Stratford Shoal Lighthouse
Long Island Sound, USA
Stratford Shoal (Middleground) Lighthouse
In 1874 work began on the Stratford Shoal Lighthouse that was located on the treacherous “Middle Ground” Shoal (which was less than one acre) in Long Island Sound between New York and Connecticut. The lighthouse was designed and built by D. V. Howell in the gothic revival design using mid-nineteenth century masonry common at the time. It was not completed until 1878.
The work crews and their supplies were housed on the construction schooner Mignonette. Nearing the end of the construction the ship broke loose from its moorings during a storm and sunk. All men and the supplies were saved and were housed in the unfinished lighthouse until it was completed. Some believed this to be an ominous sign of more tragedies to come.
The Angry Keeper
Over the years the isolated lighthouse had a quick rotation of personnel at the station; even with this a keeper and his two assistants would the isolation difficult and some developed psychological issues.
In 1905 Gilbert Rulon (the Head keeper) went ashore to secure supplies leaving 1st assistant keeper Morrell Hulse and 2nd assistant keeper Julius Koster (a rookie) in charge. During the first weeks of their stay in the lighthouse Koster’s behaviour had become more and more erratic and eventually culminating in a razor attack on Hulse during an argument. Hulse escaped injury from the attack and managed to calm him down. Similar attacks reoccurred which left Hulse fearing for his life. On the fifth day Hulse noticed the light in the tower had stopped revolving. Alarmed, Hulse raced to the lantern room where he found Koster wielding an ax and preparing to destroy the lens. Hulse persuaded the overwrought Koster to come out and just talk. Once Koster left the lantern room, he ran toward the tower edge and jumped into the water below. Risking his own life Hulse also dived in, rescuing the suicidal man. Upon bringing Koster back to safety Hulse had no choice but to tie him up in the lighthouse tower until help arrived two days later.
Koster was transported to a sanitarium in New York where he unfortunately committed suicide. Although Koster did not actually die in the lighthouse many believed they could feel his angry presence there. Doors would slam during the night, pans were knocked off the stove, and chairs were hurled across the room. The lighthouse was automated in 1969 but local mariners claimed that within its wall they could still hear noises of the angry assistant keeper who never found his way back home.
The sound of bells
Before the construction of the lighthouse the rocky shoal was a dangerous place that saw many near misses along with numerous ship wrecks. One of these wrecks was a ship called Trustful. The crew was readying to sail from Bridgeport, carrying a load of church bells when they alarmed by a major storm that was approaching. The crew was afraid and began talk of abandoning the ship to staying on land and wait out the storm. The captain caught wind of this talk and angrily informed all the crewmembers that if the ship sank the “bells would peel a dirge to the white livered folk” who stayed behind. The crew warily stayed with the ship. Almost immediately after leaving port the storm hit with such fury the Trustful ran into the shoal and sank. All souls aboard were lost. Many mariners to this day claim to hear the faint sound of church bells beneath the waves when approaching the shoal in stormy seas.
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