Terrible Tilly
February 22, 2016 12:49 PM   Subscribe

One mile west of Tillamook Head, a rock rises from the ocean. Shaped like a sea monster, it is where old Nor’easters go to die. Where Indians believed under ocean tunnels inhabited by spirits came to the surface. Where sheer cliffs drop straight into the sea to depths of 96 to 240 feet. Where clinging to the top, fighting off the gripping hands of the sea, stands a lighthouse – a symbol of the precarious line between human endeavor and the forces of nature.
posted by gottabefunky (26 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The British equivalent is probably the famous Eddystone Lighthouse. SLYTFamous because of the song, too.
posted by kozad at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also notable as the shoreline used in the movie Goonies.
posted by humanfont at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nor'easters go to die? I'm no expert but I think you've got the wrong coast.
posted by Pembquist at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

Well, only the biggest ones could make it all the way around to Oregon...
posted by gottabefunky at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Whoa, from kozad's link:

On the night of 2 December, 1755, the top of the lantern caught fire, probably through a spark from one of the candles. Henry Hall, the keeper on watch, who was 94 years old but said to be `of good constitution and active for his years', did his best to put out the fire by throwing water upwards from a bucket. While doing so, the leaden roof melted, his mouth was open whilst looking up and some of the molten lead ran down his throat. He and the other keeper battled continuously against the fire but they could do nothing as the fire was above them all the time - as it burnt downwards it gradually drove them out onto the rock. The fire was observed from the shore by a Mr. Edwards, `a man of some fortune and more humanity'. The old account says, he sent off a boat which arrived at the lighthouse at 10 am after the fire had been burning for 8 hours. The sea was too rough for the boat to approach the rock so they threw ropes and dragged the keepers through the waves to the boat.

Henry Hall lived for 12 days after the incident, and a Doctor Spry of Plymouth who attended him made a postmortem and found a flat oval piece of lead in his stomach which weighted 7 ozs 5drs. Dr. Spry wrote an account of this case to the Royal Society, but the Fellows were sceptical as to whether a man could live in this condition for 12 days. This so incensed him that, for the sake of his reputation, he performed many experiments on dogs and fowls pouring molten lead down their throats to prove that they could live.

posted by gottabefunky at 1:51 PM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]

good super-villain origin story, there
posted by thelonius at 2:10 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

He'll show those quacks at the Royal Society! He'll show them all!
posted by tobascodagama at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]

In 1980, Terrible Tilly became a columbarium: a storage house for urns full of cremated human remains. Dubbed "Eternity at Sea," the post-mortem museum amassed a collection of 30 urns before the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board took away its license in 1999...

There are still urns full of remains inside the Tillamook building—"honorary lighthouse keepers," Eternity at Sea called them—but the rock is primarily a seabird nesting spot and can only be accessed by helicopter.

Oh Lord, that columbarium story reminds me of the Scottish Highland folklore that the ghost of the last person to be buried in a graveyard has to become the watcher until the next burial happens... so someone there is on shift as the eternal lighthouse keeper. Unless there should be another burial. Brrrrrr!
posted by Flitcraft at 4:14 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham will probably wash up on the lighthouse island in the season 4 opener.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Hungry, soaked, and with no place to go, the men hunkered down in their shelter, the safest place on the rock. "

The fellas that built that lighthouse were amazing men.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:58 PM on February 22, 2016

Interesting post! Humans and their tenacious endeavors can be charming as hell sometimes.
posted by bleep at 5:02 PM on February 22, 2016

Re: the lighthouse's use as a columbarium, I appreciated this quote near the end of the second link:

"The owners of the lighthouse lost their license to operate as a columbarium in 1999 when they were late with their renewal. In 2005, an application for a new license was rejected due to inaccurate record keeping and improper storage of urns. Addressing concerns that urns were not well protected, Morissette, whose parents are inurned at the lighthouse, said, “People ask me what if a tsunami hits the lighthouse, and I tell every person their second choice better be to be buried at sea.”

