Death & Lighthouses of the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Lighthouse: Death, true crime, suicides, and murder.

         Combining an intense interest in both true crime and maritime history, Dianna Higgs Stampfler’s latest book, Death & Lighthouses of the Great Lakes: A History of Misfortune & Murder (History Press 2022), recounts the darker stories of  the fascinating lighthouses lining the shores of the Great Lake states.

         Stampfler, whose previous book was Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses, first started researching lighthouses 25 years ago while working for the West Michigan Tourist Association and continued after starting her own business, Promote Michigan. But even she made new discoveries

         “Many of the locales, lights, and keepers were new to me, as were their stories,” says Stampfler, who is a member of many maritime and lighthouse organizations. “Some of the stories were so tragic that newspaper coverage was significant. Many stories even appeared in papers throughout the country, which emphasizes their scope.”

         Take the story of head keeper, George Genry, and his assistant, Edward Morrison who both disappeared from their posts on Grand Island in June of 1908.

         “They just vanished,” says Stampfler. “Everything was left at this remote lighthouse including provisions on the dock, coats on the hook, and food on the stove. A month later, what was determined to be Morrison’s battered and decomposed body was found floating in a boat near the shore. A month later, the remains of what they determined to be Genry were found on a nearby beach. There are several theories about how the two men died, some more nefarious or controversial than others, but the exact truth will never be known.”

         The earliest story in her book dates back to the beginning of the 19th century at Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in Toronto – the earliest and longest standing lighthouse on the Great Lakes. In 1809, John Paul “J.P.” Radelmüller, a German immigrant, was appointed as lighthouse keeper for Gibraltar Point. Radelmüller had an interesting history, having worked as a servant for the Duke of Gloucester before moving to Upper Canada.

         “Much of his early history is documented by J.P. himself,” says Stampfler noting that a seven-page handwritten letter he wrote is cataloged at the Library and Archives Canada. “Some believe J.P. was a homebrewer or bootlegger, and that it was through these activities that his murder occurred. Two men from a local military outpost were charged with his 1815 death, but they were acquitted of all charges.”

         Stampfler discovered this story through a chat board where another historic lighthouse enthusiast, Eamonn O’Keeffe has been extensively researching Radelmüller, Indeed, her own research encompassed Googling, old newspaper archives, local libraries, maritime based historical societies, and genealogical sites.

She also visited island lighthouses such as Grand, South Bass, and the many in Door County, Wisconsin.

         “I went not only to do research but also to walk the grounds and see the lights,” she says. “That really helped me connect to them.”

         Autographed copies of Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes for $21.99 (plus shipping/handling and tax)are available at PromoteMichigan.com. The book is also available through online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as in local bookstores.

         For Stampfler’s upcoming book events, visit promotemichigan.com/speakers-bureau

CrimeReads: 10 New Books Coming Out This Week ‹ CrimeReads

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Tune in Tomorrow to Hoosier History Live as I Discuss America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness

If you have time, tune in tomorrow Saturday, October 23rd when I talk to host Nelson Price of Hoosier History Live about my new book America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness. The show airs live from noon to 1 p.m. ET each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis. Or you can stream audio live from anywhere during the show.

Join us for a free event when Edelweiss Presents Mystery, Murder, and Mayhem on October 13 at 2 P.M. ET


Don’t miss Walter Mosley, Richard Osman, and more of your favorite mystery authors at a FREE virtual event tomorrow, October 13th! Starting at 11:00 AM ET, log in to the Mystery / Thriller Community Hub to access sessions, engage in Community Conversations, and explore the books being featured during the event.

Kicks of at 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM ET Award-winning authors Walter Mosley (Blood Grove)
and Kellye Garrett (Like a Sister) join moderator Gabino Iglesias (The Devil Takes You Home) for a ground-breaking conversation about crime, justice, and the search for truth.

Test your mystery knowledge at The Immersive Q&A Experience at 2:00 PM ET. Think you’ve got what it takes to make it through this interactive and immersive experience? Join your fellow mystery / thriller aficionados in an interactive guessing game for a chance to win prizes!
This event is FREE for members of the Edelweiss Mystery / Thriller Community.

Click here to become a member and access sessions on October 13th. 

Bad Moon Rising: A Heidi Kick Mystery

         Bad Axe County has seen some bad days, but this may be the worse as Heidi Kick, former beauty queen and now sheriff learns that the medical examiners have determined that the homeless man recent found dead, had been buried alive.

         Even for Kick, who is pretty tough having survived the murder of her parents years earlier and the savage world of beauty competitions, this case is exceptionally hard. Being buried alive has always been one of her worst fears.

         So begins “Bad Moon Rising” In John Galligan’s third book in his Bad Axe County. Set in rural Wisconsin, Kick is grappling with her own fears and unresolved issues as more and more bodies are discovered. That’s not all that’s facing Kick. Married to a former standout local baseball player, she’s the mother of three young children and is up for re-election. Some people think she should be home with her children and start spreading lies about here.

         Galligan, who teaches writing at  Madison College in Wisconsin,  is also the author of the Fly Fishing Mystery series. Describing  Wisconsin as his favorite place to be, he also knows the culture of some of its more rural towns. Bad Axe County is fictional carved out by Gallaher between two real counties.  He doesn’t shy away from writing about some of the prevalent issues facing rural areas and how they impact his characters.

         “The region’s beauty and its challenges fascinate me,” he says. “There are hundreds of miles of spring creeks where wild trout still thrive. At the same time factory farms and sand-fracking outfits are moving in, and climate change is having a devastating impact.” There’s also meth to contend with and those who are so set in their ways they can’t accept a woman as a sheriff. In his books, he uses real situations to show what Kick is dealing with.

         Galligan also sees the closeness of such communities as well.

         “Neighbors look out for each other,” he says.  “You can find a pancake breakfast or a brat fry on any day of the week. People both leave and stay with equal degrees of passion.”

         This realistic look at the fictional Bad Axe County shows us why Kick remains despite everything.

         Country girls, says Galligan, can hunt, fish, shoot, get great grades in school, and be good at just about everything. That’s the kind of heroine he’s given us in this series.

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