Ghost Adventures did a good job on Execution Rocks Lighthouse located in Western Long Island Sound, New York. They had a lot of historical and eyewitness interviews that helped fill in the long, complex and often fatal history of the location. The lighthouse was built in 1847 to warn ships away from the rocky reef that had a long history of gutting unwary boats. The keepers quarters were built after the Civil War in 1867.
I was shown a few images of one of the early shipwrecks before the lighthouse was built. It was a wooden hulled merchant boat that accidentally grazed the rocks one winter prior to 1847. Some crew went down with the ship which sank in minutes. There were survivors but only a few made it to shore because of the icy cold water. My guides told me only three or four men survived and were taken in by local farmers or they would have frozen to death even after reaching solid ground. The merchant ship contained many bolts of fabric, some of which washed up on the shore of Long Island. Thrifty locals scooped it up and for several years after the wreck, local women wore dresses made of the same printed calico to church. It was considered a bit of a joke in the community.
According to Nautical Historian Andrea Watson, prior to the Revolutionary War British authorities chained condemned prisoners to the rocks at low tide. These wretched souls would then have 12 hours to watch the tide come in until they drowned in the rising waters. Those executed included both colonial citizens and British soldiers.
The shades of both a colonial man and a Redcoat urgently wanted to tell me their fates. The colonial man insisted he was innocent of any wrong doing and had been executed to cover up Royal Navy fraud. He had provided beer and spirits to the Royal Navy who declined to pay for it. The unfortunate brewer pushed the issue, demanding payment. Before he knew it he was chained to Execution Rocks on trumped up charges. He told me he was taken from his home in this nigh shirt which he joked provided a pre-made shroud.
The first Redcoat who insisted on talking to me claimed he was killed to cover up what he knew about the torture and interrogation practices the British indulged in at the lighthouse. Being built on solid rock the lighthouse didn’t exactly have a basement but the atrocities that took place happend on the ground floor. The thick walls drowned the screams of those being tortured. This particular Redcoat was assigned guard duty. He showed me how he walked a narrow path around and around the tiny rocky outcropping the lighthouse warns of. So to keep him from talking about what he knew, he was unjustly condemned to death and drowned on Execution Rocks. He remains darn upset about it.
I also got a rather ghastly visual of a mass execution, mostly condemned soldiers. I saw about 20 boodies chained down to drown at once. As Andrea Watson mentioned to Zak, the skeletons were left out on the rocks. They were not as white and pretty as the prop used on the show. Due to exposure to water, wind and salt the bones quickly discolored and the skeletons didn’t remain intact, as bits were carried off not only by the tide but marine life in Long Island Sound. It would only take a couple weeks to reduce bodies to this state under such conditions.
Former lighthouse keeper Hector Barsali (1961-1962) told Zak he never saw a ghost, but he periodically smelled the scent of flowers at the top of the light. He couldn’t make any sense of it as Execution Rocks doesn’t grow grass let alone flowers. What I got is it was the preferred perfume of a woman who somehow got access to the light to look for her seafaring sweetheart. She is still waiting for him.
Former light keeper Dave Hall (1978-1979) had a more disconcerting experience. He told Zak that during his tenure a two man crew kept the light. Every second night Dave would stay up all night to watch for fog coming in, obscuring the light and endangering nearby ships. A bell based alarm system was set up to warn off any ships that got too close to Execution Rocks. The bell was attached to motion sensors which would activate it. Dave’s co-keeper would be upstairs sleeping, leaving Dave the only official sentient being on site. With no ships or other people around something would flip the switch again making the alarm bell go off repeatedly.
During a number of night shifts Dave would watch TV to stay awake. He would recline on a couch in the keepers quarters. More than once he experienced a pressure pushing down on his chest, keeping him pinned to the couch. Dave said those experiences only lasted 30 seconds to one minute, but they felt endless. Dave was right in attributing these experiences to the ghost of an old British soldier who had once served at the light.
Current lighthouse owner Craig Morrison walked the Ghost Adventures crew through the lighthouse, sharing historical facts and haunting stories. One of his more chilling comments was that the screams of the condemned men chained to the rocks could be heard by people on the shore of Long Island.
Craig had been contacted by a psychic via email who had told him of an aggressive male presence at the light house. The psychic was right. I think the male presence was the ghost of serial killer Carl Panzram who liked to dump the bodies of his victims into the water around Execution Rock Lighthouse. Panzram was a nasty customer, getting right in my face.
Andrea Watson told Zak Carl Panzram’s story. He killed in the 1920’s. For some of his earlier murders he was locked up at Leavenworth on the orders of President Taft. At age 19 he was released and traveled to New Haven where he unwittingly burgled President Taft’s home. He stole a .45 caliber gun and some jewelry, pawning it in Manhattan for $3K which he used to buy a boat.
Calling himself Captain John O’Leary, Panzram embarked on a life of crime and murder. He went up and down Long Island Sound stealing every boat he could get his hands on. He worked his way into a local community and thus found a steady stream of victims. He would get his victims drunk, then “do things to them” to quote Andrea (read, rape them) kill them and then dump the bodies into the water around Execution Rocks. I had a chat with the ghost of one of his female victims named Rebbecca. Unfortunately for her she wasn’t quite dead when he placed, her nude and dying body on the rocks. It was his version of the earlier executions the place was known for. She was in bad shape, so no chains were needed. She ended up dying of exposure before the tide caught up to her.
