Monday, July 31, 2006

A Different Kind of Lightshow

A Different Kind of Lightshow

I was wandering around on YouTube like so many of us web users are doing lately, and found among the flotsam a really neat little clip of Christopher Teret and Steve Tesh performing at Strange Maine, the store. Now, thinking I could give you fair readers an idea of what the interior of the store looks like, I took a peek at the video. Well, you can't see much of the store, but the clip itself is fun to watch, both for the same reason -- the acoustic performers are both garbed in christmas lights, and that is the only light source used in the video. It produces a really strange and unique effect!!! Plus the music is pretty darn good, too, if you dig the pleasant harmony of harmonica and guitar. Check it out.

Purrinton Massacre Update

In the May-June 2006 issue of the Kennebec Current, a newsletter put out by the Kennebec Historical Society, a new finding in the case of the infamous ax murders of the Purrinton Massacre (see original posting here) has been reported:
Gravesite of Purrin(g)ton Family Found
On July 9, 1806, Betsey Purrinton and six of her eight children were brutally slain by Capt. James Purrinton, Betsey’s husband and the children’s father. A son, James, escaped with minor injuries. One of the daughters survived for several weeks after the horrific incident, but eventually succumbed to her injuries.

The murders occurred at the family’s farmstead on Old Belgrade Road, not far from the home of Martha Ballard, who chronicled them and their aftermath in her now-famous diary. The funeral at the South Parish Meeting House on Market Square drew a large crowd. Mrs. Purrinton and her children were buried in the northeast corner of what was then the Burnt Hill Cemetery, now a part of Mount Vernon Cemetery. Capt. Purrinton was buried in the highway at the corner of Winthrop and High streets.

When Charles E. Nash wrote his history of Augusta a century later, he stated that the family’s gravesite location had been lost from the community’s memory. Several weeks ago, however, it was rediscovered. Lee Cranmer, an archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commisson, and a Augusta city crew under the auspices of the Augusta Historic Preservation Commisson, searched Mount Vernon Cemetery for the gravesite and they found it.

The Augusta Heritage Coalition, whose members include Old Fort Western Museum, the Augusta Historic Preservation Commisson, and the Kennebec Historical Society, intends to mark the gravesite and will invite the community to a memorial event to be held sometime in July. Interestingly, the surname Purrin(g)ton is spelled with and without a “g,” sometimes even within the same reference source.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Maine Native Plans Record-Breaking Voyage

Maine-born Daryl Colinot—alias Admiral Dingy—says he will attempt to circle the globe in a 9-foot, 11-inch long, 6-foot wide boat that he calls "the world's smallest cruise ship."
Yes, the Admiral admits, there are obstacles:

1. He has no space to store food and doesn't know how he will eat. (Maybe he will grow sprouts, he said.)

2. He needs a water filtration system, but hasn't invested in one yet.

3. He's not sure how he will communicate with friends on land. (He has no computer or ham radio.)

4. He can't afford the trip. (He's looking for sponsors.)

5. And, certainly not last in a lengthy list of problems, his ship might leak. [Source]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Home for Cryptozoology Museum

crypto_tris&crookstonOkay you guys... surely somewhere out there in the Greater Portland area of Strange Maine is someone with a good venue they can share with this legendary Cryptozoology collection/exhibit? I mean, just look at this big fuzzy guy. Kind of makes you just want to run out and adopt a Sasquatch, doesn't it? Loren Coleman is looking for a public home in which to establish the Cryptozoology Museum for everyone to see. Read on...


I was wondering if there is anyone in the greater Portland area that might be interested in working out a deal to have the International Cryptozoology Museum become a partner in your location or business space? Anyone have a dedicated room or rooms suitable for an eight-foot tall Bigfoot, Feejee Mermaid, Coelacanth, and almost 50 years of gathered evidence and artifacts, which might be regularly open to the public?

What I had in mind is a more public arena for the display of the cryptozoological artifacts that are within my in-home "appointment only" museum, and now currently fill a room at the Bates College Museum of Art's traveling exhibition (recently highlighted here in Michelle's review).

I need to think ahead to plan for the time when the exhibition is over (post-Kansas City, late December 2006). If the exhibition does not travel after that, the real cryptozoological art and evidence, including the Klyver sculptures, Sasquatch footcasts, Yeti hair, Sea Serpent sketches, Crookston Bigfoot, and other artifacts come home to Portland.

Perhaps a bookstore or artist's gallery or already-existing specialty museum would enjoy discussing sharing a suitable space with the International Cryptozoology Museum.

Please let me know of any ideas you have and contact me directly at lcoleman(AT)

Thank you
Loren Coleman

Tide Turns Against Gentle Wind Scam

Back in February some of you may remember that we reported on the strange group called "Gentle Wind" that is based out of Kittery (click here to read original article). Last week Carl Starett, a San Diego lawyer and fellow blogger, posted a comment to the original article pointing out a new development in the story.

According to a July 14th article on the WMTW Channel 8 website, the Maine Attorney General has stepped up and filed a suit against the group.
The Gentle Wind Project designs and sells what it calls "healing instruments" that it said solve a variety of physical and emotional ailments.

Others said the group is a scam.

The attorney general's office accused the group of falsely claiming that their products had healing qualities and of considering the income from their sale as charitable donations rather than sales proceeds.

