Beacon of Despair
The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is situated at the most southwesterly tip of Australia, at the point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. Its beam can be seen for 48 kilometres. The lighthouse keepers had to climb the 186 steps four times a day to ensure the light kept burning. Such was life at the remote Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse from 1895 until it was automated in 1992.
Time may have moved on, but a certain lighthouse keeper’s wife refused to budge. She is the ghost who dwells in Cottage Three, the cottage closest to the lighthouse. Photographer Peter Rigby has been photographing the lighthouse for years and is convinced there is a presence in Cottage Three. “There is a sense of desolation in the cottage and it certainly is colder than the other ones,” he says.
In 1909, the then lighthouse keeper’s wife, Maud Elizabeth Govett Miner, was heavily pregnant. She was cleaning the house in preparation for her baby’s arrival. She stood on a chair to adjust a curtain, suffered a heavy fall and injured herself badly. It took days for the doctor to arrive. “She died from septicaemia and tragically her baby died, too,” Peter explains. “They were just too far from anywhere.”
Since her passing, Cottage Three, where Maud was living at the time, has been a constant source of haunted activity. “The current lighthouse caretaker and tours supervisor, Paul Sofilas, has lived on site for ten years,” says Peter. “He talks of lights going on and off for no reason. Doors will open and close and no-one is there.”
According to Paul, pregnant women and women with young babies are particularly drawn to Cottage Three. “It’s as if the lighthouse keeper’s wife is beckoning them so she can see their babies,” adds Peter. Maud was very maternal; she had three other children and she didn’t get to give birth to her much-anticipated fourth child. Many say the loss of that baby is likely the reason why her spirit has not been able to move on.
One visitor saw a woman in period dress standing on the veranda of Cottage Three. She ran to the office to report what she had seen. “The office staff took her back to the cottage and showed her a photograph of the lighthouse keeper’s wife that is kept in the lounge room,” Peter explains. “The woman screamed and almost fainted. ‘It was her,’ she gasped. ‘I just saw her standing on the balcony.’ How do you explain that?”