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Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse.

"Sea without a shore for the banished one unheard
He lightens the beacon, light at the end of world
Showing the way lighting hope in their hearts
The ones on their travels homeward from afar"
Nightwish, "The Islander"
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Lighthouses have been around for a long time. At one time they were invaluable to the shipping industry, making sure boats got into harbor without crashing into reefs or the shore. Advances in technology have made lighthouses mostly obsolete, though; GPS and LORAN killed off the use of lighthouses in commercial shipping due to being much more accurate and cheaper to use and operate. Nowadays lighthouses are left alone for historical sites and tourist traps. The only places left where lighthouses have any serious use are where radio might not work, where the sea conditions change radically, or in places like harbors with narrow entrances or seamounts surrounded by barely submerged ridges where it is vital that the pilot of a ship have a blatantly obvious marker of where not to steer in the event of an electronics failure or disorienting weather conditions.

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Despite their current uselessness, lighthouses have been used as settings in modern and old stories, often in a scary capacity. It could be because the small number of people needed to staff a lighthouse leads to stories about recluses working the lighthouse. Or it could be that lighthouses being usually located on a lone island or a distant cliff makes them isolated and creepy. Add some Ominous Fog rolling in off the coast for extra atmosphere. The height also makes a lighthouse an ideal setting for a Climbing Climax, and relighting a lighthouse is a common quest for heroes.

Of course, it can just as easily be a Subverted Trope. The protagonists could stumble upon a lighthouse that initially appears abandoned but is actually inhabited and well maintained.

Lighthouses do not necessarily have to be haunted to be good for a setting; they can be just as atmospheric on their own. But the characters have to interact with it in some way.

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See also Windmill Scenery, as windmills are nowadays used very similarly to lighthouses as atmospheric, scenic elements.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The lighthouse on Enoshima island off the cost of Kamakura gets featured in several manga and anime:
    • In Elfen Lied, the lighthouse forms an important backdrop, both in the manga and in the anime. It's only in the manga though that it ends up completely trashed.
    • The same lighthouse plays an important role in Uta Kata.
    • And the same lighthouse is visited by the main characters in Sweet Blue Flowers.
    • And again in A Channel during the Beach Episode.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: One of the more noticeable features of the Dark Ocean dimension is a lighthouse that emits a ray of darkness instead of light, adding to the bleakness of the place.
  • Most of what happens in My Beautiful Girl Mari has ties with the town's lighthouse.
  • An episode of Pokémon had Ash and Co. stop at Bill's Lighthouse, which initially appeared haunted. The episode eventually turned into an homage to the below-mentioned Fog Horn.
  • An episode of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman involved a supposedly moving lighthouse. Yes, the bad guys were involved.
  • One shows up in the twentieth chapter of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee. It's definitely of the spooky variety.
  • One of the stories in Junji Ito's Uzumaki involves the spiral staircase inside the local lighthouse.

