Strange Maine

Founded 2005! Freaks. Weirdos. Unmapped roads. Whispering rocks. Deadening fog. Ghost pirates. Lonely islands. THINGS in the WOODS. Home of Stephen King & Glenn Chadbourne. A place where the 4 seasons really know how to live. Maine: the way life should be! This site is a nexus for conversation about Maine's unique strangeness, people who love it, people who have experienced it, & people who are intrigued by it. History, mysteries, legends, current events, cryptozoology, & more.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

EVENTS: Crescent Moon Herbals shop

For those who are in the Lebanon, Maine, area, and who are interested in a variety of pursuits:
Crescent Moon Herbals Events Calendar
Below is the current list of events (as of this date) scheduled at the shop. Pre-registration is required on most classes and restrictions apply. Some events require a minimum attendance. Classes are always being added so for the most current information, please go to www.crescentmoonherbals.com and click on the Calendar link for details & pricing on any of these events.

All classes & events begin at the designated time scheduled.

April 20: Monthly Drumming Journey Circle, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Donations.
April 21: Mead and Winemaking with Jonathan Cyr, 2-4 p.m.
April 21: SPECIAL EVENT & BOOK SIGNING WITH Freddy Silva: Coding The Earth: Crop Circles, Cathedrals, Sacred Sites and the Coming Human Evolution, 7-9 p.m.
April 22: Readings with Ralph, 11-1 p.m.
April 22: Earth Day Self- and Earth-Healing Didgeridoo Meditation/Journey with Joseph Carringer, 1-3 p.m.
April 22, May 20, June 10, Sept. 9, Oct. 21, Nov. 18: Reaching Into the Heart of the Goddess, 4:30-8:30 p.m.
April 26: LifeBreath with Valerie Davis. 7-9 p.m.
April 28: Learn to Read Tarot with Valerie, 2-3 p.m.
April 29: Spirit Messenger - Isabeau, 11-4 p.m.
May 5: A day of Psychic and Medium Readings with Renown Psychic Medium Joanne Gerber, 11:30-4:30 p.m. Waiting list only.
May 6: Readings with Ralph, 11-4 p.m.
May 6: Introduction to Wicca, 12-4 p.m.
May 12: Informational Gathering: �Asatru 101/Norse Tradition, 1 p.m. Donations.
May 18: Drumming Journey Circle, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Donations.
May 19: Come and make a fairy house (kids & parents) with Carol Hutchins, 1-3 p.m.
May 24: Creating Prosperity with the Angels with Elizabeth Foley, 7-9 p.m.
May 27: Chair Massage with Sheri Clarke, 11-4 p.m.
May 31: LifeBreath with Valerie Davis. 7-9 p.m.
June 16: Psychic Development with Carol Hutchins, 2-4 p.m.
June 24: Chair Massage with Sheri Clarke, 11-4 p.m.
June 30: Reiki 2 Certification with Greg Phillips, 10-2 p.m.
June 30: Didgeridoo Meditation/Journey with Joseph Carringer, 3-5 p.m.

First Sunday of each month: Readings with Mystic Medium Ralph Reinard and Reiki with Greg Phillips, 11-4 p.m.;
Thursdays : Native American Energy Healing and Finding your Totem Animals with Prairie Walker, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Fridays & every third Saturday: Psychic Readings with Carol Hutchins, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Every third Friday: Drum Journey Circle, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.;
Every Fourth Saturday: Tarot Card Readings, Past Life Regression & Hypnosis with Valerie Starr, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Last Thursday of each month, LifeBreath with Valerie Davis, 7-9 p.m.

Crescent Moon Herbals, LLC
76 Center Road
Lebanon, ME 04027
207-457-1114

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Crazy McCausland's Human Sacrifice

