On a scenic basalt rock headland that juts into the Pacific Ocean stands a beautiful white lighthouse. At 28 meter tall, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located in Newport, Oregon, is the state’s tallest lighthouse and It’s been guiding ships for 145 years.
For over a century, ghost stories have swirled around the lighthouse, locally know as Oregon’s most famous haunted lighthouse.
It was built in 1871, and first lit on August 20, 1873. One tale tells of a construction worker helping to build the tower who fell to his death. His body lodged between the double walls, never to be retrieved. He (and his ghost) have been sealed in ever since.
(One of several) ghosts apart, commonly believed to be the oldest structure in Newport, it is the only remaining Oregon lighthouse with living quarters attached, and the only wooden Oregon lighthouse still standing.
The lighthouse is also the last place where young Muriel Trevenard was seen alive, in 1874.
Her father was an experienced seaman bound for Coos Bay, but the rough waters along Oregon’s coast had thrown his sloop off course as far north as the Columbia river bar. When the great ship sailed into Newport for fresh water, Trevenard expressed worry that his daughter was not as seaworthy as he hoped. His plan was to station her at a room in town, and come back for her on his return trip. The girl’s luggage was accordingly lowered and taken to the house of a local couple, who agreed to keep her until her father returned. As time wore on, a group of young people made friends with the girl, inviting her to their camp and to come along on their many excursions around the area. One Sunday, when the group was idly wondering what to do with their day, someone came up with an idea. There was a lighthouse on the hill, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which had been built in 1871 but only recently was decommissioned. Why not go take a look at the abandoned building?
Inside the lighthouse was a long hallway revealing a kitchen and pantry, storerooms, and a stairway leading upstairs. The group made their way past the second floor with its empty rooms to a third floor where a small closet stood across from a window. Inside were only shelves and drawers, but the closet was large enough to fit the entire group. One of the boys noticed that the wainscoting on the only empty wall in the closet was coming off, revealing a large metal panel on the other side. When pulled aside, they could see another closet with what appeared to be a hole at the farthest end. This invited some discussion and theories as to whether the secret hole was once used by smugglers, and there was a sense of uneasiness as the group left the closet and climbed the last set of steps to the lantern tower. A gray mist was moving in, so the children decided to left the lighthouse. Once outside, Muriel suddenly remembered she had left her handkerchief inside, and she back alone in the building.
But time went on, and Muriel was nowhere to be seen. Some in the group had not noticed her absence, until the air was pierced by a blood-curdling shriek. Once inside, in the second landing, the group found something frightening enough: a pool of warm blood, with shiny red droplets leading to the stairs up to the closet. Mustering their strength, they ventured further. In the closet lay Muriel’s handkerchief, stained with blood. The metal panel was closed, the wainscoting replaced, and nobody could get it open again.
The group ran from the lighthouse and summoned help and some men returned with lanterns, searched the house and the grounds, and even the surrounding hills. Alas, Muriel Trevenard was gone, and she never returned. Apparently, neither did her father.
In 1899, when this story was first published, the bloodstains could still be seen in the old lighthouse.
Although the article had been forgotten for years, the story took on a life of its own, and many sightings of the ghostly girl have been recorded over the past 121 years. Muriel is said to be trapped in the lighthouse, and has been seen looking out from the top of the light tower and from the windows of the living quarters.
Another ghost story associated with the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is about a whaling ship captain named Evan McClure, who was drowned when his ship crashed into nearby Devil’s Punchbowl during a raging storm in 1874. The old captain has been sighted many times at the base of the lighthouse, looking up to see the light that was supposed to have guided him to safety. Those who have saw Captain McClure say that he appears just as any living person would until he vanishes before their eyes. A variation of the story explains that the captain continued to follow the light of the lighthouse until his spirit became a part of it, and he then led many fellow sailors to safety.
Another story is that in the 1920s, Keeper Smith went into town and left Keeper Higgins in charge. But Higgins fell sick and asked Keeper Story to take over. When Smith saw from Newport that the lighthouse beacon wasn’t lit, he rushed back to find Higgins dead and Story drunk. Story, overtaken with guilt, feared the ghost of Higgins and from then on would take his bulldog up the tower with him.
Maybe a palusible tale, but unfortunately not supported by the facts that Story and Higgins didn’t serve at the same time at Yaquina Head and Higgins didn’t meet his demise in the lighthouse: Higgins left the service before 1920 and returned to live with his mother in Portland. Second Assistant Keeper did die of a heart attack in the watchroom atop the tower in March 1921, but he too served before the arrival of Frank Story.
In any case, there are a multitude of reports from lighthouse employees, locals and visitors of having seen either Muriel or Captain McClure throughout the course of the past century. Often, visitors to the lighthouse describe an eerie sensation and feel like they are being watched while inside the building, and some people have heard strange whispers. Still others have seen lights flickering on the second floor after dark. Is Muriel still there, along with the possible ghost of Evan McClure or a former keeper? Most of the docents at the lighthouse say no, but those sensitive to spirits answer with a resounding yes.
Today the original oil-powered light has given way to an automated first-order Fresnel lens and a 1,000-watt globe. It flashes with its own specific pattern: two seconds on, two off, two on, and 14 off and the pattern is repeated around the clock.
Visitors can still see a lot with a visit to Yaquina Head. Whether it’s grey whales at close range during their migration, or the sun setting over the ocean, they are always happy they stopped to take in both the scene and the history of this beautiful place.
Images from web – Google Research