Thursday, December 17, 2009

A different type of chill

Photo of SMCC's Hillside dorm from PRI-ME.org website.


While the cold has settled into the state in earnest, I'd like to throw some spooky chills into the mix as well.

I was talking to a friend of mine who has worked in SMCC's resident inn, and finds it a pretty creepy place to work through late nights at. But online, I found references to SMCC Hillside dorm as a home for haunts, which was new to me. I can't vouch for any of this information, but would definitely be interested in hearing from anyone who has experienced any of the Hillside phenomena mentioned here:
Southern Maine Technical College, South Portland: A Funeral Home

The Hillside Dorm has a long and strange history. This specific branch is now housing for students but at certain points in its career it has been not only a funeral home, but a brothel, and a nursing home. All this history makes it difficult to predict exactly what is haunting the halls of this college. There is a man who wanders the floors of the attic. There is also repeats of a creature up there who moves to and fro. Many times maintenance has tried to catch it, but as of yet it has eluded all traps. Strange dusty footprints have been reported around the traps. There is also an older lady and a young boy who are said to torment some of the students by messing with their blankets and windows at night. There is also a young woman in a nightgown who walks up and down the staircase in the evening hours. The validity of this sighting is that not only has she been seen by individuals, but also groups.

[Source
In searching for a photo of the dorm online, I found that Paranormal Researchers and Investigators of Maine (PRI-ME) has done a training session for paranormal investigations at the site. You can read about their investigation here -- lots of photos too!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Pine Tree State Mutant Turtles

The Trusty Plinko Stick blog has a funny little post up that involves a few of my Maine favorites:
  • The now-defunct but much-loved Moonshadow Comics of Portland

  • The Maine-born weirdness that is the world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


  • Back in the day, Bill of the Plinko Stick used to get his comics via mailorder from Moonshadow in Portland.
    Sure, I got my issues of Captain America, Marvel Age, and some of the other books I considered essential, but the rest were odd. I should have been reading the first issue of the Howard the Duck movie adaptation, but instead I had this dumb book a lady with clocks on her boobs, a grey, Peter Porker-looking barbarian, and four ninja turtles.
    [Source]
    For more info on Maine-born Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Turtles, you can dig around online, or check the Wiki on him here. There is conflicting information on his birthplace, with Wikipedia stating Springvale, and the TMNT25.com site claiming Portland. At any rate, there's no doubt he's a Mainer!

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    Maine's mystery penny

    Mental Floss Magazine's blog has an interesting post about 8 top Out-Of-Place Artifacts, which includes in the #1 spot Maine's own weird penny, a.k.a. The Goddard Penny. To quote the site:
    The Maine Penny. So an archaeologist finds a silver coin while digging in Maine. No big deal, right? It is when the archaeological site was an old Native American settlement and the coin is found to be a piece of Norse currency dating from 1065-1080 AD. Although more than 30,000 pieces were recovered from the site, they were all Native American save for the coin.

    There’s no evidence that the Vikings ever had a settlement there, however, and no evidence that they even came that far south in the interest of trade. The only Norse settlement ever found in North America is in Newfoundland. The strongest theory thus far suggests that Native Americans acquired it through their trades and travels. There’s no doubt that the coin itself is authentic, but how it ended up at the site is still in question – was it planted or did it really end up in Maine by honest means?

    Click here to see a photo of the penny, and read about the other OOPArts: [Source]
    More info on the penny can be found on the Wikipedia page devoted to its discussion (click here to ponder the penny further).

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    Forget the register, gimme the ATM!

    The Bangor Daily News reported on yet another odd Maine crime earlier this week.
    Maine man charged with stealing ATM from store
    11/30/09
    Associated Press

    SCARBOROUGH, Maine — A Maine man accused of taking a cash machine from a convenience store and driving off with it in the back of a pickup truck faces charges including aggravated assault.

    Scarborough police who arrived at the convenience store late Sunday found the front door had been ripped off, and soon spotted the pickup with the ATM in the back. Police say the truck backed into a police cruiser and then sped off.
    [...]

    Please click here for full story: [Source]
    You don't think he could have found a more subtle way of getting into the store?

    Greetings and tardy salutations


    Hello all! Just an update on why I've been silent on the blog front...

    On November 6th, I finally secured my city permits to open The Green Hand, my used bookshop at 661 Congress Street, with three hours to spare before the Grand Opening was scheduled to start! Phew. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony (click here for photos) during the First Friday Artwalk that evening, with Representative Herb Adams presiding. Loren Coleman's International Cryptozoology Museum opened at the same time in the rear portion of my shopfront, and it's been great working with him in this venture so far!

    In the 3+ weeks since them, I've been trying to groom my store's selection, processing books as quickly as I can, and putting out tempting stocking stuffers for connoisseurs of the ridiculous and delightful (anti-werewolf Silver Bullet Mints, anyone?). Hence my silence here!

    I've missed working on the blog dreadfully, and this post should mark a return to regular posting again. In addition, the long-overdue October issue of the Strange Maine Gazette is in the works, and should be showing its face soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

    Thanks, everyone, for your patience and understanding, and I hope you'll enjoy the progress of the blog, and maybe even stop by the shop sometime to say hello!

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Sunday: No opening of The Green Hand


    Hello everyone --
    Due to bureaucratic delays, we are unable to open The Green Hand Bookshop as planned on Sunday. Please bear with us, those of you who hoped to come along, and we will open as soon as possible.

    I'll be at the shop working regardless, so if any of you do show up, you are certainly welcome to pop in and get a sneak preview of the grounds! :)

    Many thanks again for all your support, and we'll see you soon. We are still planning to have our gala ribbon-cutting next Friday at 6:00!

    Regards,
    Michelle

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Happy Halloween !

    A photo for the season, from the Archives !
    This was taken by a Portland Press-Herald photographer in 1939.


    The long arms of the law were strong enough to bag 'dem bones!

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Did "IT" freak you out? Tell us!


    Christoper Gray over at the Portland Phoenix is writing an article about how the movie/miniseries version of Stephen King's "It" warped him as a youngster, and he would like to hear how it affected you as well! Read on...
    Basically I’m looking for anecdotes of nightmares, enduring trauma, or even just fond memories of the miniseries of Stephen King’s It. (Aired in 1990, cult classic on VHS!) If anyone wants to get in touch with their thoughts (or any further questions), they can come to cgray@phx.com.
    Christopher has kindly given us a list of some "It" elements with which to stir our subconscious cauldrons:

  • Chinese food

  • Beethoven’s Fur Elise

  • “You’ll all float too!”

  • Blood, drains, showerheads

  • Sewer

  • Spiders

  • Paper boats

  • Clowns



  • He's hoping to hear from people by end of Friday, though he might be able to sneak in some comments that come through Saturday/Sunday as well. So get typing! :) Send your responses to his email at cgray@phx.com !

    More food for remembering:

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    EVENT: Live Halloween Radio Horror!

    Well, in the midst of getting ready for the opening of my bookstore, The Green Hand, it has also been brought to my attention that this is that most wonderful time of the year -- the Halloween season! With this comes a veritable flood of delectable events to tempt you with. One of these comes with my highest recommendation -- the live on-air performance of spooky stories by FinalRune Productions!

    Fred Greenhalgh writes, "As you can imagine, I've been furiously trying to prepare for the Halloween show, collecting a ghastly array of sound effects gear from squishy balls to honking horns and boiling mounds of spaghetti to simulate the sound of gnawing on brains. It's going to be a ghoulishly awesome night!"

    By gum and by golly, you better believe it! The past Halloween productions by FinalRune have been well worth the listen, but this year brings a new crop of tales including one by our friend, Lewiston horror writer and crime reporter Mark LaFlamme, and a host of other dainties with which to shiver your pretty little spines.

    This Halloween, FinalRune Productions teams up with WMPG and members from the Mad Horse Theater Company for a live spooktravanganza at the University of Southern Maine, benefiting the WMPG PowerUp! campaign.

    This event is rare in that it will be performed live, in front of an audience, as it is being broadcast on October, 31, 2009 from 7:00 to 9:00PM. (Buy tickets to the event here: www.finalrune.com/live-halloween-show-2009)

    The 2-hr live radio event will feature original work from writers Fred Greenhalgh, Mark LaFlamme, Kevin Anderson, and Roger Gregg.

    Stories Include:
  • The Ghost Behind the Black Door by Roger Gregg
    A couple from the city moves to a mansion in the countryside only to find that things are not all as they expect... a spoof on the classic horror meme.

