Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sea Serpents in Maine Redux

As a follow-up to Michelle's Sea Serpents in Maine, I offer "A Plea For a Monster," from the Harper's New Monthly Magazine of July 1860. Author Charles Nordhoff argues for the existence of sea serpents, and marshals as evidence several sightings made along the Maine coast.

Here's one early account:
A letter of March, 1781, from Captain Little, of the United States Navy, to Mr. Bradford, of Boston, states that in May, 1780, as he was lying in Broad Bay (Penobscot), in a public armed ship, he discovered at sunrise a large serpent coming down the bay on the surface of the water. The cutter was manned and armed; he went himself into the boat; and when within 100 feet of the serpent the marines were ordered to fire on him; but before they could make ready he plunged into the water. He was not less than 45 to 50 feet long; the largest diameter of his body was supposed to be 15 inches; and his head nearly the size of that of a man. He carried four or five feet of his length out of the water, which had the appearance of a black snake. He was afterward pursued; but they never came nearer than a quarter of a mile. [p. 181]
See also Rev. Abraham Cummings' description of a serpent witnessed in Penobscot Bay in 1809 [p. 183], an 1830 account from Kennebunk [p. 184], and all the great illustrations — mostly of ships confronted by serpents and giant squid.

Peace on Earth?

Well, not in Vassalboro, apparently! A local man named Kenneth Knox chased his brother-in-law around the house with an ax on Christmas Day, then threw gasoline on his sister and her computer, then on a woodstove which consequently erupted in flames.

Why was Mr. Knox so upset? Well, because his brother-in-law had asked him to go outside to clean his chainsaw.

Is it just me, or does this sound like something out of a surreal set-up?

When apprehended by the police Knox was described by the sheriff as being "kind of distraught and uncooperative."

Seen this morning on the WCSH-6 morning news. Story here.
Press Herald article with more details here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Another Strange Maine Christmas

Well I hope everyone had a good holiday. We here at The Hive made our way 5 hours north to Presque Isle to visit with Tristan's family up there. It was a good time though it did involve eating far too much in the way of cheese, potatoes, eggs and bread for us vegetarians. Christmas Eve morning we hooked up with Kris LeVasseur in Fort Fairfield and proceeded to spent the strangest holiday ever with him doing a photo shoot in a small graveyard behind his father's property.

The photo shoot involved Tristan in full zombie makeup and full winter regalia (bomber hat, et al) snowblowing in the graveyard. How very ludicrous and wonderful. This seems to be the usual result of Kris finding willing participants for the things his brain cooks up.

The graveyard was a bit of curiosity in and of itself. It is tucked off the main road in a sparsely wooded area, on a small hill overlooking rather watery land. The purity of the Northern Maine landscape in the winter is magnificent. The air was cold and still and grey-bright. The graveyard is home to a small group of late 1800s graves. There are 5 or so upright stones, and a handful (I am told) of flat inset stones that were hidden by the snow.

I took photos of all the uprights, including this one which is remarkable in that it hearkens back to H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Thing on the Doorstep." This take takes place in part in Maine, and the villainess in the story is named Asenath Waite. Asenath is a remarkable name, one which I have not heard in any context before or since reading the story. Yet here in a remote location in Maine I found a stone with the name Asenith inscribed on it. An interesting coincidence. I wonder if Lovecraft found this very graveyard in his taphophilic wanderings?

Maine Werewolf book

A new fiction book about a modern-day middle class Maine werewolf is hitting the shelves. All Things Maine has the scoop.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Trespasser's Weird Xmas Decor

The AP reports the strange story of a man who was arrested in Maine on July 29, 2004, for trespassing on Martha Stewart's property. That man is one Joe Moretti, a 38-year old designer who actually lives in Rhode Island (he liked Martha enough to trek up to Maine?!). Apparently every year Moretti mounts a wild Christmas celebrity spectacle on his front lawn, setting his middle class neighborhood aglow. This year the theme is Paris Hilton. I could have made you guess that but you never would have figured it out of the blue.

The display sports a miasma of pink Christmas lights, tips on being a Hilton, and lifesize and larger depictions of Paris and her tiny dog, Tinkerbell. Phew. Neighbors' reactions are mixed. Many seemed to take it in stride, but a few had other things to say:

Ron Raffonelli, 65, said he would be upset if his young grandchildren came to associate Christmas with naked woman. He'd prefer the kids to think of Santa Claus instead.After all, Raffonelli said, "He's been around longer."

A good idea, but his historical backing is a little off, unless we're speaking of the Santa-Who-Always-Was-Will-and-Shall-Be, some cosmic deity who precedes the evolution of the human race.

The article has this to say about Moretti's criminal history in Maine and his fascination with Martha Stewart:

Last year, he paid tribute to Martha Stewart even as he and another man faced charges for sneaking on to the domestic maven's property. The charges were later dismissed, and the men donated money to public libraries near the property. Moretti calls the incident a "big misunderstanding."

Stewart's 61-acre estate is located in Seal Harbor and is known as Skyland. Moretti claimed he was invited onto the grounds by Stewart employees who later changed their mind.

As a Stewart sidenote, she recently kicked off the Mount Desert Island marathon, but because she is technically an ex-con the traditional pistol shot was verboten, leaving Martha holding an airhorn instead. (source: The Working Waterfront)

Monday, December 19, 2005

More Maine Movie News

I just blogged at All Things Maine about a new website, New England Indies, that allows local indie filmmakers to post short films, trailers, music videos, etc. Clips are offered as Quicktime movies, and as free video podcasts.

Here's a synopsis of the first movie posted:
They Came to Attack Us
Maine : 7:19 min : Newborn Pictures

A woman from the future delivers the ultimate weapon — to a hapless video store clerk. Can he figure out the weapon, fight off the alien horde and get the cute girl’s phone number before the earth is destroyed?

Filmed in Portland, Maine.

Directors: Efram Potelle, Kyle Rankin
Writers: Efram Potelle, Kyle Rankin [Link]
According to the Newborn Pictures website, Potelle and Rankin had only a $50 budget for They Came to Attack Us, but the short was picked up for broadcast by the Sci-Fi Channel two weeks after premiering in Portland. They went on to greater fame when they won the second Project Greenlight contest and were allowed to direct The Battle of Shaker Heights — a film noted for its lack of alien hordes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Casting Call! Ghost story film...

Hi everyone! Exciting news here at Strange Maine from Emptyhouse Film -- hot on the heels of their latest film Mud, writer/director Andy Davis is filming their next flick at the Stone House on the Wolf's Neck Preserve (officially the Wolfe's Neck State Park) in late January early February. Apply now if you want to be involved!!!

The story is a great, atmospheric ghost story, focusing on a woman alone in the Maine winter.

"HOUSE OF MAGGOT" a feature length film
A modern day "victorian style" ghost story.
Shooting: Jan 27th- Feb 2nd
Location: Freeport Maine
Production Company: Emptyhouse Film/Motion Media

Elana- Female lead. 30-45 years old. (paid)
Rachel- Elana’s friend. 30-45 years old (paid)
Robert- Elana’s husband 30-45 years old (paid)

Priest: male, any age (unpaid)
Doctor: male 45-70 (unpaid)
Psychic 1: any (unpaid)
Psychic 2: any (unpaid)
Psychic 3: any (unpaid)
Librarian: any (unpaid)

If you are interested in auditioning for any role, please send your headshot to emptyhousefilm@gmail.com Auditions will be held the first week of

The Stone House is now owned by USM and used primarily as a place to hold such events as the Stonecoast Writers' Conference. Wolfe's Neck State Park is a place of shore rocks and pine trees, very beautiful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wilhelm Reich Files

The FBI released almost 800 pages of documents regarding Wilhelm Reich recently, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Reich is well-known in many obscure circles for his pursuit of what many called strange research, from orgone treatment to an anti-gravity formula. For a sample of his involvement in these otherworldly avenues of interest, please see this recent article at Phenomena Magazine about Reich in the role of secret ally to Eisenhower in dealing with the Roswell alien episode in the 1950s.

What does Reich have to do with Maine? Maine was his home for many of his later years, and now hosts his museum on the same 175-acre site near the Rangeley Lakes.

Lost in the swirl of controversy about his constant fight with U.S. governmental entities is his overall aim to aid the human race in general, and children specifically. To quote the institute's website: "He wrote eloquently and passionately about the importance of safeguarding the emotional health of infants and children, often referring to their 'unspoiled protoplasm' and 'unarmored life.'" To this day, the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust exists to serve that aim, and their continuing efforts include the use of a lakeside cabin on the grounds of the museum:

"Since 1988, from July through August, the Trust has donated this cabin free of charge to adoptive, foster, and kinship children and their families who could not otherwise afford a summer camp experience as a family. Every summer eight families get to spend a week at Tamarack which offers quiet, seclusion, access to the shores of Dodge Pond with their own private dock, and the opportunity to be together in the beauty of the Rangeley Lakes region."

