Tag Archives: ghosts

Light Housekeeping and Lighthouse Keeping

Milepost 9-29-15  Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Ludington, MI

Kaye and I just finished a two-week term of volunteer duty at a 148-year-old lighthouse on the western shore of Michigan, and we found it a rewarding experience if a bit exhausting.  Eight-hour days and six-day weeks can be a challenge for a couple of retirees who aren’t used to being on duty for anything but hammock swinging and beach walking anymore.

But rewarding it certainly was.  There is a noticeable boost to self-worth when you feel that you are providing a valuable service in helping to preserve a historical landmark and enriching the lives of hundreds of visitors who come to see a unique treasure of American history.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse is nestled between sand dunes and sandy beach.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse is nestled between sand dunes and sandy beach on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

Staying in the upstairs keepers’ quarters, the volunteers start their work day by tidying the yard around the buildings, then opening the gift shop, the archives room, and the tower for the daily shift.  The doors are open from 10 am to 5 pm, and guests arrive by land or sea, hiking a couple of miles from the trailhead at Ludington State Park, or paddling along the shore in kayaks or coming ashore in motorboats.

Workers rake, sweep, and empty trash bins preparing for the day.
Workers rake, sweep, and empty trash bins preparing for the day.
Board walks are cleaned with a leaf blower. Not very authentic, but a time saver.
Board walks are cleaned with a leaf blower. Not very authentic, but a time saver.  Whenever the wind blows – and that is often – the sand moves.

The day is spent welcoming guests, giving tours, and talking the science of lighthouse technology and the history and life of the old-time lighthouse keepers.

Kaye and Kathy sell souvenirs and snacks at the lighthouse gift shop
Kaye and Kathy sell souvenirs and snacks at the lighthouse gift shop.
Visitors are treated to scientific and historical data in the archives room on their way to the tower stairs.
Visitors are treated to a plethora of scientific and historical data in the archives room on the way to the tower stairs.
Visitors climb 130 steps to the top and a 360-degree view of dunes and lakeshore.
Visitors climb 130 steps to the top and a 360-degree view of dunes and lakeshore.
The view from the top is breathtaking - especially for those with a fear of heights.
The view from the top is breathtaking – especially for those with a fear of heights.

After hours, the workers enjoy the conveniences of modern living – in a very old house – and in the company of new friends.    The upstairs keepers’ quarters are comfortable and homey, and the workers sometimes cook for each other and play table games in the evenings.  There’s no TV, but there is wifi on site, so Kaye and I were happy campers.  Of course, the beach and the million dollar sunsets were available to us every day.

The kitchen is small but efficient with every possible appliance - and a grand view to the north.
The kitchen is small but efficient with every possible appliance – and a grand view to the north.
The old keepers' house has 3 apartments and 15 rooms, including sitting rooms where workers hand out in the evenings.
The old house has 3 apartments and 15 rooms, including sitting rooms where workers hang out in the evenings.
An evening stroll on the beach or dip in the lake is good for body and soul.
An evening stroll on the beach or dip in the lake is good for body and soul.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse is one of four historical lighthouses that are cared for by the Sable Point Lightkeepers Association (SPLKA).  Volunteers at the other three lights sign on for one-week tours, while Big Sable Point offers the only 2-week term.  There are also day keeper opportunities.

Though there are challenges to this sort of experience, Kaye and I are very happy about our time spent here and the new acquaintances we have made.  Some folks travel quite a distance to try this out (one of our fellow keepers was from Connecticut), because it is really a unique opportunity.  There are only so many shorelines and lighthouses in the world, and I am glad to have had the chance to live and work at this one.

Big Sable vertical

For more information about volunteering at any of these four west Michigan lighthouses contact SPLKA.org

I have posted a few more photos below, and made several more of them available from my online web gallery at SimsShots Photography.  Order prints from wallet size to 3-foot-wide sofa-size posters and lots of other products.

Also, there are a few of these on my photo-sharing stream at Flickr.

Big Sable dusk

Workers enjoy a twilight campfire on the sand dunes next to the lighthouse.
Workers enjoy a twilight campfire on the sand dunes next to the lighthouse.

