Weird, Wicked Weird: In search of Sarah
By Lindsay Tice , Staff Writer
Saturday, February 9, 2008
In the fall of 1898, Sarah Ware vanished from the quiet evening streets of Bucksport.
Searchers found her body two weeks later, beheaded and badly decomposed, a raincoat tucked like a pillow under her severed head.
Rumors about her death swirled as town gossips claimed the 52-year-old divorcee had been a drinker, a gambler and worse. Although a local store owner was eventually tried for her murder, neither he nor anyone else was convicted.
A century later: enter Emeric Spooner. A Bucksport librarian and amateur investigator with a penchant for the paranormal and the historical, he was piqued by the gruesome murder, by the fact that no one was ever punished for the horrific crime, by the fact that Ware was all but forgotten in the small town, known only through a bad ghost story and a faded headstone in a pauper's grave.
He's worked for two years to put a face - literally - on her murder.
"She was just a house cleaner heading home," he said. "She was an innocent."
Spooner started a Web site dedicated to Maine's greatest unsolved mysteries a few years ago. He looked into local ghost stories, paranormal events and area murders, posting the information and evidence he'd gathered for anyone to see. Two years ago, he turned to the 1898 Ware case.
Scouring old documents, court records, news articles and the coroner's inquest, Spooner painstakingly pieced together the life and death of Sarah Ware, spending up to two hours a night on the project. He found she was a mother of four, a divorcee who "caught the eye of the town gossips." She worked as a cleaning woman and lent money to townspeople, including a local store owner she worked for, William Treworgy.
On the evening of Sept. 17, Ware left a friend's house and began walking home. She stopped briefly at a town store. She was never seen alive again.
Two weeks passed before anyone officially reported her missing. Search parties found her badly decomposed body by smell, following the rancid odor to an alder swamp just off Miles Lane, not far from her home. Her skull was broken in several places and had a hammer-sized hole in the temple. She was beheaded.
A Lewiston detective was called to be lead investigator in the case, and a Bangor detective joined him. They soon found a bloody hammer (engraved with the initials W.T.T.) and a bloody tarp in Treworgy's wagon. A man told them Treworgy had paid him to move a body to the swamp.
"They had intent, they had motive and they had Treworgy," Spooner said. "He's the one they finally took to trial."
But the trial took place four years after the murder, and by that time the Bangor detective had lost both the bloody hammer and the tarp, Spooner said. And the man who claimed Treworgy paid him to move a body? He recanted, saying he was forced by a selectman and members of the citizens' committee to lie.
Treworgy was acquitted.
More than 100 years later, Spooner continues the investigation. He has his own theories.
"There's just too many things involved with Treworgy. If he didn't do it he helped move the body," he said.
Although he hasn't come up with a concrete answer yet, he recently found something almost as good - the only known photograph of Sarah Ware.
He discovered the 1892 black-and-white photo in an old library scrapbook. He compared it to the only other image of Ware he had, a tintype drawing featured in an old newspaper. For the first time, he could put a real face on the victim.
"I'm just trying to get the facts out there," he said. "She was an innocent."
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Photo from Emeric Spooner. The lady in white is believed by him to be Sarah Ware. You can read his explanation of the photo, see the uncropped version of it, and read about his theories here on his website.