The Lighthouse Ghoul
Perch Rock is an immense outcrop of red sandstone which juts out into the River Mersey from the northern tip of the Wirral peninsula. The cliffs that line the coast from Perch Rock to the Dee estuary are known to be riddled with tunnels and caverns that were once used by smugglers, and there are many fascinating salty old tales about this stretch of coastline; but the following story is not about bootleggers and contraband; it is about murder - and the supernatural...
In the summer of 1827, the foundation stone of the New Brighton Lighthouse was laid in the middle of Perch Rock by the Liverpool Dock Trustees. Granite was brought from Anglesy and volcanic cement from the slopes of Mount Etna for the foundation of the lighthouse, which was opened in March 1830. The tower stood 90 feet high, and the powerful beam of its light was soon sweeping Liverpool Bay to guide the ships on their voyages.
The first keeper - who was an elderly man name Garratt - died unexpectedly at the lighthouse one night, and was quickly replaced by a 65year-old ex-sea captain from Wallasey named Jack Maudley.
Maudley was regarded as an odd character by those who knew him. He was a loner who took his black cat everywhere. Even to the lighthouse. Maudley wrote to his brother in Liverpool, telling him of his new job at the lighthouse, and said he would enjoy the isolation on Perch Rock, where he would be far removed from the wagging tongues of his neighbourhood. Maudley was refering to the (not entirely unfounded) rumours of him spying on young ladies with a telescope from his attic.
Mr Maudley and his faithful feline soon settled in at the lighthouse. He read book after book, and wrote several more letters to his brother. In one of these letters, Maudley said he missed his old house and even his confounded gossiping neighbours. He also mentioned that he was having strange dreams about making love to young ladies. Maudley's brother wrote back, telling him that his unhealthy lecherous dreams of females could be prevented if he would say his prayers to the Almighty for an hour before retiring each night.
But Maudley began a diary recording all his innermost and perverse thoughts about having sex with an imaginary young lady. His handwriting seemed to become more jagged and angular as he wrote about his carnal cravings, and at one point in the diary, Maudley stabbed the page repeatedly with the point of his knib.
Then one sunny April morning at 11 o'clock, the sexually demented Maudley's heart jumped when he glanced out from the window of his quarters in the lighthouse. On the rocks below strolled a pretty girl of about 17 or 18. She wore a black straw boater, and she was holding up her skirt to her knees as she carefully walked around the deep pools on the rock. Under her arm was a long cane with a fine fishnet at the end, and in her hand was a jar to hold any fishes or crabs she came across. The girl's name was Molly Jenkins, and she had ventured onto Perch Rock at low water; this was the only time the rock was accessible. In a few hours the tide would turn, and the rock would we covered by 20 feet of seawater again.
It's hard for a normal person to imagine the intense erotic turmoil Maudley must have experienced when he first set eyes upon that young maiden on that sunny morning. What vile urges the lighthouse man felt that day will never be fully known, but they must have driven him to violence; because Molly Jenkins disappeared on that morning, although her black straw bonnet and fishing net were found later that afternoon drifting out with the tide.
The police asked Maudley if he had seen the missing girl and he said he hadn't, and yet in his secret diary, the old lighthouse keeper had sketched a girl wearing a boater with the words "Molly I am so sorry." scrawled next to it.
On July 30 of that year at 9 o'clock, Jack Maudley's 16-year-old nephew Richard came to the lighthouse carrying a lantern across Perch Rock. The tide was starting to come in, and the boy panicked and began to hammer on the main door of the lighthouse with his fist. His Uncle Jack opened the door a few minutes later and reluctantly admitted the boy into the building.
"I've ran away from home Uncle Jack." Richard told Maudley, and followed him up the long winding steps to the living quarters.
"Why have you left home Richard?" Mr Maudley asked as he climbed the stairs.
"I told them I wanted to stay with you Uncle, and my father said you er, " the boy mumbled, and couldn't finish the sentence.
"Your father said what?" Maudley said, and he halted on the steps and turned to face his nephew. The lighthouse keeper's face looked sinister and distorted with the lantern shining from under his chin.
"Well, uncle, father says you are - eccentric." Richard replied in a timid voice and blushed.
"What else did he say? Tell me!" shouted Maudley.
"He said you are always looking at girls old enough to be your grandaughters." Richard said.
