Face Time: Michelle Souliere, Chronicler of all things strange in Maine
By Mark LaFlamme
Published Jun 28, 2009 12:00 am
Freaks. Weirdos. Unmapped roads.... So begins the intro to the increasingly popular blog by the name Strange Maine. It was launched in 2005 by Michelle Souliere and for the past two years was named the very best by the Portland Phoenix. If it's strange and happening here, you can bet it will be covered at Strange Maine, not to be confused with Strange Maine the store or Strange Maine the book. Here, Michelle answers some questions about how she got to be the local authority on strange.
What is Strange Maine?
Strange Maine is a lot of things. It is made up of people, places and things that exist here in the state of Maine and perhaps nowhere else in the world. It is the feeling you get, which in some of us causes an almost giddy delight, when you stumble upon a pocket of this strangeness. It matters not whether the discovery is of a cache of weird items at someone's yard sale, a roadside museum that the world seems to have passed by but which has continued growing regardless, or a story that someone tells you about a weird house from their hometown that freaked them out as a kid. It's out there, and when you find it, it's darn good.
How did you come to create this site?
Honestly, I have a hard time remembering. I think I had spent a few months doing research on anomalous phenomenon, and perhaps stuff like whether downtown Portland is riddled with tunnel passageways, and other Maine- and New England-related weirdness. It baffled me that there was no single destination on the Web that collected this stuff to any real effect, especially as it related to Maine. So in a moment of insanity, I thought to myself, "I should do something about this!" and pressed that big orange button on Blogger.com that says "Create A Blog," thereby sealing my fate. It wasn't until later that I stumbled upon the New England Anomaly Web site, and realized I had neighbors as crazy as I am.
Why is Maine so freakin' strange?
I'm still trying to hash that one out. I can say "There's just something about it..." until the cows come home, but while it's a pleasingly ephemeral statement, it does nothing to clear up the puzzle. The real question is, do we actually want the riddle to be solved? My instinct says we don't. Part of the spell that Maine weaves is the fact that despite the best efforts of L.L. Beaners and tourist bureaus over the last century-plus to nail down and brand Maine to be sold like some rugged designer perfume to people from away, the best way to appreciate Maine is to find a spot here where you can just sit by yourself for a moment and absorb it.
I've tried to trace the element of strangeness to the wildness of Maine, its isolation, its sparse population and the tendency it has to attract and retain both the oddest and most wonderful of people (sometimes they are one and the same). It just doesn't add up. There has to be some weird synergistic effect, some alchemy at work, because the sum is greater than its tangible parts. Whatever it is, a crucial component in the recipe is the land itself, in all its Maine varieties — and, quite possibly, a lot of it has to do with being a borderland: a place on the border of wild and urban, on the border of the great Atlantic ocean, a place on the border of the U.S.-Canada line.
If you adopted the Turner Beast and gave him a name, what would it be?
For pure silliness, it would have to be Fred. If I wanted to freak people out, though, he'd be officially named "He Who Walks Behind the Trees" or "Fred the Terrible."
What do you have coming up?
The very tardy Spring '09 issue of the Strange Maine Gazette will be in print by July, which is pretty exciting for me, as I never thought I'd get it done after breaking my wrist in May. I'll be bringing copies of it to Zombie Kickball IV, here on Portland's Eastern Prom on Sunday June 28th, and then to the Paranormal and Psychic Faire at Fort Knox on the weekend of July 4th and 5th. I'm thrilled to be setting up at the Faire, after having heard about it for the last few years. I've never been to the historic Fort Knox site, which is supposed to be gorgeous, as well as very haunted, and it's an area of Maine I haven't explored yet, which is always a big bonus. I'm also working with a great group of local artists on a Strange Maine themed art show that I'll be curating at Sanctuary here in Portland, which will be on exhibit for the month of October. Never a dull moment!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Interview via the Sun Journal
I don't think I ever got a chance to post this on the blog last year, and thought some of you might have fun reading it, especially those of you who are recent additions to the blog subscribers. Definitely one of the lighter and more entertaining interviews I've done, thanks to the adept skills of Mark LaFlamme.