The Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters
It was a longtime desire to spend a weekend at the lighthouse keeper’s quarters. Although the nearby lighthouse still served the coast as a functional light, it is fully automated now. It has been for decades. Three old houses stand a few hundred yards from the lighthouse. The grand, white, two story structure with four fireplaces and eleven rooms served as the lighthouse keeper and assistant lighthouse keeper’s quarters. The grounds keeper’s quarters is much smaller and sits about ninety feet away. The smallest house is more like a cottage and was supposedly built by one of the light keeper’s for his wife’s mother and father in 1890.
The sinister legend or myth about the lighthouse properties started with this small, unassuming looking house that sat on the outside edge of the grass knoll on which all of the homes had been constructed. For some reason, it sits farther from the light keeper’s house than all other buildings except for a fairly elaborate tool shed. Maybe the light keeper didn’t like his in-laws. Maybe it was because it was close to the garden, or maybe it was just the best piece of ground to build the little three room abode.
The owners who manage the lighthouse properties and grounds provide a small booklet covering the history of the lighthouse as well as some of the lighthouse keepers who lived in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters. Included in the booklet were excerpts from several diary pages. One of the stories discussed the unusual events at the “in-law cottage”one October in 1893. I found the story particularly interesting since we were spending the weekend at the original light keeper’s house in October 1993, one hundred years later.
As the story goes, the light keeper’s wife was startled awake late one night by what she recorded in her diary as a horrifying sound “much like that of a pig being slaughtered by a ravenous wolf.” She added it was followed by a loud crack which reminded her of a gun shot. She jumped from bed and looked out the nearest bedroom window which happened to face the small house where her parents were living. She wrote in the diary seeing a lamp burning in the house suddenly snuffed out and then seeing, “the shadows of three very large creatures through a light fog near the tool shed.” She turned and hollered downstairs to her husband. When she looked outside again, the shadows had disappeared.
Eventually the light keeper made his way upstairs to bed. Despite his wife’s concern for something she saw in the fog, he had been waiting on a signal from the assistant lighthouse keeper that he had arrived at the light and all was well. At 11:01 pm the assistant lighthouse keeper’s lantern could be seen swinging back and forth from the top of the lighthouse signaling all was well. He wrote in his diary he saw the lantern about fifteen minutes after his wife had beckoned him.
When he shuffled into the bedroom he noted his wife was sleeping but mumbling something he couldn’t understand. He parted the curtains and glanced out towards the small house. It was now barely visible, “being engulfed in a fog encroaching from the trees beyond the property.” He also wrote seeing, “shadows moving through the fog from north to south in front of the tool barn.” He clarified that he thought the shadowy figures were most likely elk from the forest herd.
He wrote that he laid in bed restless, not because of the fog or the sound his wife claimed to hear, but because they were expecting visitors the next day from the government. A regular visit to see that things were being kept in order. During the time he laid there staring at the ceiling, he must have noticed the fog drifting past their window along with a shadowy effect of some kind that he said moved from the east window across the ceiling to the north window and was gone. He briefly mentioned it in his morning diary entry, then added, “the elk must have been in his yard eating the black gooseberries.”
Sometime after the morning household chores and before he needed to relieve the assistant light keeper, his wife came to him alarmed. She reported her mother and father were nowhere to be found and the carriage and horse were gone. The door of the small barn was left open and unfortunately the mule was also nowhere to be found.
He explained to her they had probably gotten up early and made the six mile trip to town. They’d managed not to close the barn door so the mule was out wandering around somewhere but wouldn’t be far away. He then wrote he instructed the grounds keeper to spend some time looking for the mule.
After that, the day went from bad to worse. The grounds keeper had found the mule dead, tangled in the brush behind the tool shed with, “it’s head twisted around backward”. The grounds keeper had made the trek to the lighthouse to dispense the bad news around 2:00 pm, according to his diary. To which he added the light keeper, “shook his head and said they’d throw the animal in the sea before dark.”
By 5:00 pm the in-laws were still not home. The sun was getting low on the horizon. They had just rolled the old mule, “with it’s head barely attached”, down the steep southern slope. The grounds keeper also wrote, “he was sloshing around grotesquely in the tide below.”
It was at this time the light keeper and his wife and the grounds keeper decided to go into the little cottage to look around. Just inside the front door was mud. Everywhere. The floor was covered in mud, still partially wet. Also there was, “a terrible stench like something had died and was rotting.” Two sets of footprints led across the room into the bedroom. No one was in the bedroom though. There was mud on the window sill. The in-laws had left the little cottage through the window. Something had scared them bad enough they ran from their front door and crawled out a window.
The barn with the carriage was forty feet from the bedroom window. The grounds keeper’s house was over ninety feet away so they must have taken refuge in the small barn. Then at some point, for some reason, they fled the property in the carriage. They were nowhere to be found and wherever they went they had yet to return. Before leaving the house, the light keeper’s distraught wife noticed a hand like print smudged above the door. They also noticed what they thought was, “a dark red blood splatter” on the ceiling above the doorway. The light keeper mentioned in his diary, “It looked like pigs had wallowed inside the front door and the old guy took a shot at whatever it was.”
