Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lighthouse Mystery

The Disappearance of Muriel Travennard
Murders and unusual deaths are an important part of the tales of the old US Lighthouse Service. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, the light that guided sailors into the harbor at Newport, is the site for the strange tale of Muriel Travennard. The lighthouse was in commission for only three years and replaced by another structure some distance away. Muriel, born in the late 19th century, was left motherless when very young. Her father, a sea captain, often took his daughter on his coastwide voyages.

When Muriel reached her teens, the father did not think a life on a ship, exposed to some of the language and actions of the forecastle, was a proper environment for a young woman. At just about this time, Capt. Travennard signed on a new crew for a voyage to Coos Bay. Her father departed, telling his daughter the voyage should take only a few weeks. While Muriel enjoyed her new surroundings, the weeks stretched into months. The young woman began to fear that her father had met some terrible fate. One day, a group of youths, hoping to take Muriel's mind off her missing father, invited the girl to explore the abandoned Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Muriel accepted the invitation. The lighthouse proved a shambles.

The young adults found a strange iron plate in the floor, which gave way to a compartment with a hole dug in its floor. This strange arrangement held the young people for a short period, but then they moved on to explore the rest of the light structure, leaving the iron door ajar. By late afternoon, everyone decided they had had enough of the lighthouse and decided to return home. In the lowering twilight, just as the group started away from the abandoned Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Muriel stopped the exploring party and said that she had left a scarf inside. The young people waited until Muriel dashed inside the lighthouse to retrieve the forgotten item, it should have taken only a minute to do so. The group of teenagers waited and waited. As time passed, they began to become nervous and started shouting out Muriel’s name, with no response.

A few of the young people decided to go inside and find her. A quick search proved fruitless, but then two discoveries sent the youths running in terror from the abandoned lighthouse. At the bottom of the stairs leading up into the tower was a pool of blood and a trail of blood droplets that led to the iron door, which had mysteriously closed. The young adults tried the door without success. Now, thoroughly terrified, the teenagers ran home to report the terrible happenings. A later search could find no trace of Muriel Travennard. The iron door could not be opened. Even efforts with a strong crowbar could not budge the door. No trace of Muriel Travennard was ever found. A dark stain still "marks the spot where her blood was found." Reports still circulate that her ghost can be seen "peering out from a dark lantern room and walking the shadowy path behind the lighthouse."