Terrible Tilly and Two Other Killer Lighthouses

Lighthouses can be dangerous places. They are placed specifically near hazards to navigation, where the seas are the roughest and the rocks the most treacherous. Here is a brief look at three deadly lighthouses.

Terrible Tilly

Terrible Tilly

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse — Off the coast of Oregon, about a mile off Tillamook Head and 20 miles south of the Columbia River, Tillamook Rock rises from the stormy Pacific looking some say like a basaltic sea monster.  In 1879 before construction even began on the light house, a mason, John Trewavas, drowned while surveying the rock. The construction of the light was difficult took 500 days to complete. In early January 1881, when the lighthouse was near completion, the barque Lupatia was wrecked near the rock during a storm and sank, killing all 16 crew members.

Four lighthouse keepers were assigned to the lighthouse that quickly earned the name “Terrible Tilly. ” The isolation, constant storms, and blaring foghorns at made the duty difficult at best. Reportedly one keeper went insane and tried to kill a fellow man by putting ground glass in his food.

“Terrible Tilley” was finally shut down in 1957, replaced by a whistle buoy. It then had a short , if odd career, as the Eternity at Sea Columbarium, a place for the storage of crematory urns.  The lighthouse is now privately owned and accessible primarily by helicopter.  Read more — Terrible Tilly, the Lighthouse of Death and Madness

Execution Rocks Light

Execution Rocks Light

Execution Rocks Lighthouse —  a lighthouse in Long Island Sound, built in the 1850s, about half way between New Rochelle and Port Washington, has a grisly past.  From Atlas Obscura:

The tiny rocky island on which it was built was known as the Execution Rocks. The legend has is that during their occupation of Long Island during the Revolutionary War, British redcoats would chain Colonial prisoners to the rocks, and execute them by allowing the doomed souls to drown in high tide.

The island’s gruesome history added a new chapter in the 1920s, when famed serial killer Carl Panzram confessed to luring sailors away from bars, murdering them and dumping their bodies on the island. When the last lighthouse keeper retired in the 1970s, the lighthouse turned fully automatic. But visitors still report unusual sounds, apparitions and footsteps, ghostly reminders of the islands troubled past.

St. George Reef Light

St. George Reef Light

St. George Reef Light – the lighthouse is on on North West Seal Rock on the Northern California coast, part of a line of shoals named the “Dragon Rocks” by Sir Francis Drake.  Taking ten years to build, the lighthouse entered service in 1982.  Again, from Atlas Obscura:

During St. George’s construction, several workers lost their lives, a few went insane, and many more applied for transfers or just plain walked off the job as soon as they got back to land. The construction was erratic but in the end it stood well over over twelve stories tall when its beacon was first lit in 1891. It cost twice the estimated sum to build and was the most expensive lighthouse in the area at the time. This money did not make it safer though and throughout its years of operation at least five keepers lost their lives, as did many who were traveling to and from the remote location carrying supplies. In 1923, after a huge storm brought waves that hit over 70 feet high and swept the the engine house right off its foundation, the lighthouse gained a reputation for not only being the most expensive in the west, but also the most dangerous.

See also our previous posts: The Haunted Point Lookout Lighthouse and Lighthouse Ice Sculpture – Welcome to Winter.

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3 Responses to Terrible Tilly and Two Other Killer Lighthouses

  1. Irwin Bryan says:

    Interesting story, thanks.

  2. You spell our west coast names like someone from the east coast.
    It is Tillamook not mock.
    I am saying this with a smile.
    Thank you for your blog.
    I am a land lubber but I love reading it.

  3. Rick Spilman says:

    Thanks for the correction. I’ll either blame failing eyes or late-onset dyslexia. Fixed it.