Most Haunted Places in America: Fairport Harbor Lighthouse
Even though the Fairport Harbor Light on Lake Erie was given the nickname “The light that shone for 100 years”, it actually doesn’t live up to its name. The current lighthouse, at least, didn’t earn the nickname alone. Its predecessor, which was built in the same site, shone for the first 46 years. What makes this lighthouse one of the most haunted places in America is its paranormal claims about a gray cat.
The original lighthouse was built in 1825. When the population of the town reached 300, the Painesville Telegraph issued a notice asking for lighthouse bids. Collector of Customs, A. Walworth, signed the proposal. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave the detail-planning to the potential builder. He specified the height of the deck, depth of the foundation, number of windows, materials to be used, etc. in his proposal.
Builders Hiram Wood and Jonathon Goldsmith received a contract to the lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling for $2900. Everything went smoothly with the construction at first, until it was realized that there was a mis-communication concerning the cellar. The construction of the cellar wasn’t included in the builders’ plans. It wasn’t until after the construction of the lighthouse that an upset Walworth contracted Goldsmith and Wood to complete the cellar for additional money. In 1841, Goldsmith applied for the keeper’s job for the lighthouse he had helped build, but someone else received the job.
Fairport Harbor Light on Lake Erie wasn’t just used as a hub of commerce – it was also the final stop for the Underground Railroad. The lighthouse acted as a beacon of freedom to slaves. The town, along with the captains and seamen who sailed there, was completely anti-slavery. The ships in the area would help transport escaped slaves to Canada. Many of them were kept hidden in the lighthouse itself until a ship was available.
The original lighthouse began to wear and tear just a few years after its construction. After a decade, the foundation had settled to the point where it needed a replacement. Within 30 years, wire hoops encircled the lighthouse to keep it from falling over.
In March 1869, Congress finally approved a proposal to replace the original tower and keeper’s dwelling. The new project cost an estimated $30,000. Not wanting to make the same mistakes of their predecessors, the new builders contracted engineers to help them. They scouted the area to find the best foundation point.
In 1871, the new Berea sandstone tower and brick keeper’s dwelling were finally complete. Minor improvements have been made over the decades. The harbor itself grew considerably as new piers and a foghorn were installed.
The original lighthouse was set to be destroyed, but the citizens of the community protested due to its historical value. After WW II, it was turned into a museum. Now, visitors can walk through the very same corridors as the runaway slaves more than 150 years ago.
The most interesting paranormal claim coming from the lighthouse doesn’t involve the underground railroad or even humans for that matter. The most talked about ghost around the lighthouse is the gray ghost cat. The story of the cat starts around 1877. Captain Joseph Babcock was the Head Keeper of the lighthouse in 1871. He and his wife Mary had two children, Hattie and Robbie.
Unfortunately Robbie died at the age of 5 of diphtheria. Mary became depressed and was eventually bedridden. To help comfort her and keep her company, the Captain gave her cats. After Mary’s death all the cats disappeared over time except this one gray cat.
In 1989 the curator of the now lighthouse museum first reported seeing an apparition of a cat playing in the kitchen and also felt it jump on the bed. Visitors soon started to report “Small puffs of gray smoke” and the sightings have continued ever since.
In 2001 the lighthouse got a new air conditioning system. While crawling in the basement, workers came across the mummified remains of a gray cat. This gray ghost cat, who’s remains are on display inside the museum, makes Fairport Harbor Lighthouse one of the most haunted places in America.