Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
More photos here: Deering Oaks debacle!
There were a growing number of spectators when I left, and a few news cameras taking footage from various vantage points. Plenty of entertainment for the whole neighborhood!
While for many of us it was confirmation of theories already held, others are not letting go of the mysterious nature of the beast so easily. Phinneus of Howland, Maine, comments on the Press Herald article that "this is the usual coverup. We must reject this conclusion that the beast is but a dog!" While this sounds like an over-the-top protest about the reality of the situation, further into his comment Phinneus makes a very important and valid point: "We need these hazy mysteries to stimulate conversation, encourage imagination..."
In today's Press Herald there is an editorial on the intriguing subject of the mysterious in Maine, in which the author assumes that speculations about the dead dog actually being "the Beast of Turner" are fact, and that the legendary Beast is dead. The author of the editorial informs readers that "[Writer Charles] Fort felt that people with a need to believe in the marvelous were no more prejudiced or gullible than those who need to deny that marvels exist."
What he misses is that beyond the people who have a "need to believe," there remains that fact the marvelous DOES EXIST. The world is full of things that defy what we perceive as reasonable. The human body alone is a system that seems miraculous, let alone the full wonder of the rest of the natural world that we interact with day by day.
Here is to many future hours spent in conversation about those hazy mysteries of Maine, beyond the flash of Fortean fame!
Special thanks to Loren Coleman for tipping me off to today's editorial.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Employees are required to have a subscription to the paper. This may not sound like much of a big deal, but they are also required to pay for their subscription at full price.
What, the paper can't get enough subscribers on its own merits? It can't even offer its employees a discount?!
It just struck me as a little weird. Is this a common practice of large corporate newspapers?
Thursday, August 24, 2006
What had happened was most likely a blown-out tire, though the driver of the car was thinking thoughts of a shot-out tire because of a flash of light he had seen at the time of the explosion. None of the passengers were hurt, and the driver and front seat passenger were surprisingly lucid and calm. The police and fire department arrived quickly and examined the situation. I can only imagine that the car glanced the telephone pole, leaped onto the garden container, then slid backwards and to the side a little after smashing into the transformer box. This is the only explanation I can think of for how it might have wound up literally pinned between the pole AND the transformer box.
I'm not really sure what exactly the green box is. It looks like nothing but a transformer box, but none of the nearby power appeared to be out. The firemen were primarily concerned with it as soon as they arrived. I snapped a photo, so here it is for all of you to see, since the car is already about to be towed away.
Then 10 minutes into the debacle, right in front of our house, the firemen converged and appeared to be assisting two bicyclists, one of whom was lying on the ground apparently in distress. At this point, Salli inquired whether our livingroom chairs had seatbelts. CHAOS HAD TAKEN OVER!!! Good golly.
UPDATE: The green box is a telephone company box, so local residents may have a tricksy time with phones as repair occurs over the next day or two. The towing job is being complicated by a large amount of gas leaking from the car. The bicyclist and his companion are on the way to the hospital to make sure his jaw is not broken. We wish them luck and a healthy jaw!!! Good thing all those paramedics happened to be loitering around.
Photos (c)2006 by Michelle Souliere.
Portland: Explosion destroys mailbox, shuts down Old Port streetNow, on the one hand it's good that it wasn't a residential mailbox, which was my first thought. On the other hand, whoever did this is in for a world of hurt if they get caught. Of all the stupid things to destroy, U.S. Postal Service stuff incurs the wrath of the label "federal offense" on the vandal. Yeah, I was bored, so I became a felon. Good move.
PORTLAND — An explosion destroyed a mailbox in the Old Port early Sunday, forcing police to shut down a section of West Commercial Street for six hours. Lt. Bob Ridge said a caller reported hearing a loud noise in the area of 75 West Commercial St. around 2 a.m.
When police arrived, they saw debris from a ruined U.S. Postal Service box for outgoing mail spread around the sidewalk and in the street, Ridge said. He said he could not identify the type of explosives used to destroy the mailbox.