"Hah! I couldn't give a damn what people say anymore." Maudley declared, and he continued to ascend the stairs. His black cat ran down to greet its master and arched its back as it spotted Richard. It turned and fled up the flight of steps, as swift as a shadow.
Richard and his Uncle sat in the living quarters playing checkers for a couple of hours, then the boy said he'd love to see the powerful 100,000 candlepower light up in the turret of the lighthouse, so Maudley took him up to have a look.
The view from the turret was a vast panorama of blackness. Now and then the revolving beam of the lighthouse made the foam of the waves below shimmer and sparkle, but otherwise, a blank black void encompassed the building.
At Midnight, a terrible thunderstorm rolled in from the Irish Sea. Gales howled through the building and rain lashed at the windows of the turret. Lightning streaked down from the heavens and searing, blinding bolt came down and zapped the lightning conductor on the roof of the lighthouse. Less than a heartbeat later, a powerful thunderclap shook the foundations of the lighthouse. Mr Maudley quickly escorted his nephew down to the living quarters for safety reasons. Richard sat in front of the small open fire in the room and listened to the storm raging outside.
Then he heard the screams. At first Richard thought it was the cat. But it was a human wailing and screeching sound, and it seemed to come from somewhere outside of the lighthouse.
"Uncle Jack?" Richard opened the door and crept up the steps leading to the turret. He would later regret doing this. Up in the circular room of windows, was the trembling, jibbering wreck of Jack Maudley, on all fours. The black cat was purring and rubbing its affectionate face against his arm, thinking he was playing a game. All the time, the great dazzling light in the turret turned slowly on its axis, making Maudley's shadow waltz about the place.
"Uncle?" Richard uttered with a quizzical look.
Maudley jumped and turned to face him with a startled look. His face was white and his eyes bulged. "Go back downstairs!" the keeper shouted and then looked back at the rain-battered windows.
"What's wrong Uncle?" Richard asked.
Then he saw what was wrong. Something came out of the stormy blackness. Something grotesque and hideous. It was the decomposed body of Molly Jenkins. Her face was pale green and her eyes were just black sockets. Black shiny seaweed hung from her skeletal half-naked body. The ghoul's mouth opened wide and she let out the terrible wailing sound that Richard had heard minutes before. She floated nearer and nearer to the windows of the turret until the light swept over her rotting body. In the brief moment the light shone upon the solid-looking apparition, it illuminated the macabre-looking body.
Richard's stomach turned over and over, and his knees felt weak. He became nauseous, yet he was transfixed by the grim sight. The ghoul looked like the mortal remains of a girl he had a crush on. It looked like the shell of Molly Jenkins.
Jack Maudley chanced to glance up at the screaming vision, and the thing hanging in the darkness pointed an accusing bony finger at him. The finger tapped repeatedly on the window, and the storm outside abated with a peculiar suddenness. In the eerie calm, the corpse moaned: "You.... You killed me..."
In blind panic, Richard regained the power of volition and fled from the glass-lined turret. He ran helter-skelter non stop in the darkness until he reached the living quarters. He seized the lantern and raced down the winding steps. A voice behind him screamed: "Richard come back!"
"No!" Richard yelled. "You killed Molly! Father was right about you all along!" The boy's heart pounded, and he feared that his uncle would kill him too, now that he had discovered the horrible truth about Molly's mysterious disappearance.
But when he reached the main door of the lighthouse it was locked.
Richard turned and saw his uncle's cat running silently down the steps out of the darkness. The cat arched its back and hissed agressively at the boy as it showed its pointed teeth.
Then Jack Maudley loomed out of the darkness with a hatchet. The hatchet he used to break the lumps of coal for the fire. The lighthouse keeper's face had undergone a disturbing, bloodcurdling transformation, and bore no resemblance to the jovial uncle who had been playing checkers earlier.
"You shouldn't have come here tonight." said Maudley. "You should have stayed away from here. Look away." he said, ready to smash the teenager's skull to pieces as quickly as possible to prevent unnecessary suffering.
"No please don't kill me uncle. I won't tell, I swear I won't tell." Richard pleaded.
"I know you won't tell laddy. The dead can't speak." said Maudley, and he gritted his teeth tapped his open hand with th blade of the hatchet. He was poised to strike the blows.
