All alone out in Fishers Island Sound, on a tiny man-made island at the mouth of the Thames River, is Ledge Light. It has helped mariners navigate for over a century. Completed in 1909, the square, red brick lighthouse features a mix of Colonial Revival and French Second Empire styles—and the legend of Ernie the Ledge Light ghost.
Lighthouse keepers were very lonely at Ledge Light—and trapped, with no easy way back to shore in an emergency. When the 1938 hurricane sent waves crashing into the second floor, the keepers had to run up to the lantern room to find safety. When the lighthouse was automated in the 1980s, the lighthouse keepers left—all except Ernie.
According to the website, Lighthousefriends.com, “Before the station was automated, the Coast Guard crew on duty reported frequently hearing strange noises: mysterious knocks on their bedroom doors in the middle of the night, doors opening and closing, the television being turned on and off repeatedly, and even having the covers pulled off the ends of their beds…The final day of manned operation shows a log entry reading, ‘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.’”
Jim and I finally had a chance to meet Ernie when we booked passage to Ledge Light through Project Oceanology. Leaving from Avery Point with several others, expectations were high. Once docked, we climbed up to the platform and began a tour of the largely restored lighthouse.
Winding up the staircase, we reached the top for a breathtaking view and the spot where Ernie’s story begins. The New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation website states: “According to the legend, Ernie was a keeper, probably in the 1920s or 30s. His younger wife, who lived ashore, ran off with the Captain of the Block Island Ferry. Consumed with grief and loneliness, Ernie allegedly climbed to the roof of the lighthouse and jumped. His body was never found…Legend has it that Ernie haunts the lighthouse to this day…There are cold spots inside. Strange noises, whispers. Boats are mysteriously untied…”
To learn more, see my book: Mystic Seafarer's Trail: Secrets behind the 7 Wonders, Titanic's Shoes, Captain Sisson's Gold, and Amelia Earhart's Wedding.
It's available online as an e-book and softcover and in these shops: click here for locations.