This lighthouse complex is operated by  the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and is open for seasonal tours. Distance to Whitefish Point: 81 miles.

Following US2 west and then south to Gulliver is Seul Choix Point Lighthouse where Captain Joseph Willie Townshend makes his presence known quite regularly. He died at the light in 1910 of suspected lung cancer and to this day, the whiff of cigar smoke can be detected by visitors and volunteers at this remote light. He’s also been known to appear in the mirror of an upstairs bedroom or to move silverware around in the kitchen. As many as four other ghosts have been documented at this light, including two women, one other man and a child—Townshend’s granddaughter. This lighthouse is maintained by the Gulliver Historical Society and is open for seasonal tours. Distance to Seul Choix: 90 miles.

Interested in learning more about Michigan’s ghostly beacons? Check out Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses by Dianna Higgs Stampfler, released in March 2019 from The History Press / Arcadia Publishing.


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