Zak shared that Panzram was utterly unrepentant of his crimes. In his autobiography he boasted about killing 21 people and claimed to have sodomized over 1000 men. I think that last figure was a bit of bravado. I guess he was eclectic in his tastes. Zak said when Panzram was finally executed by the US government via hanging he spat in the face of the guard and told him to hurry up as Panzram could have killed 10 more people in the time it took to kill him. If I had been that guard I would have made darn sure Panzram was dead before cutting him down.
Aaron wasn’t so much ghost bait as the buffoon of this episode. Zak caught him filming with is eyes closed and wanted to know what was going on. Aaron told him he had gotten sun screen into his eyes, so was filming between painful squints into his viewfinder.
Zak wasn’t adept at catching dinner. As the afternoon wore on the guys enjoyed a BBQ before lockdown but it didn’t include fish as Zak’s catch got away.
Ghost Adventures set up six X cameras, There were located in the first floor keepers quarters bedroom, looking up the first floor stairs, in the attic, two in the lighthouse up and down stairs respectively and one on the helicopter pad that allowed monitoring of the outside of the lighthouse structure.
Zak dug out his ghost box goggles, complete with infrared and got some fairly amazing results. First thing the box said was “remote”. Shortly thereafter it said, “camera”. All three guys were holding camera’s at the time. When nothing more was forthcoming Zak threatened to leave the keepers quarters but was startled by a loud bang that sent vibrations through the floorboards. I believe a falling body caused the bang. Zak asked who caused the bang. I heard a ghost respond, “Me” Not terribly helpful. At this point the crew heard a disembodied voice, but were not sure what direction it came from. However their EMF meter spiked suddenly and they caught an unexplained sound.
While this was going on I saw the ghost of a former light keeper as the cause of these attempts to communicate. He was afraid, angry and having trouble breathing. He was intentionally messing with the Ghost Adventures team. This former keeper had committed suicide on site and his method of death was not easy. The keepers ghost commented to me that, “Hanging would have been quicker.”
Zak placed both a DVR recorder and an EMF meter together in the middle of the floor in the keepers bedroom. The ghost box goggles started to produce again. An EMF spike was followed by the word “drink”. Nick felt some odd energy envelop his body. It was probably the ghost pulling energy for his next word which was “mercury”.
I agree with Zak that a former light keeper had died by drinking mercury. I think the remote location and perhaps the eerie atmosphere of Execution Rocks Lighthouse got to him as he was depressed at the time of his death.
Zak remembered seeing a storage tank of some sort with warnings all over it during the walk through. He led the team upstairs into the lighthouse and pointed out an old container labled Caution Mercury Poison. Aaron noticed this container sat over the freshwater cistern the keepers got their household water out of and theorized that perhaps the container had sprung a leak at some point and dripped through the open grate that covered the cistern of drinking water. That was a solid, logical theory, but I don’t think it happened that way.
I think the keeper intentionally added mercury to his nighcap, possibly rum from the color of it and chose to commit suicide that way. It was not an easy death and the really sad part is it didn’t release the keeper from his troubles. He is still there, just stuck without a body now. He told me the ghosts he has joined got to him while he was working there. Andrea Watson and Dave Hall both talked about the fact that Execution Rocks Lighthouse had the first flexible contract that would allow a lighthouse keeper to leave his post at any time due to the ghosts. I asked the suicidal keeper why he didn’t just bail. He told me he needed the money. I also got that there was a girl involved, a relationship with a woman that didn’t work out right before he took the job. He also drank to damn much booze. Depression, booze and isolation can be a dangerous combination.
I thought Zak was quite creative when he lowered a DVR into the mostly empty cistern, hanging it from the grill covering it. Nothing came up on it, but it was a nice try.
After having such good luck earlier in the keepers bedroom the Ghost Adventures team returned there and placed some static night vision cameras. They didn’t get anything further. Their equipment was correct, the ghost who had been there earlier wasn’t there the second time.
Zak demonstrated that the DVR recorder he had placed next to the EMF meter earlier had no impact on the EMF meter’s readings.
It just wouldn’t be a Ghost Adventures episode if Zak hadn’t challenged something gray or dark to mix it up with him. Zak started some trash talk, saying Panzram was so ugly he would likely break Zak’s camera. Nothing was recorded but Zak did get Panzram’s attention. Zak’s camera froze, paused for no apparent reason right after Zak taunted Panzram. Zak demanded to know, “Did you break my camera for a little bit?” Panzram responded, “Yes, I did.” Too bad Zak didn’t get anything on his equipment because Panzram was there and ready to rumble.
Since not much was happening inside the keepers quarters or the lighthouse, Zak brought the crew outside to provoke on the wet, icy rocks. They guys heard a human whimper but were not able to record it. The whimper came from the ghost of an executed colonist who told me he had thought the stone walls of the lighthouse were cold until they chained him to the rocks before dawn.
Good work guys! It was great to see Ghost Adventures investigate a location that had not had a professional crew investigate previously. They got a little less action than usual, but what they did record was a surprisingly coherent narrative from the keeper who committed suicide on site.
Lynne Olson can be contacted for private readings via email at: email@example.com
(C) 2010 Lynne Olson. All rights reserved.