This is the fifth entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas.
Concord Point Lighthouse
700 Concord Street
Havre de Grace, Maryland
Searching for ghosts among Victorian newspaper sometimes leads to serendipitous discoveries. While hunting ghosts in Georgia newspapers, I ran across this brief news item from Maryland.
The Fayetteville News
15 February 1889
Courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia
A Perfumed Ghost.
A ghost haunts the light-house at Havre de Grace, Md. The keeper of the light-house said, recently: “The head of the man, devil, woman, or whatever it was, appeared to rest against the wire frame around the lantern. The top of the head was covered in black, and the eyes and yellowish-looking inch or so of the forehead above them appeared set in a frame of black. Its eyes were as big as those of a cow, and sparkled just like two big diamonds. There was no expression about them as they moved and quivered in the lantern light.” He couldn’t look long at them, as they affected his eyes more than the bright steady flame of the lantern. Where the figure appeared, it left a strong odor of cologne. The place which generally smells of oil, was then filled with a perfume like a flower garden.
The Havre de Grace Lighthouse, as it was officially known, was constructed in 1827 by John Donohoo, who constructed a number of Chesapeake Bay lighthouses in the early 19th century. The light is situated at the point where the Susquehanna River enters the bay and was authorized by the Maryland General Assembly after numerous wrecks occurred at this point. For much of its history, the light was operated by members of the O’Neill family starting with the very first keeper, John O’Neill. The light was discontinued by the coast guard in 1975. The light has been restored and is currently operated as a museum.
This story from 1889 could be considered the first documented story of paranormal activity at the lighthouse. Several recent sources contend that activity remains at the site. Ed Okonowicz, who has venerably collected ghostlore from the Chesapeake region, notes that a number of locals walking near the lighthouse at night have seen a “slow-moving shadow in the upper windows of the light tower,” while a dark figure has been encountered near the memorial cannon at the tower’s base. Author Amelia Cotter includes the lighthouse in her book, Maryland Ghosts. Her account mentions that the body of a murder victim was discovered on lighthouse grounds in 1994. She believes that his spirit may remain here as well.
- Cotter, Amelia. Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, 2nd Haunted Road Media, 2015.
- Okonowicz, Ed. The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
- “A Perfumed Ghost.” Fayetteville News. 15 February 1889.
- Whittington, W.M. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Havre de Grace Light. 25 November 1975.