Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The ghost and the lighthouse

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away,
the lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
in the white tip and tremor of the face.
 -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

 The lighthouse at Point Lookout State Park-
reputed to be the most haunted lighthouse in America.

Last Saturday I was flipping through the channels and landed on a decently creepy movie called Behind the Walls about a haunted lighthouse in Maine.  I then thought of other scary movies featuring lighthouses: The Fog (skip), Darkness Falls (not bad), Shutter Island (disturbing), and The Ring (terrifying).  A quick google entry of “haunted lighthouses” brings up 4,490,000 search results.

Since two of my current works in progress include ghostly encounters at a lighthouse, I started to wonder: what is it about these unassuming structures that we find so eerily inspiring?

Is it their remote locations on islands and rocky outcrops? Do they conjure images of unforgiving storms, deadly shipwrecks, and dangerous rescue attempts? 

Could it be the mystery surrounding lighthouse keepers themselves?  After all, why would someone willingly take on such a solitary vocation? How does prolonged isolation affect the mind? 

Or do we like to believe a keeper is so dedicated to his duties that he remains at his post long after his death? 

Whatever the reason, these lighthouses will always hold a special place in our collective imagination and give us a few more ghostly tales still to be told.

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