Prosecutors want the Gentle Wind Project to liquidate its assets, pay the state's legal fees and refund anyone who bought items between 2000 and the present.
Hopefully this will heal some of the millions of dollars (yes, folks, you heard me right, MILLIONS) of financial damage the group has done. reports further:
According to the suit, which was filed June 29 in York County Superior Court, the nonprofit group has made false claims about its products, which range from small laminated cards to hockey puck-like discs the group says will treat everything from alcoholism to paralysis. The group claims the devices have been put through rigorous scientific testing and have been proven effective in hospital settings.

Instead, according to the complaint signed by Attorney General Steven Rowe, there was no scientific testing, and the medical professionals who endorsed the products had undisclosed financial relationships with the Kittery-based group.
The state's suit marks Gentle Wind's latest appearance in the legal arena. In 2003, the organization sued former members Judy Garvey and her husband, Jim Bergin, of Blue Hill for defamation after the couple published autobiographical essays about their 17 years in the Gentle Wind Project, which they compared to a "mind-control cult."

The couple claimed that they had been exploited financially and let group leaders control every aspect of their lives. Garvey said she was involved in "sexual rituals" that she was told were necessary to create the healing instruments.
To see what some of the "healing instruments" look like up close, click here to visit the Skeptico blog site.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Comments Welcome!!

Hello everyone -- Just fixed the comment moderation so that everyone's comments should show up as they post them. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of the material here.

Welcome to the 7000 visitors we've had today! GOOD GOLLY!!! Welcome to STRANGE MAINE!

Warm regards (well, it is summer after all),

On this date in Strange Maine History...

I have a great little note for a guest post from Loren Coleman today:
Have a good Friday the 21st of July...this date in Strange Maine history...1969, Waldo, Maine - Randolph Whitcomb had just pulled off Route 137 onto Birches Road at 1:45 a.m. when his car radio "went haywire," fading into static. Then he noticed that his car hood was reflecting a red glare.

Looking up, he saw a large, glowing red object hovering low over his vehicle. Startled, Whitcomb raced the three miles home. The UFO paced him the entire distance and "moved off fast" as he turned into his driveway. (Source: NICAP UFO Investigator, September-October 1969, p. 3).
Happy Friday, all!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Speaking of Squirrels...

My roommate related an interesting story from her teenage years over dinner tonight, indirectly related to the taxidermy theme of my prior post on the Cryptozoology exhibit at Bates. It seems that she and some friends were spending an extremely goofed up afternoon in Augusta one winter day, and while wandering around looking for amusement, found a squirrel frozen in rigor mortis in the snowbank alongside the road.

One of the company had what seemed to them to be a brilliant idea, and the squirrel was quickly placed in the center of the road in its frozen attitude of surprise. All afternoon long they watched cars slow, stop, and eventually honk at the dumb beast to make it cross the road. Of course it never did, and the cars would drive on, no doubt wondering what the heck had just happened (or not happened, as it were).

Just another way to entertain yourself in the mid-90s in mid-Maine, I guess.

Cryptozoology Exhibit: Mysterious & Kooky

Tristan and I decided it was high time we went to see the recently opened Cryptozoology exhibit at the Bates College Museum of Art up in Lewiston, and seized our opportunity on July 8th, a fine Saturday. The drive went quickly, and after realizing that the "parking lot" for the museum is end-in parking along the main drive (and not a stand-alone "lot"), we installed the car in our choice of parking spots (there was zero competition) and strolled into the quiet brick building that heads the Bates campus on the Russell Street side.

We found the gallery space transformed into a cornucopia of luscious art of many sizes and types, each piece some variation on the theme of cryptozoology produced by artists enamored of its allure and allowed to play with the theme in their imagination. It goes without saying that the potential produced in such an environment is vast. The attendant was obviously enjoying the exhibit as well -- she was very pleased to host it for visitors, and readily informed us that we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg -- there was much more on the lower level of the exhibit, down a curving set of stairs.

crypto_coelaThis was exciting! We started out our tour, finding it difficult to pick what to look at first. Rachel Berwick's beautifully cast Living Fossil: Latimeria chalumnae, a copal (premature amber) piece, caught our eye as soon as we walked in the door. Its translucent body silmultaneously reflected and captured the light of the room so magnificently it was difficult to tear ourselves away from it and its pearlescent prehistoric eye to look at the huge and eerily still graphite and acrylic canvases of Walmor Correa that hung behind it.

Also featured in the first segment of the gallery were pieces done by teachers from my alma mater, the Maine College of Art. Sean Foley had stepped past his usual canvases and embarked on a diorama/cutout fantasy journey into the cryptozoological wonderland, creating a whimsical confection of cartoon colors for the viewer to transplant themselves into while viewing. Nearby, a series of photos by Ellen Lesperance and Jeanine Oleson housed their own wild visions of wilderness and hybridization of the human soul with the untamed land. The atmosphere generated by the photos is so lush that the human figures seemed installed in them, related but not quite belonging, too post-modern to be completely sincere but very much trying. They made me uncomfortable (something to be analyzed later).

crypto_chimeraSarina Brewer's fantabulous taxidermy concoctions reared up as we moved further into the exhibit, housed in a large glass case at the head of the stairs. Her North Woods Chimera, with three intimidating turkey heads tufted onto its furry-tailed behind, is a presence to be reckoned with. I'm glad it's only a couple of feet tall, because if it was bigger, it would be absolutely terrifying. Imagine finding it running around the woods! YIKES!!!

