Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Lonely Place To Die

Magnet # 368:  New London Ledge Lighthouse


Material:  Resin


Purchased By:  Me

There's no doubt that the New London Ledge lighthouse is one of the most unique of its kind.  With its red bricks and mansard roof, it almost more resembles a schoolhouse than a lighthouse.  It's also not attached to any land at all, simply rising up out of the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut on a concrete pier.  But that's not all this seemingly charming New England lighthouse is known for.  It's also said to be the eternal home to the ghost of its truly miserable keeper, "Ernie."  He took his life there in 1936, and many of those who have followed him to the isolated place still claim to have encounters with him.

The New London Ledge lighthouse was built in 1909, and was one of the last lighthouses constructed in New England.  For years, mariners and residents of the area had argued the need for a lighthouse that would guide ships on the Thames River and the harbor of New London in Long Island Sound.  One that was built onshore was unable to provide adequate assistance, so finally the Lighthouse Board intervened, detailing to Congress just how dangerous these waters were, particularly when filled with ships, and they relented.  Creating the support for the lighthouse was a difficult process, and involved creating a giant crib of timber, iron, and steel onshore.  Four tugboats had to drag the structure out a rather short distance over eight hours.  Once there, it was filled with concrete and other materials and sunk into place at the bottom of the river.  On top of this, a concrete pier was created that rose 18 feet above the water.  At last, the lighthouse itself was added.  It was made as attractive as possible to keep the nearby affluent residents happy, and therefore doesn't look much like a typical lighthouse.  One of the place's early keepers was John Randolph, who brought his young wife along with him.  There, she found life to be incredibly lonely and she began flirting with fishermen and sailors to overcome the isolation.  Finally, she'd had enough of her life there and ran away with the captain of the Block Island Ferry while her husband was away purchasing supplies.  When he returned home to find her gone, he was so overwhelmed with grief that he climbed to the roof, slit his throat, and plunged to his death.  His body was never found, but that is rumored to not have been the end of John Randolph.  How he was later given the name of Ernie, I don't know, but before long, others who traveled to the lighthouse were claiming to feel his presence there.  They blamed him for peculiar acts such as opening and closing doors, rearranging items in locked drawers, untucking sheets, and untying previously secured boats, setting them adrift.  However, he isn't entirely troublesome - he also apparently operates the light and washes the decks.  Oddly enough, only women and children are said to see him.  Eventually, the lighthouse came under the control of the United States Coast Guard and it was one of the last in the Long Island Sound to be automated.  On the final night before the switch, one keeper wrote in the log that the site was "a rock of slow torture," Hell on Earth," "Ernie's domain," and that he was through with it.  Now, Ernie has less company there, but some do come out there for maritime classes.  And the spot has become a popular place for paranormal investigators to visit.  In fact, an episode of Ghost Hunters was filmed there.  They only experienced minimal signs of paranormal activity, such as cold spots, and were unable to determine if it was truly haunted.  A Japanese reporter also spent the night there, and captured sounds of loud whispering noises.  If this place is truly haunted, it's a shame that this poor soul is still trapped at the place of his abandonment and despair in life.  But as long as New London Ledge lighthouse stands in Long Island Sound, it seems as though Ernie will continue to keep his post there.

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