There is something inherently haunting about lighthouses. Lonely towers of stone, brick and steel, these beacons in the night are serenaded by a soundtrack of seagull calls, lapping waves and the piercing calls of foghorns.\u00a0 Built to ward off death and disaster by warning ships away from rocks, the lighthouses of Connecticut were manned from the mid-1700s until 1987 when the last keeper left New London Ledge Light in the care of an automatic lighting system. During that time, the state's keepers of the light endured many Poe-esque tragedies. Passing ships ran aground and sank, at least one lighthouse keeper drowned, while others went mad. In the wake of some of these strange happenings and untimely deaths, there were whispers of ghosts, whispers that inevitably become louder this time of year. Here are five of the strangest tales associated with Connecticut lighthouses.\u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 This article appears in the\u00a0October 2021\u00a0issue of\u00a0Connecticut Magazine.\u00a0You can\u00a0subscribe to\u00a0Connecticut Magazine\u00a0here, or\u00a0find the current issue on sale here.\u00a0Sign up for our newsletter\u00a0to get our latest and greatest content\u00a0delivered right to your inbox.\u00a0Have a question or comment? Email\email@example.com. And follow us\u00a0on\u00a0Facebook\u00a0and\u00a0Instagram\u00a0@connecticutmagazine and\u00a0Twitter\u00a0@connecticutmag. Maybe they spent too much time away from the mainland listening to the wind and the waves, but several of the U.S. Coast Guardsmen who manned the New London Ledge Light until 1987 swore they were not alone. The iconic red brick building was said to be inhabited by the ghost of a former keeper named Ernie. This presence would make sounds and interfere with electronics. "I've never gone through a two-week period when I haven't had an experience with Ernie," Jerry Sutters, a boatswain's mate who was stationed at the ledge two weeks a month, told the Hartford Courant in 1978. Volunteers who lead tours of the island have reported similar occurrences in recent years. Ernie, according to local lore, killed himself in the 1930s after allegedly being scorned by his lover. However, there is no documentation of a former keeper on the ledge named Ernie, and my searches of historical newspaper databases from the period brought up no mention of a similar tragedy occurring. But it's possible I simply couldn't find the right evidence or the story is inspired by happenings at other state lighthouses. Sadly, Connecticut lighthouse history has been scarred by more than one suicide attempt by keepers. Southwest Ledge Light is not believed to be haunted, but it certainly has a tragic history. In 1907 a man named Nils Nilson took a job as an assistant keeper at the lighthouse, which marks the main entrance to New Haven Harbor. After taking his station, he had a minor argument with the head keeper, Jorgen Tonnesen, and then chased Tonnesen with an ax. Nilson was sent home, but after being given some time to calm down, inexplicably was allowed to resume his post at the lighthouse in the early winter of 1908. It did not go well. "At the light he talked strangely. He thought he was the king of Norway and then that he had been cheated out of an election to Congress," reported The Morning Journal-Courier, a now-defunct New Haven newspaper. Nilson also tried to stab himself with a knife multiple times. Tonnesen sent Nilson ashore to get medical help. Nilson went to a church for seamen near the docks and asked a reverend for help. When the reverend left to fetch a doctor, Nilson wandered onto nearby docks and borrowed a knife from a local captain, saying he needed it to cut a rope on his boat. He used the knife to slit his own throat.\u00a0 Eerily similar to the tale of Nilson is the also-true story of Julius Coster, assistant keeper on the remote Stratford Shoal Lighthouse (aka Middle Ground) in the center of Long Island Sound between Bridgeport and Port Jefferson, New York. In August 1905, Coster (or Koster as some newspapers from the era referred to him) was minding the lighthouse alongside first assistant keeper Merrill Hulse, when he seems to have suffered a mental breakdown. He lashed a razor to a long stick and attacked Hulse with it. Hulse fended Coster off and managed to keep the light going that night. The next day he found Coster trying to cut a hole in the lighthouse wall. "The light is killing me. I must escape it if I chop down the wall," he said. Later, Hulse found him trying to destroy the light with an ax and had to stop him. Thwarted in his attempts to snuff out the light, Coster tried to kill himself many times over the next few days.