  • Leaving You is Hell by Fred Greenhalgh
    A dark retelling of the myth of Orpheus inspired by the classic jazz tune "St James Infirmary." A man in New Orleans is doomed to keep falling in love with the same woman and seducing her to her death.

  • Bone Lake by Mark LaFlamme
    The ice fishing is going well on Bone Lake, until a man comes from the winter's night looking for a very strange catch.

  • Third Shift by Kevin Anderson
    A company will sell you very efficient workers at a bargain price. Just don't send the living to check out their work.


  • You can also tune in from anywhere around the world. The show will be broadcast locally on 90.9/104.1 FM in Greater Portland, Maine, and streamed online -- just click here to listen along: www.wmpg.org.

    There's also a Facebook Event page for this show.

    And if you REALLY can't make it out, you'll be able to hear it podcast on Radio Drama Revival.

    Can't wait until then?? Whet your appetite with some precursors... of doom! ... by visiting the Radio Drama Revival website for podcasts of more October treats.

    October 22 – “Sorry, Wrong Number” by FinalRune Productions
    FinalRune Productions and The Mad Horse Theater Company team up for their second collaboration tale, a production of the radio classic by Lucille Fletcher. A woman overhears two men plotting a murder over the telephone, and very quickly her whole world starts to unravel.

    October 29 – “Listening in the Dark” by the Icebox Radio Theater
    Three tales from Northern Minnesota to chill you to the bone. A writer’s notes from a haunted house turn against. A man gets haunted in his fishing shack. Santa Claus may not be who you thought he was. Jeff Adams shows off his incredible skill in the darker arts in this haunting hour-long special.

    What is PowerUp? WMPG's PowerUP! Campaign seeks to raise $250,000 to upgrade the signal strength of the station's main transmitter and move it to a better location.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    EVENT: Documenting New England Ruination


    If you are as big a fan of books like Abandoned New England as I am, you'll be sure to show up for this upcoming Maine Historical Society event!

    -------------------------------------

    WHAT:The Maine Historical Society invites you to... Ruin: Photographs of a Vanishing America by Brian Vanden Brink, Photographer
    WHEN:Tuesday, October 20, 12:00-1:00pm
    WHERE: Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, ME
    COST: Free and open to the public.
    FMI: For more information call (207)774-1822, or e-mail info@mainehistory.org, or visit www.mainehistory.org

    Join the photographer to explore his newly published collection of images. Vanden Brink's photographs capture the gradual demise of churches, mills, bridges, grain elevators, storefronts, and other iconic American structures that were built - and ultimately abandoned. His collection considers the value and significance of these sites, past and present, and grants permanence to places that may soon vanish forever.

    Vanden Brink is an award-winning architectural photographer whose work regularly appears in Down East Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Architectural Digest, Coastal Living, and New England Home Magazine, among many other publications. This is his third book.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Call for actors: American Werewolf in Freeport!

    Will Stewart of Running Over Productions has the following announcement to make:
    Fall means it's time for apple crisp, hot cider, romping through the fallen leaves, and...

    ...being eaten by a werewolf and joining a horde of walking undead!!!

    This Halloween, Freeport Community Players and Gaslight Theater are presenting the WORLD PREMIER of the stage version of John Landis' AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, and they need extras to play non-speaking roles as zombies as well as a few other roles. The shows are October 30 and 31 at 8pm in at the Freeport Performing Arts Center in Freeport, Maine.

    If interested in taking part in this production, or for further details, please contact Tim Ryan at 415-6251 or timryan65@roadrunner.com

    This is the first time ever that this script is being performed live on stage, and it's going to be a blast!!
    For more information about the production, either to attend it or to see what's going on with it so far, check out the American Werewolf production's Facebook page!

    Monday, October 05, 2009

    Haunting Attack in Lewiston Cemetery

    Photo of Riverside Cemetery by Dan Bernard, used by permission of the artist.

    This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of the Strange Maine Gazette.

    -----------------------
    It’s not uncommon for me to collect new and interesting stories from friends and strangers as I make my rounds with fresh issues of the Gazette. Earlier this year, Matt told me of his terrifying experience in one of his hometown’s cemeteries. He was deadly serious when he told me this story, which is one of the reasons why, come Halloween time, it came to mind again. He was kind enough to take the time to sit down and record his account for me.
    About a year ago (Saturday, October 20th, 2007, I believe), my brother Mike, his now ex-fiance, and I decided to take a walk in the Riverside cemetery near my old apartment in Lewiston. It was a crisp Autumn afternoon, sunny with a slight nip in the air -- nice walking weather.

    We entered the cemetery at the Summer Street entrance and took the first right, down past the winter storage sheds, then took a left along the edge of the hill, toward the river. We stopped at a nice, quiet plot with a small stone bench. I picked up an empty 24-pack of Natural Ice beer that some bozo had no doubt dumped the night before, and put it in the trash.

    After a minute or two, we continued on our way and turned right along the side of the river. A leashless dog came running toward us, followed a moment later by its owner. The owner caught up to her dog just as it started to squat down and relieve itself in front of someone’s tombstone.

    As soon as the owner was out of earshot, I commented to Mike and Nikki about how disrespectful it was to let one’s dog defecate on a burial plot, and not even have the decency to clean it up. They agreed. This led me to mention the kicked-in stained glass windows on the doors to the Libby Mausoleum.

    Neither Mike nor Nikki had ever seen the Mausoleum, so I decided to lead them up to the secluded glen where it lies. Almost immediately after we got there, I started to get the feeling that we weren’t welcome.

    There was a tension building in the air, and I felt like someone was glaring at me. Nikki was picking up on it too, and decided to attempt to communicate with the presence. I started to get really cold, and told Mike and Nikki that I was getting some really bad vibes off the place. When Nikki lit up a cigarette, I felt a shift come over the air, like it had become charged, and I felt my stomach bottom out.

    I had turned around and was actually walking away from the crypt when I heard Nikki yelp, followed by a loud cracking noise. I turned just in time to see Nikki running towards me as the top half of a birch tree snapped off and came crashing down where we had been standing. As the shock of what had just happened started to sink in, I became acutely aware that the presence I had felt at the mausoleum was now bearing down on the three of us.

    I started to run as hard as I could, occasionally looking over my shoulder to see if Mike and Nikki were okay. I never actually saw anything tangible, but still got the sense that, whoever or whatever it was, was not very far behind me until I had passed the winter storage shed.

    The chill I felt while at the crypt lingered with me for the next day or so. I couldn’t stay warm. Nikki also could not keep warm, and she claimed that she could still feel the presence lingering about her for a few hours after the encounter.
    Ironically, when I went online to see if I could come up with any imagery of the Libby Mausoleum, the only thing I found was a photo on Flickr.com by an acquaintance of mine, which was accompanied by the tale of an injury she incurred while trying to take a photo of the mausoleum. Uncanny, you say to yourself, as did I.

    She pulled something in her leg while climbing the short slope to the tomb’s entryway, and the self-timer on the camera snapped its shot as she grabbed at her leg in pain. She comments, “I heard, did not feel, heard, a huge crack and then snap. For a fraction of a second I though my calf had cramped up. Then the pain came!”

    So is the Libby Mausoleum cursed? It seems more likely that perhaps it harbors a jealous and protective guardian spirit that is sick of vandals and even the most innocent gawkers intruding upon the peace of the mausoleum’s location.

    The disrespect shown to Riverside Cemetery’s “guests” (as their website refers to the buried dead, see http://riverside.marshallsonline.org) is not uncommon in Maine’s graveyards, but to those who find solace in these quiet places, and to those like myself who use them as a source in field research, this behavior is effectively destroying connections with our history. Riverside’s caretakers have openly announced a $500 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the culprits of the latest wave of Riverside Cemetery vandalism.

    Thursday, October 01, 2009

    EVENT: Strange Maine artshow opens Friday!


    WHAT: The Art of Strange Maine exhibition @ Sanctuary Tattoo
    WHEN: Opening Reception: Friday, October 2nd, 6:00-9:00pm
    WHERE: Sanctuary, 31 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME 04101
    FMI: (207)828-8866, chris[at]sanctuarytattoo.com or sanctuarytattoo.com

    Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11-7
    Show runs October 2nd – November 4th, 2009

    Sanctuary Tattoo is pleased to present THE ART OF STRANGE MAINE from October 2ND to November 4TH, a group show curated by Michelle Souliere, editor of the Strange Maine Gazette, with a special focus on the work of eleven artists: Tom Brown, Michael Connor, Jay Cornell, Brendan Evans, Morbideus Goodell, Jason Gorcoff, Frank Navarro, Zac Perkins, and Dave Stelmok. A small selection of other artists will also be participating. Work ranges from pen and ink drawings, to oil paintings, to carvings made from found wood, and beyond.