Valorus P. Coolidge Redux

Back at the beginning, there was a lively account of Chris D's distant relative, Dr. Valorus P. Coolidge, and his murder of the unfortunate Edward Mathews in Waterville, Maine. During the discussion, it was discovered that a murder ballad had been written about the event, and your humble servant undertook to retrieve a copy of said ballad through the magic of inter-library loan, as published in Olive Woolley Burt's American Murder Ballads and Their Stories.

Now, Ms. Burt is apparently prone to repeating less-than-accurate historical accounts, based as they are on hearsay scores of years after the facts occurred, so we will skip her version of the murder, and move on to the lyrics of the ballad itself. The ballad, she states, is twenty-six stanzas long, of which she includes for publication stanzas 3 through 21, which she qualifies as "the only pertinent ones." To wit:

Poor Edward Mathews, where is he?
Sent headlong into eternity.
The mortal debt by him is paid,
And in his narrow bed he's laid.

No more will anguish seize his soul;
No more will poison fill his bowl;
No more will friendship clutch his throat,
Or o'er his mangled body gloat.

O! V.P. Coolidge, how could you
So black a deed of murder do?
You on your honor did pretend
To be his nearest earthly friend.

You knew to Brighton he had gone,
And watched each hour for his return.
The hay for cattle which he drove
You swore within your heart to have.

You failed in that, but did succeed,
By promising a mortgage deed,
Of all on earth that you possessed
So that he could in safety rest.

The money from the bank he drew
And brought forth with faithfulness to you,
Not dreaming of your vile intent,
Alone into your office went.

You said, 'Dear Mathdws, worthy friend,
Our friendship here shall never end.
A glass of brandy you must drink;
'Twill do you good, I surely think.'

He drank the liquor you had fixed,
With Prussic acid amply mixed.
Then cried, 'O Lord! What can it be?
What poison have you given me?'

You seized his throat and stopp'd his breath,
Until your friend lay still in death;
The with your hatchet bruised his head
After he was entirely dead.

His money then you took away,
And hid his watch out in your sleigh;
Then called to your confederate
And all your doings did relate.

I have a secret, Flint, you said,
And if by you I am betrayed
The state will me for murder try
And on the gallow I must die.

That cursed Mathews, don't you think,
Came here and did some brandy drink,
Then instantly he fell down dead,
And I have thumped him on the head.

Where can we now his body thrust,
So that no one can us mistrust,
Inyonder room his corpse is laid,
I wish the river were its bed.

The murder we have done this night,
Tomorrow will be brought to light,
But my good character and name
Will shield me from all harm and blame.

We dragged his lifeless form away,
Into a cellar there to lay,
Until some one by chance did see
His mangled, bruised, and dead body.

O, Edward Mathews, could you know
The scathing pangs I undergo,
You surely would look down from heaven,
And say let Coolidge be forgiven.

An interesting side note is that the broadside that Ms. Burt used as her source was actually signed "V.P. Coolidge," which she speculates over thusly: "...whether he actually composed the verses or this was the wily trick of one who wished to profit by the event it is now impossible to say." Hmm. Yes, Ms. Burt, ponder on. How many murderers write their own murder ballads?! Well, technically, I guess Dr. Coolidge could have, since the best information indicates he did escape his death sentence...

Burt herself is an interesting study in personality, as she has "loved murder folklore since childhood," when "her mother clipped mournful verses from newspapers and saved them in a scrapbook."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Old Portland

I have an old late-1800s Portland map up on my office wall. Today I finally got around to looking at it, and found some interesting stuff. For one thing, there used to be a wharf off of Commercial Street called Widgery Wharf. What a great name. Apparently, though I've never noticed a sign for it, it still exists. David Wade, a documentary photographer, did a photo essay on it in 2002.

In his words: "I am particularly fascinated with one old wooden dock, one of the last remaining fish piers that hasn't fallen victim to either old age or recent residential and recreational development. Widgery Wharf is the oldest working wharf in Portland, built in 1774, two years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The wharf plane reeks and creaks of history, with its pilings worn to near nothing by centuries of sea worms, and those other holes where the molasses shed once stood. On moonless nights, boats would surreptitiously slide under the dock with hand augers, bore holes, siphon the rich black syrup into barrels, and slip into the darkness with their sweet plunder. The tanks are gone now, along with the downeast drillers for black gold. All that remains today is the lobstermen, but the memory perseveres among the old-timers whose shacks line the dock.

"Collectively owned by five families of lobstermen, Widgery Wharf is a bastion of Yankee independence, a traditional fishery where men work for themselves, labor hard with their hands, and set out to sea in small craft to make their living. I was struck by the simplicity and directness of these fiercely independent lobstermen, who keep a tradition by hauling traps just as their fathers had before them." Source.

I wonder if, in fact, Widgery is one of the wharves that I have wandered around on with my camera, beguilded as Wade is by the creak of the timbers and the age-old smell of salt.

Another thing I noticed was the Portland Jail was tucked up on the East End, between Madison and Monroe Street, off of Washington Street (now Washington Avenue).

Back Cove, even back then, sported "Base Ball Grounds", though they were over about a block from where they are now, right in back of my office, and Baxter Boulevard didn't exist. In fact, the Portland City Limits ended past the back end of Deering Oaks Park where the railroad tracks and interstate lie today. Anywhere past that line (which ran along Deering Street/Avenue up past Noyes Street and then along Douglas Street) became a part of the Town of Deering, for those of you who are always wondering why the neighborhood around Deering High School is called North Deering.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Witch Trot Land

I've run across a pamphlet published in 1937, written by "a couple of witches" — namely, Anne Mountfort and Katherine Marshall. It's called (in full) "Witch Trot Land : Being a bit about the Mother of Maine, York County, or Yorkshire, or New Somersetshire, from which ALL Maine counties came. Of her hopes and dreams and heartbreaks, and of the first incorporated English city in America. . . . . Credit is freely and gratefully given to everything we could lay our hands on — we had to — we weren't here in the 1600's."

The book is partly a conventional history of York County towns, partly an account of local witches and other oddities, like this:
As renowned as Hamelin for its rats is Alfred for its white-footed mice, and orders pour in from far and near. These are the kangaroo or meadow jumping mouse, not a marsupial, with longer hind than fore legs, long-tailed, fawn-colored, black-eyed, small and pretty, with erect ears. One woman will never be the same again for she killed 40-odd in her kitchen before she knew there was a demand for them. [p. 36]
Berwick seems to have been especially afflicted with witches, as poor Mrs. Hurtado could have attested:
Mary Hurtado, Portuguese housewife, near Salmon Falls in 1682, asked what she was doing, seeing no one, didn't reply, and was promptly struck a blow which nearly ruined her eyesight. Then a huge stone rattled along the side of the house but couldn't be found. A frying pan in the chimney rang so loud it could be heard a quarter mile away. Her head was swollen and sore, there were contusions of her breast and arms where unseen missiles had maimed her, and even her husband was not immune for when he was crossing the river he saw a man's head sailing along, the disjointed tail of a cat in hot pursuit, and five or six rods of cornfield fence were overthrown and his crop invaded by neat cattle that did no damage. [p. 39]
A 2003 article in The York Weekly references this work in recounting some York ghost stories.

Monday, December 05, 2005

SoPo Friendly's Weird

Good morning! Here are a few tidbits about my regular Friendly's restaurant, the one out by the Maine Mall in South Portland.

1. Their booth tables are coffin-shaped. I am totally serious. At least ours was.

2. They were singing "Yes we have no bananas, we have no bananas today" in the kitchen.

3. The fellow who seated us (the manager, maybe?) is, in fact, Joe Anderson, a guy who was in my freshman Earth Sciences class at Deering High School, as taught by the amazing Glen Black. Oh big deal, you say. Well, Joe forever stands out in my mind because at some point during freshman year he went to an Alice Cooper concert and came back the next day wearing his souvenir tour t-shirt covered in fake blood from when the usual Cooper mayhem erupted on stage. Joe Anderson will forever be cool, in my eyes, because of that. There was also an incident with a baggie full of oregano, but the details of that are a little fuzzy, perhaps because he kept changing his story.

Well, Happy Monday, all!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vampire Lezbos INVADE!!!

Portland's own deacons of underground conspiracy-theory based rock are back in town from San Franciso, on their "Expose the Truth" tour, playing tonight at legendary hotspot Geno's on Congress Street. The Vampire Lezbos are old favorites of the punk crowd, being founded appropriately in 1984, thank you George Orwell.

