News Releases

Murder & Suicide of Lighthouse Keepers the Focus of New Book by Author Dianna Higgs Stampfler

Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes Coming February 2022 from The History Press

Blending her long-time interest in maritime history and true crime, Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes is the latest title by Michigan author Dianna Higgs Stampfler and published by the History Press as part of its Murder & Mayhem series.

Losing one’s life while tending to a Great Lakes lighthouse — or any navigational beacon anywhere in the world for that matter — sadly wasn’t such an uncommon occurrence. The likelihood of drowning while at sea or becoming injured while on the job ultimately leading to death were somewhat common back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Death by murder, suicide or other unnatural and tragic causes, while not unheard of, were more unusual. In fact, more than dozen lighthouse keepers around the Great Lakes met their maker at the hands of others – by fire, poisoning, bludgeoning and other unknown means. A handful of these keepers, either because of depression or sheer loneliness, took their own lives. A few we may never know the true story, as the deaths now 100 or more years ago, weren’t subjected to the forensic scrutiny that such crimes are given today.

In the pages of Death & Lighthouses of the Great Lakes: A History of Misfortune & Murder, you’ll find an amalgamation of true crime details, media coverage and historical research which brings the stories to life…despite the deaths of those featured. Join author Dianna Higgs Stampfler as she uncovers the facts (and debunks some fiction) behind some of the Great Lakes’ darkest lighthouse tales.

You’ll read about two keepers on Lake Superior’s Grand Island who disappeared one early summer day in 1908—their decomposed remains found weeks later; a newly hired (and some say depressed) keeper on Pilot Island in Wisconsin’s Door County who slit his own throat after a consultation with a local butcher about the location of the jugular vein; and a smallpox outbreak in the late 1890s that led to the tragic death of a lighthouse hired hand on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

Throughout the year, Stampfler will be speaking at libraries, bookstores, museums, conferences and events with her educational and informational presentations about these lights, followed by a book signing. For the complete schedule of upcoming events, visit the Promote Michigan Speaker’s Bureau online. To schedule a presentation, email

Autographed copies of Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes will be available in late February for $21.99 (plus shipping/handling and tax) at


Stampfler has been professionally writing and broadcasting since high school. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English with emphasis in Community Journalism and Communications with emphasis in radio broadcasting from Western Michigan University. She first began researching lighthouses in 1997 while working for the West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA) and continued a deeper dive into the topic after launching her own company, Promote Michigan, in 2004. She is a member of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, Great Lakes Maritime Museum, Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, Historical Society of Michigan, Michigan Maritime Museum, National Museum of the Great Lakes and West Michigan Tourist Association.

FEATURED LIGHTHOUSES (Click HERE for a corresponding map)

Lake Ontario

  • Gibraltar Point Lighthouse – Toronto Islands, Canada

Lake Erie

  • South Bass Island Lighthouse – Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Lake Huron

  • Clapperton Island Lighthouse – Manitoulin Islands, Canada

Lake Michigan

  • St. Helena Island Lighthouse (and other Straits of Mackinac Lights)
  • Poverty Island Lighthouse – Delta County, Michigan
  • Sand Point Lighthouse – Escanaba, Michigan
  • Pilot Island Lighthouse – Door County, Wisconsin
  • Grosse Pointe Lighthouse – Evanston, Illinois

Lake Superior

  • Grand Island Lighthouse – Munising, Michigan
  • Pie Island Lighthouse – Ontario, Canada
  • St. Ignace Lighthouse – Talbot Island, Ontario
  • Michipicoten Island Lighthouse – Thunder Bay, Ontario

Compilation Chapter – Other lives lost at Great Lakes lighthouses


ISBN: 9781467149952

FORMAT: Paperback

PUBLISHER:       The History Press

DATE:   2/21/2022

STATE: Michigan

SERIES: Murder & Mayhem


PAGES: 176

DIMENSIONS: 6 (w) x 9 (h)