Friday, November 27, 2015

EVENT: Victoria Mansion Christmas Madness

Reception room - photo by M.Souliere (c)2015
It was with great fanfare that the Victoria Mansion unveiled their ever-changing annual Christmas extravaganza. This year the theme is simply a Victorian Christmas, but the results are very pleasing.

The main stairway and the parlor are the areas of the mansion that in past years have been the most effusively decorated, and this year is no exception. The crowning glory of this holiday affair extends its light down from the central skylight, and will surprise and delight visitors.

The other rooms (of which there are many) will likewise enchant visitors. Some chambers are dramatically lit, others quietly cozy to suit a more intimate family environment.

For those wishing to indulge themselves in this Yuletide wonderland, Christmas at Victoria Mansion will be open daily from November 27th to January 3rd (except on Christmas Day and New Year's Day).

The Mansion opens at 11:00 am with last admission at 4:30 pm. Special evening hours are offered on Mondays, with last admission at 6:30 pm.

Main stairway - photo by M.Souliere (c)2015
Admission is $15.00 for the general public, $13.50 for seniors and AAA members, $7.00 for college students (with ID), $5.00 for children age 6-17, and free for children under 6. Victoria Mansion members are always free.

For full details, please visit

In addition, this year the Mansion is pleased to offer the following menu of delectable holiday events:

Saturdays, 10:00am, throughout the season - Stories on the Staircase
Every Saturday during the Christmas season at Victoria Mansion children ages 3-5 are invited to join us for a free story hour and a tour tailored just for them.

Wednesday, December 2, 6:00pm - Annual Christmas Gala
Enjoy complimentary drinks and hors d'oeuvres amid the glittering decorations enhancing the Mansion's interiors. Speak with this year's designers and be inspired for your own holiday decor.

Friday, December 4, 5:00pm - First Friday Special
For one night only, Friday, December 4, 2015 Victoria Mansion will be open for $5 from 5:00-8:00 (last admission 7:30). Reservations are not needed, just come to the front door. A free gallery exhibit highlighting art and crafts created by Victoria Mansion volunteers and staff will be open upstairs over the Carriage House Museum Shop adjacent to the Mansion.

Sunday, December 6, 5:30/6:00/6:30/7:00pm - Night of the Nutcracker
Victoria Mansion and Portland Ballet present an event filled with holiday wonder. Children are invited to bring their parents to see the Mansion, decorated for the Christmas season, and meet dancers dressed for Portland Ballet's Victorian Nutcracker. There will be music, dance performances, and every child leaves with a special treat.
The Mansion by moonlight - photo by M.Souliere (c)2015

Friday, July 03, 2015

Appalachian Trail mystery via the Bollard

Most of you probably remember the unexpected, worrisome and sad disappearance of 66-year-old Geraldine Largay from the Appalachian Trail in Maine last spring. The most recent monthly issue of the Bollard has an intense article about the disappearance with some interesting information about the area that few people know.

If you'd like to read it online, please click here:
If you prefer a hard copy of the issue, it is available for free at my used bookshop in Portland, the Green Hand Bookshop, at 661 Congress Street, or you can pick up a copy at any other of 500+ locations statewide where you can regularly find the Bollard.

Portlander Hutch Brown did a great job of fleshing out the article, with editor Chris Busby assisting. I think those among you who wonder about disappearances and secret areas will be very interested in what they dug up.

PERIPHERALLY RELATED NOTE: Those interested in David Paulides Missing 411 series, which features some Maine disappearance cases over the years, may want to add this story to their files. Incidentally, if you want to buy Mr. Paulides' books, DO NOT be fooled into paying overinflated prices ($99+?!!) elsewhere online. You can buy brand new copies for $24.99 directly from him on his website. You can purchase the Eastern U.S. volume (which has the historic Maine cases in it) from him here:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Maine MUFON involvement

This post is a follow-up to my post earlier this month about a recent Maine UFO sighting. If you missed that article, you can read it here:

When I was discussing the Orrington article with Roger Marsh, editor of the monthly MUFON UFO Journal, in order to secure permission to reprint the account, he mentioned that MUFON has a need for involvement from Maine members.