To quote their given AGENDA:
"The LEZBOS are a SOCIO-POLITICAL BAND with lyrical content focusing on that of SUPPRESSED KNOWLEDGE and OPPRESION OF THE MASSES.
What is it all about anyway? In no particular order: the extensive 'alien' presence on earth, known to most of the world's governments; time travel made possible in the 1940's; the earth being hollow(as are all planetary bodies, including the moon), and resided in; ...(snip huge chunk, go read it yourself if you like)... indoctrination disguised as education in our schools to produce apathetic consumers who perpetuate the system for the benefit of the few; the supressed knowledge that this universe is a subjective creation of our minds, and with that knowledge, can be changed...the list goes on. The bottom line being that we have all been lied to royally and with this information, society could finally know true liberation."

They'll be opened for by Covered In Bees, the best in Portland's new rock blood, and Big Meat Hammer, who are descendants of such Portland underground luminaries as the Gore Hounds (personal favorites of mine). Don't miss it!!!

Orb Weavers?

This past summer (it seems so far away now), a Phippsburg resident found a very strange construction in a local tree. The nearest that the folks at Maine Nature News could assess is that the white ball is the work of an orb-weaver spider. Pretty interesting stuff! And a pretty weird looking thing to find in your tree (see photo via link). [NOTE: If you check out their main page you will find great photo-illustrated current articles and links to local webcams. Good stuff.]

BugGuide.net has this to say about Famous Orb Weavers:
"Some orb weavers are influential enough to make history. One such spider was the inspiration of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web. Charlotte, who spun her webs in Maine, was an Araneus cavaticus, sometimes called a "Barn Spider". (NOTE: Not all barn spiders are A. cavaticus; there are several species of spiders that are commonly called barn spiders.)" While you're on their site, be sure to look at the photos of some of the crazy-looking variations of the breed. Some are quite scary looking, though harmless.

Maine has an interesting variety of buggity-boos, and recent rumors include statements from Olive Garden staff members about black widows arriving in tomato shipments, replete with warning notices for employees to be on the lookout. Other establishments have had similar problems, from all reports.

Ahhh, I love a good rumor. Also, I love spiders, scary or not. They eat up a lot of the other insects that are far more pesky. This past summer seems to have been a bumper one for our arachnid neighbors. There were more webs strung around my apartment building, including across stairways and between cars and the side of the house, than I have ever seen before, and they were BIGGER than I've ever seen before, as were the grey and brown fuzzy eight-leggers that were astride them, and stronger (which can be an issue when it's 2 in the morning and you find a web wrapped around your face).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Maine UFOria

A few highlights from the National UFO Reporting Center's UFO reports from Maine:
  • Brewer (June 9, 2004): "What I saw was a 3D cube floating above the ground oriented standing on end. I dont believe that it was rotating. The only way to describe the outer surface of the object is to say that if you took video footage of a large sheet caught in a rising thermal (the sheet fully spread out and tossing in the thermal) and projected that footage on the outside of the 3D cube... that is what I saw."
  • Gardiner (Aug. 4, 2002): "The plants (grasses and fescue with goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace, clover and milkweed) were fairly gently laid over, with the thicker-stalked plants such as milkweed clearly showing bending at the base. No broken stalks were found. All plants were swirled clockwise and it could not be determined whether the swirls had begun in the centers or ended there. The initial impression of the crop lay was of fluidity, with a clear undulating character to the flow of downed plants."
  • Scarborough (Aug. 8, 1958): "I was climbing a tree in a neighbor's yard. The land sloped downhill from where I was. From that high vantage point, I could see across a forest that was intersected by a meandering power line that was probably 1/4 to 1/3 mi away from me as the crow flies. There were two sets of lines, and there on the ground was a saucer-shaped disk with a dome on top. The craft appeared to span most of the distance between the stantions so I would guess it might have been 50 feet across."
This site has well over 200 first-hand accounts of UFO sightings in Maine — well worth a peek even if you're a skeptic like me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sea Serpents in Maine

A year or so ago I started reading a lot about giant squids, and inevitably got intrigued by accounts of sea serpents, especially ones purported to inhabit the cold waters along the New England coast. While most of these sightings were Victorian-era, some were surprisingly recent.

The most recent I've found of late is on the Unmuseum page, circa 2002:

"I work for a science museum and recently got a phone call from a woman who is insisting that she saw something called the Biddeford Sea Monster which is Maine's equivalent to the Loch Ness Monster. Do you know anything about this legend? Until she called me I had never heard of it.
- Anonymous

Your caller may have been referring to the sea serpent that reportedly haunted the coves and bays along New England during the 18th, 19th and much of the early 20th century. Though a listing of sea serpent reports from that era shows none specifically for Biddeford, nearby Kennebunk, Wells Beach, Kittery, Casco Bay and Portland all have multiple sightings associated with them. All in all over 200 reports were made during this period and even today nobody is quite sure of what people were seeing.

A good place to start with learning about the phenomenon is our own page,
The Monstrous Sea Serpent of Gloucester, and J.P. O'Neill's excellent volume The Great New England Sea Serpent. If you caller indeed sighted the creature it will be welcome news for serpent supporters who have been concerned that over-fishing along the coast my have deprived the animal of its food supply and driving it away from the coast."


Loren Coleman, as usual, is way ahead of me. Back in 1958 a sea serpent was spotted in Casco Bay just off of Portland, and many years later the witness approached him with his story. The account was re-published in the Portland Press Herald on October 30, 2005. I guess they never got any really good local ghost stories in time for Halloween, and went for the monsters instead. Though they don't mention it in the article, the adopted moniker for our local sea serpent is Cassie (for Casco Bay), according to Mr. Coleman.

Sunday, October 30, 2005
Sea serpent in Casco Bay?
Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Here is an excerpt from "The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep," co-authored by Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe.

DATE: June 5, 1958
WITNESSES: Ejmar Hairgaard, Ole Mikkelsen
LOCATION: Casco Bay, Gulf of Maine

In 1985, an elderly Scandinavian man cautiously approached the speaker who had just given a talk on cryptozoology before the Appalachian Mountain Club. The man told the speaker, Loren Coleman, that a friend of his had seen a Sea Serpent. The man was Ole Mikkelsen of Portland, Maine.

When Coleman interviewed Mikkelsen, the fisherman began to relive his experience, the date exploding from Mikkelsen's lips: "The fifth day of June 1958! I won't soon forget it."

In 1985, Mikkelsen was not only trim, muscular, and tanned, but alert and active for a man of 81. He told Coleman that he had been fishing since he was six and continued to do so up through 1984. Born and raised in Denmark, he had come to Maine in 1923, and he knew the waters of Casco Bay well. But he had never seen anything before 1958 to prepare him for the monster he saw that June.

The fifth had started like most workdays for Mikkelsen. Up early, he and his partner, Ejmar Hairgaard, since deceased, were out to sea before daybreak. Mikkelsen recalled that it was about a half hour after sunrise, about 6 a.m., when they first saw "it." They were about five miles off Cape Elizabeth, only about one and a quarter miles south of the Portland Light Ship.

"Suddenly," Mikkelsen recalled, "we saw an object coming toward us out of a haze; we took it to be a submarine, but as it came near we discovered it was some live thing. As it came still nearer it dove down and a tail came up out of the water, and slowly it went down again. In about three or four minutes it surfaced again, came near us, and dove again. Then it came up once more about 125 feet away from us and stopped as if to look us over."

At that point, Hairgaard shouted, "Give me the knife; if it comes nearer, we'll cut the nets and run for the lightship!"

"But luckily," Mikkelsen said, "it decided to swim in a nice turn to the south of us. We saw it disappear to the southeast in the haze."

Not surprisingly, Mikkelsen's metaphors and frames of reference related to his years of fishing. He said the thing's color was like that of a cusk, a light-brown North Atlantic food fish, with a lighter underside to its neck. He said the tail was like a mackerel's. But of course, he knew it was not a cusk or a mackerel.

Mikkelsen was certain that what he saw was well over one hundred feet long. The head stuck out of the water and was broader than the long neck it was on. He could not pick out any ears or eyes, but he is certain it could hear.

Mikkelsen reported that every time the Portland Light Ship blew its mournful foghorn, as the anchored Coast Guard vessel did regularly, the creature turned its head in that direction. Hairgaard and Mikkelsen had the creature in view for more than 45 minutes, and they regularly saw the creature's head rotating toward the sound of the lightship's horn.

The Mikkelsen report fits well into the body of reports dating back to the eighteenth century from the waters northeast of Maine, in Broad Bay in 1751 and in Penobscot Bay in 1779, when Sea Serpents were sighted by men fishing the same waters. During June and July 1818, fishermen told of seeing a Sea Serpent in Portland Harbor. Many sightings occurred off Woods Island, Maine, in the early 1900s. And Eastport, Maine, was the scene of encounters in the late 1930s and in 1940.

