Saturday, October 29, 2011

Old unsolved Portland murder resurfaces

Marge Niblock did a bang-up job on this article in today's issue of the Portland Daily Sun, on a topic to be covered in more depth tomorrow, Sunday, October 30th, at 2:00pm, as the subject of a talk at the Maine Irish Heritage Center (corner of State and Gray Streets) in Portland. Suzan Roberts Norton will present the results of several years of research she has undertaken with the consent and assistance of the Connolly family. The talk is free and open to all.

From the sound of the article, it will be a talk well worth attending. Sadly, I'm stuck at work, but maybe some of you can attend!
Who Killed Officer Connolly?
By Marge Niblock
Oct 29, 2011 12:00 am

Since the establishment of the Portland Police Department in 1848, two officers have been killed on the job. The first was Charles McIntosh, in 1915, when he was shot and stabbed by two felons who were later caught.

Patrolman Michael Connolly
The second was Patrolman Michael Connolly, and the 81-year-old mystery of his death remains unsolved. Whoever killed Officer Michael T. Connolly literally got away with murder.

Connolly’s lifeless body was found not far from “a sinister squatters’ colony beneath the brow of Eastern Promenade . . . near Fish Point.” That grim discovery was made on the morning of August 15, 1930, and bold headlines to that effect emblazoned the first page of that day’s Portland Evening Express.

Longshoreman John Lee discovered the body in the sand while gathering driftwood on the beach at about 8:15 a.m. Connolly was lying face down and had been shackled with his own handcuffs. The officer’s fully-loaded service revolver was in his right-hand pants pocket, raising many questions. According to newspaper accounts, Connolly’s gun holster was carried on his left hip because he was left-handed.

Patrolman Connolly was considered to be “an efficient and faithful officer,” and was described as having a strong physique, weighing about 190 pounds. He left behind his wife Mary Connolly and five children, James, Edward, Catherine, Margaret, and John, ranging in age from 3 to 11.

The autopsy verdict was cause of death due to drowning, with no marks of violence on Connolly’s body. There was an embarrassing delay before the arrival of a medical examiner, causing strong criticism by police and County officials, as reported in the paper that day. It was more than three hours for a medical examiner arrive at the scene. There had been a “drenching rain” during that period of time. The medical examiner concluded that the officer was alive when thrown into the water.

Officer Connolly’s key for pulling the call boxes was around his neck on a string, but his uniform hat was missing. Connolly’s watch stopped at 4:07. He had called headquarters from a box at Congress and Mountfort at 5:09, and the time for him to pull the next box on his foot beat would have been at 6:07 at India and Commercial Streets.

Fifty-one new call boxes had been placed throughout the city in the early 1920s, replacing the old ones from the late 1800s. There was a phone inside each box, allowing officers to speak directly to police headquarters, located at 132 Federal Street at that time. After making an arrest, prisoners were walked to the closest call box. The boxes had two keyholes, with the one on top marked as “wagon call,” used when an arrest was made. Headquarters would then send a wagon to that location. Officers also left notes in these boxes at the ends of their shifts, to alert the next person on duty to any special circumstances that might warrant their attention. The use of call boxes ended in 1972.

There was a 15-minute grace period allowed to officers in pulling boxes, so police began searching for Officer Connolly around 6:25.

Connolly had been appointed to the force in 1918. For many years he had patrolled along the Western Promenade, but six weeks prior, local beats were changed and he was assigned to the Eastern Promenade area.

There were several possible theories involving bootleggers bringing in a shipment of liquor. The County Attorney ordered police to question all sailors from three battle cruisers that were docked in the harbor who may have gone ashore overnight.

This was the era of Prohibition, with smuggling of alcohol was big business, and many bootleggers’ boats carrying the illegal cargo pulled in near the shore of the city’s East End to unload their goods. The docks and warehouses on Portland’s waterfront held many secrets during that era.

Connolly’s badge number 71 was officially retired shortly after the tragic incident.

On June 28, 1985, a ceremony was held to celebrate the christening of a new police boat, the Michael T. Connolly. A rendition of that badge was painted on the vessel’s side. Numerous Connolly family members were in attendance, along with then-U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, Police Chief Francis Amoroso, and Mayor Joseph D. Casale. The 31-foot boat served the department until August 1, 1992, when it was retired from service. The department never has purchased another boat.

Kevin MacDonald, an evidence technician with the Portland police department who has been in that job longer than anyone else in the unit, said Connolly’s death would have been hard to investigate.

