The Point Lookout Lighthouse sits on a peninsula that marks the entrance to the Potomac River in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. The area was known as a pleasant vacation place prior to the Civil War. It was originally part of St. Michael’s Manor, which was owned by the first governor of Maryland. The point had been used as a summer resort, complete with beach cottages and a wharf. The addition of the lighthouse had served to add to the charm of the region.
In 1825, the Federal Government determined that a light needed to be built at Point Lookout to warn ships of the shoals and to mark the entrance to the Potomac River.
The lighthouse was constructed in 1830 as a one-and-a-half story wood and masonry building. This first lighthouse was of little use in navigation since the lantern stood only 24 feet off the ground. It was rebuilt in 1883 as the current two-story structure and the light was raised to 40 feet.
A fog bell tower was added in 1872 and then upgraded in 1889. In 1883, the second story was added to the house to enable the dwelling to house two keepers and their families. In 1927, the house was enlarged to its present size and turned into two separate apartments, each with six rooms and a bath. Electricity was also added around the same timeframe.
Civilian keepers continued to tend the light full-time until 1979, even though it had been transferred to the Coast Guard back in 1939. In 1951, the Navy started buying and building up the property around the lighthouse. In 1965 the light was deactivated and the structures completely turned over to the navy.
The Civil War completely transformed the point from a pleasant vacation spot to a place scarred with permanent reminders of what had occured on the landscape. Hammond General Hospital was constructed in 1862 to care for wounded Union soldiers. The next year, the Union began holding Confederate prisoners at the hospital. As a result, Camp Hoffman, the civil war’s largest prison camp, was constructed near the hospital. The prison camp held as many as 20,000 prisoners at one point. The prison grounds were filthy, very overcrowded and quickly became a breeding ground for disease.
When all was said and done, nearly 4,000 men had died at the camp from disease, starvation or exposure. Their bodies were buried in various locations on or near the lighthouse grounds. In later years when these gravesites were threatened by erosion, they were relocated to a spot just north of Point Lookout.
The trauma and death associated with the prison camp may help explain the many strange, paranormal events that have been reported by lighthouse keepers and visitors over the years, thus earning it the title of “America’s most haunted lighthouse”.
In the years following the end of the war, the onslaught of reports of paranormal occurances in the area began. There were reports of strange noises such as footsteps, snoring, foul odors, lights going on and off, and disembodied voices carrying on conversations, laughing, singing happy tunes or even calling for help. One woman was reportedly awakened in the middle of the night to someone calling her name, but no one was there. Some of these strange sounds have actually been recorded by paranormal investigators over the years.
In addition to the sounds, there have also been numerous reports of apparitions. The most popular of the appartions reported is that of the first lighthouse keeper, Ann Davis, who has been seen standing at the top of the stairs wearing a long, navy blue skirt and white shirt, her normal daily attire.
There have also been reports of transparent figures, possibly in civil war uninforms, moving around in the basement and roaming the grounds outside the lighthouse seemingly searching for their graves that were moved more than a century ago.
Paranormal investigations have been going on for years at Point Lookout. As previously mentioned, some of the investigators have recorded audio proof of other-worldly goings-on. Audio evidence presents twenty-four distinct voices eminating from various locations in the lighthouse. The voices were of both men and women speaking and singing. One voice, believed to be that of a union guard at the prison camp, was recorded saying: “fire if they get too close to you”. Another appears to be that of the former keeper Ann Davis saying: “My house”.
In 2002, the Navy set in motion a complete restoration of the lighthouse exterior. The structure was painted in accordance with it’s color scheme from 1927. The lighthouse was turned over to the State of Maryland in 2006. A few months later, the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society was founded to raise funds to restore the lighthouse and making it accessible to the public by turning it into a museum.
The lighthouse remains on Navy property and is currently fenced off and not openly accessible to the public. Around Halloween, the location is occasionally open in the daytime for open houses and sometimes in the evening for limited night-time paranormal investigations.