Sources: Interview with Ole Mikkelsen of Portland, Maine, by Loren Coleman, 1985; "Portlandiana: Casco Bay's Sea Serpent," Portland Monthly, May 1986; Loren Coleman, "Mysterious America: The Revised Edition (New York: Paraview, 2001).

Excerpt from "The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep," by Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe



Around the same time, I found to my amusement this morning, Chris D over at All Things Maine published an article on the Mount Desert Island sea serpent. I wonder if that 100-foot long mysterious skeleton found in 1819 is still in the neighborhood? I would love to see it.


The 1800s seem to have been a very popular time for oceanic oddities in Maine, as another report, this time from New Harbor, Maine, shows. This was found on Strangemag.com as part of an excellent article called Bring Me The Head of The Sea Serpent! The creature described sounds absolutely fascinating. A real sea serpent, in effect!

The New Harbor "Sea Serpent"

In August 1880, a sea serpent of sorts was procured that apparently comprised a quite different but equally unknown species of shark. Captured dead by Captain S. W. Hanna at New Harbor in Maine, it was approximately 25 ft. long and 10 in. wide, and was shaped like an eel, with a flat head whose upper portion projected over its small mouth (containing sharp teeth, and positioned at the tip of its head), fine sharklike skin, an eel-like tail fin, a pair of small fins behind its head, a small triangular dorsal fin, and just three pairs of gills, which were not covered by a flap of skin.

Overall, therefore, it resembled an eel-like shark--in particular, a deepwater serpentine version called the frilled shark Chlamydoselachus anguineus ("snakelike shark with frills"), which, unlike most other species, does have a terminally sited mouth and a noticeably elongated body. However, the longest confirmed specimens of frilled shark do not exceed 7 ft.

Moreover, the New Harbor fish was additionally distinguished via its paucity of gill pairs--all modern day sharks possess at least five pairs. Clearly, therefore, Hanna's catch was a most significant one--which makes it all the more tragic that although its appearance was ultimately documented by an eminent ichthyologist, Prof. Spencer Baird, by that time the body itself had been discarded. No comparable specimen has been recorded since.

And you know, if I saw one of these little doggies coming at me in the water, I would be suitably terrified.


Another fine article is found in the Boothbay Register, reprinting an original account of the 1831 Boothbay sea serpent sightings. This is a wonderfully colorful account, including such eyewitness quotes as "Back they came, their eyes big as saucers, screaming, 'Mother, Mother, there's the biggest eel you ever see in your life, got into the cove (Fairy Cove).'"

The author of the article laments the common sense of the woman in question, saying "This was unquestionably a young serpent, and I only regretted at the time no attempt had been made to arouse him to some demonstration. Mrs. Chandler declared she 'expected every moment he would come on shore, and there was no telling what he would do.' " Hey, give the lady a break. (Although, it must be admitted that if a hypothetical Mrs. Chandler had provoked the beastie into untold acts, it would make a bang-up monster movie premise). Besides, how rude to harass a sea serpent. Have a little respect, there, mister!


Finally, if I had not been dealing with my monstrous (ha ha) wedding, I would have had the excellent opportunity to improve my knowledge of the sassy sea serpents of Maine by attending the recent Cryptozoology Conference, at which J.P. O'Neill gave a talk on the subject, as reviewed in the Portland Phoenix. I don't suppose anyone out there videotaped it???

Well, let's hear it for giant, strange sea creatures in Maine. Here, here!!!

Have a great Thanksgiving, one and all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Double Identity

Strange Maine... actually, forget double identity -- it's really a triple identity. Like Brendan Evans, proprietor of the phantasmagorical store on Congress Street (Portland) of the same name, I too am under the spell of the book entitled Strange Maine.

Last week I deposited some little flyers for this site in Strange Maine (the store), and received a report from Brendan the other day that there is some confusion occurring. So, for the sake of clarity amongst all the weirdness, here is a rundown of Strange Maine as I understand it.

Strange Maine the first: The book.
Edited by Charles G. Waugh, with Martin H. Greenberg and Frank D. McSherry, Jr. and published in 1986. This anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories set in Maine is a weird little collection, true to its name. Many of us read it when we were younger, and many more of us discover and rediscover it again as adults, lured in by the garish and mysterious cover art and the promise of Maine-related oddities. Amazon.com doesn't even have a synopsis for it, but lit-wise it's a heavy hitter, with works by Stephen King, Fritz Leiber, Pangborn, Ruth Sawyer, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Jane Yolen, Thomas A. Easton, Charlotte Armstrong, and more. Haven't read it? There are copies available all over the place, and they run as cheap as 89 cents used at Amazon. Someday maybe I'll do a rundown of the stories for the curious.

Strange Maine the second: The store.
Here's a good interview with Brendan done by the Free Press that covers some of the basics of the store's history and general mojo vibe, with some good photos thrown in to boot. Basically, this store is the latest and greatest nexus of weirdness in Portland. Opened not too long ago, it has quickly garnered quite the reputation among the crowd that seeks for somewhere sincerely strange to go. Packed with artifacts and detritus from pop culture and the leaky hands of artists, its a regular stop for experimental bands on tour and spontaneous film festivals. All events are free. There is a schedule posted on their website (if you are having a hard time reading the type because of its color, just highlight the text using your mouse or print it out). Prices inside the shop are for the most part ridiculously reasonable. This shop, while not directly affiliated with this site, is definitely a homebase for it, and we here at Strange Maine the site HIGHLY RECOMMEND Strange Maine the store. We like to think of it as our Sister Store (kind of like Sister Cities only smaller and bigger at the same time).

Strange Maine the third: This site.
Well, you're here, but do you understand it? I certainly don't. Basically it is even newer than the store, but it's based on the same type of premise. Maine is a little weird and we love it that way. We are fascinated both by current stuff and the historical base that preceded it. It's a little obsessive, but that's alright with us. Sometimes being obsessed is the only way to get things done. We welcome new members -- just send an e-mail to msouliere AT meca DOT edu (figure that out -- it's easy -- I'm trying to avoid spambots) if you would like to be able to post articles, instead of just commenting. If you don't want to join up, please feel free to sound off anyhow, we're wide open here. So far, just over a month into this, things are going smashingly, with almost 450 hits to date and some really neat people coming on board. Personally, I'm very excited about it all. It makes me hop up and down like a maniac when I get to thinking about all the fun I'm having doing this.

Future plans include a possible print version of salient articles to be distributed throughout Maine for free whereever we can land a corner of a store counter. Please let me know if you have a perch for us, and your address, and I'll file it away for that happy day (hopefully in the near future, yes indeedy!).

Oh, who am I? Well, I'm supposedly an illustrator by trade, though currently I work in an office. I have a spotty history of notoriety in the zine community for such rags as Poetry Comix, Baby Mandelbrot, and Bad Cakes/Bad Influences (a cooperative effort with my friend Chris W, also posting here on Strange Maine). I dig Maine. I dig research. I dig finding things out randomly or following up on rumors. I love to write. You name it -- email, articles, stories, hand-written letters (my god! you can't be serious but I am). It's all dessert to me.

So I hope this clears up some of the confusion for any new visitors and current members. I mean, we can't clear ALL of it up, then there wouldn't be any mystery! And I am firmly convinced that confusion is good for the soul.

So... stay tuned, and read on!!!


Speaking of strange local films as we have been lately, it might be a good time to mention that Lobsteroids is available for viewing at the Streets of Portland website. Poor viewing quality, but the mad scientist speaks clearly from his lab on Peaks Island, so it's worth a gander!

Speaking of Streets of Portland, tunnels, and all that good stuff -- I'll be exploring the facilities there tonight when I accompany Tristan, as Eggbot has a gig there tonight. Rumors abound of a load-in trek below the Congress Street block that is 1/3 of a mile long. We'll see!!! I'll bring my camera, eh?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fugitive Florida Toes Cause Trouble

More goodies from the cache of the Press Herald! This time it's pure foolishness. Whoa, Nellie! Again, I have highlighted the (ir?)relevant text. Har!


Wednesday, December 10, 2003 11:15 pm

Penobscot County sheriff appears on Newsweek cover
Associated Press
©Copyright 2003 Associated Press.

BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County sheriff is gaining national exposure with his appearance on the cover of this week´s Newsweek magazine.

Sheriff Glenn Ross appears on the cover of the national publication with a minister and a doctor as part of a cover story on how lawsuits are affecting professionals in fields from education to law enforcement.

Ross was featured in the article talking about a bizarre case last year involving a man wanted in Florida who fled into the woods in Mattawamkeag and eluded police for three days.