MUFON is interested in increasing it's Maine membership, and more particularly in encouraging Mainers to become Field Investigators. Roger Marsh states, "We need good paranormal investigators and we need a lot more help in Maine these days. We have a new program launching soon where we are specifically reaching out to paranormal investigation groups to see if they want to cross-train with MUFON and additionally become UFO investigators." Marsh continued by mentioning that there is often a similar background shared by the two groups, and that MUFON's past experience has shown that those with paranormal investigation backgrounds work very well as UFO investigators.

To find out more about becoming an independent MUFON field investigator, please see their information page here: Information about the new program for paranormal investigation groups will be forthcoming.

If you'd like to get in touch with the heads of the Maine MUFON chapter, you can find their contact info here:

If you would like to file a report of your own UFO sighting, please visit

Marsh also mentioned that MUFON currently has their own show on the History Channel, called Hangar 1, which has been airing on Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST.


Aside from joining MUFON, if you are in the Portland area and are interested sharing your UFO-related experiences with like-minded people, there is an upcoming (non-MUFON-related) event you may be interested in -- the Experiencers Speak Conference, slated to be held August 28-29, 2015, at the Fireside Inn, 81 Riverside St., Portland, Maine. Among the guest speakers is Travis Walton (well-known co-author of Fire in the Sky: The Walton Experience). You can find more information on their website here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The latest Maine UFO sighting: Orrington

Periodically I check MUFON's database to see what's been popping up over the horizon in Maine UFO sightings. May was a busy month -- 4 reports! -- and there were 18 Maine reports filed altogether in the last 6 months (although 6 of the 18 were from prior time periods, retroactively reported, ranging from August 2014 all the way back to 1954).

But it's the sighting from June, coming out of Orrington, that really catches the eye. This report also includes an eyewitness drawing, shown below. Text and image from the report are reprinted by permission of MUFON. Please visit their site at, where you will find many more Maine reports and current UFO news.

Here is the long description of MUFON's sighting report #66464:
13 June, 2015 just after 9:00 PM driving NORTH on ROUTE 15 after leaving "Snow's Corner" gas station in Orrington, Maine.

100 to 200 yards from my turn off to the right, just before the Orrington-Brewer town-line, I saw a bright teal object slightly above the trees to the North-Northeast going slightly above the tree tops, then dipping below with some lateral motion back and forth as it did. It was "triangular" but had a round shape with smaller circles underneath.

It illuminated a teal color seemingly from within as the surface "glowed" teal, with black features on it. At one point it tipped slightly away and I could see the bottom of the object. Lastly, it went below the trees one last time and I did not see it again.

This sighting lasted less than one minute, but more probably less than 30 seconds.

I pulled over in my truck and tried to see it from the next road down from mine but could not.

I then parked my truck and went inside to grab my 10x50 magnification binoculars and ran back to route 15 and walked down to the train-tracks that go across route 15 in Brewer, paralleling the river - but the object was no longer visible.

I though I might find some people outside using a drone of some sort, but there was no one outside that I saw. There was also no differentiation in color scheme of the lights to indicate a bow/stern or port/starboard configuration for night flying.

At this time I called a family member to tell them what I'd seen and the call was made at 9:28 PM per the phone's history.

This object was clearly not a conventional aircraft and moved very quickly back-and-forth and up-and-down. The color was almost as bizarre as the behavior itself.

It repeated the "1" > "2" steps several times, and the "3" > "4" was it disappearing out of view and below the tree line in that direction.
-----------end MUFON report text------------
Orrington is located near the Penobscot River corridor, and in recent years the surrounding area has had a history of UFO sightings. Another Orrington sighting from May 24, 2010, mentions something that "Looked like a very bright star. Made wobbling movements, then stood still. Stayed put for 30 minutes then slowly moved down below tree line."

Digging back into the newspapers, I found at least one Orrington sighting decades old. In the Bangor Daily News of June 15, 1978, the headline hollers: "Object in sky upsets Orrington woman."

Like this year's June sighting, this one took place on Route 15, and similarly late at night (11:00pm), also near the Orrington/Brewer town line. The woman, who preferred to remain anonymous in the article, reported the incident to the state police, the FAA's radar tower at Bangor, the Bangor Police Department, and an Orrington constable.