That, my friends, is a realist.

Very illuminating (ha!) FPP.

It's OK, I'll see myself out...
posted by mosk at 5:02 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

This blew my mind;

The storm severed the telephone line linking the station to the mainland, but Assistant Keeper Henry Jenkins, an amateur radio operator, cannibalized the telephone and used waxed paper, tin foil, and brass doorknob plates to create a makeshift short wave radio. Around midnight on October 23, he managed to relay a message to the lighthouse superintendent, apprising him of conditions at the station. All four keepers on the rock were commended for their exceptional attention to duty through the most trying conditions.

Just wow. I occasionally think I'm a real clever McGyver, but this bit shames me.
Doorknob plates.
posted by Alter Cocker at 5:51 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Something to build in Minecraft. Thanks!
posted by monospace at 6:01 PM on February 22, 2016

I hope the dude lounging in the doorway in the shot ecorrocio linked has a safety tether on his ankle, because that's a dumb way to die for a photo.
posted by tavella at 6:14 PM on February 22, 2016

I was most puzzled why I was unfamiliar with this landmark, being a regular summer visitor to Tillamook. The answer lies in the perfidy of geographic nomenclature. Tillamook Head is well to the North of Tillamook proper and my beloved Netarts-to-Cape Meares walk.
posted by mwhybark at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had no idea it was privately owned. If one can wrest control from the current corporate owner one could have the most incredible super villan lair ever.
posted by humanfont at 7:44 PM on February 22, 2016

I hope the dude lounging in the doorway in the shot ecorrocio linked has a safety tether on his ankle, because that's a dumb way to die for a photo.

This photo is part of a sequence, actually. Can't find it right now but it was taken from a rescue helicopter. The guy ducks back inside and slams the door, milliseconds away from being swept out to sea.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:34 PM on February 22, 2016

I had no idea it was privately owned.

Quite a number of lighthouses are privately owned in the US, although mostly on the east coast or in the Great Lakes. If the Coast Guard can't find a government or non-profit to take them, they get auctioned off to the highest bidder. So a bunch of "water lights" (lighthouses out in the water with no dry land about them) in bays on the east coast belong to wealthy bankers and lawyers. I assume they'll be used for VRBO, but that income is unlikely to bring in enough to bring the buildings up to code...
posted by suelac at 8:39 PM on February 22, 2016

Cool - it sounds like this is the photo series you're talking about: La Jument lighthouse, in Brittany (NW France) - picture taken in 1989. The photographer was Jean Guichard and the guy in the picture is Théodore Malgorn, who had poked his head outside because he heard the helicopter and just managed to get back inside.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:40 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is the picture, yes? pic

Edit to say, doh..
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:27 PM on February 22, 2016

Local fisherman Zadok Allen claims the lighthouse also served as the chapter house of the E.O.D in the years leading up to the Great War.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:11 PM on February 22, 2016

My family moved to Seaside, just north of Tillamook Head, in 1977, and one of my dad's first (of many) harebrained ideas in Oregon was to buy this lighthouse, which was for sale at the time. Thankfully once he realized it was only reachable by helicopter and he didn't have the means to purchase one, the idea was dropped.

He used to take me on hikes around the head from Seaside almost to Cannon Beach, which could only be done at low tide in certain spots, to look for fishing floats, so I spent countless hours in view of the lighthouse as we hurried over the rocks, eyes peeled for detritus among them. That was where I learned to hike quickly on my little legs, to beat the tide and keep up with my dad.
posted by outfielder at 6:36 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

The crazy thing about that wave-crashing photo is how nonchalant the guy looks, hand in his pocket, like Hey, what's up?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:06 AM on February 23, 2016

From the second link: To date, only about thirty urns have been placed in the lighthouse, and vandals reportedly stole two of those in 1991.

And then nothing more about these supervandals.
posted by dilettante at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2016

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