crypto_goat-smIn contrast, her horned goat piece (sorry, didn't write down the title) is puckish and charming. I would like one in my home, running around on its little goat legs. Then again, with a horn on its head, I could be asking for trouble. Certainly, our cats would suffer!

crypto_mephistoThen we saw the Greater Lesser Yeti, a.k.a. Mephisto, by Robert Marbury and we fell in love with it. Both of us are now huge fans of his Urban Beast Project and the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists. We spent a lot of time with the Greater Lesser Yeti in between looking at all the other goodies. He's a little charmer! Little did we know what other treasures Marbury had up his sleeve for us...

crypto_thylacineRounding the corner in the main gallery, we found Alexis Rockman's beautiful series of portraits of the Tasmanian Tiger, evocative and fleeting as the archival footage they were drawn from.

crypto_killmoonThen we couldn't help but admire the tandem supernatural air and physicality of Marc Swanson's Killing Moon installation. It's a strange piece -- the action implied by the figure's stance fights with the monochrome stillness of the piece itself, and the viewer walks away with a feeling of a moment truly frozen, white and barren. This surrealness is only increased by the brace of tiny bodies the creature (a self-portrait of Swanson himself as Yeti) carries back from the hunt. We felt wary as we circled around it, as if we might ourselves be stalked next. Then we ogled Sarina Brewer's uber-creepy Fiji Mermaid nearby. Yeek!!! Fascinating. Its tail in particular amazed me -- such horrifying beauty.

Knowing Mark Dion's work, I somehow expected a more pithy piece than his installation of the entryway to the Federal Wildlife Commission's Department of Cryptozoology, Bureau for the Investigation of Paranormal Phenomena and National Institute of Comparative Astrobiology. This may have something to do with the limited size of the piece, a small hallway lobby with doors opening off it into the exhibit, or to its placement.

I think honestly if they wanted to really created the feel of it as a passageway to these wonders it should have been placed directly at the entry of the gallery, so that it WAS the actual entry point for the exhibition, with the reception desk visible through the first door to the right, instead of being entirely separate and not part of the illusion at all. But then again, I'm sure there was a reason for the placement. Maybe insurance stipulations got in the way of optimum installation.

crypto_hairyrobeNevertheless, Dion's choice of colors and interior decorating certainly gave a feel that this bureau has been around for some time, established and lingering in the eschelons of governmental offices for a long time indeed. The prints on the walls were selectively chosen and intriguing. I was fascinated by the one showing a strange animalistic anthropoid in various states of concealing dress.

Jamie Wyeth's piece, prominent but oddly placed in proximity to the aforementioned reception desk, seemed like something out of Jumanji instead of Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, with its lurid sky and stampeding furry behemoth looming at the viewer from a suburban background transformed. I've rarely seen anything from Wyeth that is anything but his own personal fantasies of place and character, so this creation takes some mental processing to assimilate, and makes me think I should look at more of what he's doing currently (I'm a big fan of a lot of his earlier work).

crypto_faunaAfter we felt we had seen everything in the main gallery, it was time to descend to the cool lower level, shadowed and studious. On the swooping descent of the stairway were featured photos and documentation of the Fauna project, produced ahead of its time in 1988 by Joan Fontcuberta and Jean Formiguera, and displayed at that time in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The winged creature in the visibly aged photos is reminiscent of prehistoric natural history displays, with an uneasy patina of respectability and a haze of inscrutability that throws off the viewer even as a close examination of the "evidence" is being attempted.

On reaching the lower level, we were greeted by a reading nook packed with books related to cryptozoology, made available to gallery visitors in a generous manner. The reading nook is adjacent to the video projection of looped footage of the last Tasmanian Tiger, or thylacine, held in captivity circa 1933 at the Hobart Zoo in Australia. The video has an almost playful feel to it, as the beastie trots around the confines of his cage, yawns with his amazingly long jaws wide open, lies down, and tears at his food. I say "almost" because the footage is redolent of other things -- the graininess of the film belies its age, and the knowledge that the creature was doomed to die alone in this barren cage temper that playfulness with our 20/20 hindsight of today and give it a ghostly quality.

crypto_thylacine2Surrounding the footage are a number of related pieces, including the appropriately frozen sculptural presence of the thylacine itself as manifested in steel and resin pieces by Rachel Berwick. These contrast sharply with the almost tender feel of the portraits done by Alexis Rockman of the same subject found in the main gallery upstairs, mentioned earlier.

The next chamber holds another video exhibit, which I wish now I had stayed and absorbed more, in which the viewer is asked to hunt for Sasquatch by his or herself. A panorama of the natural landscape features in the footage, a sea of green trees and the wash of a small waterway being the obvious main characters. This piece by Jill Miller is titled Waiting for Bigfoot. Will you be rewarded for your wait? The rumors say yes.

Along the wall of the main hallway connecting the lower chambers of the gallery, there is a myriad of additional pieces, including photos by Rosamund Purcell that document mythical representations in art and architecture that emerged based on real life issues (conjoined twins and stranger things) of the modern and ancient world, and a continuation of the Fauna pieces seen on the stairway leading down.

crypto_nardogAgainst this wall we also found another piece by Robert Marbury, this time the gregarious monster Nardog, with whom we made fast friends. To quote the Nardog's known history,
While lore tells of packs of Nardogs roaming medieval forests and highlands, accurate descriptions of group habits and relationships do not exist. Alive, this Nardog stood three feet high, with a pearl white horn. She had bright red eyes and a glowing white pelt, with gray ears, paws and a gray breast patch. At sunrise and sunset, her fur changed to the color of pure gold. She ate off of the ground with difficulty because of her horn and in later years depended on a human hand to feed her. Using the rings of her horn as a method of dating, the Nardog appears to have been between two hundred and fifty years old to three hundred years old at the time of her death. Many still believe in the existence of other Nardogs, however scientific evidence is insufficient. Believers credit the lack of evidence to the fact that since no one is looking for the Nardog, no one is able to see one.
Like the Greater Lesser Yeti, we felt lucky to be able to spend a large amount of time with the Nardog, and to have had it introduced into our lives.

