There are few things as iconic or as defining as the lighthouses that dot the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These towering monoliths evoke a sense of wonder and excitement in all those lucky enough to stand beneath them. Few things truly give one the sense of connection to the history of these islands the way these silent sentinels do. They have stood, ever watchful, in the sands of the Banks for generations, guiding ships and sailors safely through the treacherous waters off North Carolina's coast. One of these lights, and one of the more unique, is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, North Carolina.
Unlike most of The Banks Lights, the Currituck Lighthouse doesn’t bear one of the distinctive coatings of paint that mark its sisters. Over a million red bricks and black wrought metal remain unchanged by man or weather, allowing visitors to appreciate this act of defiance against gravity and nature undertaken by the men who laid the first stones in 1873 as they would have seen it. Rising 162 feet into the air, the Currituck Lighthouse dominates the surrounding landscape, and if you should be so inclined, you are welcome to climb the 214 steps to her observation deck and take in the view for yourself.
Something must be said for the stalwart figure of the Light Keeper. In my youth, I always imagined that I would deeply enjoy the life of a Keeper. To be alone with my thoughts, making the climb to the top of my stern and stoic charge to ensure that the lenses were polished and the lamps properly fueled. To know that in my solitude, every night and foggy morning my toil had spared life and limb for those brave souls who ply their trade on the sea. Of course, even then the Light Keeper was obsolete. By 1998 all lighthouses in the United States were automated, the Currituck Lighthouse was no exception. Her last keeper, a Mr. William James Tate, was relieved of his post in 1939.
Even without her keepers, the Currituck Lighthouse has remained an important part of the North Carolina Coast over the years. In the years surrounding the Second World War, she was manned by the United States Coast Guard to serve as a base of operations from which they could patrol the nearby shores and waters for German U-boats. Even now, every night from dusk until dawn the Currituck Lighthouse illuminates the night sky ensuring that passing vessels don’t veer to close to the dangerous shoals that lay just off the beach. There is also, of course, those who say that the Light isn’t completely abandoned.
Local legend holds that one of the Lights early keepers had a young daughter named Sadie whose room was made in the northern bedroom of the Keepers house, a charming two story Victorian home situated at the base of the Light. Sadie unfortunately met her untimely end when she drowned while playing unattended on the beach. After Sadies death, more would follow, all inexplicably linked to the North Bedroom of the Keepers house. A friend of one of the later families who tended the Light was suddenly struck ill and died while staying in the North Bedroom. Finally, a keepers wife was stricken with tuberculosis and would also spend her last days in the cold embrace of the North Bedroom. There are those who even today continue to report a strange feeling, as though they are not alone, when touring the grounds around the Light.
Perhaps Sadie yet remains, walking beside those who come to see her home, hoping that someday, someone might play with her beside the water once again.