This account is from a paper read before the Maine Historical Society in 1883 by Joseph Williamson titled "Capital Trials in Maine Before the Separation."
The indictment of Henry McCausland for murder, in 1793, at Augusta, then a half-shire of Lincoln County, excited much interest. The prisoner was an ignorant laborer, residing in Pittston, who became insane upon religious subjects. He was thought harmless, but finally had become impressed that the Lord had commanded him in a vision to make burnt-offering and a sacrifice. The offering was to be in the Episcopal church in Gardiner, and the sacrifice a woman named Warren, who lived near. Accordingly, in August, 1793, he set fire to the church, an humble, unfurnished wooden edifice, and it was destroyed. It only then remained to perform the sacrifice. Two months after the burnt-offering, at midnight, he entered the house where the victim was watching a sick person, and deliberately murdering her with a knife, excaped without obstruction. The next day, a great crowd, some of them armed, came after him, but he offered no resistance, and was quietly secured. On being arraigned, he pleaded guilty. The chief justice stated to him the nature of the plea, and suggested a substitution of not guilty. He replied that he killed the woman, and did not like to tell a lie about it. The court did not then record the plea, but remanded him. On the following day, a retraction of the plea was again proposed, and rejected. Several witnesses were then examined as to his mental condition and conduct before, at the time of, and after the murder. He was never sentenced, and as there were then no insane asylums, he was committed to jail where he remained until his death, which occurred thirty-six years afterward, at the age of seventy. During his long confinement he was harmless and contented. [Source]
According to this website, McCausland during his incarceration "was an object of curiosity to the people of the neighborhood, who used to pay a penny apiece for the privilege of 'hearin Crazy McCausland pray.' For the stipulated sum, he was accustomed to appear at his cell window, a strange object with his long beard, in those days of shaved chins and there would mumble an incoherent prayer. The money which he thus obtained he sent to his family in Pittston."

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I'll have a ham sandwich blow-up, please...


In Lewiston news, online pranksters ran amuck and posted a parody of the recent ham incident at Lewiston Middle School. And FOX NEWS (who else) actually picked it up as REAL NEWS and ran the story, provoking a landslide of outraged comment from the public.

Read about the actual incident here, on the Lewiston Sun Journal's website, and then read on to see what happened once it got blown out of proportion and further skewed!

Yeah... definitely one of the weirder turn-of-news-events I've heard of lately.

Ham report stirs 'mess'
By Judith Meyer , Managing Editor
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

LEWISTON - An obscure online parody of the recent hate incident at the Lewiston Middle School - a parody reported as news on a national Fox broadcast Tuesday - launched an immediate avalanche of angry phone calls and ugly e-mails to the school system.

In the parody, the ham steak became a ham sandwich. Fake quotes were attributed to Superintendent Leon Levesque, Stephen Wessler of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, and one of the Somali students targeted in the incident.

The post then appeared to legitimize the information by attributing The Associated Press as its source.

Larry Laughlin, chief of bureau for AP in Northern New England, said the parody was "clearly improper use of The Associated Press brand."

"You can't," Laughlin said, "fancifully make up comments and add them to an Associated Press story."

Lawyers for the AP are reviewing the parody post and will take action as appropriate, Laughlin said.

The parody, posted by Nicholas Plagman of Atlanta, Ga., and published Monday on an Associated Press look-alike site called Associated Content, and the resulting comments and posts on that and dozens of other online sites, created tension at the middle school and among parents of students.
...
Following the Fox broadcast, Levesque's office received dozens of angry phone calls and profanity-laced e-mails, made and sent by people all over the country, who charge the school district overreacted to what they believed from news reports to be a ham sandwich tossed at a Somali student.
...
According to Lachapelle, a student brought a honey-baked ham to school to share with his friends. While they were in the cafeteria, one or more students dared another student (not the one who brought the ham to school) to put the ham on a table in front of five Somali boys. That student took up the dare, and followed through even though his friends immediately tried to talk him out of it. The student "knew it was wrong," Levesque said, while he was doing it.
...
In the parody, Levesque was quoted as saying "These children have got to learn that ham is not a toy, and that there are consequences for being nonchalant about where you put your sandwich."

Wessler was quoted as saying his agency was working with the school to create an "anti-ham 'response plan.'"

Neither man said those things.

Levesque never made any reference to a need to make students feel safe from attacks from any ham product.
...
[Read full story here: Source]

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It's ALIIIVE! No, wait... it's UNDEAD!!!


Yep. It's time... the bona fide finished trailer for the Maine zombie movie, "2," is up on YouTube. Music by Covered in Bees.

Bring us your dead!!!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Aboreal Carnage!

Scenes of Portland in the aftermath of the Patriots Day Noreaster.

Trees in Deering Oaks fall victim to the wind.


A half uprooted, broken tree at the corner of Baxter Boulevard and Forest Avenue.

Fallen trees in Deering Oaks


Roots and soil remain attached to a downed tree

Baxter Boulevard

One of many Portland fences that was blown over by the wind

Water rages through the Presumpscot River in Westbrook


A porta-potty illegally parked in a handicapped zone

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Portland Banner Returns!

Download your copy of the Portland Banner's April 2007 issue in PDF form here!

Features include a wide range of articles, all by local folk, including my own review of the Bad Movie of the Month, Freeway Maniac, and a great account by Greg Souza of his travels trainhopping from Portland to Chicago. Other pieces include "Confessions of a Former Metal Head," and a local business profile of Idea Gems, Laurie Notch's small Munjoy Hill publishing company. Read it!

