Ghosts of Wood Island and its Haunted Wood Island Lighthouse

Posted by junketseo in Boston Ghost Tours
Ghosts of Wood Island and its Haunted Wood Island Lighthouse - Photo

Ahhh, the salty sea breeze of Maine! Known for its seaside cuisine and beautiful coastline. From the sea, Wood Island Lighthouse looks serene and quite breathtaking as it towers over the rocky shores and splashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. However, the lore that surrounds the lighthouse is far from peaceful — the lighthouse has a haunting history of murder.

Since the 1890s, the lighthouse has been known to a few locals as one of Biddeford, Maine’s most haunted locations. The lighthouse was built in 1808 and has hosted nearly twenty different keepers. One of those keepers was a man named Thomas Henry Orcutt, who survived through one of the island’s most grisly happenings.

It all started on a chilly night in 1890 — an unwelcome squatter was living on the west end of Wood Island…

First, let’s discuss the history of Wood Island and the Wood Island Lighthouse.


The Wood Island ‘Light’ as it’s called, is an active lighthouse on the eastern edge of Wood Island in Saco Bay, just on the southern coast of Maine. The lighthouse is at the end of the Saco River and towers above the rocky coastline at 47 feet tall and 71 feet above the water. It’s Maine’s second-oldest lighthouse and the nation’s eleventh-oldest.

Alternating between green and white light every 10 seconds, the lighthouse has been providing a safe way to port for ships since the early 1800s.

It’s 1806, and shipping around Saco Bay is big business. Combine more ships with notoriously tricky weather, and it’s clear this region needs a lighthouse. So, the U.S. government purchased 8 acres of land on the eastern end of Wood Island, which used to be a part of Massachusetts. Skip ahead to 1857, when Maine became an official state, meaning that Wood Island was now Maine’s territory.

Wood Island Lighthouse was established in 1808 under the orders of President Thomas Jefferson. When the wooden lighthouse is finished, it’s 45 feet tall and features a set of hanging spider lamps and an eclipser, so from a distance it’s seen as a flashing light. The original tower soon became worn and weathered. After it finally rotted out, a granite tower was built in its place in 1839. In 1858, the newest tower was renovated to allow the installation of a 4th-order Fresnel lens.

In the 1960s, the original lantern room was removed and to stick with the times, an aerobeacon was installed. Locals hated it and when the lighthouse was fully-automated in 1986, a new lantern room was created along with the latest technology in lighthouse beacons.

Wood Island Lighthouse is viewable just beyond the southern end of SR-208 in Biddeford Pool, Maine. Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse run seasonal tours of the island as well as the lighthouse itself.

The lighthouse has a close to 200-year life and has seen the likes of close to twenty keepers during its time. The first was a man named Benjamin Cole; the last was a man named George Woodward. But what about Ebenezer Emerson? Why is his name bolded and linked to internet articles? What was so special about ol’ Eben that cemented his name in Maine history?

What about Thomas Henry Orcutt? Or the nameless squatter who is said to have committed a murder at the lighthouse?

Lighthouse Legend and Lore

Local legend surrounds the lighthouse like fog, hanging over it from the past into the present.

Eben Emerson

Eben Emerson was the lighthouse keeper of Wood Island’s light from 1861 until 1865. On March 16th, 1865, he did something truly heroic, saving the crew of the British brig Edith Anne from drowning in a heavy storm near the lighthouse. He was later commended by the Canadian government and rewarded with binoculars.

Thomas Orcutt and Sailor

Thomas Henry Orcutt was a former sea captain and previous keeper of the Wood Island light as well, serving from 1886 to 1905. His dog, Sailor, became famous for ringing the station’s fog bell to greet passing ships by taking the bell’s cord into his mouth and pulling it with his teeth.

The Squatter

In the 1890s, Wood Island and the Wood Island Lighthouse were host to a grisly murder-suicide. A local squatter and part-time lobster fisherman were living on the west end of the island. The squatter had been involved in an earlier altercation with police on the mainland and was approached by a sheriff’s deputy in his shack on the island. Worried about what would happen to him should he go to jail, he murdered the sheriff’s deputy instead. Realizing his mistake, he turned himself into the lighthouse keeper, Thomas Orcutt, who turned him away in fear for his own life.

The squatter was overcome with guilt and shame and returned to his shack to commit suicide. Legend tells that the ghost of the murdered deputy still haunts the lighthouse and island.

How much of this legend is based on fact? Could there really be ghosts wandering Wood Island and the lighthouse?

Haunts at the Wood Island Lighthouse

Those who are lucky enough to see the lighthouse report seeing strange lights (outside of the actual beacon) surrounding the structure. Orbs and unexplained flashes have been reported on numerous occasions.

Some even say that the ghost of the murdered sheriff’s deputy wanders the island itself, perhaps unknowing of his death.

The lighthouse quarters are also said to be haunted, which is no surprise considering the number of keepers the lighthouse has hosted. It’s to be expected that some of their energy remained at the house, and an unforgiving, salty sea surrounded all of those lonely days out there.

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