Located at the mouth of the Thames River, entrance to New London Harbor, Connecticut at the eastern end of Long Island Sound sits the New London Ledge Lighthouse. Built in 1909 on the Southwest Ledge, the lighthouse was originally called the Southwest Ledge Light, but to avoid confusion with another lighthouse in New Haven, the Southwest Ledge Light, the lighthouse was renamed to New London Ledge Light in 1910.
This lighthouse itself is a unique, one-of-a-kind structure with square red brick quarters topped with a mansard roof (a French type of roof designed to make maximum use of the interior space of the attic) and a circular lantern room. To appease the residents who didnt want to gaze upon an eyesore sitting in the sea, the lighthouse was built in Colonial and French architectural style in order to blend in with the large and historic homes on the shores.
The lighthouse was finally built after a half-century of petitions requesting an offshore lighthouse – the first one in 1845 – from mariners and residents stating the dangers to maritime traffic in the area due to the inadequcy of the four buoys in the harbor and the The New London Harbor Lighthouse on the shore. The Lighthouse Board detailed the inherent dangers to maritime traffic at New London to Congress in 1902 and 1903 and requested funds for constructing a lighthouse. The construction was completed in 1909. The United States Coast Guard officially took over the care of the lighthouse in 1939 and still keeps an eye on the place. Most of the stories of the ghostly lightkeeper have come from the Coast Guard crews manning the lighthouse.
New London Ledge is locally famous for the ghost nicknamed Ernie who allegedly haunts the lighthouse. The famous ghost legend Ernie was a lightkeeper supposedly jumped to his death from the roof of the lighthouse after learning that his wife ran off with the captain of the Block Island Ferry in 1936.
Ernie is said to make his presence known by opening and closing doors, washing the decks, operating the light and fog signal, and untying secured boats to let them drift away. Before the station was automated, Coast Guard crews on duty reported frequently hearing mysterious knocks on their bedroom doors in the middle of the night, doors opening and closing, the television being turned on and off repeatedly, and covers pulled off the end of their bed.
The New London Ledge Lighthouse was the last remaining manned lighthouse on Long Island Sound when it was finally automated in 1987. Since then, reports of Ernie’s visits have dramatically decreased, most likely because there is hardly ever anyone there. This seems to be a relief to those who were stuck manning the light house. The final day of manned operation shows a log entry reading, “A Rock of slow torture. Ernie’s domain. Hell on earth. May New London Ledge’s light shine on forever because I’m through. I will watch it from afar while drinking a brew.”
There have been investigations at the lighthouse. In the late ’90s, a TV reporter from Japan spent a night inside the lighthouse to investigate the story of Ernie, and loud whispering noises were heard through the night, audible on camera. The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), who have become known by their series “Ghost Hunters” on the Sci-Fi Channel, investigated the place in 2005 but made no significant observations.
Today, the lighthouse is leased by the Coast Guard to the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation, partly funded by the City of New London. The lighthouse is used as a maritime classroom, while the Coast Guard continues to maintain the automated light. The group plans to eventually open the lighthouse as a museum and may offer overnight accommodations.