Rumors have always swirled that Split Rock Lighthouse was haunted by past lighthouse keepers and their families. Many ghost stories surround Split Rock Lighthouse and the surrounding State Park. Have you ever had a ghostly encounter while visiting? As it turns out, I have!
The Happy Spirits of Split Rock Lighthouse
While no one met an untimely end to their life on the grounds of Split Rock Lighthouse, one life was lost in the sinking of the Madeira. This is what sparked the construction of the Lighthouse on Split Rock Point. While the lighthouse had a dark beginning, it was generally known as a happy place.
Also, back when it was an active lighthouse guiding vessels along Lake Superior, it was a place where many dedicated a large chunk of their life. The keepers and their families retain many happy memories. It’s not a stretch to believe that, upon their death, their spirits chose to return. That they continue watching over the Big Lake after passing on.
The Lighthouse Keeper and the Wallet
A few ghost stories are more well-known. However, as is common with stories past down, they’ve changed a bit over time.
The one I recall best from my childhood was one of a visitor who lost his wallet on the grounds.
In one version of the story, the man encountered what he believed to be an employee. This employee was dressed as a lightkeeper and was standing on the stairs to the lighthouse. The employee handed him his wallet and then the man went on his way. The next day, he returned to the visitor’s center to thank the employee for finding his wallet. It was then he learned that there had been no employee in costume at the lighthouse that day. Especially no one there after hours.
In another version of the story, the visitor returned but found the gates locked and couldn’t access the lighthouse grounds. He glanced up at the lighthouse and saw a man in a lightkeeper’s outfit standing on the catwalk of the lighthouse. The man was staring out at the lake. The visitor attempted to get his attention but the man on the lighthouse didn’t respond. When the visitor returned to retrieve his wallet the following day, he was informed that there was no way there would have been anyone on the catwalk at that time. Whichever version of the story you hear, they both suggest the same thing: Split Rock is haunted by the spirit of a former lighthouse keeper.
My Connection to Split Rock Lighthouse
Growing up on Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse has always held a special place in my heart. My mom started working as an interpreter and tour guide at the lighthouse when I was 10. Because of that, I would often visit the lighthouse and I remember it had an almost otherworldly feel to it. Like the spirits of those who once dedicated their lives to caring for the light still remained.
Of course, there were always ghost stories and rumors told around town that the lighthouse was haunted. Whether many of them are true or not, I cannot say. But those stories were fresh in my mind when I was about 12 and my brother and I went to babysit for the family who lived in the assistant keeper’s home.
My Ghost Story… Sort Of
This home, not open to the public, houses the present-day site manager. It’s been modernized but some of the historic elements of the home remain, and, of course, the lighthouse looms in the darkness outside.
It was about 9 PM and I was walking from the kitchen into the living room when I saw a figure outside of the window. I froze and then backed away slowly back into the kitchen, unsure if the figure was a lost tourist or, perhaps, the spirit of Head Keeper Pete Young or one of his assistants. Cautiously, my brother and I peered around the corner to see if the figure was still there. It was.
While debating if we should call the police or just call the parents, we began to realize that it was odd that the figure wasn’t moving. Be it a tourist or a spirit, you’d expect it to move, correct? With caution, we slowly approached the window and peered out, unsure of what we were about to see peering back at us in the darkness…
It was a snowman. Built by the kids after a winter snowstorm a few days prior.
We had a good laugh, and I have a fun story of the lighthouse to share of the day we were haunted at the lighthouse by… a snowman. Wearing a hat.
Other Ghost Stories
Other stories include people suddenly smelling women’s perfume or the strong smell of diesel fuel in the keeper’s homes. This home is open for tours during business hours. Employees have also claimed that items on display in the bedrooms of the keeper’s home have inexplicably been moved from one table to another as if someone was tidying up. Many believe these things to be done as the result of Pete Young, the original lighthouse keeper. Or, perhaps, his wife Florence, still wandering around the grounds.
Listen to the 2019 edition of the Haunted North Shore Guide on the Exploring the North Shore podcast: