Sometimes lighthouses are the only lifeline for seafarers lost in the dark of night or the chaos of a violent storm.
However, they don’t always work as many sailors, captains, and passengers have died from coastal accidents, pirate attacks, or an inability to see the light. In addition, the lighthouse keeper’s job consists of isolation, fear, and uncertainty in the face of massive responsibility. It is for these reasons that many believe lighthouses are haunted. And it seems that Point Lookout Lighthouse is one of king of haunted lighthouses.
The lighthouse marks the entrance to the Potomac River at the southernmost tip of Maryland’s western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, south of the town of Scotland in Saint Mary’s County.
Maybe it’ll clear things up if we start from the beginning. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the fact that Maryland’s public lands have experienced more than their fair share of tragedy and unexplained phenomena is undisputable. And Point Lookout State Park, located at the southernmost tip of Maryland’s western shore, undoubtedly has one the most grisly history of any of the state’s parks.
Point Lookout sits on a peninsula at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Today its completely lovely panorama consists of pretty stretches of beach and dense stands of loblolly pine. However, while it seems hard to believe today, the land was once the site of the Civil War’s largest prison camp.
Point Lookout began as part of St. Michael’s Manor, one of three manors owned by Leonard Calvert, the first Governor of the Maryland colony. In the 200 years leading up to the Civil War, it became a popular summer destination scattered with beach cottages, a large wharf and the lighthouse, built in 1830. Sadly, with the advent of the Civil War, people’s attentions turned away from recreation, the area’s summer resort owners began to suffer financially, and the war itself completely transformed the point.
The U.S. Government, needing a hospital to house casualties of the Northern armies, leased the Point Lookout resort. Thus, Hammond General Hospital was built and received its first Union Army patients on August 1862. A couple of months later, early in 1863, the authorities ordered a small number of Confederate prisoners confined to the hospital grounds, most being Southern Marylanders accused of helping the Confederacy. Not long after the Battle of Gettysburg, the federal government expanded the hospital’s grounds and built a prison camp for Confederate soldiers.
Point Lookout was close to the battlefields yet isolated enough to make escape difficult, and the site became officially known as Camp Hoffman, a rebel camp capable of holding 10,000 prisoners of war. However, less than one year later, more than 20,000 prisoners crowded the camp, of whom between 3,000 and 8,000 died due to the harsh conditions, limited food rations and poor shelter from the elements.
The prison camp was also afflicted with disease due to overcrowding, and as a result, many believe that the souls of the lost soldiers and other victims have cursed the building and the surrounding area.
On January 11, 1966, the light was deactivated and the structures were turned over to the Navy. Civilians continued to live in the house until 1981, when a dispute over a failing well led to the revocation of a 99-year lease that the state had with the Navy.
In any case, ghosts and specters of varying ages, genders, and moods have been seen both at the top of the lighthouse and the infamous basement, with doors and windows open and close seemingly on their own. People have reported also hearing voices, footsteps, and loud snoring as well. Apparently, lighthouse visitors have experienced very chilly air in parts of the building, along with a rotten smell emanating from one particular room.
Several unexplained images have appeared also in photographs, the most well known being that of “The Ghost of Point Lookout,” taken during a séance in the lighthouse in the late 70s. In the photograph, Laura Berg, a former lighthouse resident, stands in the center holding a candle. To her left, the foggy form of a man in soldier garb with weapon, sash, one leg casually crossed over the other, appears to be leaning into the wall.
The lighthouse is currently closed, but is under renovation to become a museum. Volunteers of the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society also holds night time “paranormal investigations” to raise funds for preservation and restoration activities.
Images from web – Google Research