What she reported was this: a huge red ball of light, "radiating a lot of heat," passed over her car at Wheeler's Hill on the Orrington/Brewer line. She felt electrified as though being shocked by a high voltage, her car radio went crazy, and her headlights went out. She reassured readers that unlike in the movie "Close Encounters," no papers or loose articles flew around inside the car.

After running her car off the road in a panic, and finding herself unable to rouse anyone in the one nearby house, she flagged down a pickup truck whose owner kindly drove her home, though he arrived several minutes after the incident and had not seen anything himself. No one else in the area reported any commotion, and the FAA logged nothing on its radar. The last she saw of the UFO, it was headed off toward Hampden.

So if you live in Orrington, perhaps a look upwards now and then would serve the curious among you well!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Whiskers of horror

In the recent resurgence of whiskery wonderment that has overswept the Maine hipster crowd, here is a piece of Maine's less kind whisker history, found in the November 5, 1874 issues of the Daily Kennebec Journal:
An aggravated case of hazing occurred at Bates College Friday night, when a party of sophomores broke into the room of C. E. Hussey, a freshman from Farmington, their purpose being to cut off his whiskers. He screamed for help and to smother his cries they held the bed clothes about his head.

Having accomplished their object and fearing discovery by reason of his outcries, they struck and beat him in a cowardly manner, cutting several deep gashes in his head and maltreating him to such an extent that a physician had to be summoned, and Hussey is now confined to his bed. The faculty have instituted a searching examination.

Even with this inauspicious start to his college career, Charles Edwin Hussey went on to graduate from Bates College in 1878. The May 1879 issue of Bates' Scarab newsletter had this to say about the recent graduate's upswing in career: "'78. — C. E. Hussey, who has during the past year been teaching the High School at Milton Mills, N. H., has been appointed Principal of the High School at Rochester, N. H." In 1881 he received an MA degree, and expanded his career into Massachusetts.

Seen here in a portrait circa 1896, Hussey seems to have toned down his whiskers as a professional adult. I would love to see what they looked like before the attack -- how epic had they become? This photo is from a page-long entry in a town history of Redding, MA.

According to a Hussey genealogy site at, here is a capsule history of his life:
Charles Edwin Hussey (H3/2.2), son of Charles William Hussey (H4/4.2) and Nancy Bickford Davis Hussey (D4/1.1), was born June 16, 1856 in Rochester. He was graduated from Bates College in 1878 with an AB degree and received an MA degree in 1881. He was employed as a school superintendent in New Hampshire and also in Newton, Natick, Wakefield and Reading, Massachusetts. He was married December 25, 1884 to Carrie H. Wallace (W3/1.1), daughter of E. G. Wallace (W4/1.1) of Rochester. She was born February 26, 1862. Charles Edwin Hussey (H3/2.2) became an officer in the U. S. Army during the Spanish-American War. He died October 17, 1915 at Rochester.
So hey -- even if you experience whisker-oriented assault, you can still go on to live a productive life. C.E. Hussey is proof of that!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

There's Gold in them there geese!

Well, apparently chickens don't have a monopoly on gold nuggets, at least according to this 1903 Lewiston newspaper article.
If right about now you're saying to yourself, "What the heck are they talking about?" it might be time for you to read this post I did a few weeks ago about gold-digging chickens in Aroostook County:Gold-digging Chickens of Aroostook County

Friday, April 03, 2015

Portland railyard ghosts?

Back in 2007, I came across a query about a Portland railyard ghost in a now-defunct online discussion board, and posted about it here on the blog:

Portland Trainyard Ghost Rumor

"Has anyone heard anything about the old railroad round house on Presumpscot Street in Portland? Someone told me the other day that it was supposed to be haunted by an engineer that got crushed working on a train. Worked in that building for almost 4 years all hours of day and night and on weekends. Never heard anything except pipes clanging. [...] of course, it can't be checked now because it's the DMV office for Portland. Why do we find these things too late?"

