Haunted Waugoshance Lighthouse

According to maritime historian, Wes Oleszewski, the ghost story belonging to Waugoshance is always the first told by lighthouse enthusiasts and historians. Waugashance, located in the northeast end of Lake Michigan, was built in 1832 as a lightship. It became an actual lighthouse nineteen years later in 1851.
John Herman, a drinker and a “funny man” was a lightkeeper of Waugashance.

(Photo Credit: Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society)

Drunk one night and looking to play a practical joke on some of the other lighthouse workers, John locked one of his assistants in the lamp room. Happy with his prank, John then wandered away from the lighthouse and in his drunken state, vanished into the night, never to be seen again.
            After his disappearance, strange things started to happen around Waugoshance. If any of the lightkeeper’s fell asleep on the job, their chair would get kicked out from beneath them. Everyday chores, such as coal buckets being filled would also happen mysteriously. Because the haunted happenings were so frequent, they eventually had a hard time staffing the light anymore, so they built a house at White Shoals and left Waugoshance to the ghost who haunted it.

Exposing the Facts. Is the Haunting Real?

“Considering that so much of lighthouse history has been lost, sometimes all that we have is legend,” states, Wes Oleszewski from his book, Lighthouse Adventures. Waugoshance is one of the oldest lights on the lakes, and not many historical records exist. Based on his research, after Johns long tenure as the light keeper, the turn around rate of employees and keepers was about the same before John. Oleszewski points out the turn around for off shore lights, especially remote ones like Waugoshance is always high.

As for them building another lighthouse to avoid the ghosts? The lighthouse was in fact, out dated and a new one was needed. There doesn’t seem to be any historical evidence of John’s death at the light either. The only keeper to have ever drowned at the light was Thomas Marshall on May 28, 1886.
Supposedly, the story itself came from a newspaper article published in Petoskey in the 1930’s sometime. After the light was abandoned, people nicknamed it, “Wobble Shanks.”

Maritime author and avid publisher of Great Lakes ghost stories, Frederick Stonehouse, writes that there are two ghosts residing at “Wobble Shanks.”A legend says a worker was killed during the lights construction and his cries can be heard sometimes.

Visiting Waugoshance Lighthouse (info from TerryPepper.com)

Sheplers Ferry Service out of Mackinaw City offers a number of lighthouse cruises during the summer season. Their "Westward Tour" includes passes by White Shoal, Grays Reef, Waugoshance and St. Helena Island. For schedules and rates for this tour, visit their website at: www.sheplerswww.com

Learn more about Waugoshance with these helpful links!

Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society

Detailed Historical Information of Waugoshance



Stonehouse, Frederick. Great Lakes Lighthouse Tales. Gwinn, MI: Avery Color Studios, 1998.

Oleszewski, Wes. Lighthouse Adventures: Heroes, Haunts & Havoc On The Great Lakes. Gwinn, MI: Avery Color Studios, 1999.