The light keeper asked the grounds keeper if he had seen or heard anything to which he said, “I slept soundly through the night, except briefly when I thought I heard an elk bugle nearby.”
There were no more diary entries for a few days then, “The horse returned with the carriage, but in-laws were not with it. They have not been seen in town either. Maybe they went back to Portland. We’ve not heard anything from them. Wherever they are, they obviously are not coming back, although they left behind a great deal of belongings. -JR Fuller, Light Keeper.”
Then the next evening from the light keeper’s wife, “I assume my mother and father are back in Portland. I have stowed their belongings in the upstairs bedroom for now. While collecting their belongings in the cottage yesterday, I had to open all windows and leave the door open. The stench is still overwhelming. Whatever was in the cottage was not human. It was not pig, nor was it elk regardless of what my husband and grounds keeper think. There was a menace here and I still feel it looking at us from deep within the trees. I’m terrified. I pray my parents are okay.”
For the next several days, most of the diary entries are those typical of operating the lighthouse, “John allowed light oil in primary can to drop below half. Will remind him to watch more closely. -JR”
“Beautiful clear day, can see for miles across the ocean. -John Slade, Assist Keeper”
“John and I polished glass for six hours this morning. -JR”
“Painted and repaired carriage wheels, several spokes cracked. -Cal Steele, Grounds Keeper”
“Picked blackberries for preserves early this morning. Reedgrass wet with morning dew. Did not venture past the property edge. -Janie Fuller”
Then one entry from John Slade dated, “1893 10 October. Saw a large creature walking the outside perimeter by the road to town whilst wiping down the handholds around the gallery atop the lighthouse. The animal was on four legs but it stood when it went into the trees. I call it a creature, perhaps it was a bear. I’ve never in my life seen a wild bear here. It’s going to make me anxious walking to work tonight. I will walk back here well armed.”
The next day an entry from Janie Fuller, “Early this morning a small deer was snatched from in front of the tool shed by a large animal which was certainly not a bear. It was a hideous creature which dispatched the deer quickly with a large stick. JR and Cal went armed to the area. They reported a large amount of blood sprayed across the shed wall. JR has ordered John to begin his shift at the lighthouse today before dark, armed with the shotgun and spend the night in the oil house with the door barred until they could determine if a dangerous bear was prowling about. I assured JR it was no bear. Bears do not swing sticks. He looked at me perplexed.”
The diary entries pretty much ended there but the story continued, explaining that John Slade moved south to a North California lighthouse two weeks later. The Fuller’s also moved south, all the way to San Diego, California a week after Slade had moved. JR Fuller and John Slade were replaced without problem by a lighthouse keeper and assistant lighthouse keeper from the Great Lakes area. JR Fuller did not leave his post until the new crew had moved in. For one week he and Cal Steele, who acted temporarily as an assistant light keeper, carried on the lighthouse duties.
Cal Steele stayed another year after JR Fuller left and wrote one final diary entry about his post, “What I saw last night at the edge of the trees was no bear or elk. Large creatures glared at me. Was it the dreaded ‘Lycan’ of mythology and lore passed down by local native people? Bloodthirsty wolf like, ape creatures that roam the night, killing. I believed the happenings over the past year to be nothing but wildlife, elk and bear. Now, I believe I have been wrong. I clearly saw evil creatures staring back at me. I slept with the doors and windows locked and the shotgun in my lap as I listened to them rap on the side of my house and click their long nails on my windows. God help the next crew to work this light and the grounds around it.”
Two days later, Cal Steele moved inland to Denver, Colorado. Apparently, he never said anything about the incident to the new grounds keeper.
I put the booklet down and glanced over at my wife. She was reading by the window. The old Light Keeper’s Quarters have been wonderfully restored and was well lit with modern lighting. We had the big house to ourselves so far this weekend so we chose to stay in the big bedroom upstairs. We had been relaxing by the fire, reading for quite awhile.
I got up from the big comfortable antique chair, crossed the old creaky wood floor to the front door and made sure it was locked. I looked out the living room window. A white Ford Explorer was parked in front of the Grounds Keeper’s house. We had a neighbor and at 11:00 pm their lights were still on.
I went into the kitchen. Out the window facing west, the top half of the majestic old lighthouse was visible. The automated light pulsed it’s assigned sequence so nearby ships recognized where and how far from the coast they were. The bushes to the south were moving briskly in the breeze. Looking out the living room window again, the outside lights were now on at the Grounds Keeper’s House so I turned ours on. Immediately, I saw movement.
Something ran into the trees about thirty yards away. The animal was moving directly away from the house. Probably a deer, but a big deer. The porch light must have scared it. My wife was still reading. I told her, “I’m going to bed. Leave the kitchen light on. I’d hate to fall down the stairs in the middle of the night.”
“Yep, I’m coming up too”, she yawned. So we left the light on and climbed the creaky, beautiful old stairs to the upstairs bedroom.
The house was full of history. Almost one hundred and fifty years old and full of charm. And at close to midnight, it was making noises. Just the kind of noises old wooden houses make as they settle in for the night but unsettling type noises. Spooky noises.
