Monday, April 22, 2019

The Lighthouse Keeper Who Came Back from the Dead

Race Rock Lighthouse, NY,
Photo courtesy

By Marilyn Turk

Off the eastern end of Long Island Sound, you’ll find Fishers, Little Gull, Great Gull, and Plum–a string of islands. Many ships pass between the islands, but the deepest gap, called “The Race,” is just off the end of Fisher Island near a reef called Race Rock. The dangerous current that flows through the gap has been the doom of many vessels, especially before 1871, when the lighthouse built on the reef became active.

A stag station (men only), the lighthouse housed one keeper and two assistant keepers. The families of the married keepers lived on the mainland, and were visited when a keeper had leave to go home. Located eight miles off the coast from New Haven, Connecticut, going to and from the lighthouse was sometimes difficult for the keepers, depending on the tide. Waves can run in two directions where the water at the mouth of the Race meets the water of Fisher’s Island Sound. In bad weather, these waves can be quite large.

In April 1892, the new head keeper at Race Rock, twenty-four-year-old Christopher Culver, ran into those huge waves. After a brief shore leave to visit his family in New London, Culver set out to return to the lighthouse in a twelve-foot rowboat with a sail. Captain R.M. Jerome, a retired sea captain, watched Culver as he made his way out to the lighthouse. When Capt. Jerome saw Culver’s sail go down in the rough seas, he reported that the boat had capsized.
The ensuing search showed no trace of the keeper, and the newspaper reported his drowning.

In reality, Keeper Culver had abandoned his attempt to reach the lighthouse, lowered his sail, and rowed instead to Great Hay Harbor on Fishers Island where he found food and shelter at Mr. Oakley’s farm. Two days later, the keeper arrived back in New London aboard a steamship, and was reunited with his relieved and jubilant family.

At his sixty-ninth wedding anniversary, Culver recalled his premature death notice published sixty-four years before, thankful for the life he’d had since his “death.”

Keeper Culver didn't really die, he was just misplaced. 

At Easter, we celebrate the real resurrection of Jesus Christ, who really did die and really did come back from the dead, defeating death and sin simultaneously. We therefore have even more reason to be thankful for the life Christ has given us now and forever. 

Marilyn Turk
Historical fiction flavored with suspense and romance

 Marilyn Turk’s roots are in the coastal South. Calling herself a “literary archaeologist,” she loves to discover stories hidden in history. She is the author of two World War II novels, and the Coastal Lights Legacy series set in 1800s Florida—Rebel Light, Revealing Light, Redeeming Light, and Rekindled Light—featuring lighthouse settings. Marilyn’s novella, The Wrong Survivor, is in the Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection. She also writes for the Daily Guideposts Devotions book.

She lives in Florida, with her husband, 9-year-old grandson, and a 17-year-old cat. When not writing, Marilyn can be found playing tennis, gardening, walking, fishing, or kayaking. She and her husband have visited over 100 lighthouses so far, but the RV is ready to travel to go see more.

Website: @


  1. Enjoyed the story! Thank you so much for sharing it. Have a Great day. God Bless you.

  2. Thanks, Alicia! Blessings, Marilyn

  3. Thank you for sharing this interesting story that gave way to overcoming the odds. Thankful for Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection so we can be overcomers in this life. Blessings to you, Marilyn.

  4. I love stories about old light houses. I've always been fascinated by them, and this one looks so interesting just to see it. This was a great story. Thanks for sharing.