On the shores of the famously haunted Lake Superior sits a lighthouse, built of brick and concrete. Though the light was automated decades ago, hundreds still pass through its doors to stay the night. This month’s haunting is the Big Bay Point Lighthouse, which is the only operational lighthouse with a bed and breakfast. It’s also alleged to be home to five spirits. Let’s explore.
The Big Bay Light was built and first lit in 1896. The building was constructed of red brick and reinforced concrete. It sits on a rocky ledge over Lake Superior and its location was chosen due to the number of ships that had wrecked at Big Bay Point in the past. The tower of the light stands somewhere between 89 and 108 feet tall at the tallest point of the tower (sources vary). The quarters were originally set up as a duplex with several bedrooms, a kitchen, parlor, and dining room. The accommodations were suitable for two keepers to live at the light. The light was automated in 1941, which eliminated the need for keepers to stay at the light. In the early 1950s, the lighthouse and its surrounding acreage were leased to the US Army, and it was used to run drills and training. During this time, a high-profile murder occurred involving one of the soldiers, which you can read about here. After the Army pulled out of the area, the building was abandoned.
In 1961, a man named John Pick bought the property with the intention of turning it into his summer home. The building was incredibly deteriorated – most windows were broken, parts of the roof were missing, and much of the plaster had eroded. He spent 17 years effectively restoring the building and furnishing it with antiques. Unfortunately, by the time the building was livable, Pick was in his 80s and his health was failing. He ended up selling the property to a man named Dan Hitchens in 1979.
Hitchens, like Pick, began construction on the property in order to convert it to a bed and breakfast. Notably, he added more bedrooms, conference rooms, and bathrooms to the existing buildings. Hitchens sold the property to an investment group five years later. The heads of the investment group – Norman and Marilyn Gotschall – added onto the property further. They purchased more of the surrounding land and forged hiking trails. They also restored and reopened the auxiliary fog signal building on the property. The bed and breakfast officially opened in 1986. They sold the operation in 1992 to the current owners – John Gale, Linda Gamble, and Jeff Gamble. The trio are avid preservationists and hail from the Chicago area.
The number of deaths at the lighthouse is not known, one is heavily recorded and connected to one of the supposed spirits at the light. William Prior was the light’s first keeper. He left the assistant keeper in charge one day to visit his ill sister in Marquette. When he returned, he found that his assistant keeper had neglected his duties. Prior fired him for negligence and hired his son George (also known as Edward in some sources) to take his place. Unfortunately, this decision would lead to his son’s death in 1901 – George fell down some steps in the lighthouse. He was taken to a hospital in Marquette, where he died from his injuries two months after the accident. Apparently despondent and deeply depressed over the death of his son, William walked into the woods surrounding the lighthouse with a pistol. A year later, his skeleton was found hanging from a tree about a mile into the woods. While many believe he died by suicide, some believe there was foul play involved.
The spirit of William Prior is often seen in mirrors and is said to turn faucets on.
There have also been numerous reports of sailors on the land and in the lighthouse itself. The age or era of the uniforms have not been described, but it does not seem unlikely to me that there are lost souls in Lake Superior. Estimates show that more than 10,000 people have died in her waters, and 350 shipwrecks still lie on the lake floor. Who knows what lonely spirits have made their way from its depths and towards Big Bay Point’s light?
A more nebulous theory that has little proof is that the spirit of a murdered woman also haunts the light. As the story goes, she was lured to the light during its short period of abandonment in the 1950s and murdered. After nearly an hour of research, I cannot find any corroborating news or obituaries for this story, which leads me to believe that the spirit’s origin story is more legend than fact. The question, then, is why is this woman stuck at Big Bay Point?
Apart from these specific spirits, guests report phenomena that are not tied to specific spirits. Guests staying at the bed and breakfast have heard banging noises from an unknown location in the building. Guests have also reported hearing footsteps outside of their rooms at night, and scraping noises as if a door was opening nearby.