Our next stop was the curio cabinet presented by Jeffrey Vallance, comprised of a variety of specimens and samples, and an exceptional complement of pieces by Vallance in which he compares, contrasts, and construes various elements of mythical artifacts and creatures in a very serious yet completely cartoonish manner which engages the viewer in a manner far surpassing that of a dry and dusty museum display. I was excited to find a case that included bunyip items, as I have been enamored of this beastie since reading as a child, with alternating terror and delight, Eleanor Heady's book Brave Johnny O'Hare, illustrated by Steven Kellogg.

crypto_nessieThe last rooms of the exhibit house what for many is the main attraction -- relics from the search for unknown anthropoids over the last hundred years or so, from Yeti expeditions to Sasquatch hunts, as painstakingly collected and curated by Loren Coleman. There is room for a lot of oohing and ahhing here, as old plaster casts and hair samples sit side by side with Ogopogo monster souvenirs from British Columbia in the 1970s.

crypto_hidenseekThese specimens are joined by one-of-a-kind illustrations from eye witnesses and eye-witness accounts of various mystery hominid sightings, which are fascinating and touch on our human relation to the whole phenomena on which the field of cryptozoology is built.

crypto_bigfootOver it all, like a benevolently intimidating patriarch, stands the 8-foot tall, 500-pound Crookston Bigfoot. If ever there was an inspiration to create a shrine to Bigfoot, this room is the starting point for it.

We walked out of the show with a strange mix of feelings. The playfulness and the dread and mystery of many of the pieces is overwhelming and wonderful, an apt expression of our ambivalent love/hate affair with the natural world, as humanity tries to simultaneously preserve and destroy it selectively.

Beyond that gut reaction, there is a certain poignancy and wistfulness to the artists' treatments of the Tasmanian Tiger that really settled in under our skin. From the footage of the last known specimen in captivity, to the portraits by Alexis Rockman, to the frozen sculpture by Rachel Berwick, and the metal sculpture of the tiger in his cage which casts an evocative shadow on the wall -- all of these pieces point out that this is we have left of this unique creature -- flickers and shadows.

Overall, I would highly recommend this show to anyone. The drive from Portland is shorter than you think, and easy driving directions are available if you follow the link to the exhibit given at the top of the page. GO NOW!!! It's up 'til October, but why wait???

Strange in... Massachusetts?

Well, we were down in Salem this past Saturday for the Covered in Bees show at the Dodge Street Bar and Grill, and got a chance to wander around for hours in Salem, which was extremely enjoyable. Our first stop after unloading the gear at the Dodge Street was to get caffeine. Starbucks, being immediately handy and open, is where we wound up stopping. And what did we find there? That, apparently, our barista is "STRANGE."

Hmm. Uncanny, no?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

EVENT: TONIGHT!!! Mummy Paper in Maine

S.J. Wolfe will be giving a talk tonight in Gardiner about the use of mummy rags in papermaking in the post-Civil War era in Maine. Fascinating stuff!!! The talk is sponsored by the Kennebec Historical Society.
A fair amount is known about the pulp and paper industry in Maine of the past 200 years, but our July speakers will explore a little-known aspect of this subject when they present “I. Augusta Stanwood Had a Paper Mill In Maine: The Enduring Story of
Mummy Paper.”

The manufacture of “mummy paper” in the Maine communities of Westbrook and Gardiner, we are to learn, included a rather uncommon ingredient —- rag wrappings from Egyptian mummies. Join David Rawson and Susan Wolfe on Wednesday, July 19, 6:30 p.m., at Gardiner’s Christ Episcopal Church, for what is sure to be an informative and thought-provoking presentation.

This lecture will provide some history on the use of mummies and their grave goods to make paper in the mid-1800s. It will also attempt to add some firm facts to the legends and stories that surround this unusual practice.

David A. Rawson received his bachelor’s degree from Salem State College, in Salem, Massachusetts, and a doctorate in American history at the College of William and Mary. He is currently a professor of American history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts.
S. J. Wolfe received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a master’s in library science from the State University of New York at Albany. Ms. Wolfe has been a rare-books cataloguer at the American Antiquarian Society for 23 years. She is researching and writing a book on the history of Egyptian mummies under the working title of From Eternity to Here: A History of the Egyptian Mummy in 19th Century America.

FROM THE SOUTH (Portland, Brunswick, Freeport)

• Take 295 North to exit 49 (Route 201 Gardiner/Litchfield)
• Merge right onto Brunswick Ave. (Route 201)
• Follow Rd into residential part of town.
• Follow Rd. to the left and then to the Right around the park
• Merge/turn Right off Brunswick avenue on to Church St. at the Y
• Church is on the immediate right.
• Parking is in front or around back 1st right on pleasant St. and 1st right into parking lot.