    Comic Books 
  • The classic Batman story "Legend of Key Hook Lighthouse!" from Detective Comics #414 takes place in a haunted lighthouse.
  • The team Excalibur lived in a lighthouse. Not haunted, but very magical.
  • Aquaman is the son of a lighthouse keeper, and is usually depicted as living in the old lighthouse when he's not under the waves, including his cinematic debut. But it's just an ordinary lighthouse, other than that.
  • In the Carl Barks story Northeaster at Cape Quack, Donald and the boys are asked to guard the old Cape Quack lighthouse while the usual keeper moves his furniture in preparation for a storm. While Donald acknowledges that the lighthouse is outdated, he is of the firm opinion that it still has a role in the world. This is proven correct when a Corrupt Corporate Executive sabotages the lighthouse to buy up the land... just in time for the greatest storm of the century to hit. To make matters worse, a ship with a defect radar is out in the storm, and Donald has no way of repairing the sabotage. Instead, he takes some old oil lanterns and climbs to the top of the lighthouse's flagpole, while waves are washing over it just centimeters beneath him.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Iron Giant opens with a sailor trying to find the Rockwell lighthouse while adrift in a storm. He gets hit by something else instead, but eventually does make it to the actual lighthouse by the scene's end.
  • Song of the Sea: The main characters Ben and Saoirse live on a lighthouse off the coast of Ireland with their father, the keeper.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Love Light : Angela and her family keep a lighthouse. They're Italians and World War I is raging. Eventually Angela rescues an Italian sailor washed up on the rocks, and they fall in love...but the sailor shows an odd familiarity with German...
  • Lighthouse 1947 (1947) A love triangle set in a lighthouse.
  • The Light at the Edge of the World (1971). A lighthouse keeper (Kirk Douglas) escapes a massacre by pirates led by Yul Brynner who invade his lighthouse's island and goes on a guerilla against them as they extinguish the lighthouse and prey on ships that wreck on the island as a result.
  • The Fog (1980). A lighthouse that doubles as a radio station is attacked by ghosts and the heroine must scramble to the very top to avoid them.
  • The 1950s giant monster movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (which is loosely based on the Ray Bradbury story The Fog Horn) has a brief but memorable scene at a small New English lighthouse, which gets destroyed by the eponymous Beast.
  • In The Ring, the Moesko Island lighthouse is the vital clue that lets Rachel know where the Cursed Video legend originated.
  • The climatic final encounter with the Tooth Fairy in Darkness Falls takes place within, and atop, a lighthouse.
  • In The Goonies, the entrance to the cave system is underneath a lighthouse.
  • Tormented (1960) opens with a woman falling to her death out of a lighthouse. Her ghost spends the rest of the movie (ahem) tormenting her ex, who could have saved her but didn't. Although he's the only one who can see her ghost, a few other characters are able to hear her voice echoing around the lighthouse.
  • Battle Royale has a very memorable scene in a light house.
  • In Akunin, the murderer Shimizu and his girlfriend Mitsuyo take up residence in an abandoned lighthouse while hiding from the police.
  • Lighthouse (1999) has a shipwrecked people from a prison ship fighting a killer in a lighthouse island.
  • Lampshaded by Shaggy in Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster:
    "Heh. Would you look at that. Our first suspect just happens to be the keeper of a creepy old lighthouse. You know, just once, I wish we found a mystery that started in a cheery futon showroom."
  • A Very Long Engagement: The film's protagonist is the daughter of lighthouse keepers. She has a few dalliances with her boyfriend in the lighthouse.
  • The Lighthouse is a psychological horror movie about two men operating a lighthouse on an isolated island. They are eventually driven mad by the isolation. The whole movie is dripping with the eerie nautical atmosphere you expect from this trope.
  • Pete's Dragon (1977) has the boy, Pete, adopted by lighthouse keepers, and the climax has the heroes trying to relight the lighthouse in a storm. It just so happens that fire-breathing dragons are quite handy in that regard.

