Ghost ships are not the only sea haunts that have inspired tales of phantoms and paranormal research. Below, see something even stranger: the investigation of a haunted sea fort, one of several built in World War II off the UK coast. See also: a haunted lagoon. And to top it off, ghost hunters and paranormal societies check out some scary lighthouses.
Horse Sand Fort. Image Source: The Isle of Wight Gazette.
Several Victorian forts guard the UK coastline, and some have paranormal stories to tell. This network of fortifications is nicknamed Palmerston's Follies, after the mid-century Prime Minister who commissioned their construction. Four famous ones defend the Solent in the English Channel: Spitbank Fort, St Helens Fort, Horse Sand Fort, and No Mans Land Fort. They were used for defence in the World Wars and subsequently as navigational lighthouses, and lately have passed into private hands and become luxury hotels, but not without some upheavals. In 2004, No Mans Land Fort was found to carry Legionella bacteria in its water supply. The fort changed hands, but the owner from 2004, Harmesh Pooni, claimed to still be the owner and barricaded himself inside the fort in 2008. As he put it, "you can have my fort when you pry my cold dead fingers from the lighthouse." Mr. Pooni let the fort go for under £1 a year later. Another of the forts, Spitbank, has a haunted reputation.
Just off the cost of Portsmouth, UK, Spitbank Fort was constructed starting from 1859 to 1878. Since the 1960s it has been in private hands, operating as a museum (among other things), until the past two years. Since 2009, the fort has been completely refurbished as a luxury destination and is due to reopen in November 2011:
The resident ghost, named Henry, will just add mystique. He was the only soldier known to die in active service at the fort. He apparently sidles up to fort visitors and hisses at them. People hear strange noises and have a sense of being watched or followed. As you can see from this site, the Isle of Wight is considered to be quite haunted and Spitbank Fort only adds to its reputation.The eight bedrooms will be luxuriously fitted to the highest standard and the decadence doesn’t end there with facilities including three private dining rooms, three bars, wine cellar, an open-air hot-tub , sauna & sundeck and games rooms. Classical style and supreme comfort, together with the latest technology, complete this unique and wonderful venue that you be talking about long after you have been taken to the mainland.
Spitbank Fort will be the most exclusive venue on the south coast, and available for exclusive hire, special events and corporate hire from late 2011. With accommodation for 16 and function space for up to 50 people, this is the unique venue that you have been searching for that will quite simply blow all others out of the water.
In 2002, British TV personality Jeremy Beadle spent six weeks locked up in the fort's dungeons practicing various survival techniques for Reality TV to contribute to the Millennial Saturday night television show, Ant and Dec's Takeaway. It wasn't very successful. Most people opted to go out on Saturday night instead. Below, 2008's Spitbank Fort Overload Hallowe'en Spooktacular. I hope Henry likes House music.
Overload Hallowe'en Spooktacular at Spitbank Fort, 2008. Video Source: Youtube.
In 2006, the UK team of Most Haunted, the people who looked into the Queen Mary over three weeks (see yesterday's post), also investigated Spitbank Fort. They maintained that more ghosts lurk at the site besides Henry, making it impossible for anyone to stay there for very long.
Most Haunted: Spitbank Fort, Part 1. Video Source: Youtube.
Most Haunted: Spitbank Fort, Part 2. Video Source: Youtube.
Most Haunted: Spitbank Fort, Part 3. Video Source: Youtube.
Most Haunted: Spitbank Fort, Part 4. Video Source: Youtube.
Most Haunted: Spitbank Fort, Part 5. Video Source: Youtube.
Most Haunted: Spitbank Fort, Part 6. Video Source: Youtube.
Televised ghost-hunting wears think quickly, with pretty unscary fake-real night vision mash-ups. These programs don't necessarily constitute serious ghost hunting expeditions. They put the 'pseudo' back into 'pseudo science.'
