Ledge Light tour offers brush with the paranormal
For almost any resident of southeastern Connecticut, New London Ledge Light, perched at the base of the Thames River and established in 1909, is the stuff of local lore, legends, history and, of course, the paranormal — a place that intrigues the public imagination perhaps more than any other local landmark.
That intrigue is largely inspired by Ledge Light’s most notorious ghost, Ernie, who legend has it was lighthouse caretaker throughout the 1920s and/or ’30s. His wife, as the story goes, lived on the mainland and was known for flirting with captains that would stop and stay in New London. When she decided to run off with a local ferry captain, Ernie committed suicide by leaping from the lighthouse’s topmost platform. Or so the story goes. Ernie’s tortured spirit allegedly has stayed on, spooking caretakers, visitors and nearby boaters with both eerie sounds and apparitions.
Ernie and these paranormal experiences were at the center of Saturday's outing — the first of its kind — to the lighthouse attended by approximately 50 participants from throughout the region and as far away as New York City and New Jersey.
Sponsored by the New London Maritime Society, the organization which now owns the lighthouse, the tour was led by two paranormal experts from The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), the same group associated with the long-running “Ghost Hunters” television show that aired on the SyFy Channel from 2004 to 2016. TAPS has not since returned to conduct a formal investigation.
As part of the tour, Paranormal Society lead investigator Traci Boiselle and investigator Cody DesBiens covered basic theories of the paranormal and why hauntings might occur, while also explaining the methods and equipment used by investigators to aid in their paranormal research.
According to their experience as paranormal investigators, paranormal activity in lighthouses is fairly common — a phenomenon Boiselle attributed to the repetitive energy patterns that are etched into the building itself, so to speak, while in operation.
“The claims that are out here, a lot of them involve footsteps, loud bangs, knocking,” Boiselle said, while explaining that Ledge Light keepers were tasked to crank an 80-pound mechanism every eight hours to power the lamp.
“Someone would have to go the same way, crank the lamp and come back down. Imagine over time, then, if that energy got imprinted here and it is playing itself over and over again. ... That might explain the sounds that are experienced here.”
Boiselle also spoke of the many paranormal experiences documented by Coast Guard officers stationed at the lighthouse between 1939 and 1987.
“They claimed that the TV would turn on and off when they had a TV. They would find the blankets pulled off their beds,” Boiselle said as DesBiens ran paranormal recording equipment in the background. “They would see and hear doors opening and shutting.”
“One guy, as documented in a Day article, said he would only sleep in the living room because his bed was rattled so much,” she continued. “Another guy said that when he would go to get coffee, his desk would be moved.”
A reason for all that, however, may have come from renovations taking place throughout the mid-1980s as the Coast Guard prepared the lighthouse for automation. Such work can disturb ghosts, the investigators said.
“Renovation is a very common route for activity," Boiselle said. "It’s because whoever is there is often confused about what’s going on. Maybe they don’t like it. Maybe Ernie was like, ‘What are they doing? They are tearing this place apart.’ Or, he was happy."
For Renee Vogt, a New London native visiting the lighthouse for the first time Saturday, Ledge Light has been a constant source of curiosity since she was a child. She reminisced about her frequent boat outings from the Whaling City to Bushy Point Beach in Groton as a teenager, saying that she would often peer into Ledge Light’s windows when passing by in an effort to catch a glimpse of Ernie.
“I’ve been passing by this place for years, and I’ve never visited it. It’s always fascinated me. ... It’s just the curiosity of it all that brought me out today,” Vogt said. “Just the story of Ernie. It’s questionable, but I could never totally discount it.”
Though the Paranormal Society wasn't able to prove the existence of paranormal activity during their 2005 investigation into the lighthouse for an episode of "Ghost Hunters," which aired that same year, Boiselle said that doesn't disprove activity, either.
"We always remind people that this doesn't happen on command. Whoever might be here is a person, a person who can make their own decisions theoretically and can decide whether to interact with us. ... It doesn't mean there isn't any activity in a place, it just means that it couldn't be documented at that time."
Ernie's story "really captures people’s hearts,” Boiselle said later, while riding back to New London. “People here don’t believe this when I tell them, but people all over the world know this story and are captivated by it.
“The lighthouse is just so unique,” she continued. “It must be the romance of the lighthouse and being on the water. It just stays with people.”