“Water complicates things due to rinsing effect.” He said under the circumstances that existed on that particular rainy day, and a body that had been immersed in water for many hours, “the transfer of hairs and fibers would be much less likely.”

MacDonald stated “If it happened today, we’d take the handcuffs, swab for DNA, and check for fingerprints.” He also felt there might be some significance connected to the officer’s missing hat, which was never found. “A lot of times guys would keep papers and information in their hats,” noted MacDonald.

This remains a cold case that the passage of time has not helped to solve.

Article and photo source:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

REVIEW: Mark LaFlamme's Box of Lies

This review is really, really late in coming, because I wanted to do it up right, and I didn’t want to skimp on it. Chances are you wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t told you, because chances are you haven’t heard of the book, Box of Lies, even though it’s been out a full year as I write this. You may not have even heard of the author, Mark LaFlamme, unless you live in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Why this is, I can’t explain. LaFlamme has been steadily writing and releasing excellent horror and weird fiction books since 2005, and each one has had a slightly different but equally captivating overall character. I’ve liked and admired every single one of his books I’ve read, and that’s most of them. Why one of the big publishers hasn’t picked up his contract is beyond me.

LaFlamme was born in Waterville, Maine, and continues to live here with the rest of us loonies. Clearly this has affected his brain, and has fertilized his imagination to an ungodly level. As if that wasn’t enough, for the last 17 years or so he has been writing the Lewiston Daily Sun’s crime beat, and has been the author of their “Street Talk” column for many years. The influence of this journalistic work on his fiction is a straightforward approach that takes the reader on roads that would never have been taken otherwise (one hopes).

I know in the past I’ve compared some of his storytelling skills to Stephen King’s, but truly his voice is his very own, and a strong one at that. Unmistakable and somehow honest even though what he tells us word by word is a string of lies. That, I suspect, is because he knows the truth, intimately. Working the crime beat in Lewiston, Maine, is a hard way to learn about reality, yet that is what he does, every day, every late night shift. Yet somehow within him a spark of light still lives – though perhaps that light simply serves to throw darker shadows as he speaks in these stories.

Page by page in Box of Lies, LaFlamme giveth and he taketh away. Is what we imagine real? Is that which we think real imagined instead? In "Table for One," LaFlamme turns the fancies of the paranoid mind of the restaurant diner into solid worse-than-you-could-imagine reality. In "Pepper," a visiting alien finds out what makes Earthmen tick. In "The Bender Argument," LaFlamme gives us a scenario that posits what you might get if you like philosophy a little TOO much, a story which would make one hell of a nightmare movie, a perfect Twilight Zone episode, and would make Philip K. Dick himself proud.

Those of us who spend time musing about the unknown histories of our local street people may notice that LaFlamme has the talent to transmute these blanks into new stories, such as Elsy in "Find a Penny," wherein we find out what happens when you can’t tell a bad penny from a good one until its spell is woven in intractable time. Others of us who wonder what happens in communities after the press is done reporting on the latest icy winter sport fatalities will find out perhaps more than we wanted to know in "Bone Lake," where the search goes on for the dead that have left land for the cold dark waters.

The 28 stories in Box of Lies vary in size from 5 pages to 31 pages in length, which gives a wonderfully varied pace to the collection, and subject matter ranges from the graphically horrific to the futuristically normal, which reminds me of some of my favorite horror/weird fiction authors’ collections, like Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. But when I asked him if he prefers writing scifi or horror, LaFlamme answered, “I'm constantly telling people that I don't write either. I don't set out to write horror or science fiction. It's just that my characters tend to do things that are: A) horrifying, or B) in defiance of known physical laws. I like to think of myself as a perfectly normal writer whose characters misbehave. I even tried to write a romance once. The heroine ended up dead, hacked into a dozen pieces and shipped to Venus. Not really. But that sounds pretty good. I might write that one.”

As a Mainer, his stories are often set here in the Pine Tree State, but as he succinctly explains, “The slithering freak plants in Vegetation are no more creepy because they are set in Homefield, Maine. I could have set that book in Dork, Utah and the substance of the tale wouldn't have changed a bit.” Yet somehow his home state creeps its way into the tales, for whatever reason. It may have something to do with the long winters, which form the impetus for him to create: “I absolutely hate winter. It's cold. It's dark and it seems endless. I can't ride my motorcycle much and there's no point in going to the beach at all. Maine winters are harsh and long. With all that time spent indoors, it's easy to become introspective and gloomy. Which I do. If I didn't have fictional worlds to turn to, I'd probably go into my basement and never come out.” (Maybe that’s another story for you to write, Mark!)