Police called in a bomb squad to make sure there were no explosives stashed in the two other outgoing mailboxes nearby - one UPS, the other FedEx, Ridge said. Ridge said the bomb squad gathered evidence, found no other explosives and reopened the closed stretch around 8 a.m.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
For a town that is apparently scared to death of rock and roll, but doesn't do anything to shut down the boozehouses of the Old Port that flood the streets with violent jerks every weekend night, this fits right in. Keep it up, guys, pretty soon Portland will be a cultural wasteland with no individuality or creative center.
This is not to say that I'm anti-Hooters, though as a chain it is not high on my list of places I want intown, where we should be focusing on local businesses -- it's just that hearing about this within less than a week of The Alehouse's closing, it rankles. Just a little. Kind of like getting razor wire stuck between your teeth.
Face it folks, this city is going to hell. And not in a religious way. Just in a "Why am I living and doing business and trying to forge a piece of creative living space here?" kind of way.
Here's the story from The Bollard's breaking news flash:
Hooters restaurant planned for downtown PortlandPlease also note another disturbing trend in Portland, as if we don't have enough hotels already, in this other Bollard article, which describes how a developer is working to squeeze successful local landmark pub Brian Boru's out of its home off Fore Street:
City officials criticize chain’s image, impact
By Chris Busby
Hooters is coming to town. The Atlanta-based international restaurant franchise famous – some would say infamous – for its image of ample-breasted waitresses in tight shirts and short shorts will set up shop in the Free Street space currently occupied by The Stadium.
Stadium owner Michael Harris said Hooters will occupy the portion of his 31,000-square-foot building that fronts Free Street and Brown Street, and The Stadium will move into the vacant portion of the building facing Congress Street. Harris will own both the franchise and The Stadium. He also owns The Oasis, a Wharf Street bar and dance club.
News of Hooters’ arrival in downtown Portland has already stirred the ire of some city officials, for a variety of reasons.
[City Councilor Karen] Geraghty is equally disturbed by the prospect of a chain restaurant opening in the heart of downtown.
“I hope this is a wake-up call to the city to really look at the issue, the role of chain restaurants and chain stores in the downtown area,” said Geraghty. She added that “it’s ironic” Hooters is coming to town so soon after a new initiative was launched to promote locally owned, independent business in town.
City Councilor Will Gorham said he’s concerned about the prospect of another alcohol-serving establishment on Congress Street. Gorham represents the East End, the portion of downtown that includes The Stadium, and the Old Port. He also chairs a city task force set up to find ways to address problems posed by drunken crowds in the Old Port.
“I don’t want to recreate another Wharf Street along Congress Street,” said Gorham. As for Hooters, Gorham said, “There are good chain restaurants,” and noted he once ate at a Hooters in Orlando, Florida.
Construction will begin within the next 30 days, and the restaurant could be open by the end of the year, Harris said. He said it will create 70 to 80 new jobs and “bring thousands of people” to a downtown area that needs more business and foot traffic.
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard. He can be reached at editor(AT)thebollard.com.
Big plans brewing around Brian BorúFor more on the Alehouse's closing, please see the background story here at The Phoenix, and for the story of the last night's farewell show pick up the Phoenix's latest issue, on the stands today.
Scarborough developer buys lot across from Civic Center
By Chris Busby
A Scarborough developer is squeezing the Portland Irish pub Brian Ború – literally. Developer Kerry Anderson recently purchased the lot surrounding Brian Ború, a sizeable parcel in the middle of town bounded by Spring, Center, Fore and Cotton streets.
Ború co-owner Laurence Kelly said Anderson demanded he move the fence that encloses a small patio a few feet north, effectively shrinking the patio, because it was encroaching on his property line. Kelly and two other partners own both the century-old building and the land it occupies, but the surrounding lot is Anderson's, including buildings occupied by the cocktail lounge Una, Portland Pie, the sports bar and restaurant Rivalries, and several offices.
Kelly said Anderson has spoken of developing a large "complex" on the lot, potentially comprised of a hotel, condominiums, retail shops, offices or some combination thereof. There's also been discussion of a convention center, said Kelly, and interest from members of the Cumberland County Civic Center Board of Trustees. The Civic Center is diagonally across the intersection of Spring and Center streets from Anderson's lot.
