I could hear the waves lapping viciously against the rocky slope as the fog moved in and the seagulls were baying loudly against the incoming tide. I could feel the salt licking my face as I was driving up through the breezy, chilly air of the coastline. A quick glance at my GPS told me I was about an hour south of Newport, Oregon. It had been a beautiful day so far on my drive up from Humboldt County on my way to check out other universities on the West Coast; my mom had always told me to shop around for my education, despite my own desire to continue on with graduate school closer to home. Even though I had been driving since six in the morning, I hadn’t fully appreciated the sun until I saw it begin to disappear behind the dismal cloud cover and bleak front that was coming off the water. I was less attuned to this type of dreary atmosphere than I had realized and for some reason, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I could feel my grip tighten on the steering wheel and I flashed back to catching black ice on the roads back home during the winter; a spike of adrenaline pumped through my body, something was strange about this stretch of coastline. Then I saw it, even if it was barely visible through the fog that was just now kissing the shore. It was the lighthouse I had heard those rumors about… The Heceta Head Lighthouse–it had been a beacon of maritime safety on the Oregon coast since 1894, but it had a robust morbid history that seemed to fly under the radar. I scooted along highway 101 in my cheap rental car, but the closer I got, the stronger I felt like I was being pulled towards it. It was an eerie trance that was dark and dangerous, but I couldn’t keep from being lost within the tunnel vision–the rest of the drive there was a blur–then I was pulling into the visitor parking for the bed and breakfast that was now set up in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage.
It’s like I blinked and I was just–there. The normally bright red roof of the bed and breakfast was dull and bluish under the gloom that seemed to linger around the white cottage and I was compelled to see if they had any vacancies. The lady at the front desk was sweet yet homely, but I suspected that there was something dark and secret hiding under the shallow layer of her calm demeanor.
“Hey there, I was hoping that you had a room available?” I barely recognized my own voice, it sounded so dreamy when I heard it out loud. It didn’t register to me that there was another guest in the lobby until he cleared his throat, it made me jump a bit but he simply turned the page of the newspaper he had his nose buried in as if he didn’t notice me either. The desk clerk handed me the key for something called the “Victoria” room and her melodious voice directed me up the stairs to what seemed to have been a master suite in a previous life and according to the desk clerk was where the lighthouse keeper and his wife slept once upon a time…
I heard the name Rue come up somewhere in her story, but to be honest I kind of drifted in and out of the whole thing, I’m sure it would have been a captivating tale on any other occasion, or perhaps just in any other location. This place just seemed so hollow and there was a feeling that there were too many secrets lying just beneath its quaint and cozy facade. Maybe it was just that creepy, old and dirty-looking doll that sat on a shelf behind the counter that was giving this place a weird vibe.
Regardless, when I opened the door with that ancient-looking key, I felt my face scrunch up, “Great… it’s pink.” I don’t know who I was talking to, maybe it was just due to my own dismay to find the room was painted from floor to ceiling in that sickly pink pastel color. The bed was decorated with a floral quilt and matching pillowcases, I mean I knew I couldn’t complain about what the room looked like, after all, I only asked if they had any rooms available and this was the only one the desk clerk had to offer me. Come to think of it though, there only seemed to be two room keys missing. Didn’t she tell me that there were no other rooms available? Maybe she just meant that they needed repair or cleaning or… who knows, maybe I was just being paranoid.
The one saving grace that I could see was that the antique vanity near the corner had a complimentary bottle of wine and a glass. I sloughed off my bag onto the corner of the four-poster that was trussed up in such a girlie fashion, then grabbed the bottle and opener from the vanity and walked to the window. It seemed like the fog had lifted for the most part–although maybe it should have seemed strange, I had just arrived less than thirty minutes ago. Not a bad view though, the garden was stunningly manicured except for one small overgrown corner that looked as if it housed a headstone. That wasn’t all too interesting to me, honestly, but at least the darkness would be more forgiving on these walls, I hoped. I gave one final tug to the corkscrew and heard that satisfying pop and hello, vino!
