A father’s anguish at the Fire Island Lighthouse

The following is compiled from Long Island legend, as reported in Newsday’s archives. Some elements of this story can’t be verified. Read and judge for yourself…

Ever climbed the 182 steps to the top of the Fire Island Lighthouse?

Did you hear moaning? Unexplained footsteps?

If so, you might have encountered the ghost of Nathaniel Smith.

In the mid-1800s, Smith is the lighthouse keeper as it is undergoing a major construction project. He lives nearby with his wife and daughter.

Winter hits and Smith’s daughter falls ill from the Long Island cold.

There’s no bridge to Fire Island at the time, and the lighthouse is still under construction. So it takes doctors three days to reach the island.

By then, it is too late. Smith’s daughter dies.

Some say the pain drove Smith and his wife apart and that he died years later, alone and heartbroken, at his quarters near the lighthouse.

Legend has it that the unexplained sound of footsteps are Smith racing to the top of the lighthouse as one more attempt at getting help for his daughter.

And the moans heard at the top of the lighthouse could be yells for the doctors to hurry – or the pain of a father who has just lost his daughter.

There have even been some reports of people seeing a man at the very top of the lighthouse – holding vigil, even 150 years later, that help would arrive for his little girl.

But that help would not arrive in time.

So the next time you’re on Fire Island, take a moment to think about Smith, whose contributions made the lighthouse the marvel it is today – but who also paid a great personal price for his efforts.

Writer and producer: Seth Mates

Editor: Meghan Giannotta

Digital development: James Stewart and Matthew Cassella

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