7 Haunted Islands, Harbors, Lighthouses, (and More!) That You Can See by Boat
Catalina Island, California
All the hotels, restaurants, and shops you pass while strolling along Front Street are said to be haunted, but for real thrills, head to Avalon Casino, where there have been reports of various ghosts of tourists past, including one who still inquires where her husband has gone. And if you’re still left wanting more, make your way to Two Harbors on the other side of the island, where you can still catch a whiff of old fishermen’s tobacco in the air. If you’re lucky, you might even sneak a peek of the infamous White Lady at the Banning House Lodge.
Honda Point, California
The worst peacetime naval disaster in the U.S. occurred at Honda Point, also known as Point Pedernales, just north of Santa Barbara. In 1923, seven destroyers heading south along the Pacific Coast suddenly changed course as they neared the Santa Barbara Channel and piled up on a collection of rocks aptly called the Devil’s Jaw. Twenty-three sailors died in the accident. If the lingering spirits of sailors aren’t enough to get your blood running cold, cruise along the rocky coast to nearby Point Arguello, a popular fishing spot, to check out the reportedly haunted old boathouse.
Friday Harbor, Washington
Tie up at this cozy harbor in the Pacific Northwest, which has a history dating back to the late 19th century—and the ghost stories to match. Once a private residence, the Serendipity bookstore is now known for sightings of the Woman in Black, a ghostly figure whose likeness the shopkeeper claims resembles a figure in a photo of previous residents. Over at the old San Juan Inn, which is now a realty company, Walter is the guest who never checked out; spot him sitting in the same chair by the window.
Related: The 10 Best Ghost Tours on the Coast
Finally, the ghost of a man hung for the murder of his neighbor’s brother can still be seen wandering the execution site near The Whale Museum, though only at night, supposedly because the verdict was given shortly after midnight.
Galveston Island, Texas
The island’s ubiquitous sea wall stretching along the aptly named Sea Wall Boulevard may seem innocuous from a boat at sea, but it was erected following what is still considered to be the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. A Category 4 hurricane devastated the town in 1900, leaving 8,000 residents dead—many of whom were not properly buried. Sea burials were common, and bodies would wash back up onto shore, which sparked the ghost lore that pervades the island. Walk through Mayfield Manor (which served as morgue after the storm) for glimpses of ghostly figures, or tour Hotel Galvez, where the Ghost Bride still haunts room 501. The story goes that, after hearing about her fiancé’s untimely death at sea, she hung herself in the hotel’s west turret—the location of room 501.
Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana
Sail along the northwestern shores of Lake Pontchartrain and you’ll come upon Manchac swamp, wetlands known for eerie legends. In the beginning of the 20th century, Julia Brown, a voodoo priestess, cursed the towns along the lake’s shores, supposedly causing the devastating 1915 hurricane that killed nearly 300 people—though newer reports suggest she was simply a local healer. Either way, Julia Brown reportedly lingers in the area.
If you’re casting off near New Orleans, keep an eye out for the Rougarou of the Bayou, a werewolf figure of Cajun legend said to lurk in the swamps.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolina
Not only is this brick lighthouse in the Outer Banks of North Carolina the tallest of its kind in North America, but the Cape Hatteras Light also harbors tall ghost tales. If you’re sailing nearby, drop anchor near the lighthouse, and you might spot a spirit or two. The ghost of Theodos Burr, who found himself shipwrecked near the lighthouse, can still be seen wandering along the beach, while a friendly 20-pound ghost cat has roamed in and out of the lighthouse for 150 years. (Go ahead and pet it if it rubs against your legs, but fair warning if you try to pick it up—it’ll disappear without a trace.) Perhaps the most harrowing tale is that of the ghost ship Carroll A. Deering. In 1921, the wreckage of the ship washed up on the shores where the lighthouse once stood (it was relocated in 1999—and yes, the ghost cat followed). But no one ever figured out what happened to the ship because the remains turned up with no personal artifacts or hints of its crew, no navigational equipment, and no anchors. What was aboard? Food, as if laid out for a meal. Talk about spooky.
Execution Rocks, New York
The name of this small island on Long Island Sound alone conjures visions of grim goings-on—and for good reason. While the American Revolution raged, prisoners of Patriot soldiers would be chained up to the namesake rocks during low tide and left to drown slowly as the tide came in higher and higher.
In his autobiography, serial killer Carl Panzram further contributed to the macabre lore surrounding the island (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places). Panzram claimed to have dumped the bodies of 10 sailors he’d killed near the rocks in the early 20th century. And don't forget the island's lighthouse—automated in 1979, the 55-foot tall light is unmanned ... by the living.