Richard screamed, expecting to meet his doom, but something darkly comical happened. The black cat literally got under Maudley's feet, and the keeper fell down the last ten steps of the building. He tumbled down the steps and gashed his forehead on the final step. The evil old mariner lay there, motionless, as if he was dead. The hatchet fell from his hand. Richard saw three keys tied with string to his uncle's belt, and he pulled at them, but couldn't snap the strong yarn. So he removed the belt and slid the keys off it. He then tried the first key, but it wouldn't open the lock, nor would the second one; that was the key to Maudley's house. It had to be the third key. As Richard inserted it into the keyhole, a strong hand grabbed his ankle.
"Come here! You're not leaving here alive!" shouted Maudley, crawling about on the floor. He had regained consciousness. His pesky tomcat purred with delight nearby.
Richard let out another scream, and he saw his uncle reach for the hatchet. The lighthouse keeper seized the hatchet's handle, but seemed too unsteady to get up, so he tried to hack his nephew to death from where he lay. He took an angry swipe at the boy's kneecap but Richard pulled his leg away just in time. The blade of the hatchet embedded itself deeply into the oaken door. As Maudley was trying to wrench the hatchet from the door there was a pitiful moaning sound outside.
It was the ghoul. It was at the door now.
Maudley was distracted by the spinechilling sound, and at that tense moment, Richard turned the key and yanked open the door, and as he did, the handle of the hatchet stuck in the door rammed into Maudley's eye, almost knocking him unconscious. Maudley let go of the boy's ankle and Richard ran screaming from the lighthouse and plunged into twelve feet of water. The boy swam for the shore almost choking with fear and the freezing saltwater. He managed to look back just once to see the ghoul entering the lighthouse. He couldn't be sure, but the terrified boy thought he heard a distant shrieking sound as he thrashed about to save himself.
At first light on the following morn, two detectives and five policemen came across Perch Rock during the low tide. They found the main door of the lighthouse ajar, and on the steps, they came across the body of the keeper, Jack Maudley. There were marks on the walls were Maudley had whacked out at someone with his hatchet, but the police were at a loss to explain just who he had been fighting off. It certainly hadn't been his nephew. Stranger still, what could explain the strange rictus of death on the keeper's face? And the protruding tongue and his bulging eyes which seemed full of terror? The detectives could see that someone with incredible strength had strangled the lighthouse keeper, but why had the killer left black sinewy seaweed around Maudley's throat? There was one solitary clue at the murder scene. A small golden charm in the form of an anchor lay on the floor besides the throttled corpse. Detectives assumed it had probably belonged to the dead man, and their enquiries reached an unsatisfactory end. Maudley's black cat was the only witness to last night's murder.
Richard Maudley told the detectives who had killed his insane uncle, but the law does not recognise the supernatural. Richard himself was suspected at first but subsequently cleard after a lengthy cross-examination. Through a strange quirk of fate, on the day of the terrible murder at the lighthouse, the badly decomposed body of Molly Jenkins was washed ashore on Perch Rock in the afternoon. The girl's mother and father came forward to look at the body to identify it. Molly's father nodded and said: "Aye, that's my girl."
But the dead girl's mother sobbed and said it couldn't be. When the coroner asked her why, Molly's mother said: "She always wore her charm. A little gold anchor on a chain. I can't see any charm on this body."
The coroner shuddered when he heard this. He produced the little golden anchor found at the lighthouse, and Molly's mother clutched it and broke down. But the coroner was truly baffled. How did the charm end up at the lighthouse? If Maudley had killed the girl, who strangled him? Even the warped diary of Maudley which was later discovered at the lighthouse, and its incriminating reference to Molly merely showed that the lighthouse keeper had an unbalanced mind, but it didn't throw any light on the identity of the lighthouse strangler.
In the 1970s, New Brighton Lighthouse was sold off and refurbished. It was hired out to newly-married couples wanting somewhere unusual to spend their honeyoon.In 1973, one honeymooning couple allegedly heard an awful wailing sound late one night which seemed to come from the rock below. They never looked out the windows as they were so scared, and no one ever explained who or what made the pitiful sounds. Was it the tormented ghost of Molly Jenkins - the Lighthouse Ghoul?
Copywright © Tom Slemen. All rights reserved.