FROM THE NORTH (Augusta, Waterville, Bangor)

• Take 95 South to 295 South.
• Immediately following the toll-booth merge right off the high way following the sign to Gardiner.
• At end of ramp turn left onto route 126 and route 9.
• Follow route 126 and route 9 past the Middle school and over the green bridge.
• At the intersection of route 9 and Brunswick Ave (1st traffic light) go straight onto Water St. through the center of town. At second light (Water St. and Church St.) turn right onto Church st. and go up the hill.
• Parking for the church is off Pleasant St. (your first left) on the right immediately after the turn.

FROM RANDOLPH BRIDGE (Randolph, Rockland, Wiscasset)
• Turn left onto 126/24
• Go past Hannaford
• Go through the traffic light and head straight up Church St.
• Parking for the church is off Pleasant St. (your first left) on the right immediately after the turn.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

EVENT: Bucket of Blood!!!

The other night I was hanging around and decided it was high time to watch "A Bucket of Blood," a fine Roger Corman cult cinema masterpiece from 1959 that is an ode to the deadly dangers of dabbling in MODERN ART. Little did I know I was going to get a chance to see it performed live, so soon afterwards!!! The play "Bucket of Blood" is being produced by none other than Running Over Productions, nigh famous for their schlock shockers and zombie/mad scientist stage wonders that have quietly but insidiously been making their way into Portlanders hearts over the last few years.

Anyone who has been to their shows knows that they are well worth the quick drive out to the Presumpscot Grange Hall on outer Forest Avenue. This show should be no exception (especially since Ricky Boy Floyd is going all out to find a good and proper dead cat prop, as last minute calls to our house have shown).

So the poet speaks, and so the artist shall mold.

What is not creation is graham crackers.
Let it all crumble to feed the creator.
Who are John Joe Jim Jake Jerk?
Dead. Dead. Dead.

Swim on you maudlin muddling
maddening fools!
Ring rubber bells! Beat cotton gongs!
Strike silken cymbals! Play leaden flutes!

Walter Paisley is born!

More memorable words were never spoken.

To sum up: "Walter is a busboy at The Yellow Door, a beatnik dive where the artist is everything, and to be "aware" is everything. Walter, basically a trodden upon nobody, longs to be a somebody, like the egocentric house poet Maxwell (see lovely verse quoted above). His desires, mixed with misfortune, take him down a winding road of murder and madness, where nothing is what it seems! Is anyone safe at The Yellow Door as Walter tries his hand at modern art?"

WHAT: the play "A Bucket of Blood"
WHERE: Presumpscot Grange Hall, outer Forest Avenue (across from Tortilla Flats)
WHEN: 8:00pm, Thursday through Saturday, July 20-22 and July 27-29 -- 6 performances ONLY!
HOW MUCH: Admission is $7
I'M HUNGRY: There will be delightful pies and treats and refreshments available to customers downstairs in the Hall during intermission. Sorry, no brains.

I STILL DON'T UNDERSTAND: E-mail at info(AT) or call the helpful fellows themselves -- Joshua Douglas (207)653-8898 or Will Stewart (207)409-3949

Well then, what are you waiting for???

The Fine Art of Immolation

Local Portland, Maine artist and all around cool dude Bobzarro has posted a really nifty little piece of art on his MySpace page from his sketchbook, and I have felt compelled to share it with all of you, since I liked it so much. Hopefully Portland artists never gain this skill, because I'm sure there's more than a few of them that would choose the Dark Path and take up with that Vader fellow and...

I seem to be getting carried away. Here, just look at the cartoon!
Bobzarro's page can be viewed here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Maine Turnpike Toolbooth Antics

A friend of mine who narrowly missed seeing last week's turnpike conflagration related the reason she only saw the charred wreck instead of the flaming vehicle itself:
As I was driving I saw tons of black smoking pouring into the sky, and thought "I hope that isn't something on the interstate." More prophetic words have never been spoken as I slowed to a complete stop shortly after that. The odd thing was that I probably would have been right there when it happened, rather than two miles from it, if it hadn't been for the freak at the toll booth. He cut from the far right lane all the way over to the far left "exact change" lane, and cut me off, which annoyed the hell out of me (especially since he had already annoyed me by driving in BOTH lanes so I couldn't get by him, plus swerving over to the right before finally deciding to cut me off.)

When he stopped at the exact change lane, he appeared to realize that there wasn't anyone in the booth. He then rummaged around for change, before getting out of his car - that's right he got OUT of his car in the exact change lane. The only saving grace for this idiot was that he did mouth "sorry" at me as he walked in front of my car and when it was clear, darted across two lanes to get to a manned tollbooth! He then had to wait for the car already there, before asking the toll attendant for change. Then he came back across the lanes to get back in his car and throw his measly 60 cents into the bin...and then wait for the light to change green before going!
Maine natives get to see a lot more crazy stuff than normal during the summer months as the influx of tourists inflates the driving population to flood levels. Anyone else with interesting tollbooth stories is welcome to add their two cents by commenting! Exact change not necessary.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

JAWS!!! Shark excitement in Mass.

Summer sun, sandy beaches, and.... SHARK FINS!!!

