Monday, October 20, 2008

EVENT: Scary stories by M.R. James

Some of you may have attended last year's early November performance by the eerily wonderful Robert Lloyd Parry at One Longfellow Square. Others of you may not have. Which is why you should come this year! Highly recommended as an addition to your Halloween season spooky fun stuff.

WHAT: "Oh, Whistle..." a performance of two M.R. James Ghost Stories
WHEN: Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 8:00pm
WHERE: One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME (formerly the Center for Cultural Exchange)
COST: $15
FMI: For more information or to buy tickets, please visit One Longfellow's website at or call (207)761-1757

Over a century after they were first published, the ghost stories of MR James retain their power to terrify and amuse. Following last year’s one man show A Pleasing Terror… R.M. Lloyd Parry returns to Portland to bring two more of James’ classic spine-chillers back to life.

Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad – a tale of nocturnal horror on the Suffolk coast – is considered by many to be author’s masterpiece. It is beautifully complemented here by The Ash Tree, a story of witchcraft and vengeance down the generations.

As the Nunkie Theatre Company says, "Since December 2005 Robert has been performing two one man shows based on the stories of M R James, the greatest writer of supernatural tales in English. His uncanny resemblance to the author has been noted with a shudder by more than one enthusiastic audience member."

Fright at the Fort footage

The folks at Fort Knox's haunt attraction thought you all might enjoy this. So here you go!

Fort Knox is a State Historic Site owned and operated by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
To Find Them: Enter "711 Fort Knox Road, Prospect, Maine 04981" into GPS unit, Mapquest or Google Maps

From Belfast: Proceed north on US Rte 1, through Searsport and Stockton Springs, immediately before crossing the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, take a left onto Rte. 174. Fort Knox will be approximately 1/4 mile up on your right.

From Bar Harbor: Follow US Rte. 1 south across the Penobscot Narrows bridge, immediately adjacent to the town of Bucksport. Once over the bridge take a right onto Rte. 174. Fort Knox will be approximately 1/4 mile up on your right.

From Bangor: On Rte. 1A South....follow Rte 1A South through the towns of Hampden, Winterport, Frankfort and Prospect. In Prospect Center, take a left onto Rte. 174. Follow Rte 174 approximately 4 miles. Fort Knox will be on your left. On Rte 15 South....follow Rte 15 South through the city of Brewer and the towns of Orrington and Bucksport. In Bucksport, take a right onto US Rte.1 South and proceed over the Penobscot Narrows bridge. Immediately upon exiting the bridge take a right onto Rte. 174. Fort Knox will be approximately 1/4 mile up on your right

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Haunting South Oakfield graveyard

This is a brief but excellent photo essay by Nate (a.k.a. Ravenwing) about the South Oakfield, Maine, cemetery that I found online at
South Oakfield met decline and finally oblivion soon after the advent of the railroad, with a few farms holding on into the 1930’s, but is now wholly forested, marked only with a few cellar holes, and a small cemetery. Since moving here some 25 years ago, the South Oakfield cemetery has held a certain fascination for me.

If ever a place can be haunted, this place is. I don’t mean haunted in the ‘scary’ sense, but when I visit this little cemetery, the feelings of dreams unfulfilled, geographical isolation, and human despair seem thick in the air. It is quiet, peaceful, even beautiful in a way, yet an indescribably sad place. I went there the other day, my first visit in several years, and found it much as I left it, though if anything more lonely and perhaps a bit more dilapidated than ever.

It is rugged, and stony ground surrounded by forest, accessible only by several miles of rough and narrow gravel road over steep hills and across northern bogs.

Read full essay and view all the photos here: [Source]

Friday, October 17, 2008

EVENT: Be Dracula's Guest!

