Death At Big Bay Point Lighthouse
OK, for a small town, Big Bay, MI has an unusual amount of suspense. Big Bay Point Lighthouse is no exception. Besides its own suicide/murder (?) it is also connected to the murder at the Lumberjack Tavern. Try and follow this…
Chronologically, the first bit of intrigue is associated with the first light keeper, William Prior. Prior’s son George, who was also his assistant keeper, died June 1901 from injuries due to a fall. It is said William Prior became despondent and less than a month after his son’s death Prior disappeared. Over a year later, a hunter found a skeleton hanging in a tree. From clothing and other items, it was determined to be William Prior. Whether he was murdered or committed suicide was never determined. It is said his red headed ghost still haunts the lighthouse.
Fifty years later another murder has a connection to the lighthouse. The U.S. Army leased the land and building in 1951 and 1952 for training exercises. Large guns were on the cliff and planes towed targets over the lake. Soldiers would camp out for two week periods and conduct target practice. It was one of the soldiers, First Lt. Coleman A. Peterson, who committed the murder at Lumberjack Tavern in 1952.
Lighthouses have a certain allure to them. No matter the size, location, in use or not, we are drawn to them. These houses take on a special interest when intrigue is involved. The lighthouse became operational in October 1896 and remained manned until 1941 when it was designated as unwatched.
The decommissioned lighthouse and 33 acres became private property in 1961. Today, the fourth private owners continue to operate the lighthouse as a bed and breakfast. In fact, they were drawn to Big Bay to stay in the bed and breakfast and in 1992 they purchased the property. By doing so, it was saved from condo development.
The small community of Big Bay MI is full of intrigue, most relating to death. First, the death of the first lighthouse keeper of Big Bay Point Lighthouse, then the murder at Lumberjack Tavern. Although the deaths were 50 years apart, they have a common link – Big Bay Point Lighthouse.
Walking the grounds we could imagine big guns sitting on the cliff pointed at the water or looking into the woods thinking where was Prior’s body found. Yes, Big Bay has lots of intrigue for a small area and we enjoyed every bit of it.