But the man later lost two toes to frostbite, so he threatened to sue police for not capturing him quickly enough. A lawsuit was never filed.

Ross was flown to New York City last week for the photo shoot with a minister from South Carolina and a doctor from New York.

On Tuesday, after the magazine hit the newsstands, Ross fielded questions and comments from Penobscot County commissioners and autographed a copy of the magazine for Penobscot County Administrator Bill Collins.

"It´s kind of surreal to see your picture there," Ross said.


This, of course, led me to more concurrent mention of the story, which baffled newshounds everywhere! Here is a nice summation with quotes from the fugitive from a Utah website:

"Fugitive Harvey Taylor is threatening to sue the Maine sheriff's deputy who failed to track him down fast enough, a delay that resulted in Taylor's losing three toes to frostbite after he spent three nights wandering in the woods. Taylor, a convicted sex offender wanted in Florida, said he got caught in hip-deep snow while fleeing. From his hospital Taylor was quoted as saying, "If [the deputy] had done his job properly, I wouldn't be here right now." (Washington Post, Dec 29, 2002)"

The McLarty Firm reports that "Harvey Taylor has not filed a suit in ME or FL, because most lawyers refuse to take cases without merit." Of course.

Bears Like Beer

I was digging around on the Press Herald's site and found a cache of this story from earlier this year. I've highlighted the text that made me hoot in a different color.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005 6:15 pm

Moosehead beer caper trial begins for Canadian truck driver

©Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick — A lone six pack of Moosehead beer was a key exhibit as the trial began for a New Brunswick man charged with stealing a truckload of the beverage en route to Mexico.

Wade Haines of the Fredericton area appeared before judge and jury on Tuesday as his trial opened on a charge of theft in connection with the disappearance of about 50,000 cans of Moosehead beer last August.

Most of the beer, with its distinctive Spanish labeling, was never recovered, although a few stashes of the stolen suds turned up in different areas of the province. Prosecutors said they will rely on circumstantial evidence to convict Haines, who was supposed to be driving the truck when the beer was stolen.

"We´re not asserting Wade Haines acted alone," Crown prosecutor Trent Wilson said as he made his opening remarks to the jury. "Common sense tells us he could not have acted alone, but we intend to prove that he was involved."

No other person has been charged in connection with the heist.

Wilson said that Haines was the person in control of the truck hauling the beer. He said that when the beer vanished, Haines himself was nowhere to be found.

The tractor-trailer was found Aug. 17 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, along the border with Maine, its engine still running and the bulk of the Moosehead gone. Haines was arrested near Peterborough, Ontario, later that month.

The six-pack of beer on the evidence table at the trial showed how distinctive the product was, with English writing on one side of the label and Spanish on the other. Haines was driving the load from Fredericton to the Toronto area, from where it was to be shipped to Mexico.

The beer heist quickly became a celebrated crime story in New Brunswick and beyond, especially after cans of the missing beer started showing up in strange places.

At one point, police discovered a stash at a marijuana operation deep in the woods near Doaktown, New Brunswick. Bears had been at the brew and had consumed at least six cans.

As the crime story started to sound more and more like a Super Bowl commercial, complete with beer-guzzling bears, Moosehead capitalized on the publicity.

Joel Levesque, a Moosehead spokesman, said the brewery was pleased to see the bears favored the New Brunswick-brewed beer.

"The thing that really impressed us is the bears chose the Moosehead beer over the dope," Levesque said.

Only three witnesses gave evidence on the opening day of the trial. They said that the beer was loaded into a truck driven by Haines on Aug. 13. He was supposed to have the load in Ontario by Aug. 16.

Source << may or may not work

Wedding Weirdness

For those of you who have been dying of curiousity as to when exactly my wedding pictures would be available-- here at last is a taste of strange done up in pure Portland style!!!

Witness oodles of photos of Tristan and Michelle's wedding the night before Halloween. We requested that folks show up in costume, and we spent most of the night being amazed at what folks cooked up. It was held at Bubba's Sulky Lounge (a strange Maine place if there ever was one).

Go here: http://www.backawayfromthecake.com/wedding/

Please enjoy. There are lots of them! About 500, I think.


Stephen King's Western Maine

Please take a peek at Chris D's mention of a great article about Maine through the eyes of Stephen King! Mmm.... Strange Maine in spades!!!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tales From the Crypt

The Kennebec Journal reports that human remains stolen seven years ago from a crypt in Readfield will return to town on Monday.

Two skulls were stolen from the crypt of the Nortons — Readfield's oldest family — in 1998.
Collin Sweatt and Nathan Morin, both of Readfield, were charged with breaking into the crypt and stealing jewelry and at least one skull, which police believed was passed around from person to person at parties.

One skull eventually was found at Mount Hope Cemetery in Augusta, between floral arrangements; the second was found buried near a Readfield stream.

Sweatt was sentenced to five years in prison, with all but six months suspended, on a burglary charge, plus nine months for abuse of a corpse. He also was handed four years of probation.

Morin was sentenced to nine months in jail for abuse of a corpse and was ordered to stay out of graveyards as a condition of his three-year probation. [source]
As a genealogist, I have to say that staying out of graveyards for three years would be cruel and unusual punishment.

Mystery Monster Movie?

Okay, in mentioning the movie Mud (see Chris D's excellent post of this morning) to my supervisor here at work, another movie was brought up that seems of great interest in the Strange Maine vein.

She mentioned seeing a locally-made movie featuring a monster that terrorized the streets of Portland. It was very homemade, but she rented a videotape of it at a Saco video store, so it was at least locally distributed. This would have been at least 20 years ago (i.e., circa 1985).

I'm wondering if there are copies of this movie out there still today. Personally, I would LOVE to see a movie of a monster roaming the streets of Portland.

If anyone has any info about this movie, I would love to hear about it!!!

NOTE: The writer/director of "Mud", Andy Davis, has imparted vital information about this film to us here at Strange Maine: "The movie you are looking for was made by Robert Dipitriantnio of Saco. He did the special effects for my movie THE DARK."

Whoopee! We are hot on the trail, folks!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Zamphini Monster's Screen Debut

Here's one more critter for Loren Coleman to track down.

MUD, an independent film debuting Friday in Portland, definitely has a Strange Maine plot. It's also the first feature-length film shot in Maine in high-definition digital video.

Here's the gist:
At the heart of MUD lives the LaPann family. A hardworking father, a stay at home mother, two young boys and a daughter. The family has a history of alcoholism, an affliction that just seems to keep passing itself down to the next generation. When he was 5, Kevin LaPann's father Carol discovered strange tracks in the woods. He poured plaster into one and brought it home.

Measuring in at just over 14 inches, he discovered what he would later call the "Zamphini Monster" and devoted his life as well as a small shed on his property to discovering more about this mysterious being. [Source]
See the press kit for more info on the "Legend of the Zamphini."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Witch's House, Maine

If you go to the Library of Congress' "American Memory" site (very similar to the Maine Historical Society's site mentioned by Chris W) and type the words "maine" and "witch" into the search box, at the top of the list that comes up are two photos taken by Carl Van Vechten entitled "The witch's house, Maine."

The photos, dating from 1936, depict a collapsed Maine house in a field with bare trees. They are stark and eerie. No location is given.

One wonders if Van Vechten was creating a pictorial scenario and imagined the witch himself as a motif that would generate the mood he was witnessing, or if some locals told him that the structure was a witch's house.

Vanished town underwater

Well this is something that I had never thought of -- with all its various dams and whatnot, Maine's rivers must have some areas where local populations' homes wound up underwater in the name of progress. A USA Today article mentions one of these places, which sounds fascinating and well worth checking out:

Flagstaff Lake, Maine
"In 1949, the towns of Dead River and Flagstaff were flooded when a dam was built on the Dead River," Torkells says. "If you canoe on Flagstaff Lake, and the water is low enough, you'll see building foundations, cellar holes, even artifacts. It's pretty creepy. The ghost of an elderly resident, who refused to leave after the flood, is reported to be hanging around. The lake is in western Maine on Route 27 between Stratton and Eustis." 207-246-2271; www.mainemuseums.org/htm/museumdetail.php3?orgID=1616

Maine Shipwrecks Ahoy

A few years ago I did an internship at the Maine Historical Society working on the Maine Memory Network. If you're not familiar with this site, you should definitely check it out. It features many items from the collection of the MHS and over 150 organizations from around Maine. These organizations include libraries, camps, museums, towns, parks, local historical societies, and various other groups.

There is also a fantastic search feature in which you can put keywords to bring up any number of interesting things. Put in the word murder and you get nine items. Put in death, you get 123 items. How about haunted? That gets you 25 items. How fun is that? Granted, the number of items will only be as relevent as whatever keywords they used to catalog the item, but it is still great fun.

