An anonymous bidder has raised the stakes in what appears to be a three-way struggle for ownership of a historic lighthouse off the coast of Cape Elizabeth.

The $35,000 bid, made online Thursday by a party known only as “tugdocto,” cast doubt on a Maine-based organization’s effort to acquire Ram Island Ledge Light.

Robert Muller of Brunswick, executive director of the Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse Community, said his group must somehow raise $5,000 to $10,000 in the next day or two “to stay in the game” and put the lighthouse under public, locally based ownership.

“I really need to make up the gap with some large pledges,” he said.

Under federal rules, bidders have until 3 p.m. today to outbid tugdocto. Bids must be made in increments of at least $5,000.

If someone does outbid tugdocto today, the online auction will continue on to the next regular business day — Tuesday.

Ram Island Ledge Light opened in 1905 to mark the hazardous submerged shoals at the entrance to Portland Harbor. The Coast Guard will continue to operate the navigational light, but it needs someone to maintain the 77-foot tower. The lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Muller said he was among eight registered bidders — each had to pay $10,000 — who toured the lighthouse by boat last month. As is often the case at Ram Island Ledge, rough seas prevented the boat from landing.

That didn’t discourage Joe Calto, a New York City lawyer, from bidding $30,000 for the lighthouse, doubling Muller’s bid of $15,000.

Muller organized a Maine-based social networking campaign in which he created an online community of owners, each of whom would contribute at least $49 for a Keeper of the Lighthouse Membership deed.

Since he announced his campaign this week, more than 200 people have contributed amounts ranging from $49 to $10,000.

Muller proposes making the lighthouse accessible to anyone with access to a computer by installing a webcam on the ledge. People would be able to hear the seabirds, the waves and the ocean winds on their computers.

The owners would have a say in how the lighthouse is maintained and operated.

“I’m the only one who has put my plan totally out there for the people,” Muller said. “Nobody else has been able to step up and reveal their plan. I don’t think they have a good plan. They are doing it on a whim.”

Calto could not be reached Thursday. Jane Lucas of Weston, Conn., confirmed that she has dropped out of the online auction.

“I need a different place to do what I want to do,” said Lucas, who wants to operate a lighthouse-based science and learning center. “I thought it was beautiful and it’s a Maine landmark, so I wish (Muller) well.”

Muller and Lucas say they have no idea who tugdocto might be.

Meta Cushing, a spokeswoman for the U.S. General Services Administration in Boston, responded to a query about the bidder’s identity by saying in an e-mail that, “GSA never reveals the name of the bidders. You have to respect their privacy.”

Muller updates contributors on his fundraising efforts twice daily. He also queries supporters on whether they know of any generous benefactors he could contact.

What he has lacked is a large contribution from a corporation or foundation.

“It is unbelievable to me how many individuals have really stepped up to help us out. I was hoping the business community would do the same,” he said.

Anyone who wants to get more information or make a contribution can go to www.ramislandlighthouse.com, call 956-0699 or e-mail Muller at [email protected]

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]