Most Haunted Lighthouse in Connecticut: Stratford Shoal (Middle Ground) Lighthouse
The Long Island Sound waterway along the New York and Connecticut boundaries contains one of the most treacherous waterways along the eastern seaboard. With its many islands and reefs, lighthouses were needed to be built to aid mariners and shipping traffic from crashing on these rocky formations in stormy weather. Stratford Shoal lighthouse, also referred to as Middle Ground lighthouse, or also spelled as “Middleground” light, is located on a rocky shoal roughly a mile in diameter, with most of it submerged nine feet below mean sea level midway between Stratford Point in Connecticut, and Long Island’s Old Field Point in New York. Although initially, the lighthouse was due to be completed around 1872, consistent severe weather delayed completion until it’s being lit in 1878, with a 60-foot granite tower to withstand these dramatic conditions. There were also two events that have caused mariners to consider this beacon as haunted.
Church Bells Under Sea
Before the lighthouse was built, the ship Trustful has ready to set sail out of Bridgeport with a load of church bells, as a major storm was approaching. As the seas were starting to churn, some of the crew started talking about staying on land and abandoning the ship. The captain, who was notified of the event, told all crew members that if the ship sank, the “bells would peel a dirge to the white livered folk” who stayed behind. The crew reluctantly stayed aboard, and, as almost a prophecy, the ship ran into the shoal and sank, drowning all aboard. Many mariners have claimed afterwards that when approaching the shoal in inclement weather, the muffled sound of church bells can be heard beneath the waves.
The Suicidal Assistant Keeper
Due to its isolated location, keepers sometimes would develop psychological issues. In 1905, Julius Koster, the Second Assistant Keeper and a lighthouse rookie, was left behind with First Assistant Morrell Hulse while the head keeper went ashore to gather supplies. There, Koster, who was mentally unstable, got into an argument with Hulse and lunged at Hulse with a razor. Hulse was able to avoid being cut and persuaded Koster to put away the razor. A few days later, Koster locked himself into the lantern room with an axe, he then stopped the rotation of the light and threatened to smash it and kill himself. Once again, after hours of pleading, Hulse persuaded Koster to come out and talk with him. When Koster came out of the lantern room, he then decided to jump off the tower into the water. Hulse quickly dove in and rescued him. Fearing for his safety and Koster’s as well, Hulse tied Koster up and kept him at the lighthouse tower for two days until help arrived.
Koster was taken off the island and transported to a sanitarium in New York, where he ended up killing himself a few days later. Although Koster did not perish at the lighthouse, many believe his spirit appears around the lighthouse throwing tantrums. Keepers and Coast Guardsmen have witnessed doors slamming in the middle of the night, chairs were thrown against the walls, and posters ripped down. Hot pans of water have also been observed being flung onto the floor from the stove.
Although the lighthouse was automated in 1969, local mariners going by the lighthouse still claim to hear lots of banging noises, grinding noises and loud sounds as the ghost of Koster continues to throw tantrums.
Getting Out to Middle Ground (Stratford Shoal) Lighthouse
The lighthouse is not open to the public and there are few boats that go out there due to its remote location in the middle of the Long Island Sound.
In addition to marine life study, seal, birding, and TGIF cruises, and weekly cruises out to lighthouses in the Norwalk Islands, the Maritime Aquarium offers a special lighthouse tour of 5 lighthouses in the summer (usually July) that will include going out to Stratford Shoals (Middle Ground) lighthouse. The weekly tours out to the Norwalk Islands includes Sheffield Island lighthouse, Greens Ledge light, and Pecks Ledge light.
The lighthouse can also be be seen from a distance from the Port Jefferson-Bridgeport Ferry.
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore. These include whale watching excursions, lighthouse tours, windjammer sailing tours and adventures, special parks and museums, and lighthouses you can stay overnight. You’ll also find plenty of stories of shipwrecks and rescues, and haunted lighthouses and folklore like the one mentioned above. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for weekly and weekend explorers.