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The Dead Ship of Harpswell

The Harpswell Historical Society's website has an account written by elementary-school kids of a local ghost ship.
The Dead Ship of Harpswell was a ghost or phantom, it was not a broken up ship. The ship was always under full sail and sailed straight ahead no matter what the wind and tide was like. The ship was mostly seen just before dark and between the afternoon and night.

Sometimes it was seen as a four mast ship, sometimes a two mast ship or sometimes a brig. As the ship was going toward the dock, the watcher saw there was no one on the ship and no one to steer the ship to the dock. When the ship was about to crash, the ship would disappear or go backwards and go into a mist. People thought that if someone saw the ghost ship that someone in Harpswell would die. The only people that saw the ship were the ones that were waiting for a ship. The ship was seen many times at Lookout Point in Harpswell Center and Potts Point in South Harpswell. It was also seen at Bailey and Orr's Island.
The account includes a reference to an 1866 poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. Here's the money quote:
And men shall sigh, and women weep,
Whose dear ones pale and pine,
And sadly over sunset seas
Await the ghostly sign.
They know not that its sails are filled
By pity's tender breath,
Nor see the Angel at the helm
Who steers the Ship of Death!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Breaking News: Sherman St. Smash and Grab

Sherman Street has been improving slowly but surely as a Portland neighborhood over the last decade or so, but it still has its run-ins with crime. Over the last month or so, there have been 3 car break-ins, including perhaps the most ludicrous one of all: one car had its window smashed in and nothing was stolen but a SHOVEL. Only in Maine... As a clincher, the car wasn't even locked when the window was broken by the thief.

The most recent of the smash-and-grabs occurred a little bit before 3:00pm this afternoon. Local crime watchers were alert, though, and the three suspects who perpetrated it were quickly apprehended by Portland Police, who responded in a rapid and professional fashion.

Please note that these arrests occurred because of a couple of regular folks saw something suspicious happening and acted upon it quickly. If we all pay attention to what's going on in our neighborhoods, there's a good chance that a lot of the petty crime can be eliminated. These guys are not rocket scientists. The crime was performed in broad daylight, and with no subtlety whatsoever.

One suspect stood lookout on the corner of the street. The other two moved back and forth along the sidewalk, trying car doors and looking in car windows for a few minutes before picking their victim's car. All three wore hoods to hide their faces. They took their time leaving the scene, which was only a handful of houses away from the address on Sherman Street that they returned to after the crime.

If you see something happening, call 911. The next time, it could be your car.

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A tangled web we weave...

This is something you don't see every day!
Tangled web of traps recovered off coast of Owls Head Light
Coast Guard, Marine Patrol, lobstermen work to raise cluster of traps
By Kelly Michaud

A tangle of nearly 50 lobster traps was hauled from the ocean’s bottom Wednesday, about four miles south of Owls Head Light.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Abbie Burgess, Maine Marine Patrol officers and a pair of local lobster fishermen joined forces to try and recover two large clusters of traps, which were about 350 feet below the water’s surface, on the ocean floor. One small cluster was brought on board the cutter; however the larger cluster, believed to contain at least 100 traps, could not be recovered.
...
The Abbie Burgess crew first worked to bring up the large cluster, but after dragging several buoys on board, it was discovered that one line was connected to the big ball of traps, [Abbie Burgess Commanding Officer Paul] Dilger explained.

Petty Officer Second Class Kevin Stancliff throws a lobster overboard Wednesday. Lobsters found in the traps, except legal lobsters caught in traps belonging to the two lobstermen on board, were returned to the sea.
“We hooked onto it but couldn’t take the weight of the huge number of traps on the bottom,” Dilger said.
...
The cluster sank, but they made note of its location before moving onto a second cluster, which they hoped was attached to the first. The second cluster was brought onboard and contained 47 traps.
...
After securing the second cluster on board, the cutter returned to the original spot and the crew used a giant grapnel hook to drag the bottom, in search of the first cluster. After an hour and a half of searching, the Abbie Burgess returned to Rockland without it.

“There’s always next time,” Dilger said.
[Click here to read full article and view more photos: Source]
Photo by Kelly Michaud.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Weekly Portland Photo of the Past

Our last photo was of Exchange Street in Portland's Old Port, looking up from the intersection with Fore Street towards where today Exchange Street crosses Middle Street. Here is another photo, courtesy of Abraham Schechter, who runs the Portland Public Library's Portland Room.

