Date of Performance/Collection:
The following story is one that was told to me by a classmate regarding a supposed haunted lighthouse in his hometown. As the subject explained, the lighthouse in question does not involve much of a personal experience, but that of his local community.
For the sake of convenience, I have included the subject identified as ‘A’, with his interviewer denoted as ‘Q.’
His explanation proceeded as follows:
A. We have this lighthouse, Point Vicente.
Q. Is that PV?
A. P.V., it’s short for Palos Verdes. Green Sticks.
Q. What’s that?
A. That’s my hometown.
Q. No, the type of story.
A. Oh, it’s a ghost story.
So yeah, we have this lighthouse, Point Vicente. It’s this big famous lighthouse.
The story goes that, um, there is a ghost lady who lives at the top because she’s the widow of some sailor who lived or- who sailed on the- I forget, there’s some boat…The Destroyer? That’s wrecked in one of our bays, I forget. Or one of our, I forget what it’s called. I think it’s the Destroyer, the SS Destroyer, but that sounds like a made-up boat name!
Anyways, so there’s this shipwreck, it’s like an army boat.
And the story goes that she is the wife of one of the sailors. And so every night she comes out and like, moans. And you can see her silhouette if you look at the top of the lighthouse. And I remember as a kid, if you go- if you’re like driving by, and you look up, it looks like there’s a person up there walking around. Every night. Even if it’s like 5 a.m. and you’re coming back from somebody’s house or something, there’s- it looks like a person. It’s bizarre.
Another version is that she was the wife of the Vanderlips, who were this rich family that lived in P.V.. And they’re the reason there’s peacocks in P.V., because they had a pet peacock and it escaped, anyways, that’s another story.
Anyways, Mrs. Vanderlip is also said to be the widow. But no one knows.
Q. Where did you hear it?
A. I think I heard about it at the Point Vicente Cultural Center, but I also read about it a bit online, because there’s this whole thing about like, ghosts in P.V. It’s a good read. Spooky.
Personally, I find it interesting that so many ghost stories are set at lighthouses or center around them. Such makes one consider what kind of specific aesthetic appeals (for lack of a better word) delineate the lighthouse that make it such a prominent candidate for spectral suppositions, stories, etc. than others. Their isolation and distinct architecture could be a candidate, along with their arguably spectral functionality in the popular image, being that of a lone shining beam cutting through the fog on lonely, misty coastlines.
As for the trope of the wife eternally waiting for her perished sailor husband to never return home, such also makes for an easy pairing that contributes to a particular image of ominous nature. One mention in particular of being able to see the ghost at any time of day prompts me to believe that the specter is, in fact, an optical illusion of some kind. However, debunking a mystery serves no purpose other than to ruin fun, and in the case of a hometown’s distinct cultural facet of having a community ghost story everyone is familiar with.