Massachusetts beaches, already beset by Manowar jellyfish incursions this summer, had some new visitors this weekend. Yesterday while I was on my way to Salem, reading Jaws in the backseat of our car, Scusset Beach played host to a 12- to 15-foot long basking shark. Initially there was a great deal of panic and speculation, as the Cape Cod Times reported:
...when lifeguards saw the fin cutting within 10 to 15 feet of the shore at about 11 a.m. yesterday, they called everyone out of the water.
''It was just like being on the movie set of 'Jaws,''' said Lisa Champagne of Bourne.
''The lifeguard yelled, 'Everyone out of the water!' And everyone started running, tripping over each other,'' she said.
The beach was closed for two hours, until state specialists arrived and determined that the beastie was in fact a basking shark, as opposed to the great white which so many beachgoers associate with the sharp silhouette of a fin above the water line. Basking sharks are generally friendly and toothless, as they like to munch on plankton as opposed to tasty swimmers. Mmm!
Then fear transformed to fascination.

Bathers and boaters waded as close as possible. The creature obliged by weaving close to shore.

''I live in the Berkshires, so this was pretty amazing. It's a nice treat to see nature on Cape Cod,'' said Alisa Blanchard of Pittsfield.
However, the news was not so good in Chatham, where witnesses reported a terrifying scene from offshore:
On Lighthouse Beach, witnesses said they saw a 15-foot great white spring from the water and devour a seal swimming about 50 feet off shore. Officials could not confirm that a shark had entered shallow waters.

But for a handful of people who saw the attack, about 1½ miles from the lighthouse, there was no doubt.

''Somebody screamed, 'Shark!''' said E.J. Corb, 15, of Chatham, who works at Chatham Beach Company surf shop. ''I saw the fin and the back tail. And it just took down the seal.

''Three minutes later, the seal carcass just popped up again."
In Maine, while uncommon, the great white is not unheard of. According to the Gulf of Maine Times, "the great white shark is considered a rare visitor to the Gulf of Maine [an 18-foot great white was entangled in a spiny dogfish gillnet and landed in 1996, and a three-foot juvenile was caught and released two years ago, both off Massachusetts."

Other large sharks populate Maine's waters in addition to visiting great whites. On Science Daily's site, there is footage of a rare encounter 3,000 feet down in the Gulf of Maine with a Greenland shark (also known as a sleeper or glurry shark). Click here to go to the article and video link. The thresher shark is another local, with a very dramatic profile because of their threshing tail, and very dramatic tendencies including jumping fully out of the water, much to the joy of photographers nearby. Check out a neat photo or two here on Captain Tom's page about them.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nudists in Maine

In one of the colder states in the union, it's interesting to note that there is still a certain amount of nudist activity that goes on, even yearround with the help of saunas and heated pools. I recently ran across what seems to be the only organized Maine nudist group, the Maine Coast Solar Bares. Membership rates are reasonable at $15 year, with additional small fees being charged for attendance at organized events.

The Naturist Society N Magazine ran an article a couple of years ago about their findings in Maine. Like any place with lots of land and opportunity for privacy, Maine has some quiet spots that over the years appear to have become dedicated to clothing-optional use, usually with a wariness about the local authorities' desire for writing tickets, etc. which seems to exist in most cases. This is an excerpted version of what Mark Storey and Paul Rapoport found out:
The south end of Popham Beach State Park near Bath has been cautiously used nude for many years. The parking lot abuts a long, crescent-shaped public beach used by clothed kids and adults. Skinny-dippers should walk to the beach and turn right, marching approximately a mile (along a thin strip of beach at high tide) until rounding a bend and coming to a long inlet. Here they are out of sight of clothed sunbathers and can hope to go unnoticed by park rangers.
Popham Beach is not a sanctioned clothing-optional site, and locals (including another skinny-dipper who showed up) told us that rangers have arrived with citations. Beach users thus check the long stretch of beach throughout the day for ticket-wielding rangers. My impression is that this is a fine skinny-dipping site, but those enjoying it should remain alert.

Appleton Ridge Pond...Known by many locals as "No Pants Pond"
The 200-yard circular pond is located inland an hour from the rocky coastline, near the small town of Appleton. The pond was built in 1967 to help irrigate nearby blueberry farms. The berry farms didn’t make it, but the pond remains, and the owner is content to make a 150-yard section of it clothing optional.
Naturists in Maine told me repeatedly about Richmond Sauna, located 20 minutes south of Augusta in Richmond. All had heard of it; few had been there. The latter ought to change, as this 70-acre, naturist-friendly business is well-established (since 1973) and ably complements Maine’s many other types of clothing-optional recreation. ... What excited me most about the place was adjoining six-bedroom bed and breakfast. It turns out the entire establishment is clothing-optional every day of the year. The B&B was originally a sea captain’s house, built in 1831, so it’s another example of old-style New England lodging.
If you’re nimble and up for climbing down slippery rocks, Frenchmen’s Hole along a creek feeding Sunday River near Bethel will keep you cool on a hot day. Probably best for locals, and not quite worth a long drive for others, this stretch of water has a series of holes and troughs good for boulder hopping, sunbathing, and skinny-dipping. Located in a small canyon, the holes and short falls are shaded much of the day, but open rock and sun mix freely enough to keep sunbathers and splashers happy. ... The pools near the parking area are textile, but skinny-dippers make their way downstream over slippery rocks to isolated pools below. Or walk the road downstream 0.1 miles and scramble down a steep path to the lower pools.
For more information including directions and contact info, please see the link above to the original article which has much more information in it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Beastly Exhibition in Portland

The following ad appeared in the Eastern Argus of June 28, 1825. It's odd to think that, while my ancestors in Western Maine were slaving to clear a patch of virgin forest and put food on the table, kids in Portland were watching a monkey ride a pony.
The public are respectfully informed that the GRAND CARAVAN OF LIVING ANIMALS, being the largest that ever travelled in the United States, will be exhibited at BARKER'S HOTEL, in Portland, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the 4th, 5th, and 6th days of July next.