WHAT: a performance of Dracula’s Guest, written originally by Bram Stoker
WHEN: Monday, October 20, 2008, 7:00-9:00pm
WHERE: Bull Feeney’s Irish Pub/Restaurant, 375 Fore Street, Portland, Maine.
COST: Admission free; $9 suggested donation.
FMI: For more info visit or email thetwacorbies[at], or call (207) 846-1321

AIRE (American Irish Repertory Ensemble) will be getting into the spirit of Samhain (Celtic Halloween) with a reading of Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker -- born Abraham Stoker in a suburb of Dublin in 1847. This spooky short story is set on a dark and stormy Walpurgis Nacht, as the wolves howl and unholy creatures prowl the land.

It is widely believed (though now disputed) that Dracula’s Guest was originally the first chapter of the novel Dracula, which was deleted from the manuscript by the publisher. The piece was published as a short story in 1914, two years after Stoker's death.

Lynne Cullen will begin the evening with a dramatic telling of Bram Stoker’s creepiest short story, The Judge’s House. Do you like rats?

AIRE, Maine’s Irish Theater Company, is dedicated to presenting the best of classic and contemporary Irish and Irish American theater, aiming to share the power and beauty of Irish theater and raise awareness and understanding of Irish culture among New England audiences. AIRE’s next production is The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh, running October 30-November 16 at The Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company.

Lynne Cullen is a storyteller, artist, playwright and concertina player, who trained as a storyteller in Yorkshire, England, and has performed on both sides of the pond.

The Seanachie Nights series is the idea of local (seanachie) storyteller and playwright Lynne Cullen. Lynne is a member of LANES (League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling), and MOOSE (The Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts.)
For further information about Seanachie Nights, contact Lynne Cullen at thetwacorbies(@) or at 207-846-1321.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maine ghost town in song

Slaid Cleaves has a great song about Maine's drowned town on Dead River, Flagstaff. (see our prior posts on this subject here)

The song is called "Below," and I found myself listening to it over and over again after I found a post by Tom Remington about it on the Black Bear Blog.

In addition to posting this video, Tom posted some interesting info about accounts of Flagstaff memories, including this:
In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more gone to seed, more woebegone.
In addition, one of the commentators, Richard Paradis, added an article which is well worth reading about another Maine town that, while not drowned, was emptied out and left, graveyards and all, because of another project, near Frye Mountain. Click here to see the post. Mr. Paradis' comment is #3 below the original article.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

EVENT: Portland's Chinese past

One of the elements of Portland's history that I was surprised to find out about 5 years ago or so is the amount of Chinese-American culture that made its way into the city early in the 20th century. This is a great opportunity to lay your feet on the pavements of the city and see where all this happened, nestled in among the shops of today.

In addition, for a glimpse at some of the people and places involved, please see the Maine Memory Networks's online exhibit, Chinese in Maine.

Maine Historical Society invites you...

Saturday, October 18,
10:30am - 12:30pm
Portland Chinese-American Walking Trail

Join us to explore the history of Chinese-Americans in downtown Portland.

While Portland has never had a "Chinatown," the area around Congress Street used to be home to a small but thriving Chinese community and many Chinese-owned businesses including "deluxe" restaurants, laundries, groceries, and gambling dens. Historian and former MHS Trustee Gary Libby-who has been a leader in recent efforts to re-discover and document Maine's rich Chinese heritage-will give a brief talk at MHS and lead a half-mile walking tour that points out and describes these key sites. The program will end with lunch at the Oriental Table restaurant on Exchange Street.

Registration required; please call 207-774-1822.
Fee: $15.00; Members $10.00.
Lunch not included in program fee.

Event Information

When: Saturday, October 18, 2008, 10:30am - 12:30pm
Where: Maine Historical Society,
489 Congress Street, Portland
For more information call 207-774-1822 or email

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cormorant hitches kayak ride

Photo: Georgia Koch paddles out of the cove with her hitchhiking cormorant. (Photo by Ken Bailey/Village Soup)

Ken Bailey over at the Village Soup relates an odd encounter with a surprisingly attentive cormorant near Hope, Maine:
'Hey lady, can I have a ride?'
By Ken Bailey
Outdoors Editor

HOPE (Oct 7):
This little adventure began one night a few weeks ago, while Sandy and I were out for an evening boat ride on Megunticook Lake and some friendly fishing competition. I’ll let you know how the competition went later.