I have yet to nail down the various defunct railyard locations in Portland, but I did just come across an old newspaper article from 1894 that had an interesting railyard "spook" placed at the Boston & Maine railyard here in town:
The ghost of the shanty who has been haunting brakemen and switchmen in the Boston & Maine yard at Portland has been laid-out. Lights have been flashed before the windows, unaccountable rappings, tappings, and all sorts of other uncanny sounds have been heard, much to the disquiet of the railroad men. The other night they resolved to lie in wait to corral if possible one of the visitors from Hades, and one turned up on schedule time -- and was seen to approach the window of the shanty carrying a lighted torch. The unterrified ghost hunters immediately charged upon the spectre. The spectre made a bold sprint but stubbed his toe and was captured. He was flesh and blood and was a real Irish "spook" by the name of Paddy.
Pranking it up in the 1890s! I wonder why he went to all that effort, all those nights in a row...?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Anomalous birds & pinging pigeons in Portland

I found this odd little pair of articles in the Lewiston Evening Journal way back in a September 1926 issue.

I'm always curious about mentions of anomalous bird sightings, and sightings of albino animals in Maine. The pigeon article was a bonus, if only for the tongue-in-cheek joke about the potential need for Portlanders to develop their (hitherto unknown) blowpipe skills.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A UK haunted house for Stephen King?

I was poking around in the newspaper archives, and found this tantalizing little article in New Hampshire's Nashua Telegraph, back in late 1977.

According to the article, King had been on the lookout for a haunted house to rent in England. Also according to the article, he found a suitably spooky property in Fleet, a town in Hampshire, England. He planned to move house to the overseas location until he completed the novel that this setting was to inspire.

Who knows if this bit of haunted property ever gave King the inspiration to set ink to paper? Early in 1977, before placing the ad, King released one of his great haunted house (and haunted human) books, The Shining. It wasn't until 1998 that he released his next book that centered on a haunted property, the hair-raising Bag of Bones. However, it isn't England that serves as the setting for Bag of Bones -- it is squarely set in King's fictitious (but oh so real) town of Derry, and migrates up to the lumber and lake country of Maine (perhaps near his post-UK residence in the Kezar Lake country near Center Lovell, Maine).

Is there a tale locked in a trunk somewhere that shows the fruit borne of this overseas destination? Or is his short story "Crouch End" the only noticeable outcome of his UK rambles? The word is that instead of writing a haunted house opus, he found himself instead writing Cujo, and fortuitously meeting future collaborator Peter Straub to boot.

Cemetery Dance's website cites the move as the inspiration for a fragment published in their 2009 book of King's material Uncollected, Unpublished: "The attempted novel was the result of both the King family’s abortive move to England and a discussion between King and his editor of the time, Bill Thompson. The discussion revolved around the writing of a novel using the detective character, Lord Peter Wimsey, created by Dorothy L Sayers."

Not much of a subject for a haunted house setting, but perhaps we can blame King's publicist for the misdirection, or perhaps (like some of us) he simply prefers a haunted setting, no matter what he's trying to write.


Center Lovell has most recently been in the news because of the owner of a bed and breakfast who is running a contest to find the next owners of her Center Lovell Inn -- write your essay and enter, if you like! More info here: or read about it in the CNN article here:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Aroostook's gold-digging chickens?

In the recent resurgence of poultry raising in Maine towns and cities like Portland, one might often hear folks talk about the "gold mine" of eggs that comes from their feathered charges, or the "gold" of their yolks. But never have I encountered a tale in which the goldmine was literal.

Imagine my surprise when I ran across a story in a New Brunswick newspaper, the St. John Daily Sun. On July 27, 1899, the headline on page 7 read: "CARY'S HEN MINE. How a Wanderer Found a Maine Klondike. Mysterious Hermit Who Buys Poultry and the Use He Makes of It. Puzzled and Surprised the Folks from Perth to Aroostook Junction."

The headline is enough to make one curious about this character. The setting is remote. Simeon Cary reportedly hailed from Pickering Point, north of Perth (New Brunswick), making his way over the border into Maine once or twice a week to collect supplies in his dugout canoe from provisioners in Fort Fairfield.

Little or no notice was taken of him until one day when he turned his steps into a jewelry store there, and casually tossed an envelope onto the top of one of the jeweler's showcases, requesting assistance regarding its contents. "Pure gold," the jeweler was forced to admit in surprise after administering tests for proof. "Where did you get it?" Simeon glibly told the jeweler that a friend in the Klondike had mailed it to him.