I glanced over at the bedside table next to the window and a small pamphlet caught my eye–I picked it up without any reason, but perhaps it was due to my incessant curiosity, regardless it was in my hands; the title gave it away as a rundown of the history of this adorably macabre bed and breakfast. I took the chair in the corner, switched on the light, and flipped through this crisp little historical piece. I stopped on a page about the woman named Rue. Shit, maybe I should have listened to that desk clerk’s story, this was actually pretty interesting. I mean, I’d heard the rumors of course, but nothing I heard was as juicy and dark as the brief info in the pamphlet I was holding. Namely, because I was staying in Rue’s room, the “Victoria” room–well, at least she didn’t die in here.
I took a swig of the wine straight from the bottle, no reason to unnecessarily dirty a glass, then set the bottle down next to a plant that looked as if it were on death’s door and set the pamphlet down next to it. It was getting close to sunset here, but I wasn’t tired, nor was I going to waste the rest of my day in the room. After all, I was at a B&B that sat on the threshold of crashing waves and was within a short jaunt to a lovely lighthouse that had a creepy history that was begging to be scrutinized. I wasn’t even sure that I believed in ghosts, goblins, or whatever the hell people thought went bump in the night, I just knew that I was intrigued by it.
I was only brought out of my train of thought when one of the pictures hanging behind me crashed to the floor, the pane of glass on it shattered under my feet and the startle that overtook me made me feel as if something was grasping my throat. It escaped me momentarily that I had jumped to my feet when the picture had initially fallen and I felt somewhat silly. Coincidence, that’s what it was. Well, that’s what I thought until the one right next to it was propelled with great force down to the floor as well, I jumped back once again as the shower of broken glass sprayed past my ankles.
“Woah, what the hell!” I barely got the words out before the rest of the pictures in the room came down with the same force in quick succession. My heart rate jumped almost as quickly as I had when I found myself pressed against the foot of the four-poster bed. Everything went silent after that and I let go of an unsteady breath I hadn’t been aware I was holding in. Apparently this was going to be a more interesting stay than I initially believed, but if it wasn’t an excuse to take another swig from that bottle of wine then I wasn’t sure what was. I wouldn’t say I chugged some of it, but it wasn’t exactly a sip either–I replaced the cork in the bottle and set it gently in the bathroom sink, lest there was another exciting incident with glass objects in here while I was gone.
I rummaged through my bag and grabbed my camera, this sunset would definitely be worth capturing. I wasn’t exactly used to seeing the sun as it set over the ocean having grown up in the interior of Alaska and I had to get out of the room to get some fresh air. I swear I nearly high-stepped the entire way down the stairs back to the lobby and stopped abruptly in front of the desk where I had checked in.
“Charlie stepped out for a bit, she said she’d be back in an hour or so,” the mystery man behind the newspaper spoke up. “Did you see Rue already?” I was taken aback, to say the least, how the hell would he know? “Don’t look so speechless, I heard the pictures breaking from here. I’m guessing you weren’t just throwing a fit because of the godawful paint job.” He chuckled to himself.
“I–I, uh…” I blinked and shook my head, “I just need some fresh air.” I’d never been at a loss for words before, but there I was, stumbling as if–as if I had just seen a ghost? No. This was utter crap, I felt my head shake again before I hastily stumbled through the door. Fresh air. Fresh air. Yep, that’s all I needed. Oh wow, the colors in the sky looked as if they were bright paint splashed across a canvas haphazardly–I raised my camera and CLICK–not only had the fog lifted, but the cloud cover had completely dissipated as well. The white picket fence screamed of the “American Dream,” that simply didn’t exist where I was from, but that barely registered on my mind until I passed through the gate. There was a hard gust of wind off of the water, then my senses were assaulted with the chilled salt air and I pulled my light jacket a bit tighter around myself. If I had taken two or three more steps forward, I would have walked straight off the bluff into the tumultuous tides below.
