Haunted Maine Lighthouses Illuminates Storied History

By Lura Jackson

 

If you’re lucky enough to live on the coast of Maine, chances are good that you’ve visited one of its many lighthouses. Lighthouses have long held a particular appeal as historic sites as well as profoundly sentimental structures – an association that is no doubt related to their role of literally shining a light into the darkness to keep seafaring travelers safe.

In her newest book, Haunted Maine Lighthouses, Portland-based author Taryn Plumb explores the lighthouses of the Maine coast and their histories through primary and secondary materials. True to its name, the book focuses in part on the “haunted” elements of the particular lighthouses she examines – but for those with more of an historical interest, there’s plenty of substance to appreciate.

One chapter details the story of Matinicus Rock Light, located on a bare island 18 miles south of mid-coastal Maine. Built in the 1820s, the lighthouse became the charge of Samuel Burgess who moved to the rock with his family, including 14-year-old Abbie. When Samuel would leave time and again, it was young Abbie that kept the light going and kept the family fed despite the brutal storm conditions that would befall the island and the incredibly sparse provisions with which they were left.

After tending to the light for almost four decades, Abbie died in 1892 at the age of 52. Her final thoughts, recorded in her journal before she died, are captured in the following passage by Plumb: “‘It has always seemed to me that the light was part of myself,’ she said, describing how she would watch it most of the night, unable to sleep and plagued by the what-ifs should it be snuffed out. ‘These old lamps on Matinicus Rock… I often dream of them. When I dream of them it always seems to me that I have been away a long while, and I am hurrying to the Rock to light the lamp before sunset…’”

Abbie’s connection with the lighthouse persisted throughout her life – and, if you’re one to believe the legends provided in Plumb’s account, well beyond. Either way, the book offers an enjoyable read about some of Maine’s most notable and unusual structures and the individuals that became inextricably attached to them.

 

Haunted Maine Lighthouses, published by Down East Books, is available now from online retailers or by ordering locally.