    The theme of this show is the unique strangeness of Maine in all its forms.

    What is Strange Maine?
    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 four seasons really know how to live. Maine: the way life should be! Strange Maine is made up of Maine's unique strangeness, people who love it, people who have experienced it, & people who are intrigued by it. History, mysteries, legends, cryptozoology, & more.

    What inspires Strange Maine?
    It is the MYSTERY of Maine that sends a reanimating frisson through our veins and lights our eyes to see in the dim ruins again. Mystery – the perfume of “strange.” Mystery is, by its very nature, that which cannot be fully understood. We need this. We need mystery in our lives. Mystery is our elixir. The job of these artists has been to draw this elixir out and present it in a visual form for viewers to explore on their own.

    FURTHER ARTIST INFORMATION and IMAGES:

    --Tom Brown: Copper Age Comics, New England Gothic comic
    -- Michael Connor: Coelacanth zine
    -- Jay Cornell: recently seen in “The Funnies” show at Whitney Art Works
    -- Brendan Evans: http://www.kraag.org/strange/
    -- Morbideus Goodell: http://morbideusgallery.tripod.com/
    http://www.postmortem-prod.com/
    -- Jason Gorcoff http://jgorcoff.blogspot.com/
    -- Frank Navarro found wood sculpture
    -- Zac Perkins http://www.zacperkins.com/

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Not Your Normal Fort

    With copies of the late spring Gazette issue hot off the press, I made my way north to historic Fort Knox and the fair town of Bucksport, Maine. I had been hearing about the Paranormal and Psychic Faire for the last couple of years, and while I was interested, I had yet to get up the steam to transport me hither. That was until Leon Seymour, of Friends of Fort Knox, dropped an e-mail in my inbox inviting me to climb on board.

    After repeated, unsuccessful rearrangements of my transportation and lodging plans, my friend Sue finally came through in a pinch and drove me up through the spooky fog of an early July 4th morning to the land of Prospect, on the shores of the Penobscot River. The misty atmosphere created an eerie, awesome feel to the scene as we drove past the unmistakable Penobscot Narrows Bridge and the so-called Bigfoot footprint in the cliff which overlooks it (this interesting formation was exposed during blasting for the new roadway).

    PHOTO : The Penobscot Narrows Bridge dwarfs its predecessor, the Waldo-Hancock bridge. Completed in 1931, it was the first long-span suspension bridge ever erected in Maine. It will remain in place until a thorough dismantling is possible.

    On arriving, we made a quick tour to the top of the fort and then down one of its seemingly endless stone battery staircases, damp with condensation. Already the fort was beginning to work its spell on me.

    Sadly, Sue had to head back to town, but it was time for me to get down to business anyways. I found myself set up with a table in the fort’s visitor center, where I joined a terrific assortment of other Maine folks who, like me, are all blessed with an innate curiosity and need-to-know about things on the fringe. Next to me were ufologists Cindy Proulx and Chris Gardner, and further up the row was friend and fellow Portlander, Loren Coleman, as well as another friend, Maine supernatural history author, Emeric Spooner. Facing us were the fine folks of the Bangor Ghost Hunters Association, and Gordon Barton, former President of the American Dowsing Society.

    My biggest problem became the agonizing choice between whether to staff my table or to take this rare opportunity to hear some of these folks speak. I wound up divvying up my time between the Strange Maine Gazette table and the guest speaker presentations, and managed to watch each of the presenters once over the course of the weekend.
    PHOTO : Loren Coleman displays the latest addition to his museum collection of cryptozoological items -- a pop culture representation of a Bigfoot-type creature given away in a furniture store promotion in the South during the 1990s.

    It rained off and on all day Saturday, driving Loren Coleman’s audience in and out of the visitor center from minute to minute. But in spite of the iffy weather, a steady stream of folks arrived, either to drink in the fort’s history, or to or to feed their need to find out about the future and other uncertain things. While select speakers entertained the small crowd at the visitor center, down in the dark quarters of the fort, psychics sat for readings with a steady line of those who came in search of comfort, answers, or a sense of mystery to add to their lives.

    Expecting a cold but interesting evening spent trying to sleep on the concrete floor of the visitor center in my sleeping bag, I was surprised and pleased to find myself put up for the evening very comfortably in the home of Carol (Bittersweet Gifts, Bucksport) and Don Metthe (Friends of the Fort, Bucksport Director). Thanks to these two kind folks, I spent a very pleasant evening, and Carol treated me to a short tour of the town the next morning, before getting back to business.

    Sunday, July 5th, dawned bright and sunny, and the day was great from start to finish. Starting out with my first visit ever to the site of Colonel Buck’s tomb, replete with the alleged stain of the witch’s boot on its face, and ending with a lively drive back down U.S. Route 1 to the outdoor flea markets of Searsport with Loren Coleman before heading inland, it couldn’t have gone better.

    In between talking to folks from all over (hi Nomar!) at my table, and signing some new folks up for subscriptions (thanks everyone!), I managed to steal a break so I could wander around the fort a little more.

    Imagine my surprise when I realized how huge it really was, and how many hundreds of feet of tunnels and stairways wind through the levels of its pentagonal shape. All I can say is, “WOW!” The scale of Fort Knox is phenomenal, especially when compared with some of Maine’s other historic fort site, such as Fort Edgecomb.

    Building started on the fort in 1844, and the last troops left its grounds in 1898, leaving the fort under the watchful eye of the official “Keeper of the Fort.” Today, the Friends of Fort Knox have collectively taken on this role, as well as the restoration of the fort and the important task of making the fort and its history available to the public.

    PHOTO : Fort Knox is made up in a large part by spectacular, endless tunnels, crafted from brick and granite, and constructed in a surprisingly graceful series of arched and angled pathways.

    More visitor information about the fort is available online at:
    http://fortknox.maineguide.com

    If you are interested in helping out the FOFK, simply write to Friends of Fort Knox, P.O. Box 456, Bucksport, ME 04416, or call (207)469-6553, or e-mail FOFK1[at]aol.com for more information.

    All photos (c)2009 by Michelle Souliere.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    What's happening? Books!!

    Posting has been a little slow here on the blog, and as usual I have an explanation. I know, you're thinking to yourself, "What now?" The answer is -- more madness! Here's an interview I did with David Carkhuff of the Portland Daily Sun last week that should serve to fill you in on the latest and greatest.
    The Green Hand reaches toward mystery
    New book shop promises eerie, atmospheric reads from Strange Maine blog founder
    Story and Photo by David Carkhuff, Staff writer

    On her path from award-winning blogger to fledgling book shop owner, Michelle Souliere is about a month away from unveiling The Green Hand on Congress Street.

    The bookstore promises to be a nod to classic horror, mystery and other subjects that have formed the grist for her award-winning Strange Maine blog. At the same time, the shop, slated to open at 661 Congress Street near Longfellow Square, won't confine itself to strictly strange and eerie topics.

    "The selection is definitely going to be slanted by my taste, but I'm going to have a wide selection. My hope is anyone who walks in will find something they're interested in," Souliere said in an interview Tuesday.

    The Green Hand, however, is bound to appeal to customers of the International Cryptozoology Museum, mystery-animal researcher Loren Coleman's new feature attraction which is scheduled to open, also on Nov. 1, in the rear portion of the 661 Congress Street site.

    For almost four years, Souliere said, she has generated the Strange Maine blog, and subsequently the Strange Maine Gazette, a print version of her intriguing look at mysterious and offbeat subjects.

    Her husband, Tristan Gallagher, owns We Hate T-Shirts screen printing and The Fun Box Monster Emporium, which is located across the street from the new book shop at 656B Congress Street. He has run his store almost a year and at the current address since last spring. A loss of employment at University of Southern Maine for Souliere was a catalyst for pursuing her dream.

    "For years I've wanted to open a book shop," Souliere said. "I've always had this little stash of books that would become part of my eventual stock. It was only this summer that I started seriously considering it. I was working at USM, and was in the process of being laid off because of different cutbacks and rearrangements, and I started interviewing for jobs, and I realized that these weren't jobs that I wanted particularly, they didn't necessarily get me any further with what I wanted to do with my life. Tristan said, 'Well, why are you waiting to open a book shop? Why don't you do it now?'"