We had just pulled into a quiet cove and made a couple of casts when my cell phone rang, breaking the silence of the late-summer setting. Don’t you just love those modern wonders?

Sara Foster was calling from Bishopswood Camps in Hope to inform me that while out kayaking with her friend, Georgia Koch, they had come across an aquatic bird that might possibly be injured. It was perhaps a loon, but because it was tucked way in the back of a cove, partially hidden by tall lake grass, they were unsure.
Because we were just a few coves away, it wasn’t long before we pulled into the cove behind Pine Island where the sighting had taken place. As we idled into the cove, we could see Sara in her kayak with Annie — her dog — along for the ride, and Georgia slowly paddling out to greet us from the back of this shallow cove.

As Georgia came closer, we noticed something on the bow of her kayak that looked a little out of place. She continued to slowly come our way, silently paddling her light-blue kayak toward the waiting flotilla.

Soon, I could make out that the object on the bow of her kayak was a bird — a cormorant. The bird was stretching its wings and preening as it approached us; seemingly without a care in the world. Even a greeting bark from Annie did not seem to disturb this fish-eating aquatic bird.
After going back into the cove to look for an injured bird, she searched the area where it had been seen. Nothing. The bird was gone.

Scanning the surface of the cove, she still did not see any sign of the bird. Suddenly — off to one side — she heard a splash. A bird briefly appeared a few feet from her kayak, then dove under the water, reappearing on the other side of her craft. She identified it as a cormorant — a very strange cormorant.

After splashing the calm surface of the lake and swimming under the kayak a few times, it approached the surprised woman. As Georgia waited with her kayak paddle in a defensive position, the unfazed bird swam up to the kayak and easily jumped onto the bow.

After the initial shock of this freeloading cormorant hitching a ride, Georgia slowly made her way out of the cove, not knowing what the bird’s next move would be. Would it attack? Would it fly away? Would it panic as she approached the other boats, people and dog.

No, the feathered bowsprit stood its ground, head upright and twisting from side to side to look at all the strangers. Approaching the port side of my boat, Georgia began to explain her evening’s adventure.

There we were, sitting in three boats as the sun began to settle behind the mountains, wondering if this bird was sick or just in need of some human bonding.
The bird soon became bored, and dove into the water, swimming a short distance before it took flight, landing on a nearby island. It did not appear to be sick. It was able to dive, swim and fly.

Why did a wild bird — one that usually takes off when a boat or human approaches — lose its fear and spend more than 40 minutes within an arm’s reach of the three of us? Why was it not spooked by the dog?

Read full article here (and see more photos!): [Source]

Monday, October 13, 2008

EVENTS: Halloween is Howlin'!

Every October, it suddenly seems like there are too many delicious things to do! This year is no exception. So far, here is a rundown of events that have come to our attention. First, items we've showcased already are listed here for easy reference (new events added 10/15/08):
  • Wicked Walking Tours of Portland

  • Haunted Freeport walking tours

  • Tales of Terror at Victoria Mansion

  • Zombie Kickball/March in Waterville (updated)

  • Fright at the Fort at Fort Knox in Prospect

  • Eastern Cemetery events in Portland

  • Thrill the World re-enactment of Michael Jackson's Thriller video in Gray

  • Now for the new items:

    WHAT: Bangor Ghost Lamp Tour -- Imagine presidents, gangsters and ghosts as you take this educational and entertaining evening walk through Bangor history.
    WHEN: Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 7:00pm
    WHERE: Downtown Bangor Waterfront, Front St. Bangor. Meet at the River Front parking lot.
    COST: $5, children under 12 free.
    FMI: (207)942-1900,

    WHAT: Lantern tours of Haunted Damariscotta & Wiscasset with the Lady in the Red Cloak. Wearing the garb of the Victorian era, Sally Lobkowicz will take you, lantern bobbing, through the winding back ways of two of Maine's old riverside settlements, and related haunting tales of their ghostly denizens.
    WHEN:7:00pm, now through October 30th
    WHERE:Starting location will be divulged when you make your reservation by calling (207)380-3806
    COST: $10 per person, $5 for children under 12 years old

    WHAT: The 1830-built Maine house featured on the TV show Paranormal State is offering tours. We related the story of this haunting in a previous post, which you can read by clicking here. Proceeds will be donated to the Animal Welfare Society.
    WHEN: now through October 31st
    WHERE: 1226 West Road, Waterboro, ME.
    COST: $5 per person for self-guided tour (including pamphlet about the property's haunting), $25 for overnight stay.

