CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Owls Head Lighthouse

     In October 2006, Coastal Living magazine proclaimed Owls Head Light number one among America’s haunted lighthouses, and there’s no shortage of stories to back up that claim. The lighthouse was also featured in a documentary on haunted lighthouses on the Travel Channel.

      Andy Germann was the Coast Guard keeper for a few years in the mid-1980s. His wife, Denise, later told the Bangor Daily News about a particular night when her husband went outside to secure some construction materials; the tower and house were undergoing some renovations at the time. Denise rolled over and then felt her husband get back into bed, or so she thought. “How’d you make out outside?” she asked, but there was no reply. When she turned over, she saw the “indentation of a body” next to her. The indentation was moving, as if an invisible person was shifting in the bed. “I’m a pretty practical person,” she says. “I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I’m positive it wasn’t a dream.”   The next morning, Andy Germann told his wife that when he had gotten out of bed the night before to go outside, he saw a “cloud of smoke hovering over the floor.” The cloud, he said, went right through him and into the bedroom. Just after that, Denise had her encounter with the “indentation.”

     Debbie Graham, who lived at the station in 1987-88 with her husband, Gerard and their young daughter, Claire, says that the Germanns warned her and her husband about the resident ghost when they moved in. The Grahams didn’t take the warning seriously, and they chose an upstairs room that the Germanns had said was particularly “active” to be Claire’s bedroom.

     For the entire time that the Grahams lived at the lighthouse, Claire had an imaginary friend she later described as looking like an “old sea captain.” Once, in the middle of the night, Claire came into her parents’ room excitedly telling them, “Fog’s rolling in! Time to put the foghorn on!” Nobody had ever spoken of such things in front of her, and the Grahams were mystified by Claire’s use of such jargon. 

      Another common occurrence was the appearance of footprints in the snow, seemingly beginning from nowhere and leading up the wooden stairs that lead to the lighthouse tower. According to the historian William O. Thomson, on some occasions the keepers would find the door to the tower open, with the lens and brass inside freshly polished.

     Nobody is quite sure how Owl's Head got its name. Some say the picturesque promontory resembles an owl from the water, but it takes great imagination to see anything of the sort. Some say Owl's Head is the English translation of the Indian name for the spot, Medadacut.

     When Owl's Head was visited by Samuel de Champlain in 1605, it was known as Bedabedec Point, an Indian word meaning "Cape of the Winds." The village called Owl's Head became a town in 1921; it had previously been part of South Thomaston.

     The growing lime trade in nearby Rockland and Thomaston led to the establishment of a light station at Owl's Head, at the entrance to Rockland Harbor. President John Quincy Adams authorized the building of Owl's Head Light in 1825.

     A tall lighthouse was not necessary because of the height of the promontory. The light is exactly 100 feet above sea level. Although many sources claim that the 1825 tower still stands, the present lighthouse replaced the original one in 1852. 

      One of the most memorable events in the history of Owl's Head Light took place during the storm of December 22, 1850. Five vessels went aground in this storm between Rockland Harbor and Spruce Head. At nearby Jameson's Point, a small schooner from Massachusetts was anchored. The captain had gone ashore, leaving the mate, Richard B. Ingraham, a seaman named Roger Elliott, and one passenger, Lydia Dyer, who was engaged to Ingraham. The packet was to start for Boston the next morning.

      Near midnight the storm intensified. The cables holding the vessel snapped and the schooner headed across the Penobscot Bay toward Owl's Head. It quickly smashed into the rocky ledges south of the lighthouse. The three on board huddled together on the deck and were soon practically frozen in the surf. They pulled blankets around themselves in an effort to stay dry.

     As the schooner broke apart, Elliott escaped the vessel and managed to climb over the ice-covered rocks to the shore. Practically dead from exhaustion, he reached the road to the lighthouse. The keeper happened to be driving by in a sleigh, and he took the dazed Elliott to the keeper's house where he gave him hot rum and put him in bed. Barely able to speak, Elliott was able to tell the keeper about the others still on the schooner. A dozen men were rounded up, and they headed for the shore.

     The rescue party soon found the schooner and got on board. There they found a block of ice enveloping Ingraham and Dyer. From all appearances the couple was dead, but the rescue party was determined to leave nothing to chance. The men brought the block to the kitchen of the keeper's house. They chipped the ice away, keeping the pair in cold water. Then they slowly raised the temperature of the water and began to exercise the limbs of the victims. After almost two hours of this massaging and exercising, Lydia Dyer showed signs of life. An hour later Ingraham opened his eyes and said, "What is all this? Where are we?"

     By the next day Dyer and Ingraham were able to eat, but it was months before they were fully recovered. They eventually married and had four children. Roger Elliott never fully recovered, but his struggle to reach safety had resulted in the rescue of the other two. Lydia Dyer and Richard Ingraham will always be celebrated as the "Frozen Couple of Owl's Head."

     The tower was rebuilt in 1852, and a new wood-frame one-and-one-half-story dwelling was finally built in 1854.  The bell tower is gone, but an 1895 oil house remains. The wooden ramp and stairway leading to the tower are unique among New England lighthouses.

     One of the most beautiful lighthouses in Maine from land or water, Owl's Head Light is a must-visit for the lighthouse fan. The grounds at Owl's Head Light State Park are open daily; there is a large parking area and a moderate walk to the lighthouse.

     The lighthouse can also be seen from the Rockland - Vinalhaven ferry and from various excursion boats out of Rockland, Rockport and Camden.

     Directions:  From U.S. Route 1 in Thomaston/Rockland, turn south onto ME 73 and continue about two miles, turning left onto North Shore Drive.  Go about 2.56 miles, turning left just past the Owl’s Head post office, onto Main Street.  Continue to Lighthouse Road and turn left; the road becomes a dirt road and leads to a parking and picnic area.  A short walk takes you to the lighthouse.  The best light for photographs is in the early morning.

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