    Literature 
  • Enid Blyton's The Famous Five: In the 19th book Five Go to Demon's Rocks there is a good example of the trope. The Five are staying in the lighthouse, and the adventure they get caught up in very much revolves around the lighthouse; and the climax involves lighting the lamp and ringing a bell on a stormy night as the only way of attracting help when they are locked in the lighthouse.
  • Ray Bradbury short story "The Fog Horn". A sea monster appears once per year to listen to a lighthouse's fog horn. One time, the lighthouse keeper decides to turn off the fog horn while the creature is listening to it. Big mistake.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, the island of Demonreach features an abandoned lighthouse.
  • C.B. Colby's Strangely Enough, sea story "The Man Who Fell Forever". A sailor named Curly climbs a deserted lighthouse with a friend. When he gets to the top, Curly throws himself over the side. The horrified friend rushes down to the base and looks around, but can't find the body. Curly was never seen again.
  • Thursday Next faces off against a psychic Enemy Within in a dark and crumbling lighthouse at the end of her mind.
  • The poem Flannan Isle by W. W. Gibson tells of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on an island off the coast of Scotland the night of Dec. 15, 1900. It is inspired by a true story.
  • The narrator of H. P. Lovecraft's The White Ship is a lighthouse keeper, and it's implied that the solitude either a) made him more sensitive to the supernatural or b) affected his sanity.
  • Dr. Thorndyke story "The Echo of a Mutiny", is set on a lighthouse. Jeffreys, the keeper of the lighthouse, was a sailor who long ago mutinied and killed his captain. He is unpleasantly surprised to find out that his new partner at the lighthouse, a fellow named Brown, was his old partner in the mutiny.
  • Koushun Takami's Battle Royale has one of its most intense sequences in one.
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf tells the story of a family going to visit a lighthouse on two different days, set ten years apart ...maybe.
  • Shutter Island, both the book and the movie, has a lighthouse on the island with the asylum. It either contains the septic system for the island, or is a secret lab where the staff conduct experiments on the patients. It is actually an office of the head doctor.
  • One of the stories in Letters from A Windmill by Alphonse Daudet takes place at a lighthouse on a mostly uninhabited island. Here the lighthouse was necessary for the ships but could be a very unpleasant place to its operators due to the isolated location.
  • CattRokk light from Septimus Heap, whose Sphere of Light becomes a major plot point in Syren.
  • The short story "Three Skeleton Key" by Georges-Gustave Toudouze, which inspired the below-mentioned Escape radio episode, involves lighthouse keepers being trapped inside their tower by a horde of rats when a Ghost Ship washes up to the island, the rats having killed and eaten the crew.
  • An unfinished story by Edgar Allan Poe, called simply "The Light-House," deals with a lighthouse keeper's growing paranoia that the structure will collapse. Robert Bloch penned his own completion of the story and took it in a completely different direction.
  • S.D. Perry's Resident Evil Caliban Cove features a lighthouse as the entrance to the Cove's cave system. It doesn't do much beyond conceal a carrier of Dr Griffith's modified T-Virus, holding an M16, who opens fire on the main characters.
  • Moominpappa at Sea, one of Tove Jansson's Moomin series is set on a lonely island with a lighthouse. It deals with (among other things) the disillusionment of the titular character who starts out with a very romantic image of the setting and plans to use it as an inspiration for his book. Reality, however, kills his romanticism as the place turns out to be abandoned and depressing. A recurring theme is the loneliness of the island (which is very much described as a character in its own right) and of the job of the lighthouse keeper.
  • Toward the end of Nine Princes in Amber, Corwin ends up at the secluded Lighthouse of Cabra, and is befriended by the solitary keeper, Jopin. It provides a break from the earlier activity, and Jopin (once he recognizes Corwin) provides some advice, and a boat to escape in.
