Whether it be the souls of lost sailors, adventurers who met their ends against the craggy rocks, or long-gone keepers peering through the fog; Lighthouses have been a breeding ground for paranormal activity for centuries. The West Coast is notorious for some of the spookiest lookouts in the country, and without further ado, here are some of California’s most haunted lighthouses:

Pointe Vincente – Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Point Vincente Lighthouse

The Point Vincente Lighthouse (Credit: Maureen Elsberry)

Just outside of Los Angeles, in the town of Rancho Palos Verde, on the edge of the Peninsula rising 185-feet above sea level is the Point Vincente Lighthouse. It’s served as the brightest beacon in Southern California, marking the end of the Catalina Channel, since May 1, 1926.

It’s also home to a lovelorn lady of the afterlife. As the story goes, a century before the lighthouse was constructed, a woman was waiting for her lover’s return from the sea for an excruciatingly drawn out stretch of time. Years passed, and she became so distraught and disheartened that she threw herself over the rocky cliffs to her end. It appears however that her sorrow was not destined to end quickly. People claim to see her pacing back and forth, dressed in a flowing white gown, on the upper tower of the lighthouse, still searching for signs of his return.

The lady’s origin isn’t as solid as the rocks that allegedly took her life, though; there are those who believe she was the brokenhearted wife of a lighthouse keeper who fell to his death, and others who attest the lady is just an illusion from some rather opaque paint. Whoever she is, she is apparently doomed to sulk around until her heart is avenged, and we hate to break it to her, but she might be waiting a long time, like, for-ev-er.

To visit: The lighthouse is located just a short 20-minute detour off of Highway 1 at 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90274. Tower tours are currently closed for maintenance according to their official website. You can still visit the museum, learning center, and get a pretty epic photo of the tower amongst the cliffs which, in the humble opinion of one who has done just that, makes the journey well worth it.

Point Sur Lighthouse – Big Sur, CA

Point Sur Triplex

The Point Sur Triplex. (Credit: Maureen Elsberry)

First lit in 1889, Point Sur stands as the only “complete turn of the century” light station open to the public. It sits 361 feet above the unforgiving sea on a large volcanic rock and looks down upon an abundant kelp forest, once home to the largest raft of otters on the West Coast.

The lighthouse was voted one of the ten most haunted stations in the United States, but it appears that the lighthouse itself has contenders for most haunted building on the premises. The most intriguing tales of ghostly abundance reside around the keepers house and most notably, the Triplex, which is the building that the assistant keepers and their families would occupy.

Countless EVPs, full apparitions, singing, moving items, and cold spots, upon other bizarre incidents, are just a few of the reported anomalous activity reported here.

But what, exactly, is causing all these destitute spirits to linger on this domineering rock? Could the picturesque landscape be too hard to leave? More aptly, the rash of hauntings can be attributed to multiple shipwrecks off the coast of Pt. Sur. Assorted accidents have lead to men, women and children losing their lives in the brutally harsh allure of the salty sea. One girl, in particular, is actively making her presence known. She has been seen walking the paths from the tower to the other buildings, singing a tune, and making sure she’s making herself heard when investigators are attempting to record EVPs.

This site has been featured on a plethora of paranormal television shows including the controversial Ghost Adventures led by Zak Bagans.

To Visit:

The lighthouse is located just 19 miles south of Carmel in a section of almost sickeningly beautiful coastline. Their official address is Big Sur Station #1, Big Sur, CA 93920.

The only way to visit this location is by guided tour. You have to wait on the side of the road (Highway 1) in your car for a first come first serve tour line. The walking tour is (no joke) three hours long and takes you through the Lighthouse, blacksmith building, and the head keepers house.

If you time your visit right, you can participate in one of their moonlight tours or near Halloween, one of the coveted spots on the ghost hunting lighthouse tour.

Point Reyes Lighthouse – Inverness, CA

Point Reyes Lighthouse

The Point Reyes Lighthouse. (Credit: Maureen Elsberry)

The Point Reyes Lighthouse was first operational in 1870 after a 15-year construction delay due to a controversy surrounding land rights. The long drive out from Highway 1 curves through a beautiful expanse of land, tiny towns, and farmlands – so expect cow sightings.  The lighthouse itself rests atop the cliff in the Point Reyes National Marine Sanctuary just North of San Francisco. It sits not only on the windiest but also the foggiest point on the entire Pacific Coast.

While there isn’t a predominantly famous, reoccurring story of a mischievous spirit burning the candle at both ends, there have allegedly been over 50 shipwrecks off this stretch of coastline. More than a few people have claimed that you can still hear the cries of those banished to Davey Jones’ Locker as well as lonely lighthouse keepers, and ill-fated coast guard figures roaming about to this day.

The mystic allure of the Point Reyes natural seashore and it’s hauntingly eerie location was not lost on John Carpenter who used the lighthouse, and the town Point Reyes Station, as the setting for the 1980 horror film The Fog. 

“What you can’t see won’t hurt you, it will kill you.”

A trip to Point Reyes might reveal that it won’t be the fog, but in fact, the wind that might send you falling to your salty grave, or maybe the combination of the two.