I followed the path that wrapped around the front of the cottage and the adjacent garden and passed the recreation and grilling area when I noticed the path that disappeared beyond the shed near the back. When I approached I noticed the sign that labeled it as the way to the lighthouse and shrugged, it couldn’t hurt to get farther away from spook-central. I glanced over my shoulder at the cottage and shuddered, still unable to acknowledge it as having happened. In an effort to put that disturbing experience behind me, quite literally, I headed down the path that eventually had me shrouded in trees where I finally felt safe and more at home than I had since I left Alaska. The walk was easy and blissfully serene, it opened up to the grand structure of the lighthouse that now stood a short distance past what I could only assume had been the fuel sheds before automation had occurred.
I was surprised that on such a beautiful evening, no one else seemed to be around, but there were a lot of things that seemed to be off about today. The gulls were louder near the lighthouse and the wind was sharper, I guess I answered my own question, most people would probably be indoors eating dinner instead of subjecting themselves to the bone chill that came with the violent burst of ocean gales. With no one around though, I figured I could satisfy my long-standing curiosity by doing a little harmless B-and-E. I tried the handle of the watch house and it was locked–of course, it was locked–I rolled my eyes at my own overconfidence and tried one of the windows at the side of the micro-building and it squeaked upwards with a little elbow grease.
I was grateful that I had taken after my petite Yup’ik mother instead of my gangly, bumbling Scottish father, as my hips narrowly avoided getting stuck and I clumsily slipped through and fell into an impossibly contorted mess on the other side. Luckily, I had cradled my camera so it hadn’t hit the floor as hard as my elbow had–that would leave a bruise. A cursory look around the room, while I nursed my elbow, showed me that it no longer served as a watchhouse, but instead as a storage shed for tools and other necessary equipment to maintain the upkeep of the now-automated lighthouse. I smiled to myself, my fascination with lighthouses probably spurred from the fact that it wasn’t a type of building that I was particularly familiar with and I could just smell the history in this place.
A clanking sound echoed down from inside the tower and I had a suspicion that I wasn’t truly alone–but at the same time, I knew there was no one else in the building. There couldn’t be. I moved into the tower and looked up, but the empty space in the middle of the spiral staircase that lined the walls proved to be just that–empty. Well, I wasn’t a cat, so curiosity couldn’t kill me, right? The stairs creaked underneath my feet, the light that filtered in was even dimmer as the sun sunk lower toward the horizon. I’d been curious about the inner workings of a lighthouse for years, ever since I saw my first one in a picture in a history book as a child.
There was no one in the lighthouse, I noticed when I reached the top of the stairs, and the lantern room was just as spectacular as I hoped it would be, but I ached to see what it must have looked like before automation took place in the 1960s. There was something else in the air here though–something was off, it just didn’t feel right. I looked around the cramped space and still saw nothing. I shook my head and settled my eyes on the sun as it began to disappear over the ocean, this is what I really wanted to see. No view could compare to this, my hands rested gently on the glass as I pressed against the window cautiously–CLICK. The satisfaction from getting a good photograph compared to nothing else–I sighed.
Another creak of the floor rose from behind me and my breath caught in my chest, but I was frozen, I couldn’t turn to see what it was before my head was thrashed hard against the glass. The thick glass splintered out like thin ice under a heavy boot and I could see the blood that stained the cracks as my vision blurred and I dropped unwillingly to the floor, blackness seeped into my sight, but I could still feel the pain as my body crumpled under further assault by what I could only describe as a black mass hovering over me. It was impenetrable darkness that had no interest aside from causing me harm and it won.
I awoke to a shout, my eyes were bleary, I felt like I was looking through a red lens–blood had spilled into my eyes. What I could see now was the ground threatening me from afar, I was halfway through the railing of the catwalk and was dangerously close to falling to what I could only assume in my state was certain death. There was another shout and in my delirious state, I could see an obscure figure run full speed toward the lighthouse. Blackness overtook me again.
