The Paranormal at Home: Hauntings in 50 States – Maryland’s Point Lookout Lighthouse

Please click here if you would like to read the first article in the series.

Lighthouses are often appreciated for their historic and aesthetic value, however some have drawn even more attention because of their potential value as a paranormal hot spot. Each has its own unique story to tell after years of guiding ships away from certain death. The Point Lookout Lighthouse is especially intriguing because it not only served as a landmark for seafarers, but also was located near a historic prisoner of war camp with a notorious reputation.

Haunted Maryland: Point Lookout Lighthouse

The Federal Government decided that a lighthouse should be constructed along the southernmost tip of St. Mary’s county in 1825. This beacon would illuminate the entrance of the Potomac River and keep vessels away from the unnavigable shoals in the nearby water.

Point Lookout Lighthouse was lit for the first time on September 20th, 1830. The original keeper, James Davis, would die mere months after taking his oath of office. His daughter Ann picked up the mantel and to serve as keeper until 1847. There is some disagreement on the web about whether Ann was actually the wife or daughter of James. The Point Lookout Lighthouse website puts this argument to rest here, proving that she was likely his daughter and not his widow.

The onset of the Civil War completely changed many areas in the nation, including Point Lookout. The Hammond General Hospital was added to the site in 1862 to care for wounded Union soldiers.  Confederate prisoners were brought to the hospital the following year.

Point Lookout, MD
Point Lookout Lighthouse c. 2007

The purpose of the property began to shift and soon after Camp Hoffman was added. This prisoner camp housed 20,000 Civil War POWs with over 3,000 dying because of the terrible conditions.

The camp offered limited food rations, harsh living conditions and very little protection from the elements. Prisoners were subjected to freezing temperatures and numerous illnesses including dysentery, typhus and typhoid fever. The guards didn’t make life any easier, sometimes senselessly murdering those they were stationed to keep an eye on.

Point Lookout Lighthouse saw a number of improvements and expansions over the following decades, including a fog bell tower that was added in 1873 then later moved to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 1968. The state purchased the land to the north of the lighthouse and formed the Point Lookout State Park. The state later obtained the lighthouse and the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society was created.

Paranormal Activity at Point Lookout Lighthouse

Much of Point Lookout Lighthouse’s paranormal activity is attributed to the former prisoner of war camp. The entire park and lighthouse encompasses around 530 acres, including wooded spaces that add to the unsettling atmosphere sometimes felt there.

One of the earliest casualties related to the property was officer Joseph Haney. Haney was aboard a steamer named the Express when it sank during a severe storm just off Point Lookout in October of 1878. He tried to row to shore but did not make it. His body later washed in with the tide and was buried a short distance away.  Residents soon began to report strange happenings that are believed to have been caused by Haney’s wayward spirit.

Days after Haney’s lifeless body was found and buried, a resident at the lighthouse heard unexplained knocking on the door. He went to see who was there but found no one. He saw puddles of water form as if an invisible person, soaking wet, were waking towards the bay.

The final resident of the lighthouse, Laura Berg, stayed inside the structure alone during the late 1970s. She described hearing distinct footsteps outside her bedroom door. She also saw books fly off of the shelves for no reason and smelled unpleasant odors in certain rooms.

A Confederate ghost is also believed to roam Point Lookout.  Many witnesses have reported seeing a male figure in ragged Civil War period clothing. He sprints across the road, taking a path that heads away from an area that was once a small pox unit. The smell of mildew and gunpowder is also described. He is thought to be a Confederate soldier who repeats his futile journey frequently, trying to obtain the freedom in death that so eluded him in life. This entity is one of the most frequently spotted at Point Lookout.

Other ghosts that may linger at Point Lookout include those who lost their lives when the U.S.S. Tulip’s damaged boiler blew up in 1864, killing 47 with eight battered bodies washing onto the shore soon after. One of the first European settlers to come to Maryland, Thomas Allen, was allegedly shot at Point Lookout and may also contribute to its haunted reputation.

There is a story about keeper William Wood who owned a cat during his stay at the lighthouse. The feline fell into a barrel and contaminated the valuable fuel held inside. Wood (or maybe the cat) also managed to break around two dozen glass lamp chimneys.

EVPs captured at Point Lookout Lighthouse

The mischievous animal (and Wood’s inept management of the lighthouse) cost the keeper a full year’s pay. While this story didn’t end in tragedy, it is curious because at least one paranormal investigator claims to have recorded the sounds of a cat when no animals were present inside the lighthouse. Their compilation includes other even more intriguing EVP recordings. See video above for the highlights.

Possible evidence captured by another paranormal investigator at Point Lookout

Point Lookout Lighthouse Today

Many are drawn to the Point Lookout Lighthouse because of the paranormal activity reported there.  The Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society even hosts after dark paranormal investigations to help raise funds to maintain the building. The landmark’s official website contains a few pages dedicated to evidence gathered in recent decades. The Point Lookout photo gallery includes photos from 1980s seances with additional images captured during visits as recent as 2009. The pages also offers an interesting list of personal paranormal experiences and an area for audio evidence.

Have you been to Point Lookout Lighthouse (or would you like to go)? Share your personal experiences or investigative approach to this location in the comments.

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