Lighthouse Tied To WW II History Crumbling Into Lake Michigan
A haunted and history-rich lighthouse will soon crumble into Lake Michigan as erosion from high water levels claims it a piece at a time.
The ruins of the 170-year-old lighthouse at Waugoshance protects boats from a shoal area at the northern end of Lake Michigan. The lighthouse is located in Emmet County, Michigan. It stands in an area of the Wilderness State Park that is considered one of the most hazardous areas near the Straits of Mackinac.
A non-profit group that has worked to preserve the lighthouse and its contents have dissolved and made the heartbreaking announcement that Waugoshance Lighthouse will be crumbling into Lake Michigan sooner rather than later.
Prior to a lighthouse being erected at this treacherous area of Lake Michigan, a lightvessel/lightship was used to light the way. The area around Waugoshance Point is not only shallow, it's a large (in area) projection from the bottom of the lake. Boats large enough to safely travel in times of storm cannot approach the light closer than a few hundred yards.
In 1851 the lightvessel method was replaced by the permanent Waugoshance Light. The lighthouse at Waugoshance was arguably the first light built in the Great Lakes that was completely surrounded by water. Both its construction and its continued maintenance were extremely hazardous due to the severe weather conditions of the area.
Waugoshance Lighthouse is also a known haunted location. In the 1800s a keeper by the name of John Herman was known for his devious pranks and as well as a mean drunk, known for drinking on the job. The legend says that one night while in a drunken stupor, he locked his assistant in the lantern room. When his assistant finally found his way out, Herman was nowhere to be found.
Many believe he fell into the lake as he was never seen again. Future lightkeepers who knew the history refused the assignment. Those that did, reported having had their chairs kicked out from underneath them when they fell asleep, coal buckets filling by themselves, and furniture being moved about the room as if by a poltergeist.
During World War II Waugoshance Point to the east along with the islands off the point and the abandoned lighthouse was designated as the Waugoshance Point Target and used for tactical bombing and strafing practice as well as for experimentation with a highly secretive program, codenamed STAG-1, involving radio-controlled "drone" aircraft. Planes were flown out of the Naval Air Station at Traverse City (now Cherry Capital Airport). Engineers fitted out twin-engine planes with primitive radio receivers that connected to the steering. Pilots flying a “mothership” trailing several miles behind would steer the drones over their unlucky targets. After dropping powerful 2,000-pound bombs, the drones were then allowed to crash down into the water.
Evidence of this military usage can still be found. Shell fragments and motor parts are occasionally uncovered. The fuselage of a target plane can be seen from the point parking lot. Grainy video footage of the bombings of the helpless lighthouse can be seen below.
Waugoshance Lighthouse is said to be both a "nautical gravestone" (because of the many wrecks in the vicinity) and on the "most endangered list" of lighthouses, being on the Lighthouse Digest "Doomsday List." It is one of six in Michigan; the remaining five are: Charity Island Light, Fourteen Mile Point Light, Gull Rock Light, Manitou Island Light, and Poverty Island Light.