Get spooked at these haunted lighthouses along the California coast

A lighthouse overlooks the sea with the moon in the distance.
(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer

What is it about lighthouses that ghosts like so much?

Maybe it’s the mist that often seems to shroud their lonely towers. Maybe it’s their historic role as a beacon to keep sailors safe from shipwrecks.

Whatever it is, up and down the California coast you’ll find lighthouses supposedly haunted by their old keepers — and others on the opposite side of the veil.


Up for a dose of seaside spookiness? In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find three lighthouses supposedly dogged by spectral phenomena.

Where are you traveling this fall? As always, my inbox is open for travel recommendations, feedback on what you’d like to see more of in Escapes and anything else that’s on your mind. Send me an email anytime.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse

When I think of Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, I remember a dazzling golden hour spent exploring its tide pools, filled with anemones, sea stars, urchins and many other marine creatures.

But there’s a more foreboding side to the monument too.

The beacon of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, part of the Cabrillo National Monument, was first illuminated Nov. 15, 1855. Today, the interior resembles what it looked like in the 1880s — and is said to be home to a ghost or two.

“Visitors have reported hearing heavy footsteps, moaning and labored breathing while exploring the space in addition to sporadic cold spots,” reported Zara Irshad in the San Diego Union-Tribune. It’s unclear specifically which spirit is behind all the phenomena — some point to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who arrived in what is now San Diego in 1542, while others think it’s the soul of the lighthouse’s last keeper, Capt. Robert Israel, Irshad writes.

The scariest thing about the Old Point Loma Lighthouse? Perhaps it’s the fact that the lighthouse wasn’t particularly good at its job — according to the National Park Service, the beam was often difficult to see due to fog and low clouds. That’s why the lighthouse had a relatively short lifespan — in 1891, the keeper moved to a new lighthouse better positioned for guiding seafarers to San Diego Harbor.

The Cabrillo National Monument is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Point Sur Lightstation

Who exactly haunts Point Sur Lightstation, a stunning piece of seaside real estate six miles south of Bixby Creek Bridge?

Some say it’s the soul of a former lighthouse keeper. Others suggest the Big Sur landmark could be haunted by the ghosts of people killed in nearby shipwrecks. According to one book, some believe that as many as a dozen specters haunt Point Sur Lightstation, making it “the most haunted lighthouse along California’s coastline.”

Whether it’s haunted by a solitary lighthouse keeper or a full party of paranormal entities, the Point Sur Lightstation doesn’t shy away from its spooky reputation. In 2012, it was the star of an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” and it hosts Halloween tours, which include scary stories about Point Sur.

The Halloween tours are already sold out this year, but visitors can still catch a regular tour on select days. Visit its website for information on timing.


Point Sur Lightstation, part of the Point Sur State Historic Park, has remained in continuous operation since its initial lighting in 1889, according to the California state park service. It is the only complete, turn-of-the century light station with public access in the state.

Battery Point Lighthouse

Like the other lighthouses, Battery Point is said to be haunted by the spirits of its former keepers. If you hear the sound of heavy boots walking across the floor during a visit there, some may say you’ve had a brush with the ghost of John Jeffrey, a keeper who served for roughly 40 years.

But no matter how scary ghosts and specters are, the fear they cause likely pales in comparison to the terror felt by the Battery Point lighthouse keepers in March 1964.

On March 27, 1964, the deadliest tsunami in California’s recorded history slammed into the Crescent City coastline. The keepers, trapped inside the lighthouse, watched the devastation unfold, according to the Del Norte County Historical Society.

Ten people were killed in Crescent City by the tsunami, and 54 homes and 42 businesses were destroyed. The keepers were later able to provide a chilling eyewitness account of the town’s devastation, the historical society said.

Getting to Battery Point Lighthouse’s supposedly haunted shores isn’t always easy.

The lighthouse, 20 miles south of the Oregon border in Crescent City, is only accessible to visitors during low tide. Its Facebook page provides the latest information on opening hours. Before you go, check the tide schedule to make sure you’ll be able to cross from the mainland to the tidal island.

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One last thing

The Orionid meteor shower, made up of dust trails and debris from Halley’s Comet, will peak early Friday morning!

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of the cosmic event, Times staffer Melissa Hernandez reports that it’s best to get out of the city and other areas with light pollution.

“If you get into the mountains or out to the east — Palm Springs, Joshua [Tree National Park], Yucca Valley — once you’re well away from a really high concentration of city light, then you’ve got a chance,” Edwin C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory, told Hernandez.

“If you see the stars and they dazzle you, you know you’re far enough.”

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