This time it is of another Portland street, again estimated to have been taken circa 1900-1910. Around the turn of the century, Portland felt a pressing need to relieve itself of the sewage problems of an increasing population. Before long, the major sewer pipes of the city were being laid, many of which are still working today. Click on the photo for a larger version to inspect details.

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Magicians Society to Wow Crowd TONIGHT!

From the Lewiston Sun Journal, a great suggestion on how to spend your FRIDAY THE 13TH!!! Rumford is about to become the Magic Capital of Maine, and they have the history to warrant it. Read on!
Now you see it ... Evening of magic, superstition will benefit class of 2009
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RUMFORD - Mountain Valley High School will provide the backdrop for an evening of magic and superstition Friday, April 13. Performing will be magicians from around the state: Bob Nixon, Scot Grassette, Wes Booth, Professor Miller and Dr. Wilson. Kaitlyn Grassette of the Society of Young Magicians, will be master of ceremonies.

The performance, benefiting the class of 2009, will begin at 7 p.m. in Muskie Auditorium. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for student and children under 5, free. For more information, contact Grassette at grassette@gwi.net, or 369-0129.

Assembly 174 of the Society of American Magicians, based in Portland, and Ring 362 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, based in Bangor, will present Rumford dignitaries with a plaque proclaiming Rumford as Maine's capital of magic - in honor of the late Dr. James William Elliott (1874-1920), one of Maine's foremost magicians.

Rumford is the birthplace and burial place of Elliott, who was a friend of Harry Houdini. Upon Elliott's death, Houdini edited Elliott's notes into a book on magic titled "Elliott's Last Legacy." Houdini, primarily known as an escape artist, began as a card magician.

Never known as a modest man, Houdini publicly acknowleged that Elliott was without peer with respect to his skill with playing cards. Indeed, Elliott himself issued a public challenge to all magicians that he was "Champion Card Manipulator of the World." This challenge stood for 22 years. No magician dared face the Boston physician whose devotion to practice and quality was legendary.

Sunday, April 29, Ring 362 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians will honor Elliott's legacy by staging the second annual Elliott Card Challenge at 3 p.m. at the Hotel Harris. The contest is a test of skills at playing cards under demanding conditions. Contestants will each be given a new, sealed deck of playing cards of unknown design and will have up to 10 minutes to perform card magic under the watchful eyes of their peers. Booth, who was recognized as the 2006 Elliott Card Champion, will defend his title against a field of determined contestants. The public is invited to watch the challenge.
[Source]
Photo of Elliot is from the Sun Journal article.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Letter Returns from 63-Year Disappearance

Thanks again to the folks at New England Anomaly for this tipoff. Well, if all mail was this tenacious, there may be hope yet for stuff I've never received! The other week a letter was returned to the Congress Street office from which it was mailed in 1943. No one know where it's been all this time!!!
Undelivered mail returned to sender 63 years after mailing
April 7, 2007, PORTLAND, Maine
A letter that was sent from an insurance company but never delivered has been returned to the sender -- 63 years after it was mailed. A mail carrier returned the letter two weeks ago to a Congress Street office building that was the home to the Maine branch of New York Life in 1943.
When the letter was sent by New York Life, there was no name or address on the envelope, which helps explain why it was never delivered. But it's unclear where the letter has been hiding all these years.
...
Cullen Fletcher, who manages the Congress Street building where the letter was returned, spotted the mail carrier's puzzled expression when he attempted to return the errant piece of mail. He then noticed the postmark of Sept. 1, 1943, and the 3-cent postage.
The letter, Fletcher said, may have been the victim of a mechanical malfunction. "It looked like it got stuck in a machine," he said, pointing to black scuff marks and the crumpled edge of the envelope. Portland postal officials were unaware of the letter, which has sparked some curiosity and nostalgia.
...
New York Life still has offices in Portland a block or so away.
------
Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com
[Source]
Photo is from the Antique Mail Room Machines website, titled "Heap of Papers," (Denver, CO, photograph by Harry M. Rhoads, 1880/81-1975)

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Danvers Asylum fire empties new apartments

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember we are also interested in other weird New England sites, including the old Danvers Lunatic Asylum in Danver, Massachusetts.

The New England Anomaly mailing list alerted me this morning to a report on Boston WCVB-TV about a four-alarm fire at the Danvers facility, now partway through its conversion into apartments and condominiums.
Spectacular Fire Damages Former Mental Hospital
Firefighters Battled Flames In Cold

BOSTON -- A massive four alarm fire at the former Danvers State Mental Hospital lit up the night sky and forced a number of residents from their homes overnight Saturday.