The reflection of the lighthouse light pulsing, traveled through some of the upstairs windows, down the hall and into our room. I opened a window to let the cool ocean breeze in. The upstairs bedroom fireplace which we had lit earlier was glowing and the fresh air gave it life and it flamed up again.
The bed was cold but had a luxurious new mattress covered with soft cotton sheets and a colorful, handmade looking quilt. We turned the night stand lights off leaving the room glowing from the fire in the fireplace. The downstairs kitchen light was softly filtering upstairs to the outside hallway. I turned over. My wife was already asleep. I closed my eyes listening to the fire crackle and the old house settle.
At 2:00 am I was awakened by a dog barking. A big dog. The people staying in the grounds keeper’s house must have brought a dog. The dog was persistent. The barking muffled, he was inside their house for sure. I got up and looked out the window toward the house just as a couple of lights came on. There was movement by their car. Something was there. Something that wasn’t running away. It was in the shadows. I couldn’t see it clearly. But for sure it wasn’t running, it seemed to be looking at the house, listening to the dog.
Surely, my eyes were playing tricks on me. The old story and diary pages were messing with me. I looked at my wife and she was asleep. I looked back to the neighbors car and whatever had been there, was gone. The dog stopped barking and the neighbor stepped out the front door with a black collie dog on a leash. I thought about hollering at him, “Get back inside, get back inside,” but I didn’t. Then after what felt like too long, he and the dog calmly turned and went back inside. All the lights went back off except one.
I laid back down. Trying to be rational, I was just about asleep when a stench began drifting through the window. I heard scratching and clicking like sharp nails on stone coming from the south side of the house. I quietly got out of bed and moved to the empty bedroom across the hall. I looked out the window and saw three shadowy forms, one on all fours and two standing but stooped over. They appeared to be digging where the clearing ended, just inside the trees. A light fog had drifted in and it was hard to make out was happening. But one thing was certain, I wasn’t looking at a bear or elk. One of them turned to the house as if it were looking right at me. It’s eyes seemed to glow red or reflect red in whatever dim lighting was coming from the grounds keeper’s house.
Then, it turned back and continued with the others to rip at the ground and dig at the earth. The fog was getting denser. It was harder to see the disturbing commotion less than fifty feet from the house. But I could hear them. They were grunting and huffing and making a sound reminiscent of slurping. Were they eating something? The hair on my arms stood up.
A cold chill was suddenly upon me as I realized I was no longer in the empty bedroom alone. In the dark room, a form was standing at the other window to my right. “Did you see those animals out by trees?” It was my wife. I was breathing hard. I was terrified.
“I did, I panted. I think they’re gone. Let’s go back to bed.” But they were not gone. They were just obscured by the dense fog. Surprisingly, she seemed more intrigued than scared.
As we crossed the hall, I heard a scratching, clicking type sound, like something was tapping on a downstairs window. The big dog started barking again next door. We went into our bedroom, shut the door and stoked the fire, adding another log. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep until the early morning sun filtered into the bedroom window.
I smelled coffee downstairs. My wife was already making coffee. Despite the cool ocean breeze coming through the window, my hair and pillow was soaked with sweat. I ambled down the beautiful creaky stairs as she was pouring me a cup of fresh brewed Pacific Northwest blend. Out the kitchen window the proprietors of the on property gift shop were standing over by the trees pointing at the ground and shaking their heads. One of them had a shovel.
I walked out the front door and across the damp lawn to where they stood. “It’s a mess here, the woman warned as I got near. Happens, couple times a year. Deer, torn apart. All that’s left are legs and it’s head. I apologize you had to see this. Cougar or a bear I guess. I’ll call the Sheriff and Forest Service. They’ll send someone out.”
Amazingly, there wasn’t nearly as much blood as I expected. “It wasn’t a bear or cougar”, I told her.
“What do you mean?’’
“We watched them. They stood on two legs.”
“The myth about Sasquatch is highly exaggerated”, she said with a half smile.
“Sasquatch never crossed my mind ”, I told her, taking my last drink of coffee.
“I understand. You saw some ‘thing’, huh? Read the booklet? The October account about Janie Fuller and her parents? You know a year after the Fullers and the others left, a hunting posse was called out to track what the new light keeper referred to as a large rouge wolf. And they killed one. Was seven foot long from nose to tail. The biggest and only wolf ever taken in this part of the state. What we have here is probably a couple of cougars. Which means we’re going to have to close the vacation homes for awhile. Least ’til they’re trapped and moved out. What a shame.”
“Yes it is, I answered. This is a beautiful place.”
I stepped briskly back into the house and into the kitchen. My wife was drinking coffee. “How about we pack up go on to the big civilized city of Astoria?”I asked.
“More than ready”, she nodded.
I’m not sure what we saw or what happened that night. But, whatever creatures visited the lighthouse properties in 1893, are still there, I’m sure of it.
A few weeks later, the local newspaper reported that three cougars were trapped and moved to Montana. Maybe so. But we didn’t see any cougars.
Hundreds of people have stayed at the property without an encounter. Local people always have an answer. After all, no one has been killed that they know of.