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Wood Island Lighthouse

Wood Island lighthouse

Biddeford, Maine
Built in 1808


On Wood Island, east of the mouth of the Saco River. Lighthouse and grounds are operated by the Friends of Wood Island Light (FOWIL) for access.

Latitude: 43° 27' 25" N
Longitude: 70° 19' 45" W



Historic Stories:

Wood Island Lighthouse is located on Wood Island, east of the mouth of the Saco River. The lighthouse and grounds are operated by the Friends of Wood Island Light (FOWIL) for access. It was built in 1808, marking the entrance to the Saco River with Benjamin Cole as its first keeper, but with consistent problems due to its poor construction.
early image wood island light
Vintage Image
Courtesy of US Coast Guard

The island was full of trees until 1869 when they were destroyed by a fierce winter gale and then by fire later that year.

The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1858 and has been the source of legends, rescues, and ghost stories over the years.


Accidental Death, Suicide, and Hauntings
on Wood Island

Keeper Thomas Orcutt, who served from 1886 until 1905, is the most famous of keepers at the lighthouse involving a tragedy between two locals who lived on the island.

The location is the site of a famous accidental murder then suicide event that has gone into folklore. In 1896, a drunken lobster man, named Howard Hobbs killed a part time game warden and special policeman, Fred Milliken, by accident during an argument near the lighthouse. Shortly afterwards Keeper Thomas Orcutt told Hobbs to give himself up, and would not let him stay at the lighthouse fearing for his own safety with Hobbs’ state of mind. Hobbs went back to his shack and committed suicide. The story goes that the lighthouse has been haunted by the ghost of the murdered law officer and the lobster man ever since.

Note: If you’re interested in more details regarding this famous story, select the link "Wood Island Hauntings" Blog at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories section.

seagulls fighting near Wood Island lighthouse tower


Keeper Thomas Orcutt also had a famous dog, named Sailor that was known to faithfully ring the fog bell when he heard a passing ship's bell to warn of the rocky shoreline of the island, and was used as a messenger to carry letters and other small articles in his mouth.

rocky shoreline by Wood Island lighthouse tower


Rescue of the Keeper's Daughter

On November 29th, 1960, Keeper Laurier Brunham's two-year-old daughter, Tammy, became seriously ill and it became necessary for her to get to the mainland for immediate medical attention. A Coast Guard boat was dispatched, and Seaman Ed Syvinski and Seaman Raymond Bill made it to the boat ramp on Wood Island where Keeper Burnham handed over his ailing daughter.

As the two young men set out for the main boat, a thick fog had rolled in. All of a sudden a large rogue wave came over and capsized the small skiff, tossing the little girl and the two seamen into the freezing waters. Seaman Raymond Bill took off swimming towards the Coast Guard boat to get help, as Seaman Syvinski held on to the little girl and waited on a nearby island.

The keeper, hearing of the events, set out in his little boat and found his daughter with Syvinski. He helped to transport her back to the Coast Guard vessel, where Chief Kennedy was waiting with blankets. Lobsterman Preston Alley heard the radio call and helped to get all parties to shore in the thick fog where family members were waiting to bring Tammy to the hospital. Tammy and all rescuers survived the ordeal thanks to a determined group of heroic individuals.

view from wood island light tower

View from Lighthouse Tower

Bob Orcutt was awarded the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse Len Hadley Volunteer of the Year award (2012) as one of the three Light Runner Captains who provide access to the island and make the tours possible. He carries on a long tradition of service to the lighthouse as he is the Great Grandson of Wood Island Lighthouse Keeper Thomas Henry Orcutt.



Places to Visit Nearby:

Biddeford and its neighbor Saco were busy textile mill and manufacturing towns for Southern Maine in the 19th and 20th centuries. Saco’s Funtown Splashtown, and Aquaboggan Park are popular tourist attractions for the family. Biddeford is composed of an assortment of individually distinct and interesting villages, such as Biddeford Pool, where the lighthouse can be viewed, and Hills Beach and Fortune Rocks, which have nice beaches for families.

Biddeford Pool is a small ocean village community where visitors can view Wood Island Light from a distance by taking the walking trail along the golf course owned by the East Point Audubon Sanctuary. At the shoreline you can hike around the area, and if you happen to be there during blueberry season (between July and August) the paths are filled with fresh blueberries.

For those that would like to tour the lighthouse, water shuttles to Wood Island are offered during the summer by the Friends Of Wood Island Lighthouse.

It's an easy walk to the lighthouse and grounds. wooden walkway leads to wood island lighthouse

The lighthouse tower and keeper's house have been nearly totally renovated with extensive efforts by many volunteers and members of FOWIL near to its original state in the early 20th century. Other special tours like local ghost hunting tours are also being offered to help in raising funds for the restoration.

Just a few miles north lies one of Maine’s major tourist playgrounds, for Americans and Canadians alike, Old Orchard Beach, with its beaches, camping, shops, amusement park, and nightlife, and of course, it's famous pier of shops.

Looking for a candy shop for the true chocoholic? In Scarborough, on Route 1, you’ll find Len Libby Candy Shops.

Lenny the world's largest chocolate moose There you’ll also find the Lenny, the world’s largest 1700-pound life-size chocolate moose, in the true Maine tradition.

You’ll also find his friends, a 350-pound chocolate bear and a couple of her eighty-pound chocolate bear cubs. The store stays cool all year to keep the chocolate from melting.


Driving Directions for Distant View of Lighthouse


Contact Info:
Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse
P. O. Box 26
Biddeford Pool, ME 04006


Local Boat Tour

Shuttle to Wood Island Lighthouse

The Friends of Wood island Lighthouse (FOWL) offer daily water shuttles to Wood Island during the summer months. Visitors can then take a narrated tour of Wood island Lighthouse and may also have a chance to climb the lighthouse tower for some great scenic views.

P.O. Box 26
Biddeford Pool, Maine 04006
Phone: (207) 200-4552

Directions to Wood Island's Water Shuttle Parking Lot
Use directions above and at Biddeford Pool take a left at the end and head towards the fire station. When you pass Hatties Restaurant the road bears right. Mile Stretch Rd. meets L.B. Orcutt Blvd at the top of the rise. Turn left on L.B. Orcutt, and then go over the rise and straight down the hill a couple of hundred yards, Vine’s Landing is right behind the Red Geranium Store where you can park on the road using the parking signs.


New England Eco Adventures
Check out these lighthouse and special tours on a fast, low to the water, Navy S.E.A.L Rigid Inflatable Boat (R.I.B) that glides over the water. They offer tours to Nubble (Cape Neddick) light, Goat Island (Cape Porpoise) light, Wood Island light, and out to Boon Island lighthouse. They also offer a unique guided walk about tour on Goat Island lighthouse and grounds, a land/sea adventure cruise, among other custom cruises.
8 Western Ave
Kennebunk, ME 04043
(207) 502-8040


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Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted
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book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

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In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These ships were built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies, and measured longer than a football field! Most of these vessels used Portland Harbor as a secondary port to Boston to drop off their massive cargoes.

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My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon.

You can find more in-depth information about the incident involving the lobsterman and the sheriff, and the story of Thomas Orcutt's famous dog Sailor, along with many other stories and attractions.

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New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues & Other Tales

This image-rich book contains over 50 stories of famous shipwrecks and rescues around New England lighthouses, and also tales of hauntings, including more details on the stories of the suicidal lobsterman mentioned above. There is also the story of the keeper's rescue dog Sailor.

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