Learn about haunted lighthouses

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 2, 2019


TROY — Did you know that more than 40 of the 120-plus lighthouses that dot Michigan lakeshores are rumored to be haunted?

Dianna Stampfler has been researching lighthouses since the late 1990s.

She will talk about the 13 lighthouses she has researched and their keepers at “Meet the Author: Dianna Stampfler: Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses” at the Troy Public Library at 7 p.m. Oct. 10.

Natasha Rogers, Troy’s adult services librarian, said the program is a good fit around Halloween because Stampfler’s new book, “Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses,” published by Arcadia Publishing, covers a subject that’s “kind of creepy, and we can visit them (the lighthouses) if we want,” she said.

“I’ve been researching Michigan’s lighthouses since the late 1990s, and over the years, the ghost stories have stuck with me,” Stampfler said via email. “I started presenting on the topic back in the early 2000s, and in March 2017, the History Press emailed asking me if I would write a book on the topic. It was released in March 2019 and sold out the first 1,000 copies in three weeks.”

She said the lighthouses that are rumored to be haunted are “mostly by the spirits of former keepers,” such as James Donahue, who allegedly haunts the South Haven South Pierhead Light lighthouse after serving there for 35 years, and William Robinson, who served 44 years at the White River Lighthouse in Whitehall “before dying at the light the night before he was to vacate,” she said.

Stampfler said Frank Kimball served 30-plus years at the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron and reportedly haunts it still.

“We also had several keepers who died during their tenure at their respective lights, like Joseph Willie Townshend at Seul Choix in Gulliver or Aaron and Julia Sheridan, who died on a boat while returning to South Manitou Island along with their 9-month-old son, Robert,” she said.

Also mentioned in the book as rumored to be haunted are the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse, the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, both on Lake Huron; the South Haven Keeper’s Dwelling and the South Manitou Island Lighthouse on Lake Michigan; and the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, the Ontonagon Lighthouse and the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior.

In answer to what it is about lighthouses that seems to attract spirits — or the ghosts of former keepers — Stampfler replied, “Maybe it is a never-ending passion for what was more of a lifestyle than a job. These keepers often lost their lives during their service, protecting the sailors on the inland seas from the dangerous and rocky shores of the Great Lakes.”

Register for the program at troypl.org or by calling (248) 524-3534.

The library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver Road.