Like me, he has pondered why Maine does seem to stand out from other settings. “There IS something about Maine. It's rugged. It feels isolated from the rest of the world. The people here have their own way of doing things. I think that gets overplayed in Hollywood sometimes, but there's no doubt that living here is conducive to creativity. And perhaps lunacy.”

Some folks who read LaFlamme’s work in the Lewiston Sun Journal develop the idea that he’s from away, but that may be due to the fact that he, like many Mainers, has felt the need to roam. “I spent some time in the south - Charlotte, NC and Newport News, Virginia, specifically - but didn't last long down there. Like so many others, I came back. It was almost a subconscious decision, some homing mechanism I don't fully understand. Someday, I'd like to move out to California or Arizona. Could I stay out there? Remains to be seen. In the meantime, I'm here in Maine, my roots getting thicker by the hour.”

Since I couldn’t figure myself out why none of the big publishers has picked LaFlamme up yet, I asked him directly. He said he hadn’t initially planned to stick with his independent publisher, Booklocker, beyond his first book The Pink Room, but “six years and four novels later, I have no plans to go anywhere else. Why would I? Right now, I have final say on things like title, cover and layout. Once my novel gets through tweaking, editing and design, it gets to the market fairly quickly. It's out there getting read and making money instead of sitting on some big publisher's slush pile along with five hundred others. It's the golden age of indie publishing, although too few people know that right now.” For LaFlamme, going indie has allowed him to focus his time on book writing instead of spending futile hours trying to craft proposals to big publishers and agents, a gamble which doesn’t often pay off in the floodtide of material coming through their office doors each day.

LaFlamme made an observation on the newly rejuventated state of independent publishing in a growing electronic book market: “A lot of authors are turning down respectable offers from traditional publishers these days because they like the freedom and earning potential of the indie way. And yet, a lot of people still believe that authors are self-published because they have no other choice. There's still that stigma, but I suspect it won't last forever. With more and more indie authors out there, chances are good that your next favorite book will be written by one of us. Hopefully by me personally. There are plenty of authors doing extremely well just by selling their books on Kindle. Look up Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath or John Locke to find out just how well.”

In September 2011 he released his newest book, Delirium Tremens, which lands solidly in the horror genre. This latest accomplishment from LaFlamme leads readers into the terror-laden life of alcoholic Stephen Boone, soon to die if he doesn’t cease his liquor habit. Problem is, if he stops drinking, all the dead people that visit him when he’s sober will come back. A Catch-22 erupts when spirits of a mother and daughter involve him in the details of their murder, and there is no going back. You can find this book on Amazon in either print or electronic versions, along with his prior volumes, such as Box of Lies, Dirt, and The Pink Room. You might even find copies of a few of his titles at your local independent bookshop, such as Portland's Green Hand Bookshop. You never know!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sacred & Profane 2011

FYI folks, no advance sales of tickets this year for the Sacred & Profane festival!! Buy 'em Saturday at the Casco Bay Lines terminal when embarking for Peaks on the 2:15 ferry, or get 'em @ the Peaks Island dock when the ferry lands @ 2:35pm.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Death photography at the Victoria Mansion

As Halloween rolls around, the mind turns to ghost stories, and more obliquely, mortality. Victorians dealt with death in a far different manner than we do today, almost seeming to embrace its reality at times, and transposing it into objects that embodied and replicated death in a well-crafted and beautiful version of itself to encourage contemplation, such as hair brooches and postmortem portraits.

Portland's Victoria Mansion gives us a glimpse into the ornate world of upper class funereal memorials in today's post on their blog at There are a bunch of touchingly beautiful memorial photos and painted portraits in the post for those who are interested.

Friday, October 07, 2011

EVENT: The mysterious lobster lecture!

Wish I could go to this, but I'm going to have to listen to their audio recording of it after the fact, 'cause I'll be out of town. But maybe some of you are available to go! This is a great lecture series, you won't be disappointed.

WHAT: Sea State Lecture: The Secret Life of Lobster
WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 13th, 2011 from 7:00-8:00 p.m., Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: GMRI (Gulf of Maine Research Institute), 350 Commercial Street, Portland, Maine
RSVP: to Patty Collins at or (207)228-1625
COST: Sea State Lectures are free and parking is provided in GMRI's adjacent lot.

For 30 years Dr. Win Watson, Biological Sciences Professor at UNH, has been studying the animal physiology and animal behavior of lobsters and other marine animals in the Gulf of Maine.

