Posted on February 2, 2020
Located at the mouth of the San Diego Bay, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse was in service for 36 years before being decommissioned. Built in 1855, the Old Point Loma once had the distinction of having the highest elevation of any lighthouse while it was in operation.
After its deactivation in 1891, the lighthouse ultimately was turned into a museum for the public to enjoy its storied past.
What Happened to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse?
While the Old Point Loma Lighthouse was intended to service the sea’s ships for many years, it was ultimately decided that its location was too poor, thereby ending its life. So bad was the area that it resided on that the lighthouse keeper would often have to discharge a shotgun in order to warn ships that they were approaching too closely.
This was because low fog often interfered with the lighthouse’s function, causing ships to become blind to its illumination. Better lighting was even installed in an attempt to better its visibility, but it made no difference. It was then that it was decided to prematurely cease its commission.
Throughout its being in service, the Old Point Loma was under the care of no less than 10 different men. James P. Keating served from 1854 to 1859, H. C. Wiley in 1859, J. N. Covarrubias from 1859 to 1860, Joseph Renier also served in 1860, James P. Keating again took over duties from 1860 to 1861, W. C. Price in 1861 to 1867, J. D. Jenkins from 1867 to 1871, Enos A. Wall from 1871 to 1872, James J. Ferra in 1872 to 1873, and finally, Robert D. Israel provided service from 1873 until the lighthouse’s closing in 1891.
Aftermath of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse
After the lighthouse’s deactivation, it sadly fell into a state of disrepair, once even proposed to be torn down due to its poor condition. It was later petitioned to build in its place a monumental statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, an Iberian explorer who was best known for exploring the west coast of North America way back in 1542.
While the statue was never made, to make up for this and to honor the legacy of the famous explorer, one-half acre of land that partially surrounds the Old Point Loma Lighthouse was set aside and named the Cabrillo National Monument by Presidential decree. The Cabrillo National Monument was turned over to the National Park Service in 1933.
Seeing repairs in the years to follow, one of the most interesting of such comes as a result of the outbreak of war in 1941. The lighthouse was actually painted a camouflage green color, making it more visible as a signal tower, directing ships into San Diego Harbor.
After the war, the lighthouse was returned to its original color. During the 1980s, the lighthouse was restored even further by its caretakers. They filled it with furnishings of period pieces, as well as giving it a more authentic look, including plants, a garden, and a water system.
A Haunted Lighthouse?
Indeed. Throughout the years that tourists have visited the lighthouse, reports starting pouring in claiming that it was severely haunted.
Many have held to the belief that they have personally witnessed heavy footsteps emanating from the upper rooms of the lighthouse. These are said to be most prominent when in the lower rooms of the first-story kitchen or living room.
Other accounts have come from guests who have felt extreme drops in temperature while visiting the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Mostly felt at the entry landing that leads up to its spiral staircase, it is believed that these cold spots are the embodiment of a long-dead spirit.
Two bedrooms are located within the lighthouse. Numerous reports have maintained that there is a demonic, low moaning that can be heard when standing in either of these rooms.
It’s interesting to add that most ghost-hunters believe that the main spirit to inhabit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse belongs to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, although many of the previous lighthouse caretakers are surely a possibility, as well.
Perhaps the most likely candidate is that of the lighthouse’s final caretaker, Captain Robert Decatur Israel. While it is true that Captain Israel did not pass away in the lighthouse, it is believed that his spirit later returned to his duties after death.
To add further haunting intrigue, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is located just a little over a mile from Point Loma Rosecrans National Cemetery. It is here that tourists have claimed to have seen hazy apparitions standing in the distance once dusk covers the land.
Voices and other disembodied sounds have caused guests to run from the cemetery. Others have witnessed an odd mist – much thicker than normal fog – that appears to linger during the night and disappearing by morning.
Another curious visitor of Old Point Loma Lighthouse experienced events that further seem to validate the location’s haunted status. While climbing its famed spiral staircase one evening, the moaning mentioned above started low, yet grew louder and louder the higher she climbed.
Upon finally reaching its highest point, the air suddenly dropped to a chilling temperature. So cold, in fact, that she felt it in her bones. It was here that her eyes met with an eerie dark apparition that took the shape of a large man.
Without warning, the ghoulish figure flew past her toward the spiral staircase, descending down like a waterfall. This may have very well been the spirit of one of the lighthouse’s previous caretakers. While many similar encounters have been shared over the years, none are quite as vivid and detailed as this particular tourist’s.
While it is no longer in service today, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is open as a public museum and remains a national landmark. It is a shame that such a beautifully crafted structure had to have its services terminated so abruptly.
With its sound construction and stunning design, it was sure to be a literal and figurative beacon of light for many years to come. Had its location been more thoughtfully planned, it surely would have remained in service to assist ships sailing the seas.
Alas, it was not to be, and will forever have to remain as a museum unless it is eventually sold and possibly turned into something that serves a different function altogether. Either way, it will continue to be a unique part of the San Diego Bay, likely to continue attracting tourists with every passing year.
With its history thankfully preserved to all to see, its legacy (though short-lived) can be forever learned about for each new generation of visitors who wish to know more about its storied past. Such can be shared in order to keep the memory alive.
Much of San Diego is widely considered to be haunted, and the Old Point Loma Cemetery is just another to add to the list. With so many sightings and first-hand accounts of paranormal activity, it makes one wonder if the early closing of the lighthouse is to blame.
Perhaps those lighthouse keepers from years ago became saddened and angry over this and were forced to forever haunt its grounds. Maybe they feel inclined to resume their earthly duties long after they have passed on.
While most of the events seem to be rather harmless, the dark, ghostly male figure that has been reported over the years is anything but. He appears to enjoy tormenting the living, to the point that he made his presence known to many who have visited his once loved lighthouse.
Thankfully for visitors who simply wish to enjoy its rich history, this haunted site is, surprisingly, no longer considered to be actively haunted.