assateague horses

Assateague Island may be a place that we associate with campfires, horses, and of course the beach, but the barrier island is also home to many spiritual inhabitants. After hearing a few rumors here and there, we decided to look into the otherworldly phenomenon and stories surrounding Assateague and its lighthouse.

The island of Assateague has remained relatively uninhabited for the majority of its history, allowing wildlife to thrive along its shores. According to many historians, a Spanish galleon, most likely La Galga or “The Greyhound”, landed on a sandbar off of Assateague in 1720. It is said that the stranded crew decided to unload some of its cargo (including horses) to lighten its load and dislodge from the sandbar. Many people believe that those same discarded horses swam to shore, and that their descendants are the feral horses that now roam the island.

Five sailors also jumped ship in an attempt to swim to land. Unfortunately, unlike their furry counterparts, the  sailors all drowned. While the actual sandbar is no longer in place, many reports over the years have indicated paranormal activity around the location. Other supposed paranormal activity has been attributed to Black Beard, who landed on the island as well. What’s more, due to the many ghostly tales surrounding the area, some local residents believe that the horses are actually the spirits of those who have passed away while on Assateague.

Whether they are reincarnated ghosts or regular ponies, there remains some debate over the horses’ origins on the island. The tale of the Spanish fleet has been documented through historical records; however, according to John Amrhein, author of The Hidden Galleon, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has never completely subscribed to the story of the horses and the marooned galleon. Instead, the US Fish and Wildlife Service attributes the horses’ arrival to colonists who once lived on the island. Supposedly some of these horses escaped captivity and began living in the wild. Amrheid contends however that all of these horses were killed during powerful hurricane in 1749.

On the Virginia-side of Assateauge, the Assateague Lighthouse looms 142-feet in the air. It was asslitestripped with brick red and white colors in 1968; however the original lighthouse maintained a very different appearance. The first lighthouse on Assateague Island was built in 1833, standing 45 feet high, painted a solid white, and housing a Lewis Lamp. This archaic light source was a chandelier-like device that consisted of eleven oil-burning lamps and reflectors. The modern light fixture used for lighthouses is called a Fresnel Lens. The blinding light uses prism-like lenses to display light up to 20 miles over the ocean.

Before the new Fresnel light was installed, the small lighthouse was home to its first keeper, David Watson. Watson lived alone, carrying out his duties for seven years until he mysteriously died in the lighthouse. Years later, the lighthouse was torn down due to its inefficiency and replaced with the one standing today. Despite the construction of the new lighthouse, many believe that the ghost of Watson still resides there.

One of the most common reports of paranormal activity within the lighthouse stems from reports that the door to the lighthouse is often found mysteriously unlocked, despite being securely locked. Whether the paranormal activity is attributed to the ghost of Watson or the soldiers who lost their lives attempting to swim to shore, we many never know…

…to check out the building’s possible haunting, we suggest you see Assateague Lighthouse for yourself!