Island Voices, November 2023

Legends of Vashon – The Lantern Man of Burton

By Tripper Harrison

“Oh, man, I am NOT going out there alone again,” said Kemal. A university kid from Morocco who speaks several languages, his English was heavily accented, but correct as usual. “Please would someone walk with me to the Lodge?”

Maybe because it takes so long in the summer, darkness fell without anyone noticing. It was early August, and just like the year before, the new counselors had started to compare some of the odd little things they saw individually, in pairs, or as a group. There were a lot of odd things.

For example, there were flickering lights, not a surprising thing on Vashon at all where the power goes out so often, but not in summer, and this kind of flickering was more a case of dimming and buzzing, like something was interfering with the power or it was getting overloaded. Very possible with 100 year-old buildings, but still. 

Everyone knows that the radios are glitchy and turn on and then back off for some reason, again more annoying than creepy, so we would be like, “The radios are at it again.” Then every once every few days, we could hear a door downstairs in the rec room slam hard even when there wasn’t any wind, or anyone there to do it.  

Again, the counselors had arrived at consensus. One from Turkey, whose American was not yet as correct, commented that “it be haunted as hell.” (He listens to rap and didn’t say “hell.”) One of the girls from Hungary said,  “I al-vays feel like I’m being v-watched v-when I leave the Lodge alone at night.” 

My personal conversion happened when I saw a cellar door steadily close, almost fully, then slam shut when there was only a foot or less of travel left. It was broad daylight, the sun was out without the hint of a breeze, and it was the only door moving of three others in a hallway, opening to a room that lacked a window. 

But none of this was why Kemal didn’t want to walk alone that night. He had been one of over 20 people, a mix of counselors, little kids, and middle school girls, who saw a tall man come out from by the tool shed. He carried a lantern down the gravel road in low late evening light like he was doing his job.

This was after curfew, sighted from two separate cabins on the other side of the road. The cabins stand about 100 yards apart, so he was seen for a good minute. Upon later questioning, the kids described him as wearing a dark jumpsuit like a pilot or like car mechanics wear for work. 

They thought nothing of it, assuming he was a maintenance guy because he was carrying an axe. Looking to chop some wood at night is kind of out of the ordinary, but it could happen and there are a lot of staffers coming and going. The only remarkable thing about him was that he was holding up an old-style lantern, with yellowish light, even though most of the pathway is lit by streetlamps. Some said they had seen him a few times before.

But this time, because Kemal did not remember seeing him around during the day, he paid attention, watching the man go into the trees and proceed towards the water tower. Suddenly, both the man and the light from the lantern disappeared in mid-stride. As in, not went behind a tree or the water tower, but faded into thin air.

So we were in the main house debating what is haunted or not when I joked, “Lantern Man! That’s almost like it’s from one of those dumb ghost videos.” Exactly then, the walkie-talkies crackled and a low-frequency rumble or growl like a man’s voice came over, faint but deep. It sounded a lot like, “It’s not dumb.” 

All our mouths dropped open, amazed. Goosebumps went from my back up to the top of my head. Later, we walked with Kemal over to the Lodge, and thereafter we usually walked in pairs in the dark, only crossing alone when we absolutely had to. 

That’s all I know, and we’ve talked about contacting Ghost Adventures. We thought better of it. People from the Island say they’ve heard a bad wood-cutting accident happened back in the 1930s or 40s and help couldn’t be gotten in time. Maybe some of the old-timers would be able to confirm or deny that.

November 5, 2023

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