Eerie hauntings surround the story of the Pensacola Lighthouse to this day

Published 7:42 pm Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Previously, we talked about the building and placement of the Pensacola Lighthouse. We discovered it has survived the Civil War, the Charleston earthquake, being hit by lightning several times and we can’t forget all of the hurricanes which came its way. Therefore, with all of this brawn and muscle, it is easy to see why lighthouse keepers, both the living and the dead, found it a comforting place to be. Pensacola lighthouse is believed to be home to several ghosts, but two in particular stand out among them, and they are Jeremiah and Michaela Ingraham.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in August 1826 when the first keeper, Jeremiah Ingraham and his young bride, Michaela, moved into the lighthouse. After being at the lighthouse for a while, Michaela grew to love it. She enjoyed being the keeper’s wife and wanted to learn everything about the job of being a proper lighthouse keeper’s wife. She eagerly helped Jeremiah with the cleaning of the lenses and the maintenance of the tower. She stood by her husband everyday absorbing what he did in tending the most important equipment, the light. The oil used to power the light made the lenses dirty and smoky. She polished and shined them to perfection.

Michaela also kept the tower itself white-glove clean. Everyone admired her and she was thought of as truly a good wife. However, hind sight is so perfect, and when one looks back, certain aspects of the couple’s life jump out. In analyzing, it seems that she cared a little too much for the lighthouse, even to the extent that she preferred it over her husband on the scale of affection. Michaela often pressured her husband into being cleaner when it came to the maintenance of the light. The couple disagreed with many procedures. Michaela wanted to change things to make them more to her liking. However, Jeremiah was the keeper, and she his wife.

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No one saw much of the couple together. Jeremiah would come to town for supplies, usually alone. Then, in 1840, Jeremiah died. No one knew exactly when or how this happened. Some believed he simply became ill. However, there were those who believed he passed from this life in a more sinister way. They thought that Michaela murdered him.

After all, they were alone in the tower most of the time. Jeremiah had mentioned some very strong arguments over the tower. After investigating, it was believed that Michaela became enraged with her husband during one of their frequent arguments. She grabbed a large butcher knife and pushed the blade deep into her husband’s chest. As a consequence, a large blood stain was left on the pine floor of this room. Also, a blood trail was seen going into several of the other rooms.

This is an intriguing theory, especially considering the fact that after her husband’s death, Michaela took over as keeper and was the keeper until 1855. Michaela said that it was an intruder. That she was frightened and hid. She felt that Jeremiah could handle the situation.

While not all believe that the keeper’s death was murder, many people have experienced unusual happening at the tower. They suggest a decidedly unhappy presence. Stories of the ghost of the Pensacola Lighthouse tell of objects being thrown at the guests who stay in the keeper’s quarters. One workman even described having a water hose yanked from his grip.

In modern times, when the lighthouse was being redone, the many layers of tile were removed down to the original wooden floors. A large stain that looked like blood was discovered in one room and so was the legendary blood trail. No amount of scrubbing removed the stain. When tested, it was blood. For those who had always suspected Michaela Ingraham murdered her husband, this was evidence enough.

New keepers and their families were coming to live at the lighthouse right up until the light was automated in 1965. Most were glad to leave because they never felt they were entirely alone. There always seemed to be some unseen presence. They heard footsteps on the tower stairs when they were supposedly alone in the building. They heard voices calling to them apparently from nowhere and at times the very walls seemed to be speaking.

The origin of laughter that is so loud it rattles the windows in the lighthouse is shrouded in mystery. Doors slam on their own. The unmistakable smell of pipe tobacco floats gently upstairs where no one is smoking.

Footsteps have been heard ascending the staircase and a glowing ghost-like form has been spotted in the top window.

Others point to the fact that at Pensacola Lighthouse, there is no need for air conditioning, even on the most oppressive days. The air in the lighthouse stays at a bone-chilling temperature. Visitors say that they feel a cold, invisible force moving through the tower, inching its way through the cracks and sliding up to them as they make their way up the winding steps to the tower.

Emmett Hatten, who as a child lived with his parents in the lighthouse when his father was keeper in the 1930s and 1940s, said he often heard the sound of human breathing in the lantern room. He said it definitely wasn’t the wind.

Hatten also occasionally heard footsteps on the stairs leading to the lantern room. He would call out to the ghost but no answer ever came.

No one knows for sure how many or who the ghost(s) are. Some think its Michaela who could not leave her beloved lighthouse. Others say it’s Jeremiah, who will not surrender the light to his wife.

There is another theory out there as to the hauntings. Some believe that the lighthouse would have been haunted anyway, without the murder. Using astronomy charts, Pensacola lighthouse is situated in a vortex or doorway, which is a link between the world of our daily life and another place where lighthouse keepers from all over who have lost their lives during storms now reside, sort of like the Bermuda Triangle. These ghosts come through the doorway and gather to socialize.

Now the Coast Guard is in charge of the tower. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.