For the rest of the article, please see The Bollard's website.
More news as it arrives!!!
For the history of Maine bigfoot sightings, see our earlier article:
Woman Grabbed Through WindowEasily the weirdest Portland crime of late.
Police report that a man reached in an open apartment window on Dow Street in the West End and grabbed the arms of a woman who was trying to close the window.
Police say that the woman was asleep at about 3AM on July 15th when she was awakened by someone ringing the front doorbell. She answered the door, but there was no one there. She returned to her bedroom and was grabbed by the arms when she tried to close the window.
She told police that she screamed, but that she thought it was a practical joke. She called a friend to stay with her that night, but did not report the incident until several days later. She was not able to provide a description of the man, and no arrests have been made.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
No word on the size of the beast. Most corpse flowers have attracted attention due not only to their rampant aroma, but also due to their jaw-dropping dimensions. Shown here for example is Big Bucky, who enjoyed fame from its home of UW-Madison last summer as visitors gawked at its 98-inch height and remarkable stench.
Thanks to Cranky Yankee over at the New England Anomaly mailing list for the tip! Here is the original article:
'Corpse flower' is blooming
August 22, 2006
Information from: Citizen, http://www.fosters.com/citizen
LACONIA, N.H. --A rare "corpse flower" started blooming on Monday -- and if you want to see it and smell and its pungent odor of decaying flesh you've got just a couple of days.
The plant's owner hopes to take advantage of the rare blooming to raise money for children's programs sponsored by the Kiwanis Club in Laconia and LRGHealthcare Dental Resource Center.
The flower, nicknamed "Tilly" the Titan, is available for viewing at the Lakeport Fire Station. The admission costs $10.
The "corpse flower" -- or amorphophallus titanum -- is native to the equatorial rain forests of Sumatra, where it is pollinated by carrion and dung beetles attracted by its foul aroma. The plant was discovered in 1878 by an Italian botanist, Odoardo Beccari, and first bloomed in the United States in 1937 at the New York Botanical Gardens.
The flower resembles a massive jack-in-the-pulpit and grows from a large tuber or bulb. It weighs as much as 170 pounds. It can reach nine feet in height and open to a diameter of three or four feet. The plant blooms rarely and then for just
three to five days.
On the Net:
Monday, August 21, 2006
Tour & Trim Eastern CemeteryAnd when these guys say "rain or shine" they really mean it!
Join our enthusiastic group of Master Gardeners, history buffs, friends and neighbors at the historic Easter Cemetery, Saturday, August 26th at 9:00am for a new event, Tour and Trim!
We are combingin two activities: a tour of this incredible "museums without walls" AND, light prining as we tour! Sounds like fun?
This ancient public burial site, Portland's oldest, was founded in 1668, and was added to and subtracted from during its long 338 year history. Comprising over 6 acres, it holds the interments of over 8000 of Portland's earliest settlers, preachers, longshoremen, farmers, criminals, and politicians. Today, about 4000 stones and markers remain. It is the very nature of this historic site that makes planting and maintenance a challenge.
Join us and bring your hand-pruners, gloves, lopping shears (if you have them), a water bottle and hat.
We'll visit the oldest site in the current cemetery, a few of the many military heroes, the Longfellow family, and perhaps Portland's first bank robber. In between, we will prune invasive vines and shrubs and trim around some of the most delicate stones.
All are welcomed to participate. The event takes place rain or shine. Acquaint yourself with one of Portland's incredible treasures. Gates are now unlocked daily! For more information, please contact Christina White at Spirits Alive, email christina(AT)simonewear.com or via phone at 846-7753.
Historical Society Program Discusses Gravestone Symbols, Attitudes & ArtSounds like a great evening, too bad I didn't know about it sooner! I wonder if they'll be taping it?
New England's burying grounds are often called outdoor museums -- full of history, art, religious beliefs, genealogy, sometimes tragedy, scandal and even humor. To learn about the fascinating evolution of gravestones and cemeteries, attend the Yarmouth Historical Society presentation of gravestone scholar and author Laurel Gabel in a talk entitled "Understanding New England Gravestones and the Stories They Tell, 1650-2005." This program will take place on Monday, August 21, at 7:30pm in the Cousins Island Community House, Cousins Street. It is free and open to the public.
