The booming lime trade of the 1820’s on Maine’s midcoast led to the construction of a lighthouse on Owls Head, an area located at the entrance to Rockland Harbor, Maine. In 1825, President John Quincy Adams authorized the building of a lighthouse on a promontory south of Rockland Harbor in Penobscot Bay.
The relatively short, brick lighthouse – only 30 feet tall – is situated on a hill about 100 feet above the water.
A tall lighthouse was unnecessary because of the height of the promontory. The present brick tower was constructed in 1852 and fitted with a fourth-order fresnel lens. The tower remains relatively unchanged from the time when it was first built. Besides it’s unusually short height, the lighthouse also has a long series of wooden steps leading up to the light from the keeper’s house, which is a feature unique to this house.
The original lamps and reflectors were replaced by a fourth-order Fresnel lens in 1856, and the lens remains in use today. The ligthhouse was fully automated in 1989 and contnues to shine it’s that can be seen up to 16 nautical miles away to this day. Because the lighthouse is located in a region that is particularly prone to fog, the light is equipped with a powerful fog signal.
The origin of the name “Owl’s head” is somewhat of a mystery. Some have suggested that the promontory where the lighthouse sits looks like an owl from the water. Others say Owl’s Head is the English translation of the Indian name for the location, Medadacut.
Owl’s Head Light is known for many tales that have been passed down through the years. One of the most memorable tales is that of the frozen lovers. The area was hit by a massive storm on December 22, 1850 which caused five vessels to go aground. One of those, a small schooner, whose captain had gone ashore, was send out to sea after the cables tying it to the dock broke loose. The first mate, his fiance and and a seaman were left onboard to huddle together on the deck and nearly froze in the surf. The seaman was able to escape at one point and made it to shore, exhausted and nearly frozen. Fortunately, he reached the road the road to the lighthouse where he was rescued by the keeper. Barely able to speak, he alerted the keeper about the others still on the schooner and a rescue party was rounded up.
The rescue party found what was left of the schooner and found the young couple frozen in a block of ice. The couple appeared to be dead, but the men brought the block to the kitchen of the keeper’s house. They chipped the ice away, and slowly, if not miraculously, the couple began to show signs of life. The young couple soon recovered, evenutally married and had four children. Unfortunately, the seaman who perpetuated their rescue never recovered.
A second tale is that of a keeper’s dog who lived in the lighthouse in the 1930’s. The dog, named Spot, was trained to pull on the fog bell’s rope when he heard a boat approaching. In one incident, the rope was buried in the snow and Spot was unable to ring the bell. Instead, he barked continuously until he heard the approaching boat’s whistle beyond the rocks. Spot’s loud barking has been credited with warning the captain just in time to steer the boat and avoid the rocks. Spot was known as somewhat of a local hero and celebrity and is said to be buried on the side of the hill near the former location of the fog bell.
Oddly enough, the hauntings of Owl’s head Light don’t appear to be linked to either of these tales. The keeper’s house is said to be haunted by an “old sea captain” – who is most likely a former keeper, although no one is sure. According to local legend, one night the three-year-old daughter of a keeper woke her parents and announced, “Fog’s rolling in! Time to put the foghorn on!”. The parents had never brought up that subject with their daughter and had no clue where she would have picked up the lingo. They soon discovered that she apparently had an imaginary friend who resembled an old sea captain. He has been seen by other former keepers and likes to leave his footprints in the snow outside the lighthouse and polish the brass. He also may be responsible for lowering the thermostat and keeping the place chilly, perhaps in an effort to conserve energy.
The second spectre in the lighthouse is known as the “Little Lady”. The lady spirit is frequently seen in the kitchen. She seems to like to slam doors shut unexpectedly and rattle the silverware. Everyone who has encountered her has stated that her presence brought about a feeling of peace. Most agree that she is probably a wife of one of the many former keepers of the light who loved the place so much she decided never to leave.
Owls Head Light is located on an active Coast Guard facility. The keeper’s house is still used as a residence for Coast Guard personnel and the surrounding grounds are now known as Owl’s Head State Park. The orignial bell tower is now gone, but an 1895 oil house is still standing.