    It turned out to be a fateful conversation. Souliere knew Coleman — "We've been off and on corresponding for a few years now" — and figured a pairing of an atmospheric bookstore and a museum of exhibits featuring Bigfoot and other mysterious creatures would make a great fit in the Arts District.

    An artist and illustrator, Souliere expected to "concoct a wonderful space that people are excited to visit."

    "It's going to be kind of a hybrid, I want to create an atmosphere in here that's different than the other book shops in town. I would like to complement them," she said. "There's no way I can compete with their selections, especially Yes Books and Cunningham Books, they have been at this for years and have walls and walls of wonderful materials. So I thought I would try to bring something else into it, I've always been a fan of hybrid turn of the century Victorian gas lamps and a certain amount of art deco and a little bit of Asia motif. It's going to get a little more colorful in here."

    The Green Hand captures a variety of images and motifs — organic growth, based on the concept of the green thumb; and also the traditional "old pulp magazine cover art of the green hand reaching out for the victim" and the science fiction idea of an alien hand.

    "It's just an image that has come to me over and over again, it seems to evoke a lot of things for people. It's a wonderful, universal and mysterious symbol of what I'm trying to do here," she said.

    Souliere anticipates offering a mix of used and new books in about 2,500 square feet of space, with additional space in back for the museum.

    Her favorites are "weird fiction," horror and mystery stories by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. Souliere said the blog and gazette will continue, possibly with more opportunity for research as she tends the book shop.

    Souliere said the Arts District appears to be on the cusp of a revival, with several developments promising a rejuvenation of the Congress Street corridor.

    Across the street at 660 Congress St., near her husband's store, Souliere is keping an eye on the old Zinnia's antique shop, where a developer is unveiling plans to create gallery space and four to six studios in a three-story building. Down the block from Souliere's shop is an ongoing renovation and reconstruction of the old USM dormitories, creating what promises to be residential and retail space.

    "It seems like this area could really start to jump up and take the city by surprise," Souliere said.

    [Source]
    Please also check out Carkhuff's companion article about the public opening of Loren Coleman's International Cryptozoology Museum!

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Review: Weird Horror Tales by Michael Vance


    Reviewed by Michelle Souliere

    Weird Horror Tales, despite its generalized title, collects 13 tales very specifically centered around the fictitious town of “Light’s End” in Maine. While varying in their historic timeframe and even at times in their style, they are all crafted in the weird tales tradition. A great find for fans of this field of fiction!

    Unlike many writers who claim to be inspired by Lovecraft, Vance is not afraid to produce stories using an efficient and sparse storytelling technique, which suffers nothing from omission, and lends itself to the very Lovecraftian theme of cosmic horror that rears its indescribable head throughout. The reader is more likely to encounter a poetry-like flow of Bradburyesque proportion than the purple prose of Lovecraft’s fantasy pieces, especially in such stories as “Wishful Thinking.”

    His characters are normal, desperate, deranged, owners of strange agendas, people who want basic and harmless lives, and people who want to cause harm to enrich their lives. The settings are reflective of the strange arrangement of the townspeople’s history and continued existence. They live in the shadow of “the Great Secret Hidden Openly.” The length and breadth of the human betrayal taking place in Light’s End is brought into sharp focus when the reader is reminded of the simple, honest need for a good life, even as communicated via the otherworldly narrative in the award-nominated* story “The Lighter Side.”

    Humor, the likes of which fans of Tales from the Crypt will appreciate, creeps in from time to time. There is something rottenly appealing in the idea of the faux lighthouse restaurant in “Knock-Off,” with ever-popular tourist-attracting features such as the “irritating moaning of ‘the alien dead, giddy with hunger’, that incessantly gibbered from hidden speakers in the floor,” décor inscribed with “symbols and mermaids with needle teeth,” and “wallpaper that illogically seemed to creep across the wall.”

    The wonderful thing about independent publication, and the use of short stories, is the freedom that both give an author to pursue a variety of storytelling techniques, while the collected format allows a common ground for tales to form from. In more ways than one, this collection reminds me of Bradbury. Vance seems to feel a similar need to tie together the ingredients of tragedy and transcendence, and a brave daring to try new storytelling techniques and voices pulled from the fringe of the genre. I can only imagine what will happen if he finds a really keen editor with the ability to help him shape this series into the crescendo it could become (this is the first of 3 planned volumes).

    "Weird Horror Tales” really winds up working as the title for this collection, and Vance’s years of writing experience show in his Jack-of-all-trades approach to fantastic fiction. Take a solid, squirming bedrock of horror, throw in some satellites of sci-fi, a generous helping of Twilight Zone plot twists, lace it with the eldritch horror of H. P. Lovecraft’s favorite poisons, and you have yourself a hefty volume of entertaining and engaging stories which will surprise you with its variety, and reward you with each re-reading.

    While I may not be completely sold on Maine as the setting for this series, I understand the effort given to make these stories come alive in a Maine that Vance has never seen, and I more than understand his love for the weird tale, and the honor given Maine by choosing it as the place for these stories, outside of their Midwestern author’s experience of his home state of Oklahoma. Maine is an “other” place. These stories certainly are alive in their other place, a place with a unique kind of strangeness that I think Lovecraft would have been well pleased to see spawned from his legacy.

    I would really like Michael Vance to visit Maine as he completes work on the next collection in the planned trilogy of Light’s End anthologies. But then again – maybe if he came here he’d be too charmed to write more Maine-based horror! Perhaps we should simply invite him to come during February to prevent such a tragedy.

    Those of you who are interested in my critique of the Maine-related elements of the book can read on. Those of you who are happy to read the collection as a weird tales feast can feel free to skip this final part.

    -- -- --


    In preface to this section, let me just say that I realize how difficult it is for an author to research a location he is unfamiliar with. Vance says he does “a lot of research to get my setting right.” This is obvious in his use of a wide range of specific details used in his world building, both in his attempts to reference Maine, and in his use of the Oklahoma town he grew up in to form the structural matrix of the concocted Maine town of Light’s End.

    Perhaps in his copious note-taking, certain cultural elements have been misattributed to Maine when they really belong to other New England locales. Perhaps all of New England seems like a single collection of places to folks from the Midwest. At any rate, there are too many small moments when questions arise, speaking as a Maine reader, when Vance includes specific place-related details in the tales. Plus the feel is just a bit off.

    It was always the little things that cocked my eyebrow, like a Providence, RI, reporter and radio commentator showing up to interview a Maine senator during a fishing trip in his hometown locale, away from his usual Washington, D.C., setting, instead of the much-more-likely Boston press, or the fact that Vance set the stories in Maine to honor Lovecraft, who, (although a professed fan of the state), had little to do with Maine beyond a few sightseeing trips and the use of its wily and weird backwoods as way-stations in a couple of his stories. Lovecraft is much more thoroughly identified with Rhode Island, where his final resting place is marked with a stone that bears the legend, “I am Providence.” Heck, I wish Lovecraft was Maine’s. At any rate, Light’s End is Maine’s now!

    * “The Lighter Side” was nominated for the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Fountain Award for Best Short Story in 2004.

    Weird Horror Tales is now available at Barnes and Noble, amazon.com, and any bookstore with interesting weird fiction book selections.

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    EVENT: Maine horror film premiere SUNDAY!

    Filmmakers Shawn French and Sue Stevens lead the way into no-holds-barred terror in the latest Maine horror film to hit the big screen. A short Q&A session with the cast and crew will follow Sunday's screening, as an extra treat to premiere attendees.

    There's a great article about the movie in today's Portland Press Herald (click here to read).

    WHAT: "The Wrong House" makes its premiere in its homestate!
    WHEN: Sunday, September 20, 2009, at 6:30pm
    WHERE: Cinemagic Theater, Westbrook, Maine
    COST: A mere $5 to help support local film arts!
    FMI: thewronghouse[at]gmail.com

    The story: An isolated house in the woods looks like an easy mark to a group of friends camping in the Maine wilderness. The thieves haul away several ounces of pot and hallucinogenic mushrooms in the heist. But when the homeowners track them down, the thieves learn too late that there are some people you just shouldn't mess with... and that they picked The Wrong House.

    The story was inspired by a rash of area burglaries around the home of husband/wife producers Shawn French and Sue Stevens (who play serial killers in the film). They initially started working on the script to vent frustration, but once the story fell into place, they knew they had to shoot this movie.

