A lonely building, atop a small manmade island, sits alone on the sea. It is the New London Ledge lighthouse of Groton, Connecticut. In 1900 the need for a lighthouse to keep up with the increased traffic to the New London harbor. It was finally completed 1909 and became an utterly unique landmark...and a haunted one as well.
Unlike the tall, round lighthouses we’re used to seeing the New London Ledge Lighthouse was a three-story, eleven-room brick building. The uniqueness of the lighthouse is thanks to the influence of Edward Harkness and Morton Plant who wanted the lighthouse to represent of the styles of their decadent homes. It began operating on November 7th, 1909.
The lighthouse demanded 3 or 4 man crews maintained the light, keep up the polishing, oiling, fueling, painting and any and all lighthouse repairs.
The 3-4 man teams would tend to the lighthouse until 1939. In 1939, the Coast Guard took over operation of the lighthouse. Then, in 1987 the lighthouse was automated and did not need to be regularly automated. This automation came to the relief of many...as over it’s nearly hundred years of manned operation all sorts of strange and unexplained happenings occurred to the men whose job it was to keep the light on.
Many going-ons have been reported in the lighthouse...some as negligible as ghostly footsteps and doors opening and closing to a deck swabbing itself and even a Coast Guard Officer Randy Watkins who heard his name being called from an upstairs room when every other man was asleep. Many of the lesser going-ons were chalked up a very helpful ghost, Ernie.
Ernie, although that isn't believed to be his real name, was a lighthouse keeper around the mid 1920s or 1930s. While he was tending to his lighthouse duties and away from home his wife, who lived ashore, ran off with the Captain of the Block Island Ferry. Consumed with grief, loneliness, and sadness Ernie climbed to the top of the lighthouse and jumped. Though his body was never recovered many people feel his presence to this day.
As strange things began to happen they were always chalked up to Ernie. Author William O. Thomson wrote that, “Ernie would turn on the foghorn, and that he sometimes polished brass or cleaned windows.” According to NElights, “Actual ghost sightings were rare, and supposedly only visiting women have ever seen the lighthouse’s ethereal resident.”
Perhaps Ernie still feels camaraderie for those who visit and tended to the lighthouse in the decades after his death. In fact, those who recount their experiences with Ernie never seem to be scared. In fact, his interactions with humans seem to be playful and at times even helpful, as he was often reported as helping out with daily duties.
Ernie was so impactful to those who had long stays at the New London Ledge Lighthouse that an unknown Coast Guard office penned this goodbye to the lighthouse and to Ernie, “Rock of slow torture. Ernie’s domain. Hell on earth - may New London Ledge’s Light shine on forever because I’m through. I will watch it from afar while drinking a brew.”