Monday, November 07, 2022

True crime: A Maine treasure long missing

 I don't talk a whole lot about my own history and life on this blog, but this story draws on it in a number of ways.  I left home when I was 16 years old.  I went to high school, worked a job, and had an apartment of my own (having lied about my age on the lease).  Relationships with my parents were frayed, to say the least.  At one point my dad decided to try to find a way to spend time with me, and also share a useful and enjoyable experience with me, and enrolled us together in a cooking course through Portland Adult Education.  He had taken a course with the teacher before, and thought she was great.  Her name was Tot Harriman.

Photo by David A. Rogers in the Portland Press Herald 4/30/95 issue
Tot, born in Vietnam and now long-married to a U.S. veteran, wanted to share her cooking skills and her enjoyment of food with her other American neighbors here in the Portland area.  And my dad was right -- she was terrific.  Her personality was indomitable, sparkling, and very like a fireball at peak moments.  She was a great teacher, pragmatic, nonjudgmental, and straightforward.  We all learned a lot of useful and memorable techniques, mostly for stir-fry cooking, but towards the end of class she threw in some other more challenging menu items that gave us an idea of what else could be possible.

I still use her simple technique for cooking perfect rice today, and her teaching informed my stir-fry techniques that I use on a regular basis as well.  The course was back in the late 1980s, and Tot's instructions echo in my head whenever I do any of these things.  I see her strong hands at work cutting, her finger measuring the depth of water over rice in the pot, and showing us the best way to use different ingredients at each point in the cooking process, and how to serve a plate so it looks appealing. 

It was with great sorrow and shock that I saw an article in the newspaper back in 2001 reporting that Tot was missing.  She had vanished during a househunting roadtrip in Texas, where she moved after raising her children in Maine.  To think of that tiny powerhouse of a woman, perpetually giving to everyone around her, being subject to whatever tragedy had happened so many miles away, broke my heart.  Every so often I would check up on the case, but despite her family continuing to post online seeking leads, all that remained was a big question mark.

In the last couple of years (her first episode dropped in Dec 2020), Kristen Seavey has been working hard on her true crime podcast, Murder She Told, which focuses on mostly Maine and New England cases.  Her journalism is clear, compassionate, and seeks the truth, especially in cases where families are left still asking questions.  I thought maybe if I suggested Tot's case to her, she might someday do an episode about this woman who left such a mark on my life.

To my endless gratitude, that really did happen this autumn.  You can listen to the two part coverage of Tot's case here, and see lots of photos from her amazing life, too:

Part 1 - https://www.murdershetold.com/episodes/tot-harriman

Part 2 - https://www.murdershetold.com/episodes/tot-harriman-2

I had always known Tot had lived an astonishing life.  Anyone who made it alive out of the Vietnam War to come to America had; I knew this in part because I went to elementary school with some kids who had made it out too.  My father had also hinted that her life story was remarkable, but beyond a few brief mentions, Tot's history was never the focus of her class talks.  Here is where Kristen steps in.  

Through Kristen's research and through interviews with Chien Si, Tot's son, she illuminates Tot's life, first in Vietnam, and then through her risky escape to the United States, her adopted home.  Tot lives again in these moments as we listen, and we hear how much she did, how many people's lives she touched, and how her family loved her.  How her disappearance has left a hole in their lives.

As you listen to these episodes, Tot will live again, and be remembered.  And maybe, someday, if the right person comes forward, her family will finally find out what happened to her.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Tot Harriman, please contact the League City PD (TX) at (281)332-2566.

Thank you Tot, for teaching me.  And thank you Kristen!!!

Saturday, September 03, 2022

EVENT: Spooky Zoom talk! October 13 w/Portsmouth Public Library




 Hi everyone! I'm giving a fun spooky Zoom talk with Portsmouth Public Library in October!! If you (or someone you know) would like to attend, here's the link!

This event requires registration. To register visit: portsmouthpl.librarycalendar.com/event/strange
 
WHAT: "There's Something in the Woods" Zoom talk
WHERE: Online via Zoom, hosted by Portsmouth Public Library!
WHEN: Thursday, October 13, 2022 @ 7 PM – 8:30 PM
COST: Free!  Open to the public via pre-registration here:
portsmouthpl.librarycalendar.com/event/strange
 
 
Join Portsmouth Public Library as they host Maine author Michelle Souliere for an evening of creepy local stories from Maine and New Hampshire! Michelle is the author of the books Strange Maine and Bigfoot in Maine, and is the owner of The Green Hand Bookshop in Portland, ME.

Cozy up on your couch or in your favorite reading chair and tune in via zoom for accounts of the "York County Poltergeist," "Bigfoot in Maine and New Hampshire," and more! At the end of the night, you will be absolutely convinced ... there's something in the woods.

This event requires registration. To register visit: portsmouthpl.librarycalendar.com/event/strange

Friday, August 12, 2022

Winslow Homer and his view of the stark Maine landscape

 Just a heads-up -- if you haven't been to the Maine Maritime Museum, now would be an excellent time to go!

Artist Zach Horn contacted me and mentioned his intriguing take on Winslow Homer, on exhibit now through November 27, 2022 at the museum (alongside other great exhibits!).

The show, called "Looking for Winslow Homer," is a combination of installation, painting, and stop motion animation. Zach's work is about the metaphysical connection to place.  Winslow Homer was observant and expressive enough in his work to be able to capture the unique "self" of the Maine landscape in all its guises, from pastoral to dramatic, from simple to overwhelming.  You can find info about the show here:

https://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/exhibition/looking-for-winslow-homer/

If you'd like to check out the museum but miss the show, here's the link to their website for hours, etc.:
https://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/

OR if you happen to be in Vermont and not in Maine, Zach is also putting together another very intriguing artshow I'm sure you'll all love, an exhibition about inexplicable occurrences which will be on display at the Bennington Museum this fall, called "In the Shadow of the Hills."

