Monday, October 28, 2013

Discover haunted Upper Peninsula lighthouse on day hike

Seul Choix Point Lighthouse

Footsteps of former keeper allegedly
heard at point on 'only choice' bay

Does the former keeper of an Upper Peninsula lighthouse haunt his old abode? Day hikers can find out with a short walk about the grounds.

The Seul Choix Point Lighthouse near Gulliver, Michigan, overlooks a particularly treacherous stretch of Lake Michigan. About 0.3 miles of meandering lakeside trails surround the long-time fixture.

Still at work?
To reach the lighthouse, from U.S. Hwy. 2 in Gulliver, head south on County Road 432 (also known as Gulliver Point Inland Road). Turn right/west onto the gravel County Road 431. The lighthouse is in four miles.

Tours are offered of the lighthouse, and there’s a small museum on site. Should you catch a whiff of cigar smoke while inside, you may very well have the pleasure of a visit by Captain Joseph Willie Townsend.

Townsend served as the lighthouse’s keeper from 1902-10 and died in the upstairs bedroom. He enjoyed cigars, but his wife forbade him from smoking in the house. According to legend, his ghost now does just what his wife would not allow.

Others have reported moved silverware and hearing footsteps, as if someone were climbing the lighthouse steps. Perhaps Townsend’s spirit is still at work.

Dead fishermen or sailors?
From the lighthouse, a trail leads to the lakeshore, which can be walked in a crescent moon shape around the point atop a limestone shoal that runs 100 yards into the lake. Breaking waves and their white foam demonstrate the shoal’s danger to passing ships.

If Townsend’s ghost doesn’t haunt the point, perhaps it’s one of the fishermen or sailors who lost his life in nearby waters. French fur traders discovered it was the only harbor in this segment of Lake Michigan and so named the bay northwest of the lighthouse “Seul Choix” – or “only choice.”

A light was placed at the point in 1892 with the current tower opening in 1895. The tower reaches 78 feet, 9 inches tall, and its light can be seen 13 miles away. It’s a National Historic Landmark.

The museum is open each day 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from Memorial Day through mid-October. A picnic area, barbecue pits and restrooms are in the area surrounding the lighthouse. The Gulliver Historical Society operates the lighthouse museum and grounds in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.