Flames shot up hundreds of feet in the air and could be seen for miles after the blaze began at about 1:30 a.m.
The hospital has been closed for years, but the buildings were in the process of being developed into condominiums and apartments.

Officials say eight buildings were destroyed, including four unfinished apartment buildings and four utility buildings. State police evacuated residents living in new apartments on the property as a precaution and closed nearby Route 1. Some firefighters suffered minor burns because of the intensity of the flames, the Danvers Fire Department said.

The hospital was built in 1878 and closed to patients in 1992. In 2005, the property was sold to Avalon Bay Development which is building 497 apartments and condominiums on the 77 acre site. Fire crews were expected to stay at the scene through Saturday to watch for hot spots. The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

[Source]

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Maine's Place in the Witchcraft Craze

The Knoxville News Sentinel has a great article that talks about Maine's connections to the Salem Witch Trials, which are very strong, and which most people are unaware of. It focuses on the research of Mary Beth Norton, of the University of Tennessee.
Historian speaks about Salem witch trials
Author talks at UT about her book that debunked myths
By DARREN DUNLAP, April 6, 2007

Twenty people executed. Nineteen hanged and one pressed to death by stones. Historian Mary Beth Norton knew the outcome of the Salem witchcraft crisis and trials of 1692, but she didn't buy the story of how it all came about.

Her inquiry would result in a prize-winning book called "In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692." On Thursday, University of Tennessee students heard Norton's take on the subject during a lecture called "Salem Witchcraft: Myth and Reality."

She told students the "standard brief narrative" about the cause of the trials, one she tested and eventually debunked in her 2003 book. Allegedly the crisis began this way:

In the winter of 1691-92, a group of young girls and teenagers, bored with life in the rural village of Salem, Mass., began experimenting with fortunetelling, perhaps even with voodoo or black magic, under the leadership of a black slave owned by a local minister. Out of that, accusations of witchcraft arose and the hysteria spread into a witchhunt.

Digging through Cornell University's Witchcraft Collection, Norton found many of the accused were not from Salem. The accused were not all women, or even young women. About a quarter of the accused were men, and some of them were prominent men.

She looked at the region as a whole, which hadn't been done before, she said. Using that approach, Norton would find a link between the Indian Wars on the Maine frontier in the 1660s and the witchcraft crisis. She decided to write a "dual narrative of war and witchcraft because the two things were totally intertwined."

"I realized that so many of the people whose names I was familiar with from the trial records were actually from Maine," she said. "They were playing out conflicts that had started, in many cases, from years earlier on the Maine frontier."

The climate of fear from the Indian Wars figured into the crisis. The towns and settlements of that time were dealing with a "mysterious enemy" that seemed to appear and disappear "mysteriously."

"I don't think the northern wars caused the witchcraft crisis, but the crisis would not have occurred if the wars had been averted. Because the wars created the climate of fear that allowed the expansion of the crisis beyond those first accusations," she said.

She said New Englanders soon regretted the trials, with judges and jurors apologizing for their roles and, two decades after the crisis, the state of Massachusetts compensating the families of those executed and surviving victims.

Norton's lecture is part of an annual series sponsored by the Milton M. Klein History Studies Endowment at UT.[Source]
There is a terrific essay online by Mary Beth Norton about Maine, focusing on the Reverend George Burroughs, of Wells and Casco, Maine. You can read Mary Beth Norton's essay by clicking here.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Good Maine Spirits and Bad

Maine has its share of tales about spirit mediums and their positive work with the spirit world. Alongside this is the complementing current of legends and rumors of a more negative nature -- tales of evil influences, destructive hauntings, and curses. Today we've got a couple of stories for you, one from each side of the spirit river.

Story No. 1: Evil Spirits in Gray
While I've known that town government in Gray is full of infighting, I never thought I'd hear this said about it (emphasis is mine):
Gray has always been contentious. Some say all towns to some degree are. Others, who are sensitive to the spirit world, say Gray is haunted by human evil doers and their spirit evil counterparts and the veil between human and otherworld is thin. Either way, the degree of misbehavior has been unparallelled lately.

Last year we had more than one Council meeting recessed due to the inappropriately angry behavior of several audience members. We had people throwing up their middle fingers, and slamming out the door, rattling timbers in their wake. This year we have the usual angry bloggers again with hate speech and insults, and council-appointed committee members grasping the public podium and immaturely contributing to the civic dialogue by stating the the Vice-Chair is an idiot.

