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Fort Wetherill State Park and Moonrise Kingdom

It is 1778, and the British have held Newport since the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but their grip on Narragansett Bay appears to be slipping.

Redcoats are patrolling this fortified outcropping near Jamestown, when one sees a devil dog—black coat, with red eyes and fangs. The soldier takes such a fright that he dies two days later. Soon after, other British soldiers go insane from their encounters with the specter.

Over time, people have added to this myth. Stories of dead soldiers wandering the halls are associated with Fort Wetherill, though it has never seen any combat. Ghost hunters and urban explorers still come here regularly, searching for the devil dog. Fort Wetherill fell out of use after World War II and in the 1970s became a state park

After the Revolutionary War, Rhode Islanders constructed a more permanent fortification on this site, named Fort Dumpling after the way round boulders seemed to float on the surface of the water. Fort Dumpling was never used, except for target practice and as a romantic ruin by artists. During World War II, when Rhode Island was used as a base for overseeing an Atlantic minefield, the fort was again rebuilt. Fort Wetherill fell out of use after World War II and was purchased by the state of Rhode Island in the 1970s to be used for recreational purposes.

In 2012, film director Wes Anderson used the state park as the setting for Moonrise Kingdom. In the film, two young lovers, a boy scout named Sam and a summer vacationer named Suzy, plot to run away to the “Moonrise Kingdom,” a secluded cove played by the bay below Fort Wetherill. Though their escape to the kingdom is fraught, the cove is as idyllic as they hoped. While on the beach, they swim, dance, listen to records, and make out.

Moonrise Kingdom is a love letter to New England and its scenery. Set on a fictional island, New Penzance, the movie was filmed at several Rhode Island locations as varied as elegant Newport homes and an abandoned Linens ‘n Things store. Moonrise Kingdom is also unabashedly a Wes Anderson film, from its saturated color palette to its use of symmetry and flat, storybook planes. Like other Anderson films, it is lyrical and gentle and packs a punch all at once. It is considered by many to be his best film to date, exploring the themes of childhood, innocence, and love.


Moonrise Kingdom official movie trailer, 2012 Source: movieclipsTRAILERS. “Moonrise Kingdom Official Trailer #1 - Wes Anderson Movie (2012) HD.” YouTube, YouTube, 12 Jan. 2012, Date: 2012


Movie still from <em>Moonlight Kingdom</em>, 2012
Movie still from Moonlight Kingdom, 2012 Behind Bill Murray in this still image from Moonlight Kingdom is a cove below Fort Wetherill. Date: 2012
<em>Moonrise Kingdom</em> theatrical release poster, 2012
Moonrise Kingdom theatrical release poster, 2012 Wes Anderson's coming of age film starred Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in the lead roles and an ensemble cast that included Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Frances McDormand. Date: 2012
Fort Dumpling, ca. 1890
Fort Dumpling, ca. 1890 Fort Dumpling was named after the way that boulders seemed to bob to the surface of the water. Sometimes used for artillery target practice, it was destroyed by the United States military and Fort Wetherill was later built in its place.


3 Fort Wetherill Rd, Jamestown, RI 02835


Lena Bohman, “Fort Wetherill State Park and Moonrise Kingdom,” Rhode Tour, accessed July 22, 2024,