    1st. A full grown and learned ELEPHANT.
The Elephant is not only the largest and most sagacious animal in the world, but from the peculiar manner in which he takes his food and drink of every kind with its trunk, is acknowledged to be one of the greatest natural curiosities ever offered to the public.
  2nd. The Great AFRICAN LION ;
  3rd. Full grown ARABIAN CAMEL ;
  4th. South American TIGER ;
  5th. Full grown LEOPARD ;
  6th. Young American PANTHER ;
  7th. JACKALL, or Lion's Provider ;
  8th. WILD CAT ;
  9th. BLACK WOLF ;
  10th. Full grown African ribbed-nose BABOON ;
  11th. Famous Dancing MONKEY, from the Island of Borneo ;
  12th. Brazilian WEAZLE ;
  13th. LITTLE JACK, who will go through his numerous feats on the slack rope ;
  With a numerous collection of Minor Animals.

  Also—DANDY JACK, the Semi-Equestrian, who has excited the admiration of all who have visited the Grand Caravan, with his unexampled feats of horse-monkey-ship on his small Shetland Poney, for which purpose a ring will be fitted for his performance.

  A convenient place will be neatly fitted up for the accomodation of visitors, with an awning, where ladies and children will have an opportunity of viewing the Caravan, without the least apprehension of danger. A band of music will accompany the Caravan.

  Admittance 25 cents—Children under 12 years half price.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Maine Occult Soap Opera

No, no, we're not talking about what goes down in the shadows of local coffee shops and new age basements. Nope, this is actually a television show, made in Northern Maine, that is currently running on over 50 public access stations across the country. Dark Currents is its name.
The Story takes place in the fictional town of Hawks Landing and in an area that is a magnet for strange events and even stranger characters. At one time, HAWKS LANDING was an Indian village. The area is filled with old stories and legends. The land between the river and the town is kind of a "Bermuda Triangle" for Maine. The town itself is supposedly cursed. One Indian tale told of an Indian chief saying "The Matawahoc river shall run Dark Currents as long as the white man lives on it."

Like most home-grown shows, Dark Currents exists on a meager budget, and is produced predominantly on the enthusiasm of its staff, to the delight of a small cult following in New England, according to their site. I've never seen it on the Portland public access channel, but that could change. On the homepage listed above, there are links that tell you how to bring Dark Currents to your own home television in a variety of ways by contacting EDGE Productions, or buying their shows on video at Amazon Books.

The scripts are posted on the site in a serial fashion and, while the writing's a little rough at times, the passion and excitement are evident. You can explore it for yourself here.
Doctor Vargis stormed down the tiny, dark corridor. He was an older man with an intense look on his face. He reeked of authority and purpose. He whirled around the corner and nearly ran into an orderly. The young man had a nervous, scared look on his face. He was new at the Beaumont Mental Health Institute, and wasn’t used to the looney tunes’ hijinks.
The last update was early in 2003, with promises of a Chapter 5 soon to come. Sadly, it seems not to have materialized. I'm going to drop them a line and will post an update if I find out anything else.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Car Runs Amuck at Sailfest, CT

Dreadful happenings down in Connecticut, thanks to the New England Anomaly for the heads-up:
Car strikes Conn. festival crowd; 27 hurt
By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press Writer
Associated Press
NEW LONDON, Conn. - An 89-year-old man driving through a crowd at a summer festival panicked after striking one pedestrian and lurched his station wagon through the throng, injuring 27 people, city officials and witnesses said.
The accident happened about 3:30 p.m. near the Amtrak station during New London's Sailfest summer festival, where a crowd had gathered on both sides of warning gates as a train passed, witnesses said. Once the train departed and the gates lifted, the pedestrians and the Chevrolet Caprice wagon both began to cross.

Mayor Elizabeth Sabilia said the driver, Robert Laine, was driving across the tracks to get to the Fishers Island ferry when his car struck a pedestrian. "He panicked," she said.

The car then lurched through the crowd, which witnesses said was about four- or five-people deep.

"People were facing the tracks and didn't see the car coming," witness Bill Hoezel told The Day of New London. "The car was moving probably 10 to 15 miles per hour, much quicker than someone trying to edge through a crowd. There was no warning
and no screaming, just thump-thump-thump as the bodies were hit."

The injured were taken to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital and all were expected to be treated and released by late Saturday night, hospital spokesman Kelly Anthony said.
Laine, of Wallingford, and a female passenger were not injured.

Terrie Castagna, 43, a former paramedic, helped with first aid until emergency crews arrived. She said Laine told her the gas pedal in his car was stuck. "He was shaken. He was in shock," she said.

Police said it was premature to point to a cause and were still interviewing witnesses and many of those struck. Investigators will also look at any video that may have been captured by surveillance cameras used by Amtrak and the Fishers Island ferry.

"It was a very chaotic scene," police Capt. Kenneth Edwards said. "There were luckily a large number of emergency personnel in the area."

The waterfront city's Sailfest festival attracts thousands of visitors.

Squeaky Lobster

A few weekends ago, at the Arundel flea market on Route 1, I chanced across perhaps the silliest Maine postcard I have ever seen. This vintage piece of work sports a lurid lobster superimposed over a photo of crashing surf. But it is not the color alone that creates this postcards's charm. No.