In this presentation Dr. Watson will mix together a little bit of data, a lot of videos and a few pictures to educate the audience about the behavior of these fascinating creatures.

"One might think that we know everything there is to know about lobsters, but in reality, there is much to learn." Win Watson

See our upcoming Sea State Lecture series schedule and hear audio recordings of previous lectures at

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

EVENT: Shoestring Theater Halloween Parade!

Hold onto your horses, it's October again, and that means fun things like the Shoestring Theater's annual Halloween parade are lining up and ready for you to join them for some Halloween fun!

WHAT: Shoestring Theater's annual Halloween parade
WHEN: Monday, October 31st @ 6:00 - Participant lineup starts @ 5:30
WHERE: meet at 155 Brackett Street, Portland ME

This annual parade is Portland's howling, dancing, and drumming reminder of what Halloween is. Everyone is invited, all ages are welcome. If you'd like to participate in the parade, either in your own costume, with your own instruments, or by using some of the Shoestring puppets and instruments that are available, please arrive at 5:30 so they can get everyone settled in time for departure at 6:00.

The parade leaves the Shoestring Theater's home at 155 Brackett Street, across from Reiche School, and winds its way through the shadows of the West End, bringing a little bit of Halloween brouhaha to everyone in its path. Come and have fun! The Portland Police Department provide an escort car, and the event is wild but family-friendly for sure.

Here is a really long video of 2009's parade by Aaron Woodbury -- unfortunately you can't hear the wonderful raucous madness of percussion and cheering that is the parade itself over the soundtrack song, but the visuals are there -- up to the 2:45 mark it shows the preparations for the parade, and then it really kicks in.

Shoestring Theater's Annual Halloween Parade from Aaron Woodbury on Vimeo.

However, if you watch this video of the 2007 parade, you can get a real sense of the noise and fun that awaits you!

EVENT: Stephen King in Boston

I got all excited because the JFK Library in Boston is hosting an appearance as a stop on Stephen King's current book tour, but the seating is full, according to their website ( However there is another option!

For those unable to get tickets, they also produce a webcast of the event at

WHAT: Stephen King reads from his new novel 11/22/63 and discusses his long literary career with novelist Tom Perrotta.
WHEN: Monday, November 7, 2011, 1:30-2:30 PM
WHERE: JFK Library, Boston, MA,

All forums are free and open to the public. To make a reservation, call (617)514-1643 or go to their site. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Once the main hall is full, seating is in an overflow theater where the forum is streamed live. Doors to the main hall open one hour before the program begins

For more information, visit their site at

In addition, if you have cable, Turner Classic Movies will be presenting A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King during the month of October. As part of the program, Stephen will be discussing the classic horror films that influenced him. The show premieres Monday, October 3rd, at 8:00 PM (ET). Stephen will be discussing how he discovered terror at the movie theater. For more information about the program, please visit their site, which has a full schedule of the airings and more details on the program itself:|449900/A-Night-at-the-Movies-The-Horrors-of-Stephen-King.html

Saturday, October 01, 2011

EVENT: Eastern Cemetery rain or shine today!

The launch party for MERCY IS TAKING PLACE AS PLANNED at the Eastern Cemetery.

Join us for cloudy and possibly misty:

-Undead Makeovers

-Antiqued Photos with the Ghost of Mercy

-A Reading from Mercy: The Last New England Vampire

-Book Sales & Signing

-Edible and Tattoo'd Hearts for the Taking

Come or eat your heart out!

Fun stuff for those interested in the old New England vampire stories...

WHAT:book launch party for MERCY: The Last New England Vampire
WHEN: Saturday, October 1, 2011, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
WHERE: Eastern Cemetery, 224 Congress St, Portland, ME (Rain location: Portland Public Library, Main Branch, Teen Room)
FMI: Curious City, 207-420-1126

MERCY, the last New England vampire, was pulled forcibly from her tomb in 1892. The teen novel about this horrific true incident and the present-day girl who uncovers it will be launched at the Eastern Cemetery in Portland, Maine on Saturday, October 1st at 2:00 PM.

The author, Sarah L. Thomson will be reading and signing her novel while the ghost of Mercy walks the graveyard. Readers will have a chance to catch Mercy on film, to try out a choice of supernatural makeup (vampires, zombies, or ghosts), and to tour the graveyard with its caretakers, Spirits Alive. Spirits Alive will tell stories of other teen girls taken tragically at the turn of the century. Each reader will walk away with a memento of Mercy.

Mercy: The Last New England Vampire is published by Islandport Press and the event is sponsored by the Islandport Press, Portland Public Library, and Curious City.