Bon Portage Light, made famous by Evelyn Richardson’s Governor General Award winning novel “We Keep a Light”, once had the reputation of being haunted. But due to the efforts of the fact finding lightkeeper, the ghost was exposed as a fraud.
The story of “The Haunted Lighthouse” was recalled by Mrs. Maurice Nickerson of Rockville, Yarmouth Co., making her first visit to the lighthouse since she and her husband tended the light back in the early years of World War I.
In taking over from the returning lightkeeper, the Nickersons were told that the place was haunted. There were knockings in the walls of the building at night, while strange moaning noises as if a person was suffering great agony came from the beach.
Unlike his predecessors, Maurice Nickerson, who also pursed the calling of the fisherman, was not in the least superstitious, neither was he a timid soul. There must be some explanation for the ghosts on Bon Portage Island and he was determined to find out what this was.
First, according to Mrs. Nickerson, the source of all the knockings within the walls of the building were found to be caused by the heavy weights used to operate the light in those days. The weights went right down through the building from the light, 50ft above sea level – to the basement of the structure and often in ascending or descending, the weights would knock against the walls.
But that awful moaning noise which used to sometimes keep them awake at night was the real puzzler. Night after night, Mr. Nickerson visited the beach, trying to find out the source of the noises.
“It did sound like some person suffering great agony,” Mrs. Nickerson recalled during her recent visit to the island.
Then one wild and stormy night, when the moaning sounds were at the highest pitch the Nickerson family had ever heard, Maurice donned his rubber boots and oil skins and ventured out into the night.
Proceeding slowly down the beach, struggling against the heavy winds and blinding rainstorm, he edged closer to the awful sounding noises. They were enough to make a strong man be led to wits end indeed. But the lightkeeper was determined to solve the mystery at all costs.
Finally, after what seemed to be endless hours of searching and not knowing what he was going to come up against at any given moment, Nickerson finally stumbled on the source of the noises, it was the wind blowing through the wreckage of an old steamer the “Express” wrecked on Bon Portage in 1898.
Today the source of the haunted howling noises has disappeared, but still remaining on the beach are two old steamship boilers from the same wreck. And when the winds are in the right direction, the water will still run up through the boilers and sprout out through the top into the air.
Coming back to scenes where she helped tend the light from 1914-1917, Mrs. Nickerson says it was all too much of a lonely island to suit her tastes. Many days when her husband was absent fishing, she was on the island all alone with only a dog for companionship.
“It’s alright for those who can adopt themselves for a life of isolation,” she declared, adding that she never regretted for one moment the day her husband decided to quit his lighthouse job and reside on the mainland. She was very happy about the success of the Richardson’s, congratulate Mrs. Richardson, author of “We Keep a Light”, on her success, but added she would never be envious of the lighters life on the island.