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Wood Islands Lighthouse Folklore

There have been numerous reports of a phantom ship appearing at various places on the 209 km (130 mile) long Northumberland Strait. The first documented sighting occured in 1786 at Sea Cow Head Lighthouse where the keeper saw a three-masted schooner driven toward the treacherous cliffs. Just as all seemed hopeless, the ship turned into the storm and was lost to sight in the rain squall.

Reports continued from that time to the present day. Those who have not seen it scoff, and those who have seen it keep their eyes turned seaward in hopes of another glimpse of this tantalizing mystery. The following are some reported sightings from the Wood Islands area.

In 1968, Percy Richards was 16 years old. He started fishing when he was 11 years old when the fishermen would go over to Pictou Island in their small boats and spend nights sleeping in fishing shacks. Around 2:00 a.m. one of the fishermen woke him up to witness a burning ship about 1.6 km (1 mile) offshore. There was no smoke, only red and white flames. The rigging was burning and falling down. The masts and yardarms were aflame and people were running back and forth on the deck. It burned for about three hours until daybreak. Some people rowed out in their dories, but when they got close to the ship it vanished and reappeared on the other side of them. Mr. Richards said the burning ship is usually seen before a southeast gale.

Artist’s depiction of the Phantom Ship. 2006.  Journal Pioneer.
 
Artist’s depiction of the phantom ship.
   
Sketch of P.E.I. Circa 1990. William B. Hamilton.
 
Sketch from Ghostly Encounters of the Northumberland Kind.
   
 
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