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The story of central Oregon’s haunted lighthouse

A magazine article published in the late 1800s told the story of a girl who mysteriously died at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. The tale saved the structure from demolition

NEWPORT, Ore. — Listen to Wicked West on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon Music and Stitcher.

The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is believed to be the oldest structure in Newport. Built in 1871, it has attracted much attention over the last 150 years — not for its modest beauty, but its ghostly reputation that perhaps spared it from demolition.

“Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is actually the only lighthouse or historic structure that I am aware of in Oregon that’s ever been saved by a non-existent ghost from the wrecking ball,” said Finn John. He teaches new media communications at Oregon State University and runs Offbeat Oregon. The blog highlights stories of dark and bizarre history in the state.

The lighthouse was decommissioned just three years after it was built. It fell into disrepair and was nearly forgotten until a magazine writer gave it new life more than 20 years later.

Lischen Miller published a short story in 1899 called “The Haunted Light at Newport by the Sea” in Pacific Monthly Magazine. The article tells the story of a young girl named Muriel Trevenard. She was left at a boarding house by her seafaring father. One day, Muriel and a group of kids explored the abandoned lighthouse on the hill where they found a secret door inside.

“They found this weird thing in a linen closet upstairs,” John said. “The wainscoting had been removed and there was a hole that went straight down into the bluff, way down into the bluff, way down.”

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As the story goes, the kids threw lit pieces of paper down the hole, but they couldn’t see the bottom or even figure out if it had a bottom.

“Then a fog came in, and they got all creeped out and decided to go,” John said.

But Muriel left her handkerchief in the lighthouse and went alone to retrieve it. Her friends heard screams coming from inside the lighthouse and frantically ran after her. When they reached the linen closet, the hole in the wall of the lighthouse was mysteriously covered. The group discovered something terrifying: a pool of warm, red blood.

Following an exhaustive search, police never found her body or her assumed killer. Muriel's father never returned from his voyage at sea to learn about his daughter.

The article was portrayed as fiction, although no one knows exactly where the author got her inspiration. 

“The big question about this story is, did Lischen Miller just make it up? Did she just sit down and say, ‘OK, I’m going to write a great ghost story about this lighthouse.’ because that could have happened,” said John.

Credit: KGW
Finn John teaches new media at Oregon State University, but he also dabbles in podcasting and blogging and runs Offbeat Oregon. One of his more popular blog entries is about the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

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The ghost story took on a life of its own and garnered the lighthouse an infamous reputation.

In the 1940s, the structure was scheduled for demolition, but a group of residents formed the Lincoln County Historical Society in an effort to save it. With help from a wealthy industrialist, they raised enough money to spare the lighthouse from demolition.

The lighthouse operated as a county museum before it was restored as a working lighthouse and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Today, volunteers give tours of the building and people always ask if it’s haunted.

“People still ask to see the blood stains upstairs,” John said.

Over the decades, people have reported seeing a ghostly figure of a young girl in the windows and claim to hear screams at night.

“It’s a legend that has grown and grown and grown,” Finn said.

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