The program will discuss the symbolism and special language of gravestones and the attitudes about death and memorialization that these historic artifacts reflect. With a focus on early New England gravemarkers and their carvers, the Rural Cemetery Movement, fraternal and heraldic symbolism, the historica and modern use of photography in mourning and memorialization, the well-illustrated program promises to be informative as well as entertaining.
Ms. Gabel is a scholar in the field of cemetery and gravestones studies, a popular lecturer, author of numerous essays and articles, and co-author (with Theodore Chase) of Gravestone Chronicles I and II, two books about early New England gravestones and the men who carved them.
For more information, call 846-6259 or e-mail yarmouth-history(AT)inetmail.att.net
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Some sort of canine creature was killed by a car in Turner over the weekend, and no one seems to know what it is.
"This is something I've never seen before," said Mike O'Donnell, who lives near the area where the creature was found. "It's an evil looking thing. It looks like half-rodent, half-dog."You can read more of Coleman's comments at Cryptomundo (updates here and here).
Wildlife officials and animal control officers told about the find declined to go to Turner to examine the remains. By Tuesday, the carcass had been picked clean by vultures and there was not much left of the dead animal.
But Loren Coleman, considered by some to be the leading cryptozoologist in the world, said one thing is clear: the creature found in Turner is not likely somebody's pet.
"It certainly doesn't look like a chow or any kind of domesticated dog that I've seen," Coleman said after reviewing photos of the animal. "It may be a hybrid between a dog and a wolf." [Source]
Monday, August 14, 2006
Well you guys, a lot of us here in Portland missed going to the grass roots Zombie Kickball event on the Eastern Prom earlier this summer for various reasons. However, we are in luck, because the zombie did not fall in a forest, alone. The zombie fell and was recorded on video!!!
Yes, it's true. Thanks to Jill Dalton over at MECA who tipped me off -- here is the video on YouTube (click on image above to activate link).
While the lighting issues in the introductory part of the film were kind of a bummer, once you hit the open air of the Eastern Prom kickball field, everything becomes plain to see. Some sharp editing and an excellent cast of zombie characters who showed up on a sunny Sunday afternoon made this into an exciting and often hilarious event.
Too bad I missed it! If I was a proper zombie I could yank off my leg and kick myself. I mean, what was I thinking? I LOVE kickball, and I have long loved zombies. For those of you who are in the same boat as me, never fear!!! It sounds like the crew that instigated this rotten romp are planning to make it an annual event. ROCK ON!!!
Shark Sightings Prompt Beach EvacuationThe shark was found on the jetties Sunday morning, and "two more sharks were reported swimming near shore south of the jetty at about 1 p.m., fire officials said." [Source]
By News 8 WMTW
WELLS, Maine -- Lifeguards in Wells will be on the lookout on Monday, after a dead mako shark was found on the jetties at Wells beach over the weekend.
The cause of the animal's death is not known.
Two more shark sightings were reported Sunday afternoon, prompting the town to implement its shark plan, which involves evacuating the area so that experts can identify the variety of shark.
Back in 2002, Wells Beach was closed for three days due to sightings of at least three different sharks, "measuring up to twelve feet long, and in waters as shallow as 4 feet." Eyewitness Tom Harrington, a lifeguard, spotted a large fin in the water while he was out on his Jet-Ski. He estimated it to be "about two feet wide [at its base] and two and a half feet long." It was later determined that the sharks were either blue or mako sharks, both of which are considered to have the potential to be threats to humans. [Source]
In 2004, the AP reported that another pair of sharks spotted off Wells Beach were basking sharks. "The sharks were seen about 25 feet from shore. People at the beach were never in any danger, said Lt. Gregory Stone of the Wells Police Department. They were spotted at around 10:15 a.m. on the Atlantic Avenue side of Wells beach, and left the area around 12:15 p.m." [Source]
Just a year ago, back in August 2005, the town of Wells voted on a shark plan that determines a course of action when sharks are spotted offshore. None too soon, it appears now!