    WHAT: Haunted Hayrides -- a local classic of the season, this 40-minute hayride through the haunted, dark forest next to Scarborough Downs started out 19 years ago on a farm in Gorham. Not the scariest, but definitely a lot of fun for all ages, with great outdoor atmosphere.
    WHEN:evenings, now through November 1st. Reservations recommended, call (207)885-5935 to pick a time and date. (NOTE: In past years, I've had a hard time getting anyone at this number during daytime -- it may be best to call in the evening.)
    WHERE: Next to Scarborough Downs, off Route 1 in Scarborough.
    COST: $13 per person, $9 for children 6 to 12 years old

    WHAT: Goffstown's Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta! Travel over to neighboring NH to indulge your love of racing floating pumpkins. See full list of events here. What, you find this hard to believe? See some footage of other folks' floating pumpkin vessels here.
    WHEN:Race starts at 3:00pm, Sunday, October 19th. Events run Oct 18-Oct 19th.
    WHERE:Downtown commons, Goffstown, New Hampshire
    COST: Attendance is free!
    FMI:(603)497-9933 or click here for schedule of events
    NOTE: Check out a ton more spook-a-riffic and just plain fun New Hampshire events throughout October on New Hampshire Magazine's site.

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    Bigfoot in Maine, Part 1

    On a quarterly basis, I put out a print version of this blog, in the form of the Strange Maine Gazette. Often the stories in it derive from material previously posted here on the blog, but occasionally the material is new and the print version is its first incarnation. I try to remember to post that material here as well, but sometimes I get distracted. Ha!

    This past April, I started a series of articles in the Gazette about Bigfoot in Maine. Of course, as I start work on the second installment in the series, it occurs to me that I haven't posted the first part here yet. Some of the material you may recognize from tidbits I've posted before, but the bulk of this is all new to the blog.

    So here you go! Enjoy...

    The Wild and Hairy Woods : Part 1 - The Older End of the Forest, and the Leaves That Came from It
    by Michelle Souliere

    Although famed on the West Coast, Bigfoot has a long history in Maine that few know about. But where did it all start? At least as far back as the 1850s, stories of strange apelike creatures were around... and in Maine literature of the turn of the 19th century, a great hairy shape makes itself known repeatedly. This literary echo of the woods is what we will listen to today.

    The Maine author who registered these waves of woolly wonderment most frequently and with great vigor was C.A. Stephens, frequent contributor to Ballou’s Monthly Magazine and author of the Knockabout Boys book series. In his introduction to the 1876 story, “Was It an Indian Devil,” the narrator mulls over questions that mirror to a surprising extent the questions about Bigfoot that I and others are still pondering over 100 years later:
    Can a myth come into existence spontaneously? Can a story, utterly truthless, obtain widespread belief through hundreds of years, and thus become a tradition?

    At the close of a five-years’ residence among the hunters, lumbermen and river-drivers of the Northern Maine forests, in connection with the lumbering business of my uncle’s firm, I find myself puzzling at these questions, as I recall the persistent and ever-recurring tales and accounts which everywhere come to my ears, of that strange being, or animal, which the Indians used to call “Pomoola,” and which the white woodsmen have translated “Indian Devil.”
    Stephens stands out because he wrote repeatedly about the “injun devil” in his short stories, which are told with such realism that Bigfoot enthusiasts have even listed one of them among historical accounts of Maine Bigfoot, with the slight caveat that it is “possibly fiction.”

