New London Ledge Lighthouse

A Connecticut lighthouse has distinct architecture and a chilling ghost story.

New London Ledge Lighthouse Origin Story

New London Ledge Lighthouse (photo: Brent Petersen)

There’s been a light beacon at New London Harbor in Connecticut since 1761. This light helped guide ships into one of the most important ports of New England during the Colonial period.

But, that lighthouse wasn’t enough. Vessels navigating the eastern part of the Long Island Sound near Fishers Island the tip of Long Island were in danger of running aground on several hidden ledges.

As early as 1853, local officials were lobbying the U.S. government for additional markers. But, the New London Ledge Lighthouse wasn’t funded until 1904. Cost overruns caused delays and the structure wasn’t operational until November 10, 1909.

New London Ledge Lighthouse Design

Typical sparkplug lighthouse design (photo: Brent Petersen)

The beacon sits offshore, less than 2 miles from the mainland. Many offshore lighthouses have a sparkplug or caisson design. Others use a screwpile design.

The New London Ledge Lighthouse has an unusual French Second Empire design. Local residents wanted the lighthouse to blend in with the fancy houses along the shore. Ironically, most of those mansions were destroyed when the 1938 New England Hurricane made landfall while the New London Ledge Lighthouse survived.

New London Ledge Lighthouse Ghost

The lighthouse was automated in 1987, but prior to that, several lighthouse keepers reported unexplained phenomenon. Doors would open and shut mysteriously, knocks on doors in the middle of the night, and the TV turning on and off with no human nearby were just some of the strange instances that were credited to a paranormal guest.

The tale of the lighthouse ghost varies, but usually goes something like this: In the 1920’s or 30’s, a lighthouse keeper named Ernie jumped from the lighthouse because his girlfriend had run off with the captain of the Block Island Ferry (never mind that the Block Island Ferry wouldn’t start operations for another 50 years). Other versions have Ernie slitting his own throat before falling to his death. Another one has Ernie as a construction worker, not a lighthouse keeper, who accidently fell off the lighthouse.

In 1981, Ernie was supposedly rescued from his ghostly earthbound status by two psychics, Roger and Nancy Pile, who released Ernie from our earthly plane.

Visiting the New London Ledge Lighthouse

After the lighthouse was automated, a new lens was placed in the tower. The old 4th order Fresnel lens is on display at the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London.

The museum is run by the New London Maritime Society, who now own the lighthouse. The society schedules tours of the of the lighthouse through their website.

If you don’t want to go out on the water, you can see the lighthouse in the distance from Ocean Beach Park as well as several other points along the waterfront.

A really fun thing to do in the summer is take a lighthouse cruise. Cross Sound Ferry offers several of Long Island Sound including one that departs from New London.

Race Rock Lighthouse (photo: Brent Petersen)

Or, if you’re daytripping from New London to Block Island (Rhode Island) or New London to Orient Point (Long Island), the ferry passes close to the New London Ledge Lighthouse. Depending on which ferry you take, you’ll see other lighthouses as well like Race Rock, Little Gull, and Watch Hill.

Brent
Author: Brent