Whenever people think of creepy hauntings or grizzly tales, references to decrepit graveyards or famous war sites are often made. Other popular locations for all things spine-tingling are Victorian manors and desolate farmhouses. Unsurprisingly, medieval castles and eerie forests are also favorites for housing a spook or two. All over the world, morbid history and blood-chilling tales have been attached to homes of all shapes and sizes and even land. But what about lighthouses? Most people will struggle to think of a haunted lighthouse; it isn’t difficult to see why.
Lighthouses sit quietly, peacefully governing the shores below. Comforting beams of light give guidance and hope to tormented sailors whose ships thrash among unforgiving waves. Lighthouses are helpful. These beacons of light are a far cry from the rotten inventions and structures carved by man’s hand to wreak havoc upon the world. Despite this, haunted lighthouses do exist. Prepare to have your eyes opened and blood curdled as you digest the haunted history of Souter Lighthouse…
From The Darkness Came the Haunted Lighthouse!
The majestic structure that is Souter Lighthouse sits proudly atop the clifftops of South Shields and keeps a watchful eye over the beautiful surrounding coastline. South Shields is a town famous for innovation in shipbuilding and boasts an array of other maritime successes.
Once a bustling shore packed with merchant vessels, fishing boats, and the occasional Royal Navy fighter ship, accidents were never far away. In 1860, at least twenty shipwrecks were reported. The loss of life was intense and South Shields quickly gained notoriety as the most dangerous coastline in Britain. The jagged rocks, relentless storms, and fogs as thick as curdled milk sat like giant webs, ready to decimate anything that dared to venture too close.
One famous incident that defied the monstrous shores, was the sinking of the Forfarshire passenger ship. in 1838, Grace Darling, a 26-year-old local woman, whose father was a lighthouse keeper, heroically battled the storms in a fishing boat and fought her way toward the floundering wreck, and saved the lives of 62 people. Grace was honored with a silver medal and became a local hero.
Although Grace’s actions countered the negative reputation of the disastrous coastline, a dark cloud of despair remained. The overbearing list of deaths and destruction weighed heavy upon the town’s shoulders. As a result of these horrifying catastrophes, trade began to dwindle but this economic concern became the catalyst for the existence of this wonderful lighthouse that sits there today. Construction was completed in 1871.
The 75-foot-high structure was built by an accomplished engineer called Robert Allison and would become the first lighthouse in the world to be powered by electricity. It was thought that this innovative technological advancement would bring popularity, respect, and a higher flow of trade to the town and surrounding shores. More importantly, lives would be saved.
The constant glaring light would act as a beacon of warmth and warning, preventing ships in the night from floating into death’s eternal clutch. The main hope was that South Shields could finally eradicate its reputation of coastal disasters and revamp itself as a significantly less formidable place of trade. In the coming years, Souter Lighthouse justified its construction and money spent, and tumultuous incidents became sporadic. Trade boomed once more and local well-being was restored.
Madness Within The Haunted Lighthouse Walls
Souter Lighthouse was working well. Manned with an experienced lighthouse keeper, the glaring light comforted and guided every vessel and sailor for miles around. While locals slept soundly, the isolated keeper monitored the huge light all hours of the night while his family slept in the quarters close by. The light was made from 4.5 tonnes of glass that sat upon 1.5 tons of mercury. The shores remained tranquil for a while but it wasn’t long before bad luck and destruction returned.
As the days and nights passed, the lighthouse keeper slowly began to change. His moods became erratic and bizarre behaviors began to ensue. Before long, the keeper was gnawing at his flesh, tearing handfuls of hair from his scalp, and mercilessly pounding his face and head against the windows of the watch tower. One evening, a fisherman witnessed these events and ran to investigate, thinking the keeper was being attacked. Upon inspection, it was clear that the keeper and the keeper alone was responsible. He was moved to a local asylum and certified insane. Later inspection revealed that the seeping mercury below the light had been responsible for the lightkeeper’s brush with madness.
To this very day, people have reported shrill cries emitting from the lighthouse watch tower and some have reported witnessing the transparent figure of a man mutilating himself before disappearing into the darkness.
A Mysterious Death
Many years ago, a man known as John would regularly visit the lighthouse. He could be seen sitting outside on the grass, staring aimlessly out to sea. He would occasionally leave his grassy spot to wander the gravel paths outside the lighthouse and the keeper’s lodgings. The lighthouse grounds were a dedicated right of way for the general public with a museum inside, so nobody ever thought to question the strange man.
Those who saw the man would report darkness in his eyes and an unusual energy seemed to penetrate the air whenever he was near. One staff member recalled walking past the man and as she brushed shoulders with him, she felt a dark and evil presence engulf her. All the hairs raised on the back of her neck and arms. When she looked at him, his eyes were as black as night, his grin wide and evil.