Monument News reporter Gordon Lane reported:
"The contentious March 20 meeting has also found itself on a YouTube post (MY NOTE: view video here, it's worth watching) in addition to the standard anonymous Gray blogs. The video, posted by Paul Proudian on Nathan Tsukroff’s blog, "Black and White in Gray" (bwgray.wordpress.com), shows a heated exchange between town residents and Foster, and is then followed by a political attack ad. Foster is currently considering whether to run for another council term."
[Source]
Story No. 2: Good Spirits in Durham
Lewiston Sun Journal continues with its excellent "weird Maine" series this week with another piece by Kathryn Skelton, this time about a psychic medium in Durham, Maine:
Transmitting spirits, Eddita Felt has offered apologies from an expired mother-in-law and revealed past lives that may have ended in death by alligator. The Durham woman behind the Northeast Professional Psychics, Mediums & Healers Guild, Eddita Felt insists she's shy.

It's spirit guides that motivated her. One named Fergus in particular. They wanted her to get out more, to be out more.

So much so that they goaded her into forming the Northeast Professional Psychics, Mediums & Healers Guild.

[please click here for full article: Source]

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Friday, April 06, 2007

100 Years Ago in the Devil's Half-Acre

The Lewiston Sun Journal has a daily feature which looks back 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and 25 years ago. Today's was pretty interesting, and gave a name to a part of Lewiston that I hadn't heard of before.
In a Lewiston special to the Boston Herald on the local rum situation, it is stated that letters have been sent from Androscoggin County to Gov. Cobb asking him to send the Sturgis deputies here. The special concluded with this paragraph: "It is asserted that the liquor deputies pass the well-known places on the principal streets to make searches for liquor in the shops of the French quarter of this city, and the dives and kitchen bar-rooms in Hines alley and on 'The Devil's Half-Acre.'"
[Source]
Little did I know, Lewiston wasn't alone in claiming this moniker. According to Wikipedia, Bangor was know as the Devil's Half Acre too: "Sailors and loggers gave the city a different and more widespread reputation - their stamping grounds were known as the 'Devil's Half Acre.'" [Source] Their information comes from "Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums (1970)" in Doris A. Isaacson: Maine: A Guide 'Down East'. Rockland, Me: Courier-Gazette, Inc., pages 163-172. The Bangor Daily News published an article about the events of 1906 that led to a wider recognition of this nickname:
'Crime wave' entertained Bangor
By Wayne Reilly
Monday, July 24, 2006 - Bangor Daily News

During the long, hot summer of 1906, Bangor became the crime center of the nation, perhaps of the world, at least in the fevered imaginations of reporters and editors at the Bangor Daily Commercial, the city's afternoon newspaper. "MANY CROOKS HERE ... Bangor is Pretty Nearly as Badly Off as Chicago Now ... HOBOES ARE INSOLENT," announced a multidecker headline on July 17. Hoboes, yeggmen, pickpockets, muggers, con artists, robbers and a host of other bad guys had been gathering in the Queen City since sometime in the spring.
...
The reporter advised, "One only has to take a walk through the section of the city known as the 'Devil's Half-Acre,' through the railroad yards and up along the river front from Washington Street to Foley shore below the Eastern Maine General hospital to satisfy himself of the number of these tough characters in the city."

Yet after setting the stage so well, the reporter admitted there had not been a single murder or bank robbery or something else really serious. The author seemed mostly concerned with the hoboes, that mysterious infestation of rootless men that bloomed like algae along the riverfront on the borders of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods each summer. Housewives had been scared out of their wits by villainous-looking individuals knocking at their kitchen doors looking for handouts.

And just the other night two young men "well known in society" had to employ a horse whip both on the horses and on intruding thugs to prevent being held up as they traveled by carriage with their wives just below the Tin Bridge in Hampden.
...
One of the benefits of living in a city with two newspapers is that there are often two sides to a controversial story. The Bangor Daily News was always ready to correct the Commercial's tendency to overdramatize the facts, and vice versa.
...
The city was safe. People "may visit the 'Devil's Half-Acre' or even the water front without being sandbagged or robbed or shot or stabbed or poisoned." The Commercial was confusing begging and drunkenness with real crimes, scoffed the BDN.
...
One of the most interesting crime stories of the summer, however, was more appropriate to a Norman Rockwell painting than to the lurid pulp magazines that documented heinous acts in Chicago. "THOSE HORRID BOYS ... They Go Swimming Without Bathing Trunks Again ... POLICE ARE SHOCKED," declared a playful headline on July 20 in the Commercial.
...
Bangor has recorded some ghastly crimes in its history, but not that summer. And soon the hoboes would be disappearing down the tracks like the autumn leaves.
[Please click here for full article: Source]

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Mystery Explosion Destroys House


A Salem Street dwelling had to be demolished after an explosion triggered a fire which caused the house to be declared a total loss. Jo Coyne was shoveling out from the big storm when she heard a loud boom. She thought it was snow coming off the roof and covered her head. The next thing she knew smoke was pouring out of her home.

