Execution Rocks: A Dark Lighthouse

Posted by in US Ghost Adventures
Execution Rocks: A Dark Lighthouse - Photo

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean sits a poignant and ominous site with a past that’s as dark and mysterious as its appearance. Today, Execution Rocks Lighthouse serves as a popular tourist attraction. Before it became a historical landmark, however, it served as a site for merciless executions, inhumane treatment, and a dumping ground for the dead.

Prepare to take a journey through a devilish past that turned a quaint and picturesque lighthouse into a dungeon of murder and torment. The story of Execution Rocks Lighthouse is as baffling as it is horrific, and US Ghost Adventures has all the disturbing details that aren’t for the faint of heart.

Interested in learning more about New York’s darkest locations? Take a tour with US Ghost Adventures!

Execution Rocks Lighthouse’s Torturous Beginnings

It’s ironic that a monument designed to be a guiding light could harbor so much darkness. Before the lighthouse became one of the most haunted in America, the island that houses it already had a reputation as being a conduit for cruel acts. Though it’s uncertain which vicious events resulted in its name, one thing that’s certain is the unspeakable tragedy that occurred here.

The sounds of death and suffering still emanate from the depths of this cursed island. Reports of disembodied screams and ghostly sightings have been so profound that paranormal investigators flock to the lighthouse, with the team from Ghost Adventures being the most well-known to pay a visit. What they have found, and continue to find, is proof of what occurred all those years ago.

Inhumane Executions During Colonial Times

The legend goes that the British colonists living in Long Island were wary of public executions. They were afraid it would fan the flames of rebellion. Instead, they would take the condemned to this island, chain them to rings embedded in the rocks during low tide, and leave them to drown in high tide. Bodies were never removed so that every new group could gaze upon their fate in their last few moments.

Beyond soldiers of the opposing force, it’s said that the enslaved were also subjected to the same unhinged punishments. Other reports claim that prisoners of the state were also brought here to face a watery demise for their crimes. Whether it be one tale or all three, the death experienced on the island left a stain that not only covered the lighthouse, but also attracted a new type of wickedness that would strike the island in its later years.

A Series of Frightening Events

Elevation and Plan of Execution Rocks Lighthouse

Source: picryl

The lighthouse was officially constructed four years after the US Congress appropriated $25,000 to its development. Though the lighthouse was brought to life in 1850, ships still crashed into the rocks coming into port. In 1856 a second lens was added, allowing the light to shine in two directions and doubling its coverage.

Living conditions for the keepers were miserable for years as they were forced to make their homes at the tower’s base. This lighthouse rises 58 feet above Long Island Sound with a diameter of 26 feet at the bottom and half that in the lantern room. Laden with leaks and questionable structural integrity, the building, made for horrific sleeping conditions. It wasn’t until 1866 that a separate Keeper’s quarters was added. 

Of course, these enhancements wouldn’t deter the misfortune and madness that would strike the island. 

Mysterious Fires

There was a dense fog on December 8, 1918, and Keeper Peter Forget had the fog lights on since dawn. While taking his lunch break, he noticed that the engine for the foghorn and light was running slow. When he went to investigate, he was met with a wall of flames in the engine room. Keeper Forget quickly sprang to action and called for help before gathering his fellow Keepers to fight the blaze with fire extinguishers and buckets.

Peter alerted troops from Fort Slocum, and they arrived just in time to prevent the fire from reaching barrels of kerosene. The lighthouse sustained damage but was renovated shortly after. The cause of the blaze was never discovered, although some speculate that it was caused by the ghosts that haunt the island.

Only three years later, another fire broke out, resulting in smoke damage to the lenses and clockwork mechanisms. Though it was only a minor incident, the inner workings of the otherworldly were continuing to gain steam. 

Carl Panzram

Carl Panzram was a thief who graduated to a murderer in the early 20th century. Panzram described himself as rage incarnate, and his crimes corroborated his words. He stole anything and everything, habitually raped the people he stole from, went on killing sprees, and continuously broke out of prison – he was uncontrollable and utterly evil.

In late August 1928, he was arrested for the umpteenth time and, eventually, sentenced to 25 to life. Upon arrival at Leavenworth Pennitary, he told the warden that he would kill any man that bothered him. Deemed too psychotic to work with, he was forced to work alone in the laundry room under foreman Robert Warnke who was known to harass the inmates. Warnke, despite warnings, antagonized Panzram, and in retaliation, Panzram beat the foreman to death with a pipe, remaining true to his word.

A Journal of Murder

Carl was now sentenced to death and placed on ” death row” when he was befriended by Officer Henry Phillip Lesser. Lesser provided Panzram with writing materials and encouraged him to detail his experiences. In his Journal, Panzram explicitly states his lack of remorse for his many heinous crimes and promotes a nihilist philosophy. He also confessed to dumping 21 bodies just yards away from Execution Rocks Lighthouse.

Carl was a raging psychotic up to the bitter end. He sat upon his death chair and spat in the executioner’s face when he tried to secure the traditional black hood, telling the man to get on with it and stop wasting time. The killer’s lights were finally out. Years later, a book titled Killer: A Journal of Murder was released detailing his demented story.

A Gruesome Legacy

Since Europeans first settled in New York, Execution Rocks Island has instilled fear into the hearts of those who know the terror it holds. Tales of brutal executions mixed with the island serving as a serial killer’s dumping ground have made this lighthouse and the grounds on which it sits one of the spookiest and scariest landmarks on the eastern seaboard. Time and time again, horrific and unexplained incidents plague the island and those who dare to tread there.

In 2007, Execution Rocks Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places, protecting the building and its otherworldly inhabitants. Tours of the lighthouse are offered seasonally, but if an overnight ghost hunt is what you’re looking for, you might be in luck, as they’ve been known to allow overnight stays. 

For either, be sure to bring an open mind and a lot of bravery.

New York is filled with haunting tales and wandering spirits that continue to inhabit the streets of the Big Apple. To learn more about New York’s haunted history, take a tour with US Ghost Adventures!



Link 1: https://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=749

Link 2: https://www.cowneck.org/execution-rocks-lighthouse#:~:text=According%20to%20legend%2C%20during%20the,rocks%20in%20the%20same%20way.

Link 3: https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/articles/execution-rocks-haunted-history