Instead, I decided I'd start using the topics of my PhD thesis as a starting point for discussions. One of the things I'm looking at is the representation of space in horror films, so I thought, "Hang on, there are some fantastic spaces where I live!" I figured I'd share some of them with you - so today, I'm looking at lighthouses.
St Mary's Island has had a light of some form since medieval times, and the current lighthouse opened in August 1898. The island was originally settled by monks, and a chapel dedicated to St Helen was built near the end of the eleventh century. The chapel kept a light burning to warn sailors of the rocks; this light was called St Mary's Light, which gave its name to the bay. It hasn't always been such a pious place - there is a channel on the north of the island known as Smugglers' Creek, and the whole coastline was a favoured haunt of smugglers. At the end of the eighteenth century, Russian soldiers stricken by cholera were isolated on the island, and those who died were buried there. The chapel was gone by 1867. Despite the presence of the lighthouse, there were still shipwrecks in the area, and the remains of the California can still be seen at low tide, after wrecking on the rocks in 1913.
St Mary's went electric in 1977, its light being automated in 1982. By 1984, it was deemed obsolete and the lighthouse closed. It's looked after by the Friends of St Mary's, and in 2013, visitors to the island can see birds and wildlife in the nature reserve, and if you climb the 137 steps to the lantern room, you can see as far as the North Yorkshire coast, and the Cheviot Hills. Lighthouses are always proud of their views, as if you're not to look at the lighthouse itself, always look away from it...
I originally visited Souter in 2011 as part of a paranormal investigation, while TV’s Most Haunted visited several years ago, believing to have made contact with Isobella Darling. I'm unconvinced by its haunted reputation and take the 'evidence' of ouija boards with a pinch of salt, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest for the whole area to have some sort of psychic thumbprint. After all, the caves at Marsden were also used for smuggling, and that many shipwrecks in one place is bound to create some kind of disturbance. Souter is notable for being situated on the mainland, as opposed to a separate island like St Mary's, meaning it doesn't have the same abandoned, isolated feel - it's more industrious and 'lived in'.
I feel lucky to have both examples of such spaces within travelling distance, though whether lighthouses will come to feature in any forthcoming stories remains to be seen.