    "The Wrong House" was written by Shawn French of Wisdumb Productions and co-directed by French and Andy Davis of Emptyhouse Film.

    "We were incredibly fortunate to find a group of actors who were up for anything we threw at them," said French. "From waterboarding to very physical fight scenes, we put this cast through the ringer. Everyone walked away bruised."

    "The Wrong House" is a hardcore flick with horror effects created by artist Eric Anderson (recent winner of the Portland 48 Hour Film Festival award for Best Makeup) of the Portland-based FX group The Shoggoth Assembly. It features an original score by composer Timothy Butcher of Washington and music by local artists The Motengata Band, Damien Zygote and Stream Reggae.

    View trailer online here.

    Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door, or in advance at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/79348

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Sword Swallowing in Maine

    In a random way I happened upon a great website, the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame. The page lists a wide range of sources and information about historic and current sword swallowers, and lists their purpose to exist as "the Internet's most comprehensive list of sword swallowers past and present." Looks good to me!

    Among the sword swallowers listed is a certain Professor A.J. Pierce, a.k.a Albert J. Pierce, a Victorian-era sword swallower who appears to have lived in New York City, though he comes to our attention because of a show that occurred in 1905 on Harlow Street in Bangor, Maine:
    Professor A.J. Pierce, Albert J. Pierce
    Performed 1905, Died May 30, 1909?
    Bangor, Maine / New York, NY (USA)


    Professor A.J. Pierce was the star sword swallower of a show run for several days out of a vacant storefront on Harlow Street in Bangor Maine in 1905. "He runs swords and small saws and scissors and bayonets down his throat until it seems that it must slash his vitals; but he gets through all right and smiles at the frightened spectators."

    "He chews and swallows glass, eats hot pitch and rosin and sealing wax, swallows tacks and does other stunts that cause the observer to wonder what his insides are composed of. ... He finished his stunt by swallowing about 16 inches of a snake," wrote a reporter for the Bangor Daily News on Nov. 11, 1905.

    Pierce performed with two other colleagues who performed similar feats of daring. LaCrosse, the Human Stone Crusher, let people break stones on his stomach with a sledgehammer, while Madame LaMonte, the Hindoo rope juggler, freed herself after being bound in 50 feet of hemp. The show took place in East Market Square (near where City Hall is today) in what the reporter referred to facetiously as "the tenderloin," a reference to urban neighborhoods known for vice and graft.

    The show was operated by Professor H.H. Perkins, a scholar of bizarre amusements like his partner Professor Pierce. An article in the New York Times dated May 30, 1909 states, "Albert J. Pierce of No. 2076 Lexington Avenue, a sword swallower, is in Harlem Hospital in serious condition. While doing his usual stunt in a Fourteenth-street show last night, the sword got too deep and cut the lining of his stomach. Dr. Cassini of the hospital says he is suffering from a gastric hemmorhage." Seeking photos and more information.

    [Source, with link to 1909 article]
    The Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame is seeking further information about this sword swallower, including photos, which you can e-mail to them via research[at]swordswallow.com. If you have any info for them, or would like to share any other info about performers in Maine history, please feel free to post a comment or contact us!

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Harlan's First Day at School


    This portrait is one I found at a flea market earlier this summer. As everyone goes back to school this week, there is a certain funny poignancy about the tragic expression on the face of young Harlan, setting off on his first voyage into the land of the classroom back in 1905. While wardrobes have changed, the facial expressions on some kids' faces sure hasn't!

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Weird field in Bingham?

    Dear fellow Strange Mainers, please find following an inquiry from another of your number regarding a remembered weird Maine spot:
    Quick question, I grew up in Maine (Bingham) and my buddies in high school used to get a big kick out of this spot off 201 between Skowhegan and Fairfield. I want to say is was on the Hinckley road in Clinton (rte 23) but can’t really remember.

    Anyway, it was this weird field with crazy mounds and hills shaped like humans dug into the earth. And rock circles and all kinds of stuff. My buddy said there was a orphanage across the street in a big abandoned farm house, but it wasn’t really an orphanage because it was run by a cult and they used to human sacrifice the babies. I’m sure he was full of sh*t but the field was really crazy. I still remember it, I wish I had pictures.

    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Ghost bride emerges from gloom

    Off all of Maine's urban legends and folklore, some of the most elusive and evocative tales are those of the ghost brides. The variety of these tales involving hitchhiking ghosts are particularly hard to track for researchers like myself who want to find the fact at the root of the story. There is a lot of rumor and hearsay associated with them, but rarely does the original witness get to give their own account and have it recorded.

    Thanks to Mark LaFlamme over at the Lewiston Sun Journal, we now have a gem of a recent story, intact, directly from the original witness. He too has been chasing these stories for years. Read on!
    Spectral lady hitches ride, vanishes
    By Mark LaFlamme
    Published: Aug 06, 2009 12:00 am

    It happened like this: Shortly after midnight on July 11, a police officer in Mechanic Falls stopped to check on a teenage driver who was frantically flashing his headlights. When the cop approached the car, he found a 16-year-old named David who was badly shaken. The kid was in tears and babbling about something that happened moments ago in Poland.

    The story David told was a crazy one but not unique. For generations, travelers through this dark place have told tales of a young lady dressed in white hitchhiking along Route 26. Sometimes she's dressed in a prom dress and sits quietly in the passenger seat. Other times, she is a bride dressed in white or a morose young woman with a cautionary message to deliver.

    But our friend David had never heard those stories. He sat in his car stammering and trying to explain to the frowning policeman what had happened.

    Just before 2 a.m., David was driving on Route 26 bound for Oxford. In the midst of all the darkness that collects in the middle of the night in Poland, suddenly there was a gleam of light at the roadside.

    "She was standing on the side of the road, near the frozen custard place. At first, it was just a white glow," David said. "I drove up closer and saw that it was a woman. She looked to be between 20 and 24. I pulled over and she said, 'Can you bring me to the church on Route 11?'"
    [...]
    "She asked me if I could start driving faster, because she was late for her wedding," David said.

    Those of us who have been around a while know that when a woman found wandering the back roads starts babbling about going to meet her beloved, what you have on your hands is a ghost. We will take appropriate action, which may include flinging ourselves out the window.

    But David steeled up and drove on with the curious woman in the wedding gown. He turned onto Route 11, where even greater darkness gathers, and within a quarter of a mile, he found what appeared to be a church. He stopped between two posts out front and asked his eager rider if this was the right place.
    [...]
    "She said 'goodbye,'" David said. "When I turned to look at her, she was gone."

    I'll give you a moment to rub the chill from your skin.

    David is absolutely sure the passenger door of his Camaro was never opened. When he peered out into the night around him, he saw no sign of the woman in white. No brightly glowing gown in all of the blackness along Route 11.
    [...]
    The ghost hitchhiker of Route 26 comes with a variety of stories. In the most common, the woman wandering the dark roads is the murdered bride of George Knight, slashed to death in 1856 in her farmhouse on Route 11. The woman will deliver a warning, or perhaps a prediction, to the person who picks her up. Then she vanishes.

    In another version, the roaming woman is the ghost of a young girl killed on her way to the prom. She is said to wander near the Poland Spring Inn, waiting for a ride in her eternal quest to make it to the dance. Like the slain Mrs. Knight, the ghost of the prom girl is said to vanish before the ride is over.

    "I don't think it was either of them," David says of his spectral passenger. His research — there is plenty to be found on the Web regarding the ghost of Route 26 — has led him to believe that the lady who sat in his Camaro was a bride struck and killed by a car on the way to her wedding in the 1930s; a woman forever trying to reach the site of that long-ago blessed event and disappearing once she arrives.

    David was also told that the man who was to marry the young lady is still alive, an elderly man who lives in Oxford.

    The terrain of local legend is a labyrinth of falsehoods, misinformation and tiny kernels of truth that get built upon and built upon like papier-mache over decades of retelling. David relates his tale with excitement but without the kind of rhetorical battering you find in those who are trying to convince you of a lie.

    I sought him out for this story; he didn't come to me. He spoke to me only hesitantly once I explained what I was after.

    And at last, there is a police report on the matter. The prettily dressed lady may not have identified her killer, or made her way to the altar or the prom. But at the very least, she climbed her way up out of local lore and into the public record.

    It took a brave kid in a Camaro to get her there.

    Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can tell him about your sighting of the ghost of Route 26 at mlaflamme@sunjournal.com.

    Read full article here: [Source]
    Illustration by Michelle Souliere, (c)2005.

    EVENT: Ghost story reading

    Thanks to the Sun Journal for printing this author's letter and letting us know about this event:

    WHAT: A night of ghost stories, read by David Pitkin, author of "Ghosts of the Northeast"
    WHEN: 7:00 p.m., Saturday, August 19, 2009
    WHERE: At the old Town Hall gym on Route 207, and in the parking lot with the Fire Station and Sebago Town Hall
    COST: $3 suggested donation
    FMI: pitkinaurora@aol.com
    Author seeks ghostly experiences
    Published: Jul 26, 2006 12:00 am

    Dear Sun Spots' readers: Have you ever lived with a ghost?
    I'm an author seeking true experiences. Anonymity guaranteed. I am a retired teacher and historian and author of the best-selling "Ghosts of the Northeast," which contains many Maine stories. I am now gathering ghost stories for a 2008 book covering the entire world, though most stories will be from the northeastern United States. I am starting my research here in Maine. I have investigated more than 800 haunted sites since hearing a ghost walking on a floor that wasn't there in 1968. Readers may e-mail me at pitkinaurora@aol.com or write to me at P.O. Box 690, Chestertown, NY 12817. - David J. Pitkin, Chestertown, N.Y.
    [...]
    Pitkin also notes he is a regular, year-round visitor to Maine. He will offer a night of ghost stories, a special presentation of the Spaulding Free Library in Sebago at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19. Please note the event is being held at the old town hall gym on Route 207 and in the parking lot with the fire station and Sebago Town Hall. There is a suggested $3 donation for the event.

    Read full article here: [Source]
    Illustration by Michelle Souliere, (c)2005.

    EVENT: Dead Poets for fun!


    From the Maine Libraries Discussion List comes the following cool event...

    For Librarians and Patrons who enjoy Maine's Past Poets:
    Maine poets and poetry-lovers are invited to come celebrate the completion of an historic literary adventure by reading at Maine's first Dead Poets Bash.

    After a 63-day, 90-grave, 25-State journey to document the poetry and graves of America’s dead poets, the Poemobile is rolling back into Portland for a celebration at the North Star Café, from 3:30 to 5 this Sunday, August 16.

    Participants should come prepared to read one or two poems about death, cemeteries, or elegy by one of Maine’s dead poets, such as: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Longfellow, Sarah Jewett, E. A. Robinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Tristram Coffin, May Sarton, Leo Connellan, Louis Bogan, and Elizabeth Coatsworth.

    The event will be filmed for possible inclusion in the documentary film of the trip, as well as made part of the official trip archive which will be given to the Library of Congress. For more information write Walter Skold, of the Dead Poets Society of America, at chiefleaf@deadpoes.org

    The North Star Café is located at 225 Congress Street, Portland, ME., and is a popular venue for musicians and poets. The event is free and good food and drinks are available for sale at the Café.

    Illustration by Michelle Souliere, (c)2006.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Who rescues the rescuers?

    The Boston Globe reports on a freak mudding accident in Maine:
    Maine EMT struck by monster truck, saved by mud
    July 27, 2009
    The Associated Press

    LEBANON, Maine— A Maine rescue department volunteer struck by a monster truck at a mud race avoided serious injuries thanks to a cocoon of mud. Jason Cole, assistant rescue chief in the southern Maine town of Lebanon, says the driver lost control of her truck Sunday at the "Go Deep Mud" contest when the throttle became stuck.
    [...]
    Cole says the EMT sank so far into the mud that only his face was showing, and the truck's 35-inch tires passed on either side of him.
    [...]
    Read full article here: [Source]
    Mudding is a favorite sport of many Mainers who own four-wheelers, involving mud and 4x4 trucks gone wild. If you've ever seen a truck going by you on the Maine highway, plastered in dried mud, you know what they've been up to! Here is a visual example of mudding:

    If this has piqued your curiosity, you may want to check out Maine Mud Runs, a website dedicated to "providing the most complete and up to date information about anything to do with Mud Running, Mud Bogging or Mud Racing in Maine, New England and New Brunswick." Yep.

    When one of your annual seasons is the Mud Season, you might as well get some fun out of it!

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    WWII missing plane found?

    Interesting news out of Canada, as reported by the Bangor Daily News over the weekend:
    Plane found by Canadian divers believed to be Maine-based Catalina lost in 1942
    8/8/09
    By The Associated Press

    LONGUE-POINTE-DE-MINGAN, Quebec — Canadian divers have stumbled upon what they believe is the wreckage of a U.S. Army air force amphibious plane that went down in the St. Lawrence River in 1942.

    Nine people were aboard the PBY-5A Catalina, which was based at Presque Isle, Maine.

    The government divers, who work for Parks Canada, announced Thursday they came across the wreck while doing routine work near the village of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan in eastern Quebec. It has not yet been confirmed whether it is the lost plane.
    [...]
    According to the War Department, which later became the U.S. Department of Defense, the plane had completed the first leg of a routine flight and was taking off for the return trip to base when it capsized in rough weather in the eastern Gulf of Saint Lawrence on Nov. 2, 1942.

    Four crew members survived. Five others died inside the aircraft. Their bodies have yet to be recovered.

    Surviving were: retired Capt. John B. Holmberg, Chicago; Tech. Sgt. George C. Peterson, Welch, La.; Cpl. Robert L. Ashley, Riverside, Calif.; and Pvt. James E. Click, Lexington, Ky.

    Missing were: Lt. Col. Harry J. Zimmerman, Bayside, Long Island, N.Y.; Capt. Carney Lee Dowlen, Dallas; Sgt. Charles O. Richardson, Charlevoix, Mich.; Pvt. Erwin G. Austin, Monroe, Maine; and Pvt. Peter J. Cuzins, Cincinnati.

    Recent sonar data indicate the seaplane is in good condition and that human remains may be found.
    [...]
    Read full article here: [Source]
    More on Catalinas here! >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PBY_Catalina
    (Photo from Wikipedia site)

    Friday, August 07, 2009

    EVENT: Oh, Black Velvet!

    In case anyone has wondered where I've been for the past few weeks -- I've been slaving away in my studio getting ready for this art show, which opens tonight, during First Friday Artwalk in Portland.

    -----------------------

    Last August, the Portland Art Horde initiated the masses into the bloody forum of untrammeled art hedonism with the Man-Witch Fan Art Show.

    THIS August, the Portland Art Horde returns once again with the BLACK VELVET ART SHOW!

    Here are the details:
    WHEN: Opening Friday, August 7th, 6:00-9:00pm
    WHERE: Sanctuary Tattoo, 31 Forest Avenue, Portland, Maine
    WHAT: Black velvet art of all sorts and types. Magic is in the air!

    Black velvet art is the crazy uncle in the attic of mainstream fine art, the mysterious hermit that hides in the mystic woods, the iffy aunt who leads a double life when the neon lights are lit each night. Black velvet art is the unholy child of Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Kenny Rogers, truckstop beauties, and a clown, mated with poodles, black panthers, unicorns, and wild-horned bulls by the light of the moon.

    Founded in the forges of tropical art-generating markets, it emerged in the middle of the 20th century as a highly marketable art form, appealing to those seeking unique souvenirs or something cool to hang behind their couch that would be set off nicely by the woodgrain paneling in their living room.

    However, the Tijuana velvet sweatshops were not the only performers of this art. Here and there, individuals raised the art to a high form, creating images that transcended the kitsch of the genre. Elsewhere, everyday citizens tried their hands at this artform with mixed results!

    Did you ever wonder how they did it? Did you ever wonder why other people collect this crazy art? Have you been terrified of this inexplicable medium of painting to the point that you would never consider trying it for yourself?

    The Portland Art Horde and Sanctuary asked local artists to FLING THEMSELVES INTO THE FASCINATION FACTOR!!! ... to FIND their own inner Black Velvet Artist. Come see the results for yourself.

    Monday, August 03, 2009

    photos of the week : Maine strangeness

    Happy Summer, everyone!


    Here are some strange views from the Mid Coast region:




    Rockland


    Damariscotta

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Carboat? Boatcar? Rigged to rev!

    Thanks to Ceci for pointing this gem out -- holy moley!!!