Footage from the Cousteau dives in Truk Lagoon. Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: Diving to nearly 300 feet, Cousteau divers enter the underwater graveyard of a Japanese freighter, sunk during World War II. Disoriented by the effects of depth and the hallucinatory darkness, they move through the remains of human life: rusted metal beds, the sole of a shoe and the skeletons of some 50 sailors.
Truk Lagoon, or Chuuk, south west of Hawaii, is considered to be one of 'the most sinister places on Earth.' Most of the Japanese Imperial fleet was sunk here in 1944. In 1969, Jacques Cousteau explored the site with its virtually intact sunken ships, complete with all their equipment, from tanks to radios. He found holds full of dead soldiers. His program closed with the remark: "Truk Lagoon presents a mysterious planet of life and death. On the one hand, nature absorbs the artifacts of war. And on the other, she has preserved them. Only centuries from now, will every trace of man's follies vanish from the bottom of Truk Lagoon."
Tank in Truk Lagoon. Image Source: Abyss Scuba Diving.
At first, Cousteau's attention made the place a scuba diving attraction, but over the years, the Lagoon has gained a sinister reputation. It is classified as a Japanese war grave. It was also investigated for an episode of A&E's show, Extreme Paranormal. Divers around the Hoki Maru hear engines starting of trucks that were on that ship. Among the evidence accumulated by ghost hunters around Truk Lagoon, the engine noises were the only phenomena for which they could attain no scientific explanation. Some divers avoid the seabed, for fear of ghosts who will keep them from returning to the surface - or maybe they just don't like the sharks.
Video Source: Google Videos.
There are plenty of stories of haunted lighthouses, with the most famous listed here, here and here. You can see the paranormal investigations of Executions Rock Lighthouse, Long Island, New York, USA (photo at the top of this post), by the same guys who checked out Poveglia, here.
The Canadian Gibralter Point Lighthouse near Toronto is reputed to be haunted by the lighthouse keeper, John Rademuller, also a smuggler, who was murdered by soldiers seeking his bootlegged liquor. They cut up his body and buried the remains. This story was debunked by the Christian Paranormal Research Society of Toronto. They found inconsistencies in the historical record of the murder and a strong oral tradition around the site. They confirmed nonetheless that the lighthouse keeper had been murdered under mysterious circumstances which were never determined. And they mainly argued the very idea of haunting was inconsistent with Christian teachings, and therefore implausible. Make of that what you will, but religion is never very far from the paranormal.
The most haunted lighthouse in North America is considered to be Point Lookout Lighthouse in Maryland at the mouth of the Potomac River. The official Website is here. Hauntings are associated with the Civil War, since a war hospital was nearby. Graves were removed in the vicinity, and people believe that this sparked some of the hauntings. The first keeper is reported to haunt the site, and male and female apparitions have been seen on the stairs and especially in the basement.
Penfield Lighthouse. Image Source: Now Public.
In 2007, American federal authorities tried to sell Penfield Lighthouse in Connecticut for $1: "For sale: $1 property surrounded by Long Island Sound off the coast of Fairfield. Must be able to cope with possible haunting." More from Now Public: "The U.S. General Services Administration is offering Penfield Lighthouse, which was built in 1874 and is believed to be haunted for just a dollar. The property is surrounded by Fairfield Beach off of Long Island Sound. Legend has it that the lighthouse keeper Frederick Jordan drowned in 1916 and since then many people have reported seeing Jordan's ghost. In the strangest tale, two boys reported being rescued by a man that looked like Jordan after their boat capsized." Along with the ghost, the small print read that the new lighthouse owner would need to pay for significant refurbishments. The town of Fairfield, Connecticut offered to buy it and pay $352,000 for repairs. Eventually it was bought by the National Park Service.
The main American charity devoted to the preservation of lighthouses is Beacon Preservation, Inc. They tend to play down the many stories of lighthouse haunts because thrill-seekers tend to damage historical properties.
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