    After reading Stephens’ tales, I can see where the acceptance of them as being from life comes from. His tales appear to be drawn directly from the experiences of himself and those around him, and he tells them in such a straightforward and descriptive manner that readers feel as though they, too, have been there. (More on Stephens’ history later!)

    Stephens’ most famous Bigfoot story is from Chapter 10 in his book Camping Out, Volume 1. In this, Cluey’s own story of the Indian Devil is told. Out trapping furs as a young fellow with two other men, he encountered something circling their campsite at night that terrified him:
    ...the moon was pouring down brightly; and I distinctly saw its shape, — the figure of a man, looking brown and naked, save where a hairy outline showed against the light. A feeling of sickness or of horror came over me.
    On getting up the next morning, Cluey tells the older trapper accompanying them about the sighting, to which he receives this response:
    “It’s an Indian devil! It’s old Pomoola! That’s just as I’ve heard the Oldtown Indians describe it a hundred times; but I always thought it was all a lie. They always left a place as soon as they’d seen one of these things; and I reckon we’d better!”
    According to Stephens’ tales, Pomoola (more commonly known today as Pamola) would kill anyone who set foot on the peak of Mount Katahdin. This guardian spirit has become an amalgamation of both native and white men’s lore over the years, until today it is hard to figure out exactly what it is supposed to be. But around the turn of the century, it is plain to see that the old men of the woods had their own ideas of what Pamola was.

    Stephens’ wasn’t the only Victorian-era writer to mention hairy monsters lurking in the dark of the Maine woods. In Holman F. Day’s 1901 book, Up in Maine: Stories of Yankee Life Told in Verse, he regaled his readers with one particularly creepy tale in the form of his poem, “Ha’nts of the Kingdom of Spruce,” from which this excerpt stands out:
    He’ll mock the fears of mystic and he’ll scorn the bookish tales
    Of the fearsome apparitions of the past, but courage fails
    In the night when he awakens,
    all a-shiver in his bunk,
    And with ear against the logging
    hears the steady, muffled thunk
    Of the hairy fists of monsters,
    beating there in grisly play,
    --Horrid things that stroll o’ night-times,
    never, never seen by day,
    For he knows that though the spectres of the storied past are vain,
    There is true and ghostly ravage in the forest depths of Maine.
    Where did all this material come from? Were there actual sightings reported by wilderness dwellers such as Cluey that never made it into the early newspapers of the region? Or was the idea of this manbeast extrapolated from tales told of the Yahoo, a “ten-foot hairy giant,” by pioneer hero Daniel Boone? He, in turn, may have taken liberties with Jonathan Swift’s own race of bestial bipeds, mentioned in Gulliver’s Travels, and called by that same name. Other potential sources include Native American folklore of the Wendigo, according to Loren Coleman.

    We may never know whether fact or fiction instigated the scores of reported sightings in Maine that date back into the early 1800s, and which continue to this very day. We do, however, know that there is a faint and mysterious trail that leads through the wilderness and tantalizes us at every turn with the possibility that we might see or hear something that wakes us out of our everyday modern world funk.

    I’ll explore early reported Maine sightings of the creature in the next installation of this series, as well as more folklore. Stay tuned!

    Illustration (c)Michelle Souliere. All rights reserved.

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    A wolf in fish's clothing?

    Few people know of the existence of one of Maine's strangest fish natives. Now the singularly unattractive Atlantic Wolf Fish has been identified as a species that is in need of protection. Maine shares this fishy character with other coastal regions such as Iceland, where a blogger recently remarked that the species in general looks as though "its seen a thousand badly-behaved boozy world tours and has the scars and dodgy teeth to prove it." [Source] Incidentally, the post from which the above quote is taken is titled, "A Series of Unfortunate Icelandic Animals, Part One: The Wolf Fish."