The blast blew out the front door and side of the house, and reportedly even knocked the home off it's foundation. A next door neighbor stated that her own house shook so violently, she thought a truck had crashed into it.

Officials are still not sure what caused the explosion. The fire did such extensive damage that the building was in danger of collapse. Public works were called in to demolish it after the fire had been contained.

No one was inside at the time of the blast, but Coyne and her tenant lost everything. WGME News 13 has reported that anyone who would like to help with donations for expenses not covered by insurance can contact:

West End Neighborhood Association
c/o Salem Street Fire
Box 120 Harbor Terrace
284 Danforth Street
Portland, ME 04103

photo: Doug Jones

Read more at MaineToday.com

Thursday, April 05, 2007

April Fool's Day Extended


Well, if you're out of bed this morning, and you're in southern Maine, you pretty much know that someone dumped a big bucket of snow on everything last night, and it continues on even now (at least here in Portland). This is the scene at about 9:00 this morning! You can click on the picture for a larger view. Note the tree limb that has parked itself in front of our stairs (one of many, and one of the smaller, that came down in the neighborhood under the weight of wet snow).

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Not your usual pinup calendar

While many of us debated over whether to put up nature calendars, movie-themed calendars, or one of those little fact-a-day calendars at our desks, other folks involved in Maine legislation and government found themselves given a new option that few had expected available. Jon McKane, a Republican Representative from Newcastle, Maine, remarked on it in the Bangor Daily News:
Face it: Maine's roads are not a pretty picture
By Jon McKane/BDN Staff
Monday, March 26, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

As legislators, we receive calendars — a lot of them every year — from a variety of special interest groups. One of the most unusual this year was the calendar from Pike Industries. The picture for each month was simply the picture of a road that needed repair. These are roads with deep fissures, cracks, potholes and sinkholes. They include every type of road, from our interstate highways to our main streets. They are in the cities and up in the mountains. And their condition is pathetic.

January’s calendar picture is of Route 106 in Leeds, soon followed by I-295 in Topsham. In March we have Commercial Street in Portland and then we go to Rt. 77 in Falmouth. There are 12 pictures in the calendar but there is certainly enough "ugly road" subject matter out there for calendars for the next century. Pike Industries wants our roads fixed.

And who could blame them? Our roads are a disgrace. Yet every year Maine’s highways and bridges are given nonessential status in favor of other budget priorities. Our transportation budget has shrunk from 25 percent of total state revenues in 1975 to a mere 10 percent today.
...

It is unlikely that Pike Industries will run out of "bad road pictures" for its calendars any time soon.

Rep. Jon McKane, R-Newcastle, serves on the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee.
[for full article please click here: Source]
Potholes are a part of spring in Maine. In 2003, AroundMaine did an article on the technical side of the issue: A Bumper Crop of Frost Heaves and Potholes. Surprisingly I didn't find much on Flickr or other websites about Maine potholes. Maybe we're just used to having them around.

However, on Wednesday, March 21st, a tractor trailer driver blamed a pothole when he lost control of his vehicle in an accident that shut down traffic on the interstate. [click here to read full article: Source] Photo shown is a staff photo by Andy Molloy from the story, with the caption, "The northbound lane of Interstate 95 in Augusta, just north of the Augusta Civic Center at exit 112B, was closed early Wednesday morning following an accident involving three tractor trailers and a car."

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Maine border crossing maniac slows trial process

The trial over a terrible slaying in New Brunswick has been pushed back for further psychiatric assessment of the accused killer, Gregory Despres. Shown here is a version of the photo that the AP released early in the story. You can see a more recent photo of him, leaving the courtroom in January 2007, here on the CTV website. Despres entered the U.S. after the alleged double murder by crossing at the Calais, Maine, border point, an event which has become the center of much controversy in this age of Homeland Security.
Relatives at N.B. decapitation trial furious at latest delay
March 30, 2007
FREDERICTON (CP) -
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Despres has been on trial since early January for the brutal slaying of 74-year-old Fred Fulton and his 70-year-old wife, Verna Decarie, who were found dead in their Minto, N.B., home on April 25, 2005. Both victims had been repeatedly stabbed and Fulton had been decapitated. His severed head was found in a pillowcase under the kitchen table.
...
To make matters worse for the relatives, the next court appearance for Despres is scheduled for April 24, when a full psychiatric report on Despres will be addressed. It's believed Fulton and Decarie were killed on April 24, 2005 - a painful anniversary for the family.
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Despres' first-degree murder trial was stopped on Feb. 1 after he delivered a 10-minute courtroom rant about al-Qaida, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and something he called the "Super Space Patrol."
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In another outburst on the day the trial was stopped, Despres objected to the length of the assessment, saying any evaluation that took longer than five days would be an attempt to gather espionage, and that he could be forced to testify under the rules of the "Super Space Patrol."
...
Despres, who has dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship, was allowed to enter the United States on April 25, 2005, despite bizarre behaviour at the border crossing in Calais, Maine.

