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West Point Lighthouse is a spooky place

Paranormal by Ivy Wigmore

Illustration by Matthew HaughnThe West Point lighthouse boasts a number of distinctions. The tallest lighthouse on PEI, it’s a designated heritage site became the first working lighthouse to operate as an inn in 1987. It may be best known for another claim to fame, though. In 2017, Google Street View identified West Point lighthouse as one of the 10 spookiest sites in Canada.

The square-built structure was part of the second generation of lighthouses erected post-confederation. These were mandated when it was determined that the eight lighthouses on our 224-kilometer island were inadequate to protect and guide those at sea along the 1,760 kilometers of jagged coast surrounding it. Construction started at West Point in 1875 and William Anderson MacDonald, the original keeper, assumed his duties in 1876 when he lit the lamp for the first time.

“Lighthouse Willie,” his wife Mariah and their family lived just a couple of miles away. Every year when the ice cleared, the whole family moved to the lighthouse. Two of Willie and Mariah’s eight children were born there. For fifty years, Willie polished the lamp’s prisms and lenses on a daily basis, never failing to perform his duties throughout the navigation season. Willie’s successor, Benjamin MacIsaac, retired in 1963 when the lighthouse operations were automated.

However, it seems that Willie’s dedication to the lighthouse didn’t end with his retirement or that of his successor, nor automation of his tasks or even his own death. The keeper has been sighted throughout the years by volunteers, staff members and visitors to the inn. He’s appeared in the tower, in the keeper’s quarters and even the more recently added guest rooms, as well as the shore and the grounds surrounding the inn. People have felt inexplicable cold spots and heard disembodied voices, sometimes in conversation; lights have been turned off and on by some invisible hand.

Willie’s great-granddaughter, Carole Livingstone, was part of a volunteer group that oversaw the restoration of the historic lighthouse and the augmentation that would make it sustainable for the future. The building now includes a restaurant, museum and gift shop, and the keeper’s quarters have been restored to the elegant décor of Willie’s days. Mariah’s organ again presides over the parlour, where long ago she and her daughters played hymns to entertain visitors.

In the early years, volunteers would sometimes look after the inn overnight. If there were no visitors already checked in, they would wait until 9 pm to accommodate any stragglers that might come along. If none arrived by that time, the volunteer would lock up and head home. Checking the lighthouse before she left one night, Ms. Livingstone glimpsed a bearded man standing by a window. When she looked back, he had disappeared and she dismissed the sighting. It gave her pause, though, when she heard reports of a light in that room turning on repeatedly after being turned off.

It’s a poignant and melancholy image, the stalwart old lighthouse keeper still patrolling the grounds through the busy summer at the shore and maybe desolate winter, with none to witness the light shining over the frozen harbour.

Ah, but he may not be alone. Staff and visitors have reported strains of organ music echoing through the inn with no one there to play it. Is Mariah at the keyboard?

After Google included the lighthouse in its Top 10 list, paranormal groups investigated the site. And although Willie has generally been friendly, it seems he found that a trifle invasive. After one group had left, a researcher found the door to the vacant keeper’s quarters had been locked. From the inside.

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