One of my tasks during my internship was to pick a topic I was interested in and make an exhibit for the web site. This let me dig through their collection and view many interesting items, which helped me decide upon my choice of Cape Elizabeth Shipwrecks. I highly suggest you read it, not only because I wrote it, but because there are some incredible photos of wrecked vessels and even a rescue in progress in which men are rescued from a wreck during a storm. The pictures are really quite dramatic.

Please view the entire list of exhibits as there are articles on everything from the Civil War to Suffrage to the Kotzschmar Organ. Even though I am not interested in all the exhibits subject matter, the pictures and documents themselves can be interesting.

--Chris Wallace

Vanishing post!!!

Dammit I was writing a huge long post and then it just *poof* disappeared. Argh!!! Maybe I will have time to rewrite the whole goldurn thing later.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

why New England is spookier than Florida

I really think it's the climate. and all the dead Puritans. perhaps the living ones as well.

but then, Florida has its own special brand of sunshiney creepiness. like Stepford.

Wacky Millinocket Election Debacle

Well, we all know that elections get folks all riled up, here and away alike.

This election, the folks in Millinocket's press have been having a field day with a number of issues, including campaign signs being illegally posted, vandalized, and other tomfoolery, which in turn has been sensationalized (and some think tinkered with) by parties involved.

A bit of interesting reading on this, courtesy of the Magic City Morning Star... please read on!

Let's hear it for excellent journalism, and the clearing away of the mists before our eyes! If only the Press Herald were so sharp...

Return from Sleepy Hollow

Well folks, I'm back as of last night from a sojourn south to New York, where I paid an all-too-brief visit to Sleepy Hollow and its cemetery. Of note during the tour of the grounds was a mausoleum that was used as the grave of Barnabas Collins during the filming of the Dark Shadows series (with the addition of the name "Collins" to its doorway). Pictures to follow soon.

I mention this because Dark Shadows is one of those pop culture concoctions that uses Maine as its fictional setting. In the future, Chris Wallace and I would like to post an article (in process) about the connection between Maine and this prominent supernatural television show.

The Scifi Network, upon reairing the series in 1999, states thusly:
"The series stars Jonathan Frid as a vampire named Barnabas Collins who presides over a mansion in Collinsport, Maine, which is home to werewolves, witches, ghosts and other monsters."

Do they mean that the mansion is home to these ghoulies, or Maine in general? One must wonder.

To whet your appetite, here is the purported website of the town of Collinsport, Maine.

At any rate, once again, it's good to be back in Maine!!! :)


Sunday, November 13, 2005

For Sale: Haunted Life Size Doll

Someone is selling on eBay a "Haunted Life Size Doll" with a Maine connection. Here's part of the description:
The story behind this doll is a man named James Herrington met and married a woman named Karen they were married and her husband was crazy about her, Karen was killed in Maine while on a trip to visit her elderly mother. James was heartbroken. Karen was killed in 1998. James found the doll and couldn't believe how much it looked like Karen. After bringing the doll home James hired people who promised him they could do a spell to get Karen's spirit in the doll. James treated this doll like a queen always dressing her in the best clothes. In 2002 James died sitting at the feet of his Karen.
James' sister came into possession of the doll, and contacted a psychic medium to get in touch with her brother through the doll. It all got too scary for the sister when she "kept having dreams of the doll being mad because her clothes hadn't been changed."

The seller advises that "If you are afraid of haunted item's please do not bid."

[Hat tip: BizarreBids.com]

Friday, November 11, 2005

Medical Cannibalism in Penobscot County

Since my first post was so well received, here's another. The following was published in the Bangor Register in 1828 under the headline "Ignorance."
Three of a consumptive family, residing in a town adjacent to this, had been cut off by this dreadful malady, within a very short period of time. During the winter of 1827, whether by some whimsical dream, by some preternatural revelation, or whether it was one of the odd fancies of some quackish old woman, I know not; but the notion came into their heads, that the heart of one who had died of consumption, was a "sure cure" for the disease. Accordingly the last deceased, who had slept in her grave for about one year, was actually disinterred, the heart extracted, and a tincture made for the cure of another sister.

A woman, about 60 years of age, walked some miles, to a physician of this town, expressing deep concern for a friend of hers, who, she said, was "just gone with consumption," and entreating the doctor to go and assist to procure the heart of another person, who had died of the complaint, for the relief of her poor friend. But the hard hearted doctor treated the matter lightly, and said "he did not believe in this resurrection business;" which caused the good old lady to go away with a heavy heart, much grieved.
The therapeutic use of human tissue has been dubbed "medical cannibalism" by anthropologists, and was the subject of a lecture given at Vanderbilt University last year. The events described above occurred at a time when the practice had fallen out of favor in the scientific community—which (along with the stigma associated with grave-robbing) explains the doctor's refusal to assist.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Coolidge Murder Ballad and more!

Well, I did a little poking around online, and found some information about the case.

Presumably the Maine Historical Society will have clippings giving a more detailed account, and the Bangor Library has a Boston Daily Times article from 1848 in their Special Collections department (cage 343.1.C779t). There is also a broadside by Dr. O. Drake titled "The Waterville Tragedy: Or, Death of Edward Mathews by Dr. Valorus P. Coolidge" that a few Maine libraries also have.

But in the meantime, here is what I dug up on-line:

"Mathews refused to lend money to the over-extended doctor, but then invited his victim to his office for a drink. Brandy laced with prussic acid did the job, but Coolidge panicked and attempted first to make the death appear as murder by violence, then to hide the body. Neither was successfu, despite Coolidge acting as coroner, performing the autopsy, and trying to hide the stomach."

Tried to hide the guy's stomach, huh? Wow! Just as an abstract fact (not even taking into account the whole escape/faked-suicide thingie), this alone is worth mentioning.

After the murder, the town of Waterville voted "to establish a night watch to consist of fourteen sober, temperate, and moral men who shall be voters of the town."

Later, according to Olive Woolly Burt's American Murder Ballads & Their Stories (1958), a ballad was made of the account, including the lyrics "Poor Edward Mathews, where is he? Sent headlong to eternity. O! V.P. Coolidge, how could you So black a deed of murder do?" The rest of the info included the book seems to have a garbled account of the murder, changing the story to that of Coolidge trying to steal a load of hay from Mathews. I'll research this firsthand once I get the book from interlibrary loan, and report back with the full lyrics and anything else I find.

Another article, which recounts the history of the Somerset County Press, mentions that a small publication, Mann's Physician and Down East Screamer (!!), "occasioned much comment by its position on the murder of Edward Matthews at Waterville in the autumn of 1848, for which Dr. V.P. Coolidge was tried and convicted, the incidents of which are still fresh in the minds of most readers. It will be remembered that the public excitement concerning events subsequent to the conviction and imprisonment of Dr. Coolidge, was for a long time intense, and entered to some extent into the political campaign of 1849."

So there you have it folks. It doesn't really top the tale of missing bodies or mysterious reappearances near the border, but it does give a wider view of some of the effects the murder had in the area.

Snowblower Sacrifice Rituals

Just overheard:

"I'm going to make a ritual sacrifice out of my snowblower and set it on fire in my driveway."

Presumably someone is not excited about the soon-to-arrive snow season here in Maine?

I wonder what the years have seen in the way of wonderfully superstitious attempts to allay winter worries...

For those more interested in a positive approach to winter, there are apparently a number of options. Witness this auction at www.e-witch.info for a selection of winter and snow related spells, including a "Walk in the Snow Spell" which makes me wonder... what?

Who's In V. P. Coolidge's Grave?

My first contribution to the Strange Maine conversation involves a distant cousin of mine: Dr. Valorus Perry Coolidge.

He was arrested in the fall of 1847 for the murder of Edward Matthews in Waterville. A newspaper account noted that "the unfortunate man was poisoned by prussic acid, which was administered to him in a glass of brandy." Matthews' body was discovered on a pile of wood in a cellar; his watch was found in Dr. Coolidge's sleigh, and his money was found secreted in a shed. A student of Coolidge's named Flint came forward, saying that he had aided in disposing of the body. The doctor had told Flint that Matthews died of natural causes in his office, and that he wanted to be spared the embarrassment of having the body found there.

Coolidge was convicted the following March of murder, and was sentenced to a year in the State Prison at Thomaston, followed by his execution.

Here's where the story gets interesting.

On the morning of May 18, 1849, Coolidge was reportedly found dead in this cell — an apparent suicide. A short time prior to his death, evidence was found of his plotting the murder of Dr. Flint — his former student and witness against him. He had forged a confession to Matthews' murder in Flint's handwriting, and had enlisted a fellow prisoner to kill Flint and stage a suicide. When the warden discovered this evidence, he confined Coolidge to his cell, where he was found dead two days later.