With characters as varied as a dog-faced boy, bearded lady, and Pandora (a lovely snake), the scene promises to be memorable no matter what its eventual length in the final version of the film.
Stay tuned, as the film is to be completed by September 1st for entry into the Lovecraft Film Festival! Those curious about Matzke's prior filmic pursuits would find it worth their while to pick up a copy of Lurker Films' DVD of the H.P. Lovecraft Collection Volume 1: Cool Air on which his films Nyarlathotep and An Imperfect Solution can be viewed in full.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Center Street in Auburn was teeming with morning rush hour commuters when a Chevy Blazer started barrelling down the roadway without stopping or steering around the four lanes of traffic. Crowell, one of the many motorists witness to the scene, noticed the driver of the vehicle appeared to be having a grand mal seizure, a serious event in any epileptic's life, let alone when it occurs without warning in a moving vehicle.
Crowell acted quickly. She chased the vehicle down the street, stepping on the gas and steering expertly. As it approached a Cumberland Farms store she closed in, and in a split second she jumped from her vehicle, high heels, business suit and all, and ran towards the front of the Blazer as it continued driving at her. She dashed to the Blazer's door, yanked it open, and reached across the flailing victim, and threw the gear shift into park. With the sudden stop in motion, she turned to assist the man who had been driving, and meanwhile checked on his infant son, who was seated safely in the back of the vehicle.
Kudos to this woman who risked everything to help someone out and avert what must have seemed like a certain disaster. Too few people are ready to step forward and assist in a tight spot these days. Thank you, Jill Crowell. THANK YOU!!! And best wishes to the driver for a quick recovery from all of us here at Strange Maine.
The Lewiston Sun Journal reports that E. Forbes Smiley III, a part-time resident of Sebec Lake, Maine, who admitted in June to taking nearly 100 rare maps over a period of eight years from libraries in the United States and the United Kingdom, has investigators in fits over the possibility that even more maps may be missing now than originally thought.
Among the libraries experiencing conspicuous gaps in their collections are such prestigious institutions as Yale, Harvard, and the British Library.
Smiley's lawyer, Richard Reeve, is concerned that further discoveries of map thefts will all be blamed on his client, regardless of the fact that there are other rare print and map thieves extant in the system who are just as likely the perpetrators.
"Either the maps have legs themselves or there are other people taking maps," Reeve stated. Smiley, who faces up to six years in prison, has been cooperating with the FBI and other authorities, who admit, according to the Sun Journal, that "without Smiley's cooperation they would have recovered only a fraction of the maps they ultimately obtained."
The investigation relies heavily on Smiley's assistance and voluntary information, because "poor record-keeping by the libraries limited the FBI's investigation. Investigators also had difficulty tracing maps which were printed in multiple copies to a single owner."
Interested readers may remember rashes of slash-thefts from library special collections in Maine and elsewhere in the past, when unscrupulous antique dealers removed rare prints and illustrations from Special Collections books for illicit sale on the antiques market. For these reasons, many institutions such as Bowdoin College now sequester parts of their Special Collections under security in undisclosed caches within their libraries. While such precautions have been successful in many cases, they are not without their gaps.
In December 2005, Bowdoin Library accosted Laurent Beaucage, 56, of Brunswick, on suspicion of theft.
On Monday, we noticed a patron in the stacks acting suspiciously, and simultaneously found a pile of library materials hidden behind shelved books in the stacks nearby. The materials were primarily old maps that had been torn out of turn-of-the-century government documents, depicting National Parks and other American territories. e immediately called our Director of Security, Randy Nichols, who came to the Library and talked to the man. After the man hurriedly left the Library, Randy contacted the Brunswick Police who stopped the man for questioning. The man had no library materials on his person, but his actions and attitude convinced Randy that he was responsible for tearing out the maps and probably planned to remove the items he had stashed away. He has now been issued a trespass warning and will not be permitted on the Bowdoin campus. [Source]In 2001, the Bangor Public Library sadly announced the theft of a list of at least 14 items that had been discovered stolen from their collections, including a number of notable maps as well. Most of the items were from the 1800s, with some dating back as far as 1762. [Source]
For those of you wishing to understand more about the whys and wherefores of the reprehensible and vandalous practice of map stealing, there is a lot of information and assistance on the subject to be found at http://www.maphistory.info/theftlinks.html.