Big Sable nighttime

This was our team of workers during our 2-week stay at Big Sable.
This was our team of workers during our 2-week stay at Big Sable.

Also, there is this:  While shooting the lunar eclipse on the evening of September 27th, a ghostly apparition showed up on one of my photos, adding another episode to the on-going legend that Big Sable Point Lighthouse is haunted.  I think it is some sort of optic anomaly, but others are sure they have seen this sort of thing before and that it is a paranormal occurrence.  What do you think?  Let me say, the night was absolutely clear with no fog or smoke anywhere near.  (Click anywhere on the photo to see it in full screen mode.)

Ghost Moon at Big Sable Lighthouse.
Ghost Moon at Big Sable Lighthouse.

Order prints of this photo at SimsShots Photography.

Work-Camping Goes to New Heights: Lighthouse Keeping

Milepost 10-17-14   Ludington, Michigan

I have just added lighthouse keeping to my bucket list.

Visitors approach the lighthouse after a 2-mile hike through the sand dunes from the park visitors’ center.

Kaye and I just spent some time at Ludington, Michigan, where we visited with the lighthouse keepers who are volunteering at the historical Big Sable Point Lighthouse.    This is one of multiple locations in America — there are several in the Great Lakes region — where volunteers may actually stay at a lighthouse for a period of time and offer their services in a variety of assignments.  At this site, they even stay in the original keepers’ quarters dating back to 1867.

The historical 1867 lighthouse and keepers' house at Big Sable Point.
The historical 1867 lighthouse and keepers’ house at Big Sable Point.

The folks who were on site when we visited are from all over the country and serve as guides, historical interpreters, and gift shop operators.  They also help with maintenance and upkeep when needed.  They stay here for two weeks at a time, then a new group arrives, a few of them overlapping to help with orientation.

Resident volunteers run the gift shop and museum for visitors inside the historical keepers house.
Resident volunteers run the gift shop and museum for visitors inside the historical lightkeepers house.

The volunteers often develop a camaraderie and lifelong friendship during their stay at the lighthouse.

Russell welcomes tourist to enjoy the museum displays on their way to the tower stairway.
Russell welcomes tourists to examine the museum displays on their way to the tower stairway.
Volunteers staff the lighthouse in 2-week stays.  Here, Thom welcomes visitors to the lantern gallery at the top of the tower.
Thom welcomes visitors to the lantern gallery near the top of the tower.
Thom offers to snap photos for the guests on the tower walkway.
Thom offers to snap photos for the guests on the tower walkway.
Nancy welcomes new workers to the front door of the old keepers house.
Nancy welcomes new workers to the front door of the old keepers house.
The volunteer light keepers stay in the upstairs rooms of the historical residence.  Wanna hear some ghost stories?
The volunteer light keepers stay in the upstairs rooms of the historical residence. Nancy’s first-hand ghost stories will send chills up and down your spine.

This is one of several Michigan historical locations where paranormal activity has been observed and ghost stories abound.  One of the regular workers,  Nancy,  tells of the ghost of a young girl who has appeared in an upstairs bedroom on at least one wildly stormy night apparently frightened and asking the residents if she can climb into bed with them.  Now that’s downright creepy!

Big Sable Point Lighthouse looks foreboding in a storm.  Is it really haunted?
Big Sable Point Lighthouse looks foreboding in a storm. Is it really haunted?

Kaye and I are looking forward to pursuing our new dream of living and working at a 150-year-old lighthouse, and this spot would be our number one choice…  even though the old fashioned beds are quite small and won’t offer enough room for more than the two of us in the bed at one time.   Hopefully.

My bucket list is a short one  (and it does not include sky diving),  and it’s going to take something pretty amazing to rival the Alaska Highway experience.  This looks like a promising candidate.

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Postscript:  We have been accepted and scheduled for a two-week stay at Big Sable Point Lighthouse for next fall.  Come and visit us while we are on duty from September 14 – 28 and we’ll give you a personal tour of the historical light station!  Maybe get a campsite at Ludington State Park; the lighthouse is a 1-1/2 mile hike from the campground.