The Haunting of St. Simon’s Lighthouse
The word ‘Lighthouse’, according to the dictionary, is a tower or other structure that displays or flashes a very bright light, used to guide ships away from dangerous areas, or to have them follow certain routes to guaranteed safety. For any traffic, busy navigating St. Simon’s sound, this Island’s beautiful lighthouse casts it’s powerful illumination as far as 23 miles out to sea.
St.Simon’s lighthouse was first built in 1808. I learned about this historic landmark while I was still in high school. I’m from Massachusetts and so was James Gould, the brick and tabby structure’s architect. Eugenia Price’s novel, ‘Lighthouse’ is centered around Gould himself and the building of the Island’s lighthouse. My English/creative writing teacher chose the book for our final, partly because of the ties to our home state and partly because she ” simply adored Eugenia. ” In 1810, Gould was appointed by President Madison to be the first lighthouse keeper here on St.Simon’s. Part of his job was to climb the steps to the top of the tower, tending to the lights. He would do this several times during the day and even in the darkness of night.
During the Civil War, the original lighthouse was destroyed and then later re-built by the US Government. In 1880, there was another keeper, Frederick Osborne and his assistant, John Stevens. Of course, there would have to be a woman involved, right? Love triangles have existed since the beginning of time, and it was no different on the Island. Story tellers will spin the tale that Osborne made some questionable remarks to Stevens’ wife. If you follow the thread, there was a gun and a single shot and a dead man soon after. Stevens was acquitted of any charges, but reports state he was haunted by Osborne’s accusatory tone and heavy footsteps inside the Lighthouse afterwards.
Some people think that Osborne’s death happened so suddenly, he wasn’t even aware he had passed and still routinely checks on the lights and keeps up with his other duties there. Some state that they see a figure, often up near the tower, others report that there are footsteps on the dark and winding staircase when no one else is there.
Not every operational lighthouse allows this, but today visitors here are invited inside of this silent sentry to climb the 129 steps to the top. Once there, an inspiring view of Brunswick, Jekyll Island and the gorgeous South end of St. Simon’s can be seen and is enjoyed by sightseers. We actually flew over the Island in a vintage DC-3 ( what a special treat! and another story! ) The image I captured while in the sky shows people walking around the tower, enjoying the spectacular seascape. It’s one of my favorite pictures from this visit.
For more information about the lighthouse and museum hours of operation, visit saintsimonslighthouse.org…. If you love lighthouses like I do and the tid-bits of history surrounding them, maybe even entertaining the thought of a delicious haunting or two, don’t miss this piece of the Island. It is beautiful!