I can see why he wouldn't excite suspicion and be able to pass through libraries unhindered. If you look at this Boston Globe article you can see a picture of him, and even in his mugshot he looks distinguished and scholarly. To view Edward Forbes Smiley III's website on which he sells rare and antique maps from his home in Massachusetts, click here: http://www.efsmaps.com/
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
MAINE PAGAN PRIDE DAY
Hey folks, this is a reminder that the third annual Maine Pagan Pride Day event will be held this upcoming Saturday!
Date: Saturday August 12th
Location: Allen Ave UU Church, 524 Allen Ave Portland, Maine (Same place as last year!) Rain or shine!!!!
Charity: Please bring a canned food donation to benefit Project FEED, a local foodbank in Portland! FREE and open to the public!
See the location on the map by visiting here.
We have a lot of great workshops scheduled throughout the day, all which are free to attend as always! There will be a Wiccaning ritual happening at 2pm that will be open to the public, as well as our annual harvest ritual at 4pm.
We have the Medusa Maidens doing a belly dance performance, as well as several musicians, drumming groups and performers scheduled throughout the day! We have a nice lineup of vendors, so come prepared to shop! Hotdogs and chips and sodas will be available during lunchtime, and Spiral Scouts will be selling goodies throughout the day at their bakesale table. This year's raffle will even include signed books from authors like Starhawk, Jane Raeburn, and Margot Adler! If you would like to see
the press release for the event please visit:
If you would like to see more about the event schedule and list of activities during the day please visit:
If you would like to help out with the event, we really need people Friday night August 11th to help setup and move tables, hang signs etc. If you can help, please meet us at the UU Church at 6pm on Friday. I am in my 9th month of pregnancy so I will need all the help I can get to setup that night!
I hope that you can join us for this great day. It's always so much fun!
Please let me know if you have any questions, or ideas!
Coordinator, Maine Pagan Pride Day
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I heard the news Monday morning (click here for the story and a video clip), and was shocked, because I myself had first seem him within (it would turn out) mere minutes of his meeting with such an untimely fate. He was anything but subtle. As we drove past him in the low sunlight of Saturday evening, on our way to Old Orchard Beach's main drag and the promise of pizza and fries at Lisa's Pizza, I gawked out the window and shrieked, "What the heck was THAT?!"
He was brightly colored yellow, with red/orange trim, eyes practically popping out of his head, and was obviously happy about his new role greeting customers, as he stood at his post outside of Kelly's Finger Lickin' Chicken in the fading glow of sunlight and the oncoming headlights of cars as they drove by. Shortly thereafter, disaster struck. Now, a community of mascot-lovers reaches out in sympathy and support to the owner of this beleagured chicken, and hopes his bright future will be restored.
Who Would Decapitate A Wooden Chicken?
Web Editor: Caroline Cornish, Reporter
Police in Old Orchard Beach are trying to figure out who decapitated a 6 foot tall wooden chicken. The chicken had only been out in front of Kelly's Finger Lickin' Chicken for two days before it lost its head.
Around 8:30 P.M. Saturday, a customer noticed the chicken was knocked over. When the owner went to look at it, he discovered the head was gone.
Kelly's was planning to have a naming contest for the bird, and owner Kevin Kelly promises it'll be back. He said, "They ruined a great thing. We were trying to make a nice thing up here, something different for the people of Old Orchard and they take part of it away. But we'll rebuild."
Kelly's was going to offer a reward for the chicken head, but while we were taking pictures, a good samaritan came by to say he saw the head behind a laundromat across the street. It's a little damaged, but otherwise OK. The owners still want to know who vandalized the bird, but they're glad they can put him back together again.
LEWISTON, Maine -- A man accused of tossing a pig's head into a mosque thought the most serious charge he'd face would be littering, or improper disposal of animal parts, according to court documents.
Court documents indicated Brent Matthews had a discussion with a police officer about the ramifications of leaving the pig's head on a doorstep.
