MacQuoid’s Folly (Bushard Cove)


In the 1870s, Scottish immigrant George Hannibal MacQuoid built a lighthouse in Bushard Cove, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At the time, it was the only meaningful lighthouse for San Cipriano Harbor, but it wasn’t created for the needs of the general public. It was actually an act of grief. MacQuoid had come to San Cipriano three years earlier to meet his brother, Andrew, who served as the second-in-command of a small trans-Pacific trading ship. Together, they would pool their savings and create their lifelong dream of a business empire in produce canning and wholesale—not glamorous, but a new and growing venture that could make them rich and successful. Unfortunately, Andrew’s ship was lost at sea, and George was unable to accept that he had died… so he built his own private lighthouse with most of his life savings, trusting in Providence, the future, and his brother’s better fortunes. But Andrew and his ship never sailed into the harbor.


Almost 10 years later, local authorities activated the official San Cipriano Harbor Lighthouse. Although they and the local fishing and shipping community had greatly appreciated MacQuoid’s lighthouse, there was no further need for it, and he was directed to shut down its lamp and shutter the building. MacQuoid furiously refused, sneering at the “feeble” Harbor Lighthouse and raving that his brother would never find his way home without the light he personally shone on the waves each night. The authorities gave MacQuoid every chance to cooperate, but he became increasingly erratic and violent, finally assaulting a city clerk with a fuel oil wrench. The man escaped with a concussion and a fractured collarbone, and the local law enforcement was called in.


George MacQuoid barricaded himself in the lighthouse as the sun set, and the Sheriff and deputies surrounded the tower and called for his surrender. MacQuoid shot at the men, wounding two of them, and for the next six hours sporadic gunfire and harsh threats were exchanged. At last, MacQuoid saw there was no hope and no escape. A single gunshot rang out, and when a brief time had passed, the Sheriff’s men broke down the door to the lighthouse and found MacQuoid dead from a self-inflicted wound to the head, his blood pooling around the base of the main lamp. After a brief inquest, MacQuoid was buried, the city claimed his property, and the lighthouse—now known as MacQuoid’s Folly—was sealed off for decades to come. The lighthouse still stands in Bushard Cove, dark and silent for more than 130 years. After teenagers broke into the tower and indulged in extralegal activities in the 1960s, its doors and windows were concreted shut.


A melancholy story circulated for generations after MacQuoid’s death that on certain nights you could see a faint glow in his old private lighthouse, with the answering glimmer of a lantern from the deck of a phantom ship on the edge of the far horizon.