\u00a0 After several days, help arrived in the form of the head lighthouse keeper, who had been on leave onshore. Coster was dismissed from his position and Hulse was hailed as a hero nationally. According to NELights.com, "Although the lighthouse was automated in 1969, local mariners going by the lighthouse still claim to hear lots of banging noises, grinding noises and loud sounds." These are said to be caused by Coster. There are also tales of ringing bells supposedly from a ship that sank after crashing into the Stratford Shoals with a cargo full of church bells.\u00a0 Shortly before Christmas 1916, 38-year-old Frederick A. Jordan, head lighthouse keeper at Penfield Reef Lighthouse on the South Side of Black Rock Harbor off the coast of Fairfield, was relieved of his post by his assistant. He began to row to the mainland to spend the holiday with his family when the harbor was struck by a sudden gale and his boat capsized. Rudolph Iten, assistant keeper, boarded another boat in an attempt to save his friend, but couldn't make it to him and Jordan drowned.\u00a0 Ever since, Jordan's ghost has been said to "haunt" the area, keeping an eye on the lighthouse and boats. Iten, who became head keeper after Jordan's death, said he was visited by the spirit of his old boss on a stormy night a few days after the tragedy. "They say that all lighthouse keepers are mad," he told a local paper in the 1920s. "Some days later on what was one of the worst nights in the history of Penfield, [when] the waves were dashing over the lantern, I was awakened - I was off duty - by a strange feeling that someone was in my room. Sitting up I distinctly saw a gray, phosphorescent figure emerging from the room formerly occupied by Fred Jordan. It hovered at the top of the stairs, and then disappeared in the darkness below. Thinking it was the assistant keeper I called to know if anything was the matter, but he answered me from the lens room that all was well." Later in the article, Iten describes how the logbook mysteriously turned to the page recounting Jordan's death.\u00a0 Stories of Jordan being spotted have been told ever since. A Bridgeport Post article from March 16, 1972, told of residents on the shore reporting an erratic light flashing at the lighthouse, and a Coast Guard vessel being dispatched to investigate the problem. Although a mechanical cause was discovered, the article reported that "some 'old salts' in the area attribute the mysterious malfunction to the ghosts of former lighthouse keepers."\u00a0 \u00a0 A terrible storm swept through Guilford's coast in the winter of 1805. Joseph Griffing was on duty at the light on Falkner's Island, about 3 miles off the coast. The next morning, so the story goes, he saw a shipwreck on the rocks of nearby Goose Island. He rowed his small boat out to help, but a horrifying sight awaited him: seven dead men locked in a frozen embrace they had hoped in vain would keep them warm and alive. Griffing buried them on Goose Island. Ever since, according to some accounts, the men have haunted the lonely island that was home to a lighthouse keeper who could not save them, though he tried.\u00a0 The story is part of local lore, but I couldn't find mention of such a terrible tragedy prior to a Hartford Courant story from 1934. Nor could Tracy Tomaselli, the historical room specialist at Guilford Free Library, or Guilford town historian Joel Helander, author of The Island Called Faulkner's. The keeper at that time was indeed Griffing and there was a fierce storm in the area in the winter of 1805 that led to several shipwrecks, but newspaper accounts from the time indicate all the passengers survived. "My hunch is that the story relates to the 1805 storm that involved many ships, but that the story was changed or embellished over time," Tomaselli says. "I do not see recorded deaths in Guilford in 1805 that would match seven crew members being buried." While this grisly story appears to have been a tall tale, there are many other stories of successful rescues conducted by the keepers of Faulkner's Light. "The bright pageantry of history that occurred out there is just incredible," Helander says.