But, was he really dead?

No jury of inquest was called to investigate the alleged suicide, and doubts immediately arose whether Coolidge was in fact deceased. A Dr. Mann pressed the inquiry, and collected affidavits, including one from Coolidge's father, who stated his belief that a stranger had been buried in his son's place.

Dr. Coolidge's body was disinterred from its resting place in Canton twice to determine the corpse's identity. On both occasions, relatives and acquaintances declared that it was not Valorus P. Coolidge. Then, in November of 1849, a letter was published in New England newspapers, dated "Short Bar, 30 miles from Colona, California, Sept. 3d." and addressed to a man in Boston:
Yesterday morning there came up here three strangers from Sacramento city, one of whom I recognized as the notorious Dr. Valorus P. Coolidge, formerly of Waterville, Me., the alleged murderer of Ed. Matthews. Could I be mistaken? How came he here? Has he escaped hanging? I knew Coolidge well, at Waterville, and if this is not him, then I never saw the man. His beard was very thin and scattered over his thin, narrow face, but it had grown out two or three inches in length. He passed here by the name of Wilkes or Wilkins. His eye I could not mistake. He appeared well, but in no other way altered, save that he was meanly dressed, and looked a little harder than usual. I told my belief to W., and the next morning Coolidge was gone. Where he has wandered I cannot guess, but I feel sure it was him. If you ever write, tell me what this can mean. Or am I deceived?
The grave of Valorus P. Coolidge's body-double can be seen in a recently re-discovered cemetery in Canton, near the town-lines of Jay and Livermore. Who inhabits the grave, and what became of the doctor, are unknown.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Maine link to Myrtles Plantation

For some of you who follow the TAPS ghost-hunting show on the Sci-Fi Network, here is an interesting tidbit. One of the tragic deaths on the grounds of the actively haunted Myrtles Plantation was that of a man born in Maine.

"On December 5, 1865, Mary Cobb hired, William Drew Winter, the husband of her daughter, Sarah Mulford, to act as her agent and attorney and to help her manage the plantation lands. As part of the deal, she gave Sarah and William the Myrtles as their home.

William Winter had been born to Captain Samuel Winter and Sarah Bowman on October 28, 1820 in Bath, Maine. Little is known about his life or how he managed to meet Sarah Mulford Stirling. However, they were married on June 3, 1852 at the Myrtles and together, they had six children, Mary, Sarah, Kate, Ruffin, William and Francis.

Kate died from typhoid at the age of three. The Winter's first lived at Gantmore plantation, near Clinton, Louisiana and then bought a plantation on the west side of the Mississippi known as Arbroath. Twelve years after the death of Ruffin Stirling, and after the Civil War, William was named as agent and attorney by Mary Stirling to help her with the remaining lands, including Ingleside, Crescent Park, Botany Bay and the Myrtles.

In return, Mary gave William the use of the Myrtles as his home. Times were terrible though and Winter was unable to hold onto it. By December 1867, he was completely bankrupt and the Myrtles was sold by the U.S. Marshal to the New York Warehouse & Security Company on April 15, 1868.

Two years late however, on April 23,the property was sold back Mrs. Sarah M. Winter as the heir of her late father, Ruffin G. Stirling. It is unknown just what occurred to cause this reversal of fortune but it seemed as though things were improving for the family once again.But soon after, tragedy struck the Myrtles once more.

According to the January 1871 issue of the Point Coupee Democrat newspaper, Winter was teaching a Sunday School lesson in the gentlemen's parlor of the house when he heard someone approach the house on horseback. After the stranger called out to him and told him that he had some business with him, Winter went out onto the side gallery of the house and was shot. He collapsed onto the porch and died.

Those inside of the house, stunned by the sound of gunfire and the retreating horse, hurried outside to find the fallen man. Winter died on January 26, 1871 and was buried the following day at Grace Church. The newspaper reported that a man named E.S. Webber was to stand trial for Winter's murder but no outcome of the case was ever recorded.

As far as is known, Winter's killer remains unidentified and unpunished. Sarah was devastated by the incident and never remarried. She remained at the Myrtles with her mother and brothers until her death in April 1878 at the age of only 44."


Cryptozoology Heads Up

Well, I haven't had a chance to read the article about Bigfoot that was in the Press Herald on October 30th, because I was too busy getting married. Ha ha! But I would like to point out that there is a really interesting art exhibit that will be showing at Bates College in Lewiston (road trip, anyone?) next June-October (2006). Did anyone out there go to the Cryptozoology symposium held over Halloween weekend? I would love to hear a report.

For more info about the exhibit, including some tantalizing peeks at the artwork, and information about the now-past symposium, check out the well-designed website at Cryptozoology Out of Time Place Scale.

To hear what I was doing on Halloween on my honeymoon/fieldtrip to Haunted Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, you can read my LJ entry on it here. It was interesting to see Florida, but give me Maine any day!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Purington Massacre -- Hallowell

Well, good news from the Hallowell inquiry. I had a response from an anonymous poster which put me on the trail of a mind-boggling event from Augusta & Hallowell's history. I'm not sure if it's the same massacre related to the green glow phenomenon I'm trying to find out about, but either way it is a serious piece of Maine history.

Thank you, Anonymous, for the tip. It is extremely helpful to have names and dates to work with. I did turn up some more information about the Purington (or Purrinton) Murders, including an image of a handbill about a graphic booklet printed after the murders.
The info comes from Martha Ballard's diary (as in "The Midwife's Tale" mentioned by Anonymous).

Above is a small version of the handbill or flyleaf. The fullsize original can be found by clicking on the "handbill" link above. Please note the graphic at the bottom of the image of the coffin with axe and razor. Stark and stunning.

In addition, I found a site mentioning that during its investigations around Augusta, focusing on AMHI, the North East Paranormal Society spoke with an Augusta historian and saw the ax which was allegedly used for the murders. To quote: "Upon entering her office she also stunned us with a piece of Purington history, the axe which had been found around 1988 by a man who was eager to try out his new metal detector. The axe was unveiled nearly two feet under the roadway where Captain Purington is believed to be buried, after having it checked out it does appear to be an axe dating back to the late 1700's and early 1800's."

According to Martha Ballard's accounts, Purington was buried with his murder weapons (a foundation for a ghost story if there ever was one!).

I'm going to see if I can find a copy of the account of the murder as seen above. Stay tuned!


Glad to be back in the land of Strange Maine

Hello all! If you want to see strange, try going from Maine's chilly, bare late-October landscape to sunny Orlando, Florida where there are palm trees everywhere and tiny grey lizards instead of fat grey squirrels. Now that's strange. Not to mention spending Halloween at Universal Studios' Haunted Horror Nights in the midst of this surreal tropical scenery. Halloween without bare New England tree branches and chill-clear skies is somehow just not as.... spooky.

It seems that every trip I take away makes me realize more how much I love Maine. Soooo... sightseeing aside, let's get back to business with a rousing anthem, shall we?

Please find following a bizarre little ditty that sums up some of the essence of the Strange Maine we know and love. Incidentally, if any of you know how to get a sound file of this song, I'd love to hear about it.


Put the Blame on Maine
Lyrics © 2001 by Terence Chua
(to the tune of "Put the Blame on Mame" by Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts)

When things start to look strange - all around you - check out where you're at
So what if it seemed like a nice place - you should've smelled a rat
Because this quaint New England town - is in the baddest state around
You can put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine
It only seems like a friendly shore
Ask Stephen King - he knows the score
So put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine

Serial killers and devilish creatures make this their abode
Remember Jessica Fletcher just lives down the road
Vampire ghoulies on the attack - will make you their midnight snack
You can put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine
Maine's gonna cut you right to the bone
Even Lovecraft stayed at home
So put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine

There're storms of the cent'ry - and spiders crawling - up your waterspout
An invisible man in your closet that you'd better not let out
The head cheerleader's a demon queen - and her desires are quite obscene
You can put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine
Where twelve-year-olds can set you ablaze
By fixing you with a fiery gaze
So put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine

The body count's rising - and you're cornered - what are you to do?
You might be able to make it - just follow simple rules
Like, if you're stalked by a maniac - don't say, "I'll be right back."
You can put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine
Just turn around and start making tracks
And for God's sake, please - don't have sex!
Just put the blame on Maine boys
Put the blame on Maine
Put - the - blame - on - Maine!

comments welcome. send to khaos@tim.org please

Source: http://www.khaosworks.org/filk/maine.html

Signing off (gotta go clean my desk off! I've been gone a week and a half),
Yours truly,

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tunnels Under Portland?

Recently I found mention on the Bangor Urban Explorers' site of the possibility of an early subway system begun under the Portland streets but never completed.