But it was the curious folks of Perth, New Brunswick, who eventually wiggled the truth out of the situation. They knew nothing about the gold, but they had noticed Simeon was buying chickens. Lots of chickens. More and more chickens, in fact. What had started as two or three at a time turned into a dozen chickens at a time. The sex of the chickens didn't matter. Whether they laid eggs or not didn't matter. He paid well for vigorous, lively poultry.

After the locals realized he wasn't using the chickens to produce eggs or cutlets for sale, they started wondering -- what exactly was Simeon doing with all those chickens? And then, as the article says, "folks grew curious and made his business their business when he was not around." They stayed curious for about six months.

Then one day, three Perthites found their curiosity getting the better of them (it took a while, perhaps we can blame it on cabin fever), and they finally took the trouble to sneak up the road which led to Simeon's homestead. Two feet of snow lay about the land, covering the ground under the trees, but not so in Simeon's yard.

A clear dirt lot extended about his cabin, chickens scratching away at it busily. Simeon, lounging in the doorway, surprised the men by raising the gun and pegging one of his flock quite casually. This was immediately followed by a quick operation on the spot, in which the poor pullet's crop was removed from his breast and taken forthwith into the cabin, out of side of the baffled watchmen.

Enough was enough. The three men rushed the door. Simeon was "contrary and a trifle saucy." However, the emergence of the fact that one of the three men was in fact the owner of the land and cabin in which they stood had a surprisingly convincing effect on the man, and thus Simeon was convinced to spill the beans.

It had started with a natural love of hens. In his solitude, his first rooster and handful of hens kept him company with their continual busy doings and conversational cluckings. Their eggs were delicious. But on the day he realized it had been a full 46 years since he had eaten a drumstick, one unlucky hen became dinner.

In preparation for the meal, "he sat on a log picking the whiskers out of the end that goes over the fence last," and while doing so, ruminated on what the hens lived on besides "faith and gravel stones." He fed them no grain. What on earth kept them going?

Thought led to action, and he used his knife to extract the hapless fowl's crop from its plucked body. Therein he found small rocks, grit, grass, and "a large number of shining particles that were soft under the point of a knife," that looked suspiciously like nothing but gold.

It turned out that eventually Simeon determined that especially robust chickens could be surgically opened, cleaned out, carefully reassembled with silk thread, and reinstalled in the farmyard with a fortifying dose of stimulant to help them overcome the shock to their system. This was much preferable to executing them continually (and likely also preferable to being forced to eat chicken for the thousandth time).

Simeon found that young, strong chickens could be operated on every ten days, while older ones that moved more slowly could stand to be opened up every two weeks.

The article does not mention whether anyone in Perth or Fort Fairfield was inspired to try the same. The article gives as its provenance a letter originally published in the Lewiston Journal, though I have yet to find the original publication (if such exists) in my searches of old newspaper files.

The American Merganser
However, I did find the following on page 64 in the October 1898 issue of the National Magazine, which may explain where the author received his or her inspiration for this piece of purported journalism:
"The Klondike Mergansie which you now see," said Macfugle, calmly; "is a Canadian bird and is not so big a goose as he looks. He is of great value to the Klondike miners, flying up and down the narrow creeks and swallowing gold nuggets until he can hold no more. He then alights at his master's feet and the rugged miner gathers his crop. That's what they call gold croppings, see?"

The quote comes from a confabulation of tall tales in zoo form, titled "Seeing the Elephant," by Winthrop Packard. Perhaps the author of the "Fort Fairfield letter" read this write-up first, and wondered how to transpose it to his native ground? I mean, honestly -- who is going to send a correspondent up to the St. John Valley in Aroostook county to check on such a diversion?

In fact, despite Macfugle's fictitious assertion about the nature of gold croppings, the actual definition, according to a dictionary published in New York around 1902, is this:

"Gulch-mining. Mining in gulches, a method akin to that of placermining, consisting in ascertaining the existence of the gold-croppings which are washed down by heavy rains into the ravines or gulches."
This entry is found on pg. 217 of A New Dictionary of Americanisms: Being a Glossary of Words Supposed to Be Peculiar to the United States and the Dominion of Canada, by Sylva Clapin, NY, Louis Weiss & Co. Publishers (undated edition). I do recommend fans of odd turns of phrase find the book online for perusal, because it is itself a treasure trove of marvelous oddities.