    To quote Omobono10, who posted the video, and "met this jolly crew July 15, 2009 while returning from Freeport to Portland. One never knows around here what might come floating along. Notice he's set up to pull lobster traps with the driver side front wheel. This rig is a marvel of engineering and could be the answer to Detroit's current problems. As the old saying says : As goes Maine so goes the Nation." Sweet!!!

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Not your average tourist

    Batman from Maine makes headlines with Superman from the Bronx in brawl downtown at Times Square. Thanks to Aaron for catching this. Read all about it at the New York Post, with photos (really, they're pretty amazing. I recommend you check them out)!
    BIFF! WHAM! POW! TIMES SQ. COPS VS. SUPER HEROES
    By BETH STEBNER and JENNIFER FERMINO
    July 10, 2009

    Superman and Batman took on New York's Finest last night in an epic Crossroads of the World battle that left the Caped Crusader in cuffs.

    Stunned Times Square tourists and office workers watched agog as cops struggled to subdue Clark Kent's alter ego without kryptonite.
    [...]
    If that wasn't weird enough, McCormick turned and saw the Dark Knight handcuffed to a chair like a common villain.

    "As this was happening, someone is like, 'It's Batman!' I turn around and there's Batman in handcuffs," he said.

    Superman, aka Maksim Katsnelson, 23, of The Bronx, was arrested and charged with assault and resisting arrested, police said, accusing him of punching a female officer in the face while she was trying to subdue him.

    The incident occurred when cops approached Katsnelson, who was panhandling, and asked him for ID.
    [...]
    "He freaked out and punched the girl cop in the face," Batman said later.

    Cops cuffed Batman, actually Frank Frisoli, but let him go because he didn't cause any problems, he told The Post.

    The Maine resident, who has been visiting the city for two weeks, said the two had dressed up as the super heroes for laughs.

    "We were just having a good time," Frisoli said.

    Their comic-book adventure went awry when cops approached the dynamic duo on 43rd Street to see whether they had the required license to perform in costume in public, Frisoli said.

    When they said no, cops asked for IDs. Again, they answered no, which prompted cops to handcuff Batman.

    That's when Superman took off, screaming, "I'm not getting arrested."
    [...]

    Additional reporting by Philip Messing

    read full article here: [Source]

    Rogue rose thievery

    Well, you've read about weird crime here on the blog before, but this one is new to me. Portland's Deering Oaks park, just down the block from me, is a great place in the summer months, and many come simply to smell the roses in the gorgeous circle garden between High Street and State Street. Apparently, someone has been loving them too much, though. The city is looking for help in nabbing the crooks. The Portland Daily Sun reports:
    Rose poachers steal color from city garden
    By David Carkhuff, Staff writer

    Rose poachers have become a thorn in the side of the city, stealing fresh blooms from a nationally recognized rose garden at Deering Oaks.

    Gardeners at the Deering Oaks Rose Circle, located on the east end of the park next to State Street, noticed Monday that somebody had illegally cut roughly 100 roses from the display garden, according to John Shannon, horticultural supervisor with Portland Public Services.

    "Somebody is starting to harvest," he said Tuesday. "We came in Sunday, and as of yesterday, it looked like somebody had cut 100 roses."

    This was a repeat of a problem first noticed last year, he said.

    The Rose Circle features 600 rose bushes and is one of only 134 rose gardens in the United States where the American Rose Society previews its "All American Rose Selections," offering a sneak peak of award-winning roses a year before they go on the market.

    "It's a jewel to the city of Portland," Shannon said.

    Last year was the first that city crews noticed large-scale thefts of roses, Shannon said, marking a new, disturbing trend.

    "We've come in and found scissors on the ground. A lot of times it seems to be happening on a later Sunday," Shannon said.

    On weekends and evenings, if someone in the public sees pruning happening in the rose circle, they should call the police, because it's not a city gardener but a vandal, he said.
    [...]
    But the bulk of the theft appears to be organized. Shannon said he's saddened to see the poaching, something that had not happened on this scale in the rose circle's 71-year history.
    [...]
    Anyone with information about the rose circle vandalism is asked to call Portland Police at 874-8479.

    Read the full article here: [Source]

    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    In Memoriam: Pat Murphy

    The following article appeared in the most recent issues of the Strange Maine Gazette, which recently hit the streets, hot off the press.
    ---------------------

    On returning from my trip to Amsterdam in April, I was met with sad news. Preston “Pat” Murphy, founder of Yes Books, and longtime Portland poet, had died. I hadn’t heard from Pat in some time, though I had kept writing to him at various locations until he removed himself from care. Every time I wrote, I also sent him the latest issue of the Gazette, which I can only imagine he got a good chuckle over.

    Little did Pat know, but he was one of the first pieces of Strange Maine I was ever introduced to, when I stumbled upon Yes Books in its first location. It lurked on the dimly lit first floor of the big brick building at 20 Danforth Street which now houses the Portland Phoenix and other office-laden business pursuits.

    I have very fond memories of bumbling about through the aisles of the shop, smelling the aroma of his godawful clove cigarettes and the soon familiar grumblings and declarations that emanated from the area of his front counter, which seemed perpetually under threat of collapse from all the books he piled upon it.

    Back in the days of the early 1990s, Yes Books formed a bohemian alliance with jazzman Paul Lichter’s own restaurant, Cafe No (founded with poet David Snow), and Portland was much the better for it. Through the back stacks of Pat’s bookshop, you could see the little bistro tables of Cafe No, each covered neatly with paper just waiting to be doodled on. Everything in that domain was rife with possibility. It was a golden, shadowy moment in time that passed too quickly.

    Cafe No closed, and Pat eventually had to move his bookstore in the spring of 2002. Now at 589 Congress Street, Yes Books remains a staple of Portland’s character, run these days by yet another local poet, Russ Sargent.

    My last and only note from Pat came on a napkin, true to form, mailed from his lodgings at the VA Hospital before one of a few relocations. On the napkin, mixed in with his brief note, was a poem, and talk of rebelling and moving back to Portland.

    I miss Pat. I miss his grumpy and matter-of-fact diatribes, delivered in his rough but clear voice. I miss how he would stash beat poetry, Charles Addams books, Edward Gorey books, and all his favorite treasures safe on the high shelves behind his front counter. I miss him pulling down something obscure and amazing to share with Tristan and I on our visits to his shop, no matter what the location.

    I miss going to yard sales in search of books only to find Pat there ahead of me, hauling off stacks of delicious art books and who-knows-what. I miss the Pat that was, and I hope that young Portlanders in years to come have another Pat to make friends with, in spite of whatever gruff exterior they encounter. Because with your books, you need a bookman, someone who makes a place in the world that you can wander through to make friends with the books before you take them home.

    Pat was many, many things in his life, but these are the things I remember him best for. Thank you, Darlene and Jon, for doing the best that you knew how.

    Illustration: A favorite memory from the Danforth Street era of Yes Books: the bathroom toiletpaper dispenser with appropriately bookish and pop culture laden grafitti, recreated from memory. Beam me up, Scotty! Beam me up F. Scott Fitzgerald!!!

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Zombie Kickball 2009 early reports

    I've posted a batch of photos from this wacky romp in the mud here on Facebook -- please feel free to tag yourself if any of them happen to be of you! I have a few more to put up, but this should get y'all started.

    The event was rain or shine, regardless of rumors to the contrary. In a wonderful surprise, a large crowd of players showed up, and an even larger crowd of spectators arrived shortly after, despite the weather. There was a lot of laughter and fun had by all, and a good pile of food and donations were collected for the Good Shepherd foodbank, so all in all it was a rousing success on all counts. Those interested in donating after the fact can contact the organizers through the MySpace Zombie Kickball page here: myspace.com/zombiekickball

    Also, the Portland Press Herald did a full-color piece on the event in this morning's paper, which I can't seem to find on their website, but which has some cool photos. However, I did find the MaineToday.com blog of Caraslifka's ZK4 photos, which are great as well. Huzzah!

    Plus, check out this great video on YouTube:

    Video by Mark High, soundtrack by Covered in Bees

    My favorite parts of the day? Zombie EMT, all the tiny zombies, seeing everyone under their umbrellas grinning through the rain, MUD everywhere!, the gorey Dr. Killjoy and assistant, awesome painted zombie jacket art by Rad Jackets Cheap Money, zombie brain cupcakes by Bobbie, and people hula-hooping in the spectator stands. Hooray for zombies!!!

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Zombie Kickball IV - a reminder

    Rain or shine. Carter Field, Eastern Prom, Portland, Maine. 2:00pm!!!

    Muddy zombie fun for all!!!

