August 7 is National Lighthouse Day

Aug 7 2019, 11:04 am

A short story to entertain you on National Lighthouse day

Haunted Lighthouse

From William Samuels’ Journal. 

Written on a plane headed to Kansas City.

     I love lighthouses. I grew up a block from the St. Augustine, Florida lighthouse. As a kid the grounds, with its old oaks were my playground. The light and the keeper’s house were basically abandoned after the Coast Guard automated the light.

     I’m not admitting to anything but…entering the structure was—cough—hypothetically possible. Hypothetically, I spent some rainy afternoons in the keeper’s house with a girlfriend or two, making out. Occasionally, of an evening, Clay, my best friend in high school, and I would entice our dates to climb in a window and go into the light. Not up to the top, just stay at the bottom where it was nice and private. I’ve only been to the top a handful of times. Not because it’s 219 steps to the top, but up past the first 50 or so steps I got a queasy, dizzy feeling. Like vertigo. Pretty sure it’s because of the heavy smoke smell permeating the walls. Accumulated from years of cigar and pipe smoking keepers. I also hear phantom footsteps that kept my feet firmly on the ground. One of the times I did go to the top was with a girl. While we were up there she clocked my hard enough to cause a bloody nose. Why? She said I tried to push her over the iron stair railing. I didn’t lay a hand on her and I was pretty mad she said I did something like that.

     Anyhow, that’s how I got started with lighthouses.

     I went away to journalism school at the University of Missouri and believe it or not there aren’t any lights there. I was so used to the beam from the St. Augustine light sweeping past my window every minute and a half I had trouble sleeping. I tried setting a timer on a lamp to mimic the light. Roomie put an end to that real quick.

   After graduation I worked for a couple of small newspapers and freelanced. I could see the internet was killing print media and in my spare time—which had become more than my working time—I began to write the great American novel. Quickly learned I’m no Stephen King. Writing is hard. One night at the corner pub I was telling a friend my sad tale of woe and he gave me the name of a client of his looking for a ghost writer. Well, hell. I gave it a try and found out I could do it and do it well. I live comfortably off my earnings. So do two ex-wives.

     I recently traveled to Michigan to work with a client on his auto-biography. Before taking on a gig I visit a client to gage the tempo of their speech and get a feel for where they live. This makes the ghost writing easier. The client spent his childhood on the upper-peninsula, or thumb, as the locals call it. A nice guy, nothing earth shaking in his life. Some interesting stuff, like his grandfather came to Michigan from Boston on an orphan train. We bonded big time when he tells me about a nearby haunted lighthouse where he and his friends hung out. I’ll be honest, I never thought about lighthouses in Michigan. But, get this, Michigan has more than any other state. The rocky shores on four great lakes have a hundred and twenty. Florida has thirty. Yeah. We shared a few lighthouse stories and a lot of damn good whisky.

     Contract signed and my business concluded, on a whim, I drove my rental to a few of the Michigan lights. At each I was greeted by enthusiastic volunteers who treated me to the stats, stories and secrets of their wards. These bastions are pretty damn amazing. Most, built in the late nineteenth century on inhospitable rocky islands and desolate land, are pounded year round with treacherous weather. Yet, they’re still standing.  Gotta tip my hat to those who built the towers without the heavy equipment we have today.  One thing they had in common with the St Augustine light, they smell of cigar and pipe smoke. I mentioned this to the woman—an aging hippie type—showing me around. She stopped dead in her tracks and put her hand to her throat, breathing hard. Eyes big as Oreos. Thought she was having an attack and was reaching for my phone to call 911 when she told me, in a halting whisper only special people could smell the smoke.

   Alrighty then.   Said my good-bys and beat feet it out of there.

   I made my way to the next Light where a great guy and his wife show me around. At the top of the light the lady, in a hushed voice, says, “The windows are clean.” I thought she was responsible and asking for an atta girl so I told her she did a good job. Although I wasn’t sure how she’d managed to do the outside. The Mrs. politely informs me she didn’t clean the windows, the ghost did.   Okay.

   Moving on, I mention it’s too bad the smoke smell can’t be removed by cleaning. The couple give me a hard look. The Mr. chimes in that not everyone can smell the smoke from the light keeper’s cigars. As if I’ve given them a secret handshake into a paranormal club, tales of haunted lighthouses around the country pour from them. Strange lights, music playing, cries of women and sailors, heavy footsteps on the stairs. Cleaning ghosts, like the one here, who clean light windows and brass. Specters of women in flowing white gowns and men in pea coats.      

     On the ground, outside and after the hairs on my body returned to their proper positions I was slapped alongside the head with a book idea. Thoughts swirled in my mind and I wasn’t able to think of anything else. I’ve heard writers speak of getting ideas this way but this is a first time experience for me. I’m excited. Excited about writing for myself. I can hardly sit still. The woman in the seat next to me keeps giving me funny looks. I gave her a big smile and tell her I’m going to write a damn good book about a haunted lighthouse.

 

     I’m Rita and this is my blog.

 

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