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Oct 29, 2018 6:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Some Say Abigail Haunts The Montauk Light

Henry Osmers, the Montauk Lighthouse Historian, standing next to a rendering of what is said to be the lighthouse ghost, Abigail. ELIZABETH VESPE
Oct 30, 2018 2:03 PM

Some people say the Montauk Lighthouse is haunted by a maiden who goes by the name of Abigail. Volunteers, tour guides and guests all claim to have heard her voice echoing in the hallways, while others report furniture being moved around in the dead of night, pictures swinging on the walls, and unexplained noises.

One believer is Henry Osmers, the Montauk Lighthouse historian.

“This story is mixed with facts, which makes it a little more interesting,” Mr. Osmers said at the lighthouse on Sunday.

In 1860, over the span of two months, 12 men embarked on a $12,000 renovation of the lighthouse. Thirty feet was added to the height of the lighthouse, a larger light was added at the top, and the house that today holds the museum was constructed.

One of the builders had a daughter named Abigail, and in the work crew was a young man who remains nameless in the story.

“Supposedly, that young man and Abigail took a liking to each other,” Mr. Osmers said. “The father didn’t like him, no surprise: ‘Nobody is good enough for my daughter.’”

One night, the story goes, Abigail was standing at the top of the tower with her father and the young man, when a heated argument broke out between the men. “Abigail was so disturbed by this, she ran down the bluffs to the beach.” Later, she calmed down and returned to the lighthouse, to see her father standing at the entrance.

“The young man was nowhere to be seen,” Mr. Osmers continued. “The father said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll never see him again.’

“If the audience are small children, I tell them that the father told the young man to go away and never come back,” he added.

For an older audience, the story continues with the father having killed the young man at the top of the lighthouse, then shoved his body into the brick sleeve of the lighthouse, between the inner and outer walls.

“The story goes that the body is permanently wedged in the wall,” Mr. Osmers said. “Supposedly, the spirit of Abigail comes back to the lighthouse looking for his lost soul.”

A watercolor painting by Terry Flanagan hangs in the museum. It gives a glimpse into the artist’s interpretation of the ghost, a version in which Abigail is understood to have died at sea.

“You see Abigail hovering over the stairs of the lighthouse, and through the window you can see the ship that was wrecked,” Mr. Osmers said. Supposedly, in another legend, Abigail was the sole survivor of a shipwreck on Christmas Day in the early 1800s who swam to the lighthouse and climbed up the stairs before she died.

“That’s her impression of the story,” Mr. Osmers said of Ms. Flanagan.

“I’d hear talk about Abigail, and people always said weird things happened around here,” Mr. Osmers said before recounting his own experiences.

In 2006, Mr. Osmers said, he was climbing the lighthouse stairs before it opened for tours. He heard the sound of a motor start to run upstairs—he said it sounded like a vacuum.

“I figured it was the maintenance man doing some work before we opened to the public,” he said. However, when he strolled up to the top, there was no one to be seen.

“It sounded exactly like our vacuum,” Mr. Osmers recalled. “There was no mistaking it.”

The maintenance man later claimed to have not been around at all that morning.

“I should’ve put my hand on the vacuum to see if it was warm,” Mr. Osmers said.

Another incident took place in 2009, in the attic’s archival room. The attic runs the length of the lighthouse museum, with windows at both ends. At the far end, right below a window, sat archive boxes unopened by Mr. Osmers.

“This is when I was new to the archiving,” he said. “I didn’t know what was in the boxes. I bent down to take the lid off to look—and I suddenly felt a pull on the back of my jacket.”

He assumed he’d imagined it, or been caught by a nail on the ceiling. But the roof was too far away, and nothing was touching him.

Mr. Osmers bent down a second time, and it happened again, a little more forcefully than the first time.

“That freaked me out a little,” Mr. Osmers admitted. “I was all alone up there, and I said out loud, ‘If that’s you, Abigail, you’re kind of interfering with my job.’”

He waited a minute, which he said felt like an eternity.

“I bent down again, and nothing happened.”

Mr. Osmers has been working in the attic for years, and nothing similar has happened since.

The year 2012 brought another incident, in a far-back room, where an exhibit about the lighthouse keeper Jacob Hand is located. Mr. Osmers said he was giving a tour to about a dozen 10-year-old students.

“I was standing in the doorway talking to the chaperone, and, all of a sudden, we heard a scream. We both snapped our heads,” he said. A little boy was pointing at the wall.

“We looked at the wall—and a picture was moving back and forth all by itself.”

Inside the picture frame was an old newspaper clipping. The room does have windows on two sides, but they were shut tight.

“The little boy asked if I’d ever seen that happen before, and I said no,” Mr. Osmers said. “All the kids in unison said, ‘Cool!’”

Marge Winski, the former longtime caretaker at the lighthouse, spent nearly every night living in its second-floor apartment since April 1987. This week, she said the cellar and attic were really “creepy” around nighttime.

“One of our museum directors felt a cold breeze brush past him in the attic … he ran downstairs,” she recalled.

Mr. Osmers said Ms. Winski wouldn’t go into the south basement at night, and that her Newfoundland, Kate, would sometimes stare blankly without any apparent reason. “The dog would stop at the door and just look at the door and walk away,” he said. “Sometimes dogs sense things that we can’t.”

The weekend before last, Greg Donohue of the Montauk Historical Society was in the process of explaining the legend of Abigail at the peak of the lighthouse—when the watch tower door suddenly flung open.

A realist would say that was due to the wind, but others might say it was none other than Abigail.

Mr. Donohue and Mr. Osmers maintain, however, that none of the ghost stories is rooted in fact. “However,” Mr. Osmers added, “all lighthouses invite that type of mystery.”

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