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, the lighthouse is a prominent feature in Area X, which expeditions tend to be drawn to, secretly directed by the Southern Reach to distract them from the topographical anomaly, and where the expedition members' journals tend to end up in. It's made out to be a safe point but it's obvious that something horrible has happened inside at some point and someone's tried to turn it into a stronghold. There's another, ruined lighthouse on the island and much is made of a possible connection between the two. It's not the lighthouse itself that's important, but the lens.
  • One Father Brown story features the "fake lighthouse" trope: the murderer has an old tower on his property that's supposedly curse and has caught fire once or twice before. In fact he deliberately sets fire to it, trying to arrange for the victim to drown after mistaking the blaze for the lighthouse and hitting a reef. Fortunately, Father Brown was at hand with a gardening hose.
  • Dear America: A Light In The Storm takes place at a lighthouse in Maine just before The Civil War.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who episode "Horror of Fang Rock" takes place at a lighthouse.
  • There was a TV series about a lighthouse which had strange creatures living in the walls. The lighthouse keeper's dog could see the creatures, but couldn't alert his owner to their existence. No, wait, that was the UK version of Fraggle Rock...
  • The Goodies episode "A Little Light Housekeeping" features some typically surreal antics in and around a lighthouse and it also turns into a rocket.
  • Lost season 6 reveals a random lighthouse with creepy mystical stuff (like a clock that can spy on people). It's in a isolated area that's apparently just minutes away from one of the major settings of season 1.
  • A long forgotten kid's Brit Com called On The Rocks featured a pirate TV station that broadcast from a remote lighthouse. Obviously not very creepy.
  • In The Prisoner (1967) spoof episode "The Girl who was Death", a Mad Scientist with a Napoleon complex plans to launch a rocket against London from an isolated lighthouse. (Actually the lighthouse itself is the rocket. I say, you've guessed! You're not the Duke of Wellington, are you?)
  • An episode of Pushing Daisies featured the murder of a lighthouse keeper. The team has to investigate during a dark and stormy night.
  • Round the Twist took place at a lighthouse.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Aquiel" was about a mysterious disappearance onboard a subspace comms relay station in interstellar space, which was as close to a lighthouse IN SPACE! as the writers could get without delving too far into Space Is an Ocean. [[spoilers: The plot ultimately owes more to The Thing (1982) than a typical "lighthouse mystery" plot.]]
  • Stephen King's Storm of the Century has a lighthouse on Little Tall Island which features prominently in trailers and promotional art, despite the fact no character in the miniseries ever interacts with it (except for one creepy segment with Andre Linoge). However, it does get rather spectacularly toppled during the height of the snowstorm (a clear bit of miniature work), an event witnessed by most of the town which also leads to the disappearance and deaths of several characters.
  • One episode of the new Twilight Zone concerned a lighthouse that was sort of a waypoint on the afterlife, where the newly dead arrived before being sent on their way.
  • The long-running Soap Opera Guiding Light had a lighthouse in its (mostly) fictional town of Springfield which featured in a number of plots and was also made part of the opening credits in various ways through the years.
  • Being set in an old seaside town in Maine (and filmed in Nova Scotia), Haven unsurprisingly has multiple lighthouses. One is the weekend prison of a woman who's overtaken by a succubus once a week, and another contains a portal to another world.
  • The 100 has Jaha and Murphy reach an island with an automated lighthouse, still functioning nearly a century after the nuclear apocalypse. Possibly set up and maintained by ALIE to guide/lure people to her island.
  • Friday the 13th: The Series had the episode "The Pirate's Promise" in which the cursed artifact the characters were seeking was a foghorn used to summon the ghost of a pirate to give him the bodies of the descendants of his mutinous crew in exchange for his lost treasure. Between the wind, the Ominous Fog, the buoy, and the foghorn itself, all the creepy aspects of the trope are played up, while the plot bears a strong resemblance to that of The Fog. There's also one scene where, to hide from the villain, one of the characters has to actually hang off the side of the lighthouse platform, but it isn't during the climax.

