Lore and Legends from Christopher Klimovitz

One of my favorite buildings to visit on my travels are lighthouses. I have either visited or climbed lighthouses across the United Kingdom, Ireland, Israel, Romania, Latvia, Albania, Greece, France, Italy, and the United States. I grew up on the Delmarva/East Coast exploring old lights, but the West Coast has been a draw to me since I met my wife who is Oregonian.

But, why a lighthouse? I suppose, it’s that sense of tranquility, that feeling of being at the end of the world with where you serve as guardian of the coast. It’s that place where one must know thy self, for it’s you and the seas. Poseidon can give and take, and like the Venetians of centuries ago, you must go to these places with honor and reverence. It is your duty to protect lives, which paradoxically feeds and dispels the romance of it all.

If you haven’t watched The Lighthouse yet, I recommend you do so. Lighthouse keeping was a family affair where the best and worst of humanity was isolated, and isolation remains king. All lives on deck rotated around the light, pun intended. Is it no surprise that such darkness can live here where the light is brightest?

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse haunted

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse Legends and Ghosts

Morality tales are about a character or characters that must learn what is right and wrong or suffer the grave consequences. A teenage girl who enters a disused lighthouse is fodder for a tale about not venturing where you shouldn’t enter. A lamb to slaughter despite the juxtaposition of the lighthouse being a literal and metaphorical beacon of safety.

Yaquina Bay Light, just outside Newport, Oregon, sits on one of the most picturesque views of the Pacific. I visited this light in March 2022 and was absolutely captivated. Standing at 42-feet, Yaquina Bay Light was first lit in 1871, but only operated for three years because it was built in a place that was too dangerous for ships to find harbor. It was replaced by the nearby Yaqunia Head Light.

Yaquina Bay was briefly used again in the 1920s. By 1946, Yaquina Bay Light was set for demolition but was luckily saved by locals to preserve it in the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1996, the light has been automated and serves as Oregon’s final wooden lighthouse and second-oldest standing lighthouse. Tours are free and you can see many of the original objects that the keepers and their families used in their daily lives.

At the same time, a chill is said to grip Yaquina. In 1874, a teenager name Muriel Trevenard, daughter of a sailor, was dropped off at a Newport hotel while he was away. He left her his handkerchief and a warning to be careful while he was away. Muriel quickly made friends who decided on a lazy Sunday to explore the recently abandoned light. The gaggle of teens entered the light and looked about the kitchen and then the closets, only to find a secret hole that might have been used by smugglers. Uneased, the group left the closet and decided to climb the tower but noticed the fog rolling in. They all left the light in a hurry only for Muriel to realize that she left her father’s handkerchief somewhere in the light. Muriel was alone. Outside the light, the teens heard Muriel scream and went to get help in town. Muriel was never found, only bloodstains remained from the grizzly crime. Interestingly, neither did her father return to find her despite attempts to inform her of Muriel’s calamity.

Ever since then strange happenings have been reported at Yaquina Bay. There is a second ghost reported at Yaquina Bay - the ghost of captain Evan McClure who died when his ship foundered in the Devil’s Punchbowl in 1874 (which has its own monster legend to tell another time). Later, in 1920, a keeper named Higgins died at the light and some say his ghost is here, too. With this backdrop, and invoking the creativity of M.R. James, storyteller Lischen M. Miller, created Muriel and her Victorian ghost story in an 1899 edition for Pacific Monthly magazine. Miller’s work has survived into the present-day and serves as one of many examples of how a story can grow legs despite being created whole cloth. As for keeper Higgins, from my research, he didn’t serve at the light in 1920 and he died in Portland.

Ghost stories are as old as humanity itself, and serve as warnings and glimpses into the past, ever mutating into our present and future. While the Yaquina Bay Light stories aren’t true, they tell us a lot about what we fear and what it means to be at the edge of the world. Go visit Yaquina Bay Light yourself and embrace its storied history. Happy hauntings.

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