Heceta Lighthouse B&B ‘ain’t afraid of no ghost’
City Lights Cinemas explores local connections to “ghostbusters”
Nov. 17, 2021 — “We don't bring it up to the guests, we wait for them to approach us with it, because not everybody is comfortable with that. They don't really do a lot of marketing for that; it gets out there on its own,” said Misty Anderson, event coordinator and director of special projects for Heceta Lighthouse B&B.
They get approached a lot.
“I get asked dozens of times a year, ‘Are we in the room?’” said Terry Hankins, interpretive guide for the B&B and board member of the Keepers of Heceta Head Lightstation. “When I do historical tours, usually it's the kids who bring it up. They want to connect with the spirit.”
The legends of hauntings at the B&B can put the establishment, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, in a tough position. On the one hand, the core mission is to preserve the memory of those who served the lighthouse over the years while creating a warm, inviting place. The vast majority of guests don’t notice a thing.
“It’s a very pleasant place,” Hankins said. “We like to think of this as a home, not a spooky place.”
On the other hand, guests can shy away from booking a room, even cancelling a wedding reception, because of the alleged haunting.
It’s a dilemma straight out of the 1984 film “Ghostbusters,” where Bill Murray enters the Sedgewick Hotel yelling, “Hey, anybody see a ghost!?”
The hotel manager quickly steps in, saying, “The guests are starting to ask questions and I’m running out of excuses.”
When asked if he had ever reported it, the manager replied, “Heaven’s no! The owners don’t like us even talking about it.”
In celebration of the new film “Ghostbusters Afterlife,” which opens Thursday, City Lights Cinemas talked to those who run the B&B to see what it’s like living in the center of it all — the bumps in the night, the real life ghost hunters, and if they would ever consider “busting” their ghost.
Hauntings have been whispered about since the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the ‘70s when they began to spread in popularity. During that time, Harry and Anne Tammen were the caretakers, and Lane Community College was renting the house.
“They used this for adult class education with retreats,” Hankins said. “[The Tammens] were known to be fun, and they said they kind of started this ghost story.”
The reports ranged from banging to high pitched screams. Cupboards opened by themselves, broken glass was being swept up mysteriously, but they weren’t the only one’s reporting issues.
In 1975, Siuslaw News published the headline “Lady of the Lighthouse Baffles Workmen.”
Workers had noticed tools disappearing and reappearing. One worker was cleaning windows in the attic when he reportedly noticed strange reflections in the glass — an elderly woman dressed in 1890’s apparel, which was later nicknamed “The Grey Lady.” He never went into the attic again.
Around the same time, some LCC students started playing with a ouija board.
“They asked, ‘What’s your name?” Hankins said. “And the ouija board spelled out R-U-E.”
Rue became the Gray Lady, and the legend grew.
As to who Rue could be, nothing’s proven, but theories abound as enthusiasts comb through the rich history of the lighthouse. Some believe Rue is the Grey Lady, with others insisting Rue’s a child.
“There have been people with ghost detecting equipment saying that there's multiple presences here, not just one,” Hankins said.
Or there could be none.
An oft-republished 1993 Siuslaw News article written by former lighthouse resident Carolyn Stockton bluntly states, “We haven’t seen it.”
When Anderson became caretaker, she was skeptical too.
“I didn’t believe in all that. I heard all the ghost stories, but I just went about normal operations,” she said.
Then things got weird.
“I would go through and lock all the windows. I'd walk back, and half of them would be unlocked,” said Anderson. “I thought the caretakers were playing jokes on me, but they didn't know anything about it. I remember in the Queen Anne rooml there was this incessant knocking. I said, ‘Hey, I really need to sleep, can you please stop?’ And then it stopped.”
She started talking to guests about their experiences and reading the notes they had left behind. The B&B possesses a notebook of letters, though the opening paragraph keeps things in perspective.
“In the spirit of fun and a nod to folklore, we like to share intriguing stories that perhaps make one wonder,” it begins. “However, our emphasis at the Keeper’s House is to share the rich history of the Keepers who watched the Light. … The ghost stories are considered a chance to grab visitors' focus on things more historic.”
The book begins with various histories and newspaper clippings, but then handwritten testimonials, filled with bumps in the night and ghostly children playing on the stairs.
“I was awakened by what seemed like pressure through the blanket on both my legs on the shin,” one letter read. “It felt like a hand grip on both lower legs. I woke up but didn’t see anything so went back to sleep. This happened one more time that night.”
But they weren’t afraid.
“[It was] somewhat reassuring for some reason,” they wrote.
Anderson said, “It's very real and authentic to them. It really changed my perspective. I definitely believe now that anything is possible.”
“I was sitting at the dining room table with my laptop and the cupboard on this dining hutch popped open and three or four dishes flew out onto the floor,” she said, pointing to a stack of heavy china. “These dishes don't fly out. I’m not a spooky kind of person, but I do believe a spiritual world exists, so I’m not going to say I can’t believe it.”
And many do believe, including professional paranormal investigators. Hankins referred to them as “Ghostbusters,” coming in with equipment similar to the films — EMF meters, voice recorders for EVPs, infrared thermometers. No proton packs or ghost traps, though.
Years ago they were staples at the B&B, but according to Anderson, “It irritated the ghost that these people were coming and it was like invading her space, because she can make all kinds of weird things happen.”
They now avoid trying to attract professionals, though they have rented out the house to paranormal investigators for an all-night study.
But that doesn’t mean they want to block the curious.
“We'll check someone in and we find seance candles underneath the bed,” Hankins said. “Sometimes they come in, they just turn out all the lights and they don't leave their room. And they just want to convene and call the spirit, and that’s great.”
Anderson particularly has fun with students.
“They have their little investigative tools, and they’re so excited,” she said. “We think it's pretty harmless. There's nobody trying to get rid of her or do anything to upset her. They're just curious.”
It all comes down to respect.
“Rue’s a part of our family and weird things happen; it's just part of the reality of our operations,” Anderson said. “Anytime I go into the attic I just give respect. I say, ‘I’m coming up here to get this box, it's all good, I'll be out of here in a second.’”
Would they hire the Ghostbusters to rid their house of spirits?
“No, this is her house. This is her space. This is her home,” Anderson said. “I like knowing about her.”
The biggest gift that Rue gives is keeping alive the memories of thousands of souls who have temporarily passed through to keep the lighthouse shining for more than 125 years.
“Whether it was a lightkeeper station, or a military barracks, or filled with students or us working at the bed and breakfast, we are all just temporary visitors,” Anderson said. “And it's no one's place to get rid of the memory or the energy of whoever's there. She’s a part of its history, as we all are.”
For more information on Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, including reservation and opportunities to volunteer and donate for new renovation projects, visit www.hecetalighthouse.com
For tickets to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” at City Lights Cinemas, which has previews starting Nov. 18 at 4 and 7 p.m., visit www.citylightscinemas.com.
For supplemental information on this article, including pictures of the actual letters, follow City Lights on Facebook.
Anderson is the Education Director at City Lights Cinemas and a former journalist for the Siuslaw News.