    Dress appropriately. Maybe bring a towel? :)

    See you all there!

    --------------------------------
    COST: Free! Bring a non-perishable food donation for the Good Shepherd Food Bank to the game if you would like to keep humans alive.
    FMI: www.myspace.com/zombiekickball
    AFTERPARTY: Masses of the walking dead will be contained at the Space Gallery at 4:30pm! Covered in Bees, Lost Cause Desperados, and Ghosthunter will play to throngs of zombies. This is an all-ages after-party. Club opens up around 4, show gets going about 4:30pm. Cover is $5.
    RAINDATE: We've been asked several times if there is a scheduled rain date for our event. There is no alternate day for our game. But there is rain predicted for this weekend - with scattered thunderstorms likely on Sunday. Please plan ahead and dress accordingly on game day. Clearly, we will all have to modify our costumes a little bit. And we may even have to modify our game. So let's keep our fingers crossed for a break in the weather!

    The Good Shepherd Food Bank will be collecting cash and non-perisables, regardless of the weather, at both the game on the Eastern Prom and the show at Space.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    2009 Paranormal & Psychic Faire!

    Well folks, this upcoming annual event is a great way to meet a whole bunch of the strange side of Maine all at once, and have a great time doing it. And guess what? I'll be set up there alongside everyone else, in case any of you want to come chat or pick up back issues of the Strange Maine Gazette -- or a free copy of the new issue which will be debuting at the Faire. If all goes well, we may even have our t-shirts printed by then. See you there!

    WHAT: 2009 Paranormal and Psychic Faire at Fort Knox
    WHEN: Saturday July 4 & Sunday July 5, 2009
    WHERE: 711 Fort Knox Road, Prospect, Maine (scroll down past schedule for directions)
    COST: Regular Fort admission price (click here for a price list) plus a $2 event donation is requested
    FMI: http://fortknox.maineguide.com/, or call (207)469-6553 or email fofk1@aol.com

    2009 Fort Knox Paranormal and Psychic Faire
    Tentative Schedule


    Saturday, July 4th
    10 AM – 4PM Psychics and vendors in the Fort Officer’s Quarters
    10 AM – 4PM Lecturers will be available in the Visitor Center

    Lecture Schedule
    Lectures take place in the amphitheater at Visitor Center

    10 AM- Paranormal Investigation Process, Equipment and Techniques
    (Bangor Maine Ghost Hunters Association)

    11 AM- How to Become a Dowser
    (Gordon Barton, former President of American Dowsing Society)

    12 Noon- UFOs? What Do You Think?
    (Facilitated by local UFO enthusiast Cindy Proulx)

    1 PM- Cryptozoology, the Study of Unknown and Undiscovered Animals
    (Author and TV personality, Loren Coleman, Portland)

    2 PM- Paranormal Investigation Process, Equipment and Techniques
    (Bangor Maine Ghost Hunters Association)

    3 PM- My Life as a Psychic and Empathic
    (Darlene Flood professional psychic)



    Sunday, July 5
    10 AM – 4PM Psychics and vendors in the Fort Officer’s Quarters
    10 AM – 4PM Lecturers will be available in the Visitor Center


    Lecture Schedule
    Lectures take place in the amphitheater at Visitor Center

    10 AM- Paranormal Investigation Process, Equipment and Techniques
    (Bangor Maine Ghost Hunters Association)

    11 AM- How to Become a Dowser
    (Gordon Barton, former President of American Dowsing Society)

    12 Noon- UFOs? What Do You Think?
    (Facilitated by local UFO enthusiast Cindy Proulx)

    1 PM- Paranormal Investigation Process, Equipment and Techniques
    (Bangor Maine Ghost Hunters Association)

    2 PM- UFOs? What Do You Think?
    (Facilitated by local UFO enthusiast Cindy Proulx)

    3 PM- My Life as a Psychic and Empathic
    (Darlene Flood professional psychic)

    [Source]

    Fort Knox is a State Historic Site owned and operated by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

    To Find Fort Knox: 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

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Ghosthunting in swanky style

    Ghosthunters often expect to be subject to the vagaries of the elements and the uncertain structure of the sometimes-abandoned buildings that they haunt. Not so those who attend the upcoming New England Ghosthunting Cruise! Sounds like fun, and the pricetag isn't marked too high, for those who have several hundred to throw at a mini-getaway this fall. (Check out the crazy photo of the 10-story Centrum lobby of the Jewel of the Sea, which the cruise is being held aboard!) Read on...
    Great Deals on a Ghost Hunter Cruise ... as You Enjoy Spectacular New England Fall Foliage!
    By Darlene Perrone

    On Oct 17, 2009, through the combined efforts of Mark Nesbitt and The Ghosts of Gettysburg Tours, Travel Virginia Magazine, Cruise Holidays of Alexandria, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, history and paranormal enthusiasts will have the opportunity to embark on a Historic Ghost Hunter Cruise on the Jewel of the Seas, Oct.17-Oct. 22 while enjoying the spectacular New England Fall Foliage!

    Mark Nesbitt, one of the nation’s leading paranormal investigators, internationally acclaimed author, historian, and ghost tour expert, will be serving as the Ghost-Host on this voyage. Saturday, Oct 17, guest will depart on a 5 day cruise up the historic, haunted, New England and Canadian coast. Ports of call include Portland, Maine; Halifax, Canada; and Bar Harbor, Maine. At each Port of Call, the group will have the option of taking pre-arranged onshore ghost tours of the local towns, lighthouses, graveyards, etc.

    While onboard, they will be thrilled and chilled during presentations and demonstrations as Mark takes them through some of his many encounters and experiences. The group will also have the chance to learn how ghost hunting equipment is used... and try it themselves. For those interested in the Civil War, this cruise will also offer the opportunity to talk with Mark about his years of research, his books, philosophies... and why he thinks some of those who were there, still walk among us!

    Once back in Boston, they can extend the trip with an overnight stay at the beautiful historic Park Plaza Hotel. While in Boston, where they will experience a guided Trolley Tour of the historic haunts of Boston, with its legends of Lizzy Borden and the Boston Strangler.

    About the Ship
    Jewel of the Seas is one of the newer ships on Royal Caribbean. It boasts the 'ultimate' cruise experience, offering incredible ocean views from the 10 story, glass constructed Centrum, and glass elevators facing the sea. It is more spacious. It also boasts highest percentage of outside cabins in the Royal Caribbean fleet. In addition, the ship offers:
    Rock-climbing wall
    Portofino Italian Restaurant
    Chops Grille
    Latté-tudes,SM a specialty coffee house featuring Seattle's Best Coffee®
    Seaview Café
    Themed bars and lounges
    Casino RoyaleSM
    The Colony Club, a unique British colonial-style lounge with self-leveling pool tables
    Beautiful indoor Solarium
    Indoor/outdoor country club with golf simulator
    Adventure Ocean® youth facilities
    Day Spa and Fitness Center
    Sports court with basketball/volleyball court

    About Mark Nesbitt
    Mark Nesbitt is a former National Park Service Ranger/Historian. He started his own research and writing company in 1977. Nesbitt started the Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours® in 1994. In addition to his “Ghosts of Gettysburg” book series, his stories have been seen/heard on The History Channel, A&E, The Travel Channel, Unsolved Mysteries, Coast to Coast AM and numerous local television programs and specials. Mark and the Ghosts of Gettysburg Investigative Team were featured in The Travel Channel’s Mysterious Journeys: The Ghosts of Gettysburg. Mark also owns and operates the Ghosts of Fredericksburg Tours in Fredericksburg, VA.

    About the Boston Park Plaza Hotel
    Boston Park Plaza Hotel is located 3 Miles from Logan International Airport with all public transportation at its front door.

    This beautiful hotel, built in 1927, is a Member of Historic Hotels of America. At one time, it was called a "city within a city". Now, it boasts some of Boston's most famous restaurants and lounges, including Todd English's Bonfire Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant and Smith & Wollensky's Steakhouse located in The Castle at Park Plaza. Guests who enter this grand hotel step into its palatial lobby and can easily appreciate its historic charm and grandeur.

    Prices for this particular cruise are incredibly affordable, starting at a mere $514.39pp for an inside stateroom, $664.39 for an ocean view stateroom and only $794.39 for a stateroom with a balcony!

    For more information on how to book this cruise, follow this link - http://www.yourcruisesource.com/d/6907313_36448.htm

    [Source]
    Photos from Destination Travel Magazine