Friday, October 10, 2008

Southern Ghost Stories & Legends:The Ghost of St. Simons Island Lighthouse

First in a Series.....

There's something about lighthouses that make them popular focus points for many American ghost stories. Perhaps it is the way the interior stairwells often seem dark and foreboding, almost like the dungeons of ancient times, or their often isolated locations also could come into play. The other theory, of course, is that they really are haunted.

The St. Simons Island Lighthouse has stood on the Georgia coast since 1872 when it was constructed by the U.S. government to replace one destroyed during the Civil War. Only eight years later, however, a violent episode occurred here that is reverberated through the years and developed into one of the South’s most well-known ghost stories.

The lighthouse keeper at the time of the 1880 incident was Frederick Osborne. With an assistant, he kept the light operating 24-hours per day, seven days a week. With their families, they shared quarters in the adjacent lighthouse keeper’s house. Osborne lived on the ground floor while his assistant lived on the second. The two floors were connected by a central stairway. Whether the quarters were too close for comfort or whether the two men simply did not get along is not known, but for some reason they began to argue with each other.

The disagreements accelerated on a Sunday morning in March of 1880, only to tragically end with the death of Osborne who was shot to death on the lighthouse grounds. The assistant keeper, however, was later acquitted of the murdering Osborne, an indication that jurors felt he was justified in shooting his boss.

But there are some who say that Osborne’s death came so suddenly that he never stopped his nightly routine of inspecting the lighthouse. The families of later keepers and residents of St. Simons Island in general claim that strange footsteps can be heard echoing from inside the lighthouse at night, as if someone is walking up the spiral staircase to the top.

The St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The former keeper’s home now provides displays on local history and the lighthouse itself can be climbed. The railed walkway at the top provides a spectacular view of the Golden Isles and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.


Sources: Weird Georgia, St. Simons Island CVB

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