For you see, the lobster squeaks.

Yes. It is true. When you squeeze the postcard, even ever so lightly, the lobster squeaks.

This made scanning the postcard an inadvertently hilarious task, because every time I repositioned it and lowered the lid again... SQUEAK!!!


In other news:
-- I visited the Cryptozoology exhibit at Bates on Saturday, and it was well worth the drive. Rumor has it that I missed meeting Loren Coleman, who had been there the day before. The attendant spoke very highly of Mr. Coleman, and the show's director, Marc Bessire. It is also rumored that Mr. Coleman is "a very nice man." *grin* At any rate, I will post in detail with photos later in the week.
-- Also, further developments on the horror host rumor front. Due to rabid response during our marketing poll, it looks like a Portland late night horror host show is inevitable. Your host will be Cousin Twitch, and her sidekick will be Cap'n Spooky. Test shots of makeup and so on will be produced in upcoming weeks, and no doubt some sort of horrendous debut episode will make its way onto the airwaves in time for Halloween. Please e-mail any comments or responses to me via MySpace:

Friday, July 07, 2006

July Musings

Consider this our version of the famous West End News Dumpster!

--Someone parked their car so that it entirely blocked the driveway across State Street from us, effectively keeping a whole building full of people from getting out this morning, and got towed for their trouble. Ha! About time.

--What was that man doing alongside the pond in Deering Oaks early this morning? Was he putting a note under one of the blocks that makes up the edge of the wall around the pond? Or was he just testing it to see how firmly it was cemented in? Was the cardboard box sitting open on the walk nearby his too? Mysterious, altogether...

--Who was filling the Deering Oaks pond with tiny boats a few weekends ago? Was it our mysterious guerilla artist, rumored to be making another foray into the Oaks as mentioned in the West End News' Dumpster recently, or was Stuart Little having a day out on the water? At any rate, it was a charming scene as the little vessels meandered about the placid waters of the pond, no human hand in sight.

--YES Books has officially changed hands. I reported on this the other week in my personal blog, but didn't put it on Strange Maine as the whole things felt... well, so personal. But the West End News has posted about it, and it looks like the store has actually been bought by local poet and famed book yard sale guy Russ Sargent, and not Carlson-Turner Books, as I had assumed from my conversation with Darlene Murphy on their last day of business under the Murphy family. This seems entirely appropriate, because the first time I ever saw Sargent was during a crazy collaborative performance/poetry reading in the old Danforth Street building that used to house Yes Books, a reading at which Pat Murphy was present for a reading of his poetry as well. My personal favorite Pat Murphy poem is Buddha in My Sandbox. So stop in and say "Hi!" to Russ; when I walked past the other day he had a Grand Re-Opening Sale sign up announcing 25% off all books and prints. I'll be dropping some copies of the Gazette off, myself. If you want to send anything to Pat up at the Veterans Home I can forward it on if any of you like, just drop me a line at michelle.souliere(AT) and I'd be happy to play mail carrier.

--Rumors indicate that if enough interest is found, and if things work out with Portland Public Access, a late night movie show might be in the works with a horror host. It's about time Portland had one of their own!!! It would be a shame to let The Mortician have ALL the fun. Stay tuned, folks -- this could get CRAZY!!!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fire on the Turnpike!

Anyone heading southbound on the turnpike from the Portland area during rush hour yesterday found themselves in the snarl of traffic that resulted from a fire which consumed a pickup truck and half the trailer it was towing.

The huge cloud of black smoke climbing into the air had been the first sign that there was a problem up ahead. The second sign of a serious problem was when the Turnpike became a three lane parking lot for as far as the eye could see. People got out of their cars, walked around, and peered through binoculars in an attempt to see what was going on. I even saw one car with Massachusetts plates turn around and start driving north on the grass between the center guardrail and the fast lane. What an idiot!!

The Portland Press Herald has the whole story, but I do take exception to one item. The article says the southbound lanes were reopened by 4:10pm. However, my car was only a couple miles from the accident and it was 4:43pm before my car was able to move. Once I started moving, it took perhaps five minutes to get past the accident site, where the blackened pickup truck was being prepped to get hauled onto a flatbed tow truck.

It's times like this that I really wish I kept a book in my car.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Let's Start with a BANG!

Well, let's see... after last week's explosive situation in Lewiston, on Friday night the local gas company came knocking on doors in my neighborhood after a nearby apartment house reported gas odors in their basement. The servicemen didn't find any leaks elsewhere, but were up late digging up the street at the corner of State and Grant Streets to investigate the odors at their source.

The 4th of July became dramatic for many spectators making the hike back down from the Eastern Prom after a murder-suicide at the corner of Oxford and Anderson Streets. The bodies were still at the site as fireworks attendees poured by at the end of the night. News footage caught a very common sense moment on tape as locals lingered at the site, complaining loudly about how their children might be affected by seeing the crime scene, at which point an officer made the very valid point that perhaps they should get their children inside. Hmm, you think?

In Lewiston, a man was caught after he lobbed a pig's head into a Lisbon Street mosque where it rolled to stop amidst the 40 or so Muslims who were in prayer at the time. Well, if that's the only way you feel capable of communicating with your fellow man.... I really don't know what to say to you. Apparently the guy thought it would be funny. Lisbon Street seems to be attracting a lot of weirdness lately, and not the good kind.