PEI

'Chills up your spine': Are old lighthouse keepers haunting West Point?

It's no surprise to some that the West Point lighthouse has made a list of Canada's Most Haunted Places.

'There have been some unusual things that have happened there, for sure'

It's no coincidence many of the spooky happenings at the West Point lighthouse revolve around the lights, Carol Livingstone says. (Submitted by Carol Livingstone)

Carol Livingstone has had her share of spine-chilling experiences at P.E.I.'s West Point lighthouse.

There was the time she saw — or thought she saw — a bearded man in the corner of a bedroom.

And who can explain the lights? She's seen and heard more than one story about them flicking mysteriously on and off.

That's why it's no surprise to Livingstone the West Point lighthouse has made a Reader's Digest list of Canada's Most Haunted Places.

"There have been some unusual things that have happened there, for sure," says Livingstone, affectionately known as Mrs. Lighthouse for her work with the P.E.I. Lighthouse Society over the decades.

'Old keepers come back'

Her mother's grandfather, Carol's great grandfather, was William Anderson MacDonald, the lighthouse keeper at West Point for 50 years.

"I think sometimes the old keepers come back and visit and see how we're keeping the light," she said.

The West Point lighthouse had two keepers in its history — William Anderson MacDonald, left, and Benjamin (Bennie) MacIsaac. (PEI Lighthouse Society)

The lighthouse was converted to an inn in 1987 by a group of volunteers in the community, under the West Point Development Corporation.

In the early days, volunteers would take turns staying over at the lighthouse when the manager and his wife had their days off. 

It kind of makes the chills run up your spine when something like that happens.- Carol Livingstone

If there was no one staying at the lighthouse, the volunteers would check the building and then head home.

"This particular evening, I'd gone up to the top and came back down and on the second floor there was a dwelling," Livingstone said.

The room was known as the keeper's quarters.  

"I thought I got a glimpse of something, a bearded man, over in the corner by the window on that floor," Livingstone said. 

"I thought, 'that's odd' and blinked again and didn't see anything the second time so I filed it as an unusual thing."

Bedroom light

When Livingstone told another of the volunteers, she had a similar story. 

"One evening when she was staying there, same thing, she went up to the top, checked everything out on the way down, locked the lighthouse door," Livingstone said.

"Lo and behold, she looked up and there was a light on in the bedroom, same bedroom that I thought I had seen something."

The West Point lighhouse was built in 1875. It was converted to an inn in the 1980s. (Submitted by Carol Livingstone)

The volunteer went back in the lighthouse and turned off the light. But as she got in her car, she looked up and the light was back.

"She decided if there was something in there that wanted it that bad, they could darn well have it," Livingstone said.

"Persistently through the years, that area seems to be a place where unusual things happen."

Inspired poem

Another time, a woman from the southern U.S. visiting in the early '90s told Livingstone "she felt called to one area."

She pointed to the same corner where the volunteer saw the light and Livingstone thought she saw the man.

"She sat down and she wrote a poem," Livingstone said. "She said she felt it was given to her."

The keeper's quarters include this room where Livingstone and others have reported unusual happenings. (PEI Lighthouse Society)

In the late 1980s, a group of board members were at the lighthouse in March looking at plans for a kitchen renovation. 

It was dark when they left and they carefully turned off the power, except for the switches that went to the light.

Livingstone said she had left the drawings in the kitchen, so she took a flashlight to go back and retrieve them.

As they were leaving, Livingstone said someone from the community rushed up to ask them for help looking for a man who had gone missing. The board members divided up to search the lighthouse and when they got to the kitchen, the lights were on.

"It wasn't 10 minutes we had shut everything off and I had to use a flashlight to get into the kitchen," Livingstone said.

"It kind of makes the chills run up your spine when something like that happens."

Lights on and off

Another time, Livingstone was working late in the manager's room. The lighthouse was now operating as an inn so she was staying the night.

She recalls there was a ceiling light and a light by the bed.  

"At quarter to twelve, the light by the bed, the bulb burned out I figured," she said.

She decided it was time to go to bed.

Livingstone doesn't have any photos of herself as a young girl as the lighthouse. Her family's house burned down in the 1950s — on a Friday the 13th. (Submitted by Carol Livingstone)

"About half past two, I woke up," she said. "The light over my bed had come back on."

"So there I was with something, somebody, somehow, that light that had turned itself out, had turned it back on and it worked for the rest of the season."

Livingstone says the incident gave her "the spooks."

"I didn't sleep well for the rest of that night."

She asked people with electrical experience about the light and no one could give an explanation.

'You don't want to know'

Livingstone suggests it's no coincidence that most of the events revolve around lights.

"What else? It's a lighthouse, and there were only two light keepers," she said.

Besides her great grandfather, the other lighthouse keeper was Benjamin MacIsaac, better known as Bennie. 

The West Point lighthouse as it appeared in 1890, a time when Livingstone's great grandfather was its keeper. (Library and Archives Canada)

"Bennie was a great fellow for telling stories," Livingstone said.

As a youngster, she and her friends would watch Bennie as he got the light going for the night, which usually took half an hour.

When they were leaving the light, they'd pass a room on the second floor and the door was always closed.

"Almost always someone would say, 'what's in there, Bennie?'" Livingstone said.

"And Bennie would say, 'you don't want to know,' and he'd hurry us out the door."

Livingstone doesn't have any photos of herself as a young girl at the lighthouse. Her family's house burned down in the 1950s — in November on a Friday the 13th.

Prefers 'visited' over 'haunted'

Still, she treasures her memories of the lighthouse keepers and their continuing presence at the West Point lighthouse.

She doesn't like to use the word "haunted." She prefers the word "visited."

"Perhaps visited by the old keepers, more than haunted because there has never been anything harmful," she said.

"I sometimes wonder if they're just keeping touch with us."

A woman from the southern U.S. visiting in the early '90s told Livingstone 'she felt called to one area' and then sat down and wrote this poem. (Submitted by Carol Livingstone)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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