    Music 
  • "Lighthouse" by The Hush Sound is about a ghost girl who haunts said lighthouse, along with the narrator and her friend, who become locked inside the lighthouse as well.
  • The Lighthouse's Tale by Nickel Creek tells a story that not only takes place at a lighthouse, but is told first-person through the lighthouse's point of view.
  • "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", a famous song/musical piece by Van der Graaf Generator.
  • "The Ghosts of Heceta Head" by Lordi.
  • "The Islander" by Nightwish provides the page quote.
  • They Might Be Giants' song "Absolutely Bill's Mood" opens with the lyric "I was born in a lighthouse / My mother was the sea."

    Radio 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The darklord Monette, from the Ravenloft game setting, resides in a lighthouse on a tiny island. Its beam is capable of luring in ships from other worlds via the Mists.
  • Warhammer 40,000 takes this Up to Eleven as usual. Every day, a thousand psykers are sacrificed to the God-Emperor of Mankind, their powers helping his corpse power the Astronomican, the psychic lighthouse (which now occupies all of Mount Everest) that serves as a reference point in the Warp, without which FTL Travel would be impossible. note 

    Theme Parks 
  • The former R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse 4-D at the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks was naturally set in this kind of location.

    Urban Legends 
  • The "Obstinate Lighthouse" urban legend.
    • To briefly summarise, a major battleship or battlefleet (often, in modern tellings, belonging to the US Navy) has apparently picked up a smaller vessel (usually Canadian or Irish) on radar getting too close, and the commander gets on the radio to order the smaller vessel to change course. The smaller vessel refuses and instead tells the battleship to change course instead. This leads to the commander of the battleship repeating the order with increasing arrogance and belligerence, only to be refused and told to change course each time. Eventually, the commander lists out the many impressive military capabilities of the battleship and threatens to rain down God's own vengeance on the smaller vessel if it doesn't get out of the way right this second... only to be informed that the "vessel" he's speaking to is actually a lighthouse: "Your call."
  • Wreckers were people who scavenged the cargo that floated ashore from ships that rammed into coastal reefs, and would shine lights on cliffs at night or during stormy weather so as to cause ships to mistake them for a harbor lighthouse and run into a reef. That last part, however, seems to be pure myth.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Where would Scooby-Doo be without haunted lighthouses?
  • Clue Club episode "The Case of the Lighthouse Mouse".
  • The Simpsons:
    • The ending of "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Our Homer)" has Homer look for a soulmate at a lighthouse, but only finding a computer.
    • Sideshow Bob is living in a lighthouse in "Bobby, It's Cold Outside" and a flash-forward in "Gone Boy".
  • Donald Duck occasionally ends up in one. Usually one with a bird that doesn't agree with him.
  • The Adventures of Portland Bill is a British stop-motion animated children's series set in and around a manned lighthouse, and is mostly remembered for its cast all being named after various locations in The Shipping Forecast.
  • A lighthouse in Steven Universe sits on top of the cliff face the Crystal Temple is built into. Ronaldo seems to spend a lot of time there, and when Steven, Lars, and Sadie come to watch some movies, it appears to be haunted. It actually has a corrupted Gem within the walls that held a grudge against Lars.
  • The Oggy and the Cockroaches episode "The Lighthouse Keeper" is a focus of this trope; Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

    Web Original 
  • Near Ravensblight, a light tower has stood for an unclear length of time, before 1748 when the first settlers arrived in the area. In 1873 it was turned into a lighthouse. It has an annoying habit of going dark when most needed. Keeper after keeper went insane or committed suicide out of guilt, some even saying some sort of creatures kept putting the light out. This continued beyond 1906 when the light was electrified.
More ships were wrecked, sailors lost; and keepers kept having fatal accidents, from a heart attack while attempting to fix the system, through falling down the stairs while racing to fix another failure, to a box of dynamite the National Guard insisted on keeping there catching sparks from a short near the light assembly. The building was abandoned around 1956 after the last keeper was committed to an asylum. Searching the lighthouse and keepers cottage revealed an attic full of Books Man Was Not Meant To Read, and a hole in the cottage floorboards leading down into the rock, to a chamber occupied by a large stone block covered in strange symbols. No-one has dared venture further. And now, you can be the next keeper, if you dare!

    Real Life 
  • Almost every small town on the coast has a lighthouse as a tourist trap.
  • There is actually a Florida city called Lighthouse Point.
  • The lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt is the most famous lighthouse, since it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. For several years it was the tallest man made structure ever, before an earthquake and fire destroyed it.
  • St. Catherine's Lighthouse, a lighthouse built in the 1300's. The man who originally began construction of it (He died one year before it's completion) was to face excommunication for plundering wine from a shipwreck of a ship heading to a monastery, and his act of contrition was to build it.
  • One night on a small tropical island, deadly venomous snakes crawl into a lighthouse, forcing the lighthouse keeper and his family to flee into the woods... where they're promptly killed by even more snakes. Sounds like a pretty good horror movie setup, but it would hit too close to home for those familiar with the aptly-named Snake Island.
  • Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and a bit of Nova Scotia are all littered with Lighthouse Points. The most famous being the one at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. The novel You Can Pick Me Up at Peggy's Cove by Brian Doyle features a memorable description of the Pandemonium that happens around the lighthouse at sunset as the throngs of tourists all jostle to take the perfect picture.
  • Flannan Light, on Eilean Mòr off the coast of Scotland, as mentioned above in Literature. Even without the apocryphal addition of giant creepy birds (or something) hanging around the rock, the story of the three missing lighthouse keepers, which has never truly been explained to this day, is eerie enough to raise the hair on your neck. It's not surprising no one wanted to man the place afterward, so that it eventually had to become automated.
  • The Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon, which happened to be the one used for the pictures in The Ring, happens to also have a few ghost stories of its own.
  • Seattle has two: the West Point Lighthouse off Discovery Park, and the Alki Point Lighthouse off West Seattle.
  • Cape Byron, Australia: the Easternmost point on the mainland is marked with this famous lighthouse.
  • These lighthouses off the coast of Russia, within the Arctic Circle. You don't want to go there. They might look like an adventure destination, but when they were abandoned upon the fall of the Soviet Union, they continued working automatically as they were nuclear powered, until thieves started to destroy them to steal their metal content. Trouble is, this theft and destruction extended to the power plants, rendering them hot, and who knows what may have happened to the fuel...

Alternative Title(s): The Lighthouse

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