Monday, March 27, 2006

The Professor's Pot

According to Haunted New England by Mary Bonte, back in 1801 Pond Island, Maine, was host to an early grifter, "The Professor" by name, who convinced local Harpswell men that he was perfectly able to turn dew into silver.
Dew was collected and taken out to Pond Island where it was put in a kettle and set on an outdoor fire. The pot boiled, the steam rose, and the silver failed to materialize. Claiming that the dew had been subject to deleterious handling, "The Professor" conducted a second experiment, this time surreptitiously slipping a handful of melted-down silver into the boiling pot. Finding the silver in the bottom of the kettle, the citizens were convinced that dew could indeed be turned to silver and they gladly paid a handsome fee to "The Professor," who promptly vanished very much like morning dew.
Harpswell isn't the only Maine town to fall for swindlers' stories. A goodly number of Portland businessmen in the 1800s lost substantial funds to another huxter in a gold hoax. More on this later.

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