He described himself as a marine sniper and an assassin with 700 kills to his credit, and was carrying a homemade sword, a knife, a chainsaw, pepper spray, a hatchet and brass knuckles, all of which were confiscated by U.S. border guards.
Several guards testified that they could not detain Despres because he had a valid U.S. passport.
[click here for full article: Source]
By all accounts, the entire event is one of those that seems like something out of an over-the-top horror movie which would challenge normal standards of suspension of disbelief. Despres was on foot when he crossed the border, and walked into northern Maine. He was on foot on a road in Massachusetts (where he lived at one point in the past) when police picked him up the day of his arrest.

The Calais, Maine, border guards didn't know what to do with him, beyond confiscating all his weaponry, and taking his photograph. The items removed from his possession included one item not mentioned in the above article, "a chainsaw that had red stains on it." [Source] As one of the victims' nephews stated, "It’s nice of them to come here and testify. From what they are saying, it was obviously a very odd experience for all of them.” [Source]

Pointing out that bizarre behavior in and of itself is not something that allows border officials from forbidding entry into the U.S. to its citizens, it was also noted by Jayson Ahern, assistant commissioner for field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that "inspectors held him for two hours while they checked various databases and watch lists and took his fingerprints. Customs inspectors also called in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Calais police, and determined that there were no outstanding warrants for Despres, he said." [Source]

The events leading up to the crime are no less weird. "Despres was first arrested in August 2004 after waving a knife at Fulton's grandson, Fred Mowat. According to an RCMP report, Despres was angry he had no water and blamed it on Fulton, although there was something wrong with the local well and no one in the area had water at the time." [Source]

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Maine's "ghost of the forest" reappears

The press has been having a field day with a resurgence of interest in the increasing rumors of the Eastern Cougar's return to Maine. Even the Portland Press Herald has gotten in on the action, with an article on March 24th that followed up on the prior article run on March 13th.

Here's an excerpt from the March 24th article, which gives an idea of the response:
Since we ran a story last week about a federal status review of the eastern cougar, reports of sightings have flowed in over the phone, the Internet and even in a handwritten letter (talk about your endangered species).

Mountain lions, or what looked like them, were reportedly seen in Standish, Windham, Raymond, Scarborough, New Gloucester, Brunswick, Freeport and lots of other places.

Reports also have been posted on the federal eastern cougar Web site by Mainers and residents of other eastern states where the “ghost cat” also has a healthy following. You can read them, or post your own, here.
[Source]
And here's an excerpt from the prior article (March 13), which details a great sighting just a handful of miles from Portland:
A couple of Maine sightings -- one in Cape Elizabeth and one in Monmouth -- are considered the state's most credible cougar encounters. Rosemary Townsend is as sure about what she saw today as she was on that March day in 1995. She saw the cat while walking down a gravel road in a large wooded area near Ram Island Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

"I thought it was a dog originally. Then when I looked at the face I thought, 'Oh my gosh, that's a mountain lion," she said Monday.

The cat was drinking water out of a small pond about 25 yards from her. It lifted its head and looked right at her, Townsend said. She saw its long "bottle-brush tail," a feature that distinguishes lions from lynx or bobcats. Townsend slowly turned around and walked back up the road. "I lost sight of him as I walked away from him, and I didn't go back and look," she said.

Friends convinced her to report the sighting, and biologists checked the area around the pond. They found tracks and hair, which they sent to Oregon for testing, she said. The hair was found to be consistent with mountain lion hair, although officials say no DNA tests -- the most definitive -- were conducted.
[Source]

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Maine zombies in Fangoria

Fangoria, whose status as the top horror movie magazine is rivaled only by independent Rue Morgue, has taken the time to have a few words with Maine filmmakers Andy Davis and crew over at Emptyhouse Film about their upcoming zombie film. The results are here, in the form of an article on Fangoria's website!

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