A strong jerk brought me around once more, my legs were being pulled by someone capable and I somehow knew I was going to be alright–the man behind the paper, from earlier, was that him?
“Are you okay?” my mystery man asked me, the concern on his voice was transparent.
“Ngh–help,” I barely formed the word, “ghost?” I wasn’t sure what had happened, I just knew it wasn’t something I had ever seen before.
“Yeah, little mouse–but you’re alright now.” I could feel him drag me up and back into the lantern room–or somewhere, I wasn’t certain where I even was anymore, but even in my poor condition, I knew that this was a defining moment for me. This was something I was going to need to figure out later on down the line.
“Anna,” I huffed through my laboriously jagged breaths, “my name is Anna Byrne.”
The rest of the night was a pretty much a blur, the mysterious man with the newspaper–he identified himself as Burton Januszczyk–helped me walk back to the cottage and then quite reluctantly to his room when he realized I didn’t feel safe in my own. I fished the key out of my dirty jeans and he went to retrieve my bag from the room while I sat fretfully on the edge of his tub in the bathroom.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” He asked when he came back, with my bag in hand, “are you sure you wouldn’t like me to drive you to the hospital for that gash on your head?”
“No, I mean–yes, I’ll be okay. I just–” there was a pronounced throb in my head once he mentioned it, “–I need to know what is going on here.”
“It’s Rue.” He said in a very matter-of-fact sort of way, “y’know you should really let me take a look at that,” I felt like he was simply trying to change the subject.
“Yeah, fine.” I relented and he reemerged with a first aid kit a few moments later. I winced when he applied the alcohol to the wound on my temple, “why do you think Rue attacked me?” Burton eyed me cautiously, as he cleared the blood from around my eyes, he looked like he was thinking hard about something–what was he hiding?
“I’ve been looking into this place for quite a while now, there’s been a habit of young women going missing in this area and I noticed a trend. I’ve traced most of the disappearances to this lighthouse.” The expression on his face looked haunted. “Not to pat myself on the back, but you’re pretty lucky I was here when you checked in–I was just about to leave.”
“Wait, do the owners know about this?” I furrowed my brow and the immediate shock-wave of pain reminded me of what was there.
“Do they know?” He tried to hold in a laugh under his breath, “they’re the ones that disturbed her spirit and brought her back in the first place–they thought it would make the bed and breakfast more popular! You saw that nasty doll behind the front desk? That belonged to Rue.” His story was wild–I had never heard of anything more ludicrous in my entire life, but here I was with a dent in my skull for my own skepticism. Burton finished tending my wound just as I was getting a call from–ah, shit it was my father.
“Sorry, I’ve got to take this–hey, I’m sorry I forgot to call and tell you I stopped for the night, I–” I was cut off by the sound of his voice rushing into the receiver.
“–are ye’ okay, Anna?” my father’s voice was curiously distraught.
“Yeah da–I’m fine! What’s wrong?”
“I got tha message from ye saying tha’ yer gonna stop ‘fore Newport? Where’d ye’ end up stoppin’?”
“Oh–uh,” I didn’t know if I should tell him about what happened, didn’t want him to worry, I was fine after all. “Uh–Heceta Head Lighthouse, there’s a B&B here, it’s uh–it’s cute. I guess.” I struggled to keep my voice even as I lied to my father.
“Cut the shite, Anna–wha happen’d?” I sighed and recounted the events that had just occurred, my stomach sank when he didn’t speak for a few moments after I finished the story. I could hear a sharp inhalation as if he were about to say something–then he loudly exhaled as if he had thought better of it. “Anna, we’ve got ta lot to talk about when yer home. Get out of that place as soon as ye can, come home. Please.” The urgency in his voice made me realize there was something he hadn’t been telling me for a long time–I needed to get home.
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Author. Artist. A little bit Alaskan. Mary lives with her dog in a rural cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. They explore the bounty of the Alaskan wilderness during the summer and cozy up in their log cabin during the winter.