Having never heard of such a creature before, I headed straight to the source (Maine Historical Society) and asked about whether this was rumor or fact. Here is their very helpful response, which mentions at least one existing tunnel I'd never heard of before:

We don't have any information about Portland planning a subway and it's nothing we've heard about as hearsay. Every once in a while these tunnel questions come up -- tunnels in the Old Port and things like that. There is a tunnel running under Congress Street between the two Press Herald Buildings. Don't know of any others.

So, the search continues. It would be a great thing to start a verified catalog of the tunnels, don't you think???

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Ghosts of Robie-Andrews

It is said that Robie-Andrews dormitory on the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine is haunted. The dorm is the oldest building on campus and in the 1800s was an girls school. I have heard two stories about deaths in the building. The first is that a girl committed suicide by hanging herself in the tower after she became pregnant and her boyfriend left her. The second story is that a young woman either jumped or was pushed to her death while a number of people were congregating outside the building.

Students report hearing strange noises in the attic and finding cold spots in the building. Some report seeing a woman standing in the tower, even though the tower is sealed off and there is no way to get up there.

The room next door to the attic is no longer used to house students due to the strange occurences that have taken place there. A student that works with me said that he had a friend who used to live in the room and when he visited her, the lights and tv would shut off by themselves.

On Halloween, the resident advisors take students up into the attic to tell ghost stories...and they are never heard from again. Well, actually they all come out of the attic unscathed, but it just sounded much scarier to say they were never seen again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Maine Ridge Monster

Today, class, we are going to discuss the Maine Ridge Monster. This variant on the Bigfoot legend is wildly inconsistent throughout its sightings, varying from an 18-inch furry person to a 6 to 8-foot tall furry person. Sometimes it has black fur, sometimes it has brown fur with a white chest patch. You never know what to expect with this big fuzzball of legend. Bearing that in mind, here is a selection of Maine sightings and related information for you to peruse.

[NOTE: The two paragraphs below reference a now-defunct site. However, the information referenced is available in the appendices section of Janet and Colin Bord's 1982 book, The Bigfoot Casebook, the source from which it was originally drawn.]
This site is run by Roger Thomas, who oddly enough doesn't even live in the U.S., let alone Maine. Nope, he lives in Wales, in the U.K. This has not prevented him from developing an enthusiasm for Bigfoot, and creating a bang-up site discussing whether he is fact or fiction. Very nice green, foresty aesthetic and well-organized. The "News" segments on the front page are very current.

I found Roger's site when I was looking for mention of Maine and discovered this nice little chart that details some surprisingly early Maine sightings as published in a 1982 Bigfoot book. Who knew? These wooly bipeds were being witnessed in Maine as early as the 1800s! Sadly, recorded sightings detailed on the page have a 120-year gap between the early sightings and the 1970s when Bigfoot became "popular" again. Man, we humans are fickle. I wonder what happened to the tiny one that was captured in Waldoboro in the 1850s? Now that would be a good story.

We can hardly discuss mythic simians without mentioning Maine's own cryptozoological creature, Loren Coleman. Back in 2001, he discovered an antique lettuce crate. Yes, oh my gods, a LETTUCE CRATE! Now you are scratching your head. Was the lettuce crate used to bring mass quantities of leafy greens to a captive Sasquatch? Did Bigfoot use it for cave furniture? Well, though these are likely histories for the crate, what Coleman did in fact find exciting was the crate's label, which featured -- you guessed it! -- a sasquatch!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say -- big deal, some schmo developed a gimmick for his lackluster lettuce. No, no, no, Coleman could tell you, this is quite exciting. Why? Because, oh students of the strange, there is a 50+ year gap between Bigfoot sightings countrywide. From the early 1900s to 1958, the historic recording of sightings simply .... disappears. The "California Giant" lettuce crate, being from 1933, has given Coleman hope that there are sightings that occurred in this time frame, and has encouraged him in his search to fill that gap. To get a look at the label, which is admittedly quite cool, please see Coleman's own press release about the event and its ramifications.

Coleman's press release may also make more clear the reason for Roger's interest in Bigfoot despite his extraneous location in England, as Coleman begins to draw connections between Bigfoot and "Wild Man" or "Green Man" artifacts from Europe's Middle Ages. Hmm...

Last spring (2004), Drew, a fellow in Waldo, Maine, spotted a 4 to 5-foot tall black-furred anthropomorphic creature that he thinks might have been the Maine Ridge Monster. His account of the sighting is very brief but entertaining, and includes a graphic map of the encounter, and relates a delightful tale of school buses and his sasquatch startling a field full of donkeys. His humble and matter-of-fact acceptance of the fact that, with his luck, the sasquatch will turn out to be a squirrel in the end makes me want to meet the guy. Maybe I'll e-mail him for an interview.

Back in 1974, again in the spring, another fellow had an encounter that was much more disturbing. This took place off Route 1 in York County, in an area known sometimes as the Barrens. A late night camping stop off the road, a terrible scream in the dark, and large bipedal footprints evident in the morning. Eeek!!

A Sidney, Maine sighting of 16-inch footprints going into the Sidney Bog from January 2000 sounds promising, but the quick continuance of consecutive sightings all within the next week or so, including one in northeast Portland (?!!), make one wonder if they were simply distorted human footsteps in the snow (snow is very deceptive when it comes to footprint sizes, as most of us snow-bound Mainers know). It's unclear whether these sightings, all within a few days of eachother, were observed by the same Bigfoot enthusiast.

Another fellow ran into the Maine Ridge Monster in 1988 when he was out fishing with his father. The most interesting part of this story is the account of an old cabin they found, and the log of Maine Ridge Monster sightings that had been left there. While sounding a little fantastic, it's still pretty exciting to entertain the thought that everything happened as he said. Also of note is the mention of Maine Indians' legends of the creature, which bears some research in the future.

More links to Maine sightings are found here, including one of the most recent one I've found yet, from 2004. There are some extremely clear footprint photos from the Frenchville area in 2000. Of particular note is a detailed historical account of Maine sightings that fills in a few more blanks in the chronology of the chart on Roger's site (see above). I would love to read the story of the man who shared a meat pie with Bigfoot, which I've found mention of in some of the posts.

Well, all food for thought. It's good to flex the little grey cells before they start growing fur too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tar Pits of Portland

When I was a kid, we lived in Portland on Stevens Avenue near Morrills Corner. My brothers and I had regular exploratory routes in the odd spaces between things -- houses, Westbrook College, Evergreen Cemetery, the Armory. During the summer, especially, this was our stomping ground.

One of the paths we would go down regularly ran between the back of Westbrook College and the huge lot behind the Armory. Back then, the Armory was very active, and the lot was filled with strange Army-green vehicles, including some that looked like they had actual missiles or some sort of rockets loaded on their backs. The lot was bounded by a tall chainlink fence, which had barbed and/or razor wire at the top.

We were fascinated by the proximity of all this military equipment. It was like our G.I. Joe toys had grown up and would actually work if you sat in them. It was also fun to feel like we were spies, even though we had nothing and no one to spy for except for our own entertainment. I think we might have even taken photos of the missile trucks with our cruddy little 110 cameras.

One day we traipsed down the trail as usual, probably on our way to the dirt access road that runs into either the older backside of Evergreen Cemetery or the soccer fields far in back of our house depending on which way you choose to go, and we noticed something new, strange, and disturbing. Around the perimeter of the fence, a shallow trench had been dug, maybe a foot or two wide and half a foot deep at best. Into the trench had been poured liquid tar.

I could understand it as a deterrent to any fence hoppers. We ourselves were a little too wary of repercussions to climb the fence, but there must have been older, less concerned parties who happened upon the barrier from time to time and had no such compunctions, who tried their hands at jumping into Green Man's Land. So in that sense I guess I could reach for some logic as to the presence of the evil-looking tar spilled about in a long line.

What my adolescent brain could NOT wrap itself around was the horrible carnage that ensued from this seemingly simple ploy. At regular intervals in the tar we came across the carcasses of dead birds. The stark horror of blackened feathered corpses and their curled feet still haunts my brain.

I don't think we wandered down there much beyond that summer. Things were changing. Beyond the tar pits, Westbrook College had gotten a security guard that seemed a little more territorial than previously.

Junior high was inflicting its societal "norms" on us. Social life was picking up for both me and my brother, two years behind me and formerly my constant companion. He spent more time adventuring with boys, both his friends and our middle brother, than with me, and I was babysitting, and started hanging out with my girlfriends more.

High school and the mirage of adulthood loomed on the horizon, a vision soon to be disrupted by the roils of adolescent angst and parental restrictions. I didn't think of the refuge of the back ways again for many years. I kind of wish I had kept in touch with them -- it might have saved my sanity a little bit more than working a crappy job and moping about the house!