Eventually, things took a sinister turn. One morning, the lighthouse keeper was conducting his rounds. Upon entering the engine room, he found the man dead. An investigation was launched and no foul play or suicide was determined. The reason for the man’s death remains unknown. Even after an autopsy, no solid conclusion was passed. Many people are convinced that an evil presence that lurks in the lighthouse is responsible. Whatever the cause, we will never truly know.
The Phantom Haunted Lighthouse Keeper
For decades, a tall man has been seen wandering the lighthouse grounds. He is always described as wearing a blue peaked cap and a thick blue trench coat with chunky brass buttons fastened from the bottom right up to the collar. This was the common uniform worn by lighthouse keepers in the 1800s. He is said to have a long, drawn, pale face, wearing an expression of tiredness and grief. He makes no sound and only walks a few steps before disappearing silently into thin air. Staff and visitors have reported that just before the lighthouse keeper appears, an eerily still and creepy vibe penetrates the area.
One of the more recent terrifying incidents involved an office worker. At 10 pm, she began to lock up for the evening. She heard a succession of taps on the window behind her. Knowing she was alone, she turned around and was startled by what she saw. Staring at her through the class, was the face of the lighthouse keeper. He fitted the descriptions of all who had seen him over the years. Frozen with fear, the office worker watched in horror as the drab face slowly faded away, leaving her alone once more.
The Ghost Of Isabella Darling
Isabella Darling was the niece of Grace Darling, the maritime heroine mentioned earlier in the article. Her father was the keeper of Souter Lighthouse for ten years from 1881 to 1891. Could the phantom lighthouse keeper be the spirit of Isabella’s father? Scores of people have reported seeing the spectral image of Isabelle roaming around the lighthouse gardens and picking flowers as she did in life.
Isabelle’s spirit has also been seen and heard wandering up and down the lighthouse staircase, accompanied by the swishing of her long flowing dress. Isabelle’s spirit is non-threatening and it is said that she remains to keep a watchful eye over her beloved lighthouse. Isabelle was said to have been an avid cook in life and loved concocting a wide array of delicious food for her friends and family in the lighthouse kitchen. In the dead of night, anybody walking past the kitchen can sometimes hear the clanking of pots and pans, gleeful whistling, and the smell of cooking. When people investigate further, all the noises and smells cease, leaving the kitchen quiet once more.
The Playful Poltergeist
After recent building work took place, paranormal activity increased throughout the lighthouse and lodgings. Personal belongings and objects such as tools, clothing, and cutlery would mysteriously disappear and reappear in inconspicuous places, sometimes weeks after they had vanished. Cold spots would appear around the lighthouse and many staff and visitors likened the coldness to ‘walking into a freezer’.
The poltergeist has never been described as malevolent but rather immature and ‘irritating’ in nature, very much like a bored child seeking attention at a busy family party. Staff and visitors have also reported a feeling of being watched. Invisible hands regularly grab arms and clothing and pull people’s hair. A lot of poltergeist activity is witnessed in the kitchen area and involves the levitation of spoons, and the opening and closing of drawers and cupboards. Taps mysteriously turn on and off by themselves and the coal fire has been known to ignite itself.
The engine room is also rife with poltergeist activity. Machines are reported to turn on and off by themselves and banging on the windows and doors can be heard by engineers who are trying to work. One Engineer reported seeing a dark figure standing to his right. When he turned, he saw the short, dark figure quickly scurry out of view behind the machinery. When the engineer investigated further, nobody was found. Many people think the poltergeist could be the spirit of a child who lived at the lighthouse many years ago and was tragically killed by falling off the nearby cliff while playing with friends. Whatever or whoever is responsible for the activity, is keeping a stern but friendly eye on the lighthouse.
The Souter Lighthouse is now owned by the National Trust and daily tours allow visitors to see the preserved lodgings and lighthouse. Everything remains largely unchanged and many visitors liken their visit to ‘stepping back in time’. I was lucky enough to enjoy such a visit when I was eight years old. I remember walking into the keeper’s lodgings and listening to the guide telling our group about the daily duties of the lighthouse keeper and how his family would spend their lives in those rooms.
The impressive old living room had an open coal fire, stone floors covered with rugs, a kitchen table, and a cooking area adorned with brass pots, pans, and cooking utensils. In the center of the room, an old rocking chair faced the fire. It was easy to imagine a weary lighthouse keeper sitting in the chair, rocking back and forth as he stared into the glowing embers of the fire on a cold winter night.
The Haunted Rocking Chair
When the tour guide had finished talking, he gestured to the next room and the group slowly made their way out. Being the last person in the room, as I began to leave, I saw the old rocking chair tip forward slightly, roll backward, and then halt in a stationary position. My blood ran
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, a trip to Souter Lighthouse is highly recommended. You will enjoy an important part of Northern England’s maritime history that has been wonderfully preserved. If you do happen to see the spectral lighthouse keeper, remember to thank him for his hard work!