 Zach can be found online here:  https://www.zachhornart.com/

Here's one of many stunning Winslow Homer's out there in the world, many of which are held at the Portland Museum of Art:

"Watching the Breaker [A High Sea]" by Winslow Homer


Thursday, August 04, 2022

Rumors! Exciting rumors about the long-defunct Funtown Haunted Mansion!!

 Okay, things have been pretty quiet here on the blog while I've been working away at interviews and research, but this little tidbit is too exciting not to talk about.

Back when I was a little kid, my family used to drive down to Biddeford regularly to visit with all our cousins, aunts and uncles.  If we took US Route 1, we would drive past the corridor where Funtown and Aquaboggan lived, in Saco, and I would always stare out the window and wonder about the creepy-looking house that backed onto Route 1 in front of Funtown.  

Years later, I found out that it wasn't just an abandoned house in the middle of all that summer fun -- it was actually a local haunt attraction!  Back when I was little I wouldn't have dared go in, after getting the junk scared out of me at a local haunted house put on by one of the TV stations here in Portland (maybe WGME? I think it was out by the Northgate shopping center at Allen and Washington Aves).  But as a teenager, my little goth self was very intrigued, but was rarely out that way on my own.  The Haunted Mansion was shut down in 1996 as Funtown began tightening up on potential risk factors at the amusement park.

Now, according to a post on WCYY (source: https://wcyy.com/funtown-hints-at-the-return-of-the-haunted-mansion-in-2023/), there are hints that Funtown is going to resuscitate the long-dead attraction, and resurrect the Haunted Mansion -- or something scary, at least.  HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE??? 

Here's the breadcrumb everyone is following: a post on Funtown's own Facebook page!


 If you never knew the Haunted Mansion, or are curious about it, there used to be a great website run by Dave Gagne, one of the many folks who worked there over the years who loved the attraction, but unfortunately thehauntedmansion.org appears to be defunct.  So you'll have to make do with WCYY's post about it here: https://wcyy.com/long-lost-attraction-the-infamous-haunted-mansion-at-funtown-in-saco-maine/

Here's hoping we'll get a new local haunt attraction out of these rumblings from the grave!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Behind the scenes!

 What, you think just because I have two books under my belt that I'm done?  Nahhh.  I've got a few things simmering away here, including a second volume of Bigfoot in Maine, and a book of Maine ghost stories that I'm collecting together (still collecting accounts for both of those).  But that's not all.

I've been pinging away at a bunch of little bits of information that are proving to be extremely elusive.  So I thought I'd just throw this out there, and see what pops up.

I'm looking for information on:

-- an early 1950s proposal to build an aerial tramway in Portland, Maine to increase tourist interest and ease of travel

-- a woodcarver famous for his duck decoys who worked near the Royal River Falls

-- footage of "To Tell the Truth" episode #1015 from the 1971-1972 season 3 of the show (then in its 2nd incarnation)

-- someone with connections to the Alex Tanous Foundation, because I can't seem to get any response from them (have been trying for years now)

 -- early 1950s giant Bean boot prototype-on-wheels and similar giant potato, both produced to promote Maine tourism 

-- anyone who was active in the Maine dowsing community in the late 1960s/early 1970s that was involved in the American Society of Dowsers

-- mid-to-late-1950s UFO sightings near Falmouth, Maine

...and about another million things.  But that'll do for now.  

 If anyone has helpful info for me on any of the above, please email me at michelle.souliere@gmail.com -- I will greatly appreciate it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

More Bigfoot in Maine interviews & a lake monster or two

Hi everyone!  

It's been a while since I've done a roundup of some of the things I've been participating in, so here's a little catch-up for you.

Most recently, Rick Palmer of the Some Other Sphere podcast interviewed me about Bigfoot in Maine, and we had a really interesting conversation, which he just posted here:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/episode-78-michelle-souliere-bigfoot-in-maine/id1459984683?i=1000558123406


Prior to that, I did a couple of panel discussions on Cosmoetica, which you can view here:
Bigfoot discussion (ep #329) with host Dan Schneider and fellow guests Dr. Jeff Meldrum and Kelly Milner Halls, back in Nov 2021:
Kind of amazed I was part of this, it was a terrific experience.

Lake Monsters! (ep #343) with host Dan Schneider and fellow guests Kelly Milner Halls and Shetan Noir, in March 2022.  This time I branched out a little into aquatic cryptics, using the monster of Lake Pohenegamook, on the Quebec/Maine border, as my Maine case study.
 
...and back at the end of last year, I had a fantastic chat with LeeAnn and Angela of the Spirited History podcast, but it was on the ParaX Radio Network, and I can't seem to find a link for an archive of the episode anywhere -- more's the pity because we discussed a bunch of Strange Maine topics, too.  :(  Ah well!
 
I hope you all enjoy these.  :)  Happy spring!!


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Zoom EVENT: Thurs April 21: Bigfoot in Maine & New Hampshire!

 Hello folks! If anyone is interested in a free Zoom talk about Bigfoot in New England (focusing on the New Hampshire/Maine region), I'll be regaling viewers for the North Hampton Public Library next week, on Thurs April 21 at 7:00pm. Please pre-register here so you are able to attend: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUrcu2vrT8vHtCMX7GEXEjlui_EfFEfEw2y