But Lewiston police said Matthew was warned that doing so could be considered a hate crime. Muslims consider pork to be unclean.
The same officer with whom Matthew discussed the pig's head was the one who arrested him. Matthews is charged with desecrating a house of worship on July 3. The state attorney general also filed a lawsuit charging Matthews with civil rights violations.
Monday, August 07, 2006
May 19, 1780 was the day that has been called the dark day in New England. On this day the people in Lebanon said it was so dark at times during the day that they could not see to perform their labor. The sun rose that clear monring, but somewhat obscured by smoke. By 9:00 in the forenoon the sun could not be seen, and the darkness increased rapidly. By about 2:00 the cattle went to the barn and the fowls went to roost. Darkness continued throughout the day, but the next morning the sun rose as usual.Herschel the astronomer described the dramatic effects the event had on the populace of New England. Many Christians and doomsday prophets, then and for many years thereafter, ascribed the event to the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophecy related in such Bible verses as Rev 6:12 ("The sun became as black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.") and Joel 2:31 ("The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.")
Some people thought that the dark day was caused by dense clouds of smoke in the atmosphere that floated over new England and Canada. The darkness was said to have been even greater in Canada, and the people had to use candles in their dwellings at noon on that day. The darkness was not occasioned by anything in the body of the sun itself because other parts of the world had sunshine as usual. No satisfactory cause was ever found for this phenonmenon for many years.
In the 1980s I was reading Yankee magazine when I came across an interesting article. The article talked about the dark day of May 19, 1780. I was stunned to find out that the dark day was caused by a huge fire in Canada. There was no communication in those day slike there is today, so the dark day in Lebanon had remained a mystery for many years.
Whittier enscribed verse telling further of the general mood:
The intense darkness of the day was succeeded, an hour or two before evening, by a partially clear sky, and the sun appeared, though it was still obscured by the black, heavy mist. But "this interval was followed by a return of the obscuration with greater density, that rendered the first half of the night hideously dark beyond all former experience of the probable million of people who saw it. From soon after sunset until midnight, no ray of light from moon or star penetrated the vault above.
It was pronounced 'the blackness of darkness!'" Said an eye-witness of the scene: "I could not help conceiving, at the time, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable darkness, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete." Though the moon that night rose to the full, "it had not the least effect to dispel the death-like shadows." After midnight the darkness disappeared, and the moon, when first visible, had the appearance of blood. [Source]
'Twas on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the spring,
Over the fresh earth, and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness.
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky.
The Shakers found themselves an object of focus following the event, three years before founding their Sabbathday Lake village in Maine: "Having arrived on the eve of the American Revolution, and being not only British, but pacifists, the Shakers kept a low profile. However, the events of May 19, 1780, the famous 'Dark Day,' brought their testimony to the public. Soon, hundreds of people from New York and Massachusetts were coming to see this peculiar people." [Source]
The Wilder-Holton House in New Hampshire maintains a special place in that state's history, besides its more staid position of being the first two-story home in Coos County, because of its relation to the date:
This structure, erected by Major Jonas Wilder, from boards planed and nails wrought on the site, originally possessing a four-fireplace chimney and Indian shutters, is Coos County's first two-story dwelling. Construction was initiated on the noted "Dark Day" of May 19, 1780, which caused work to cease temporarily. Successively a home, a tavern, a church, and a meeting place, it is now a museum. [Source]
Friday, August 04, 2006
One of the most interesting things mentioned in the article is a story about an old custom brought up by the discovery of an old corked bottle...
One day my brother was out hiking. He was poking around with a stick when he hit something hard in the ground. He dug it up and found it was an old bottle.That would put a chill down my spine, too. Ill will, aged and corked up. It's like something out of a John Bellairs book.
My brother shook the bottle and something clanged inside. He pulled out the partial cork that was stuck in the top of the bottle. He turned the bottle upside down and out fell a penny. He was surprised. He rubbed the penny so he could read the date on it. The date was 1903, and he knew he had quite a find.
The bottle was buried in an opening in a stone wall. He thought this was strange, but he put it in his backpack and finished his hike. He went to our father's house later that day where my uncle happened to be visiting, too. My brother told the story about the bottle and penny. My uncle said that he heard a story many years ago. He said that folks years ago believed that you could put a curse on someone by putting a penny from that year into a bottle. You would then bury the bottle under a path that was used by the person you wanted to put a curse on.
This story sent a chill through my brother. He wondered if the curse could possibly work. Who could be devilish enough to try it? In this case, nobody will probably ever know.
Ironically, a "good luck penny in a bottle" is a widespread novelty gift, and has been manufactured since at least 1945 by the souvenir industry. This usually involves a miniature bottle that looks as though there is no way the penny could have been put into it by natural means. The "penny in a bottle" theme is also the basis of a common sleight-of-hand magic trick.
I can't weed out much in the way of information online about coins in bottles as a custom in New England. As a positive use, I did find that supposedly "It used to be common practice to put a silver coin into a bottle of milk to keep it from souring, or into a bottle of water to purify it. The ancient Greeks & Romans used to put silver into their urns and in the Middle Ages royalty, eating with silver utensils, were less susceptible of succumbing to the ravages of the plague." [Source]
Moving back over the curse side of things, in the realm of property cursing, "one item that is common is the use of what is sometimes (especially outside the hoodoo community) referred to as a 'Witches' Bottle.'" In this case, the bottle was filled with a certain number of pins or nails and various other materials, and then the person effecting the spell is told to "bury the bottle where the victim will walk over it," a form of what they call "foot track magic." [Source]
For more on Witch Bottles, see this site. It seems like this type of spell or hex originated many, many years ago, far outside of New England. Catherine Yronwode says "I believe that direct foot-track magic is the oldest form of laying down tricks, and the most African." [Source] Legendary bluesman Robert Johnson sang a song about this type of curse, called "Stones in my Passway," quoted in full on Yronwode's page linked above:
I got stones in my passway and my road seems dark at nightIt's not hard to imagine how this same feeling of doom could fall easily on a man walking along a cold lonely pathway in the barren Maine countryside.
I have pains in my heart, they have taken my appetite
Thursday, August 03, 2006
When they cleared out and reset the stone of Sarah Wallace’s solitary grave, dated 1872, near the entrance to Sebasco Resort beside the golf course, a Phippsburg resident told them his father had cautioned, “You always tip your hat to Sarah when you’re golfing.”Great work, and a model project. Funding for this type of work is hard to come by, and most of the resources and elbow grease are donated by helpful folks in the area. Thanks to the newspaper for giving such excellent coverage and recognition to this group! Photo by Muriel Hendrix.
As they worked on the Darling Cemetery at Black’s Landing, they discovered that many broken pieces of headstones were missing because in the past, lobstermen had used them to weight their traps. While clearing out one of the next sites, the Gilman/Lewis/Sprague Cemetery, a member of the Gilman family told them about the sad fate of Katie Gilman, age 1 year, 11 months, who was scalded to death when she climbed up on the kitchen counter on washday and fell out of the window into the wash water.
...the students and the Varians, who continue to ask Phippsburg residents whose ancestors are buried in the cemeteries to relate stories handed down in their families, have discovered other pieces of Phippsburg history. One is the sad tale of the Blethen family members who lived on Hunger Mountain, now known as Merritt Mountain. After a fire left them destitute, they were given barrels of food, which turned out to have been contaminated by rats that carried a form of plague. All family members died.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Take a look at the current Channel 2 schedule and you will find Shilling Shockers is playing on Wednesdays (that's today!) throughout the month of August, at 3:00pm, 8:00pm, and again at 2:00 in the morning (technically Thursday). This week they are airing Episode 1 which features the Peter Lorre movie, "M."
Penny hails from the goodly state of Massachusetts (which Maine was once a part of), and invites you all to join her for some terror-iffic fun on Channel 2. For previews of what the rest of her Season 1 episodes hold in store for you, go to her website and hit the "SHOW INFO" link for a list of episodes and synopses. Let's show her some good ol' Maine hospitality!
(BTW, for an overview of bad Maine accents on film, see this 2005 San Diego Union-Tribune article.)