So here we leave you until our next discovery, perhaps wondering a little -- but that is good. One must wonder before one can find.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blog update: new look?

Please bear with me as I wrangle what I want out of the Blogger templates on their upgraded designs (and wish me luck!)


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Pulp Fiction on Monument Square

Last month, Abraham Schechter of the Portland Public Library's Portland Room pointed this photo out to me. The other night I finally had a chance to do some digging and find out what it was.
Pictured here is Russell Mack, proprietor of Russell's Cigars, a variety shop run at 15 Monument Square. [Those Portlanders among you will know the building as the current location of a few businesses including Others! Fair Trade Coffee House.] Both Abraham and I were enthralled by the array of old pulp books and magazines shown on Mr. Mack's shelves.

In digging for the article that this photo used to be attached to, I had good luck. In fact, the story is more than just a "Hey, look at this local business owner working with his customary stock." No, instead the story was "Here is Russell Mack dutifully packing up books and magazines that Portland city officials are banning due to their salacious content!" Those pulp paperbacks he's holding are by Erskine Caldwell, the famous author who owned a bookstore in Portland in the late 1920s, in Longfellow Square at 668 Congress Street (see below).

The Portland Press Herald article, published in the August 21, 1948 issue on page 14, details the ban on Caldwell's novels that occurred in Portland... it was in effect for a mere 5 hours on August 20th, before the "misunderstanding" was corrected.

After receipt of the complainant's letter, a city inspector was sent out on the town to see what was what. He returned bearing 6 so-called "art magazines" and 3 of Caldwell's books. The ban was intended to target the magazines only, but in a miscommunication, the Caldwell books got lumped into the mix. The entire brouhaha was started by a letter to City Hall from a Portland citizen who was concerned about the "salacious magazines" and literature being made available to local students in the bookshops of the area. Perhaps some of the other visible titles below Mr. Mack's bent knee are those in question? With titles like "Confessions of a Good Time Girl," "Party Wife," "Pleasure After Hours," "Excess Wife," and "Confessions of a Shakedown Dame," it is hard to imagine these publications wouldn't raise an eyebrow or two. On the other hand, they probably weren't talking about the nearby magazine with the banner headline, "FOOT DOCTOR TO THE STARS!"

Misinformed, the Portland Police Department's detective squad was sent out to warn booksellers off the banned titles, including the 3 Caldwell books, only to have to rescind the ban as it pertained to the Caldwell titles 5 hours later. The City government announced belatedly that it had "no opinion" when it came to differentiating between the varying degrees of worth in adult literature, even though earlier in the day it had officially typified Caldwell's books as "distasteful literature." The "art magazines," however, remained under ban due to their manifest tendency "to corrupt the morals of youth."

Five local booksellers were interviewed as to their opinions on the ban. Most agreed it was "a silly thing to do," as one female bookseller (unnamed) neatly summed it up. Booksellers are notorious as being the bastions of freedom of literary expression, and it seems this has been a trend for a long time.

For those of you wondering about where Erskine Caldwell's Longfellow Bookshop was, here is a comparative shot of 668 Congress St. in 1925 (before Caldwell opened his shop) compared with how it looks today. True to form, this location is right across the street from my own used bookshop, the Green Hand Bookshop, at 661 Congress Street. Longfellow Square cannot help but attract booksellers, no matter what century it is.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pineland cemetery query

From time to time I receive queries from folks trying to find the graves of members of their family long passed. Most recently I received a request to assist a genealogical quest for the cemetery holding the remains of those who died while residing at Pineland.

The Pineland cemetery was given over to the town of New Gloucester's Cemetery Association for perpetual care in 1997.

People interested in finding family members' graves can search the Pineland interments on record here:

The site also has information on where the cemetery is located.

I mention this because the site is a great resource for anyone looking for burial sites. As volunteers add to the site, more and more graves are available to be searched as they are indexed and photographed.

If you find yourself using the site, think also about adding your own efforts to the database. Every little bit of information added in might be the piece of a puzzle which helps another researcher link to their past!

For more information on adding to the site: