Sunday, December 30, 2007

Those Darn Cell Phones

The West End News reported on an interesting turn of events during a Portland crime investigation:
Cell Phone Helps Cops Catch Teen
by Marge Niblock

Officer Kent Porter received a call on November 29, at 4:20pm, about two teenagers who had stolen DVDs at Guitar Grave, 441 Congress Street. Porter was met by the store's owner who said he'd chased one of the thieves down Elm Street and then lost him near Portland High School. During the chase the youth dropped his cell phone, which was turned over to the officer.

After Porter saw a number for "Mom," he dialed it, got her name and address, and was told her son wasn't home yet. Police were waiting to arrest him upon his arrival.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Lennon's death and Stephen King

Well, I've heard a lot of interesting stories and anecdotes about Stephen King, but this has got to be the most peculiar. To sum it up, the far-gone conspiracy story originates with Steven Lightfoot, and "Lightfoot is the guy who thinks that there was a conspiracy to kill John Lennon, involving Nixon, Reagan, various police departments, and Stephen King. King, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mark David Chapman, supposedly pulled the trigger."

The information comes from Donna Kossy, author of Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief, and founder of the online Kooks Museum. Her Steve Lightfoot Exhibit is online at The exhibit consists mostly of rant-and-rave texts produced and distributed by Lightfoot in a campaign to inform the public about the facts of the event as he perceived them.

He stalked King for years, even moving to Bangor (at least according to his far-fetched account of events). Talk about fringe elements...

Great shots of snowy Maine!

The nifty blog Five Squirrels has some pretty sweet shots of Maine covered in snow (a familiar sight for us over the last few weeks). Take a peek by clicking here! There's a nice variety, 6 shots taken by Mindy in different places near her, posted just a few days ago. Since I haven't had a chance to get out with my own camera, these'll have to tide both you and I over until I do!

92-year old surprised by early obituary

There's nothing like reading your own obituary in the paper to get your attention!
Wrong Maine woman declared dead in obit
By Aimee Dolloff
Saturday, December 15, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine - Anne E. Hathaway was somewhat shocked Friday when a friend called to see if she was still alive.

The Orono resident’s obituary had appeared in Friday’s Bangor Daily News. The information in the short obituary and the list of death notices was correct, except for the part about her being dead.

The deceased was actually Ann Hathaway of Bangor.

Both women had made advance funeral arrangements at the same funeral home. When pulling the file for the deceased Ann Hathaway, the funeral home employee didn’t realize there were two women with very similar names and grabbed the wrong one.
At 92, Hathaway admits she’s no spring chicken but said that she’s not dead yet.

"I just laughed," Hathaway said. "I went to the pearly gates and opened the door and they didn’t have any strawberry shortcake and they didn’t like the way my hair looked."
"It’s just a matter of us checking the vitals a little more carefully," a funeral home employee said Friday.
To read the full story, please click here: [Source Photo by John Clarke Russ of the Bangor Daily News.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The City Has Ghost Streets : Part 1 - The West End

With this new and occasional series, Strange Maine visits what can no longer be seen in the city of Portland: streets and sites whose references are merely their ground coordinates. Replaced, plowed-over, or built-over, these are the city's Ghost Streets whose silent witness is in the ground of the Forest City's very roots. Their documentary memory is fragmented, yet evidenced, in ancient maps and archival documents, but beneath the surface their stories are sensed in the spirit subsumed...

What we now see is surely not
all that has been
and whither one may travel in the state of Maine country, city, farm, and shore, the present day is built upon substrata that call to those who need only scratch the surface.

Portlanders who call the West End home may hastily pass by the sprawling Reiche Elementary School, which- for folks who are unfamiliar with the city is the neighborhood at the western rim of the peninsula city- seems an anomaly in a densely-packed district of 18th and 19th century houses and triple-decker apartment buildings.

On a second glance, the school's 1970's architectural contrast with the houses standing around it may be cause for curiosity, as well as the suspiciously levelled expanse in the heart of an ancient residential quarter, once known as the Bramhall Hill area.

The pictures above and below attest to over 40 homes which had been entirely demolished in the early 1970s; these are from the ghost lane called Bradford Street. The street and all its homes, in addition to Varnum Street, are completely gone. (Above is a view of 9 Bradford Street; below, the home at Number 11.) The photos were taken in 1924, and the one below shows a gaslight street lamp. (Photos may be enlarged by clicking on these smaller versions.)

Above is a duplex that was on the Numbers 17 & 19 Bradford Street lot. Today this is topped by the school yard, and behind this building is today's Aurora Provisions, on Pine Street. The child pictured, playing in the street, may have gone to the Brackett School- which is todays' Fresh Approach Market, at 155 Brackett Street.

Below is a livery-stable, likely converted into a garage with the advance of the 20th century, on the even-number side of the no-longer-existing street. Perhaps the cafeteria stands above this.

And here (below) is today's surface- the humble "Bradford Walk" sign attached to the Reiche School building. Note the architectural style of what continues to stand sentry on Clark Street, and how identical it is to what was- on Bradford and Varnum Streets.

Now a map, showing the area in 1914- from the Richards Atlas of Portland streets. The peripheral Pine, Brackett, Spring, and Clark Streets encompass the Reiche School area, and excluding the row of buildings along Pine (at left), everything else you see within that periphery- including the streets themselves- were demolished and leveled in 1972. In the Richards Atlas, yellow indicated a wooden structure, and red meant brick.

Now we move a ghostly block- now existing only in spirit- to the southwest, and find Varnum Street. Immediately below is the Varnum Garage. Note the 1920s vintage gasoline pump- and the unique roof- which can be recognized in the Portland Evening Express picture further below, taken for the March 14, 1972 article, describing- not the structure or the displacement of some sixty households, but the magnet school to be built over the large site.

Like the once bustling Bradford Street, Varnum Street is understatedly memorialized by barely detectable plaque (right, in the photo) upon the Reiche School. In the background is the old Brackett School, which is now Fresh Approach- or for West Enders with memories extending before the 1990s, the late and beloved Good Day Market Co-op.

Below- two more from Varnum Street: Number 16 and Number 14. These were close to Clark Street, and we can see how these are also architecturally harmonious with prevailing Victorian styles typical in the West End. Look closely at the one immediately below, with a for-rent ("To Let") sign in the front window (and snow piled into the side entrance). The house at lot Number 14 has a Mansard "Second Empire" style roof. When you visit the Reiche Branch of the Portland Public Library, your steps have been warmed by those of the woman pictured in this scene- and an innumerable number of pedestrians- and vehicular traffic.

And once more, below, a view taken today- this time the side of the Reiche School which faces Spring Street (named after an ancient fresh-water spring in the neighborhood). Notice, in the far background, the mouth of the still-existing Spruce Street. Now scroll up to the map and see how Spruce Street once extended all the way up to Brackett Street. That block of Spruce Street is indeed a ghost street- all its homes leveled and paved-over. On a map made in the 1850s, Bradford Street was called Peach Street; now we can imagine a web of streets near one another called Pine, Peach, and Spruce. Perhaps the trees themselves, with the Dutch Elms, have ghosts too.

And finally, a murky 1924 image of Varnum Street. When you are strolling Cushman Street, and notice how it is abruptly cut off by the hard curb bordering the school yard, you'll have found where Varnum began. What were in those containers, in the picture? Whose lives were situated in these apartments? How do parts of our selves and our souls begin- and remain- to inhabit our living spaces? Might place be transcendant of structure? The City indeed has Ghost Streets that speak from beneath and beyond.

Holiday Greetings 2007

Well, it's been a great year here on the Strange Maine blog. We topped 60,000 hits, reached our 2 year anniversary in October, and overall had a great time. I met Loren Coleman, Glenn Chadbourne, and countless other friendly Mainers who intrigue me to no end. Abraham Schechter began adding his lore and research to our archives. I heard a lot of interesting stories which I'm hoping to get onto the blog to share with all of my readers. After two years of walking the path of Strange Maine, I can say with all honesty that I feel at home here still, and I love every minute I spend here. And I will never run out of interesting material!

The last few months have seen a slowdown of posts on the blog, and with the New Year I'm hoping to remedy that as I shift around some of my other obligations that have been leaving the blog unfairly short of my time and attention.

I'd like to take this moment to thank all of my readers, both the new ones and the regulars who have been with us for what seems like a long time now. Thank you for letting me know how much you like the site, and for bearing with us in our slower times. We promise great things as the years go on, and we hope you'll stick around to enjoy them.

We have some great stuff in the works -- interviews with Glenn Chadbourne, William Dufris of "Nightmares on Congress Street" OTR recording fame, exploration of Maine bigfoot sightings, exciting talk about Mark LaFlamme's new book and other great strange Maine fiction, and more, more, more! So stay tuned -- I promise you won't be disappointed.

As the year turns, I would like to share one thing with you all for sure -- my new tattoo. For almost two years I planned on getting a tattoo that commemorates my love of the strangeness of Maine. I finally drew up the design and set a date in late October 2007 with Wil Scherer, at Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland. After three hours in the chair, this was the result. It's official! Once I get organized, I'll be producing t-shirts with the design on them as part of a fund raiser for the blog and the Gazette.

Monday, December 03, 2007

EVENT: Massive Maine Movieshow @ Merrill!


On Saturday January 12th 2008, Motion Media, a Maine Entertainment Company, in association with John Lane Films and Emptyhouse Film, presents "A Night of Maine Film and Music" at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland Maine.

The events of the night include a film fair featuring various vendors from the Maine film and music community. The Film Fair will be followed by a performance by local musicians LIVE STUDIO AUDIENCE, then, the world premiere of the horror/comedy MONSTER IN THE WOODS. The film will be followed with a performance by COVERED IN BEES and capping off the night, a screening of the zombie film "2".

"Monster in the Woods" tells the story of two Cryptozoologists sent to the remote backwoods of Maine to try and track down the elusive Bigfoot. All hell breaks loose when a high stakes reward is offered for the capture of the creature- dead or alive, and the Cryptozoologists race against time to try and maintain the beasts' safety. Click here to see a trailer for the film.

The zombie film "2" tells the tale of two survivors of a bio-terrorist attack that has turned everyone around them into zombies. Both films are feature length and contain adult content. Click here to see a trailer for "2".

Further details will be announced soon for "A Night of Maine Film and Music" including surprise guests, giveaways and much more. Stay tuned to, WBLM and WCYY for chances to win prize packs.

Tickets are $19/ADULTS $17.50/STUDENTS & SENIORS and are available through PortTix in person or by mail at 20 Myrtle Street, Portland, Maine 04101. To charge by phone, call PortTix at 207-842-0800. Internet sales at!

For more information, contact emptyhousefilm[at]

4:30-6:00 PM- FILM FAIR