To Visit: 

27000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness, CA 94937

It doesn’t matter how warm it is where you’re coming from; it will be chilly at the lighthouse, and unless you like a ton of sand-blasted into your precious eyeballs, then bring a jacket and sunglasses/glasses with you. Sometimes, we mention these things because they’re lessons we learned the hard way.

Battery Point Lighthouse – Crescent City, CA

Battery Point Lighthouse

The Battery Point Lighthouse. (Credit: Maureen Elsberry)

In the small town of Crescent City, just south of the Oregon border lies the Battery Point Lighthouse, a Historical Landmark, and still operational light station. It was one of the first beacons constructed on the California coast and resides on a small islet that becomes an island during high tides. While not officially listed as one of the original eight California lighthouses, Battery Point became operational in 1956, ten days prior to the Humboldt Harbor Station.

Since early on in its history, the residence, which is still occupied by keepers, has had a few roommates who consistently skip out on rent. Various caretakers claim that “misty visitors” have and continue to keep them company when they resided on the premises. They’ve reported things moving from one place to another and tourists being mysteriously touched in the tower doorway, only to turn and discover no one was there. One caretaker even reported that her half-bobcat (excuse me?! Pet Bobcat?) feline would be seeing playing and batting a string that was not visible. Rocking chairs rock on their own, slippers are mysteriously stolen, and someone or something refuses to leave the premises.

To Visit: Crescent City is one of those places that named their streets after letters in the alphabet, so from the 101, you take a tour down A and H street. The lighthouse is a short walk from the parking lot at 577 H Street, Crescent City, CA 95531.

Tours are available during the months of April to September, as long as the tide is cooperating. During high tide, the lighthouse is marooned on an Island and is inaccessible to visitors. 

Alcatraz Island Light – San Francisco Bay, CA

Alcatraz original lighthouse

The original Alcatraz Light.(Credit: The National Archives)

Visitors to San Francisco will tell you when you see the astounding Bay, that there is one sight, outside of notable Full House bridge that will catch your eye. It’s the menacing Island of Alcatraz which was formerly called La Isla de los Alcatraces, a Spanish term for The Island of the Pelicans. “The Rock,” as it’s known, spans 22-acres and the rises 121-feet above sea level. The Rock has served many purposes in its day, and while it was first developed to house a light station, it also served as a civil war fortress and a military prison, and most famously, between the years of 1934-1963, it served as a maximum security facility housing the nation’s most criminally insane.

The Alcatraz lighthouse was the first station on the California coast, completed in 1854, and I would put on record, probably the most sinister of the lot. The actual lighthouse is no longer operational, but its presence is far from gone. The original structure was completed in 1854 and served a term of 52 years before the devastating blow that took it’s life, the 1906 earthquake.

When the dust and rubble were cleared away, a new structure was erected to take its place in 1909. The terrifying, diabolical tower, rising 95 feet above the deviously demented prisoners of Azkaban, er, uh, Alcatraz, was, and is, a sight for devilish eyes. I would venture to say, that the prisoners doomed to stalk this establishment were as malicious as the dementors of J.K. Rowling’s imagination.

Alcatraz Light (credit: Jon Sullivan)

Alcatraz Light (credit: Jon Sullivan)

The assorted terrors of the island pre-date the construction of the lighthouse, however. It’s been said that the Island is a portal to another dimension. Before it’s habitation by ACTUAL living evil spirits, the natives believed and some still do, that the island was inhabited by evil spirits. Either they were having visions of the future or indeed, the island has belonged to those of the demonic persuasion for quite some time. What we do know, is that it’s continued to be a perverse portal fated to torment those who dare to visit its grounds.

The Native American’s may have been on to something, prison guards in the past reported seeing what they referred to as “The Thing” and no, not the shape-shifting alien who faced off with Kurt Russell, this was an entity with glowing eyes that would terrify those within the prison walls.

Reported anomalous activity is in abundance, and there isn’t enough time to categorize all of it. However, the majority of reported events consist of cold spots, clanging metal doors, screams, horrific smells, and the deafening sound of sobbing and moaning. An astounding percentage of visitors, guards, and those who actually worked at the facility have also reported seeing entities.

This entry obviously has a distinct advantage over the others in this list, and why I have listed it last. But the reason that I included it, whether or not the ghosts are attributed to the lighthouse or the prison, is because the island is also home to the weirdest ghost of all, the original lighthouse itself. That’s right, the actual building which was destroyed by the earthquake is haunting the island. On more than one occasion, during the foggiest of nights, it’s been reported that the old structure appears along with a creepy whistling sound and a flashing green light. The spectacle doesn’t last long, and both visitors and prison guards have witnessed the otherworldly event.

To Visit: If you’re planning a visit to Hellcatraz, book months in advance, they sell out like nobody’s business. You can find out more information and book tickets at Alcatraz Cruises.

About the Author

Maureen Elsberry is an adventure seeker, outdoors junkie, UFO journalist, and space geek. She starred on the show Uncovering Aliens with appearances on Animal Planet, Science Channel, Destination America, and the American Hero's Network. Her Weaknesses: Wine, cheese, and Harrison Ford.

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