    MPBN reported on the new status of the fish. You can visit their website to hear the news clip in audiofile form. Photo is from the New Hampshire Fish and Game site.
    Wolf Fish Targeted for Endangered Species List
    by Tom Porter

    The Conservation Law Foundation and others today filed a petition seeking federal protection for the species that lives along the sea bed in the deep waters off New England. “This is a really good example of what happens when a species is on its way to extinction, when the population becomes contracted and fragmented.” University of Maine Marine Scientist Les Watling also signed the petition. Speaking at a tele-conference held to launch the petition, he said the excessive use by fishermen of bottom trawling, or rock-hopper gear as it's known, has destroyed much of the wolf-fish's natural habitat. “They like to nest under large boulders, so any habitat disturbance, for example, when rock-hopper gear comes along in these areas and tends to move a boulder or roll a boulder, and then a whole nest is vulnerable.”

    The fierce-looking wolf-fish can grow up to 5 feet in length, and have long eel-like tails and sharp teeth that can eat a crab in a few swift bites. Peter Shelley, vice-president of the Conservation Law Foundation, says numbers have dropped dramatically in the last 20 years, and wolf-fish can now only be found in about 2 concentrated areas in New England waters. As a key predator, he says its extinction would be disastrous for the ecosystem. “It controls a lot of other species, which if they're left uncontrolled, can trigger cascading effects in the marine environment that are very destructive to fish populations and the health of the ocean.”
    The federal government will now study the petition, and if successful, it would be the first time an ocean fish is listed as endangered in New England.

    Read the full article here: [Source]
    To find out more about the decline of the wolffish in Maine, go to the Gulf of Maine Census of Marine Life.

    Sunday, October 05, 2008

    EVENT: The Dow family dukes it out!

    WHAT: Search and Seizure: Neal Dow, Prohibition, and the Maine Connection
    WHEN: Thursday, October 9, 2008, 7:00 pm
    WHERE: Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland (click here for directions)
    FMI: For more information call 207-774-1822 or email info[at]

    Wesley Oliver, of Widener University Law School, presents a talk about Maine's key role in establishing one of the bedrocks of the American justice system: search and seizure law -- a surprisingly juicy tale. This lecture is free and open to the public, and is presented by the Maine Historical Society and the University of Maine School of Law

    Many people are familiar with Maine's role in the early history of Prohibition--of Neal Dow, and that prohibition was known nationally as the Maine Law. Few, though, are aware that Maine's role in prohibition had a greater impact on American legal history than on long-term efforts to curb drinking. The innovative laws that Maine crafted to allow liquor searches in homes created the modern probable cause standard, one of the cornerstones of modern policing.

    There's a human story here, too: It is commonly believed that Neal Dow wrote this now-famous law. But Dow, a tanner by trade, was not a lawyer himself, and it would have been surprising if he had crafted such a creative and far-reaching legal doctrine. If not Dow, who then? A fight between Dow and his cousin John Neal, over a prostitute no less, solves this historical mystery. Angry letters between the two men, filled with accusations, reveal that the search and seizure provision of the Maine Law was authored by Edward Fox, a prominent Portland lawyer who would later serve as a state supreme court justice and federal judge.

    Wesley Oliver's article based on this research, much of which was done at the MHS Research Library, will be featured in the upcoming issue of the Maine Bar Journal. Oliver is an Associate Professor of Law at Widener University. Professor Oliver received his B.A. and J.D. from the University of Virginia, an LL.M. from Yale Law School and is presently a candidate for the J.S.D. degree from Yale. He was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Maine School of Law last summer.

    Saturday, October 04, 2008

    Freeport frights on foot

    Halloween lovers are invited to join a lantern-carrying specter and spirit medium Eddita on a haunted walk through Freeport's streets during the 'Ghosts of Freeport's Past'.

    The walks are scheduled on Friday and Saturday, October 24 & 25 as well as Thursday, October 30. Walks depart at 7 PM from the Freeport Historical Society in the Harrington House at 45 Main Street. $10 for adults; $5 for those 12 and under. No pets, please.

    Eddita Felt is a professional Psychic and Medium with 37 years experience reading for others. Eddita is the founding member of the Northeast Professional Psychics and Mediums Guild. [Source]